Okohke hurled himself from the Winter Witch's stable as the death curse splintered upon  the oaken wall behind him.  Ziema's death curses tended to be more imaginative than most, and he had no intention of being transformed into a spontaneously combusting amphibian or a rodent strangely compelled to ingest its own limbs.  If he were to perish, of course, he could no longer play nasty tricks on the uptight old biddy--which was shaping up to be a most enjoyable pastime filled with lots of sparkling perks.  

     As the crow-man ascended, the crisp air of the forest buoying his ragged wings, he gleefully listened to the fading admonitions of the Witch;  the woman had a saltier mouth than most of the sailors he knew.  Cawing raucously, Okohke turned east across the immense cerulean dome of the sky.  His ravenous eyes,  one inky brown and the other pale blue, scanned the foliage below in search of new mischief.  

     Allowing Capriaron to cheerfully masticate  Ziema's best hat had been a lark, but he knew that the witch would be vigilantly awaiting his return with some spell close at hand intended to turn him some hideously delightful shade of bright pink.  For the present, the crow deemed it prudent to allow the Witch enough time to fix her vengeful sights on some other hapless being before returning to steal the glinting bottle of  Golden Tortoise Beetle carapaces he ardently desired.  The brilliant eco-skeletons would make a lovely addition to his beloved stash of shiny items.  

     The crow-man's musings were interrupted as he was nearly blinded by a ray of light shooting up from beneath leaf-laden bows of the forest canopy.  Blinking to clear his vision, he spiraled towards the tree tops;  his curiosity pulled him earthwards with a force more compelling than gravity.  He languidly plunged through the maze of twisted branches to land on a particularly gnarled lower limb of and enormous mahogany tree.  His talons softened to become large, slender fingers and long, ebony hair spilled from his scalp to replace his feathered crown.  The crow-turned-man deftly climbed down the pocked trunk of the ancient tree with the fresh grace of a once awkward and gangly boy who had finally grown into his looks.  Since he lived apart from the flock, he did not have to worry about fellow crows stealing his prize; however, he still surveyed the surrounding underbrush with cautious eyes.  Slipping down into the mighty tree's convoluted root-base, Okohke landed softly.  Beside him lay the object which had reflected the glare of sunlight back into the sky.  

     The peculiar implement was wrought of some sort of silvery metallic substance which shimmered in a small patch of light that had filtered down to reach the forest floor.  It was cold to the touch, and, as Okohke discovered upon attempting to pick it up, heavy too.  Minute black inscriptions that ran along the edges of the object read "Property of TIME" and proceeded to list the consequences of unauthorized operation or defacement of said property.  A cavity towards the back of the weapon-like whatsit formed a perfect grip, and the crow-man pushed his right hand inside, his reddish brown, dirt-caked skin juxtaposed against the clean metal. The object was resplendent, and he could not bear to leave it behind even though it was much to large to carry in his crow form.  Setting the device back down against one of the Mahogany's serpentine roots, he speedily plucked a long leather cord from his waist pouch and set to fashioning a sling with which to carry the mysterious article.  Returning the leftover cord to his elaborately beaded pouch, he slung his new load over his shoulder and fastened the sling in such a way that his burden would not jostle against his bow during his trek.  Finally content, the crow-man set off in the direction of the nearby town of Avienan.  The dissipating notes of a whistled tune were all that was left to mark his passing.

The End

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