The Crows Garden.
A pale morning sun sparkled on the swirling patterns Jack Frost had danced across the path. A crow surveyed the crystallised world below from a naked branch, overlooking the garden.
In summer, roses had bloomed in abundance, succeeding the vibrant spring crocuses and daffodils with pastel hues amid the green. Fairies had gathered the fallen petals each evening, but the last of them had withdrawn and the crow knew that soon the ice sprites would arrive, and whisper to the bulbs beneath the soil.
As he observed the beds, that were bare save for thorny twigs and fallen leaves, the crow felt a pang of nostalgia. In former years, this had been the favourite retreat of three children, who had nurtured the roses, sown seeds, and filled the space with their laughter. This spring, however, they had not returned, and the approaching winter was another reminder of their prolonged absence.
Much as he missed the companionable chatter, the crow busied himself tending his nest and the day passed as always. As the light began to fade and a crescent moon rose beyond the ivy-covered wall, he flew a final circuit over the garden, pausing to rest on the old wooden swing seat.
‘They will come back, you know’, a soft voice said suddenly from above. ‘But they’re no longer the children they once were’.
Looking up, the crow saw a barn owl in the fork of the tree. She spread her wings and glided down beside him.
‘I have seen it before, and my mother before me. Though they rarely see us, less still the folk who share our home, they do care, and will return. And if not them, why, there will be more children in the big house before many winters pass’.
She spoke earnestly, and with kindness. The crow, curious, could not help but voice his greatest fear.
‘I heard that not so very long ago, the garden was abandoned. The sprites and fairies left for a time, and it wasn’t until a child found the key that everything flourished again. What if we are forgotten once more? I was born here, and to leave would be sorrowful indeed…’
The bright, round eyes searched his own black beads, and he felt her judgement keenly. In a swift, smooth movement, the owl swung her neck toward the eastern wall, then back to the crow.
‘Perhaps it is time. I am no longer so young and well, if something should happen to me…’
Silently, she took flight, indicating that the crow should follow. Barely had she graced the air then she stopped atop the wall, and gestured to the thick ivy below. Long fronds trailed and entwined, and the crow was unsure of her intentions, until he saw it: a natural hollow amid the leaves, revealed by a chance breeze. Following his instincts, the crow hopped forward, perching on a firmer branch.
Tucked away and suspended on an ancient nail in the wall was a small, silver key. It was neither ornate nor unusual in design, but its significance was clear. The crow looked back at the owl, who regarded him kindly. ‘When the time comes, you will know. The robin, my mother’s friend, judged wisely, and I trust you will too’.
So saying, she floated into the now indigo sky. The crow sat a moment on the ivy bough, looking once in awe at the key glinting behind him; hopefully to the single star now accompanying the moon; and finally, with pleasure, upon the garden in which Jack Frost was waltzing once more.
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