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Poem: "The Foundation of Great Accomplishments" - The Wordsmith's Forge — LiveJournal
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "The Foundation of Great Accomplishments"
This poem is spillover from the June 4, 2019 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] book_worm5 and [personal profile] mama_kestrel. It also fills the "Commitment" square in my 6-1-19 card for the Cottoncandy Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] janetmiles. It belongs to the Path of the Paladins series.


"The Foundation of Great Accomplishments"


"What are you doing?"
Althey said, looking at Johan.

"Trying to make sense of things,"
Johan said. He sounded frustrated.

"Well, talk it out," Althey suggested.
"If you tell me what you're mulling over,
maybe it will come clearer for you."

"I'm thinking about the gods,"
Johan said. "They used to get along,
then all the fighting broke out, and
now they're reaching out again."

"All right, that shapes what
happens in our world," Althey said.

"I swore my vows to Gailah," said Johan.
"I have been an absolutely terrible paladin
to Her -- even turned my face from Her for
a time -- but I never meant to replace Her
with another deity. If these others show
interest in me and I respond to Them ,
then what does it mean for my vocation?
What does it mean about commitment?"

"I don't know," Althey said. "I think
it will be interesting to find out.
What are you working on?"

"Just sketches," Johan said,
moving his arms so Althey
could see the page. Charcoal
sketched out holy symbols for
various deities, arranged in
different combinations.

Alazar, God of Art,
was represented by
a palette and brush,
clear even without colors.

"You did a good job of
rendering these," Althey said
as he resting a fingertip
beside the winged skull of
Forthan, God of Death.

"Thank you," Johan said.
"I work with what I have."

"You like Forthan," Althey said.

"I respect Him," Johan corrected,
shaking his head. "I'm not sure
anyone really likes Forthan."

"No, you like Him," Althey said,
his voice full of confidence.

"What makes you think that?"
Johan said, looking down.

"Because in His icons,
you draw Him looking
happy or sad, but never
angry," Althey explained.
"His wings always have
white feathers like they're
supposed to, not black,
and not bat wings."

"Bat wings are blasphemy!"
Johan snapped. "I may serve
Gailah instead, but even I know
that much about Forthan."

Althey spread his hands.
"That's exactly my point,"
he said. "I think you like
all of the ones who have
touched you, at least a little."

"Maybe you're right," Johan said.
"I just wanted to find a way of
acknowledging the others,
without denying Gailah
Her proper place."

Althey looked at
the arrangements.

"You're trying to lay out
a pattern that lets you
show them together,"
he realized then.

"Yes," Johan said.
"I mean, think about
holy symbols. Priests and
paladins usually wear pendants.
Other followers wear a ring."

"People scribble graffiti on
walls and posts," Althey said.

"I just ... don't know how
to combine them," Johan said.

Althey looked at sketches of
a necklace with different symbols
done as charms linked together,
and a bracelet that seemed to have
them stamped along a wide cuff.

In each case, Gailah's was larger
and centered among the rest.

"These might work, but what about
putting them in different places?"
Althey asked, tilting his head.

"Like what?" Johan asked.

"Keep your pendant," Althey said.
"Just add something like a stole
or a sash for the other symbols."

Johan sighed. "I can't make anything
like that," he said. "Embroidery takes
too long, and you need a lot of skill.
Any decent smith should be able
to make the basic symbols, and
they often have hammer stamps."

"So?" Althey said. "We don't
need all this tomorrow."

"I remember ... we had
such glorious vestments once,
in the Shining City," Johan said.
"Maybe someday, it would be
nice to have such things again."

"There you go," Althey said.
"Add it to your sketches, and
pray on it. Perhaps the gods
will give you some ideas, too."

"Even if I'm not sure what form
the commitment will take?" Johan said.

"I think if They wanted something particular,
They would have told you," Althey said.
"Commitment is the foundation of
great accomplishments. You're
willing to take the first steps.
That may be all They require
of you, at least for now."

"I've never really made
oaths to any of the others,"
Johan said, shaking his head.

"Haven't you?" Althey said.
"Oaths made to another in
the silence of one's own soul
remain oaths, and are still binding.
Even if no human witnesses
them, the gods always do."

"I may have ... wished for things,
but that's not the same," Johan said.

"It is if the gods pick it up and treat it
as worthy," Althey said. "Some oaths
even carry beyond the death of the body,
into another realm, or another life. It's
not about the form they take, Johan. It's
about how much people mean them."

"You may have a point there,"
Johan conceded thoughtfully.

He took up his charcoal again,
and began to draw.

* * *

Notes:

Forthan, God of Death (introduced in "Thorny Paths")

Gailah, Goddess of Peace (introduced in "Shine On")

* * *

"Commitment is the foundation of great accomplishments."
-- Heidi Reeder

This is a pendant of Alazar's palette and brush symbol.

A paladin of Forthan would wear a pendant, and a follower would wear a ring, showing the winged skull.

Subtle details can change the intent a lot. With the brow ridges high, wings and teeth curving upward, Forthan looks happy.
With the brow ridges angled up and wings curving down, Forthan looks sad. With the brow ridges angled down, jaws open, and feathers sharply pointed, Forthan looks angry. Black feathers and bat wings are blasphemy. People may doodle a winged skull as graffiti -- especially soldiers waiting before a battle.

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