He likes the hedging, for all he comes back bloody from it, cross-hatched by thorns the length of his thumb. This is the agreement, flesh-to-bone-deep: red fruit for red fruit. In the aftermath of flowers. In the autumn-morning air, smoke-scented, sharp and chill. Against the tongue and the skin.

He bends the wild to neatness, weaves the ends. Walks that edge. He knows the tales; knows what the thorns mean. Pointing ever inwards, towards the heart. He knows his place.

A long time ago he saw a white-haired man riding on the last wind of sunset, streaming the night behind him like a cloak of midnight blue. He tells himself it was a dream. Works on the hedge.