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To slay a jabberwocky
Before the sun’s rebirth, my retainers ready me for battle.
My panoply is arrayed,
Cap-a-pie as they say in days long gone by.
Modeled on ancestral antiques, but archaic in form alone.
From my cap to my shoes,
And from my doublet to my hose,
Of spider’s silk, of maidens’ hair,
Of ancient’s kevlar, and of silver spun,
With magics tightly woven within
To stanch the hurts I shall receive,
The blows of my beastly foes that need blunting,
The searing heat of scintillating lights,
And the burning blasts from bellowing dragons.
My harness is as black as the shattered hulls of the ancients’ heavens-sailing ships,
From whence its ore was wrested.
Harder than earthly iron when forged
On it are glyphs and runes recorded, engraved with gold on black metal,
And other symbols scribed, spelling out equations unbalanceable.
Using the secrets names of spirits, demons, angels, and elementals,
Each and every name and sigil hard-won by blade or by book
As variables in the various formulae forcing the universe,
If only by the gravity of engraving these grand names,
To balance them, making blessings of war, of strength, of luck, and even against rust.
Strapped to my arm, and suspended from my neck is my shield.
A heavy battle-hatch, over an inch think, cut from that same heaven-hull.
A bulwark of my body as I am shield to my people.
The blazon of my clan is painted thereupon.
A field of green, a tower crossed by lance and sword,
My long lance is laid in my hand by a loyal liegeman,
Thrice three feet of blood-thirsting ash.
What was once white wood is now
Stained deeply scarlet, its shaft and head battle scarred
From the dozens of dragons it drank deeply of.
The spear shivers in my hand, sensing more dragon’s blood to sip.
Slung from my waist, my mismatched sword and dagger,
Short and stout, perfect for stabbing is the dagger.
Nicked and notched from long years, and cast from ancient bronze,
A single sapphire remains of the rumored thirteen,
Twelve lonely cavities leer like empty eye-sockets adorning the length of the blade.
Opposite rests her adopted sister.
The weapons was a wager I won playing cards.
The mysterious masked loser of it remarked,
“Moth wings, moon beams, and rathe that were mome
Forged and folded until the form of a blade they were fixed,
Or at least that were what the man what sold me it said.”
Plain shining steel it seems to my eyes,
But upon advisement of a sage, into battle
I shall wear it. For
To defend my people and their land
And so ‘gainst a dragon I shall fight.
Striding out the gate with lance in hand
I am prepared to strive day and night.
Brightly shining the sun beats down
As I swiftly stride to slay the beast.
Five fathoms, or more, or less, its form hard to see,
It stands shrouded in silvery shadows
Stinking of smoke and of sulfur.
Rearing it delivers a challenging roar
Of a thousand gears rattling in its grand gullet, if not more.
With spear upon shield, I bang out a reply so thunderous as to sunder windows.
Lifting its head and lithe body sucking in air
I brace myself behind my bulwark to ready for
The blast the beast is about to breathe.
A sickly-sweet smelling smoke
Of thick shadows spew from the serpents maw
Hammering heavily upon my shield as it holds fast guarding my flesh from harm.
My feet dig into the cracked and dried earth
As tenebrous tendrils twine around my targe
Trying to entangle my arms and feet
An engraved invocation to an illuminating angel suddenly blazes into solar incandescence
Beating it back with a sacred heat greater than any brand,
Screaming and sizzling the shadows and smoke retreat.
I say my thanks as I speed to the great serpent’s side.
Blinded by the bright blast of light,
The beast should be easily battered and slain.
I cast my spear like the gambler tosses dice, with the hope that luck is at my side.
From my fingers, my crimson spar flies.
Deeply the long dart digs
Stabbing between its scales high above my head.
Yet now is not the time to call “Callooh” or “Callay.”
It is not dead!
Sans lance the beast I must slay?
From ground on to spear on to head
I leap like a game I must play.
And hope after this blow the dragon is dead.
Strongly my spear unsprings sending me sailing upwards.
Like a bolt from a crossbow, flying to bring my quarrel
To the rattling ravager’s high head to finish the deed my lance began.
Wraithlike ropes of shadow-stuff, thick as my wrist writhe in the air.
Sprouting from the serpent’s scales like hair,
And entwining together to impede my serpent slaying endeavor
They weave a net, trying to wreathe me in the wind.
I reap through the wraith-rope forest
With gleaming my glaive cleaving gashes through the shade.
Hurtling ever down to the fiend’s head.
Frigid foliage can barely check my flight.
How far away the sun’s hammer heavy heat grows.
How I would be gladly battered by the sun’s bold light
That be caressed by this clammy and creepy hair.
As shadows screen out the light, the sun soon left in the distance.
Distance and time distorted by this damned thing’s presence.
Had I expected this, from ground to lance to head I would not have lept.
Much more pleasant it would have been to keep pugilistic heroics grounded,
Than cut through this nightmarish net of nasty congealed shadow-stuff
Yet at the time I thought it
Would be fun,
And even if I should die
A grand poem might be spun.
Even if my folk think this a lie
I’ll tell this tale when all is done.
I marveled in the dark, at how sharp moon’s light looks.
In songs and stories how soft they say moonlight is.
Here, now, smothered by serpent’s smoke and shadow
What seemed simple steel, now like hard edged moonbeam slices the shadow.
Softly, slowly, a sound beyond sound grows.
First one, then two, then more, much more
Soft moth wings? No, hard moth wings.
As if against a billion windowpanes batter a billion moths.
