The Cromwell, The Raven and Wonder
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In my travels across the Worlds, both large and small, near and so, so very distant, there was one that was damp. Fog hung low across the marsh, water like green sludge winding around the patchy islands. From beneath a willow’s shade I looked up to the sky. Though it was noon, there was no sun, only clouds of grey between clouds of darker grey.

Above, a Cromwell darted by. With a magpie’s cry, and a full lung of air, she sung her song.

I am the Cromwell, bringer
Of stories, fables and word.
In the damp and cold I winger
To bring a tale never heard.

For I am a magpie, feathers
Black and white. The weather’s
Fierce. Unyielding, undeterred,
I fly on, for I am the bird of word

unheard; absurd; conferred;
And onward I am spurred,
For this tale I must tell,
For I am a Cromwell!

There was a tree, too big to be, let alone to be free of the ground and up in the sky. Alas, Toirdelbach the tree would never agree to yield to the pravity of gravity. Under his leaves, a hamlet sat balanced upon his branches, its hundreds of people all ignorant of Wonder.

The Wanderer’s Bird would change that.

Through the rain the Cromwell flew. She had flown for days, from home, to the Library, to this realm of mist and rain. Soon, her journey would be over—Toirdelbach was in sight.

Wings tired from flight, she touched down upon the winding walkway of the village. From out of houses with thatched roofs came villagers in twos and threes. Faces of awe greeted her. Somewhere, a curly haired girl cheered, for the whole village knew, from tales told by word of mouth, the Cromwells. For, though it had been years, they all remembered what Wonder—the wonder of literature—looked like as the Cromwell set her precious parcel down—a singular book.

Far above, a Raven watched. Born in the dark, afraid of the Wonder, it watched the villagers gather round and read, a chilling shiver ran down its back.

They offered respite and rest, but she declined. The life of a Cromwell permitted no breaks. Tired, she took off, another book to be delivered to somewhere afar.

Then there was thunder, and the rain blotted out the mist. Perhaps she should have accepted the offer of the villagers? She shook her head. She’d land on a tree protruding out of the bog, upon it she would wait for the fog to pass on by. She shut her eyes, only to be woke by a frog’s croak. She fixed her eyes on the amphibian, and sang with a tweet a merry greet to him.

The frog regarded the Cromwell thoughtfully for a moment. He let out an indifferent croak, and hopped back into the water. She sighed. Perhaps the frog simply couldn’t understand her? She’d try to get some sleep anyhow, before the weather cleared and she had to move on.

Raven heard the Cromwell’s song and shivered. It could feel her Wonder flow through the air currents and about the marsh. Light thoughts leaked through its flesh and spread, like a poison, through its mind. In anguish it cried out—it was to stop this otherworldly sickness, and stop it now.

The branch shook as Raven landed heavily, waking the Cromwell up with a start. She looked at its black eyes, and sang to it.

Bird of black, the raven,
Do you know Wonder and it’s—

“Shut up.” It spat, its claws raking her beak. In horror, she tried to flee, but it wouldn’t be. Raven tore at her wings and she fell, a bird of black and white, now tainted red. Raven brought her to her knees upon the mud. Under the rain, she sang a plea to deaf ears. As the life passed from her, she remembered the Wonder and smiled, for even under the thunder, Raven, so craven, could never plunder it.

I was the Cromwell, always will be,
And words my ward—I am its guard.
Though I die, to the claw of thee,
The Wonder shall be unscarred.

The Cromwell sang her last, breathed one last breath, and passed beyond. Though she is dead, do not dread, for she will forever spread Wonder and tales, both heard and unread. She still smiles now, for no matter the trials, she will be above, sharing the words she will always love.

~Ifan the Bard

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