Claire Arrives

from I:3, “The Patricia in the Gold Palanquin”:

Wonders swiftly multiplied, for now the rain was ceased. The clouds of the lesser regions broke in one place, and far above them, the clouds of the greater regions broke in the same place. Therefore the clouds let a long shaft of sunlight fall upon the Earth, by the side of the palanquin. The left door of the palanquin rattled and opened crookedly over the crumpled struts and bent rail. A woman stepped from the interior of the gold palanquin, so that she entered into this shaft of light, and seemed to all of us gathered there made herself from light. She wore a white gown, tied about her hips and waist, beneath her breast and at her throat by threads and bands of gold, and her plaited hair was a gold almost white in the blaze of the light upon her. As the sky above was all grey threat and one small spot of gold, so it was in reverse with her, for though she seemed all of gold and light, yet her eyes were a stormy grey.

We gaped. None of us could remember when he had seen a woman not in thrall of the mighty thralls of war, that are called terror, rape, and death. For a moment, each man felt he had gone home, as a man who dies goes home to the mother of the world who is in heaven. Her face he had forgot his entire life, but he recognizes her the first instant that he sees her, realizing that he has seen again the object of a longing he has felt since birth without that he knew it. That returned man weeps to have his sins forgiven in her arms that span the seas and stars. So too we felt arrived at home to see that alien woman, all of light and unenthralled.

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