chivalry

Where Runs the Warhorse

Where runs the warhorse when his time has come?
When his barding’s gone and his reins retired,
When sounds the beating of a different drum
Than the ones of war, that had once inspired
His gallant service to a noble knight,
With whom he galloped to honor, glory,
In deeds of skill, chivalry and might,
Inspiring many a young man’s story
Of bravery, mastery, battles fought,
And many a lass’s dreams and song
Of ancient days when true knights sought
To prove their mettle with courage strong?
To Elysian fields, where the sweet grass grows,
To await his knight, when the Trumpet blows.

This weekend, the valiant steed of a dear friend, the knight to whom I am squired, passed on to the Elysian fields. I am not a horseman, myself, being massively allergic to those noble beasts, but I know too well how strong the bond between man and his animal friends can be. Fare thee well, Luke, and be ready for your next ride.

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“The Measure of a Man” – Turn-a-trope #4, #WOEGTTT

This one was incredibly tough! Were it not that I refused to be beaten by my own challenge, I would have tossed in the towel. That said, I think the following tale does a decent job of skewering the trope, “A Man is Not a Virgin.”

Enjoy.

Tomas rode with the fury of a man possessed. The gates of the ancient temple of Kalziban lay behind him, and in his wake, the bodies of a legion of slain hellions. Ahead, he could see the door that lead to the inner temple, and the Pool of Tears. He knew that he would find her there. Lillian. His sworn ward.

As the Knight of the cloak, it has been his responsibility to protect her. And he had, through countless dangers, countless attempts on her life. She was the last of the purest bloodline, and her death would profit many an evil man. He had fought dozens to defend her, and bested them all. Sir Tomas of the Cloak was, perhaps, the greatest knight who’d ever served.

She had vanished in the night, despite all precautions. Tomas knew this time would come, had since the moment of her birth. Tonight, the moons above aligned with the Dread star, the Blood Eye of Kalziban. He knew that whoever took her, would take her here. His horse stumbled, fell. Tomas leapt from its back as it went, tumbling to the ground in clash of steel and leather. He cried out as he struck a stony pillar. His horse, ridden far beyond exhaustion, cried out, and expired. He rose to his feet, and ran up the stairs and through the temple’s doors.

“You’re too late,” Alcyon cackled. The dread summoner held up his hands, dripping with blood. “Too late, hero, too late to save her, too late to stop the summoning!”

Tomas fell to his knees with a sob. Before him, splayed across the pentacle carved into the ground, was Lillian. Sweet, innocent Lillian. The last of legal heir to the kingdom of Tancreath. The Virgin Princess. The Keeper of the Barrier. His sworn ward.

Tears fell from Tomas’ cheek. He cast away his shield as he took her hand in his own, felt the cold lifelessness therein. Her body, a ruin of blood and savagery, her thighs, a spectacle of disaster and debauchery.  Tomas’ sword slipped from his free hand, and reached, tenderly, for her cold staring eyes, unfocused and staring into the void. He closed them, softly, and brushed away a lock of coal black hair.

“It would have been enough,” the knight croaked hoarsely, “to have just killed her. ”

“Oh,” the summoner spoke, his voice filled with sarcastic mock pity, “yes, it would have. But then I would not have gotten to see this, would I have? The undefeatable Sir Tomas of the Cloak, brought to his knees? Not by a sword, not by a lance, not by an army of men…but by a man. A single man, with nothing in his hands…but blood.”

Alcyon continued to laugh madly. Tomas felt his head swim. A strange, numbing wave crashed against his nerves, his face, his limbs tingling. He rose, slowly, a final sob given to his fallen ward as he raised her up in his arms. He turned, looked to the Pool of Tears. Slowly, he walked towards it, heedless of the summoner and his madness. Around him, lights began to grow, strange, glowing, otherworldly emanations that rose from the ancient runes and sigils carved and cast throughout the hall.

“Too late!” Alcyon cried, sobbing in mirth, “She is dead!”

Tomas didn’t listen. He continued to the pool, till he stood overlooking its pale, milky waters. A drop of blood fell from Lillian’s outstretched arm, and slipped into the pool, an angry red swirl on a sea of pearl.

