The poet came upon the westward hill and stretched his eyes over the windy, tall grass and the white sand that followed. Under the morning light, the beach was as wide as the plains and the Thunder Sea was a beautiful giant of an ocean, thundering his waves of massive blue and green against the shore.
Upon the shoulders of the giant, an impressive fleet of wind-born ships approached. At least three of them were massive in size and each was exceedingly dreamlike, with wide, floating sails made out of light and shadow. With ease they hovered the breaking waves into the shore and prepared to dock. Several men jumped into the clear water, set foot into the beach and guided the ships with frantic haste, pulling their ropes and shouting.
Coming down from the hill, Benjamin looked in wonder towards the majestic sails. He also noticed a single tree standing in the last patch of green before the sand, a lone willow tree before the horizon. The poet approached beneath its merciful shadow and took a look closer of the incoming fleet. The only thing distracting his attention was the relentless southern wind and a distant rumbling noise coming from the north. That and the taste of impending fate in the air.
He knew he had come to these lands to find a reason behind her lover's dreams, but now he only hoped to find a way home. How many nights had passed and how many more would before he was lost forever? Leaning against the willow tree, Benjamin longed for Alice and cursed himself for his eagerness to please her inspite the fact that he could not indeed be of any help. Such was the recklessness of love, he thought.
The ships were now resting their sails and setting their weight upon the sand. The beach around them became crowded with many men and Benjamin noticed that most of them were not sailors of any kind, but rather soldiers of a gathering army. None of them shared the same type of weapon or armour - one could easily mistake them for pirates or scavengers - but these warriors quietly lined up in front of the fleet, standing disciplined and ready for battle. Among them, the poet saw many young heroes and veterans and he found both men and women side by side. This strangely grouped set of troops was nevertheless impressive and seemed joined by a strong sense of purpose. Benjamin could not help being touched by their brave demeanour and he felt no point in debating with himself if these people were actually real or not. Did it matter?
What did made the poet doubt his sense of reality was the scene that followed. The sailors ceased their shouting and silence greeted another group of warriors that came to the shore. The troops stood in attention. One could say their commanding officers had arrived, but there was nothing official about them, only a raw, breathtaking presence. Three creatures of overwhelming confidence: a tall young man with dark skin and the natural bearings of a tiger; a terrifying girl with unearthly grace and beauty; and an older man to which the wind and the waves seemed to bow with the utmost respect. Thus they set foot in the beach and one could say they were very much like any other human being, except they were completely different. To Benjamin, it seemed they were larger, with broader shoulders, longer necks and higher spirits than any other mere mortal. Were they real? As real as the world around them - he thought - such was their apparent perfection.
The man at the willow stood as if cursed by his artistic nature, gasping for words with which he could describe such vision. The morning light changed, but he took no notice of it. The roaring noise from the north came closer, but he was all the same unaware. In a few moments, it was a sudden, hot flash of light that made Benjamin come to his senses.
The poet took cover behind the tree and tried to understand what was happening. Arrows of flame were falling from the sky. A large group of horsemen - no - a massive cavalry charge was bolting through the sand to clash against the arriving army. All the riders carried a large bow, which they used without losing any speed. As they fired, a dark cloud of arrows rose, hovered and then ignited as it descended upon their enemy. Their leader rode at the very peak of the charge and shouted orders and battle roars with a surprising bloodlust in a woman's voice.
All the same reality of awe and perfection came through in the sound of her words and the mastery of her horse, as if it were a dragon and her voice was its murderous, bright flame. She rose a large sword with a wicked shape and seemed prepared to devour the entire enemy with one large bite. Her army of the very same loyal followers tried their best to keep up.
The man at the willow was too petrified to do anything. Benjamin was sure he had heard cries of pain and seen faces in panic, but now he saw the first army, under that unflinching trio of leadership, take a few steps forward, stretch out through the beach and prepare to receive the incoming charge. The three leaders took their place in front of the first line and strode against the north. The warriors marched in silent unison and brought forth their shields and pikes. Watching their fate unfold, Benjamin held his breath.
There was a deafening clash between the two forces, a sound that echoed with bleak infinity. The silent toil of Destiny's war bell could not be denied. Death would sharpen her scythe with the unbearable screams of the fallen. As each blade found its foe and each soul embraced the shadows, the morning light was dimmed by the tragedy of war.
Many of the horses had leapt towards their deaths and so many had lost their riders and were running away. Many of the ships never came to the shore and so many beautiful sails were withering away in flames. Many of the warriors still fought with their dying breaths and so many battled on over their corpses.
The trembling poet looked upon the garden of slaughter, where the dry sand was as bountiful as the grass, the swords were as merciful as the trees and the blood was as generous as the flowers. He looked upon the relentless battle, he wept and he fell to his knees. The poet would not allow himself to run away.
