nly on the New Year celebration, when the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead thinned to its thinnest, did one of the Coill speak to him. Shivering under his cloak, Erosoi had been standing in the middle of the village on a misty night when one by one they passed, candles in hand, on their way to the forest. Much as Nudens described how people in Mordeen “just appear” in the fog, so too did a large man just appear. The faint orange flame illuminated a bulbous nose protruding from an otherwise hood-darkened face. “Lovely evening,” he said, passing Erosoi by and, upon reentering the mist, finished with “It’s gonna be a long winter.”
Save the single warning, the pigging winter came unannounced. He woke one Giamon morning to find frozen dew across the valley floor, the tips of the heathers browned and blackened. Black nights turned to howling; shrill did the wind cry. Grasses froze; hard earth stiffened the mountains slopes; cold grit did cover the land.
Then, the first snows fell. Bitter did the acerbic wind rear its virulent head. Bloody nights bled into bloodier days.
When winter arrived with the gall of bitterness and he retreated into his little room at the base of the tree for days at a time, he wrote about
them. He wrote of those who wined and complained, those who talked behind others’ backs, those who were derisive and sarcastic in their speech, like the “guy with the yellow and red spear.” Then there was the “stupid bully with tattoos on his shoulders” who grandstanded, those brainless ones without integrity who judged, carped, criticized, and disparaged, blamed and pointed their fingers. The guy with the skinny arms, the one with the short legs, the “fat bellied guy with the snot on his moustache,” that “big nosed guy with the floopy ears who couldn’t put two and two together.” Asinine, absurd, foolish, pathetic, and ludicrous. Just about the whole damn lot of them.
And when he actually did sleep, those severed orphaned nights abducted his promising future and drowned him in a blackness wretched and forlorn. Once a giant ogress in an elk-drawn chariot hunted him across mountains and open fields. Many a night a boy bathed in golden light slayed an old man as a grown man smiled his approval.
Trees bowed under the weight of snow; snow fell upon ice and wind spewed sharp poison day after day after day.
Snowbound, he twice cooked and ate a frozen Bran—the boy, not the bird.
The Coill had long traded their greens and browns for woolen winter clothing left undyed and the Mothers, those pissburnt and sharny Mothers, laid upon the ground a coat heavy with white mail, silver robes of ice, and cold cloaks of lead as they—they who gave birth to everything—took it all back.