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Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Raven

The Raven“Hell’s teeth, cannot a man enjoy his dinner in peace!” John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, threw his half-gnawed turkey leg at the back of his manservant, who had been his manservant long enough to know that interruptions to Shrewsbury’s dinner were best delivered prior to a quick exit. Shrewsbury drew the back of his hand roughly across his greasy lips and sat back, cradling his goblet of wine. “Send him in, fool!” he shouted.

Two men-at-arms entered quickly to stand at either side of the tent’s entrance. The light from the flickering braziers outside was blocked and a tall, heavily cloaked figure entered. He glanced from right to left. “Leave us” he whispered. The men-at-arms looked to Shrewsbury in surprise and confusion, until he nodded assent.

When they were alone, the cloaked figure moved forward and sat on a nearby divan. He threw a scroll upon the table between them.

“A glass of wine and some food perhaps, Raven? Or do you feast only on corpses?” Shrewsbury asked with a smile.

“I am in the habit of preparing my own meals” was the reply. The figure leaned forward, his face still in shadow, and tapped the scroll. “Besides, this information will buy me many, many excellent feasts.”

“Perhaps, mysterious one … and perhaps not. I have reconsidered the terms of our little agreement. I think perhaps the information you have for me should be considered a good deed for king and country - and therefore one not requiring pay-“

Suddenly Shrewsbury lurched forward, spraying wine in a wide arc from his mouth, and threw the goblet across the tent. He gasped for breath, clutching at his throat, going red with the effort of trying to breathe.

“Indeed?” said the cloaked figure. “You’ll not be needing this then, I take it?” he said, drawing a small vial from within the folds of his cloak. “Tell me, how is the wine?”