I eventually came back to myself, lying in the snow with the cross in my arms.  I slowly moved to a crouching position, using it to hold myself up.  Eventually I stood, my hands resting on the t-section of the cross for balance.  I looked around, remembering my surroundings, and shook my head to free myself of grogginess and sleep.

            As I started walking south, back the way I had come, I took the time to look at the cross I carried in my hands.  I was unsurprised to realize it was also a sword, as the symbolism of the sword in the stone was part of my childhood imaginings.  The blade and the hilt flowed into one another, the sword was carved out of one substance rather than assembled.  It was pure white and of no earthly metal that I was familiar with.  The hilt felt suited for my hand, and comfortable, while the blade was exquisitely sharp.  It glowed faintly, and I knew that God had made it for me.  I also knew what it was for.

            The wind was blowing, and I drew my hood up about my face.  As I did, my hands brushed my chin and I felt a thick beard there, and realized my hair was much longer than before as well.  I had apparently lain prone in the snow for an extremely long time, protected by the cross and by the grace of God.

            I approached the scene of the battle I had left behind me and broke into a run.  I needed to know that Mara was still safe, that nothing had happened to her… my heart pounded as I ran, and not just from the exertion.  I neared the base of the mountain where we had separated and felt my heart leap in my chest.  My beloved was safe!

            She smiled when she saw me, and I rushed forward to embrace her.  While I had grown a beard, she had not changed a whit in all the time I had been gone.  She wrapped her graceful arms about me and held me close.  I basked in her warmth and tenderness, touching her chin softly with wonder that someone so beautiful and so good could love me.

            Our reunion was interrupted by a polite cough, and I looked over to see Raphael standing nearby.  He was trying to be patient, but there was a journey ahead.  Save for the three of us, the field was empty.  There was no sign that there had ever been a battle here.

            “How long was I gone?”  I asked.

            “You’ll see when you get back.”  Raphael answered. 

            “How do I get back?” I asked, but in mid-sentence found myself standing on a different snowy plain, in the midst of a battle.

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