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Circle of Fire

by Armend Sauersbosch

In an ancient land, two warriors make their way through a valley, encompassed by a thick dark forest. The aged forest whispers many stories for those with ears to listen- stories of what had been and what will be. There are thick grasses and herbs growing out of the fertile soil in the valley, and on the left and right of the path the warriors wander on, there are old trees full of sweet fruits. Everything there is full of life. The birds are singing their last serenades to the day. Wordless, the warriors wander through the valley. The sky upon them is burning orange as the huge mountains behind them swallow the setting sun. They don’t look back at the scenery. Their destination is visible now- in front of them a huge tree stands alone, guarding the valley. Its branches reach up into the sky and its roots are buried deep into the ground beneath it. This tree has been alive before their fathers’ fathers and will still be alive when the sons of their sons roam this land. It is standing there- a monument to vigor and life. All the way up in its treetop the raven is sitting, silently watching over the warriors- observant, taking note of every move. It is thirsty, the tree and the soil around it- patiently waiting for someone to quench its thirst. The warriors do not speak a single word as they start to ignite a circle of fire directly in front of the holy tree. As the fire is finally burning, the setting sun is shining its last rays of light.

They strip down to their patterned tunics and take off their shoes. All they will need from now on are their tilted machetes. A few stretches and they are ready. A quick glance, a nod of approval, and everything is set. Both of them jump through the flames. Inside the circle of fire, they face each other. The adrenaline inside them starts to sharpen their senses as they’re moving carefully around one another. Do they feel the ravens’ gaze on them? Perhaps, but what they do feel is the warm handle of their machetes. They feel like extensions of their own bodies now, as they lie clutched in their fists. The first strike cuts through the air, but is promptly blocked by a machete. Now the silence is broken as the warriors are dancing around each other- striking and parrying; blow after blow. For a brief moment that feels like an eternity to them, this dance is going on- bronze hitting bronze- until one of them sees a good opportunity to strike out at the other’s arm. The cut is deep. Blood is gushing out of it, but he is still holding onto his machete- regaining his posture. Weakened but in a frenzy, he furiously lashes out- cutting his opponent’s chest before charging at him and throwing him on the ground. The sun has set behind the mountains- the only source of light for the warriors are the flames around them as they’re wrestling on the ground desperately trying to get on top of each other. One emerges, pushing the other one down with his legs while beating his skull with his bare fists. The downed warrior, desperately looking around while enduring hit after hit, notices his machete. It had fallen into the circle of fire to his right. With his last reserve of strength, as his vision is turning red from the blood in his eyes, he reaches into the fire- burning his hand but retrieving the blazing machete. He strikes out- cutting the warrior on top across his face before pushing him off. Now he gets on top of the battered warrior, whose face is slashed and burned. The cut across his chest from earlier is still bleeding out. Over the cut, he places the end of the blade. As he begins pushing it into the flesh, both of them are quiet- just staring into each other’s eyes. He stops pushing. Tears are streaming down his face as he loosens his grip on the machete. Suddenly the defeated warrior grabs the hands that are still wrapped around the handle of the machete in his chest. He channels all of his force to push out his last words: “I am a warrior. Give me a warriors’ death, Aryan man.” Still holding the machete, the warrior on top of him closes his eyes. He takes a deep breath and thrusts the machete through the brave warrior’s chest, piercing his heart. He lets go of the machete.

He gets back on his feet- his damaged body shaking and bleeding, but alive. He stands there, next to his dying friend, equally filled with pride and sorrow. Laying on the ground, with the machete piercing his chest, the other warrior feels the adrenaline leaving his body- together with his blood. He is smiling, gazing into the stars over him. His vision is fading. In his last moments, as his blood is soaking the soil, he sees a golden chariot drawn by white horses racing towards him down from the stars. The last thing he makes out before his vision finally fades are the piercing blue eyes of the charioteer, as he reaches his hand out to him. Way up in the sky over the fire, the holy tree, and the two warriors- the raven is flying back to the all-father to tell him of the bravery he had seen.