At last locked eyes, and knew he what must pass:
The pride, two kings of sky, there soon to clash
Fore’er to then decide which race would last:
From lowest earth, the heathens, unabashed,
Or sky lords, rightful owners of the caste.
The flight, like magnets, poles succumbing, pulled
To answer now within a moment’s flash–
A sword, to glow bright blue, its owner pale
Infused whole force of life to only king’s taint kill
For sang the sword, in dragon’s scaly breast,
A painful tune for hearts of men of sky
There dripped from Heron golden blood from chest
Into the blade, and there to enter dry
The dragon’s heart; and also that to try
To bleed a multitude of life except
The only thing took from the plated ply,
The sooty oil, dark water’s pure effect
Tremendously did fall. The cleansed blood, safe was kept.
The winged sailor smokes an ash pipe while calling his captains to him; there, instead of offering them the final plan for assault on Earth City, he did as he always did: he subverted all of their expectations with an unseen assault or happening, this time upon their souls. Tears were in his eyes as he nodded and gave honor to each of his vassals reporting in. He calls them to silence and begins to reveal a story long unknown, long desired, long buried beneath the deepest of seas.
“Gather round and listen, pensive, tight,
The tale ne’er torn from pages; mine lifelong:
In desert, three did wander all the heights
And four did struggle out a wistful song
Each melody to follow, furtive twang
Each strum a week or month at Sorrow’s Keep,
Yet never fate to break forth into wrong.
A pathway for the weary; all to sweep
Into its net of loss, yet only life to reap.”
A hundred sons for ages bore the sun
The honor to protect Ruleija’s prince
For years the sons of Jereb did so train
To join the ranks of guardians’ defense,
Their numbers and their skills were blessed immense,
And never were they thwarted from their place
And never failed; especial warr’or Kenz
Would never leave wild Coltra’s humble grace
That is, until to desert flew the prince away
To find the treasure desert hidden, stay
Most cunning prince, Coltra, despising earth
And dust, and wishing something come allay
And break his mundane leisure life. Unearth
A reason, substitute relieve, give birth;
For such as is cannot accept, traverse
His gold and silver fills far short the girth
‘Come golden dagger hidden in this purse–
I’d rather die than live in such a life accursed!’
A voice stays his hand from the bitter act.
‘Not so; my guests have ne’er spoken thus.’
The prince with searching eyes swept ‘cross the ridge
In solemn hunt, hope’s voice, a knife to clutch
And cut the bonds embold’ning his sad witch
Instead of self; her words again, abridged,
But ample, lead his hunt like bloodhound’s nook,
The instinct gripping violent need for bridge
Of soul replete, expired, well forsook–
Attain the silken voice of her petitioned hook.
As Coltra searches for the voice, another traverses the wastelands of the desert: the wanderer.
The desert sand does all one’s moisture take
Do fail these weary legs which always give
Forsaken by the craggy barren wastes
Earth’s bones thus poking through; dry skin misgives
Of triumphs of repair. The giant sieve
Which both Earth’s treasures and men’s souls there test
And forth does heave the stronger one’s to live
But precious few are there who can subsist,
Survive, endure, reclaim the soul’s once forfeit zest
Still testing he the powers of the dust
The sand of endlessly endurant might:
To keep the mountains buried deep and crushed,
To lock its monumental features tight.
The wanderer did scour all the sights,
Where Mountain, chained, a slave to Desert’s cloak.
His heart by Mountain stolen, soul contrite
Since buried long beside companion’s yoke.
Could ever Desert’s secret he obtain, evoke?
A lone desert warrior approaches.
‘Hark, above the hills, a trumpet calls
A tune of royal reverence carried where
A lonesome figure perched upon a tall
And craggy boulder; hailing, face, despaired
As running and collapsing, dirt, with swears,
‘Have seen you of my prince, my holy charge?’
The mocking glare of the desert wanderer:
‘Alas, you are the first with gall to dare
unleash the desert’s barren fury, large:
No man this far does come for less than pride’s blind urge.’
‘Objure you I to aid my mission hence–
In name of sweet Ruleija’s empty throne–
And find his cherished face, beloved prince.’
The wand’rer laughed. ‘Do tell of prince’s bones–
For such soft skin, this place, would ne’er see home.
And furthermore, you’ve power over me
As much as writhing worm at hawk’s bleak groan.
Yet not command, but pride-filled soul’s decree
Here beckons me to sate most hon’rable a plea!’
In humblest bow rent Kenz t’ward wanderer
And bowing pride, accepted, offered hand.
The wanderer departed, way to forge,
And heeding close, the warrior to stand
Behind at stop; for signal of compan-
ion caused his scimitar to draw from belt.
‘Be wary here, the ghosts of fallen man
And gods and devils, battles always dealt
Mistaking often living men as foes. Dispel!’
‘How come you by such knowledge swallowed up
By deepest pits of sand and time’s decline?’
‘A single decade, desert’s key erupts,
Volcanic cipher, teacher disinclined
To toss its molten secrets, fleeting swine;
Yet then to he who drinks the grit of test
And taste this bread with crisping dusty wine–
To him shall offer long-since laid to rest
The secret ruined castle of the world’s distress.
‘A castle carved of stone stuck jutting out
The rocky dune of plateau all around
As if into a mountain crashed its route
And merged as one and heaped on head aloud
The sense which swallowed all but tallest mound,
The ramparts and the towers, always steep–
Full not of sand but whispers, ghosts’ strange sound
The hollow wind to carry voices deep–
Force mortal men to stow moral and slow to creep.’
The prince reaches the castle in search of the voice:
Then after cloud of dust, a ridge surpassed,
Revealing castle lost and sunk in ground.
