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Poem: "The Henchmen's Hitch" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "The Henchmen's Hitch"

This poem came out of the April 7, 2009 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was sponsored anonymously. It was inspired by prompts from janetmiles, who wanted a character trying and failing to be evil; and minor_architect, who wanted an oversized sword and/or a sword given not to the purest character, but the one most in need of redemption.  Enter Nib and Brod, two henchmen in service to a not-very-understanding Master ...

See a sketch of "The Henchmen's Hitch" by meeksp.
A sequel to this poem emerged during the July 5, 2011 fishbowl: "Following Along." It's also connected with the previously published poem, "If It Weren't For Her."

The Henchmen’s Hitch


Nib hauled on the reins,
stopping the heavy horses
at the foot of the high black mountain.
Lather flowed off their flanks to fleck the road.
Before them stood the gatehouse,
and beyond it, zig after zag of impossible switchbacks.

The troll guarding the gate hefted his huge halberd.
“Hullo, Nib,” said the troll.

“Hullo, Brod,” said Nib.
“Got sword?” said Brod.
“It’s in the wagon,” said Nib.
“How come bags on draft horses?” said Brod.

“The sword,”
said Nib,
“is in the wagon.”

Brod looked in the wagon.
The hilt lay in the lower left corner,
the point propped in the upper right corner
where it had cut through the canvas.
The broad blade had sliced open a sack of grain
wedged against one side of the wagon.

“It took ten of the dwarves,
on a winch, to get it in the wagon,”
said Nib.  “That cost me an extra coin.”
“You din’ steal it?” Brod said.
“I meant  to steal it,” Nib said.
“I couldn’t get past the dwarven guards, though,
so I just bought it instead.”
Brod scratched his armpit.  “Not bad.”
“I stole the money, though!” Nib added hastily.
“Bad,” Brod agreed.

“Anyhow, I got the sword
that the Master sent me to get,” said Nib.
“Job done,” said Brod.
“There’s a hitch – I can’t drive it up the road.
Can I bribe you to carry it?” said Nib.
“Got grog?” said Brod.
“It’s in the barrel,” said Nib.
“Barrel small,” said Brod.
“It’s the only one that would fit,” said Nib.
“Sword big,” said Brod.

Brod drank his barrel of grog
like a drover downing a mug of beer.
Then he licked the foam from his tusks
and wrapped his huge hands around the hilt.
Then he almost dropped it.

“Is it too heavy for you?” Nib said.
“Neh,” said Brod,
“sword say … Hullo.”

“The Master didn’t tell me it could talk!”
said Nib. 
“Master like secrets,”
said Brod.

Together they hiked up the high black mountain,
zig after zag of switchbacks designed
to repel invasion.
Nib opened the door of the dark tower.
Brod squeezed through, still bearing
the massive broadsword.

“Master, I brought your sword,”
said Nib.
“Ah, at last!” said the Master.
“Now I shall have the powers
of a warrior and  a wizard!”
“Sword say Hullo,” said Brod.

“What!” roared the Master,
rounding on Nib.
“You handed it to him?
I told you not to touch  it!”

“I couldn’t lift it!” whimpered Nib,
cringing in a corner.
“It’s no use to me now, just like you –
it’s bonded to Brod!”
the Master said.  He pulled off his pointed hat
and flung it on the floor.
“Someone just kill me now!”

Brod swung the sword
and hacked the Master in half.
“Job done,” said Brod.

“Now  what do we do?”
said Nib.
“Sword say … run,”
said Brod.
“Why?” said Nib.
“We’re the only ones on duty.”

The tower rumbled,
stones tumbling down
as the magic that made it
began to unwind.

“Sword say RUN!”  said Brod.
He stuffed Nib under his arm
and ran for the nearest wall,
where the troll made his own door
and escaped the collapsing rubble.

Night found them in the forest,
far below the ruined mountain,
with the wagon and the horses
and the sword by their side.

