His eyes opened and gave way to ice-flows aquamarine green ghosting through the waters, Moon and her attendants sparklescattered, waiting for his arrival. She spoke nothing, which spoke volumes and he sighed, slitherstomped through the powered waste of white down the only path that remained in the ocean full of tears. She waited and, as far as he was concerned, she could damn well continue to wait — he’d not chosen to come here, but she’d drawn him to this place full of drifting white snow that stung needles into his flesh as he walked, driving him on. But she didn’t know that pain made living more easy to endure, so he rushed not, letting the pain punish him so he could feel alive.
He started to speak to the polar bear, but the old man shook his head. While Shadow was willing to try the Mistress’s patience, Bear was in no such mood. Old Man Bear pointed to his eye and then to the Moon; Shadow followed the path and nodded, knowing what he would do. The beast had told him the cost and Shadow had long since known it would come to this eventually. Moon was a harsh and cold mistress. She would have her due.
Salmon waved his spear from the shore. Then dived, breaking the sea into crystal shards that cut through the air like daggers of glass. He would offer little advice. Salmon knew many things, but rarely shared them. He was jealous of his knowing and was loath to give it unless ordered.
Shadow shambled forth, the needles of white eating at him, leave welds and welts. He saw Seal, whacking the ice with his thighbone club etched with scrimshaw and waving a noose, empty for the lingering taste of ash that clung to it in the air like wraiths and ghosts at the funeral feast. Seal, the Bailey, he gestured note, but just watched with eyes stony with admiration. And now, Shadow knew more of the fates wyrding his way. So be it. So it must. So it mote.
He was ready.
“Oh Shadow!” called his silver succubus. “Why do you tarry? I called you for our tryst. Come, now.”
She was loosing patience, her tell being the dust scattering from her shoulders and into the turquoise skies. So he hurried. It was okay to annoy his Lady — not okay to anger. And she closed in on that as he trod. Pace quickened, he was there within the blink of a butterfly’s eye.
“M’lady.” A bow. A deep bow gave Shadow.
“I called for you, Umbra.”
“I expected you sooner.”
He said nothing. Anything his said would sound impertinent.
“Well, you have arrived. You know what you must do?”
Bear and Seal had told him. He nodded.
“Well then,” she said, her voice like the snow hare’s pelt. “We will begin.”
He turned his face to her attendants hanging and they laughed and giggled in anticipation. Then the ravens descended, one on each face, and — without venom or hate, each took their price eye and flew off. Shadow wanted to howl, but knew it would be unseemly, so he held firm and waited as he felt her touch as she stitched up the hollow space where he’d once had eyes. The pain was less than empty sockets and evaporated as she kissed first one, then the other.
“I love you, you know,” she whispered in his ears and he believed her, but knew she loved more than just him. She was faithless, cruel and hard, like a moon should be.
He felt the rope slithersnake around his ankles. In a heartbeat, his downside was up and Shadow swayed in the harsh wind of needles and knives, like he knew he would when he saw his guides.
Still, it was nothing to him until the spear thrust through and he felt his heart pierced and aflame. Gods, how that hurt and for the first time, he wished not to live, to go back to the painless ways of youth. He thought his heart could beat no more when Moon leaned in and whispered: “Thank you, I will not forget what you have done for me, my love.”
Shadow tried to tell her he wasn’t sure if he could take more, that he burned like ice from the inside, that he didn’t want this — though no choice had ever been given to him. But Moon shushed him with a finger on his lips.
“It is done. Now you must wake.”
Shadow faded into himself, memories chasing dreams in far-off cities of gold in the summerlands.
His eyes opened and gave way to ice-flows aquamarine green ghosting through the waters, Moon and her attendants sparklescattered, waiting for his arrival. She spoke nothing, which spoke volumes and he sighed.