Three Ravens

In my lands, there is a tale. A tale of three birds. They were the most beautiful animals in the world, it was said. The bird's feathers rivaled the wildflowers' colors, the sun's radiance and the moon's romance. If one of the birds was seen by a mortal the human would fall to the ground and weep in its presence.

But nothing can be perfect. The gods grew angry at the birds for being so stunning and they exiled them into darkness. Banned in foreign lands, the bird's feather grew dark and their eyes, sad. Years later, after all the gods had been killed, they flew back to earth as dull and powerless as crows. Not recognizing the birds as the stunning creatures from before, mankind renamed them ravens—Dark Ones. It is said, sometimes at night, you can hear the ravens calling to each other, reminding all who listen of their former glory.

Maybe, just maybe if people listened—no, not just listened, heard—they could remember. They could see the glory hidden under coal-black feathers.

But that's the problem, you see.

No one listens. Not anymore.

Chapter One—Deadbird Rocks

"On the wings of a bird

luck arrives."

-From The Lost Scrolls of the Boarder Tower

They called them the Deadbird Rocks. A collection of six columns that rise from the water like skeletal fingers, bordering the shoreline and the bayous of Corpse Swamp. From the Coastal Road you can seem them, standing alone against the gray sky. Even some of the taller houses in Tied get a peak of the Deadbirds.

The rocks are mentioned in all sorts of legends, spoken of solemnly and mysteriously. Poets and Bards use it as a place to kill off a main character or to have the hero born. To me, though, they are a place of solitude and hiding.

"My Lady, please! If I walk any further my shoes will wear out!" Mayda complained, tearing past the coarse thickerstick bush and loping to catch up with me.

I glanced over my shoulder to check she was okay and started ahead again, walking against a light breeze that swept up from the cliff edge. The singing of seabirds rang in the air—a good omen for the sailors who set sail for war in the Whale Isles.

Mayda let out a groan. Sighing, I stopped and waited for her to catch up.

"Perhaps you should wear boots next time." I commented to her dryly as she stepped up beside me.

If she noticed the scorn in my voice, Mayda ignored it. "On the God's graves, look at that sight!"

I turned. Perched on the Deadbird Rocks were millions of seafalcons, squeaking and fluttering from pillar to pillar.

"Just in time!" I exclaimed, pointing. Mayda stood mutely behind me.

At my cry hundred of birds suddenly launched from the pillars, wings spread, blood-red feathers blending with the blindingly-silver ones of the young.

The seafalcons swung up and up into the sky together. Even talkative Mayda was at a loss for words.

"Fly!" I crooned, swaying on the edge of the cliffs. "Fly!"

We watched on the edge of the cliffs as the sun peaked above the curve of the earth. We watched until the birds had disappeared into the marshes. Still we watched until finally Mayda rose from where she had been sitting, cross-legged beside me.

"Where will they go now?" She asked.

"Away." I sighed. My voice was hoarse from crying with the birds. "To the Hillands, perhaps beyond to the Uncharted Lands. I don't know. Someday, though, I will go with them."

Mayda frowned, skeptical. "Your father needs you here."

"For what? Politics? To marry me away to some duke's son?" Fury flooded me suddenly.

"You are the daughter of the king's nephew!" Mayda said harshly. "It would be improper to marry any one of a younger class!"

As quickly as the fury had come, it was gone. I turned, looking out at the morning, at the now-abandoned Deadbird Rocks.

Mayda started back along the path. "Come along, Milady."

Turning I followed. With all my heart I wished to throw myself off the cliff edge, into the churning waters of the Swifdi Sea, down between the columns of the Deadbirds. Maybe then my spirit would be free to fly up in the sky with the seafalcons.

We started slowly back to were we had left the horses. The Leaving was over for this year, until the Returning in the fall. I felt a bubble swell in me as I thought of the Returning—It was almost more spectacular then the Leaving!

I mounted Sender, the chestnut pony I had gotten for my birthday. Mayda got on her own horse and clicked her heels to its side.

I threw my head back and laughed as Sender cantered to keep up with Mayda. My strawberry blonde hair enclosed me. I pushed it from my face, looking down at Castle Gyd and Coldwater Cove as we rode down the path.

They had been my home for my entire life. I swallowed hard, overcome with a sudden burst of melancholy.

"Lady Zorana!"

I looked up as the guard called my name. Mayda looked somewhat annoyed as the sergeant pushed past her and walked up to me.

"Yes?" I said expectantly.

"Your fiancé is here. He wishes to see you."

I laughed. "Sir, I have no fiancé."

The guard shrugged. "Now you do."

I turned and nodded at Mayda. I wanted to see who this cocky fellow was and what he was doing saying he was fiancé.

I knew who he was the moment I walked into the room.

My 'fiancé' was still clothed in riding clothes, hovering by a statue of my eldest brother, Charlie. His hand was on the statue's shoulder, his eyes studying the craftsmanship.

He turned.

"Mmm, I assume you must be Zorana." The man said. I hated how his voice sounded—bold, intruding…lusting.

"I am."

He smiled toothily. "Allow me to introduce myself. I am Sir Virrell Blackring of Raywing."

Raywing? That desert country all the way to the west?

"Ah." I didn't let my confusion show.

He knelt down on one knee, looking up at me, smiling that smile again.

"I have come here to take you as my wife." He said.

The world spun. The guard hadn't been joking. I blinked down at Virrell, swallowing to keep from crying out. He didn't say will you marry me or will you come to Raywing with me he had just stated the fact.

That meant her father had already approved.

A sob burst from my throat. I swayed a little, confusion reeling in my head.

"I won't marry you." I told him.

Virrell grinned. "I am afraid you will. Your father has approved."

"No! I won't! I'll run away rather then marry you!"

My father entered the room at that moment. He was a tall man with large features and eyes as blue as the sea. My eyes. Those eyes were panicked as he looked from me to Virrell.

"Zorana—" Father started to say.

I ran from the room, slamming the door behind me.

"I am so sorry, my lord." I heard my father apologize to Virrell. "She is a stubborn one."

"It's alright." Was the response, sickening me. "I love a good challenge."

I am writing this story for National Novel Writing Month (November) and trying to reach a goal of a finished book. I don't expect to be done in one month, which is the deadline, but I might as well try. :D

"-I review those who review me-"