As night settled, like a wounded bird,
Upon the port of old Korbaal,
The cries and songs of the revelling crews
Were mingled with the screams of gulls,
The roisters came from surrounding domains
Of the land-locked Sea of Sighs,
And, now and then, a nervous glance
Of someone from the Outside.
Midsummer’s Eve, so shaman believe,
Is a time of portent and strife,
It was on that night, in a tavern bright,
That a legend came to life.
The smoke-filled room boomed with songs,
All competing to the fore,
The slavers’ captain and his ribald crew
Won with a mighty roar.
In snugs were merchants nodding
Or shaking heads for a deal,
Sailors bold and doxies brassy
Frolicked with noisy zeal,
Thieves’ cant was mumbled
Beneath ever shifting eyes…
And those that sat and waited
For fate to recognise.
A fighting woman, with ebon skin,
Suit of chain and a glorious smile,
Sat opposite her companion,
An old man who glanced all the while
At the street door of the tavern
With candid anticipation,
The greying hair and jet black beard,
The eyes that sought explanation.
He bade her drain her goblet
With some urgency in his voice,
The flash of her smile told him
That she knew she had a choice…
But she finished her drink and, with a wink,
Gave his beard a tug!
Her laughter brought him to his feet
And he turned with an embarrassed shrug.
The door then burst open
And in strode a figure of fame,
The Dread Knight of Vanghoul,
Or Ismatz by name,
His dull black armour radiated
A darker kind of light,
The cold red glow within his helm
Was the sacrifice of his spite.
Within the tavern some stared
And conversations were lost,
As if of stone they looked at him,
Their senses were accost
By the sight of one so hateful,
There, with them, in that room…
The man had butchered many
And laughed, as they met their doom.
The slavers’ captain rose drunkenly
And spat loudly on the floor,
His crew fingered their hardware,
Set their shoulders and their jaws.
Save the man and the fighter woman,
Everyone else shrank back,
The Dread Knight unsheathed his sword,
The blade of which glowed black.
“Good Captain,” rasped the sibilant tones,
“If I read you right,
Do not move or else they’ll be
One less captain, on the sea, tonight.”
“There’s twenty of us” the slaver sneered
“And we’re the hardest on the sea.
What right has a worm like you
To talk so, to one such as me?”
“I’m not a worm and neither are you
Else you’d have no bones to crack.”
His cynical laugh, they faced each other,
Then there came an audible snap…
The captain gasped, clutched his neck
And fell writhing to the floor,
He choked and kicked, he twitched two times
And then he moved no more.
Whether it was drink, fear or hate
That spurred the crew to action…
It would have helped if one had survived
To offer an explanation!
They charged at the Dead Knight
Who laughed with terrible glee,
As he laid about and hacked to bits
Those rovers of the sea.
Above the pitch of battle
A swirling scream arose,
It was the dark blade that sang
As it smote its deadly blows.
The door was smashed open,
The tavern emptied into the street,
Panic-stricken people ran
On panic-stricken feet.
Within the tavern the smell of gore
Hung heavy in the air,
Just three sailors left to dispatch
And they weren’t going anywhere!
With a flash, from the hilt of the sword,
Flew three crackling balls of light,
That smashed into the men who joined
Their mates in the timeless quiet.
The old man and the woman stood
And witnessed those awful deeds,
The Dread Knight turned to them and said,
“Well, did you succeed?
Have you brought me that which I yearn
Or have you empty hands?”
The old man sighed, “Oh we got it
But it won’t be part of your plans.”
“Don’t be funny with me, you’ve seen
What happens to those who try,
Or does your sense of humour
Allow you to laugh as you die?”
“More a sense of justice,”
The old man was not looking so old,
“l’m not too sure of your motives
And quite frankly, you leave me cold.
“Please don’t take offence
If I to talk to you this way,
It’s just that this item is worth
More than you can ever pay!”
“You dare try to trick me!” Ismatz howled,
“My blade will drink your soul.”
“It won’t be mine” smiled the other,
“It’s already been sold!”
The woman now walked slowly forward,
Drawing out her long, slender sword,
“I hope this won’t take too long,
Quite frankly I’m a little bored.”
This made Ismatz scream the more,
His rage was at its peak,
He pointed his blade at the maid
And started to speak.
Like lightning she plucked at her belt
And threw a phial at his head,
The glass smashed, concentration broke,
The spell remained unsaid,
Instead he screamed as the liquid burned
Within his armoured helm,
In his torment he dropped his sword
As the pain sought to overwhelm.
The man then stepped forward
Holding a gem of pulsating green,
His incantations rose and rose
Until the Dread Knight screamed,
Who then sank to the floor, broken,
The rattled breath was his last,
Many would be gladdened to know
That this evil was passed.
Those customers brave enough to return,
When it had all gone quiet,
Were confronted by a sight so odd
That some ran back in fright…
Apart from smashed furniture,
Dead sailors and a bloody lake,
Was the body of the Dread Knight
But his head was like that of a snake!
The man’s name was Leeshar
And Nanji that of the maid,
It was these two who risked all
And took the Dread Knight’s blade,
It was these two who helped turn the tide
And showed the brave,
And it was these two, and their actions,
Of which legends are made.
I wrote this about 25 years ago. The opening lines -
“As night settled, like a wounded bird,
Upon the port of old Korbaal,”
- came out of the ether and the rest just flowed. D’nD was the inspiration and, yes, there is more – quite a bit more. Let me know if you’d like to read the rest. I’ll probably produce it episodically.