The Raven's Call
by Colleen Driscoll
Sam woke to the sound of the raven as the sun warmed his face. He had lain outside all night. Rising, he studied the ransacked fields and trampled back toward the barn, gun in hand. The rains wouldn’t hold off too much longer, and the crops needed sown. He met his grandfather’s farmhand at the entrance of the barn. “They took the seeds,” Sam said.
Henry shook his head. “Again?”
Sam nodded. “Just checked. Third day in a row.”
Henry scowled. “We’re never going to get a harvest if the birds don’t stop snatching the seeds.”
Sam raised his eyebrows. “Do you want me to replant the fields?”
“How many seeds do we have left?”
Henry sighed. “The sacks won’t cover all the farmland. The biggest field by the ‘ol river takes three sacks.”
“When’s Grandpa coming back? He’d know what to do.” Sam waited as Henry gazed at the sun above the horizon. He understood the worry on Henry’s face. Ezra was due back two days ago. The nearest hamlet wasn’t more than two day’s trip on horseback.
“Ezra’s due anytime.” Henry rubbed his jaw. “The other field’s plowed, but with the late winter, we’re never going to get it sowed in time.”
Sam stared at the stripped soil and felt Henry’s concern. The ravens hadn’t plundered the fields since they arrived. It’s as if the birds knew his grandfather was gone.
“Did you shoot any ravens this morning?”
Sam lowered his eyes. “Nah. Fell asleep before daybreak.”
“I thought you stayed out last night to kill those pesky birds.” Henry’s frustration was obvious. “Your grandfather believes he can talk to the ravens—that he can convince them to leave our land alone.”
“The birds say nothing but ‘kra-kra.’ ”
“Yes, but he insists they can communicate.”
“That’s hogwash. Ravens are bad luck.”
“Some say they are protectors.”
“They feast on the dead.” A raven flew by Sam’s face, as if demanding attention. Sam raised his fowling gun and aimed. He pulled the trigger, but it didn’t squeeze.
Henry laughed. “Boy, who taught you how to shoot?”
Sam’s face heated as he inspected the gun. He detested Henry treating him like a twelve year old. He was sixteen. “The barrel is filled with seeds!”
The raven circled Sam’s head again and flew away.
“Maybe he’s telling you something,” Henry said.
“What? That he got the best of me this morning by pilfering more seeds?” Sam emptied the seeds and laid his gun against a fence post. “I’ll show him.” He disappeared into the barn and returned, carrying a saddle.
“Where are you going?”
Sam clenched his hands as he bridled his horse. “Raven’s Rock. The birds flock there. I’ll ambush every one of them.”
Henry chuckled. “We’ve got more pressing matters to take care of.”
Sam strapped his gun to the saddle and mounted. “I’ll plant the seeds when I return. We won’t have any crops come this fall if I don’t shoot those ravens.”
The trip to Raven’s Rock was an hour’s time westward and by the time Sam arrived, the anger over losing his seeds hadn’t dissipated. The ravens had dug up seeds for three days. Sam had noticed the raided rows immediately.
Raven’s Rock towered over a forested section of the frontier. The stone cliff peaked at 900 feet, but a lower passageway traversed around the structure. Sam planned to kill every one of the birds. Teach them a lesson for stealing the seeds. He approached the ledge where the birds hovered, but halted at a pile of rocks blocking the path. He tied his horse to a tree, unfastened his gun from the saddle, and hiked, moving stealthily, preparing to shoot as many ravens as possible. When he drew near the ledge, he studied the boisterous birds flocking on a giant rock. He loaded his ammo and cocked his gun. But then he heard a voice in the midst of noisy raven calls. A weak voice.
“Rafe. Go back. Bring help.”
Sam lowered his gun. “Grandpa?”
“Grandpa?” Sam called louder.
Sam followed his grandfather’s voice and wavered when he saw the older man wedged between two large boulders. Sam ran to him. “Grandpa, are you okay?”
The man looked pale, but gave a weak smile as he grimaced in pain. “There was a rockslide on the way home. My horse got scared and ran off. I started back on foot, but more rocks fell. My leg’s trapped.”
Looking around, Sam found a broken tree limb to prop under the rock. He raised the rock and Ezra freed his leg.
“Is it broken?”
Ezra moved his leg and flinched. “It’s bruised, but I don’t think it’s broken.”
Sam couldn’t stop shaking. “We were worried when you didn’t return.”
Ezra leaned against Sam as he stood. “I told the ravens to find you and Henry. They brought me berries and seeds to eat.”
Sam wrapped his arm around Ezra’s waist. “We thought they were stealing the seeds.”
“They were helping me. I asked them to transplant the seeds each morning to the distant field. Between the delay and my leg, we’d never plant that field in time.”
As they walked down the path, Sam moaned. “Oh, Grandpa, I shot at them.”
Ezra’s face grew stern. “I know. The ravens told me. It’s a good thing you’re a lousy aim.”
A quick bark of laughter came from Sam’s mouth. “And they still came back to help sow the seeds.”
“Yes. This land doesn’t belong to us. We use it, just like the ravens do. We need to work together to survive.”
A raven circled above as Sam lifted his grandfather on the horse. “Kra-kra.”
Ezra echoed the raven’s call.
“How do you know what the ravens say, Grandpa?”
Sam listened as the raven made a louder call and the other ravens replied. Then he smiled. He understood. “They’re returning in the morning to finish sowing the seeds.”
Colleen Driscoll resides in the United States with her family. She has three published children's stories in the Piper the Elf series. Find Colleen at http://cdriscollauthor.wixsite.com/colleendriscoll
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