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Chapter 3: The Crow

Saffron and Bear host an injured guest
Chapter 3: The Crow

Need to get caught up?

The crow wriggled in Saffron’s arms as she tried to clean the wound on the underside of its wing.

“Who got you?” she cooed gently, trying to soothe the bird as she poured water over the ragged edges of the cut. It looked like a bite wound, but she didn’t know any creature around here with teeth that big.

The crow cawed softly at her in response.

On the other side of the room, the cat arched his back and hissed, his grey tail puffing up to three times its usual size.

“Bear!” she chided. “Be nice. She’s hurt.”

Saffron was settled on the floor of her cottage near the hearth. The black bird was wrapped in a blanket to keep it from flapping away, only its head and the injured wing sticking out. Saffron’s healing supplies were spread out around her so that everything was in easy reach.

She’d found the crow on her way to town that morning, and her trip to the market had been put off when she’d seen the drops of red blood beneath the creature as it hopped feebly around. Bear had been on edge ever since, but the crow was big enough that he hadn’t dared come close enough to get a swipe at it. Saffron didn’t know who would win that fight and she didn’t want to find out.

Satisfied that the wound was clean, she reached for her healing herbs. Working slowly with one hand while the other held the crow in place, she pressed a small poultice carefully to the wound. The bird squirmed as she did so and Saffron made soothing sounds until the little creature stilled again.

She carefully wrapped a bandage around the bird’s wing to keep the herbs in place. Once it was tied off, she checked the tension of it, and then released the bird from the blanket. The crow hopped up and stretched her wings, but cawed and quickly refolded them.

“Are you alright?” Saffron asked her little patient.

The crow cawed at her and began hopping across the rug to investigate the room, so Saffron took that as a positive sign and began to tidy up her supplies.

With everything cleaned up, Saffron retreated to her bed, where Bear was warily watching the crow make its tour of the cottage.

“What do you think, boy?” She patted his head. He meowed plaintively. “It’s just a crow. I think we can share with her for a little while, don’t you?”

Bear turned away, pointedly ignoring the crow, though his swiveling ears betrayed his entrance.

“Don’t worry, you’re still my favourite.” Saffron rubbed behind his ears before she went to find some lunch for the three of them.


The two animals maintained a tense stand-off over the next few days. Bear had marked out the bed and surrounding area as his territory, but let the crow explore the rest of the cottage. With only one functioning wing, she couldn’t get up onto the furniture, but she had no problem hopping around the floor.

Saffron moved freely between the two of them, caring for the crow and showering Bear with extra attention to appease his ego.

The first few times she went out, the crow stayed behind at the cottage while she and Bear went on their rounds to check in on the residents of the town and the forest. But the bird soon grew tired of being cooped in the cottage. One day when Saffron was on her way out, the crow hopped along behind her, trying to follow her out the door.

“Where do you think you’re going?” Saffron asked.

The crow gave one loud caw in response. Bear, pressed against the back of her legs, hissed. The crow cawed again but stood her ground.

Saffron scooped Bear into her arms before the squabble could go any farther.

“You can come with us, but don’t wander off,” she told the crow. “I don’t want whatever bit you getting a second chance while you’re still hurt.”

The crow didn’t answer, just hopped out the door and pecked at the lightly snow-covered ground. Saffron started along the path to town. Bear had crawled from her arms onto her shoulder and sat facing backward, watching the crow as she hopped along after them.

The sky was grey but bright, and the air wasn’t too cold. There was just enough snow on the ground to crunch under her feet. The path wound along the edge of the meadow to an arched wooden bridge that crossed the stream and brought them into town. Their first stop was to check in on Henry and Meg.

“Who’s this, then?” Henry asked when he greeted them at the door and saw the crow at Saffron’s feet.

“A new friend. She’s got an injured wing.”

Bear jumped down from her shoulder to twine himself around Henry’s legs.

“I don’t have anything for you, little fellow.”

Meg came in from the kitchen. “Saffron! It’s so good to see you.”

Saffron embraced the older woman. “You too, Meg. How’s your leg?”

