Edward stood on a wooded hillside, looking down over the slaughter beneath him. There were vast mounds of dead knights and men-at-arms around the enemy standards they had charged in vain. Armored bodies lay suffocated in the mud, drowned in their own helmets or crushed by companions in the heat of battle. Others were face-up where they stumbled, bleeding at the breast or shoulder from the final blow of a misericorde administered as they helplessly lay.

There were few to witness the scene; the victor had withdrawn and the vanquished fled. The few ragpickers who might have appeared were too busy mourning their own, leaving the field to naught but the crows.

“My brothers and sisters shall reap a fine repast from this foolishness,” said a crow, alighting on a discarded sword plunged into the earth and lost by its owner. “Even with the many hard and inedible parts, there are still succulent eyes aplenty to be plucked and fine, soft noble flesh to sup upon.”

“You would do well not to speak so lightly of such a tragedy,” Edward said sadly. “Three dukes, eight counts, a viscount, an archbishop, countless nobles, burghers, and bailiffs…thousands dead, including those who were slain outright and those who could not be ransomed and were not worth capture–ended by an enemy fearful that they might continue the fight and precariously outnumbered even in victory.”

“Does a farmer not speak lightly of the crows he shoots or poisons in warding them from his crops?” the crow replied. “Does an uninterested party not chuckle at the misfortunes of others which might be turned to its own advantage? I think that it is you who speak improperly about this, friend.”

“Perhaps. But within a generation, these men’s sons, and their sons’ sons, will flight over the same land and spill the same blood for the same futile reasons,” Edward said. “Even one such as yourself cannot help but see the tragedy in the shared fate of all those who have lost battles…and all those who have won.”

“Death is the shared fate of us all,” replied the crow. “As is futility, as is the repetition of past mistakes and sins. Why feed if we must die? Why bear our young if they too must perish? Why watch as a thousand crows die at the hands of a thousand farmers for a thousand worthless hulls of grain? No crow ever considers these things, as they are too amused by the blackest humor innate in all such things. One may view history as tragedy or comedy; it is in finding levity in both that my kind survives.”

Edward regarded his companion. From the way the early morning sunshine played across its feathers, and the unearthly way it broke that sunshine into its component colors like a ground crystal lens, it was clear no ordinary crow perched before him. “There is, I think, wisdom in your remarks,” said he, “and while I cannot agree with them, I find the perspective illuminating in the face of such despair. Pray tell me your name.”

“I have no name but that of my kind,” replied the crow. “Much as those before you mired in the field of battle now bear none but ‘man’ as their title and rank.”

Inspired by this.

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