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The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "Grit and Grace"

This was the linkback perk-poem for the February 7, 2012 Poetry Fishbowl.  It came out of the January 3, 2012 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by prompts from minor_architect, siliconshaman, siege, rhodielady_47, kelkyag, and haikujaguar.  It belongs to the Path of the Paladins series, which you can explore further on the Serial Poetry page.

This poem is now complete!  You can reveal the last two verses by linking to a specific poem from this fishbowl.  Signal boosters include: marina_bonomi, siege, janetmiles, meeksp, zianuray, the_vulture, wyld_dandelyon, mdlbearmorrigans_eve

Once all the verses have been posted, you'll get a chance to help decide what happens next.



Grit and Grace



Ari looked around the tidy little camp and sighed.
Everything they owned, they had to carry themselves,
and while she allowed that it built muscle,
it also got woefully heavy by the end of the day.
Soon they would need to pack up the camp
and take to the trail again.

The fire crackled as Ari leaned over to stir the grits,
leather gloves protecting her hands from the hot iron skillet.
She was getting mightily tired of grits, but they were
cheap and filling and easy to store.
The two women had been traveling for a while
and hadn't had much hunting luck of late.

If they could afford another mule, they could pack
more and better food, but that was a ways off yet
according to Shahana's careful reckoning.
Ari glanced at the bushes that edged the clearing,
but her mentor had yet to return with more firewood.

Turning away from the fire, Ari began
to gather up the items that could be stowed now.
Shahana's compass, left out from a lesson,
went back to its chain on the paladin's pack.
Ari's tiny mirror was carefully wrapped in a handkerchief
to protect the metal from scratches.
The bedrolls she bundled up and tied with their thongs,
humming the Canticle of the Traveler.

Behind her, a twig snapped.
"Shahana?" Ari said as she turned around.

Two men stepped out of the forest,
grinning at the sight of a camp
containing one slim girl and breakfast
and plenty of portable goods.

Ari's gaze flicked around the camp,
spotting her sword and armor entirely out of reach.
The bandits, following her glance,
stepped between her and her gear.
"You won't be needing that, missy,"
the taller one said, his scarred mouth twisting.

It was the shorter one who came at her, though,
his stubby hands groping the air
as if admiring her curves.
Ari slipped one arm behind herself
as she backed away from him.
Her gloved fingers closed around the handle.

Ari swung the skillet through the air,
rotating it to fling hot grits in the bandit's face.
The short man screamed, clawing at his blistered skin.
His companion lunged forward.
Ari bashed the taller bandit over the head
with the heavy iron skillet,
but he had a hard head and didn't go down.

"I'll kill you," he said, drawing his short sword
despite the blood leaking through his hair
and spattering his shiny scale mail with scarlet.
Ari just tightened her grip on the skillet
and settled into a more stable fighting position.
"You can try," she said grimly.

Then Shahana came through the brush,
as quick and quiet as a golden bear charging.
The little hatchet in her hand swung cleanly
to sink into the bandit's leg, just there
behind the knee where the armor left a gap.
The sharpening charm on the blade
cut through flesh and into bone.

He went down with a shout,
blood pouring in the dust.
Then his partner dragged him up
and they fled at a limping run.

Ari started after them,
but Shahana held her back.
"They'll just attack someone else!"
Ari protested. "We should stop them."

"They are armored. We are not."
Shahana stared after the fleeing bandits,
her grip steady on Ari's wrist.
"Let them go for now, Ari.
We'll notify the nearest village,
though they may well die of those wounds --
serious burns and severed tendons
won't get healed by a hedgewitch."

"Some novice paladin I turn out to be,"
Ari grumbled. "Taken by surprise in my own camp,
caught without my sword and armor,
and what do I do?
Attack the bandits with a frying pan."

"Never be ashamed of defending yourself, Ari,
however awkward the manner or ridiculous the weapon,"
Shahana said firmly.
"A paladin needs grit as much as grace."

Ari dredged up a faint smile.
"All right then," she said,
"but just imagine what I could've done
if I'd had my sword."

Shahana hugged her.
"I've seen you at practice," she said.
"I don't have to imagine,
and someday, neither will you."

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Current Mood: busy busy

21 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
(Deleted comment)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 11th, 2012 02:39 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

I think she is making good progress.
the_vulture From: the_vulture Date: February 10th, 2012 09:49 am (UTC) (Link)
Wait, hold on a minute here; Ari incapacitates one of TWO attackers armed AND armored foes with a face full of burning grits and delivers a good head blow that would likely impair the second, with a frying pan, and she'd down on herself like she handled herself poorly?

