. . . standing shadowed near the Year Fire, pale eyes reflecting sparks, pale face ruddy in the flames, a great golden horn at his side, a molten circle lit by the flames of year’s end, year’s beginning.
He comes those nights when the moon is hollow and the world is still, a pale young man with ancient, icy eyes, always silent, leaning against a pillar with a mug in his hand, staring into the fire — or beyond it: his sight seems to admit no limit. Tonight he stands, face a mask save for a faint, self-mocking smile, changing in the flicker of the flames — now a ram-headed beast-man crowned in great curves of gold standing before a great Tree, then a warrior, watching and waiting, sword in one hand, horn in the other poised to sound as he stands ready. Another flicker, but nothing comes clear — only a sense of vast wings and a terrible presence, unearthly beauty and shining light. Then once again he is a pale man standing by the fire.
He cocks his head as though listening, and perhaps he hears — everything. Again that smile, like the last smile that the stag sees on the wolf’s face, as he contemplates the irony of a cold Northerner, a Lord of Ice, who will meet his fate in flames, and a Lord of Fire who will meet his wrapped in bitter cold, as they have done, or will do, again and again until there is a victor, if there ever can be.
There are only shadows now, where he stood. The fire burns on. . . .