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 false, of course. Time was subtle and indomitable, Lear mused. No matter where you exposed the cogs, it never ceased.
The wind jostled his feathers insistently as it brushed along the remaining palace gables, whistling through the vacant halls of the servants and fluttering through copious flyers announcing a 'Christmas Extravaganza', which ended several weeks ago.
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. The site would open to the public soon. Then, the first groups would arrive.
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.
Lear would be first to admit his motives were selfish. But with over 900 years of vivid history, the looming wasteland of his future was terrifying.
To change history, one needs a clear head. He'd spent years following the same routines, observing, orchestrating a response to the monster he'd seen assemble a hundred times over. Now was his reply.
Lear readjusted the grip of his beak on the material, then took flight, a phantom amongst skeletal branches.
His colony was dwindling. If they refused to save themselves, he would do it for them.
Lear released the corners of the fabric and inspected the contents. 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 chose a silver penny, medieval. Polished as the day it'd been made, the face of King William stared out from the metal. Wrapping the others up in the cloth, Lear began to feel the odd situation weighing on him. It was as close to giddy as he would ever admit. He deposited his collection atop the tower wall, far from human eyes and concealed by the fabric. He'd had issues with magpies before.
A blanket of fog concealed the grass, and a boy, Jamie Keyes, disturbed it as he toured his way around the edges of the courtyard. Lear alighted on the tower and examined his target. Small, young, hopeless. The boy's past and future flickered in and out of focus from his present. He sniffled quietly and glanced behind him as he rambled along a crumbling wall. The crow was softly amazed that his neon trainers had found purchase on the stone.
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. 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. Perhaps they'd forgotten their oaths, or had just endured for too long to care.
Balancing on the ancient stonework, the crow watched the boy wander about the open-air chamber for a minute longer. In the centre was one of those, 'Recreate the atmosphere' talking contraptions. Jamie pressed the button and a pleasant Welsh voice erupted through the space.
"Ah! I see you've finally made it to the Great Chapel. Well, back in it's glory days, the light from the windows would have refracted down onto the floor. It would have been quite a marvel..." The boy lost interest moving toward the blossom of sunlight created by the window Lear sat in, and the one mentioned by the mechanical tourguide. He shifted to the side, blinding Jamie. Who shielded his eyes and searched for an explanation. He spotted Lear immediately but, as expected, didn't try to frighten him off. A curious but gentle soul.
Instead, the pair regarded each other in the wan winter light, with all the focus one gives to a welcome distraction. Jamie gazed at the bird and the item it carried 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, interest arising. He walked over to pick it up but a ghostly voice murmuredaround the idle remains of the palace, hindering Jamie's motion.
"Help us, Jamie. Leave this world behind. 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.
"Our halls were torn down by greed." The voice lamented.
"What can I do?" Jamie murmured.
The reply was barely audible, "Help us."
His eyes fastened on the glint of silver. "I promise", he whispered, as his fist closed decisively around the coin. It met the 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. Sprawled on the ground from the blast, Jamie was picking himself up when Lear flew over, collecting the discarded coin. 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. Delighted to meet you. I have a favour to ask if you'll give me a moment to explain."