“She is dead,” Alcyon repeated, but his laughter cracked, slowing, “It is over, fool! And besides…”

The summoner nodded at the pool.

“It takes the life of a virgin of royal birth to halt the summoning of the Dread Lord Kalziban. She was the last. It is over!”

Tomas, silent still, lowered the girl’s body to the pool, then watched her slip beneath the surface. He stood then, turned to the mad summoner.

“Do you know the measure of a man, summoner? Do you know why I took up the Cloak?” he asked, his voice almost a whisper. Alcyon’s grin faltered.

“The Cloak is not an easy burden to bear. Its wearer must be good and strong. Generous and just. Compassionate and merciful. Swift of blade, swift of defense. Trustworthy and…pure.”

The knight turned and looked at the summoner, his eyes rimmed with red, stained with tears, but cold, so cold.

“Pure. Untouched by the hands, the lips, the body of a lover.”

Tomas ran a hand through hair as black as pitch, the same color as Lillian’s.

“I took the Cloak because I was born a bastard. And now…”

Tomas stepped to the edge of the pool. Alcyon stumbled forward, slipped in blood. He crashed to the ground, then looked up, his eyes wide with something they had never known.

Fear.

“…now I will see my sister safely to the Underworld.”

Tomas dived into the pool. Alcyon shrieked, raged, as the knight’s heavy armour pulled him quickly downward. The summoner scrambled to the pool, plunging his arms in, staining the water pink with blood. But the knight was gone, the pool empty.

Around him the walls began to shake. The sigils began to glow a violent red.  A sharp smell of ozone filled the air, and the crack of the barrier, the gateway between worlds, slammed through the air. Alcyon howled as the dissipating energies tore about the room. The ceiling quaked, and pieces began to collapse.

Then bitterly, he laughed, as the temple collapsed around him.

An older piece, but one I want remembered…

Nine years ago this month, a dear friend of mine passed of a sudden aneurysm. She was a lady of excellent worth, and though her heart joyed at the larceny of piracy, her actions were as chivalrous as any knight could hope to be.

It has been nine years, Shannon, but you are not forgotten.

Alas, sweet Shannon, I bid you farewell,
The time we spent as friends was far too brief.
Longer, I fear, will there be spent in grief
For one within whom chivalry did swell,
Whose smile and wit did many comforts lend,
And sadly, has reached a much too early end.

Your kindness will always be a treasured gift,
A memory of giving, of your most sharing soul;
When sorrows and troubles began to take their toll,
A thought of your presence would cause one’s heart to lift,.
Your charity of being, a port within the storm;
Sanctuary offered within your smile warm.

But now, it seems, your soul has heard the call;
The Sea of Mysteries beckons you, “Come!
Adventure, treasures of unearthly sum,
For you we wait, until you claim us all!”
And lo, the pirate’s blood within you wailed,
So seaward set you your ship and sailed.

And so, sweet lady, I pray your course be true,
That the winds of Time blow swiftly, to your gain.
Leave mortal life and all its earthly pain,
Let wondrous sights and mysteries ensue,
And mad adventure be your just reward
To live by compass, sail, and pirate’s sword.

One last request, and of the selfish sort:
When you plunder on that dreaming Sea
And all good things have come to thee,
Should you take liberty in a foreign port,
And see this poet standing, near the pier’s end,
I pray you will embrace me, and call me friend.

An older piece: a sonnet redouble in Shakespearean style…

This poem was written in May of 2007, as an entry into a poetry contest for the medieval re-creation group I’m part of. The form is a sonnet redouble, which is also called a “sonnet of sonnets”. Where a sonnet is a 14 line poem consisting of alternating rhyming lines with a rhyming couplet at the end, a sonnet redouble is fourteen sonnets, each of which begins with the last line of the sonnet before it, and a fifteenth sonnet that is composed of the final lines of all the sonnets that preceded it. Many sonnets start with a question, with the following lines exploring the question posed and the final couplet answering said question. Likewise, the first part of this sonnet redouble asks a question, to be debated and then answered in the final sonnets.

