Reed tall, straight as a sword, I stand in the hallway of beginnings; I feel the strength of steel seep into me, my frail bones girded with the light of the star, a strength woven from the impenetrable armour of liquid music, a light that will protect me in the desperation of darkness.
I walk with a sense of both foreboding and resignation, as I finally take the smooth wooden steps, steps polished by centuries of supplicating feet that have walked before me; walked to meet their dreams and their nightmares, to confront the shadows that seep between the flicker of waking day and the darkness of a tortured soul. I take the light of innocence with me, for all else will be lost in the places that I will go today, and arriving at the portal I push open the door to the fearful bleeding darkness of The 9 of Swords.
I am confronted with a torn and tortured landscape that marries a relentless and persistent driving rain with the aftermath of war. The scene before me ravages my eyes, my gaze filling with the hopelessness of humanity, people devoid of light, who have lost everything and walk with death in their eyes, crawl with their sight blinded by despair as their only thought is to flee, flee, flee from the horror that they have witnessed.
The rain is intense and unyielding, and their efforts at movement seem futile in the face of the cloying mud that hinders their every movement, holding them back in a morass of filth and decay, a detritus of broken bodies and shattered lives.
On they push; their desire to save what few children remain to them inspiring an inhuman strength that puts one damaged foot in front of another, as they struggle with shabby carts that are piled with the injured, the young and the few belongings that they still possess. One broken foot in front of the other, to flee from a heinous enemy that remains unseen to me in the further reaches of this land, advancing ever closer, ever closer, tightening the grip, intensifying the fear, winding the clock.
My attention rests on one particular family, where the father is trying to pull the cart out of a particularly deep rut; his horse is exhausted and can barely stand itself, and his wife and children lie upon the cart and watch them struggle, with eyes that are dull and resigned to the death that they have begun to believe will befall them.
I go to him, and try to explain that if he asks his family to just climb down from the cart, that he will be able to move it from where it is stuck fast in the mud, and that he will be able to continue his journey. But as I talk to him, I can see that his eyes and his ears do not register me, he cannot hear me, he cannot see me, he is lost in the realm of his own desperation, and that no outside intervention can help him now. He carries on just as before, struggling fruitlessly with his heavy burden, and as I raise my eyes I see other families in similar predicaments, and as I go to them, I get the same response, and so I give up, wandering aimlessly with an ever increasing feeling of helplessness, through this god forsaken place of rain and endless mud.
And then like a granted wish in the depths of hell, the shape of Malachi emerges from the mass of grey and brown shapes, scavenging through the battlefield collecting swords. He carries his spoils in his arms like precious babies, though they are all chipped and rusty, smeared with blood and distressed with the scars of battle. I follow him away from the sadness and pain, and he leads me away from that awful place and the confusion of that exodus, into the calm still quietness of a wood, and from there to the haven of his modest cabin.
I step into the comforting glow of the firelight that fills the interior, and spend time looking around, seeing that it is very well equipped, and that there is much craft and power here. Malachi gently takes the first sword and proceeds to start mending it carefully, filing down the chipped blade, working patiently on the ailing metal, honing and polishing, filing and grinding, until it is restored in fullness, a thing of powerful and gleaming beauty once more. He moves onto the next, and then the next, and I am caught up in the restoration process as Malachi gradually cleans away the blood and the dirt and the filth from the swords and brings them back to their former glory.
I leave him working, and head back to the battlefield, as I can sense that my time is drawing near and that it will soon be time to leave, and as I reach the field once again, I see that the rain has stopped, and that the family that I had seen earlier, look a little happier. The father was resting, and one of the children was beside him, and I felt sure that they would be able to find some clarity soon, about how to get out of their situation. I felt strong and powerful all of a sudden, and for the first time, I get the realisation that Malachi has given me some of his strength, connected me to some of the power that lies within me, and for a moment I feel like a queen, walking on the road of my dreams with the heart of a warrior, as I step back through the sodden red and black curtain of the 9 of Swords.
The 9 of Swords
Mars in Gemini
The Lord of Despair & Cruelty
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