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Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Raven

The RavenFor the peasant used to living his entire life in one village, a chaotic Normandy port such as Harfleur can prove a daunting, even terrifying experience. But places such as these are my element. Here I can walk among the crowds, ever watching and recording as is my want, but without the elaborate precautions that I must take on many of my expeditions. I am just one more face among hundreds.

On this day I was by the docks, noting the composition of the fleet, when a ship came in from distant Araby. Even my eyes, accustomed to so many wonders, widened at what came off that boat. Flanked by huge, obese, dark-skinned guards with curved scimitars at their hips, chest after chest was swiftly loaded from the ship to a waiting caravan. Once, several struggling slaves tripped and their burden fell to the dock, spilling a load of riches that sparkled blindingly in the sun. Instantly, a frenzy of overseers, a closing of ranks of guards, a rain of blows upon the slaves’ backs!

But after the slaves, the many chests, the jugs and jars and carpets and bundles—in skittish, tramping rows the strangest beasts I had ever beheld were led, with much difficulty, off the boat. Like giant birds they were, yet on long, powerful legs. They had sharp beaks that pecked at anything foolish enough to come too close. Their beady eyes were full of fear and anger.

I watched these creatures as they were loaded into special wagons and then, following my instincts, kept an eye on the merchant overseer, who slipped quietly into a nearby warehouse. I soon found a window off the street through which I could witness the heated negotiation that followed. A negotiation with goblins.