The Corvid-Human Alliance by Gerri Leen

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Narrated by Gerri Leen
 I motion the crows out, two by two, keeping their
 Youngsters back with me because it's the bargain
 We've made with the group, if they fight for us in the air
 We'll keep their children safe from the angels on the ground
 Crows will mob an eagle or a hawk
 Angels, as it turns out, are just sacred raptors
 Guarding no one and nothing except their piece of the sky
 Grounding planes and confusing targeting systems
 With EMP bursts from golden trumpets
 The few missiles that do break through are brought
 Down by their fiery swords
 Nothing made by man can touch them
 They taunt us with this fact, choirs of them
 Singing of invulnerability, using wing-wind to magnify the sound
 But crows aren't made by man but by the god these
 Monsters serve, and corvids fully embrace the concept
 That the enemy of my enemy is my ally
 Not that the angels are targeting birds
 But their fire falls indiscriminately, burning habitats
 In a way that makes humans look like destruction amateurs
 The resulting ash clogs streams, fills nests, ruins rookeries
 Coats feathers, suffocates young birds and the wise crones of the group
 I've cleaned off so many birds, watching ashy gray give way to
 Rainbow black, the sheen of oil playing out over feathers I'd
 Previously touched only when shed and left on the ground
 But now I've grown used to the feel of a beak on my skin
 Patient or not, gentle or not, battle by battle
 We are learning to speak crow the same way we
 Learned to speak cat or dog or horse
 By movements, by vocalizations, by attitude
 I hear a scream above me, corvid and angelic both
 And black and white wings are wrapped in a
 Peregrine-fast plunge to earth, more crows following
 Some on fire and I call the water teams over
 The crows still whole are pecking, going for eyes and the base
 Of the wings where angels seem to bleed the most easily
 The angel is stunned and one of our warriors kicks the fire-sword
 Out of the way and stabs the angel with a hearty branch
 Scavenged with care, any manmade enhancements make sticks useless
 We are becoming adept at searching nature for death
 Behind the fence that divides our compound from others
 There is a line of the faithful, wailing as the angel dies
 They kneel and chant that we will be damned
 A few pray that we will be saved, that we will see the angels
 As they do—a sign of the long-awaited end times, the harbingers
 Of the glory of their religion, of the glory of apocalypse
 We see nothing but how we must once have appeared
 To the rest of nature, before the angels took our place as apex predator
 Winged killers that fly high and care not at all that we
 Were once beloved of their god and their charges to look after
 Creatures so sick of their place in the natural order
 That they rebelled, fled Heaven, and waged war on us
 Or maybe it really was on the orders of their maker
 Maybe this is how it all ends, in fire and ash and the taunts
 Of supernatural beings we thought looked out for us
 Or at least didn't bear us any ill will, not like demons were supposed to
 Demons haven't appeared, no horns or claws or stench of sulphur
 Although if they fought with us, we'd probably take their help
 How long can we and our black-winged allies hold out?
 I hear the caw that means attack, I look up and see a new foe
 Being mobbed and I grab the branch I have killed more angels than
 I can count with and wait for the crows to bring this next one down
 The prayers from the fence get louder, someone yells that I'm a lost soul
 But overhead, crows scream louder and angelic blood drips down
 And I don't feel lost, I don't feel forsaken
 I catch a smoldering bird and dunk it in a water bucket before
 It can burn too much and it hops onto my shoulder, gently
 Creaking as it nips my cheek in thanks, then it's off again
 There is a clatter behind me, a child has gathered branches
 Stout things that should be beyond her ability to carry
 But we're so much stronger than we once thought
 She refills buckets and watches the sky, another pair of eyes
 A juvenile crow hops onto her shoulder and I see the future
 Superimposed on this present and it shines in multicolor hues
 Buried in raven black—if we can hold the line, might there be a
 World where bird and man move together, discovering victory
 In their unexpected unity? An alliance that took on the messengers
 Of a god and persevered when all seemed well and truly lost

BIO: Gerri Leen is a Rhysling- and Pushcart-nominated poet from Northern Virginia who’s into horse racing, tea, collecting encaustic art and raku pottery, and making weird one-pan meals. She has poetry published in Strange Horizons, Dreams & Nightmares, Polu Texni, and others. She also writes fiction in many genres (as Gerri Leen for speculative and mainstream, and Kim Strattford for romance) and is a member of HWA and SFWA. Visit to see what she’s been up to.