Crows were everywhere. The black feathered devils saw everything. The villagers cursed and looked away, but no matter, the old man’s pets saw where everything was hid. Every gold piece, every bushel of grain, every flagon of ale. The crows flew to the old man and told him. Then he’d come and take his tithe. The villagers grumbled, but knew better than to argue. They had seen him send the crows like black fiends pecking eyes and flesh and plucking hair. They had seen the old man cackling with laughter and the blind, bloodied bodies of those that crossed him.
She had nothing. Blind and crow-pocked. Once she had been beautiful but she had refused him and so the old man had made her pay. First he killed her lover. Next he took her child. Then he took her eyes, her hair and her beauty. Bleeding and broken.
The villagers looked away, ashamed and afraid. Day after day, she sat in the square begging; a reminder of their weakness, of their cowardice. Some tossed crusts of bread, some tossed small coins, and others tossed curses. She picked them up and threw them back. Collecting the curses for the old man.
The crows congregated around the old man’s house for weeks. Circling and calling. Surely this was an omen, a dark omen. The villagers shuddered, but knew better than to cross the old man. They had made that mistake before.
By the third week, they dared to venture into the house. The crows called a warning that they didn’t heed.
Inside they found the old man lying dead. His tongue and eyes pecked out, his hair plucked from his head. His decayed flesh a broth for black beaks. Through the open window black wings fluttered and dark feathers littered the room.
First published in THE UNHOLY TRINTY