A Black are the ravens that reside in the Tower of London. They number seven in their full complement (six regulars and one reserve) and the men who patrol with them, the Beefeaters, they number thirty-six. But at some moment in the late of night, after the keys had turned closed the wrought iron and oaken doors with their ancient locks, the ravens became a regiment of six and the Beefeaters, they became but thirty-five.
Somehow, sometime, within these eternal stone walls, death had returned to add to the number of executioner's ghosts that lingered here looking for the salvation of their souls. Stewart Harrell, a highly decorated officer from the Argyll and Sutherland regiment, the latest recruit into this honorary guard, had met his death. With him, Reggie, the patriarch of the ravens, had died. They had both met their end by way of a skillfully wielded sword. For years and years, the Tower of London had lived as a place for tourists with their cameras and guidebooks but on this night of August 11th, a full moon night, death had come home once more.
Through the old gates that were now splashed with the gold of early morning sunrise light , we walked into this scene, my employer, Sir Edward Nigel Blackthorne and me, his humble apprentice, Allan Mallory. There beside the rose covered wall, there on the grey flagstone walk, there in his black and regal red uniform, a leftover from a less garish and more elegant era, rested the body of Sergent Major Harrell, a survivor of two wars, now ironically killed in the retirement of his service. Nearby were strewn the black feathers of Reggie and among them his body. And watching over them from the ledge of the White Tower near the Chapel of Saint John were the six blacks ravens as if dressed for the final farewell.