What ho, readers! I wrote something a little odd, so I thought I’d put it on Faerye.net, where the odd things go.
The Lay of the Wise Woman’s Fire
In a forest past a mountain
Where a gleaming birch stood bright,
Shrugged a tiny cottage doorway
Barely shutting out the night.
Low the coals burned in the pit there,
’Twixt walls pierced by draughts and cold
But the etched face of the bent crone
Showed a cunning smile, and bold.
“Come on in and sit, ye traveler!
By my dying fire you’ll tide
And hear a story or a puzzle,
A lie in which great truths can hide.”
In beside the soughing embers,
’Cross the fire from the old dame,
Lurched the third son of a warlord,
Fortune-seeker, Brait by name.
Long and far his path had ta’en him,
Or so it seemed to untried Brait,
Before the moonlit path had shown him
The way to this old woman’s gate.
“Fame do you seek, or glory?”
Asked the smiling glint-eyed crone.
“Bright-haired noblewomen’s daughters?
Magic? Treasure? Or a throne?”
“Any of these would I leap at!”
Said the boy, half-rising, awed.
“Sure you must know much, great wise one,
Sure the right path have I trod!”
“Tell me where my story takes me!
Give me clues to find my fate!
And your hands I’ll fill with silver,
After fortune makes me great!”
“Fortune’s fickle,” laughed the wise one.
“Many heroes have I seen…
Promised gold and promised silver
In the counting lose their sheen.
“Have you aught of honest value,
Son of mighty warlord’s halls?
For a treasure of your past, then,
I may share destiny’s call.”
Forth Brait drew his gleaming longsword,
Ruby-studded, rich in names.
“This I give to buy my future!”
Watchful Night heard him proclaim.
Through the dark he took her counsel,
Learned her riddles, drew her maps,
’Til one hour past the daybreak,
Brait strode forth to try his haps.
And when, one year hence, Brait returned there —
To the slope-roofed cottage old?
All he found was broken thatching,
Tumbled wall stones, fire cold.
For however dark the forest,
However wizened the dame may seem,
Not every old crone is a wise one —
Despite her knowing eyeballs’ gleam.
Rich the house and straight its timbers,
Warm and bright and great its fires!
Fat and happy on the sword’s price
Lives not a witch, but yes, a liar!