It was a pity, he thought, that he would have to kill her.
She was still new, a flicker of silver flame in a sky like black velvet. Every part of her shone with hope. Like a child she flew from one end of the sky to another, drifting ever farther from the light of his shadow, and never thinking she might one day die; her light was weak, still, but if she would shine she first must glow.
A yellow bird in flight, he watched her, and watched as she passed beyond his realm. She grew to shine over forests and cloisters, deserts and seas; far below the people saw her as she passed, and whispered to her, and prayed. Her worshippers called to her from thickets of brambles, where they burnt herbs and mushrooms in her name, and she smiled down upon them and showed them the dreams that led the way to madness.
When the amber moon was full she travelled beyond his reach. She came out again on the other side of morning, a white lady regal with strength, and told him what she had seen in the night: dark rituals and hidden deeds, things forever beyond his sight. The people gathered hangman’s blood below the gallows, she told him, and blessed their charms with it below her light. She gave of the night’s power freely.
Now she watched them casting curses, driving black nails into poppets of wood. Her light was older now, and bitterness rested in her dying curve. She granted their wishes with smiling spite.
This, too, she told him. She was wiser now: she saw her death coming, and she knew that he must bring it. For all that her realm was a twisted nightmare, for all that his was a golden dream, the kindness in her – that granted wishes of protection, of revenge – was not in him; he did only what he must.
When she was old and frail, old and wise, only a flicker of silver flame in a sky bright with morning, his light began to burn her away. She let herself fade, knowing well she’d be reborn, and laughed away the pity in his eyes.
The last words she spoke to him were of thanks.