Author's introduction: If there's something I'm not, it's a poet. I wrote this as a role playing exercise for a Dungeons and Dragons campaign I was taking part in. You guessed it, I was playing a Bard.
Narrative poetry isn't something I have much of an interest in but I had good fun writing this; by far the most interesting aspect for me was trying to write this in character. This is a retelling of our first quest; the slips in and out of different narrative perspectives are deliberate; details and emphasis are spun and exaggerated to play on the self-involved nature of the character. I tried not to obsess too much over clumsy lines, perfect rhymes, syllable count or structure, and kept the focus on the fun of the writing. It was written to be spoken rather than read, preferably with a lute (or in my case a ukulele) strumming along in the background!
The Ballad of the Delian Tomb
by Jack Grimchord, Renowned Bard
(A.K.A Liz Hudson)
A Bard with voice like sun-kissed wine
Sang cadent songs of love and time,
To a tavern packed with honest folk,
Hearty food and sweetest smoke.
But alas Dear Friends, little did we know
How soon happiness would turn to woe.
In he burst, in high distress,
“They’ve taken her! My daughter, Bess!
Snatching her right from her bed,
And into the night with her they fled.”
A wail rose arose, for grief they steeled,
For sure the maiden’s fate was sealed.
But from the bar a graven voice said
“Do not lose hope yet, she is not dead.”
A noble Palladin made this plea:
“I will go. Who is with me?”
Moved by the sweet maiden’s plight,
The Bard swore his oath to join the fight.
And then one by one began to stand,
Unlikely heroes to join the band.
Five companions strode forth to fight:
Bard, Thief, Druid, Warrior and Knight.
The trail was hot, the tracks were legion
And strange in this peaceful region;
A hoard of monstrous prints to follow
Over fields and under hollow.
But in the woods, their eyes betrayed,
The hideous tracks began to fade;
The heroes unbeknownst had strayed
Into an enchanted glade.
Their cheer and heart were almost spent
For they had lost the maiden’s scent.
Beneath darkling tree boughs they slipped,
In tangled nets of sleep were gripped.
But, whilst in despairing dreamthroes,
Aid came to our fledgling heroes:
And while swaddled in arms of night
Were visited by kindly sprite.
A dancing pig, the form it took,
From anguished dreams, the party shook.
“You must go East to find the child,”
And laid the blessing of the wild.
“I will watch until the day break,
And guard your dreams until you wake.”
They woke alone, the spirit gone,
The air was cold, the light was wan,
But hearts renewed with hope and wrath
They set out upon the Eastern path.
And to a hillside soon did come.
A hillside swarmed with goblin scum.
Outnumbered though they were against,
The battle for the hill commenced.
With ringing tones Bard struck them dumb,
Chords ringing out with mighty thrum;
In awe they stood and none too soon
His comrades did dispatch their doom.
And as battle smoke began to thin
Their thoughts turned to the girl within.
Dragging fallen villains from the trail,
They stripped them of their bloodied mail;
With a plan the Bard strode from the wood,
And at his behest the armour stood.
He sent it forth to scout the tomb
Commanded by his merry tune.
Out poured goblins with panicked yap
And sealed their fate! They sprang their trap!
The snap of lupine and steel jaws,
Goblins fell beneath the Druid’s claws.
On into gloom they then did creep,
That darkness where the nobles sleep.
The Rogue went first into dread lair,
Plucking poison arrows from the air.
And then they heard slip through the pall
The grimmest chant, a gruesome call.
To Gruumsh they did prepare to bless,
A maiden’s life, our bonny Bess!
The Bard's voice thundered through cavern fell,
And in the nick of time sent forth a spell.
As screams of pain began to swell,
The mighty Bard did Shaman quell!
Burst forth they did, with herald cry,
The minions were the first to die,
While hulking She-Orc turned to face
The Goblin King, with rage and grace.
They traded blows, and stalwart stood
The warrior of Orcish blood.
Fight hard she did, but standing tall
The Goblin King refused to fall.
So summoning his magic dire
The Bard pointed and unleashed his ire,
And at his final mocking cry
The brute did then concede to die.
They smote the lock with righteous rage
And Bess they drew forth from her cage,
To bare her, triumphant back,
To Father Ironhand’s homely shack.
But wait, Dear Friends, we are not ended
Palladin went on knee bended
To commune with slumbering knights
Begging blessings from the barrow-wights.
His voice rang out, a promise made
Then tumbled forth, the Edict Blade!
As whispers of the wights decree:
“It was your faith that was the key.”
And that is my heroic lai,
The Bard and friends did win the day!
And is that not a tale for kings?
Told in song on trembling strings?
A truer tale I never told,
Of heroes brave, with hearts of gold.
"But is it true?" I hear you cry!
I know it is, for the Bard was I.
And there you have my epic tune:
The Ballad of the Delian Tomb.
Liz has been waging a cunning campaign of procrastination for, well, her entire life. Her most recent schemes for avoiding completing a full length manuscript were a mid-life crisis Masters degree in Creative Writing and starting the Writing Voices website. She is now busy entertaining new strategies for continuing the cold war against her writing career... keep reading.
Cover image by Linus Sandvide via Unsplash