Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Down the Drain"

This poem came out of the July 5, 2011 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by prompts from ellenmillion and aldersprig, who wanted to go adventuring in sewers.  It also ties in with the "golden rule" prompt from janetmiles -- whereas most fantasy governments are monarchies, this one is a plutocracy, which has an interesting influence on culture and character perspectives.  (See the related poem "All That Glitters," also set in the Plutocracy of Aurea.) The poem was sponsored by janetmiles.

Down the Drain

Ehlon's glamorous career as a mage
had gone down the drain the moment
he manifested a strong talent in water magic.

Not for him the spectacular battle magics of Fire
nor the respectable messenger service of Air.
Even the workaday construction charms of Earth
would have been better than this.

When it came to Water magic,
what the city really needed was sewer workers.
In fact it needed far more than it had,
Water magic being uncommon in this population
for reasons best known to the gods,
so they were always understaffed and overworked.

Ehlon found the job depressing at first,
but soon he found that it concealed its own wonders:
miniature mermaids with alligator tails,
dung dragons that breathed pale blue methane flames,
brick wights making music with their tiny chisels and hammers.
He stood entranced for an hour the day he discovered the chamber
full of mireslime, each patch glowing a different color,
the water below dancing with eerie blossoms of pastel light.

When the Executor of Eress
decided to stage a hostile takeover
and sent sappers into the city 
in hopes of crippling its waterways,
Ehlon was there. 

Not with spells but with coaxing and favors
he laid out his plan of action.
The gatormaids sang sweetly to the sappers
as they drowned them in sewage.
The dung dragons filled a chamber with methane
and lit it all at once, incinerating invaders by the dozens.
The brick wights used their tiny, impossibly heavy hammers
to shatter ankles and finger bones.

The invaders would, Ehlon determined,
have a hard time explaining to their superiors
just how this mission went down the drain.

Ehlon led the sappers on a dark and stubborn chase
through twist after turn of subterranean pipes.
When they saw the light at the end of the tunnel,
they charged recklessly ahead,
only to find the Watermage surfing blithely by them
on the crest of a pure clear wave.

The hapless sappers,
each shining a different pastel color
that would never come off,
erupted from the sewers on carefully controlled geysers.
Some of them managed to scramble away,
but the city guard had little difficulty
tracking down culprits who glowed in the dark.

They were soon rounded up
and sent back to the Executor of Eress
with an itemized bill for damages and services.

Ehlon imagined it would take the sappers
several days to realize that
the mireslime was slowly eating through their skin.
The Executor was sure to complain about that.
Perhaps the Burghermeister would give him a discount.
Then again, probably not.

Ehlon smiled,
imagining the impact of a good day's work
on the sanitation department's forthcoming budget.

Tags: cyberfunded creativity, economics, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, writing
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