The crown of the old gods is placed on my head and the crowd roars with laughter. They’ve torn it down from the dead tree from whence is sprouted, improbably, in the depths of winter, killed that miracle growth. And now they’ll kill me, just for proclaiming it as the gift of the old ways that assuredly it was. I supposed I was a fool, to think that anything so obvious would be understood by the braying masses, who care little but for drink and rowdy behavour. They will kill me, they say, in praise of the new ways, but there is nothing older than human stupidity and cruelty.
I am tied to the dead tree and they have stripped my clothes and put me in a bedsheet, to make me look like one of the old druids from their books. placed sprigs of winter leaves around my arms and neck and finally the crown itself. They have made me a parody of that which I am, a sad travesty of their own fears.
And yet, this is a miracle crown. And their fears have power, which I can feel like a second pulse.
The first branch takes a rough looking tanner in the throat, tearing his life away in a spray of blood. The next hauls a woman across the ground, her leg joints popping with the speed of it, before she is thrown against a rock to lie still. And then another, and another, the crowd already starting to move, to panic and flee, as I snatch them away. There is power in the old ways, power of life and death.
And after is over, they cannot come near me, and so I hang here not dead and not living, a warning and a curse, forever.