It surrounds me. Slams into my skull.
Make it stop. Make it stop.
Sword slams into serpent scales
Sibilantly shearing slices free.
Shards of armor, cogs, gears, cable, conduit
Flying freely far into the fetid dark.
Deeper I hack. Harder I slash.
Mothwing’s maddening melody grows louder.
I have begun monologuing.
I am outside myself.
I report about myself.
My body has found its own rhythm.
Hack and slash, cut and chop
Madness melody moves my body metronomically.
One and two. One and two. ONE and TWO.
A ragged rent through the ravager’s hide
Has my moonbeam blade battered beneath its head.
Wiping sweat from my brow seeing for the first time
The swarm of moths within steel
Trapped beneath the sword’s surface, the source of the maddening song.
Now I understand what the ragged gambler said of this sword won as a wager.
Scores of moths flittering furiously added fervor to my blows against the fiend.
And my face is bathed in moonlight scattered by moth wingbeats.
Crisp illumination shines in the wreckage of my path.
Pooling around my ankles are the putrid petrochemical laced
Fluids seeping and flowing from ruptured veins, conduits, and pipes.
Caused by the sizable hole I cleaved through the ceiling?
Dozens of these damned monsters I have destroyed,
Yet this serpent is significantly more strange than any I have ever slain.
Above, the gaping hole knits back together; gobs of shadowstuff binding scales.
Scintillating moonlight shed by my sword shows my only options,
Each way looks just as likely to lead to somewhere.
Curiously curved and pulsing walls of metallically colored chitin enclosing me,
I carry on down, deeper into the bowels
Of the beast.
With pulsing metal sheened walls
Picking my way through its last feast
Wondering at how the beast is so unsmall
And how much further to go, at the least.
Long did I walk downward, deeper within the dragon’s body,
With my mute companions: sword, dagger, and shield,
Lance left lodged in the lithe dragon’s side.
Were it not for the blade of moonlight and moth’s wings,
As bright as full moon’s night,
A dark and treacherous walk it would be.
The weird winding passage is much larger than the witch-thing seemed from without,
Filled with the foul fumes of its seeping phlogistons,
And the over-ripe remnants of cattle,
As well as rubble from houses and keeps.
(This beast, is as fond of houses as horses and humans.)
Clearly seen are these chunks of men, beasts, and buildings,
Yet hard-edged shadows, provide for superior places to slink.
Their sneaking muffled by the burbling of the beast, they had me surprised.
A chitinous collection of their clawed tentacles gave only a soft clatter of warning
Before I heard a whine long unheard by me,
Hot beams of light ionized the air as they lanced out from all around me,
How this beast became host to drones with lasers I did not stop to wonder.
Fortunate it was this morn against such arms I girt myself,
Despite no reports regarding the ravening beast possessing such dangers,
A sage named Prudence advised, “Protection from laser would be prudent.”
Time for thought I did not have,
But monsters demanding to be slain in abundance I did.
Scarlet, crimson, and other shades of red beyond counting lit up the long hall.
Shield discarded, a crawler crushed beneath,
Armor scored with searing bolts.
Turns out a blade made of moonbeams can bat those back.
And a dagger cast of ancient’s bronze deeply digs into metal-woven chitin.
A dozen split open from dagger, spraying shadow-stuff-blood
A dozen more blinded by reflected bolts,
(Why anything would shoot lasers from its eyes, I’ll never know)
A great battle on any other day it would be,
But today it was an annoyance,
For soaked through were my boots with ichors.
And close to the hellish beast’s heart I hoped I was getting,
Or doomed to walk within winding ways I feared.
But now alert for more chittering, my advance slows.
Dragon slaying is not supposed to be
Not this trudging within the beast.
Although I am the peoples’ ward,
I’d rather be enjoying a feast,
At least I am not bored.
Its heart, my sword’s anvil to hammer upon.
Gore like flint-fire sparks and flies from my blows.
Each hewing strike echoes down quaking corridors.
Thin rivulets flow, grow into rivers.
Raging torrents of quicksilver and oils
Rushing from fissures riven by my reaping blade.
To the bone I am chilled, bathed in the blood of my foe, by combat rebaptised.
Are my sins washed away by the expungment of the monster?
Or merely compounded with its crimes of reaving my lands?
The beast’s body around me rumbles
As the chitinous walls of its corridors begin collapsing.
Now ‘tis foolish to do anything but flee
As the crumbling walls seem to be caused by the recompression of the creature,
Else I am expanding from a size I did not know I attained,
For the walls are closing in, much more so than they are crumbling.
Reverie interrupted, once clear upon this I will contemplate.
Through waist deep blood I wade
To hew upon the nearest walls
With my gleaming moon-blade.
Under which the chitin falls.
Before the sun rises, I ready my child and heir for battle, and reflect
Back on the strangest of serpents I had to ever slay.
Although I have aged long past anything considered prime
My decrepit condition is more caused by the cancers
Flooding my body from my ill-fortuned bath in filthy phlogistons.
Whether ‘tis right to right wrongs with weapons,
Despite decades of slow death,
A dragon had to be dashed till it lay destroyed
Such as my doom is to die in defense of land and people.
Even as it is that of my doughty daughter.
Whether the beast was evil or was a mere beast,
The woe it wrought, wrathful or not, had needed stopping.
In the end it matters not,
Although its ruin repaired it still had its revenge upon me.
My tale may be ending
But hers is just starting.
And so with grace and little pain
I yield the stage, content to not be main.