“Jack Frost and the Hooded Crow”

Today’s Christmas music post is a preview of a story I’ll be releasing in the new year as a part of my experimental transmedia fiction project Azrael’s Stop.

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Ceph stoked up the fire. The bar was mostly empty — he’d started to get a few patrons some nights, but Azrael’s Stop was hidden down a little alleyway near Temple Ward, and Ceph didn’t think anyone would ever find it. Only that old man, Tom, was nursing his whiskey in the corner with a friend.

The Theore night was frigid, and though the Stop did a good job of keeping out the damp, Ceph still shivered. It was colder than normal in the city. He felt sorry for those who didn’t have a warm fire tonight.

He heard a flapping of wings, and saw the hooded crow alight in the rafters. He’d never heard it make any other noise than that. It was a little creepy.

He sighed. The Gifted Days of the Yuletide season always made him think of his family — long dead as they were. They’d died fourteen years ago, when he was just a toddler. He didn’t have anyone to be with at Yuletide.

The hooded crow took wing again, landing in front of the great oaken front door. It cocked its head at him.

“What?” Ceph said. “Expecting visitors? No one ever comes.”

He went to pour Tom another whiskey, but the crow kept standing at the door. It pecked at it once or twice.

“Looks like it needs to go out,” Old Tom chuckled.

“Normally  it just shits in my bed when it needs to go,” Ceph said. Tom laughed.

The crow pecked at the door again, and Ceph sighed. “You want us to freeze in here?” He went to the door, the crow hopping aside to make room, and opened it in exasperation.

A young man sat on the stoop, a ragged blanket pulled tight around his shoulders. He looked up at Ceph with bleary dark eyes.

Ceph raised his eyebrows as a cold wind swirled around him. “Oh!” he said. He glanced briefly at the hooded crow. “You look cold. …You want a drink?”

The man nodded, numbly. He tried to get to his feet, but stumbled. Ceph grabbed his arm and helped him up, leading him inside the Stop and closing the door tight behind them.

The hooded crow watched him — he thought its look was almost approving…

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For more on Azrael’s Stop, check out azraelsstop.com. The rest of this story will be posted there in the new year.

This is part of a series of posts I’m writing every day of December until Christmas, musing on my 25 favourite Christmas songs. The first one is here.

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