Poem: Facing Death

The Addition:

Hands grabbed his hair, and jerked him to his feet.
His battered face, with bleeding wounds replete,
now drearily gazed at The Preachers four.
A spreading smile said he knew the score.

“Would you not need a friend to guide you there?”
his hoarse voice broke. “Tell me I’m in error.”
The monks had no answer to give their guest,
his betrayal was their only protest.

“I would lead the way,” he said with a sneer,
“But bound hand and foot I find that I fear
The rebel’s council will be short us five,
and the attack will leave not one alive.”

The Poem so far:

I. The Sacrifice

The prisoner, amid ghastly jailers,
walks with a head bent low by his failures.
He is a hub with heavy chains for spokes.
They rattle around his neck like a yoke.

Terminating each branch marches a guard.
Sometimes jerking his leash, one will retard
this dreary half-dead victor’s procession
to ask the soldier a mocking question.

“You who fear not dying, what say you now?”
No answer comes, for silence is his vow,
save he drops his head lower at the taunt.
They parade onward after this grim flaunt.

In times now passed, under weight of chain mail
—weightier chains when compared on a scale—
leading the charge, he outpaced mounted hosts,
but now stands he rooted as if a post.

Taking no more steps, the soldier then halts,
and his own head he finally exalts.
A spectator he spies amid the throng.
His powerful eyes hold the other long.

He wishes to flee, this man in the crowd,
but the prisoner’s stare has him there cowed.
The eyes will speak, seeing the lips will not.
The bright spheres know by what means they were caught.

Those jailers, servants of their master’s will,
with a cruel savagery that would kill
lesser men than this conquered warrior,
transform this scene to something gorier.

Waving the chains they compress around him,
and begin, each one with a nasty grin,
to set the oscillating binding’s dip
to strike the man, and his mortal flesh whip.

The blows fall harder, the blows fall faster,
all falling in an attempt to master
the rising spirit of this their captive,
his undead will animate and active.

Thunderclouds above shake the lofty sky,
and the weeping heavens bleed from on high,
washing the fresh cuts clean of deep red blood,
anointing the solider with a swift flood.

Weary, the prisoner drops to his knees,
and breaking his hold, the traitor he frees.
The man in the crowd turns from the dread fray;
his back toward the captive, he walks away.

The head once more falls, bowed and defeated.
The chains still, their objective completed.
His damp black locks spill over his eyes,
rainwater mixing with the tears he cries.

Onward, to the city’s edge they parade,
coming before Death’s gate of bleached bones made.
Absent porters, yet creaking hinges sing,
opening the realm of the Demon King.

The doors part, silencing the mocking crowds.
Persists only soft drops of the rainclouds.
Their pitter-patter drumming surrounds all,
covering the scene in the bleakest pall.

The guards and captive stop before the gate,
steeling their resolve to face this grim fate.
Wispy tendrils of smoke obscure their path.
From these coiling tails echoes a laugh.

Out of the billowing haze, they emerge,
their worn faces more befitting a dirge,
skeletal men, the animated dead.
Before their grisly presence the town fled.

They say not one word, nor make any sound,
their silent steps seem not to touch the ground.
Like phantoms, their rotting bodies progress,
an image rising mists further impress.

Cloaked by this spilling of pale vapid air,
poured from the portal to Death’s hungry lair,
these dead men’s numbers are thereby obscured,
the count unknown of the dread un-interred.

Wide eyed jailers, their iron cords lending,
each to a ghost gives metal chain’s ending.
From hard life graduates the prisoner
without the aid of an executioner.

Unlike the gloating jailers from before,
who’d jerk his leash to the city’s uproar,
these rotted men sought no spite nor malice;
one even bore to his lips a chalice.

Tasting the draught, he spat upon the ground.
The undead cup-bearer looked all around.
No one ever passed through Death’s gates alive,
but the prisoner refused to imbibe.

From the walled city’s center the bell tolls,
spelling the hour’s end given damned souls
to walk about this plane of mortal men
whose blood yet flows, who from sleep wake again.

