Erroi squawked loudly in the usual manner of crows. In response, the owl hooted softly.

“What did he say?” I asked.

“He told me that he passed a particularly large and firm pellet not long ago, one that would make his father proud and potential mates swoon,” said Erroi with evident distaste.

The owl hooted again. “What about that?”

“He is sharing the details of other owls in his partliament, in particular the pellets they have been hawking up,” said Erroi. “Really, do I have to keep listening to this fool prattle on? I told you before, owls only seem wise if you don’t speak their language.”

A songbird on a nearby bough chirped in, withdrawing quickly before the owl could swivel about to fix its gaze. Erroi cocked his head. “Let me guess,” I said, “chirping about how big his mate’s eggs are?”

“No,” said Erroi quietly. “He’s seen what you’re after, but won’t speak in the presence of a bird of prey.”

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