I. THE QUESTION

When asked why I would want to be a knight,
One day while arming up in maille and plate,
I paused, and did my eldest son invite,
To sit and hear my thoughts on that estate.
A knight, I said, is pure and good and true,
And likewise strong in spirit and in arm,
Where he would ride, know justice would ensue,
And innocents, he’d keep from every harm.
And one day, son, I’d like to be that man,
Exemplifying that which I believe,
And though my sword is made of but rattan,
A knight is more than what one’s eyes perceive.
And then he asked, his mind alert, awake,
“If I would be a Knight, what would it take?”

II. PROWESS

If I would be a knight, what would it take?
And then I knew the spark within him burned,
I’d have to tell him all, with no mistake,
And feed the need for chivalry that yearned.
For one, I said, a knight must have great skill,
In deeds of arms, he must a name be made,
For there, where spectators are given thrill,
And fighters meet with spear or mace or blade,
‘Tis there that in the fires of battle fair,
I will, as steel on anvil, take my form,
Where every hammered blow may thus repair,
My faults, and thus in battle may perform,
And show my worthiness upon the field,
To prove my Prowess with a blade and shield.

III. COURAGE

To prove my Prowess with a blade and shield,
However strong, will not a knight create,
‘Tis but one virtue that a man must wield,
If he would deem to reach a Knight’s estate.
For I must be in bravery unmarred,
No questions must exist that I would flee,
No matter what I face, or how I’m scarred,
A solid wall of courage must I be.
For though my mind may tremble at a sight,
My heart must be a calmly sleeping child,
In lulled sleep, when once it would take fright,
I must be solid, when my thoughts run wild,
And when the armies charge, and others quake,
With Courage stand, where lesser men would break.

IV. DEFENSE

With Courage stand, where lesser men would break.
But stand not still, nor shatter ‘neath the blow,
Instead, an active effort must I make,
To shield the innocent from battle’s flow.
For skill and bravery are worthless things,
If not applied to help the poor and meek,
In hollowness, their lack of effort rings,
When not brought forth defending all the weak.
Indeed, some battles fought are not with swords,
But waged instead in words woven of hate,
And I must stand against these wordy hordes,
Engaging them in fiercely held debate,
And with my will alone to be my shield,
Defend my ground, and never think to yield.

V. JUSTICE

Defend my ground, and never think to yield,
But temper that with wisdom, this I must,
For villainy, when finally revealed,
Do not defend, but show it pure disgust.
For there are many whom, with silvered tongue,
Manipulate the hearts of those naive,
Speaking to all they can, both old and young,
Delighting at each soul that they deceive.
To be a knight, a man must seek the truth,
He must be sure of those he would defend,
Investigating all, a stalwart sleuth,
Lest base beguilers do his image rend.
I must, when liar’s words my heart would stain,
For Justice stand, and ever true remain.

VI. HONESTY

For Justice stand, and ever true remain,
But what is justice, if I know not truth?
‘Tis but a mockery, at which to feign,
A stumbling farce, impure, unclean, uncouth.
Thus truthfulness itself must show in me,
Integrity must course within my veins,
No half-truths passed or white lies let there be,
Discarding all, till only truth remains.
Aye, naked truth, as harsh as it is bare,
Must be the lantern, guiding with its light,
That scatters lies that fall beneath its glare,
I’ll bear it well, if I would be a knight.
The path of Chivalry is intertwined,
With Honesty, both in my heart and mind.

VII. FAITH

With honesty, both in my heart and mind,
I realize that I must overcome,
The wavering uncertainty I find,
Within my soul, to which I may succumb.
To beat the doubting demons in my head,
Will take conviction of the strongest sort,
To banish fear and courage keep instead,
I must in credence find my first support.
For confidence can make the nightmares flee;
Belief, a weapon stronger then the sword,
And when frustrations taunt and torture me,
At bay are kept, assurance as my ward.
To be a knight, my spirit must be trained,
To keep the Faith, and from my doubt abstain.

VIII. FRANCHISE

To keep the Faith, and from my doubt abstain,
I must, in others, inspiration seek,
For knightly deeds can be the anchor’s chain,
That holds one fast, when doubts would make one weak.
And as I take from others, I must give,
The same example through each step I take,
And through my actions, I must be the sieve,
That strains out bad impressions others make.
To be the one that others bring to thought,
When chivalrous displays they seek to know,
In outward deeds let chivalry be wrought,
And felt in truth, and not as just a show,
But more, that in me, chivalry’s refined,
Through Franchise, may my deeds others remind.