Time measured itself by the heavy breath and racing heartbeat of the soldiers. By this day, there was to be no other light other than a red dawn. As the numbers dwindled, the fight still pressed on, hour after hour. These eternal warriors would not allow themselves to run away.
Among the surviving forces, Benjamin could still see the army leaders in the midst of combat, showing impossible skill and stamina. Even before the light faded and each side was left with just a handful of warriors, their actions seemed to have dominated the entire battlefield. The leader of the northern army had lost her mighty horse, but that had only made her fiercer and she was clearly the most outstanding of them all. Benjamin had seen her fell upon the young leader of the opposing army and, inspite the assistance of the other two, she killed him with three sudden strokes of her blade. The older leader sought immediate retribution but, inspite the lightning speed of the blades he held in each hand, he only managed to draw blood by slightly wounding her in the shoulder. Each side passionately took their losses and held their ground, as if battle was its own purpose and victory merely ended it too soon.
As the last of their followers embraced the ground, a shadow rose from the sea and called upon the night to bring solace to their souls, as if the fire in the heart of a warrior would roam and hunger forever if not put to rest. Benjamin felt a slight chill as the wind changed and twirled across the sand. Within this brief moment of silence, only three stood among the massacre, two former leaders against one. In reverence to their fallen fellowship, they faced each other carefully and waited for the crimson sun to hide its face and for the silver moon to wrap the night around them.
The poet felt he was in an almost familiar world, where words and ideas are there to touch and see and where that which gives them shape is actually less real than the thoughts it carries. Is humanity so feeble that we need reality to stop infinite comprehension from blowing our minds? Could he live forever here on the other side of the mirror?
Lady Moon had painted a new scene on the silent beach. Benjamin was less than surprised with the surreal transformation. Each of the three great warlords had shed their human nature and shifted into the primal and beautiful form of a great wolf. One of them was the largest; old and proud with a majestic grey fur. Taking his side, another one stood with the greatest of beauty, slender and wild with vivid brown colours beneath the moonlight. Opposing them was the most terrifying of them all. A black wolf bared his teeth and looked upon his enemies as if he could attack them from anywhere, born from the shadows.
In few seconds, the arts of war were stripped to the bone. The precepts of defence and initiative gave in to raw power, stamina and resolve. In a circle of combat, the three great animals scrambled for a decisive bite in the opponent's neck, gnawing at bits of flesh and blood. The lone black wolf fought relentlessly; two against one and still the match was even and far from over.
Tired but still enthralled by this dramatic final confrontation, Benjamin almost failed to notice the shadow of a dark-feathered bird coming from beyond the sea. Floating up and down, it quickly approached the willow tree, perched itself upon one of its lower branches and folded its wide, strong wings. Benjamin had never been so close to a raven in his whole lifetime - perhaps it should have frightened him - but the curious bird seemed almost familiar, as if they had arranged to meet here and it had arrived regretfully half-an-hour late.
As the circle of wolves tightened and twisted in skirmish, the raven seemed to regard the poet and the beach around them more than anything else. Seconds later, it turned in its perch, as something behind Benjamin seemed to have caught its attention. Looking around himself, the poet saw a wondrous figure coming down from the hill. A women dressed in a ragged white dress, walking towards him. Could it be? She stopped right in front of him and the light around her, the presence she commanded, the furious intelligence in her eyes was very much unlike her, but he could not resist falling in love. It could only be Alice.
"Benjamin." - she stated - "Are you alright?"
"Alice?" - he grabbed her shoulder - "Blessed be Love! You have come for me?"
"I am truly sorry, my dear." - she put her arms around him - "For a moment, I thought I had lost you."
Reunited, the lovers embraced and kissed. Next to them, was the ever-watchful raven upon the willow tree. Near them, the three great wolves traded claws and teeth. Around them, the dreamlands continued to set the scene, but the threads of Fate seemed to have become undone. Anything could have happened now.
"How is it possible?" - he looked upon her eyes as if still trying to recognize her.
"The wolves have brought me to these lands." - she looked over his shoulder.
Benjamin held her hand and turned to watch the circle of battle unfold. With one giant leap, the black wolf dodged a deadly attack from its larger opponent and surprised the brown, smaller wolf with a bite from above. With a quick tumble and a twist of his neck, the black wolf ripped a mortal wound into its victim. Only two opposing warriors would remain for a final duel - the greatest leaders that came across this day's battlefield were the last of its survivors. The two wolves, in mighty grey and horrifying black, held each other's gaze, contemplating the last of its enemies. Only one of them would see the sun rise.
"Why?" - he whisperered.
"To witness their battle." - she wrapped her hands around his and said nothing more.
Taking a deep breath, the poet stood by her lover's side, looked to the raven and smiled.
"What will tomorrow bring?"
"But I don't want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.
"Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat: "we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad."
"How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice.
"You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn't have come here."
- Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll