Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "The Diadem of Dreams and Thorns"

This poem is spillover from the February 3, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] chordatesrock. It also fills the "telepathy / mindmeld" square in my 1-3-15 card for the [community profile] trope_bingo fest. Based on an audience poll, this is the free epic for the July 7, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl reaching its $200 goal. It belongs to the series Seeing Hearts, which you can find via the Serial Poetry page.

"The Diadem of Dreams and Thorns"

It took the Cult of Clarwether
six months to find the artifact
and six minutes to lose it.

They slipped into the temple and murdered
the queen's Sequestered Seer, lifting
the Diadem of Dreams and Thorns
from her bloody brow with a pair of tongs,
for no mortal man might touch it and survive.

The queen of course sent the Women of the Guard
to reclaim it, along with several squads of mercenaries
for support, among the latter of whom was Annalee.

Now Annalee was a woman, despite
having been born with a male body
and named Neal by parents who
had no way of knowing better.

She had applied to the Guard
on basis of the former and
been rejected on basis of the latter,
so she became a mercenary instead.

The fight was short and ugly.

Within two minutes, over half
of the Guard lay dead or dying,
and the cultists were down to five --
one of whom had cleverly dumped
an entire urn of lamp oil across the floor
and set it alight so that nobody
could get to them.

Annalee first attempted to put it out
with a heavy curtain, only to have
that burst into flames as well.

The Guards tried using crossbows
but could not see through the smoke
and fire well enough to aim,
so they hit only the wall.

Spying an opportunity, Annalee
grabbed a rope attached to a chandelier
and used it to swing above the blaze
toward the unsuspecting cultists.

She figured that one of two things would happen:
either her heavy leather gloves would protect her
as she touched the diadem, or they would not
and she could bat it toward the Guards as she died.

Annalee was not expecting the artifact
to grab her mind in a sharp, silvery grip
and then thunder, No mortal man may
touch me, but only the hand of a woman.
Clothes cannot fool me, for I see your hearts!

Just like that, she could See everything.

She knew the names of all the Guards,
even the ones she had not met, and
how shocked they were by her actions.

She knew the fears of the cultists and
their idiotic plan to bend the Diadem to their will
and even the location of the secret corridor
through which they planned to escape.

Annalee relayed this vital information
to the Guards as swiftly as she could speak,
even as she tumbled through the air
to land safely beyond the edge of the flames.

Several of the remaining Guards peeled off
to cover the exit of the no-longer-secret passage
while the rest kept watch from the front.

The entire skirmish had taken less than ten minutes,
at the end of which all the cultists had been
either killed or captured.

Annalee offered the Diadem to the Guards, but
they closed their hands and refused to take
the diamond-studded device from her,
insisting that it had chosen her as
the heir to the Sequestered Seer.

She had heard that it would destroy
any man who dared to touch it,
the silver thorns twisting through
his skull and into his brain, and
the eldritch energy blasting
through his hapless mind.

Hesitantly Annalee lifted the Diadem
and set it upon her own head.

The silver thorns curled to life,
but they did no more than gather up
the wayward strands of black hair
that always got in her face.

She could See, now, beyond
the building block city state nation,
wonders of the world flooding
into her and through her,
beautiful and terrible at once.

Far, far away Annalee and the Diadem
reached the mind of the queen,
who laughed and welcomed
her new Sequestered Seer.

There was no shock or rejection,
only a wry amusement at the novelty of
Annalee's nature and the Diadem's choice.

So the former mercenary relayed
the queen's orders to the Guards,
who escorted Annalee to the temple
without question or hesitation.

They installed her there
with fresh supplies and staff,
including a seamstress to make
a wardrobe suited to her new station.

Though Annalee had no experience
with any of the things she was now
expected to do, she found the writings
of the previous Seer enlightening and
soon became engrossed in the work.

The temple was quiet, secluded
amidst beautiful gardens, and she
had only to write down her reports, then
send them off with the queen's messengers.

Against all expectations, Annalee
discovered herself to be happy.

On festival days, she was dressed
in silver slippers, a gown of blue silk,
and a robe of white satin over all,
with the Diadem of Dreams and Thorns
blazing against her smooth black hair.

Then she was carried on a palanquin
carved of silver ash and starred with gems
behind the queen herself on oak and gold,
all around the rim of the Consecrated City,
so that the people might see them.

Not even the fabled Diadem
could reform her flesh, but
it could announce to everyone
that Annalee was in fact a woman,

and surprisingly, that was enough.

* * *


The Diadem of Dreams and Thorns looks something like this. Like many artifacts, it has the power of Soul Reading.

Seers can know things outside of ordinary means. One possible drawback of that is overload. So it's important to know how to handle psychic powers.

Transfolk identify as something other than their apparent physical sex. Understand how to be a good ally.

Magic and spirituality sometimes involve isolated people and/or places. There are tips on how to become a hermit.

A palanquin is a type of fancy litter for carrying an important person.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, gender studies, magic, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing

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