Beyond the castle juts a pier of stone.
Stand at its basalt peak. Let eyes drift down:
The swirling vapours hide a gulf unknown.
To this abyss, the old king threw the crown.
Those were the days of wealth, and distant war,
But choices still were hard, and rule was pain.
The weary monarch cried at last “No more!”,
Fled duty and the throne, and joined the slain.
But now the war has reached these ancient walls.
The keep is held — by squabbling, shattered men.
Three blood-stained generals eye the royal halls.
Where father leaped, now daughter climbs again.
Above the stones, her parachute spreads wide …
The gates behind her crack; foes storm inside.
The echoes fade, and all the world is still.
The blood of dragons smoulders in the dust.
Like a stray star, a single angel’s quill
floats slowly down, gliding from gust to gust.
A thunderous sunset finally hides its glow
behind a cracked horizon. All is black.
A dry leaf rustles. Quiet chitters grow
And furtively, the noise of night comes back.
A faint flame flares. A lantern springs to life.
Dew glistens on cold hands and empty eyes.
Light plays on shields and faces raw with strife;
What names and goals they had, this field denies.
The light is snuffed. The quiet footsteps fade.
From this destruction, nothing shall be made.
"A hero died today." These words alone
Were posted on the door of Daltham's Inn.
That was enough to make the tale known,
So often has the news of late come in.
Once did the Dalthams serve a well-worn road
Where travellers, traders, priests and troops would pass,
And often stop to set aside their load;
To sleep, or dine, or sip an honest glass.
But now a dragon soars above these hills
And asks a toll that few but lords could pay.
With flesh of those too poor, its larder fills.
Now only fools and slayers come this way.
Today they lost the last they'd hoped could win;
Tomorrow, armed, the staff will leave the inn.
Ten years the iron tower stood alone,
To spew its smoke and ash and earthy waste,
Scour the fields and flocks to sand and bone,
And make a Stygian vale of this place.
Today the band of heroes broke their fast
On liquid courage, liver, pep, and grit;
Now they will strive within the pillar vast,
And leave in triumph; or fall seeking it.
In time a team will come to match the test,
Pass every pitfall thirty stories hold,
Enraged and tired, meet the building's best,
And still succeed.
Then metal will unfold:
A rose of steel, cut by a master's hand,
Shown to perfection in a ruined land.