This poem came out of the May 1, 2012 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from kelkyag, siliconshaman, and the_vulture. It belongs to the series Sort Of Heroes, which you can explore further on the Serial Poetry page. (... aaaand I just realized that while this little story arc begins with "Call to Duty," which is published, two of the characters are only introduced explicitly in "A Catalog of Flaws," which isn't yet. *headdesk*) It has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette.
It took them a long time
to reach the Tourmaline Tower,
and by then the drizzle had turned to downpour.
Taro had refused to take his cloak back,
for fear someone would see Hicket
and shoot before speaking.
Hicket had refused to take his tunic back
because Taro was shivering without the cloak,
and soon after that, wheezing.
So by the time they arrived,
Hicket was carrying Taro,
hunched over him in the borrowed cloak,
and nearly bashed into the gate
because he couldn't see through the rain.
There was no guard in the gatehouse,
a worrisome lack, but they were cold and wet
and desperate enough to bang on the tower door itself.
Once the door opened, though,
they stepped in to find a reassuring thrum of magic
and a quietly competent servant who led them upstairs
to make their offer to the Myrklord.
The scruffy little man behind the desk
did not look particularly imposing,
but his black-and-silver robes were tidy
and he was -- most importantly -- quite sober.
"You're dripping on my carpet," he said,
and flicked a drying spell over them.
"There, that's better."
"Thank you," Hicket said as he carefully
shrugged out of the cloak and returned it.
Taro watched, but the dark wizard showed no sign
of objecting to Hicket's quarter-orc heritage.
Some cared, some didn't -- more of the latter
among the forces of evil, hence Hicket's line of work.
"We come hoping to hire on with the Myrklord,
sent by those who speak well of the Tourmaline Tower.
I am Hicket, guard-of-all-work," the quarter-orc concluded.
"I'm sure you noticed our lack of a gate guard,"
the Myrklord said dryly.
"I've stood gatewatch before," Hicket said.
"Experienced help, that will cost more," the Myrklord sighed.
He bent to pore over his ledger.
Taro glanced at the numbers on the page.
"Excuse me, sir, but I believe
you've dropped a 1 in the 10s column,"
"You can do reckoning?"
the Myrklord said, jerking his head up.
Taro nodded. "I'm a clerk. My name is Taro."
The Myrklord cackled and rubbed his hands together.
"We haven't had a clerk here in so long --
not many will put up with the rough lads I need to keep."
"I'm tolerant," Taro said, and coughed.
The Myrklord scowled. "Get over here, Taro,
and let me banish that cough before you give it to everyone."
So Taro rounded the desk to kneel beside the Myrklord's chair.
The spell poured over him with a quick wave of heat,
making him grin at the sheer power of it as he rose.
To him, dark healing spells felt like chugging a cup of brandy:
fiery, bracing, and strong. The light ones never worked so well.
"Are we hired, then?" Hicket asked.
"If you'll fit into what's left of my budget, yes,"
the Myrklord said, gesturing for Taro to take the ledger.
"Not immediately, but, hmm, that bit of gold comes at week's end,"
Taro mused. "What say we work out the rest of this week
for room and board, plus the spellcasting you've just done for us,
then start for coin at the beginning of next week?"
"Done," the Myrklord agreed.
"Fetch your baggage to the barracks and --"
Taro shook his head. "No baggage, sir, just us.
Our last master was ... not generous."
"Or skilled enough to survive," Hicket added.
The Myrklord growled. "Everything is falling apart
without the Master of the Basalt Tower," he said.
"I was hoping for a replacement soon.
The top of my tower is starting to fade clear,
and I'm losing henchmen left and right."
"You have us," Hicket said staunchly.
"Your spells are still strong," Taro said,
though the news worried him.
The balance of power between good and evil
was a delicate thing, chancy at the best of times;
with an anchor missing it wouldn't be stable
and misfired spells were a real risk.
He recalled the purple result of the telling-spell --
what hero would read other than blue,
and who but a true red would even hear
the minion call of an evil overlord?
"Loyal boys," the Myrklord said.
"I can do maps as well as ledgers," Taro offered.
"If you can tell off what the magic is doing,
I can mark it out, make it easier to find a solution."
The Myrklord nodded. "Get settled in," he said.
"We can start on the map after supper."
Taro agreed, hoping that it would work.
Outside, the rain let up,
and sunlight glinted on the clear tip
of the tower's smooth black spire.