Jul 16, 2005

HR, 14

Nestled under Sergei's wing, Harlequin looked up in wonder as they came under the tree's dense cover. The sights within took his breath from him in a gasp.

"What in the world..." he mumbled, his mouth falling ajar. Every branch on the interior was extravagantly adorned in shiny brick-a-brack. The branches extended like long arms covered in gaudy jewelry: all manner of gold and silver ear-rings, an abundance of sliver gum wrappers, bits of copper wire, marbles, beads and bracelets.

Sergei beamed proudly as Harlequin pointed in awe at a single twig supporting at a polished gold pocket-watch dangling from a slender golden chain. Sergei clucked approvingly. With his other wing he gestured broadly across the sea of glittering treasures.

"These are treasures of many generation of Great North Rookery. Every crow bring his finds to our secret place. I, Sergei, and my family, have been given honorable duty of protecting secret tree. When I, and my brother Pavel, the Shark, have died, my son will carry on noble duty." Sergei pointed the tip of his wing to a brown nest, separate from the treasures, which Mitzi now sat beside. On cue, a baby crow peeked its fuzzy grey head over the nest and looked about curiously.

"For the claw of great cat," Sergei continued, "you may have whatever you choose."

Harlequin was, for once, speechless. Thoughts skipped about giddily in his brain. The treasure trove was not just full of shiny things, but all sorts of useful things. To take apart the watch and see its working would be fascinating; a pearl-handled pen-knife would have countless uses. He calmed himself down a bit and tried to think rationally; he couldn't make a choice at the moment.

"Is it possible that we could make a trade later?" he asked. Sergei nodded.

"I'm looking for some alcohol. But first, I want to find a place to stay for the night. I was wondering if I could dig a home at the base of this tree, if you and your family wouldn't mind?"

Sergei nodded again and even bowed. He seemed in awe of Harlequin. Harlequin saw that there was already a little burrow. It was very dusty and looked as if it hadn't been used in many months. He pushed his way through a pile of dirt and scramble around in the dark.

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