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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“I’m sorry, I was expecting a-”

“Let me guess,” said the crow, its voice raspy and harsh. “You were expecting an eagle.”

“Well…”

“A hawk, then. Or an owl. Maybe a pretty flitting little songbird.”

Corrie bristled. “I said I was sorry. Among my kind that’s usually enough.”

“And among my kind, one doesn’t interrupt until the other has finished speaking!” snapped the crow. “Humans! All so alike, thinking that your perceptions are right and correct. Ooh, hawks and eagles are so honorable. Ooh, owls are so wise. Ooh, songbirds are so pretty. You know what? They’re not. That’s ignorance, the same things we crows are always accused of when we eat the crops you are trying to hoard for yourself.”

Tactfully, Corrie thought about her reply for a moment. “So what is the truth, then?”

“The truth is that hawks are sharp-eyed bullies that pick on things that are tiny or dying and are so proud they don’t deign to speak to anyone but their own kind. Owls are dullards who compare the size and consistency of their vomited pellets as casual conversation. And songbirds? If they spoke your language or you theirs you’d see that their songs are all ribald ballads about females with big eggs. None of them so intelligent as crows to be able to learn human tongues, all of them living by brute force and luck instead of their wits.”

“I had no idea.”

“Of course not,” said the crow. “The others are too dull to take advantage of humans’ warped ideas of them, and only we crows are intelligent enough to know we’re being insulted.”

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