Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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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.”

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