BTW, these two idiots (and I'm gonna call 'em that because the camp gear gave clear indication of TWO occupants, both of whom were warriors of some nature and, more to the point, one of them unaccounted for) must have a somewhat interesting back story. With scale mail and short swords, these two are not your typical starving and desperate brigands. However, given the afore mentioned lack of savvy at banditry, it's not likely that they're bandits of the more successful variety. Given all that, methinks they be a couple ex-soldiers ("ex" as in probably deserters).
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 10th, 2012 11:34 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>>Wait, hold on a minute here; Ari incapacitates one of TWO attackers armed AND armored foes with a face full of burning grits and delivers a good head blow that would likely impair the second, with a frying pan, and she'd down on herself like she handled herself poorly? <<

Bear in mind that Ari doesn't have the breadth of experience, yet, to understand how well her performance fits into martial standards. She thinks that she reacted like a peasant girl because she did what a woman would do if someone broke into her kitchen. She isn't really noticing how effectively she did it or how her training influenced her actions. And this probably isn't the last time that Ari will underestimate herself. Her self-image is not growing as fast as the rest of her.

>> BTW, these two idiots (and I'm gonna call 'em that because the camp gear gave clear indication of TWO occupants, both of whom were warriors of some nature and, more to the point, one of them unaccounted for) must have a somewhat interesting back story. <<

*grin* They are, indeed, idiots. They cased the camp but did not notice that it was set for two instead of one, which an alert observer would have noticed even though it was in the process of being packed up.

>>With scale mail and short swords, these two are not your typical starving and desperate brigands. However, given the afore mentioned lack of savvy at banditry, it's not likely that they're bandits of the more successful variety.<<

Correct, though when you combine the two, they are crummy enough brigands to be getting hungry and urgent. But they haven't sold off their gear yet, so they've not hit bottom.

>> Given all that, methinks they be a couple ex-soldiers ("ex" as in probably deserters).<<

Precisely! *hugs* I love my audience so very much. I can generally rely on folks to suss out what is implied without being stated outright.

The surrounding society is more or less in a state of wreckage. So there are a lot of armed, hostile people running around in groups of varying degrees of organization. Some are fully functional armies or divisions thereof. Some are mercenary troops. Some are just bands of thugs. And all of those groups shed people, because they have very little to hold loyalty with. It is then easier for the deserters (or abandoned) to support themselves by robbery than by many other methods.
the_vulture From: the_vulture Date: February 11th, 2012 12:53 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

>>Bear in mind that Ari doesn't have the breadth of experience, yet, to understand how well her performance fits into martial standards. She thinks that she reacted like a peasant girl because she did what a woman would do if someone broke into her kitchen. She isn't really noticing how effectively she did it or how her training influenced her actions. <<

Okay, fair point.

>>Precisely! *hugs* I love my audience so very much. I can generally rely on folks to suss out what is implied without being stated outright.<<

Hee! We love you, too. :) *hugs*
janetmiles From: janetmiles Date: February 10th, 2012 01:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
Regarding the last two verses -- on the one hand, Ari acquitted herself exceptionally well for her first combat, using what came to hand. On the other hand, I'm kind of surprised at how lightly she seems to be taking it, that she wants to go after them and kill them, and that she's wishing she had been able to use her sword. Perhaps the adrenaline hasn't quite worn off yet?
(Deleted comment)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 11th, 2012 01:39 am (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

Then too, people respond differently to adrenaline and crisis situations. Some crash quickly, while others will be wired for hours.
(Deleted comment)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 11th, 2012 05:25 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yes...

Mine varies. Emergency jumpstart in the morning only lasts about 20 minutes and then I'm wrecked for the rest of the day. If I'm fully awake when the shit hits the fan, I last longer don't crash nearly as fast.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 11th, 2012 12:42 am (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>>Regarding the last two verses -- on the one hand, Ari acquitted herself exceptionally well for her first combat, using what came to hand.<<

Sooth.

>> On the other hand, I'm kind of surprised at how lightly she seems to be taking it, that she wants to go after them and kill them, and that she's wishing she had been able to use her sword. Perhaps the adrenaline hasn't quite worn off yet? <<

Adrenaline is part of it. Closely connected to that is a general pattern emerging: Ari seems more inclined to keep going once engaged, but less inclined to get involved if she has a chance to avoid getting started. Shahana will go into a fight, or step out of a fight, whether she wants to or not, based on strategy rather than momentum.

Also consider that in this particular fight, quirky circumstances notwithstanding, Ari was winning and nobody actually fell down dead. Different types of conflict may evoke different responses. This was more akin to a brawl with weapons than a battle.

