The Londoners scoff at their country cousins, they consider themselves a cut above, after all, if the Tower Ravens could fly away, the destiny of the Monarchy would be at risk, and could even cause the fortress of The Tower itself to fall—if only their wings hadn’t been clipped of course.
Scoff they may, but even a grumpy, one-eyed Welsh Raven and his partner with a speech impediment, have one important advantage—they can fly.
With a full accoutrement of unclipped feathers, they can do their rounds with ease, locking their wings together in aerial acrobatics to show off to the grounded Londoners. The most they can do is hop here and there.
Bran’s job is to keep an eye on the remaining bits of the old Abbey. A tradition for the Ravens going back centuries to the heady days of Chertsey Abbey, and some say even many years before. That was before the Abbey fell out of favour with a certain King—whose name is hardly ever mentioned in the Chertsey Conspiracy of Ravens. Who could blame them? They had been forced from their lush quarters in The Abbey, to the nearby draughty Stangarthes Hill.
“It seems to me “ says Bran, thinking about the Motley Crew of Ravens that he has to mix with. “That Chertsey is a posting for juvenile delinquents, we all have something wrong with us, don’t we? and nobody quite knows what we are here for, apart from looking at a load of old stones”.
Bran is right, the reason for this duty has long been forgotten, but it’s something they know that has to be done. Luckily, they can keep an eye on some of the stones from the top of the beautiful Aspen trees in Lasswade House. The stones are in the grounds between Cowley Avenue and Frithward Road. It is said that the overgrown patch of land was once such a fearsome place, it’s no wonder it was never claimed an cultivated. Now it’s left to go to rack and ruin, but the children love it, and now it’s their playground.
Bronwen is still a bit fidgety with her partners cruel remarks and is clicking away like a woodpecker. Bran looks away not knowing how to console her, a commotion below in the orchard has caught his eye, a gang of boys are scrumping apples. Unaware of the watching eye, high up in the Aspen tree—the only movement that can be seen is the slightest quiver of black feathers in the breeze and the blinking of an eye.
One boy has an aura about him, it makes Bran uneasy, the boy is slightly built, his movements are slow and awkward, he stands apart from the other boys— he’s not made for scrumping apples obviously—so he is the lookout for the scrumpers.
The boys make their escape through the broken hedge. Their jerseys bulging with apples, they run down Cowley Avenue so fast, you would think they have stolen the Crown Jewels.
Bran motions to his partner to follow, they take a perch on a tree high above the little stream that wanders through this part of Chertsey. He feels the need to keep his good eye on this rather awkward boy that has made him feel so uneasy. The pair watch the boys, they need to see everything—without themselves being seen. The apples are dumped in Mrs Wades kitchen, the boys jump over the stream and into their camp, a fire is lit, some water from the stream in an old biscuit tin and a few potatoes that they pinched from the kitchen, the boys are in their heaven.
The rough bit of ground at the bottom of Mrs Wades garden, is just that, a rough bit of ground, but it has large lumps of stone scattered all about in disarray. The stones are on the list of things that Bran and Bronwen have to keep an eye on.
The eldest boy—the awkward one in the orchard, is sitting on one of these big stones, enjoying an apple. He feels an urge to look high up into the trees, his eyes, meet the solitary dark brown eye of Bran, the boy gives an involuntary nod of recognition. That’s all our Bran needs, he now knows what they have been asked to do. Swooping low over the boys with raucous calls, the partners soar high into the sky to meet the rest of the Conspirators, who are waiting in the tallest Giant Redwood at the top of Stangarthes Hill. This boy is special, he is one of the chosen ones.