This is an excerpt from volume III – which means it’s an island of text in a sea of not-yet-written material. Volume III, “The Warrior,” focuses on a Florentine general, Anaxemander Artimus Praximenes. Claire is his patroness. He invades a mountain nation, and early on, unused to mountain warfare, his army fails to gather enough fuel to feed their campfires during a cold snap. Claire saves the army by turning into a pillar of flame. I am honored to pair the text here with a new painting by Steven DaLuz.
The guttering and roaring never ceased, and the heat of the flaring was terrible and drove the men back cringing. Only Anaxemander stepped forward, to try to see if it was the patricia that was burning, or if a fire rose up into her from the ground, or fell on her from heaven, or what.
He stood so close as he could to the roaring fury, and gazing in the heart of it, he saw the patricia, blazing white on white, and her Zanzibari gown was twisting where it wrapped around her. He made out a look on her face that was like agony, as though the flame consumed her, but so soon as he knew what his streaming eyes were seeing, the patricia seemed to him to shift, and the look on her face shifted too, so that she had a look of rage, as though she were herself the consuming fire.
The white flames billowed at him, and a hand came out the flame, with the tapering fingers that he saw were Claire’s fingers. But this hand was not in the right place relative to the patricia that he thought he’d seen, so that he did not know if he had seen any thing in that fearful light. He grasped the hand that was held out to him, and flinched at the heat. But his expectation was reversed, and the hand was icy. Grasping it, he held it, and the heat of him and of the fire never warmed it.
Then he saw again the face of the patricia in its right place. It seemed to him there was a look of love on it, an utter love, that gathered up the General, and all his men, and all the lonely world, in its tenderness. The streaming in the eyes of Anaxemander turned to tears, and he was weeping in the hot place, right by the heart of the conflagration. He clutched at the icy hand, and would have conquered all for her.
But now his shift was burning, and his beard, and the conqueror could conquer all things but the roaring fire of the patricia. He fled, and plunged his arms into the snow, and his head, and remained thus till he had conquered himself at least, so that his men should not see him weeping.