819 - The Void-sword
Shefenkas/Performing the Ten Tens continued:::
I run with Her. It was so dreamlike, I can only word it as I word dreams. I am in blackness, running through the sphere of stars that is the universe, then landing running like a flyer with no wing across a lifeless plain of rust-red rock and soil under a greenish pale sky. There is sun, but it is wan and small, shrunken somehow, so daylight is dimmer, like in a sun-eclipse.
I take off into the diamond-dusted velvet blackness again, land though tumbling lightning-shot clouds that look corrosive. Red-hot hail pounds the land but touches me no more than the glass of the Temple does. Running here is only slightly lighter than I am used to. I fly into the dark between skies again, landing on a bare place that is black and white like the moon but sun-blasted, the sun so huge here it covers much of the sky, so that just to look up would be blinding. I write as in a dream, but I am certain these places are real, as they were solid under my feet and more foreign and lifeless than any landscapes I’d dreamed.
I am running in place through the darkness again, travelling faster than I can imagine and yet feeling no wind against my body. I run into a flock of floating rocks, thousands of thousands of them, and I see they fade off into an inconceivable distance, forming an immense striped curve so precise it seems it must have been made by mathematicians, that sweeps around a smooth ivory and grey world-sphere so huge a thousand Earthspheres could disappear into it. We ran away from the sun to get to this place; when I look back it is but a star among all the others, only a little brighter. I am in cold unimaginable, though I don’t feel it, protected somehow by Her.
“Run Home with Me,” She says, turning like a shooting star in the sky, Her sola-length hair streaming out behind Her. I do not get tired on this run, as if my strength is limitless. We run faster, at a speed inconceivable, and the soft blue ball of the Earthsphere grows larger, and larger, and larger, until it fills our sight, and then it is as if we are in a dive ten times as fast as the fastest possible on a wing. A subtle glow begins around Her head and shoulders and arms, every part of Her that faces the Earthsphere, the air rushing against Her so fast it turns to fire, with flames that stream impossibly fast. I look at my sword-hand, which is still encased in sacred glass, and see it is the same with me.
I see the outline of the Miyatara just as it’s pictured on maps, but the real thing, feel fire in my hair as we streak towards the top of the boot of land, see the minute circle that is the city of Arko grow wider and wider, the streets and buildings coming into clarity, the Great Temple growing beneath us. She spins me around in Her arms and stills us both, like pulling up on a wing, but with much more force and pull on my bones. She is divinely muscular against me, and I feel traces of Aras in me, wanting Her. I hear sizzling, see a spark fly as we alight on the golden floor, the crowd watching in frozen disbelief. I reach up with my unglassed hand, and find that, unlike Hers whose golden shine is unmarred, my merely-mortal hair is on fire.
Now I am still, though, the flames die almost instantly, leaving the smell of scorch. I stand trying to steady myself from the motion, as if I’m on the shore for the first time after days at sea. The statue of Aras looks down at me, arms folded, and Dimae enters into me, sliding Her arms into mine like sleeves.
At this point things became more real, if they can ever be during the Ten Tens. The God was unarmed, wearing only gauntlets. He smiled a one-sided smile and beckoned me to Him with both steel-clad hands. I went to Him. I read His intent in the air, but not what He intended to do; then, moving faster than I could see, He struck my sword-forearm so fast the glass came off in one piece, and stayed unbroken even as it hit the floor.
“You needn’t carry that blade,” He said. “It is nothing of Mine.”
“Blade?” I said. “I’m unarmed.” I felt His intent flash again, then something moved within me, sharp as if it would cut the inside of my spine in a moment, and the Temple and the crowd were spinning end over end. I offer this in honesty; I still don’t know what it meant.
“Give Me that which is not dying,” He said.
I answered, “I give you myself,” and knelt before him. The God pulled, or created, something out of the air that seemed to be empty space, and yet my weapon-sense read its shape as ‘sword,’ and He held it as one, taking on the aspect of Kallijas again. He touched me with it over my heart, and said “Take it.” I did, and it was as if in my hand I could feel it only in weapon-sense, not touch; yet it moved by my hand’s direction as a sword does. “Rise and spar Me.”
I went into stance, expecting Him to produce such a Void-weapon for Himself, but He faced me unarmed, then threw off the gauntlets, even, so He was bare-handed. I stood all but flat-footed; if you are any kind of warrior, it goes against everything in you to sword-spar someone unarmed.
“Come!” He laughed. “Come, my son!”
I stepped in, and did a testing stab at Him that was the sort of stroke you expect from a seven-year-old. He parried it with His palm against the flat, and smacked me hard on the side of the head. I went in a little harder, but nowhere near my utmost. He had mercy on me—had it been some sort of test of sparring conscience?—and did draw His Void-sword out of the air. I went at Him hammer and tongs, to make up for my lack before.
It was the same as before, like fighting Kallijas but without the imperfection of the required ending. What He was wielding against me came to me, in a flash of ecstasy: love in sword-form, the compassionate intent in the shape of a blade. At that moment He solved me and stabbed me, not in the heart but more central, His Void-sword touching the same thing in me His pure intent had, so that I reeled again, this time ending on my knees. I must learn something from this, I thought.
“Do I confuse you, my son?" He asked me.
“You touched something in me that... I don’t understand. And that I fear.” I wasn’t speaking this in my mind, I felt my lips and tongue form the words and my throat voice them, so the crowd was hearing; but you do not lie to a God, and that means you tell all the truth you know.
“You will understand one day, through one who was one of Mine and no longer is,” He told me. “I will rejoice on the day I surrender you. Until then, you need not fear.”
I write these words purely as I remember them. I don’t understand them. When I do, I will write about it publicly again, having raised the question publicly. I thanked him, and He took me in His arms, with sympathy that was honour beyond honour, and said, “You are a beloved solas of Mine, for now. I have always been proud.” Holding me, He directed me into the exact position to evade the myriad blades, that stab out to freeze the Imperator between their points. I had felt that so intensely last time, through weapon-sense; now I felt the God’s gaze so intent on me and in me, as if looking into my heart and my soul, that I barely noticed them. They went through Him as through a ghost.
“Eight of ten! Eight of ten!” I heard the crowd yell. The blades slid back into their places with oiled metallic clicks, and Aras pulled me straight and turned me to Muunas, presenting me to Him like a solas to his liege.
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