A Memory of Gold
So it begins. The same as it begins every time. With the birth of a child, the fulfillment of a prophecy, the war, the victory, the peace that follows. But this time it is different. Just as it always is. The birds have taken wing; they are leaping from place to place, avoiding the storms, cowering from the frozen rain. They have a message to bring. A message for all people, and they are the heralds.
The child is born! The Old Man on his iron throne has lost his power at last. See, the faces, hesitant at first, then bursting out to welcome the news. A daughter of the old blood, at long last she has been found. See, how fast she grows, from infant to queen, how she mounts her chariots and races through the trees, how they bend to greet her. How they shine, how they sing as the wind plays through their hair, and it is a new wind. The wind of a new age, a wind which basks in the light of a new, yellow sun, and rides the channels down to kiss the foamy sea and the heads of the newborn fawns.
See, her chariot, fair-built and blazoned with the rising dawn, pulled by the proud and lofty stag. Hear her song; tis a song of healing. A song of life and warmth and rebirth. The Old Man’s hands have left scars, but she is accustomed to their pain, to their bite. She has no fear of the wolves, or of the frost, which skulks in the still-deep shadows. She has no fear of the cold, for where her bare feet kiss the loam, flowers spring up. Where her hands stroke the trunks of the sleeping kings, their muscles swell.
Oh, the joy of the birds, of the animals as she reaches the frozen river, and its gentle, mourning murmur becomes laughter once again. The water has come, the giggle of her waves and the brightness of their winged melody rise.
The world is awake. The Old King is no more than a nightmare’s memory, when morning comes, no more than the lingering pain of a wound that has been healed. The queen sits upon a throne of ivy and gold; the cherry boughs crown her. The birches bow; the willows weave their words into song, a melody united by the harp in her hand.
But hear! The birds’ song is anew! Another life, they cry, has entered the shining world! And how innocent the infant seems! How soft are her hands and feet, how glorious those eyes which know nothing of pain, nothing of the Old Man’s rule. They know no frost, nor do her arms know the cut of the cold.
How sweet she is! The brow-stone of this crown. Hear her laughter echo across the hills, which preen their ears if only to catch a moment of it again. See how the sun-warmed winds rush to meet her, like a kinsman once long-lost returning home. A child, she is, no queen of wrath, nor of ruling might. Laughter is her scepter. Light is her crown. Love is the train, which flows behind her.
Her long, golden hair, is the wealth of nations. Her eyes, how they shine with unbridled youth, with energy and passion, all green and gold and brown. The forest is her kingdom, and while she wears the forest’s wreath, her people join her. See how she races amidst the leaves, outrunning the deer, how speaks to the birds. How she marvels at the light, which parts twixt branches and falls in towering tatters when the sun sinks into night.
She is loved as the sun is loved, as its rising every morning is praised. She is the adoration of the old and the infatuation of the young. None who have seen her face remain unchanged, and none who have stood in her presence and danced her dance, sung her song, or tasted the wine of her kiss could have remembered what it was like, back when the Old King was on his throne.
There is no sorrow, here, no memory of what it was like, back before the Queen had woken the trees from their deathly sleep. No memory of nightmares. There are no shadows. No fear.
But then something begins to change. At first, no one is sure what has happened. A wind has stolen in from the north that is not like the others. It snarls through the trunks and howls through the mountainsides. It bites, and its teeth are sharp. It claws at the earth, and all men feel its sting. It hunts in the darkness and prowls the shadows.
The grasses, so tall and graceful, turn white. Their bodies become husks; they rattle when the wind sweeps through, cutting like a reaper’s scythe. Where the Great Wolf’s paws touch, frost has formed. Frost which spreads to the feet of the trees, and crawls up their bodies. Frost which causes the leaves to change.
And then it happens. The queen is sick. No one says it, but everyone knows. Her smile is fading. Her golden hair has turned red, and then brown. Soon, all color will be gone from it completely. Her eyes have lost their shine. And no one knows it, save a few who remember the older times, that it has begun again. That the Iron Throne is no longer empty. That a king sits in a palace in the north. A Winter King. He who wears the crown of thorns, whose scepter is the death and whose eyes are lifelessness.
And now, she is dead. But with her death, a prophecy is given. That one day, a queen shall rise. From the hardship, from the nightmare, from the hundred-year-reign of the hopeless shadows, she shall spring, like the flowers, which shall rise in her wake. The same as it always is. A promise. Someday, winter will end.
Someday, spring will come again.