This poem came out of the July 5, 2011 Poetry Fishbowl. It was prompted by minor_architect and sponsored by an anonymous donor. It belongs to the Sort Of Heroes series, and will make more sense if you've already read the first two poems about Nib and Brod. Here we meet a somewhat more experienced hero, and learn a little bit about Nib's family and background.
Nib had never really meant to be evil.
Everyone agreed on that part.
It was just that he had grown up
in a large family and a small house,
and when the Master came around
offering three squares a day,
that was enough to hook the lad.
Then they'd heard things.
Now his mother Kera was worried
that he'd gotten himself into trouble,
so she prevailed upon Herelt
to "do the hero thing"
and go rescue his cousin.
Herelt kneed his snow-white warhorse
into a brisker trot and wished yet again
that he'd had some excuse to give Aunt Kera.
He'd been riding for days,
and he was fairly sure this was the right mountain,
but he couldn't see the black tower
that was supposed to stand at the top of it.
Rounding the last switchback,
Herelt found out why that was:
the black tower lay in a pile of fine basalt rubble
all over the courtyard and the crumbling crest.
Peasants from nearby villages crowded around,
sorting through it for salvageble goods --
and in some cases, the stones themselves.
"All the good gleaning spots are taken,"
the nearest lout called to him,
"and we've picked the place pretty clean already."
"I am not here to scavenge,"
Herelt said irritably.
"I'm looking for my cousin Nib.
He used to work here."
"Oh, yes, the Master sent him after a sword,"
the lout said. "Nib came back with the thing,
then the tower came tumbling down,
and he ran off with some guard friend of his."
"Um," said Herelt. It had not occurred to him
that Nib might have rescued himself.
"Do you know which way they went?"
The lout waved a hand toward the forest
and a distant thread of dust-pale road.
"Now if you don't mind, move aside, " he said.
"You're blocking my way to a rather good cornerstone."
Herelt headed after them,
determined to catch up
before Nib got himself into any more trouble
that Herelt would have to get him out of.
He rode and rode.
By the time he picked up their trail in the village,
Herelt felt like one solid muscle cramp.
"Sorry, I just sold Nib my last bottle of liniment,"
said the fresh-faced herbalist, tossing her brown hair.
"You'd think the boy would learn to slow down a bit.
Then again, maybe it runs in your family."
So Herelt rode out again,
and this time he came across the wreckage
of the bandit camp, all trampled tents
and smouldering firepits.
Clearly Nib had gotten here ahead of him,
and into and out of trouble.
Herelt dragged a hand across his face,
and prodded his complaining steed into motion.
Then he saw the troll.
The warhorse promptly reared
and dumped Herelt on his armored arse,
having been trained to face human opponents
and not trolls.
Herelt whipped out his sword,
not that it would do much good against a troll,
but he was determined to die with honor.
The blade skirled off the troll's stony hide
in a shower of orange sparks.
The troll hoisted Herelt into the air
by his jerkin, cutting off his breath.
"Don't kill him!"
Herelt saw his cousin dash into the camp
just as his own vision started to dim.
"Nib," the troll rumbled,
"Yah, that's my cousin Herelt,"
said Nib. "Put him down, Brod."
The troll set Herelt on the ground.
Taking a closer look at him,
Herelt spied the troll's own sword,
still in its sheath.
The thing was longer than a tall man.
"Well," Herelt muttered,
"this is a bit embarrassing."
"What is?" asked Nib.
"Your mother sent me to rescue you."
Nib looked around at the wrecked camp.
"Thanks," he said, "but I think we're all right now."
"I'll just be on my way, then,
and tell Aunt Kera that you're fine,"
Herelt said as he straightened his clothes.
"As long as you're going that way,
take these back to the family, would you?"
said Nib. He loaded Herelt's arms
with a dozen jingling little bags,
each painstakingly labeled with a charcoal sketch
of some relative's hobby to show which was whose.
"I wasn't actually headed back that way,"
"though I suppose I could, for a coin or two..."
"Oh, I'm sorry," said Nib.
"I guess I could hire you,
but then I'd have to dig out a coin,
and the bags are all even now,
so I'd have to recount them, and --"
"No, nevermind, I'll do it,"
He hastened into his saddle
before the troll could add an errand of its own.
"Wait, Herelt," said Nib.
Herelt turned to look at him.
"Before you go --
do you have any advice on heroing?"
Herelt turned back to the trail,
then tossed over his shoulder,
"Don't listen to your mother."