Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Acts of Desperation"

This poem is from the May 19, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] chordatesrock. It also fills the "desperate" square in my 5-18-15 card for the [community profile] origfic_bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It belongs to the series Path of the Paladins, and is a direct sequel to "Grit and Grace" so you'll need to read that one first. For Nahum's perspective of the aftermath, see "Its Very Existence."

"Acts of Desperation"

The shack in the woods was a death trap,
Kalad realized, if he could not escape it.
Time and again they heard the sounds
of travelers passing on the road, but
he and Nahum were too badly wounded
to reach them before they disappeared.

Kalad shivered, the fever making him
feel chilled no matter what he did.

His head ached and his face burned
where the little bitch had hit him
with a frying pan. His leg hurt, too,
where the older woman had hooked
a hatchet behind his knee.

Kalad rubbed a hand over his scarred mouth.
He had survived serious injuries before.
He could survive this too.

Grimly he cut sticks to make a splint
for his wounded leg, and another
to use as a crutch, so that he
could move at a useful pace.

He spared a glance for Nahum,
who was trying to nap with a wet rag
draped over the burned ruin of his face.

Kalad would have to leave him behind, of course.
Nahum couldn't see where he was going,
and would only slow them down
so that they'd both die.

Kalad refused to lie down and die.

Desperate to survive, he packed up the food,
which woke Nahum, who protested.
Kalad explained his decision.

Then he trudged to the road
and sat down to wait.

Hours later, a troop of riders approached.
To Kalad's delight, they proved to be
fellow devotees of Gorrein.

Hauling himself to his feet,
he shouted a hail.

A crest of red cockerel feathers
marked the leader of the troop,
who stopped her black horse
just short of stepping on Kalad.

"I am Bodil, paladin of Gorrein,"
the woman said. "Declare yourself."

"Kalad, follower of Gorrein,"
he replied with a firm salute.
"My sword is yours to command
if you give me a place in your troop."

She looked down her nose at him.
"What the hell happened to you?"

Kalad patted his splinted leg.
"Gailah may have been deposed,
but her servants are still a pain in the ass."

"So they are," Bodil agreed.
She narrowed her eyes at him,
and Kalad felt her regard rake across
his soul. He stiffened his defenses,
not that it would do any good, but
at least he'd show her his mettle.
"Very well then, you may join us."

"Thank you, ma'am," said Kalad.

"You, healer!" Bodil barked.
"Get over here and tend this man."

Kalad heard the clink of chains
as a pudgy man hurried up.
Soft hands puttered around
his blistered face and cut knee.

"These wounds are not good,"
the healer said, clucking
over them as he took out
his bundle of supplies.
"There will be scars.
There will be a limp."

"Every soldier has scars,"
Kalad said with a snort.
"Just get me back on my feet."

"I will do what may be done,"
the wretch said, too timid
even to meet Kalad's gaze.

As soon as the healer finished, Kalad
dragged himself onto a spare horse
and gave thanks to Gorrein that
his acts of desperation paid off.

Or maybe he was just too fucking tough to die.

* * *


The outcome of what happened to Nahum and Kalad after the campground fight was settled in an audience poll, leaving Kalad with hideous scars and a limp.

Burns are notorious for scarring, especially without top-notch care.

Knee injuries often involve the many tendons and ligaments which hold the joint together. Severed or otherwise severely damaged connective tissues rarely heal well without surgery, and if not treated immediately, there's a limit to what healing magic can do too, short of actual miracles. Here's a diagram of the posterior knee anatomy.

In a crisis situation, willpower becomes the most crucial factor for survival.

Betrayal is really about expectancy violation. Notice how Nahum responds to Kalad's actions: upset but not surprised. While abandoning one's injured partner would be considered betrayal in most cultures, to the followers of Gorrein it is a perfectly reasonable thing to do, because they understand looking out for number one and they are not big on altruism. Know how to deal with betrayal.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, poem, poetry, reading, spirituality, weblit, writing
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