Ghosts, audible and presently amassed
by gateless hinges, screams through the halls, redound.
He circumnavigated maze, unwound,
and found his feet to tread on marble floor.
No dust did in this quiet chamber bound–
For strangest glowing light pierced through a door,
From smoking cedar plume—there stateliest beauty poured.
‘Stripes of gold and scarlet, woven locks
Trailed down the tanned cheeks; tight braids there clung,
And loose, the strips of colors, crowned as flocks
Of fowl at rest atop lake’s sunrise, young
The skin which stretched across the unclad sun,
And jeweled ears; an ankh with leather thread
Which looped the neck where beads on breast was hung.
The linen, flax, a robe with tassels, spread
‘Round shoulders down to floor, and trailed behind her stead.
A bow of stately form and genuine grace
Was followed by an introduction, soft:
‘My name, Queen Desert, ruler of this place,
The lonliest of worlds, for never oft
See I of worlds without this ghostly loft.
And rare the chance to host a sitting chat
With those who search without a goal, to waft.
To what profoundest graces owe I scat-
ering of misery, eternal vapid tat?’
‘Truly, you have said it best of all:
For what I seek, obtain, no clue possessed,
Only that if I find soon not its call
I will with blatant hatred quick divest
The life within this ceaseless beating breast.
Since nothing comes to sooth the ancient wound
And never is there freedom from unrest;
Behold my throne is empty, unassumed:
Oh, late dear father! I, as dismal heir, am doomed.
‘Desire not any figment of your blood?’
Your people need their father’s tender care.’
‘What purpose must a king fulfill–a bud
Which never tasted saltless bread, full fare,
More noble than these men, same skin and air,
Same death to die, yet higher road to quest.
For how obtain I iron, gold, sweat theirs,
While I, unscathed, in loftiness and rest
Proclaim supremacy while hardship dispossessed?’
‘Then earn your noble blood, your soul’s incli-
nation transcends the scum of men who’ve gone
before us, ruled without prized empathy.’
A sword from nothing at her hip was drawn,
A scimitar, in hand, the scabbard donned
Of camel’s hide at belt. The simple blade
With perfect shape, yet not a scratch, was drawn,
Not single indication, king elate–
‘Sword, empty; by your deeds give worth and make ornate!’
The prince’s reply:
‘Nothing lovely, beautiful exists;
This world, a worthless darkened place to roam,
A refuse bin fit not for dung’s incense.
From youth ’til now, no reason, hopeless home.
The best of meditations left alone
The thought that anything could value stand
Not slender dot of hope, the black sky shown.
But how, before these eyes, a twisted strand–
A sense to make, not mind, but heart’s unveiled demand!’
Prince Coltra takes the scabbard and the sword.
‘My answer, seeking, found, yet doubtless more
Of questions and desires tie their cord
Round neck, uncallused; never I deplore
Again my fate, for own, my path to forge
And earn my place to eat at tables grand.
This sword today I dedicate to gorge
Itself upon the blood of evil man.
Yet more so save the guiltless from ungodly hands!’
‘Prince Coltra!’ yelled a most familiar voice.
‘Queen Desert,’ spoke another, noble, dark.
The legs of weary Kenz fell, but rejoiced
Hips lips at Prince’s safe case, his remark
For several were the wounds and welts and marks
On Kenz, but stranger not in least was hurt.
‘For life, yours, desert man did disembark,
And life, mine, his instincts did death avert.
Oh, how delightful, joyous, sight of you unhurt!’
But man of desert’s brightened eyes and smile
Was not more than a serpent’s glory gaze
At prey whose circumstance’s fatal child
Be pent up, inescapable, in daze.
Though grimace soon proceeded in its glaze
With footsteps each toward the Desert Queen,
A staff to clack each passing, writhing praise
Of cobra for its victim’s regal mien.
‘Dear goddess, Ragna, answer how for wayward sin?’
The words of the indignant prince:
‘See here, wand’ring desert loon and waif!
My sword discovers newfound furry strong;
How threaten you the Desert Queen and chafe
Her soul with human’s unavailing song?
First lip’s imparting; ears of hers belong-
ing to the gods, and silence many years,
And now to thrive on refuse, rubbish, prong,
That shuts her soul to mankind’s needful fears,
And turn her ‘way from aiding distant lapsed tears?’
The wanderer’s response:
A humble bow, apologies soon made
To Queen, unfavor’ble, intrusion, ‘Come!
Believe it, I, that birds do scavenge, trade,
From earth its wounded, dead, for taste of scum
And later rats obtain the white of crumbs.
For hear my ears a squawking, preachy worm
And eyes, they see your gift, an offered plum.
Please listen, words of mine, an earnest term,
And wait to toss the fruit of heed to flea, infirm.’
The Desert Queen did scowl at brazen tact
And part her lips, but prince’s sword, fast drawn,
soon set her quiet. Wanderer then cracked
Apart the seal of staff. Then crept the dawn,
arising in its righteous glory, Swan:
Thin, curved blade with inset amber gems,
And single edge there sharp. Engraved a swan
in steel near hilt with head of griffon. Hence
The muteness, lookers on at mythos’ lost evince.
Prince Coltra, frozen, rendered by dismay
To watch the Swan in dance of Wand’r’rs grip,
A horrid weapon. Seventeen, the slain,
Each every last a royal-blooded chip,
The sons of kings, full grown, their heads to strip
Apart from body; one, the beastly swing.
Assassin of assassins vast equipped
In cleaving nobles, highest throne, to bring
Them plunging down to darkness; Hade’s blist’ring sting!
To be continued….