Ravensdaughter liked Novembers best. That was when the rains came and slicked the leaves down into a tar on the rooftops and made the whole world smell like wet. She’d get trapped in her dry spot in the bell tower days at a time, wrapped up in the blanket the miller had left out for her, but when it was over, those were the best days. Like today.
Ravensdaughter held her arms out like a scarecrow as she balance-walked along the backbone of the roof between the keep and the kitchens. The cold was only just enough to pierce her dress and make her fingers sting yet, but it was winter enough that the sky was cold and gray as the castle stones. The sound of one of the kitchen boys tending to the pigs drifted up from the courtyard. She laughed. The slates on the roof were still wet from last night’s rain, but she never missed a step.
She knew the castle roofs better than the humans ever would. She’d named every gargoyle. In the summers she’d climbed the rafters of the bell tower and watched the cuckoos come and lay their eggs in other birds’ nests. She knew how you couldn’t trust the gatehouse, since its roof was rotten with moss and about to fall in, but the roof over the kitchens was a good place. There was a good shot there for throwing bits of slate at the kitchen boys when they went out. They’d put their hands over their heads and beg her not to hex them, so naturally she’d dance back and forth and yell ooga-booga until they screamed and ran back inside. The humans all smelled funny, anyway.
Ravensdaughter knelt on the slates and ducked her head under the kitchen eaves. Down on the windowsill there was an offering: a bundle wrapped up in cloth on top of a plate. The kitchen lady was trying to get her to leave the boys alone again. Just in case, the shutters were locked up tight with an iron horseshoe to keep Ravensdaughter out.
Ravensdaughter grinned, then swung her legs over the gutter and dropped down to the sill. She hoped it was a saucer of milk in there. Or a bit of fish, raw, the way she liked it. Or even bread. Her fingers were stiff with the cold, but she managed to undo the knots in the bundle.
A dolly? Like the little human girls played with? Why? She crouched there holding the dolly by the neck, brow furrowed. It wasn’t even a very good one. The stitching was all lumpy.
There’d been a dolly in the little house in the village.
Burnt porridge and Bible sermons. That sour human stink everywhere. Fake brothers and sisters and her fake parents all crammed into one wooden room. That was before her ears had grown in pointy and Fake Mother had run her out of the house with a broomstick. Ravensdaughter picked at the dolly’s frayed-yarn hair. Back when everybody thought she was a little human girl.
Changeling, people whispered. Wild girl. Look at those ears.
She threw the dolly down and leapt back onto the roof.