On the vast expanse of ocean, rigged vessels anchored off the coast in calm blue waters. Burly crewmen rowed toward shore in a longboat laden with crated cargo. Once landed, sailors deftly jumped ashore and used the might of their muscles to unload the shipment of heavy wooden crates. When the largest and final crate was awkwardly handled onto the beach, a remarkable passenger was revealed at the stern.
From afar, a fellow traveler might mistake the lean and deeply tanned wanderer for the Angel of Death, for Gabriel was clothed in black from his brimmed hat and flowing cape to his leather footwear. Beneath the hat, his hair was as black as coal and his eyes were as green as emeralds. He stepped out of the longboat and slung a worn travel bag over one shoulder and hung a water-skin over the other.
He gazed at the anchored ship then reached into the longboat and withdrew an ebony staff that was whittled and carved with artistic renderings of exotic wild life. The likeness of a cobra was coiled around the length of the pole and its fanged hood was carved at the tip. During his travels, he used the staff to ease his journey. But he never brought it into play as a weapon for not a soul dared approach the wanderer with fatal malice in mind.
Gabriel wryly observed as a richly clothed merchant directed poorly clothed men in conveying heavy crates to the roadway. The men heaved the crates onto a horse drawn lorry and stacked them. He turned away and looked up to the sky where a peregrine falcon soared and circled. The bird of prey dived toward earth with great speed then swooped over the startled merchant’s head and carefully landed on the wanderer’s shoulder.
"Ah, Blackthorn," Gabriel murmured. "Where have you been since the break of dawn? Soaring above the ocean hunting down a gull for breakfast?" he inquired as he reached inside his cape and withdrew a slice of smoked meat. "A tidbit of sustenance to tide you over, my friend."
The bird of prey gazed at the morsel with intent and gently pecked the offering from the wanderer's hand with careful consideration and swallowed. The peregrine ruffled his wings and a gull’s downy feather drifted to the ground as lightly as a snowflake.
Of the telltale feather, Gabriel made no comment.
The falcon carefully adjusted its position on the wanderer’s shoulder and settled its piercing gaze on a longboat making for shore. With the final pull of the oars, stalwart sailors beached the craft. A group of passengers clambered out and crewmen carelessly tossed their baggage onto the beach.
Curious little lads and lasses ran down the jetty and raced down the shore. But it was the dark clothed man and the splendid bird that perched proudly on his shoulder that drew their attention. The children stepped forward and pushed a little boy in front of them. The lad was clothed in a soiled linen top, short pants and worn brown sandals. His dark brown eyes were alight with curiosity and hope.
"Please, sir, may I pet your parrot?" the little lad inquired.
Blackthorn gazed down at the child with sharp predator eyes.
"Blackthorn is not a parrot, my lad. He is a peregrine falcon," Gabriel proudly stated.
"A peregrine falcon?" the lad said.
"A peregrine falcon is a lethal bird of prey." Gabriel expressively enthused. "In order to survive, nature has bestowed Blackthorn with sharp talons for grasping its prey and a powerful hooked beak to rend its fare into edible little pieces."
"Cack! Cack! Cack!" Blackthorn abruptly screamed in a high-pitched squawk and spread his impressive wings like a dark shadow over the lad. The lad shrieked in alarm and ran away. The children raced after him as fast as their legs allowed. The bird of prey's piercing gaze followed their hasty retreat.
"Say there, Blackthorn," the wanderer rebuked, "was tomfoolery necessary?"