The Warrior sleeps and dreams of her lover. She sees her bound to a stake in the desert, melting into a pool in the sand. From her death, life flows like a river. An oasis sprouts from the desolation, fed by the blood and tears of the woman the Warrior treasured more than life itself. She dreams of the look in her lover's eyes as she transcends the mortal plane, transfixed by the power allowed the Warrior by God into nature itself.
The Warrior lies alone in her yurt, high above a newly fertile plain. Her arms empty, grasping in the dark for a heart, a soul, long gone. The heart she sacrificed to the Lord of War in the name of her preordained conquest.
The Warrior shudders in the quiet cold. Not even the gloom frees her from a prison of her own devising, from the choices that led her thus. Behind her in the past, everything falls away, leaving nothing but the intemperate present.
The Warrior weeps, and is swept into her mind's eye on a flood of tears. There hides the desert she erased from the world, but not her soul. Through it she walks. Behind her, what was once a set of a thousand footsteps in the sand dwindles to hundreds, then to dozens, to two and now one.
Though she walks in darkness, ahead there is light. Flickering as if cast from an enormous fire. Indeed she feels the heat, hears the roaring flames. After a span following the light, dancing bright on the horizon like the sunrise, she finds a giant forge: a wooden hovel perched atop a hearth. Under its auspices a naked giant works the bellows, sweating and frowning with concentration.
The Warrior gasps: Its face mirrors her own. The same arched-broad nose, the same eyes the shade of burnished oak, matching the smooth brown skin of her face, the same sad wrinkles in the corners of her eyes, only magnified, like deep canyons on a bust carved into the side of a mountain.
She watches her 15-foot twin work a while, fans the flames hotter and hotter, feeding the greedy blaze the oxygen it craves. Even at this distance, the Warrior fears she will burn. Soon the flames burn so bright that, though it remains night, the Warrior can see shadows dancing on the dunes many miles in the distance. Soon they burn so hot, the sand around the forge begins to melt, burning red and translucent, pooling at The Giant's feet like liquid glass.
If the scalding heat bothers her at all, The Giant shows no sign. She leaves the bellows for the fire. Amaranth metal gripped in her tongs. The metal hisses and warps, no die, no hammer and anvil needed. It shapes itself according to The Giant's will, hewn into being by her mind alone. From the fire a sword is born, the color of flames. In the hazy brightness of the heat, it turns orange, then crimson, then deep purple.
As The Giant slides the blade into a reservoir filled with silvery, viscous to cool. It is not water. Any water would have long since evaporated in the heat comparable to that of the sun. The Giant's sweat sizzles and steams as soon as it leaves her pores. It appears that at any moment she herself may start to dissipate into vapor and disperse with the wind. Finally she speaks.
"He takes everything from us. Surely you see that by now."
She removes the blade from the water, regarding it by the firelight. The silver liquid slowly drips away, leaving words carved on the blade's flat, somehow, though the Warrior knows the language, their meaning escapes her. They are not meant for her comprehension. Not yet.
"That's what they do, these Gods, they take and take, demanding we sacrifice more and more to prove our fidelity. We are left with nothing."
Finally The Giant faces the Warrior, sword in hand, as she approaches the whetting stone. She presses the pedal down with her foot and the wheel of gray coticule begins so spin, soon rotating so fast that it begins to whistle with the wind. Sparks fly as she hones its edge.
"We are alone now… once we had love but sacrificed her for power. Once we had an army, but left them behind."
The heat lessens and the Warrior creeps closer.
"And for what? Promises of Godhood? Pride and ambition? All ashes, I tell you. Ashes."
The Giant watches the Warrior approach and grimaces.
The Giant tests the edge against her palm. Satisfied, she tosses it aside on a pile of blades, each sharper and more deadly than the last.
"I wish I could reach you. She may be lost, the one we both treasured, but it's not too late for our soul. I wish you would remember this dream, but we will not."
She turns back to the Warrior, her diminutive doppelgänger, crouching down so that they may look each other squarely in the eyes. "Do you know why I brought you here little one?"
The Warrior shakes her head mutely, finding herself unable to speak, though whether that is caused by some trick of the dream or if she is simply choked by fear she cannot say.
"Not to warn you, or for redemption. Our fate is sealed. Not to leave you with some ill-omen or premonition of what is to come. That path through the desert, leaving dwindling footsteps, that tale of consumption is one we've lived a hundred, a thousand times. No… I wished merely to look at you. The woman I once was."
The Giant takes the Warrior's head in her massive hand, and the Warrior can feel its power. If she wished it, she could squeeze all the moisture out of it, drain her and leave her husk on the desert floor like a date, like dried meat in a smokehouse. She was dwarfed by the woman she would become. Awed by her and humbled, but she could be see the sadness in her eyes, which too dwarfed her own, and pitied her future-self.
Is there no escaping this fate? She wondered silently.
"No," The Giant replied, as if she osmosed her thoughts through touch. "Not for us. Not anymore. Soon we will meet again on this plain. I the Warrior in the palm of your hand, you lost and alone, like all Gods and Goddesses must become. But the sun rises. Time for you to return, little us."
"But I-" Finally the Warrior finds her words.
"-There is not time, soon the cycle will start again. So it is written and so it shall be. We are trapped in the whirlwind. Open your eyes. Open your eyes and wake."
And so she does, the Warrior, unsure of why tears stain her cheeks. She rises, leaves her hut on the ridge, overlooking her army feeding on the bounty left by her love. She can feel in her heart, somehow, that every moment leads her further from the woman she thought she would be: happy and fulfilled. She can taste the ashes in her mouth. She can see, in the distance, reaching towards from the future, the flames that will consume everything, everyone, she holds dear.