dedication: to Jupiter, like always.
notes: sinew — purity ring.
title: glory to the graveyard be
summary: The World Trees convene. — Nyralim, the Gallows Tree.
The whisper comes from across a thousand leagues, a hundred thousand trees, the rustle of wind through a million leaves. The light falls silver and star-cut through the branches, the carrion birds roosting within the peeling red of leaves screaming then falling silent as the wind whistles. They are not words, but they form an image—an outstretched branch, like a peace offering.
Bloated and sick with grief, Galalea raises her metaphorical head.
"So it's true, then. You're ill."
"I am dying, Nyralim. What did you think it would look like?"
"Are you? You have always fed on death, little sister."
"Not like this," she murmurs. "Not like this."
He cannot feel the putrefaction of the bodies in her roots. He cannot feel the slow corruption of the spilled blood—it sinks into the earth even now, sucked up into her sapstream, poisoning all it touches. The blood always tells, and she can feel the quickling life in it hurrying her along. These are no sacred waters of the Font, no Lunala's salted tears.
Galalea has guarded these lands since she was but a seedling. There was an elegance to it, before; a peaceful, relieved acceptance. A well-deserved rest. The Winter Court had been hers and she theirs. They'd had an accord, and a mutual respect, and a bone-deep affection even as the years passed away.
But this glut of death is no slow, natural decay.
"You feel—" Nyralim hesitates. The wind pauses, holds its unending howling quiet silent for her brother's rustling.
But he says nothing, and it hangs, suspended as the bodies in her branches.
"Like Akara does," Galalea finishes for him.
(They both know this to be true. Their brother is diseased in his soul, pulsing red and black, thorny all over. There is nothing growing in him, anymore. There is nothing dying, either. There is only unnatural stasis; rot all the way through.)
The sigh that slides out of her trembles all the way through Klurikon entire. The very edges of the world feel her exhaustion; the shores of Mel Senshir feel the waves rock against the breakwater, and Alabastra shivers beneath its crystal and its cold.
But her fae do not. They cannot hear her, anymore. They cannot speak.
And so, again:
"I am dying, Nyralim," the Gallows Tree says. "And I am afraid."