On a more moralistic note, I think Shahana is more influenced by the usual "lawful good" tendency to stop hitting people once they are no longer an immediate threat. Ari is fundamentally decent but more practical, almost ruthless, in some ways. The aspect of strategy that occurred to her was that those guys might well cause a problem in the future if allowed to escape.

Ari also tends to think things over in retrospect, over the long term, and in that regard is still dealing with past experiences. That will continue to build, along with her martial experience and thought processes. So we'll be seeing more of this stuff in the future, and it won't always come out the same.
catsittingstill From: catsittingstill Date: February 10th, 2012 07:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
I like the grit as well as grace line.

And really, the main problem with a frying pan as a weapon is its poor balance, which it somewhat makes up for by being shield and weapon in one.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 11th, 2012 01:17 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

>>I like the grit as well as grace line.<<

Yay!

>>And really, the main problem with a frying pan as a weapon is its poor balance, which it somewhat makes up for by being shield and weapon in one.<<

1) It depends on the model of the frying pan. While many of them are point-heavy, some are balanced. Camp models are more likely to be balanced, in my experience, probably because that reduces the chance of them tipping, falling, or being dropped into the campfire.

2) Being point-heavy is not nearly so much of a drawback in a bludgeoning weapon as it is in a slashing or stabbing weapon. Clubs, maces, etc. are often designed that way on purpose to throw more of the momentum forward.
siege From: siege Date: February 11th, 2012 05:33 am (UTC) (Link)
In one D&D campaign I played in, one of the characters was a woman who decided that her frying pan was a more useful ranged weapon than her daggers. So she had my character tie some of his string to it (who buys string? I do, because everyone else bought rope), so she could reel it in after each throw. Sure, that took an extra round, but hey, if the frying pan hit, we usually had that round to waste...
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 11th, 2012 06:44 am (UTC) (Link)

*laugh*

I love it.

Me, I'd have ponied up for one with a Returning charm.
catsittingstill From: catsittingstill Date: February 11th, 2012 01:07 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: *laugh*

At least in D&D (and since I have played that for years, I tend to think in those terms), to have the quality of Returning, a weapon has to be magical already, making it a more expensive magic to imbue. (Worth it, don't get me wrong, but probably not attainable for a while.)

On the bright side, at that point one could add some really useful qualities for a fairly modest (for magical items) extra fee. The ones that appeal to me for an adventuring frying pan are Warm (possibly be able to cook without a fire--might be very useful in areas with no wood, or if you don't want to attract attention) and Clean (because if there's anything I hate, it's trying to clean a frying pan with cold water and a handful of pine needles, and *particularly* if it has been used over a fire.)
siege From: siege Date: February 11th, 2012 03:31 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: *laugh*

A cast-iron pan actually works better, and food from it tastes better, when it has a layer of carbon on its surface.

I'd also recommend a nail-scrubbing brush as a camp-size dish scrubber.
catsittingstill From: catsittingstill Date: February 11th, 2012 03:34 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: *laugh*

Wouldn't it be nice to have something to remove the grease and the soot, though? Since you're going to have to pack it?
siege From: siege Date: February 11th, 2012 04:04 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: *laugh*

Well, yes, but are you packing it on the inside or the outside of your load? Is pine a better remover of greasy things than a scrub brush, or are you thinking local-materials-only?
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 11th, 2012 06:33 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: *laugh*

I find sand an effective cleaner for cast iron, through a brush also helps. As long as you don't use soap, the natural coating usually doesn't come off.
siege From: siege Date: February 11th, 2012 06:36 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: *laugh*

I was always taught that soap bonds with the iron and flavors all your food.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 11th, 2012 07:01 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: *laugh*

Depends on the campaign setting.

My main fantasy world Hallelaine has industrial and domestic magics, as well as adventuring ones. My characters once got ahold of several industrial spells, including the conveyer belt spell Ferdinand's Frictionless Freightway. They had great fun casting it on mountain switchbacks in front of pursuers.

In that context, Returning on a skillet would be no problem, but you'd still have the underlying requirement for excellent quality because otherwise the magic eats through cheap materials.
catsittingstill From: catsittingstill Date: February 11th, 2012 01:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
If I'd have been the DM I'd have encouraged her to take an exotic weapon proficiency in it so she could throw it more accurately, and (arguably) use it for hand-to-hand without penalties as well.

Expertise--the practice of using your weapon for defense without sacrificing opportunities to attack--might also work unusually well with a frying pan because of its large surface area...

The string is a nice idea.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: February 11th, 2012 07:02 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

Exotic Weapon Proficiency is a great one. I also like a later version, Throw Anything. One of my characters had that.
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