Wednesday, December 26, 2007
A Dream of Fire
Sometimes in my dreams I’m myself or some variant of myself. And whatever happens to that character is happening to me. Sometimes, though, I seem very much an observer watching a character who is not me. The latter is usually a warning, I think.
Last night I observed a battle. An army was on the march and a group of older and injured warriors were moving with and guarding the baggage train, where there were also many women and children. One of these warriors was near a giant, probably 6’ 5” or so, with iron gray hair braided in the Viking fashion. He limped slightly on his left leg and carried a strange axe that he worked to fix. He was definitely not me, but I could tell from his actions that he was angry about missing the main battle. Angry, and a bit depressed because he knew that his advancing age would soon keep him out of all battles.
His axe deserves mention. It was two axes fitted together, the haft of one inserted into the head of the other, but the two had come lose and were held together only by a thin silverish chain. He had gotten the second axe reinserted but was cursing it because it wouldn’t stay fitted. That was when the attack came.
A horde of enemy raiders, mounted on horseback, had found-—either through accident or design—-the pack train, and they descended in a cloud to the slaughter. The guards ran forward but were badly outnumbered and not in the best of shape because of age or injuries. The big warrior that I’ve mentioned cursed again as he realized his broken axe was going to be useless. He used one of the two chained axes to hack through the chain, then leaped forward to battle with the bigger of the axes locked tight in both hands.
The enemy came at him and he sheared through the first attackers, sundering armor and hacking through bodies in a berserk rage that carried him straight into the heart of the horde. The momentum of the enemy charge broke. Horses milled. Men lunged with lances and curved blades toward the big warrior as he lashed and beat around him wildly.
Some of the enemy began to back away, but one man rode forward and threw a container of liquid onto the warrior. In an instant the big axe man was on fire, was an inferno. I heard him roaring, but he charged the man who had set him aflame. The man’s horse reared back from the fire, throwing his rider, and the big gray warrior smashed that rider’s head open with his axe.
Wheeling about, the burning soldier leaped into the melee of his enemies. Horses screamed and reared. Warriors were thrown and trampled; others caught a bit of flame on their leathers and began to burn themselves. Within a moment the enemy attack had broken completely and the horde was retreating madly, leaving the burning man standing with legs braced upon the field.
The other warriors who had been guarding the baggage train rushed forward. Someone was screaming to “put him out, put him out.” The burning man fell to his knees. And in that very instant the flames snuffed themselves, as if their fuel had been exhausted. I could see the old warrior plainly then. He was horribly burned, with nothing but tufts of his gray hair left. But his left eye was open and it was a perfect blue within whorls of charred flesh.
Somebody rushed forward with a blanket but there was no need. The man fell face forward but with his head turned to the left on the churned soil. I knew he was dead, but his eye did not close, and in it there was no terror or pain, only a quiet satisfaction that he had not died the straw death.