Peer Review by anemoia (#words) (United States)

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No Time like the Present

By: maryse


The Crows knew it wasn't an ordinary day, just as they know all things to do with time (though few would ever say it).

There was a breath on the air that morning, as though time itself was rolling, stretching, and yawning awake. That was, of course, an illusion. Time was ever-present and ever-changing, Lear mused, it never slept. The wind jostled his feathers insistently and brushed along the remaining palace gables, whistling through the vacant halls of the servants. Spears of light scattered across the canopy with individual lances piercing through, warping on the cobbled paths below. The branches were nearly bare in anticipation of winter.
From his perch, Lear surveyed the ruins, his mind folding the centuries back together, raising the walls to their former glory, resurrecting the dead. It helped calm him, though the habit itself was inherently nostalgic. Doubt was inevitable - but even going against centuries of carefully schooled control, he struggled to admit his lack of power. He'd spent years following the same routines, observing, recording, orchestrating a response to the threat he'd seen assemble a hundred times over. Now was his reply. 
He readjusted the grip of his beak on the material, then took flight, a silent phantom amongst skeletal branches. He had committed every moment to memory, every movement choreographed.
His people were dwindling. If they refused to save themselves, he would do it for them.
Soon, the site would open to the public. Then, the first groups would arrive. Lear wouldn't have long until that happened - his opening was narrowing. Promptly, he released the four corners of the fabric and laid out the contents. Collecting one coin from each ruler, Viking to the present day, they were the only things he'd ever brought across the rift, his only violations of conduct - until now.
Lear selected his chosen artefact - a medieval silver penny. Though battered by years, the face of King William stared resolutely out from the tarnished metal. Wrapping the others up in the cloth, Lear began to feel the brevity of the situation weighing on him. It was as close to giddy as he was ever going to admit feeling. He deposited them atop the tower wall, far from human eyes and concealed by the fabric. He'd had issues with magpies before.
There was a blanket of fog across the grass, and a boy, Jamie Keyes to be precise, disturbed it as he toured his way around the edges of the ancient courtyard. Lear alighted on the tower and examined his target. Small, young, hopeful. His imperfections shone out of him like flares. The boy's past and future flickered in and out of focus from his present. The crow cocked his head, the boy sniffled quietly and glanced behind him as he balanced along a crumbling wall. A middle-aged couple were bickering by the entrance while a determined staff member encouraged them to step out of line. Jamie rubbed his eyes dry of tears and skipped off the wall, away from his parents, heading to the old chapel. He didn't notice the soft shadow of feathers and flesh sailing along above him.
The glass of the old window was long gone. Lear remembered the day of its removal well; His peers had refused to intervene even then. He wondered whether they'd forgotten their oaths, or had just endured for too long to care.
Balancing on the ancient stonework where the glass once resided, the crow watched the boy wander about the open-air chamber for a minute longer. 
Then, as the boy stepped into the blossom of sunlight created by the window Lear sat in, he shifted to the side. Now blinded by the rising sun, Jamie shielded his eyes from the light and searched for the cause. He spotted Lear immediately but, as expected, didn't try to frighten him off. The pair regarded each other in the wan light of winter daybreak with interest, with all the focus one gives to a welcome distraction. Jamie stared at the bird and the peculiarly reflective item in its beak and was predictably fascinated.
He spoke. "Hello?"
Lear let the coin fall from his beak.
Jamie stared as the metal tumbled onto the stone floor, curiosity bridling. He walked over to pick it up. A ghostly voice whispered around the idle remains of the palace, hindering Jamie's motion. 
"Help us, Jamie. Leave this world behind and help us restore balance."
The hair on the boy's neck raised, he glanced around. Too young to question the presence of disembodied voices.
"Balance to what?" He sniffled again, having completely stopped crying a moment ago.
"Someone crippled by greed seized power and tore down our golden halls for profit. Help us." The voice lamented.
"What can I do?" Jamie murmured.
The reply was barely audible, "Help us."
His fist closed around the coin, meeting its icy surface and the narrative of the past struck the present. The force with which they collided was entirely abstract but still sent Lear toppling from his position in the window.
When he righted himself and landed back on the ground, smoothing his feathers back down, he felt a renewed sense of purpose. Jamie was in the process of picking himself up from the floor when Lear flew over, collecting the discarded coin. The boy stumbled back and gawked at the crow. His attention wavered as he began to look around. What had been ruins was now a fully furnished chapel. Candles and pictures lined the walls, sunlight streaming in, illuminating the altar. People bustled about outside. The air smelled distinctly of summer, and the greenery outdoors confirmed it.
Lear hopped toward the boy who, understandably, was in shock. But there wasn't time for charity.
"Hello, Jamie. I'm delighted to meet you. I have a favour to ask of you if you'll only give me a moment to explain."
Steadily, the boy nodded.


Peer Review

The first sentence! And then the gorgeous imagery and setting details. You do things with words that I can only dream of.


Lear shocked me, I admit. I didn't expect him to be a literal crow, but it's unique and powerful. It gives him a broader perspective. The fact that he has such deep power and interesting thoughts as a bird makes him come alive. The hints at past feuds and interactions with his people also give him backstory and make him seem wise and ancient, yet fearful and desperate.
Also, did you choose the name Lear from the Shakespeare play, or just because?


I don't think so. It all flows so well.


ABSOLUTELY! Every word draws me into this ancient place, this palace, the cathedral, the medieval/renaissance-ness, the ruins, the wintery feel.


You truly, really, absolutely, have a gift for stringing words into sentences that form paragraphs that weave stories. The sentences on their own are lovely and just make me sigh in appreciation. All together, in the story, they bring it to life.


Reviewer Comments

Did I say it all yet? I can't think of anything that needs cutting or changing, honestly. If you're looking to whittle down the word count, well... that might be hard, because every word feels integral and powerful.