Of Crimson and Carmine
By: Mathonwy Posted on: 1st May 2018.
The gods and I've an understanding:
I shut my mouth and they ignore
my grosser sins and quite longstanding
lack of faith (which They abhor).
But here I would the Bard invoke
(per custom of the common folk):
may quill not fail nor tongue misspeak,
nor rhyming couplets lose mystique --
allow this poem's purpose to
fly straight on and hit the narrow
target, as a master arrow
from darkbow fired hits target true.
Scarlatti, guide my words as well
as daemons torture down in Hell.
And Evil here is worth the mention,
and all that glitters isn't gold,
but one young serpent's apprehension
rankles her -- her brow runs cold
(though this she never would admit).
Her strength is in her golden wit,
while opposite her, argent bright,
shines the Dawnspear's Hand of Light.
Now gold's the brighter, purer ore,
but silver polished shines intense --
the Argent Hand here stands, immense,
worth less by ounce but weighing more.
The golden serpent stands her ground,
though disadvantaged pound for pound.
A flash of gold, a lucky toss,
and dextrous wit secures the place
the fighting, dying, win or loss,
the saving grace or saving face,
will soon transpire, soon commence
before most all of Sapience.
She hesitates -- then, manner steeled,
she deigns to choose the geyser field.
The hellish heat assaults the mind,
and gold retains its shine in heat
while silver flickers, incomplete --
but yet, the two are now resigned
to skill, and all that skill can prove.
The golden serpent makes her move.
And in that heat, the gold reflects
the light as one quite brilliant beam,
and shadows form as she directs
that point of gold amidst the steam.
Yet here her golden wit has erred,
for her opponent came prepared --
he's backed the Light for all his days
and won't fall now before its ways.
His falcon dives and draws her guard,
while, sword in hand, he takes his aim
and lashes out and strikes her frame
and drives his shield at her throat hard.
Wreathed in steam and crowned in light,
he takes the first round of the fight.
His second swing is for her head,
but thinking fast, she draws her blade,
and, bleeding, spits the blood, light red,
into his face to win the trade.
The Argent Hand, sure of his game,
now must swiftly fix his aim,
and in his blindness he adjusts
as she with dagger aims her thrust.
Sensing that the upper hand
was not yet hers, she redirects
and rolls away, and he connects
with naught but air and then with land.
She moves behind a wall of spray
as yet again he joins the fray.
Now stepping lightly 'midst the cracks,
she calculates -- through mist she bounds,
as in the air the falcon tracks
her every movement on the ground.
A venomed dagger now she grips,
and venomed fangs and venomed lips
reflect the venom in her glare.
Yet judging from his vacant stare
he's supplicating to his Gods --
he turns his focus from his source
of strength and lashes out with force.
Renewed of vigour, evening odds,
he takes his wound with poise and grace...
and smashes her across the face.
And from her lips arcs blood a-shine,
as bright as Mhaldor's arms in gules.
A loss at this stage could define
her Western legacy in duels.
Seconds pass, but feel like years,
and muted, distant, sound the cheers
of Easterners now, growing bold,
who'd take the argent over gold.
Her blood runs slowly -- losing strength --
frustration growing -- what to say --
her chance at winning ebbs away --
humililation, drawn at length...
she musn't let her focus crack!
She'd have to take a different tack.
The old hymns now he starts reciting,
his wounds are staunched, his movements fine.
She moves now to evade the fighting,
but caught his shield deep in her spine.
She limps away, a moment late,
to pause and to recuperate.
And from her wrist, a golden flash,
and in her hand a golden lash
she slowly whirls with growing ardor.
And from the haze, a thunderclap
as 'round his neck the whip does wrap
and him she'd crown an argent martyr.
He lays a rite with fervent plea,
and grabs the lash, and yanks it free.
His platitudes drive her reprisal,
yet as he charges, she stands still,
and closer still draws his arrival,
as patiently she plans the kill.
Implacable, he sets his stride,
yet she, aglimmer, steps aside
with all the grace of siren-song
(which, well-receiv'd by captive throng,
now begins to sing her praise)
and catches arm about his shoulder,
deliv'ring poison to the soldier.
His poise now shattered, eyes aglaze,
as now the crowd erupts with sound
and Argent Hand falls toward the ground.
The crowd, comprising many factions,
forgets itself and roars its praise
at this insurgent serpent's actions
and graceful and ensnaring ways:
like nairat ink she wears, beguiling
those who'd stood before, unsmiling --
Severian ere Nik'las returned,
ere Nikolas his fame had earned.
She flicks her wrist, this golden lass,
and golden lash 'round neck has wrapped --
the Argent Hand tries to adapt
and crush her shine beneath his mass.
Quiet spreads throughout the field
as neither seems prepared to yield.
He throws his weight against her hold--
a tonne's a tonne in ore or down --
as silver struggles 'gainst the gold
(though both are mud-stained sanguine brown).
The serpent, driven here to rage
that's quite unlike those of her age,
a flash of fang and golden glimmer
as lash draws tighter, argent dimmer.
He operates on instinct, hurt,
as every muscle on its own
contracts, expands -- yet, like a stone
the end result: he lies inert.
A flash of gold, the sound of gore --
she takes her prize with joyous roar.
The crowd, to show their won respect,
roars on and on their accolades.
Among the factions, the effect
is evident; their lustre fades
as Easterners through rite take leave.
The golden serpent begs reprieve,
and clutches yet her bleeding side.
The Westerners, bursting with pride,
raucously depart with style,
to celebrate her victory
and justified theology.
Quietly, with just a smile,
I leave to nurse a pair of drinks,
transparent as the ancient sphinx.
And later on, the gath'ring thins,
and later still, she must defend,
and fights once more, and wins again,
though I could not those fights attend.
And mired in tasks numerical,
I miss the sight, chimerical,
of crimson-glad, a golden vision,
come back with a sublime precision,
administer a great defeat,
slink back into crowd between
the throngs of people, and, unseen,
vanish, silent as cat's feet.
I finish up my work and raise
my eyes, and who should catch my gaze,
but Aristata's golden child!
She'd slipped inside and, unawares,
had caught me turned away, and smiled
as I sat toiling in this chair.
Surprise to me, I could but ponder
at the portent: oft she wanders
while, in the dank and reddish haze
I often work by candle's rays.
She closes distance -- I stand, calm,
yet offer her a puzzled stare.
A crimson ribbon, with gentle care,
she presses firmly in my palm.
And then she's gone, and I'm to wonder
at all my notions torn asunder.
Nothing more I can disclose,
and nothing more is worth the mention --
and so I shall, to its repose,
subject this poem with best intention,
else on and on I'd likely ramble
and with its quality I'd gamble
(a victim of the many years
that crown my head like nettling spears,
each with a painful recollection).
The choice before me: close the distance,
or edit into non-existance,
harshly judge, avoid reflection...
Here more is written than you know:
this much I offer, Stheno.