“What will become of us now?”
worried Nib.
“Sword say … uh …”
Brod frowned, his face furrowing
from his forehead to his tusks.
“What mean hero …?”
Nib shrugged.  “I dunno.
I guess we’ll figure it out.”

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13 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
(Deleted comment)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 8th, 2011 04:13 am (UTC) (Link)

Yay!

Yes, I like that kind of ending too -- especially if it's an episode ending and there will be more later. It's a good stopping point, without killing off the plot potential.

In this case, I wanted to play around with characters who had no idea where to start with the hero thing. The fact that they didn't do a very good job as villains kind of raises the question how long it will take them to get the hang of this new gig.
eseme From: eseme Date: July 8th, 2011 01:37 am (UTC) (Link)
*giggles at the last few lines*

That is a duo to fear!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 8th, 2011 04:09 am (UTC) (Link)

Yay!

I'm glad you liked this.
kelkyag From: kelkyag Date: July 8th, 2011 03:44 am (UTC) (Link)
Definitely giggleworthy.

I wonder if they've found an even less forgiving master in the sword, though. (And how their previous one survived for so long if he was given to saying things like that.)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 8th, 2011 03:57 am (UTC) (Link)

Yay!

>> Definitely giggleworthy. <<

Thank you.

>> I wonder if they've found an even less forgiving master in the sword, though. <<

This particular sword was designed to wind up in the hands of a potential hero, not someone already heroic. So it has to be a good teacher. It may occasionally get exasperated with them, and will probably confuse them, but it's not inclined to jerk them around like their old Master did.

>> (And how their previous one survived for so long if he was given to saying things like that.) <<

I'm not sure how old he was. Older than Nib by a fair bit, but maybe not all that old as overlords go. He kind of begs for his own entry in the Evil Warlord list, though: "When my plan to obtain a powerful artifact goes awry, I will not throw a tantrum and scream, 'Someone just kill me now!' "
kelkyag From: kelkyag Date: July 10th, 2011 04:38 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yay!

This particular sword was designed to wind up in the hands of a potential hero

But if it's going to make them into heroes whether they will or no, it's not exactly respecting their choices. Obviously I don't know how they got into the evil minion business, so maybe they didn't have a choice about that, either, but sometimes "good" tries to twist fewer arms ...
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 10th, 2011 09:25 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yay!

>> But if it's going to make them into heroes whether they will or no, it's not exactly respecting their choices. <<

It's not a cursed sword. Brod could put it down if he wanted to. *chuckle* He's a troll. He could probably find a way to bend the thing in half, if he wanted to. Now so far, in this poem, the sword has given good advice ("RUN!") and it does have the ability to spot which ruffians would make capable heroes. As the story progresses, things will get more complicated, though.

>>Obviously I don't know how they got into the evil minion business, so maybe they didn't have a choice about that, either, but sometimes "good" tries to twist fewer arms ...<<

There's a hint about how, in "Following Along."

I have actually seen a hero ignore a talking sword -- that one nagged like a fishwife.
rowyn From: rowyn Date: July 8th, 2011 02:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
"I *meant* to steal it." Hee!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 8th, 2011 07:38 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

Sometimes, things just don't work out as intended ... and that's not always a bad thing!
aldersprig From: aldersprig Date: July 8th, 2011 10:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
*chortle* Love it!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 9th, 2011 01:07 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm happy to hear this.
the_vulture From: the_vulture Date: July 20th, 2011 02:57 am (UTC) (Link)
“Sword say … uh …”
Brod frowned, his face furrowing
from his forehead to his tusks.
“What mean hero …?”


LOL! This sounds like the making of a great campaign! (And, yeah, I've a soft spot for playing trolls...)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 20th, 2011 03:16 am (UTC) (Link)

Yay!

>>LOL! This sounds like the making of a great campaign!<<

I'm happy to hear that. There is more to come.

>> (And, yeah, I've a soft spot for playing trolls...)<<

*grin* This will be fun. I think you'll like Brod. There's more to him than meets the eye.
13 comments or Leave a comment