24 February 2014


In my dream, the world burns. Angry red light washes over everything, and I hear yelling, screaming, other sounds I cannot identify. A woman stands over it all, watching. I cannot see her clearly, but she stands at the heart of the world on fire, and I do not know if she set the fire or is trying to put it out.  
I pushed on long into the night. The dream I had woken with haunted me, and besides, the temple was close enough that it made more sense to push on than to stop and make camp.

I smelled the fire before I saw it--a forested hill hid the glow from me. But when I rounded the hill, I faced the scene from my dream: the world on fire.

For a moment that felt like an eternity, I took it in: Vemzhanvimyimzhyu's temple burning, priests everywhere trying to save scrolls, books, parchments, but hindered by soldiers--not uniformed; they must be mercenaries--the sounds of fighting I had not recognized in my dream. Then I dropped my bundle, running towards the temple. I needed to help the priests save the burning knowledge.

Close to the burning building, two men grabbed me. I tried to fight them off, to get away, but the larger of the men, with long braided hair, held me fast, his grip painful. I screamed, and the other man laughed. "Hold her down for me, will you?"

I struggled uselessly as the braided man puled me to the ground. I tried to scream again, but nothing came out. 

The other one, wiry and short, unlaced his trousers and let them drop, grinning at me, before a strong voice cut through the sound of screaming, of fighting, and the great roaring of the fire.

"Leave her alone! We're done here!" There was a loud, ululating cry, and the soldiers all over the temple grounds moved away. The men standing over me did not move. "Aww, captain! We was just having a little fun!"

I looked up to see, silhouetted against the fire, a figure standing on the steps of the burning temple. "You'll have to pay for your fun in the next village, Yimve. As for you, Wenyi, you've had your fun for the night. I'm not letting you kill that girl. Go on. We're leaving."

The soldiers gathered around their commander, who gestured ahead, to the forest. The soldiers--the mercenaries--streamed into the forest, but I watch the man surrounded by flames.

When he turned his head in my direction, though, I gaped. The firelight revealed the woman from my dream, her features seeming carved from ebony and gilded.

Without entirely understanding why, I got up and staggered over to the woman. "Who are you?" I had to shout over the roaring of the fire.

"You are not a priest," she said, eyeing my travel-stained garb impassively. "Where did you come from?" Her face and voice betrayed no hint of emotion.

I shook my head, and gestured to the grounds, and the burning temple. "Why would you do something like this? By the Gods, why?"  
She shook her head, then pulled a small sack from her belt, and tossed it down to me. "See the priests get this. I--will do what I can." Her voice broke, and for a moment, I saw despair in her eyes. Then she ran down the steps and after the mercenaries.

I looked down at the sack in my hands, confused. It was not heavy, and felt filled with lentils or barley.  I wondered what was in it. But only for a moment; then I rushed to the temple to save what could be saved.  

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