Castle of Crows – Part 6

After all the noise of the night before, I think it was the silence that woke me up. The rain had finally stopped, and the world had finally gone quiet after the wild panic of the night before. The candles around the room had gone out while we slept, but now that the sun was up there was dim light shining through the curtains. The door was still locked, and it seemed undamaged despite the best efforts of whatever had attacked the room earlier.

Now that there was nothing trying to force its way in, I felt safe enough to investigate the room. The wood cabinet was locked up tight, but the work table had more then enough weird things on it for me. Besides the cauldron, there was an assortment of herbs and stones, and several rows of shelves holding dozens of little bottles filled with powders, liquids, and what appeared to be bones. Each bottle was labeled in Aunt Pen’s neat script, but not in English. There was also a book filled with recipes, but none of them looked like they made food. At least, I hoped they weren’t food.

Macey yawned behind me, and I turned to see her rubbing her eyes as she woke up.

“I think our Aunt’s a witch,” I said, and Macey made a confused, sleepy noise that I interpreted as her asking me to elaborate. “She’s got a cauldron, and weird ingredients, and a book of recipes. Plus a secret workshop in a hidden tower with an apparently unbreakable door.”

“Don’t forget that she talks to crows,” Macey said, smiling at me. “I don’t care what she says about how smart they are, that’s just not normal.”

I laughed a little, but we both froze when we heard a tapping at the window. It was more like a knock than anything, and I moved forward to pull the curtains aside.

“Wait! What are doing? Aunt Pen said not to open the curtains!” Macey said, shaking off her sleepiness to jump up and hold me back.

“There’s glass, it’ll be fine! I just want to peak. Don’t you wanna know what happened?”

“But what if it’s a monster?” Macey said, which…was a good point. The tapping stopped, and there was a familiar caw.

“Baron?” I asked, and got another caw. I shook Macey off and then pulled the curtains apart, flooding the room with sunlight. Sitting on the windowsill were Baron and Nixie, looking a little ruffled but otherwise no worse for wear. Nixie tapped her beak on the window before nodding her head towards the latch.

I moved to open it, but Macey grabbed my hand. “Are you crazy? We can’t let them in! What if the monsters get in too?”

“I don’t see any monsters, do you?” Macey shook her head, but she didn’t let go of my hand. “Do you remember what Aunt Pen said to us when we met them? One never needs to fear if they’ve befriended the crows.”

“Okay,” Macey said, nodding and releasing my hand. “We’ll open it together.”

Macey and I undid the latch, and the window swung inward as it opened. Baron and Nixie flew past us, and then Macey shut the window again and I redid the latch.

“Now what?” Macey asked, looking outside for any clues about what had happened last night. We could see where the tree had fallen, though it had been moved to clear the path the new gap in the fence had created. The forest undergrowth had surged forward in the days since I’d last seen it, and now there were bushes and branches pushing against the fence, or leaning over it. The yard was a mess too, the dirt had been torn up, and there were random objects from the house strewn about everywhere. Some of the new ditches in the yard almost looked like footprints, but I didn’t want to think about what sort of creature would have footprints that big.

Now we figure out how to mend the barrier without your aunt.”

Macey and I whirled around at the unfamiliar voice, high and nasally, then stepped back into the wall in shock at the two figures inside the room.

Sitting on the table, legs swinging and head cocked, was a young woman with dark hair and sharp black eyes. She was short and lithe, wearing all black with a feathered cloak and no shoes, and while I was certain I’d never seen her before she was distinctly familiar to me. Standing just behind her was a man, tall and broad and also clad in black. He had the same dark hair and black eyes, but there was a kindness in them, and he smiled at us as we took in the sight of him.

For a moment Macey and I were speechless, and as I raced to try and figure out where they had come from, I realized who was missing from the little room, and my eyes caught on the feathered cloaks the newcomers wore.

“…Baron and Nixie?” The woman smiled, sharp as a knife but not unkind.

“Got it in one, Dillon,” Nixie said, and I realized it was her who’d spoken earlier.

“I told you he was a smart one,” Baron said, his voice deep and loud, though he seemed proud that I’d recognized them so quickly. Nixie just rolled her eyes at him.

“What is going on?” Macey asked, voice quiet and panicked. I looked back towards her, she was clearly freaking out about this, which was fair. If I wasn’t so curious I’d probably be afraid too.

Nixie grimaced, and Baron looked sheepish as he answered, “There’s a lot that needs explaining, and not much time to do it, but we’ll try our best to catch you up.”