A town we pass through,
where my mind has wandered with my eyes,
I point out a circle
of charred stones. And Mithril,
‘Aye,’ ruins of the old-city guild, he says.
Standing there in place
where once their proud city-
father’s hall had
In the very olden days, cities came together, it seemed
when a Guild of common men
became quite critical, and
upon their chosen ground.
Claimed with each other, and their own favour’s tag.
Demanding they be seen.
Yet it would have been some time ago
this city had burnt down
to this small town. How? I asked.
‘Aye,’ said Mithril,
’it was once a very merry-place indeed.
And quite prosperous.
‘Once, it was even chosen, at great length,
to see the marriage of two young children.
Two houses’ last hopes.
‘It is quite lonely to see, how it must all end
The two old men of each family—Patriarch in their right;
merely clerk in their duties—
and come to the end of their lives,
had grown tired of their families’ strife.
Why? In histories’ tale I cannot tell you–
I could hazard perhaps… had they, enlightened with their age,
hoped to see their peace out-live an old-anger’d rage?
Or, mayhap, they had only wished to with their wills
accomplish something none other could!
‘Who knows? But in their driving lust to greet
in good manner, their like in other linage,
they’d agreed on one place for they to meet.
Peaceful, lonely but for their honour’s guard,
they chose this place here.
‘And, as is the want of such old tales
there were challenges to over-come along the way.
Not only in their planning, and their meetings of mind,
but in the hearts and gall of the other men within their genial ranks.
Some men, and men’s makers,
prefer to with their pain, rather than perhaps, to evade it.
‘This is a needless compromise to my telling. The Tale!
The Tale says he! It was difficult? Yes.
‘So then they came to meet. Each bringing with them
their carefully appointed number,
in sighs and concessions, as well as guards.
But oh, with them carrying unknown deception
within this brood of theirs’.
‘One side, thinking to omen’s land,
decided that cleansing-fire would do their deed.
And so set, to-with, to-light the city’s second fire of the night
—a burning sunset of ill-bearing
too still ill-suited to their father’s cares.
‘So quickly tales may fold to the hopes of twilit lives.
The flames leapt! And lapped!
Inside a bustling city in summer, the fire took hold quickly
burning through. Two old men of prestige—they had come
to understand one another—sat. Still. They smelled the smoke.
They conversed, and knew that within the other,
no blames were to be laid, but
no cause for celebration either.
Flames and their ominous orange glow,
grew against the smoke-cloud and ridden night.
When the heat they’d felt became unbearable, mutually,
they decided they must to adjourn.
So both set out the window—each thinking, in their part,
of an amorous youth, and such lusty escapes made.
‘Yet in this flight, the torch-bearers had made
their presence felt with first death—to quickly follow
With greater sorrow—and old man and his breath
caught it in his throat and dead.
‘No other pains could our other nameless father for our tale take,
but to mourn and stagger on.
‘Now into this story other players come righteous to the stage.
Full of anger and iron-clad might,
to sweep down upon this city.’ Mithril waved.
‘Crude, true, but no less than a similar focus of fortitude,
than the arsonists of fore, these men of courage for pain.
And there, on an unarmed elder, in throes of confusion and fear
in his grief—though so short a term,
the two men had made much an impact–
elder and killers came together and circled.
‘Aye, the city burnt as they fought,
as was their will.
‘It is said, that as the last of those two men—fraught
in their time with valour—saw he was to die
he said in an unaccustomed voice:
“You will not save your family this night!
with this night’s augury,
but will, rather, with your sword-arm raised in salute
damn them all–our loved ones.
They will fight and bicker amongst themselves
down unto the very leaves
of their respective seeds.
Where only a despicable marriage
like here so deceived
will bring them any ease to their prices.”
‘And with a last word, perhaps this, perhaps unrecorded,
they stabbed him through the throat, and watched him drown
to his own vice—a ‘bad trick and unmatched fault,’ as they laughed it.
‘His woe-filled story of their future bore them strange disease.
Both families suffered.
They tried to stem their disaster,
but could not match its fury with their mastery.
And so to their shame
they assumed different names, and places of birth.
Now, no ledger or history
speaks of them more.’
And what could I say when he was done?
We rode on in silence while I ruminated
on what personal lesson I may achieve through this tale.
Then we were in Court,
with one another, in hand and heart.
There are many tales of this Elven
this is only one of them.
But few do tell
of those rules,
held there in reign.
That no face of consequence
may show its unschooled countenance.
As there is a civility and serendipity
and cause of unexpected-happiness
in a carefully considered, and incongruent line
to mask and to face.
I considered such a Court
must fill ballrooms with its girth:
wizards, players of renown-
mirth, but purely, spilling out.
It is, however, of indeed but quite contradictory nature.
Small panels of nobles and of worthy gentle elves
speaking plainly—though no word they speak
within that same breath, may be repeated amongst themselves.
In that careful space, where no word can be allowed
to crassly chase itself, it must only ever
be a game of charades and silhouetted
shadow-plays that ever meets our lord-Emperor’s gaze.
To this we approached—in full-feathered flight–
a season of carnival grotesquerie.
Where outsiders may be amazed to see
that not only are masks donned
but also carefully chosen paths of dance
Time within time and time these same
steps pass by.
It is a ritual, where the poor strutting players
place layers of each man and line
upon their face,
their masks become a confusion,
where each layer represents another.
As only one member of a clan
may enter into his presence.
Thus, one plays their family to the room.
That is, very few figures grace, dance,
but pretend to be many more.
All except, the king’s own royal line,
he, and those of his,
fly apart and whole.
This is how they celebrate this season true.
And an Elven season may last many years.
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