They were the souls of dead men, her ma had always said; the weaker, parasitic cousin of the raven, a sorry sign of the times. But that hardly stopped them.
There has not been a single day of her life she does not hear them, burbling in the rafters or screaming on the wind.
Black feathers find their way into her hair at night, onto the cobbles beneath her feet, into the folds of her skirt; every time, she looks up and smiles.
, she thinks, and puts the feather in her pocket. You never know.
When she is barely sixteen, a man stabs her in the stomach.
She falls back into the stinking gutter-sludge, with the mud and the dead leaves and the rain, too breathless to scream, and with the last of her fading vision catches sight of black feathers.
She remembers no birds, afterward, but a young man - his hair black and green-glossed like feathers, an eerie distance in his eyes.
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