Jul 15, 2005

HR, 13

"Who are you, stranger?" asked the dignified crow in accented common tongue.

Harlequin introduced himself.

"I am Sergei, former Lieutentant Scavenger of Great North Rookery," the dignified one said. "This is my wife, Mitzi, and this -" he extended his wing towards the fierce crow, "is my brother, Pavel, the 'Shark.' If you please, why are you here, when cat roam fields?"

"I'm interested to know what happened to the cat, actually. You see-" Harlequin began, before Sergei interrupted him.

"Cat very bad, eat small creature like you. We have to protect babies, tree; no help for you. Please, leave." He eyed the cask with ill-concealed greed. "Also, leave shiny object."

"But it's not mine! It belongs to Homeless Tony and I'm to find alcohol for him."

Sergei turned impatiently and cawed something in Pavel's ear. Pavel's eyes, dark lifeless globes, honed in on the cask and he hopped threateningly to the ground and approached Harlequin.

Harlequin moved back cautiously, but continued to talk. "You don't understand: I don't think he's around any longer." Harlequin remembered the cat's claw he held in his paw. "Look!" he said, bringing the claw, where its shiny black sheen flashed for the crows to see.

Mitzi shrieked, Sergei momentarily lost his perch and even Pavel the Shark jumped back at the sight.

"Attila's claw!" Sergei whispered in hushed excitement. "The beast is slain!"

"He's dead?" Harlequin asked. "I guess the door could have killed him. It sure knocked me cold!"

Sergei could not remove his gaze from the claw. Harlequin saw that it was pretty impressive, in the sunlight. If he had a bit of string, he thought, it might look dashing hanging from his neck.

Sergei hopped to the ground beside a wide-eyed and much less dangerous looking Pavel. He approached with much more caution and even a little fear.

"If I may be bold," he said dramatically, bowing his black tufted head a little. "I would offer you the choice of my rookery's treasure, in trade for this, this..." He trailed off, hypnotized by the claw.

"Treasure?" Harlequin asked, wide-eyed himself.

"Yes," Sergei said, not moving his eyes. He wrapped a great wing around Harlequin's shoulder's - he felt warm and soft in his feathers- and led him under the tree.

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