This poem came out of the April 7, 2009 poetry fishbowl. It was inspired by a prompt from kadiera, and is presented as a thank-you gift to natasiakith for reorganizing the poems in the Holiday Poetry Sale.
The Sword from the Foundling House
One night, quite late,
and in the rain no less,
the bell was rung at the Foundling House
and the friar went out to collect the little bundle
that lay, wrapped in rags, on the wet doorstep.
When he opened the bundle, he was amazed
to find not a baby but a sword
with a dark blemish on its blade
and the wee ruby in the pommel
cracked as if from some terrible blow.
The friar set it aside to be sold
but as soon as he let go,
the sword began to cry with a sound
like rusted hinges wrenched open.
So the friar picked it up again,
and dandled it and shushed it,
and looked in the Book for the next name,
which was Flie-Fornication.
By the rules of the charitable order,
all foundlings were to be raised and educated,
and found honest work once grown.
Flie-Fornication was therefore
propped against a crib in the nursery
and sung to for two years,
then propped against a trundle-bed
and taught catechism for three years,
then propped against a desk in the schoolroom
and lessoned for ten years.
That was the problem with talking swords.
You had to raise them like children.
People tended to abandon the imperfect
At fifteen it was time for the foundlings
to take up jobs in the wider world.
It was obvious to everyone
what sort of work a sword should be doing,
but who would go along with it?
What hero would want to wield a sword
with a name like Flie-Fornication?
Not to mention the blemish on the blade
and the broken ruby in the hilt.
The friar had asked a smith about those,
and been told that nothing could mend them.
No matter how many times
the friar took him to the hiring hall,
Flie-Fornication always came back
to the Foundling House.
No one wanted anything to do with him,
even though the donation to cover his upkeep
was less than half the price
of an enchanted sword in a wizard’s shop –
a sword that would always stay sharp
and could keep watch all night, and
in the case of Flie-Fornication had a good education
with a knack for dead languages besides.
In the end it was Sorry-for-sin
who stood up after supper at the Foundling House,
and picked up Flie-Fornication
where he was propped against the trestle table,
and said, “I’ll be your hero.”
Sorry-for-sin knew was it was like
to be unwanted, for despite his skill at fighting
he’d been refused service in the city guard
for reasons the Captain declined to explain.
Then Adulterina the dancer
bounded onto a bench
and said, “I will go with you!”
Sorry-for-sin agreed they could use someone
to distract the evil-doers while someone else
did the fighting part of saving the world,
and who could make a living from tips
to keep them all fed between quests.
Last came Zeal-of-the-land,
who had lost his faith and become a druid,
learned in woodslore and magical spells.
No true believer wanted to hire him
but Sorry-for-sin reckoned they could use a healer,
not to mention someone who could start fires in the rain.
So the Four Foundlings set out from the House
that was no longer their home,
and they made their way through the world
doing good deeds and undertaking great quests.
In less than a year
the warlords and the black wizards and the thieves,
the bandits and the henchmen and the minions
all learned that,
if you laughed at their names,
that was the last thing you’d ever do.