At each bellowing call they recoil,
those specters sent to retrieve Death’s spoil.
Hurriedly, they forget their due process,
and usher the man past their gate’s dankness.

The chalice, in their hurry forsaken,
from a puddle of red wine is taken
up in the grasp of a cloaked wayfarer
who, by false blindness, made himself safer.

His face hidden under a blind man’s cowl
would otherwise be reckoned for The Owl.
This sometimes ally, in an alley’s shade,
considered the merits of this strange trade.

The hero of the free, taken to Death,
where never again would he draw a breath,
for Hades’ chalice, of legends foretold,
with power to destroy the new and old.

Wondered the thief, hardly counting the fee,
what powerful divination could be,
for one who knew the ways of this cup’s use.
A necromancer must he now produce.

II. The Rebel’s Council

At each step the cobblestone grows harder;
his aching feet wish to go no farther.
But, by unbreaking resolution spurred,
he overcomes his sharp pains undeterred.

A brewing storm whips the man’s coat about,
wind throwing him back like a giant’s shout.
But comes he on, leaning into the gale.
Against him mean whether could not prevail.

The fading sun, darkening grassy fields,
to the premature shadow of night yields.
The blowing squall struggles to stop his quest,
forcing him to seek out a place to rest.

Into a farmers hut, the man stumbles,
while outside the mighty thunder rumbles.
Around the table he finds four others
adorned in robes, an order of brothers.

The monastic quartet, in one motion,
turn their faceless hoods on the commotion.
Under shadows their identities hid;
Wordless, they neither welcome nor forbid.

The intruder, in the doorway standing,
leaves a way for the wind’s dismantling
gusts to discover each brother’s features.
In a moment he knew them: The Preachers.

Their heads, robbed of a robe’s hood a second,
felt their scalps’ chilly bareness, and reckoned
they were discovered by this invader;
with one accord they made themselves safer.

The four, as a body, leapt upon him,
and with nearby rope bound tightly his limbs.
Held fast by the cord, on the floor he lay.
Fearing himself lost, he began to pray.

“Peace, brothers,” he mournfully entreated.
“Or you’ll gain nothing of your maltreated
friend who now at your feet is bound with cords.
Loose these, and my tongue will give you rewards.”

The Preachers were silent while the wind raged,
and the door from its hinges disengaged.
The weathered wood flew into the small room,
landing beside their guest with a loud boom.

The furious heavens poured forth their wrath,
drowning the traveler in a rain bath.
From the open portal lightening’s brightness
overfilled the room in blinding whiteness.

The hut shook with the responding thunder,
unsettling the foundations under
this convenient clandestine dwelling place.
Then one looked upon their prisoner’s face.

And such are these four, you may wish to learn,
that what one can see all others discern.
Multiple bodies together played host,
obeying dictates from a single ghost.

“Friend?” says a Preacher, “Is that what you are?”
Another adds, “From the truth that is far.”
“Traitor,” condemns the third voice, “Deceiver.”
“Of our malice, you’ll be made receiver.”

As the fourth member said, so they all did.
Kicking the betrayer, they mocking bid:
“Friend, let us serve you well for that title.
Get up. Your sins are merely a trifle.”

The helpless man screamed, but found no mercy.
After many fruitless pleas then cursed he:
“You damned monsters, bitter inhuman things,
hold fast your vengeance; learn what good it brings.”

Ceasing pursuit of barbarous justice,
they let the man speak, whom they once trusted.
Groaning, he rolls himself onto his side,
and shifting sits up. Slowly, he confides:

“My course, interrupted by this weird storm,
was to a meeting where I would inform
The Seventy of a coming assault.”
This news produced the desired result.

Hands grabbed his hair, and jerked him to his feet.
His battered face, with bleeding wounds replete,
now drearily gazed at The Preachers four.
A spreading smile said he knew the score.

“Would you not need a friend to guide you there?”
his hoarse voice broke. “Tell me I’m in error.”
The monks had no answer to give their guest,
his betrayal was their only protest.

“I would lead the way,” he said with a sneer,
“But bound hand and foot I find that I fear
The rebel’s council will be short us five,
and the attack will leave not one alive.”

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