“Just fine, thanks to you. It healed up good as new.”

“I’m glad to hear it.”

The crow cawed then, and Meg noticed her for the first time. “You take another poor creature in?”

“Just until she gets better. I don’t think Bear would forgive me if this became permanent.”

“You can keep the crow and we’ll take Bear,” Henry joked as he scratched the cat under his chin.

Saffron snorted. “He’d love that. You spoil him.”

“That’s just because he’s a good kitty, aren’t you mister Bear?”

A flash of motion caught Saffron’s eye. “Hey! Get out of that!”

The crow had found Meg’s knitting basket and was pecking at a ball of green yarn.

“Oh, she’s fine.” Meg was far more amused than upset.

“Sorry.” Saffron took the yarn from the crow and returned it to the basket. “We’ll get out of your hair, I just wanted to check on you.”

“You’re never a bother to us, dear, no matter how many wild creatures you bring into the house.”

“I know, Henry. I’ll visit again soon.”

She finished the rest of her rounds quickly, checking in on the Shermans and their new baby, and stopping at the bakery for a few loaves of bread. By the time they were heading home, Bear was tired of riding on her shoulder and wanted to explore. She kept a close eye on the two animals, but the cat walked on her left and the crow on her right, neither paying much attention to the other.

Back at home, the tension between the two animals eased too. The next day, Bear even left the bed to sit on the chair next to the fire. The crow watched warily as he crossed the room, but neither animal made a peep.

The crow’s wound gradually healed and Saffron was glad to see it progress without developing any infection. The day she was able to take the bandages off for good, the crow stretched out her wings and gave them an experimental flap.

“Feeling better?” Saffron asked her.

The crow squawked and tried to fly across the room. She got about two wingbeats before she landed heavily and folded her wings carefully on her back.

“Careful, now. You’ll need to build your strength.”

The crow merely preened her feathers, but she didn’t try flying again for a few more days.

It was about a week later when Saffron was awoken by an urgent knock at the door. She dragged herself blearily across the dark room to find Mr. Sherman on her doorstep.

“It’s the baby. Come quick, Saffron, please.”

“Right.” Her mind snapped into focus. “Give me two minutes.”

She rushed back to the cottage to drag on her winter clothes and grab her healing kit, then raced Mr. Sherman into town.

The baby was hot with fever and he wasn’t eating. It took most of the night, but with the right herbs and a healing spell, Saffron was able to break the fever. Shortly after dawn, she left the child safely with his exhausted parents and dragged herself back to the cottage.

Her eyes were nearly closed as she kicked off her boots and made her way to the bed, overcome by a powerful yawn. She was about to flop down on the bed when she realized that there was an extra visitor there.

Bear was curled up in his usual position in the absolute middle of the bed. But tucked up next to him was the crow, her side pressed against his back. Both creatures raised their heads momentarily at Saffron’s approach but didn’t rouse themselves.

She sat for a moment, smiling at the scene, before sliding into the bed and curling herself around the both of them.


The Shermans’ baby made a full recovery and so did the crow. In another few weeks, she was flying without trouble. She still accompanied Saffron and Bear on their rounds, but she started to fly off on her own adventures, straying farther from them each time.

One day when they were out in the woods, another crow cawed somewhere off in the distance. Both Bear and the crow snapped to attention, looking in the direction of the sound. The bird took off, rising up over the trees and into the distance, looking for her fellow crow. Saffron and Bear continued on their way, though she glanced up now and then, looking for a sign of their friend. It wasn’t until they were almost home that she heard a low caw and turned around. Two crows flew from the edge of the woods across the meadow and over the town before disappearing in the distance. Within a moment they were gone, leaving not a trace in the clear blue sky above.

Saffron watched after them for a minute more. Bear pressed against her legs and meowed softly.

“She’s gone, boy. Back where she belongs.”

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P.S. If you enjoy my writing, check out my story “Something to Run From” in the latest issue of NonBinary Review.

Katie Conrad is a speculative fiction writer living in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She writes fantasy, science fiction, horror, and literary stories. You can find her on twitter or instagram.