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A CALL OF CROWS by Rick Haynes

Swirling in the wind and rising with the thermals, the flock almost turned the sky black, so many were their number. Only a passing buzzard dare fly into their territory and even the advantage of size counted for nothing as the crows took turns to mob the intruder.

Darkening skies from the west announced the coming of bad weather yet those few birds on the ground looked upwards with a casual acceptance. If the storm proved to be violent they could finish their work later. But for now, the flying host remembered the teachings of their parents and continued to circle on the thermals, their keen eyes missing nothing on the land below. Being in the right place at the right time was essential for their survival as the fledglings would soon find out.

Flashes of lightning momentarily turned grey skies the colour of snow and many youngsters turned away in fear. Yet, for the older, wiser birds, the scent of fresh meat assaulting their senses was becoming ever powerful. Time would pass, the pangs of hunger would increase, and the flock would descend. And all they had to do was await the right moment.

A jagged bolt hit the tallest oak tree, splitting the trunk into several pieces. Heavy rain fell. More birds decided to fly to safety. Even those remaining, trembled and thought twice about staying.

All over the bloodied lands men moved like snails, the thickening mud cloying, their calves burning as they dragged one foot in front of the other. Speech, proved impossible as the sudden gusts overpowered them. But the strongest carried on with the task of burying their dead.

Another, even stronger gust tore across the land and the last of the crows nervously took flight.

A trumpet sent out a mournful wail but only those nearest heard the feeble call to depart. As one man moved, those nearest followed, beckoning others to leave this hellish place. Like fish out of water, the men dragged their weary bodies through the swamp of despair.

As the men moved away, the lightning ceased and the violence of the wind began to fade.

Too tired to resist, the warriors looked back at the black rain descending from above.

And like a mighty army, the crows swooped en masse to feed.

With so many bodies lying on the battlefield there would be no squabbling today.

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