Raven Mistress


May 1, 2027.

Dawn came. Although she waited until her cell’s alarm went off, she’d really already been awake for over an hour. Her first day. Ella rose and put on the jacket.

It fit perfectly; His Majesty’s tailors had been careful to insure that much. Dad had worn an identical jacket before her, and his father before him, and his father, and his father, and his father, all the way back to when Charles II rejected the advice of his astrologer and refused — because everyone knew that if the ravens ever left the Tower of London, England would fall — to remove the ravens from the Tower of London. Instead, King Charles removed the astrologers to Greenwich, appointed the Ravenmasters, and blinked, good Protestant that he was, at their own old magics.

In 2007, her Aunt Moira, fresh from her stint in the Royal Army, had become the first woman Ravenmaster. When Dad had retired from the Yeoman Warders, tired, he said, of early morning trips to Smithfield Meat Market to buy beef for the birds, Aunt Moira had taken over for him. There had been, for the first time in centuries, no male heir to assume the role. Rafe was grown, but still more like a child than a man, and childless Aunt Moira had, as everyone admitted, served faithfully and well in the Adjunct General Corps. Bullied, at first, by men who resented a woman Yeoman Warder, Aunt Moira had persevered, fed the ravens, smiled for the tourists, and, at night, done the Tower Magic that no one outside the family would ever discuss. And she had pressed Ella’s shoulder and said, every time that she saw Ella, “You will be Ravenmaster when I go.” Ella had dutifully turned away from the Royal Navy and done her stint in the Royal Army, instead. The Tower magic required it.

The hat. Ella wasn’t sure if it dated from Edwardian times or even earlier. But Dad had put an identical, if larger, one on his head every morning, just after bacon, tea, and eggy bread, and just before heading out into the world to earn the money that kept Ella, Rafe, and Mummy safe and secure. The hat actually looked good over her straight bob, and it made Ella feel taller and more suited to her role. Ella remembered Aunt Moria wearing the hat over her chaotic black curls, and she remembered Aunt Moria taking the hat off, whenever she stepped through the doorway and and hugged Ella and Rafe, just before handing a tin of tea or a jar of jam to Mummy and heading over to hug Dad, sitting by the fireplace, watching one cricket match after another. “How’s Merlina, my own true love?” Dad would ask Aunt Moria, and, “She misses you and your role in the rites,” Aunt Moria would always say. Mummy would always look busy.

The patch. Ella ran her fingers over it, just above her left breast. The embroidery showed a raven’s head rising above the Tower. Bran, the Blessed. At least, that was what it meant to the family and to the few odd historians — young men with lisps from Scottish Universities and old women in tweed suits from obscure corners of Oxford — who understood or guessed at the old magics. Bran, whose name meant Blessed Crow, who died saving his sister from a wife beater, and whose head, facing France, was buried beneath the Tower of London. Ella’s finger caught on a stray gold thread.

Her cell phone rang. “Ella, get here now,” Brandon said. “The ravens are missing from the bird boxes at Wakefield Tower. They’re already saying it’s your fault.”

/To be continued.

Picture found here.




From Byron

Robert Frost Birthday Poetry Blogging


Today is the anniversary of Robert Frost’s birthday. He wrote a lot of wonderful poems, many of them about being in relationship with place. I don’t know that I could pick a favorite, but here’s one that I really, really love, especially the final verse, which I’ve been able to recite from memory for decades, ever since the very first time I read it. And it so perfectly describes our current weather, here in the Magical MidAtlantic.


~ Robert Frost

Out of the mud two strangers came
And caught me splitting wood in the yard,
And one of them put me off my aim
By hailing cheerily “Hit them hard!”
I knew pretty well why he had dropped behind
And let the other go on a way.
I knew pretty well what he had in mind:
He wanted to take my job for pay.

Good blocks of oak it was I split,
As large around as the chopping block;
And every piece I squarely hit
Fell splinterless as a cloven rock.
The blows that a life of self-control
Spares to strike for the common good,
That day, giving a loose my soul,
I spent on the unimportant wood.

The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You’re one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
A cloud comes over the sunlit arch,
A wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you’re two months back in the middle of March.

A bluebird comes tenderly up to alight
And turns to the wind to unruffle a plume,
His song so pitched as not to excite
A single flower as yet to bloom.
It is snowing a flake; and he half knew
Winter was only playing possum.
Except in color he isn’t blue,
But he wouldn’t advise a thing to blossom.

The water for which we may have to look
In summertime with a witching wand,
In every wheelrut’s now a brook,
In every print of a hoof a pond.
Be glad of water, but don’t forget
The lurking frost in the earth beneath
That will steal forth after the sun is set
And show on the water its crystal teeth.

The time when most I loved my task
The two must make me love it more
By coming with what they came to ask.
You’d think I never had felt before
The weight of an ax-head poised aloft,
The grip of earth on outspread feet,
The life of muscles rocking soft
And smooth and moist in vernal heat.

Out of the wood two hulking tramps
(From sleeping God knows where last night,
But not long since in the lumber camps).
They thought all chopping was theirs of right.
Men of the woods and lumberjacks,
The judged me by their appropriate tool.
Except as a fellow handled an ax
They had no way of knowing a fool.

Nothing on either side was said.
They knew they had but to stay their stay
And all their logic would fill my head:
As that I had no right to play
With what was another man’s work for gain.
My right might be love but theirs was need.
And where the two exist in twain
Theirs was the better right–agreed.

But yield who will to their separation,
My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For Heaven and the future’s sakes.

Wordless Wednesday

Photo of her garden by the blogger. If you copy, please link back.

White Fragility

You need to read this.

/Hat tip to Angela Nine Ravens

Monday at the Movies

Well, it’s true. One or two people may have irritated me today.

Sunday Ballet Blogging

(I hate how choppy this video is and almost didn’t post it for that reason. But these dancers bring such raw and technical talent to the dance that I had to share. What do you think?)