They brought her body down from the woods today and left it in the square, that curved mask still covering her face, those black feathers still hanging from her arms. A small crowd watches. They know no better. They do not avert their eyes.
The blood that spills from her robes and runs along the cobblestones is not hers but ours, yours, theirs.
There are always those for whom the occurrence of this spectacle was their first time. Those that do not recognise who this figure is, this hunter, this crow. Who do not know how many times she has been caught, been killed, been left here to rot on the stone steps of the court.
In the woods in the winter, in the years she is alive, she leaves no footsteps in the snow, casts no shadow beneath the sun, makes no sound beneath the moon. Only by the bounties that she claims do we know that she is there.
In the summer she stands upon the hill and is not seen to move. But move she must, for never does she stop. There are always those among us ready to atone.
We spoke once, this hunter and I, this crow, here in this very room, her mask pulled up enough to reveal her mouth, her lips, her bloodstained teeth. I cannot recall her words, though even if I did I know better than to repeat them. She deserves her privacy as we deserve our own.
I can see them out there still, the crowd in the square. Her killer plucks a feather from her wings, holds it up to the sky.
I could not tell you what they hope to gain.
The hunter is always young, always fast, always alone. The crow is always old, always slow, always on her own. The hunter is the crow, the crow is the hunter. There is no distinction between the two.
She is always a woman, even when she is a man. She could be any one of us, but is always no one we know.
I remember the crackle of the fire, the steam rising from the cup in her hands, a glimpse of her tongue with every word that she spoke. I remember the caress of her fingers through my hair, the cold of her claws against my scalp, the trickle of blood as each fresh drop rolled down my cheeks like tears.
I killed the hunter once. I killed the crow. I was young enough then I think I expected praise. I was certainly not then old enough to understand the shame.
They say that those who kill the hunter, those that kill the crow, cannot themselves be killed. They say those that kill the hunter, those that kill the crow, can never themselves become the hunter, can never themselves become the crow. No matter how much they might wish themselves to be.
I still have the feather I plucked from her wing. It is older than this house. It is older than this town. It is older than the woods in which she walks even now.
1. Written on November 16th, 2021