Ashes Into Oaks
Are your laurels?
Your bright choral
Heralds of the last storm’s
First perfect snowflake swarm?
Who desperate foretold your birth
And wept into your salted earth?
Who wrought bitter elegies and dirges
Into victories from failure’s verges?
There is now about your grave a hollow quiet
Instead of triumph roared, now a wretched silence
Moves upon itself as the echo of the Watchman King
Who would first garrote the gods than let them your song to sing
Listen now listen
Gone is the day
She was a warlord pilgrim, born her own vanguard, marching
Eternal and ephemeral, desolation calling
Comes now the springtime
Comes now the rain
Oh, you expected a low thrum, reader full of old tales?
A rumbling and a groaning, a vast roaring through the wails
Of unsuspecting innocents, their supplications vast
Enough to suffocate the heavens like a tomb shroud cast
Over the corpses of the gods your gods once knew to fear?
Oh reader, full of old tales, come and let me bend your ear.
You were taught by bards and tinkers on circuits through your towns
But I and Winter know the truth how desolation sounds
Come now the roses
Comes now the sun
In a perfect world, in the world we wanted to make, our children would grow as they like. Their innocence would slip away uneven and slow, drawn by a foaming tide. What I mean to say is, in a perfect world children would grow by choice, when the time seems right to them and they feel the straps of infancy tug too tight to sleep. In this world though – the one we made against our better judgement – our children grow by need. Our children grow at knifepoint, and Winter was six years old when she took her first life.
Winter was at home, in her cottage at the foot of the mountain. She lay on her stomach in front of the fire and read the old tales, the tall tales, like her mother taught her to do. She read of the deadly Howl and the brave Captains who would sail against it in hope of sailing through it. She read of the Feather King, and the flocks of Birds that flew at his command to run travelers from his Woods. She read of Leadfoot and his band of six who hounded the Giants through the northern peaks, before the Great War took them both. The old tales, the tall tales. She read the absurd tales and the heroic tales, the inevitable and the desolate.
And as she read she did not notice the dim sun setting behind the graying clouds. She didn’t notice that her father and her mother were too late returning home, or that Snowflake had stopped growling at the squirrels. Winter, you see, was reading of Candle and the Painting in the Sky. It was her favorite story, and though it was long and she still didn’t know some of the words, she never started it without finishing.
So when the door opened and the Man with the Bloody Knife came in, it took her a few slow moments to realize the splash of gray light that crept in from the south. She turned her head to greet her mother, and saw the heaving shoulders and the dripping sliver of steel. The snow behind him gleamed red in the dying light, and his rattling breaths meandered and muttered in the frozen air.
He was not whole, he was not hale, he was crumbling beneath himself. He was weighted by the thing he’d done and the things done to him, but to Winter he was a mountain and she was six years old. There was a knife on the table and a chair in between. There was a setting sun in front of her and a falling flame behind. The mountain took another step and the little girl took flight. Now, the cabin stands defiant in the cold and the snow has drifted in the open door. Her father now lies buried, and she hunts for her mother still. So, reader full of old tales, let slip at her your magi and your kings, but nothing kills the Winter but the Spring.