Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "Forging Ahead"

This poem is spillover from the July 21, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] siliconshaman. It fills the "graduation" square of my 12-30-14 card in the Rites of Passage fest. This poem has been sponsored by EdorFaus. It belongs to the Path of the Paladins series.

"Forging Ahead"

It had been just over a year
since their first meeting when
Shahana declared the end
of Ari's time as a novice.

"You are ready to become
a paladin in your own right,"
said Shahana. "It is time
to get you a proper sword."

"But -- but I don't know enough
about being a paladin yet!"
Ari protested. "You can't
just dump me out on my own."

"This doesn't mean that you
have to leave my company yet,"
Shahana assured her. "As you say,
there is much left for you to learn."

So they went to the forge
of Einar, paladin of Barzay,
to ask him to make a sword
that could channel Ari's power.

Behind the bellows, his two mastiffs
Bell and Tong worked the dog mill
which blew air into the forge
and kept the coals hot.

"Take out the star that has
fallen to you and fling it in,"
Einar said to Ari, and
the girl obeyed.

Then he brought bars of
the finest metal and thrust them
into the fire to heat, laying
his hammer beside the anvil.

Einar beat upon the red metal
with his hammer, sweat rivering
down his muscled back as
his arms rose and fell.

"It's so hot in here," Ari grumbled,
plucking at the thick padding
she wore under her armor, and
Shahana agreed with her.

"Take it off, if you like,"
Einar invited them.
"Strip down to shifts.
I won't mind a bit."

"You just want a chance
to look at women's bodies,"
Ari said, glaring at the smith
as he worked on the sword.

"Actually, I prefer the company
of men," said Einar. "It's no
matter to me what you wear,
or don't wear. I don't care."

It really was sweltering, so
they took off their armor and their
padding to let their damp linen shifts
dry in the heat of the forge.

Einar's servant Amadon stepped up,
his eyes carefully downcast, to take
their suits and reassemble everything
on two standing racks for them.

"What happened here?"
Shahana murmured, noting that
an iron shackle jangled at his ankle
although it wasn't attached to anything.

Einar gave a gravelly laugh.
"We had a little misunderstanding
about politics and the possibility
of arson against a smith-paladin."

"I trust that got cleared up
in a big hurry," Shahana drawled.
Einar's control over fire was
complete and sacrosanct.

"Yes," Amadon said simply
as he brought buckets of water
for the two women to use
in refreshing themselves.

The hammer chimed brightly
against the good metal as
Einar shaped the sword,
blade and hilt taking form.

He folded the metal in
and around and over itself,
each layer adding to
the strength of the steel.

His voice rose and fell
in hymns to Barzay, and
from time to time Shahana
joined in the ones she knew.

At last Einar said to Ari,
"Go to the forge and take out
your star. My faith and yours
will shield you from the heat."

Ari trembled as she went,
for the forge roiled with
waves of heat and light
as intense as the sun itself.

She thought of Gailah as she
reached for the fallen star
that shone white-hot among
the tumble of glowing coals.

The air parted around her
like curtains of burning silk,
without so much as singing
a hair as she claimed her star.

Then Einar set it into the pommel
of the sword like a jewel, closing
his hand over it to murmur a spell
that sealed it into its place.

He offered up the sword,
balanced over his palms,
saying, "Hail and well come,
Ari, paladin of Gailah."

Ari's joy welled up and spilled
down her cheeks in silver tears
as she approached to take up
that which was to be hers.

"I thank you for your service,
Einar, paladin of Barzay,"
she said as she grasped
the hilt of her sword.

Ari raised her voice in
the first hymn that she had
learned by heart, and the others
joined her in "Star of Gailah."

At her word, the fallen star in
the pommel blazed with new light,
casting sharp-edged shadows
all around the room.

Finally the power of Gailah
poured into her, marking Ari
as a paladin forever -- and it felt
stronger, now, than it had before.

Shahana nodded to Ari when
the hymn came to an end,
and folded the young woman
into a fond embrace.

Whatever remained for them to face
in the fixing of the world, they would
face it together, no longer mentor and
novice but two paladins side by side.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, fantasy, fishbowl, gender studies, poem, poetry, reading, spirituality, writing
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