He needed (needed?) to kill the man in front of him.
No, not a man, he realized. The figure in his dreams (dreams? figments-fantasies-memories?) towered impossibly tall, moved faster and more gracefully than any man. He wielded the blade, meant for hacking and chopping, with the same grace with which a master fencer might bear a rapier. A god of the sword, implacable and mighty. The blade did not move as an extension of his hand so much as it was part of his hand, while still something separate. It was, he understood in that perfect clarity of dreams (knowledgerecollection), a sword forged by the god who wielded it, as perfect an expression of that god's skill and will as the god's own word.
But the smith flowed with every blow, parrying and blocking that deadly whirling edge. With every opening, he slid the tip of his longsword – selfhandsoul – through the other's guard and scored a red line.
Every cut tallied a sum owed the god, earnedhow? howwhenwhyearned?and soon to be paid in full. Crossing his blades once more to catch another sweeping slash of the falchion, he kicked the god hard in the knee and propelled himself back with the force of the blow. He took that precious second to glance around his surroundings, looking for anything that would give him the advantage. The smith fought too defensively to have a hope of slaying his foe.
The environment swam into focus, now that he acknowledged it. A city burned around them, in the dark of midnight. People were nowhere to be seen, but the flames from a burning shop garishly illuminated a spray of blood on the nearby cobblestones. More blood had been slopped against the sides of some of the burning buildings, as if someone had heaved it there from a bucket. The complete lack of any other human remains only made the spectacle even more surreal.
Where were the dead bodies? The men with their guts laid open? Those pierced and brought low by a dozen lesser wounds? Severed digits, bodiless limbs, decapitated corpses? Did they fight in an empty city, built and set ablaze for the climax of their violent performance?