I've always enjoyed Dungeons & Dragons and the Fighting Fantasy series of gamebooks written by Ian Livingstone & Steve Jackson. I loved the latter so much that last year I paid homage to the series by converting four of them into linear narratives, astonished and humbled when these authors (including the wonderful Jonathan Green) offered to post them as Fan Fiction on their website. Copyright of course rests with these amazing writers, my tributes to be found at:
Which brings us to Witches & Warlocks, my poem written when I was ploughing my way through the fantasy fare of Tolkien, Feist, Jordan, Jones, McKenna and others. I suppose it's best described as a dramatic monologue, its interior conversation with Melda & Kyron prefiguring Invocation To A Muse whilst nodding to other precursors of mine, Rudyard Kipling and John Donne.
My hand (and eventually body) that melts is also an idea revisited with more graphic detail in later poem of mine, Perdition, whilst the Henry II reference sets me up nicely for my stage play dissertation on that king's incursion into Ireland which I completed on my MA in Creative Writing, 2005.
Like all writers, these initial germinations become sapling and then full-fledged tree as I mature so that I, as everyone who has ever put pen to page, hold my own themes and preoccupations which I return to in different guise. Anyway, here's the poem...
What vile sorcery is this?
Tap, tap, tap, the broil of fetid brew,
Poisons burn, potions bubble,
Cauldrons hot, steaming troub...egad!
My damned fingers, scalded by the stew of death.
Agh! My flesh, oozing, dripping, hissing on the floor.
I must be gone. I must be out before that blasted bell
Of fate seals mine. The door, the stairs,
Away and out to pastures new.
Oh, must I fill the dreaded minute
With sixty seconds worth of distance run,
Else give all up and walk as faith decrees,
Far, far, if only knows, where God's own yolk place strain
Upon each other, where their heavenly song
Cantankerous more than the devils's fare,
Sings in my ears, and I strum the strings of my viola
Now broke for all time. Why does this mockery,
This travesty of all that is wrong lark in my head
Even now when the pain in my fingers means
I can play no longer, never again, for dint
Of tampering with that warlock's fiendish evil?
No, how will I do when he asks me,
When he sits cup in hand
Awaiting the sounds of my piece
And I hold my half-hand before him?
I must find Melda, and quick, before that bell.
What, there she is, by the deuce I don't believe it.
Well, here goes.
Careful, woman, with your prodding.
No, hold your tongue lest I tell Kyron the truth.
Ah! The stop to trammel your lips,
If I were you I'd bite them one and two.
Yes, I know Melda, I know everything,
Just apply the herb and be quiet.
Good, that soothes the pain, there, the flesh returns,
Fingering, stretching skin and vein,
What magic Melda, what magic!
More, more, bring me the bowl,
By Kyron's own charms he'll know not the difference.
Ladling, dripping, this medicinal purchase
Buys more than life itself. He'll not know.
Why do you smile? No thought of wrong I hope,
No seek to wager with me.
My truth masks yours by tenfold, Melda,
What would you have me do?
Fall from grace. With you. You would fail afore the judge.
Kyron would stopper your bottle of life and let you drown in the waste,
So take the herb and administer.
No, not my good hand, I'd not have that cindered.
The bell! The bell. Damn, it tolls, I must be gone.
Quick, wait, look out. Agh! My hand.
Fool, what are you doing? Take the bowl.
That's right, slowly, over there. Good. Now listen.
Listen to the bell. Ask not for whom it tolls Melda.
Come on. No struggle, our Kyron must see you as one.
My Lord, twas an accident,
Melda's cat tipped the scales upon me.
Yes, indeed, of justice. Ha-ha!
No, I never tampered with your work. My hand was not lost.
Look, my lord, I will play you a tune, a soulful ditty.
Where's my viola? Enough! Already? What lies is she telling?
Your brews, my meddling. Oh, will no one rid me of this turbulent witch?
Search her chamber, ransack her room,
She practises your art, Kyron,
She seeks to usurp your place. Don't you know?
Ah, well, what of it? What will you do?
Now wait, please don't, my lord, no!
What's this? Melda hovering next to me above t his vat of gulch.
Where's Kyron? What? Levitation ends when I speak. How so? Agh!
My feet, eaten by the turgid filth, flowing fast away,
Bringing down my legs and waist behind.
No, my vitals gone, consumed entire without the joy of the feast!
My hips and chest and arms, the pain, the pain!
That blasted hand has gone again Melda, you wretch.
I'll have you in the otherworld for this.
My chin, my mouth bespeaks the fire in my belly, and the...
Froth, froth, gurgle, gurgle. Gone.