At the age of 71, James Elliot came home to Cross. He had been born in 1820, and at 17, he went to sea. Unfortunately for him, the ship he was on sank off the coast of Florida, and James was made a slave. It wasn’t until 1891 that he managed to make his way back to Cross, and he took up residence in a house not far from North Road. He was as fine a chess player as I have ever known, and it was my privilege to lose to him on a regular basis.
James was the only man who was ever befriended by one of my ravens. Thor was much like his namesake, large and rather rough. When the raven did not return one day, I found him sitting beside James on the man’s porch, and the bird let me know that he was going to be staying there as well.
James and I played chess on Sunday evenings, a pleasant way to start the new week. On Sunday, May 7th, 1899, I walked up the short path to his home and came to a sudden stop.
James stood by a nearby tree, from which hung three of the damned creatures from the Hollow. He was stripped down to his waist, his upper body showing the scars of a lifetime of servitude. In his work-hardened hands, he held what can only be described as a boar spear, though I had not seen one in decades. Its tip and the haft were slick with the creatures’ ichor, and Thor rode on his shoulder easily, tiny pinpricks of blood dripping down. The raven greeted me cheerfully, and James did the same.
“They came out of the woods for me, Duncan,” James explained. “Thor let me know they were there, though, and we took them down together.”
It was then that I noticed the creatures were eyeless.
“Did they go easy?” I asked.
James grinned. “Easier than a feral hog in Georgia.”
I laughed and shook my head, and as I set up the chessboard, James cleaned himself. We drank some whiskey, played our chest, and watched as Thor picked at the hanging carcasses.
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