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Poem: "Following Along" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Poem: "Following Along"

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.

Following Along

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,
"this yours?"

"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,"
Herelt muttered,
"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,"
Herelt promised.
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."

Tags: , , , , , ,
Current Mood: busy busy

22 comments or Leave a comment
whuffle From: whuffle Date: August 2nd, 2011 07:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
*laughs with delight*

Somehow, Brod reminds me of Neil Gaiman's troll in the short story "Troll Bridge".....
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 2nd, 2011 08:50 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm glad you enjoyed this.
kyleri From: kyleri Date: August 2nd, 2011 08:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hee! I _like_ these two.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 2nd, 2011 09:03 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm happy to hear that. They are fun to write, too.
aldersprig From: aldersprig Date: August 2nd, 2011 09:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hee! Yes yes, loving this series!
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 2nd, 2011 09:18 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I'm glad you're enjoying the series. A hero's journey isn't always quite as expected.
aldersprig From: aldersprig Date: August 3rd, 2011 01:00 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

I liked the sketching out of Nib's journey through Herelt's discoveries. And Herelt's advice, there at the end.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 3rd, 2011 05:32 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thank you!

*chuckle* Yeah, forward momentum can be hard to keep up with. And everybody knows one of those moms who just tends to ... hover.
the_vulture From: the_vulture Date: August 2nd, 2011 09:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
(Deleted comment)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 3rd, 2011 01:33 am (UTC) (Link)


Fiorenza is a different herbalist, in a different world.

For comparison, Fiorenza lives in an analog of our world; her series is historic fantasy. Nib and Brod, and their herbalist friend -- whose skill set is slightly different -- live in a wholly separate world. Theirs is straight-up low fantasy.

I'm glad you like this poem.
(Deleted comment)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 3rd, 2011 06:37 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: No...

It's worth checking, because I do have different poems in the same setting sometimes. Plus there are some where I'm still trying to figure out what's in the same world with which.

I'll be watching for more ways to distinguish this herbalist from Fiorenza as we go along.
eseme From: eseme Date: August 3rd, 2011 01:50 am (UTC) (Link)
Well, I asked for more of these guys as well!

Serves me right to prompt before reading the already-posted poems...

I LOVE it though. This is hilarious. Also, I am not at all surprised that a troll can take out the bandits, but I am pleased that Nib is sending money home.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 4th, 2011 10:31 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>>Also, I am not at all surprised that a troll can take out the bandits, but I am pleased that Nib is sending money home.<<

Oh, Nib does his fair share of the takeout. Brod just has the bigger share, because he is bigger!
kelkyag From: kelkyag Date: August 3rd, 2011 08:07 am (UTC) (Link)

I do wonder how this news is going to go over when Herelt gets home. And where he was planning to go next that wasn't home, for that matter. And what Kera would say to her son at this point. And ...
marina_bonomi From: marina_bonomi Date: August 3rd, 2011 06:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
Lovely! I really like the strong current of humor in this series.
And, my, aren't you turning into a 'serial writer', Elizabeth! ;-)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 4th, 2011 01:18 am (UTC) (Link)


>>Lovely! I really like the strong current of humor in this series. <<

Yay! It's nice to have some series that are lighter, especially given how intense Path of the Paladins is.

>>And, my, aren't you turning into a 'serial writer', Elizabeth! <<

*chuckle* Apparently so. I noticed early on that serial projects had an advantage in crowdfunding, and wasn't really sure how to apply that to mine. Fortunately my audience figured it out and has been providing further ideas for evolution ever since. So yeah, I can work with that.
laffingkat From: laffingkat Date: August 3rd, 2011 09:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
Hehe, nicely done! I like these characters, and the bits of dialog, and how the story unfolds.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 4th, 2011 12:42 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

Yes, these characters are fun for ironic dialog. I'm glad you're enjoying the poetry.
kengr From: kengr Date: June 20th, 2017 07:46 am (UTC) (Link)
I like the touch of the peasants gleaning the rubble. Especially the stonework.

I mean it's not as if basalt blocks are going to get damaged by something as trivial as the tower falling apart.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 20th, 2017 09:25 am (UTC) (Link)


I figured some of the blocks would be intact, and most would have only minor chips. Some are probably broken, but you can always recut those to something smaller, or crush them down to nice gravel. People used to raid wrecked buildings routinely for building supplies.
kengr From: kengr Date: June 21st, 2017 02:05 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yay!

Yeah, that was what I meant. so few people realize how common that was. and the building didn't *have* to be ruined.

Look at what happened to the Great Pyramid's marble facing!

Even plain cut stone was worth quite a bit in pre-modern times.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: June 21st, 2017 02:06 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yay!

And roads. The Romans had to patrol theirs just to keep people from prying the stones out to build houses or walls with.
22 comments or Leave a comment