You take off through the trees, following Crow’s caws.  The deer have made dozens of paths through the woods, and you try and follow them as much as you can. Just when you start to wonder if you’ll ever see Crow again, the black bird appears in your line of sight, perched on a low branch. Sleek feathers shine in dappled sunlight.

Crow seems to smile at you. “You and me, we’re going to attend a banquet. We have to bring a gift.”

The bird hops down, black wings spreading briefly before clawed toes hit the ground.

“These will do nicely.” Crow walks over to a bush growing in a patch of sun. Red berries glow brightly among its spring green leaves. “Given that you have such lovely hands, and I have only these marvelous wings and sharp beak, it would make good sense for you to carry them for me.”

Your feathered friend scrambles around the bush, picking berries and throwing them into your cupped hands. Crow seems to be quite picky, taking time to inspect each red sphere before plucking it. “Perfection is impossible,” the bird says in that hollow-log voice, “but we will still strive for it. Disappointment is not on my agenda. Besides, the consequences would be less than wonderful.” Crow’s voice is so soft, you wonder if the bird’s actually talking to you, or just thinking out loud. When your hands are nearly overflowing with berries, Crow pauses. “That will do. Now come along. I’m late enough as it is. I do like to be late, as I’m always hearing that it’s fashionable, and it does seem to make an impression. But I don’t like impressions that are too strong. So hurry, just a little.”

You travel through the trees once more. This time Crow walks beside you, glancing up now and then, to check on you, or the berries (perhaps both). “Don’t eat any of those,” Crow warns, just once.

[“What would happen if I ate one?”] 36.

[“What kind of banquet is this, anyway?”] 37.

[“Who are you, exactly? I’ve seen you around, but it’s not like I know that much about you. We should share our life stories.”] 38.

[Continue in silence. Talk is cheap, silence is golden, yadda yadda.] 39.