Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Dog Tired"

This poem came out of the April 16, 2013 Poetry Fishbowl.  It was inspired by prompts from and wyld_dandelyon.  It has been sponsored by technoshaman.  This poem belongs to the series Path of the Paladins.

Dog Tired

Einar worked at his forge,
the bright chime of the hammer
making a hymn to Barzay,
god of smiths.

A heavy bellows breathed for the forge,
powered by a dog mill with two mastiffs:
the red bitch Bell and the black dog Tong.

They worked hard all day there,
in the fire's heat and the metal's song,
and when dusk came they were grateful
for the chance to go home, eat supper,
and flop down to sleep.

It was near midnight when Einar woke
to Tong's teeth on his hand,
gently tugging him out of bed.
Bell growled deep in her chest,
russet hackles standing all down her back
like the serrated blade of a rusted saw.

Einar hefted the hammer
that he kept beside his bed and
crept out of his house into the night,
Bell and Tong heeling along.

There was a fire licking up the side
of the next house over
and a sinister shadow leaning close,
torch in one hand, sword in the other.

Einar loosed his mastiffs with a curt word.
Bell sprang high, catching the interloper's wrist
to pull the blazing torch away from the wall.
Tong went low, closing his heavy jaws
around one calf to pull the man off balance.

Einar caught the torch as it fell,
chucking it into the nearest water trough.
The flames vanished with a sputtering hiss.

The arsonist screamed
as he flailed against the powerful dogs.
He could not shake them off,
but he managed to raise his sword
against Einar anyway,
snarling "Traitor!" as he swung.

Einar sighed and broke the man's arm
with a measured tap of his hammer
between shoulder and elbow.
"So it's my house you meant to set alight,
you great idiot," he said to the arsonist.
"You really didn't think this through, did you?"

"It'll spread, blasphemer,"
the injured man said through his teeth,
clutching the wounded arm.
He lost his balance and landed hard on the ground.

"Go out,"
the smith commanded the fire,
and the fire went out.

Einar felt no need to continue the fight.
A crisp snap of his fingers
brought the dogs to heel again.
Tong dropped his head to chew at the grass,
trying to get the blood out of his mouth.
He preferred his meat cooked.

"Good dogs," Einar said to them,
ruffling their ears with his free hand.
The massive beasts wagged and wriggled
under his beloved touch.

Einar hauled the limping arsonist into his house,
plucking away the symbol of Gorrein with a grimace.
He cleaned and bandaged the dog bites.
He set the broken bone, holding it in place
with a spell meant for bundling barstock.
The man huddled against the wall and whimpered.

"Don't look at me like that," Einar said to him
as he tied a sling around the injured arm.
"I'm a smith, not a healer.  You will just
have to wait until everything heals on its own."

Then Einar wrapped a shackle around
one skinny ankle and said, "Lock."
The steel closed with a decisive snick.
"You'll not be getting that off without my help,
so don't bother trying," he told his captive.
"I aim to get some work out of you,
to make up for the trouble you've caused.
Now, have you a name?"

The man gave him nothing
except for a silent glare.

"... or shall I just keep calling you Idiot?"
Einar taunted in return.

came the grudging reply.

"Go to sleep, Amadon," Einar told him,
tossing the man a blanket.
"Guard," he said to his dogs, who lay down
between the smith and his captive,
their brown eyes wise and wary.

In the morning, Einar woke fully rested,
and Amadon seemed to have slept as well.
The mastiffs were tired and edgy, though.

Einar made breakfast for everyone.
Amadon gave him a startled look
over the bowl of porridge.
"I could hardly expect you to work
if I don't feed you," Einar said dryly.
No reply, but then,
he hadn't expected one.

After breakfast, Einar unchained his captive,
called his dogs to heel, and went to the forge.
"Since you ruined their sleep last night,
you're going to do their job today,"
Einar said to Amadon,
with a nod toward Bell and Tong.
He fastened Amadon to the dog mill.
"Start walking.  I'll tell you if I need you
to speed up or slow down."

Amadon started walking.
Einar built up the forge fire
as the bellows began to blow.

Dog tired, Bell and Tong
flopped down in a warm spot
and soon snored happily away,
lulled by the familiar song
of hammer on anvil.

Einar smiled as he worked,
feeling the grace of Barzay
billow through his workspace
like the ripple of heat waves.
He raised his strong voice in a chant
about gold and dross, steel and slag and fire.

At the end of the day, Einar
unhitched Amadon from the dog mill.
Exhausted, the man collapsed
where he stood, panting as he pressed his cheek
against the smooth stone floor of the smithy.

Einar crouched beside him,
holding out the symbol of Gorrein.
"I figure you've done enough work
to pay off what you owe us," he said.
"Now I'm giving you a choice.
You can take this back, and I'll hand you
over to the town guards for arson.
Or you can throw the fool thing in the forge,
and stay here to work with me.  It's no hardship
for me to fix a bit of charred wall on a neighbor's house."

Amadon clutched the symbol in his hand,
hard enough for the sharp pin to draw blood.
He dragged himself to his feet
and then staggered toward the forge.

Amadon would have fallen
against the hot brick wall,
but at the last moment his flailing hand
caught purchase against Tong's strong back.
The black dog held him steady
as he threw the pin away.

"I think that's enough for today,"
Einar murmured as he caught the swaying man
and draped Amadon's good arm over his shoulder.
"It's time to go home now."

"Yes, sir,"
Amadon rasped.

Bell and Tong fell into step with them,
Bell at Einar's knee and
Tong on the far side next to Amadon.
"Good dogs," Einar said to them,
and indeed they were.

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