Autumn kept a muffled silence over the empty Centre Park, the drifting, dying leaves falling undisturbed in the abandoned paths. It was a pocket of time unbroken, as if the sprawling, towering city did not exist past the tree bowers.
Under the golden, fire-touched canopy, a group stood, sheltered from the cold breeze that whispered of snow. Grief etched their face, their fresh mourning tears in their hard eyes. They had known death before. They had seen it, it had sprouted crimson from their own hands.
But loss would still always feel like a bullet hole in their hearts.
”Winter is coming,” one stated to the northern wind, his golden hair tugged and put back into place with soil-covered hair. His ancient blue eyes gazed upon the overturned earth before them, the glacier rings of ice look to the future, where only fire and ash lay under the dying sun.
A moment’s silence rested between them for that moment. Each lost in their own thoughts, a god preparing for war, a spy trying to hide her broken heart, each and every one of them contemplating this harsh reminder of mortality.
”You know, the tree reminds me of Clint, kinda.” The Russian didn’t look up from the sprig that had been planted, her green eyes glassy, a drop of water running from them to erode a trail down her blank face. ”It’s not gonna be as mighty as the rest of them here. But it’ll be the best of them.”
A few nods broke the serenity, adding movement to the lazy day. The near-black trunks may rise up, blocking the sky with their over-stretching arms, yellow leaves turning the cold sunlight to gold rays that shifted and danced over the ground. It caught the young tree, casting a halo over the silvery bark and auburn leaves. The soft voice spoke out again, as if the wind spoke it’s sadness into their ears.
”He was the best of us.”
Winter’s had passed and winter’s had gone, leaving their trace upon the mortal world as the time flicked by. To a king whose heartbeat was the steady beat of the universe, such changing seasons were blinks of his war-worn gaze, but time had still caught up with him. Creases formed on the heavy frown, skin stretched taunt at the downward tug of those lips as the Thunderer looked sadly to the tree.
It had grown somewhat, coming to stand with proud, mahogany leaves over his head. It had thrived in the warm sun of this world, become graceful to the eyes of passers-by, who marveled at the strange colours and beautiful sheen it it’s branches. But there were some, those ignorant or arrogant, who had drawn the crimson sap from under the tough skin, scarring words and meaningless letters into the flawless trunk.
In a fit of rage, on that darkened the sky and called thunder to those who had violated what was sacred, powerful muscles strained and ripped the wide-spreading roots from the ground. The earth groaned with the weight of the god’s grief, the sky cried the tears he had hardened himself to, his shoulders bowed with the weight of his burden.
”Clint, brother,” the voice of the storm cried out over the roaring sky. ”Brother, I should not have let this happen to you.”
A clap of lightning, a bolt of pure white fury struck him, the electricity racing over skin and tendon. The light was blinding, the thunder was deafening, and Centre Park was empty once more.
”Do you remember the time you were ordered to kill me?”
So many years had passed now, Asgard’s golden colour become amber now, stained with age and decay. Summer had been and gone, the flowers that had swept so many colours over the plains and mountain foothills withered and died. The forest was becoming skeletal, the green had become brown and laid to rest on the bracken floor.
”Hah, and when my brother tried to take over your world!”
The booming voice laughed, echoing around the woodland, an eruption of birds startled from the high tops where they had nestled happily. Paying them no attention, the elderly king smiled to the world, the wrinkles of an ending life coming together into a grin, the crow’s feet crinkling like parchment.
A breath expelled, wind over silent, stagnant water, reeds whistling in the eerie, desolate wasteland of the Thunderer’s sadness. A gentle, warrior’s hand, tanned and leather worn, stroked the smooth, ivory bark. Callouses rubbed over the scarred face in the trunk, tracing bleeding red eyes and motionless smirk.
”Oh Clint, I worry.”
The old king sighed, his head weighed low with the heavy crown. The softest sigh formed words over his tongue, the very sound of sorrow that turned the god black and frail beneath the strong, wounded skin.
”Winter is coming.”