IX. LOYALTY
Through franchise, may my deeds others remind,
That there are others sharing in their Dream,
That they need not look far before they find,
A friend to hold in chivalry’s esteem.
And when a friend as such is found, embrace,
Yea, bring them close, and never let them part,
Nor let your actions bring to them disgrace,
Instead, to them, fidelity impart.
For without fealty, there are no knights,
But fealty is empty without love,
So love the ones you swear to, and by rights,
Keep to their expectations set thereof.
If e’er the accolade I wish to see,
In Loyalty, let I a stalwart be.

X. GENEROSITY
In loyalty, let I a stalwart be,
Within good faith, be giving to my friends,
And may I show good hospitality,
To strangers, to whom chivalry extends.
For reputations rest upon the lips,
Of those we meet, e’en for a passing glance,
Let not a stingy attitude eclipse,
One’s noble deeds, for therein lies the chance,
That all one’s goodness quickly be forgot,
Because, in greediness, you did impress,
The image of a miserly despot,
Instead of sharing all through good largesse.
I’d rather be the latter sort instead,
In Generosity, my heart to spread.

XI. COURTESY
In generosity, my heart to spread,
But wealth is not the only thing that’s shared,
For though ’tis good to see one’s guest well-fed,
‘Tis not, if without gallantry prepared.
For many are the chivalrous who lack,
The wealth by which to woo the stranger’s heart,
And yet, in reputation do not slack,
Showing a different wealth, ‘fore they depart.
For gracious deeds are worth their weight in gold,
And kindly words, many a soul will heal,
Solicitude, a salve that can’t be sold,
Civility, a trait of great appeal.
A knight should strive for geniality,
To show in deeds and words great Courtesy.

XII. NOBILITY
To show in deeds and words great Courtesy,
And yet, not as a sycophant or slave,
But done in truth, and with good dignity,
For that is how the chivalrous behave.
Uphold the standards of the gentle born,
And dabble not in acts of the depraved,
Keep not the company of those forsworn,
Lest to their reputation, be enslaved.
So hold yourself above the vile and rank,
Assisting others that would do the same,
And guard against the villains at your flank,
Who can, through wicked actions, taint your name.
Decry the fools, and nobly lift your head,
Shirking the base, to Nobly act instead.

XIII. HUMILITY
Shirking the base, to Nobly act instead,
But guard against the overzealous pride,
That can be formed, when holding up your head,
And let not modesty be thus denied.
For chivalry lives not amongst the vain,
Who act for but themselves, and they alone,
Who lust for glory, even should it stain,
What acts of goodness that they may have shown.
Sing not your deeds, but let you be content,
That you have done them, others then will sing,
If so inspired by the deed’s event,
If not, your song in hollowness would ring.
So I must try against my pride to fight,
And Humbly bow when deeds are brought to light.

XIV. SUMMATION
“And humbly bow when deeds are brought to light.”
Thus ended I my thoughts on chivalry,
And what was needed to become a knight,
All spoken to the child on my knee.
And there he sat, in silence, for a spell,
I swear, I heard the whirring of his brain,
I wondered, had I taught this lesson well?
I hoped that some small wisdom he’d obtained.
“So, do you understand these words, my son?”
I asked, and then he turned his little head,
And as I thought on how this had begun,
He looked at me, and smiling, this he said:
“I know the answer I could give as right,
When asked why I would want to be a knight…”

XV. THE ANSWER
If I would be a Knight, what would it take?
To prove my Prowess with a blade and shield;
With Courage stand, when lesser men would break;
Defend my ground, and never think to yield;
For Justice stand, and ever true remain;
With Honesty both in my heart and mind;
To keep the Faith, and from my doubt abstain;
Through Franchise, may my deeds others remind;
In Loyalty, let I a stalwart be;
In Generosity, my heart to spread;
To show in deeds and words great Courtesy;
Shirking the base, to Nobly act instead;
And Humbly bow when deeds are brought to light;
When asked why I would want to be a Knight.