Written between fishbowls, somewhat inspired by continuing discussions, this epic poem belongs to the Path of the Paladins series. I'm posting it verse-by-verse in exchange for linkbacks to the August 2, 2011 Poetry Fishbowl. Linklove by: aldersprig, janetmiles, meeksp, marina_bonomi, minor_architect, kyleri, siliconshaman, siege, the_vulture, eseme.
Woohoo, we did it! The whole poem has been posted.
and stepped back from the pool.
"Not fit to drink," she declared
with a shake of her head.
"Someone must have tainted it."
The skeleton of a hapless bird
crunched beneath her boot.
"We're out of water,"
Ari said, gazing up at the sky
where the sun burned bronze
against a smooth blue dome.
"Can't you ... clean it, somehow?"
Purification was a simple spell.
A novice could have cast it.
Shahana knew how to do it,
had known for decades.
Energy was dear in these days, though,
for paladins of a deposed goddess.
Fortunately, Shahana knew other ways.
"I saw sign of unicorns earlier,"
Shahana said to Ari,
"We'll double back and find them."
"I didn't see any sign,"
Ari said, dragging her feet.
"I'll show you where,"
When they came to the place,
she pointed to a damp spot by the trail
where a single heart-shaped hoofprint
held a thin film of water
that glistened, ever so faintly,
in the shadows under the ferns.
They found the small herd of unicorns
grazing in a wide meadow of flower-flecked grass
where a fire had swept away part of the forest.
Slim heads raised at once,
shy and graceful as deer,
and the unicorns trotted swiftly out of view.
Shahana seated herself on an old, charred log.
"Come, make yourself comfortable,"
she said, patting the wide surface.
"They won't come to me anymore,"
Ari said, her voice dull. "You saw."
Shahana draped an arm around the girl
and pulled her close, folding her gently into place.
"Sit down, Ari," she said. "Quiet your mind."
"This won't work. They're already gone,"
Ari grumbled. Hands picked at a loose thread.
"They will come back," Shahana said.
"Unicorns are not attracted to purity of the flesh,
but to purity of the spirit." She plucked away
the errant thread and folded Ari's hands together.
"You might try the Tranquility Prayer."
Ari took a deep breath
and sat up straighter on the log.
"The peace of Gailah is the peace of the moon
shining upon the still surface of a pool.
It is smooth and clear as the face of a mirror,
and all that you see within it is true.
Let our bodies be as a hollow of clay,
filled with the quick silver liquid of our souls,
and may -- and may --"
Ari's recitation stumbled to a halt.
"May the peace of Gailah shine upon us,
through the pure clean water of our spirits,
and come to rest in the vessel of our flesh
that we may pour it forth for those in need,"
Shahana finished smoothly
as she watched the unicorns draw near.
A grizzled mare touched her muzzle
to the paladin's armored knee,
nearly the same color as the steel itself,
her hide dappled with silver and pewter and black
like the rippled markings on a master's sword.
Shahana lifted her hand to stroke the offered mane,
carefully saving the long hairs that came free.
Ari gasped in surprise.
The roan shied away, then crept close again,
sleek coat shining the red-gold of sunrise.
The girl's fingers trembled
as she touched the ruddy tresses,
winding the loose strands with familiar skill.
Then came the young stallion with the star-white coat,
his pearly horn snapped off a handspan above his forehead.
He laid his chin across her legs and wept luminous tears.
"Catch that!" Shahana said,
hastily grabbing her battered tin cup.
Ari followed suit, unhooking her own,
and together they collected a few fulgent drops.
When the unicorn lifted his head, two damp white spots
remained on the drab blue of her dress.
The unicorns followed them willingly enough
to where the tainted pool spread itself beneath the hot sun.
The lead mare gravely regarded it from the bank,
then knelt to set her steely horn against the surface.
The tip touched down once, twice, a dozen times
in a meticulous pattern that left intricate ripples
spreading out into the distance.
Slowly the turbid water cleared.
The unicorns drank their fill, then disappeared
into the welcoming shadows of the forest.
The two women filled their canteens,
save the one where they transferred the precious tears.
"The next town has a Hall of Healing
where we can trade what we've gathered,"
Shahana said as she counted out the gray mare's hairs.
"May I send some of these to my brother?"
Ari asked, fingering the red-gold strands.
"Of course," said Shahana.
"Remember the Prayer of Tranquility?
All graces are meant to be shared."