They called him crow. Those lackwit boys at the Conservatorio, Paolo and Riccardo. Tenors with sugared voices and decayed souls. Mocking his voice, his corvid croak. Mocking his pain. The fire. His parents. His sweet little sisters. The door that just wouldn't open.
All that had changed when he acquired the dark flute. When the Archangel had granted his wish to become a bird charmer. He didn't need a voice. The flute spoke for him. A faint echo of angelic song. He felt the birds’ tiny souls, their needs, their hopes. They flew to him as to the hand of a beloved master.
When the crow first began following him, he was angry. As if the stupid creature knew what the other boys called him and was determined to remind him of it. He tried to shoo her away. But the crow was tenacious. Swooping from the roof the moment he stepped outdoors. Riding on his shoulder. Sharing his meals, his joys, his sorrows. A constant companion.
Now, years later, he crosses the piazza towards Caffe Armide. His black tabarro flaps in the breeze like wings. The dark flute hangs at his hip, where a nobleman would wear a sword. But he is no nobile. He is Tammo Capell, Bird Charmer to the Nobility. He looks up to the campanile and gives a sharp whistle.
“Coronis. To me, girl!”
The crow swoops down, a funereal fan in flight. Her talons grip his shoulder. He is complete. Together they go to collect their patrons’ commissions, and savour their morning coffee and biscotti.
You can read more by Elizabeth Hopkinson at www.elizabethhopkinson.uk or @hidden_grove