I decide that a carnival does sound like fun after all. I close my book, then help Mia find her shoes and help her put on her scarf.

Outside, the leaves on the trees are all red, yellow, and orange, and some of the trees have already started to shed them.

I lock the front door while Mia goes to splash around in the puddles in front of our house. Just as I'm finishing up, I suddenly hear Mia squeal, and a loud CAW.

I turn and see Mia standing in the middle of a group of enormous crows.

"Hey!" I shout at them. "Get away from her!"

Most of the crows hop back, but one particularly big one in the middle stays put, even as I come right towards it.

"We don't want you around here," I say. "Didn't you see the scarecrow?"

The big crow cackles, and the other crows join in.

"We are not crows, child," he says in a voice that reminds me of Jafar from Aladdin. "We are ravens."

"What do you want?" Mia says.

The head raven bows its head low, fanning out its wings to the sides, and all the other ravens do the same. "I've come at the will of my master to extend to you an invitation to his hall."

Mia frowns. "He lives in a hallway?"

"What does he want with Mia?" I say.

"He asks only for your company this afternoon." The raven tilts its head, getting a better look at us both. "Both of you."

"Why?" I say. "Why would a king wanna talk to us?"

The ravens all laugh again, filling the air with the noise.

"He was impressed by your defeat of the crows last fall. We all were."

A couple of the ravens landed on the scarecrow and tentatively pecked at its head. The thing was starting to wear our from the weather. I would have to make a new one soon.

"What do you say?" the lead raven said. "Shall we escort you? Or shall I tell my king of your reluctance?"

What do you think?" Mia said. She knelt down and experimentally petted the nearest raven. It allowed her to stroke its head, and a few of the others clustered around her, vying for attention.

"I thought you wanted to find a carnival," I said.

She shrugged. "Playing with a giant bird king sounds neat, too."


-->[Let's stick with the plan]

-->[Giant bird king? Sign me up!]