Now she is thinking.
The sun sets on her, as it has more than fifteen thousand times before. The moon rises.
In the dense woods behind her, a child sobs.
Crow-Woman turns her head and cocks it like the bird she is not. Leaves rustle and branches creak and crack in the thick vegetation of the preserve. A young voice whimpers and coughs in accompaniment.
Crow-Woman raises her wings. Grey down cascades from them like falling snow. Like snow, still more yet clings to the black wings. She beats them, a feeble stroke that barely stirs the air around her. She lifts one leg instead. Senescent vines stretch and brambles tear at scaly skin. Dead wood creaks and cracks as she pulls one taloned foot free, and then the other. Trailing vines, she strides into the dense forest. She is twelve feet tall and the undergrowth is thick, but Crow Woman is patient. She pushes aside branches with weathered hands and pecks at them with her long sharp beak. Slowly she moves forward, finding a track and widening it. By the time she finds the child, he has stopped crying.
He is crouched against the side of an ash, outside a faerie ring of mushrooms, pale grey in the moonlight. No, not moonlight, for the moon is but a sliver; it's the reflected glow of the light-polluted night sky. The child stares at her, the tracks of tears streaked through the dirt on his blotchy face. Crow-Woman stares back.
In the distance, crickets serenade one another.
Crow-Woman speaks: "Hello."
The boy does not answer.
Crow-Woman asks: "Are you lost?"
The boy watches her in wide-eyed silence.
She considers him in return, her mind sifting through long-disused memories. "Did your parents tell you never to talk to strangers?" When he does not reply, she adds, "I am strange, but you do not need to talk to me. You can nod for yes and shake your head for no, and that is not speaking, is it?"
Slowly, the boy shakes his head a little.
"Well then. Are you lost?"
"You are next to a faerie ring. Are you waiting for the Little People?"
"The Little People are not kind to unfamiliar mortals. They will not bring you toys or candy, or take you to a paradise where you will be happy forever. It is not safe for you to be here. Do you know that?"
The boy bites his lower lip, and nods. He wipes a dirty hand across his dirty face, smearing the tear streaks.
"Do your parents know you are here?"
Crow-Woman considers the child for another long moment. "Are you punishing them?"
The boy gives her a confused look, and forgets that he isn't supposed to talk to strangers. "Me? Punishing them? You mean my parents?"
"Yes. Do you plan to let the Little People take you to make your parents regret how they treated you, and that they did not stop you from running away?"
The child shakes his head, vehement. "No! It's not like that at all!"
"Then what is it like?"
The boy falls silent. Crow-Woman waits, patient. Overhead, the sickle moon rises a little higher in the sky. "Are you one of them?" the boy asks at last. "The Little People?"
Crow-Woman lifts her wings and starts to spread them. The trees are too close together; at ten feet they are not even halfway outstretched, and bumping into branches. "Do I look little?"
He shakes his head.
"What is it like?" she asks again.
The boy stares at the faerie ring. "He'll never forgive me."
"I broke Dad's camera. I wasn't even supposed to touch it. And now it's broken."
"And he said he would not forgive you?"
The boy shakes his head. "He doesn't know yet. I ... I couldn't. I thought it'd be easier to let the Little People take me."
"To punish you?"
He lifts his head to look at her, his face screwed up. "Are you gonna punish me?"
Crow-Woman kneels. She holds out her hand to the boy. Hesitant, he takes it. "I am done with punishment now. Let us see if your father's camera can be mended."
senescent: ancient; of advanced years.
I started writing this months ago. It didn't want to be finished but I decided to finish it anyway. I don't remember where I got the word from any more