Too much of this in my time. Young stalks cut down in their spring.
Fallujah and Mosul make him weep. He's broken several glasses, dinged a cheap hotel door from its hinges. Nearly everyone who loves him has tried, at one time or another, to pull him away from the footage, the net, the newswires, and soon he is always back again. He counts each stalk as if he had planted it himself.
It is out of balance, he says.
In his dreams he sees the other, who has ruled too long, facing him across a parched ground. He brings a merciless southern sun with him, shimmering shrilly on the bright colors of his gilded court. His dominion looms like a blighted oak, bloated and vast, rotten and hollow at the core, stretching out gnarled branches of needle-tipped, bitter acorns. He walks from a feast that is gluttonous and hoarding.
The dead go unmourned. The poor go unfed. The crops rot in the fields. It is my rightful time. I bring the clarity of cold. I bring rest and reflection and atonement. I bring reality.
Sword of brass meets sword of silver. In an honest fight, in his dreams.
The Winter King is accustomed to the chill of exile, but he always had faith in the earth's natural turning.
"Louis XIV," he laughs bitterly, reading from a book. "The Sun King. Extravagant and arrogant and completely out of touch. Surrounded by courtiers to flatter him around the clock. 'L'Etat, c'est moi! Hmmm."
It is not an inherently evil archetype. In fact, it is in the nature of the sun god, the Oak King, to forever be warmer, more generous and lively, than the stern Holly King of the cold moons.
The Winter King had chosen his own successor, after all — a prince with sweet vigor and golden-fair skin and eyes like a summer sky shining. He had chosen just after the summer solstice, when that warm light was brightest. And at winter solstice now he shone still, until the old warrior with the frost in his hair and the cold northern sea in his eyes clutched that man to him now and wordlessly begged, come with me, come with me on the longest night, the night that is my glory and my grief, help me get these dead men out of my sight.
"You have not lost," he says, the true summerlord, "You have not failed. You can't!" Cold stars glimmer silently on a field of snow outside. A wind begins to rise. He barely knows what he is saying. He watches his co-lord, his love, open the window and let the wind hit him where he stands, naked in the starlight. The younger one doesn't understand--but also, he does.
Like soldiers on a winter's night with a vow to defend…
"Come where it's warm," he pleads, holding out his arms. "Grow stronger in the shadows. I'll be with you. I'll always be with you." Both his lover's eyes are like Orion's arrows, sharp and stark, as the horned hunter turns around. "We'll hound that imposter together. You freeze his bones. I'll blind his eyes." But tonight the hunter'll take tender prey – the true Summer offers himself, again, to Winter's weapons. It is his nature to win out; there is no cold in their coupling, no gray veil of cloud for Winter to hide himself — all is revealed, all is given, heat and growth and joy and honest challenge and answer in the blanket of darkness.
Winter wonders how much longer the earth can endure its parching, indifferent false sun, while the true sun sleeps in his arms and he stalks the chill maze of his angry dreams. His sword lies at the ready, his holly crown prickling his forehead like flop sweat in the jungle. But where that false sun is not and the fair-weather patriots won't look, there he is, the shadow, unshakeable, waiting — a great hound on the trail.
I am a salmon in the pool, I am a hill of poetry, I am a ruthless boar, I am a threatening noise of the sea…
His true summerlord laughs softly in his sleep and twines around him. As the priestess of Apollo said, "Know thyself," and he does. He will do what he must, from the shadows, to turn the world once more.