Anonymous Thane

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8th-9th century Anglo-Saxon thane equipped with helm, mailshirt, shield, spears, and large scrameseax.

    On a high hill near the Thames River in England an ancient grave was found. An archeologist from Harvard University arrived at the site to investigate this phenomenon. Everything inside the grave was so old that it took him several weeks of careful excavation before he was able to fully understand what's inside. When he finished, he found himself gazing down inside from above, thinking of a warrior, who was too, looking right back at him. Suddenly, he knew everything about this long perished warrior. He closed his eyes, and in his mind, traveled back in time to witness this warrior's burial…

    Everyone was there: his Lord and his friends, thanes. It was a dark day, gray clouds that seemed nearly black, were almost touching their helmets. His wife was there, too. His friends, the thanes, felt sorrow in their souls trying very hard not to let their soft side get the best of them. No warrior could allow himself show his soft side, not even to himself. And it couldn't be otherwise, because so many now perished among them that if they had not kept it inside, their souls and minds would soften, their hands would be shaking from sorrow, and they would not be warriors anymore. They would not be good protectors of their lord. Everyone knew that their friend and war-companion in so many battles had joined forces with the courageous warriors in another world.

    "He met his fate," the dead thane's lord was thinking over and over again. In every battle, he was standing right beside his lord, protecting him with his vigorous body from the sharp sword of an enemy. He clearly remembered the day when his thane vowed loyalty to him, the day when they entered a relationship of "mutual trust and respect" (Norton 23). All the rewards and all the land that the "ring giver" had given to his thane were not enough to show his gratitude for his departed warrior's bravery and dedication.

    An image of his thane was still in his mind. Powerful, fearless, and brave, he was standing circled by the enemy with his battle-axe in one hand and mace in another; his helmet and his coat of chain-mail were shining like the sun. He remembered seeing his sight best thane falling on his knees from the powerful stroke of an enemy sword. When their eyes met, they both felt an internal bond of two brave people. The lord recalled words from Beowulf: "Fate often saves an undoomed man when his courage is good." His courage did not save him this time, though the "protector of warriors".

    The wife of the departed was here to see him off in his last journey. So many times she had send him off to battle, bringing him the mead-bowl, and praying that her husband would come home alive. Even though she did not see him very often because he was always at war protecting his lord, she loved him dearly. She was proud of him, too, so brave and dedicated to his lord.

    The archeologist opened his eyes and realized that it was getting dark. He was standing above this grave for three hours already. Maybe he did not grasp it all. Maybe, he did not grasp the nature of this warrior or any warrior of those times. It was so long ego.

*** by Aleksey Shevchenko ***