He set the bottle down on the table, folded his hands over its top, and rested his forehead upon his knuckles, closing his eyes. He had to think. Had to plan.
After a few minutes, he glanced up, and his gaze just happened to graze across the window.
He blinked hard, then looked again.
There was a raven perched there on the window ledge, watching him in the gap between the billowing curtains. Or at least it seemed to be. Its beady, black eyes were most definitely fixed upon him. As there was no pane to hinder his view of the bird, there was no mistaking it.
“What do you want?” he demanded.
In response, the raven hopped forward through the window and glided to the stone floor.
Seymour frowned, squinted dubiously at the bottle, glared at the raven a moment, and then looked to the bottle once more. He sniffed its contents. Just brandy. Certainly not anything hallucinogenic.
It wasn’t surprising that a bird had flown into his living quarters. It had happened before, mostly starlings, pigeons, and a sparrow or two. But none of them had been as large as this raven, which had had to duck its head to fit through the window. And none had entered so deliberately, either. Besides, it was dark out. The only winged creatures he would expect to fly into his abode at this hour were insects, bats, or perhaps an owl. Not a raven.
The raven flapped its wings briefly and alighted on the table beside him.
“Get out!” Seymour shouted at it, waving his arms to shoo it away. “Mother of bloody-fucking Rezyn, get out!”
The raven was unimpressed. It tilted its head, glittering black eyes still intent upon him, and croaked monosyllabically.
This was just too much. Seymour took another swig of brandy for fortitude, then grabbed for the bird, intending to wring its neck and make it into stew, but it evaded him, hopping nimbly out of the way of his outstretched hand. His long, webbed fingers closed on air.
“Damn you, tarfeathers!”
He lunged again, but the brandy had made him clumsy, and not only did he miss the bird, but he bumped the edge of the table with his hip, upsetting the stack of dirty dishes. They crashed and clattered to the floor, and the raven was lost in a cloud of dust.
Cursing in pain and frustration, Seymour stumbled backward and propped himself up against the wall, the bottle still in his hand, to collect himself.
“Where’d you go?” he panted, scanning the room.
It was not a croak, or even a squawk, that answered him; it was the soft laughter of a woman.
The bottle slipped from his hand and shattered on the floor.