Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Signs Along the Way"

This poem came out of the August 3, 2011 fishbowl continuation.  It was prompted by eseme.  It has been posted as the linkback perk for the May 1, 2012 Poetry Fishbowl.  This poem belongs to the series Sort Of Heroes, and you can read more about that on the Serial Poetry page.

So far there are 16 of 17 verses posted.  You can reveal more verses by linking to the unsold poetry list or a specific poem that you like.

Signs Along the Way

Nib and Brod passed through the Brackenwood,
the black draft horses pulling the wagon that Nib drove
while Brod walked alongside, strong trollish legs
easily keeping the pace.  Brod's old halberd
lay in the wagon, alongside a split bag of grain,
an empty barrel, and a rolled canvas cover.

The broadsword hung over Brod's back,
its plain hilt sticking up over the troll's stony shoulder
and its point reaching down to his calf.

Nib pulled up at the crossroads,
peering at the illustrations on the wooden signs.
"This village must be Fronton," he said. "It's down this road
where the Brackenwood peters out into Dunmoor. 
The other road goes on through the lowlands,
then up the next mountain, I think.
Which way should we go?"

"Sword say trade,"
the troll rumbled.

"Fronton it is, then," Nib said,
driving the wagon as the sign directed.
He grinned at Brod.  "Now that we're rich,
we can trade for everything we need!"

So they traveled on through the dim forest,
its quiet broken by hoofbeats and the jingle of harness.
They saw no other travelers on the road,
though once they spied an arrow lodged in a tree trunk,
silent sign of someone's passage.
Of the wildlife they caught only glimpses:
birds and squirrels vanishing into the leaves,
frightened away by the noise of the wagon.

Fronton had no livery stable or horse-trader as such,
but Colley the blacksmith gladly took charge of the
matched team of black draft horses and the sturdy wagon,
along with the halberd that Brod no longer needed.
From the shelves of the smithy, Brod chose camping tools
and Nib picked a crossbow to replace the one he'd lost
along with all his other goods when the Basalt Tower collapsed.

Then Colley walked them around the village,
showing Nib and Brod where they could find food and gear,
and telling them who had trade arrangements with the smithy.
There was no way they could carry the worth
of two horses and a wagon on their backs,
but they could outfit themselves handsomely
and leave the rest as credit with the blacksmith.
So they stocked up on supplies and took a fine canvas tent,
then wandered around in search of the last few things.

Hazel the herbalist told them what healing goods they'd need,
now that they no longer had the Master to heal them for free.
She packed up liniment for sore muscles and willow bark for sore heads
and other such, plus a couple of magical potions for emergencies.
She explained everything twice,  since the complaints
of humans and trolls often needed different care.

Something went wham! wham! wham!
against the door, making Nib jump half out of his skin.
"Got willow!" yelled a voice.
Hazel opened the door, her pale blue robes
fluttering in the breeze.

There stood a troll, nearly as tall as Brod
but with much smaller tusks and thicker hair
that grew into a crest which spilled down her back.
She looked a little older than Brod, her stony skin
dappled with lichens just beginning to grow together,
like the two golden ones kissing on her left cheek.
Brod rumbled at her, and she grumbled back,
and the two of them stood there talking for quite a while.

"Do you know what they're saying?" Nib asked Hazel.
"Hello," the herbalist replied.
"All this time?" said Nib.
"It's a very friendly and thorough sort of hello,"
said Hazel, "I think. Durla says my Trulh is terrible,
so I'm only catching a few words here and there."

Finally Durla turned to her large cart,
which seemed to hold a whole willow tree
neatly divided into firewood and basketry twigs,
bark shreds and bundles of leaves.
She unloaded the bark and leaves for Hazel
and helped the herbalist carry them indoors.

"Durla is our woodcutter," Hazel told Nib.
"She brings what we need from the forest into the village."
"Found this," Durla said, handing Hazel a broken knife.
"Those bandits must be moving this way," Hazel said.
"Take care when you go back out, Durla."
She turned to Nib and Brod, saying,
"You boys watch out too.  Bandits mean trouble."

Nib and Brod nodded solemnly.  They had
served the Master long enough to know that much.
As they walked through the village,
they talked about the bandits and what to do.
"We could stay here as guards," Nib said.
"We know how to do that."
"Boring," Brod said.  "Travel."
"And watch the roads?" Nib said.  "It's riskier."
"Other villages," Brod said.  Nib sighed.

"What does the sword say?" Nib wondered.
Brod frowned, thinking.  "Sword say choose."
It was a hard choice: Fronton was welcoming, if a bit dull.
The road was confusing and scary, if more exciting.
Not just other villages, but travelers as well,
would be threatened by the bandits.
The sword never seemed to give them easy advice.

Then Durla trundled past, her wagon now empty,
heading out of the village and back to the forest.
They watched her go.  Nib wondered what Brod thought of her.
"Brod go," the troll said suddenly.  His long strides
made Nib hurry to catch up.  They passed the wooden sign
that marked the edge of Fronton village.
Perhaps the forest would help them discover
what it meant to be heroes.

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

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