"You must do more than want it," the old woman drew aside the cobwebbed curtain. The tall cabinet was built directly into the wall. It reminded Ashe of a coffin. Her heart fluttered as the grey-brown arm moved out of her view.
The cabinet had no back. Nestled against the bare wall of the cave was a corpse. Dark flesh like leather was drawn tight against the bones. The overall shape was human, arms crossed over its chest, the wide pelvis decorated by a string of bronze coins suggesting a woman. Yet the skull had vast empty sockets separated by a long bony snout; hints of white teeth on the jaw that was mostly hidden by the angle of the head, and on top... they looked like twigs, but Ashe knew better.
"Antlers." she breathed.
"Her last set. She never shed them." the old woman was watching her, the piercing brown eyes set in that wide face. "This is what you sought. This is what you think you want. But seeking and wanting is not enough. If you truly want this, there must be action. Are you ready to do what it takes?"
"What is the price? There's always a price."
The lips stretched in a gaping, toothless smile.
"The price for what you want is becoming what you want."
#"The last one" the old woman said, as she gently ran the razor over Ashe's scalp, "she ate the remains of her predecessor. Stripped the flesh from her bones, ground bones and horns to paste."
The knife bit into the flesh of her temples, hot liquid running over the sides of her head. She felt the edge scrape against bone.
"The one before that, drank her blood. Offered herself up to the Horned God. Ran with the Hunt." The old woman's hands were strong, and held Ashe's head firmly at the terrible pressure now pressing on her temples.
"Thrice-removed was a man in body, a woman in spirit. Outcast, sought out by the lonely, she lived alone amid the skins and trappings. Her spirit partook of the spirit of animals he hunted; she honored them, and they fed and clothed him. Until she found something more."
Fire burned at Ashe's temples, and her head felt heavy.
"The syntax changes. The way of becoming. You may do all of these things, or none of them. You are them, and yet you are - you must be - must become - yourself. Look."
The old woman held up a greasy mirror. Ashe marveled at her own reflection.
"The horns become you, my dear."