The Lay of Leikotha

From 11-20-2001

Leikotha, child of Haebrous
Stood proud upon the field,
And spake unto the crafter Dhere
The weapon she would wield
Her eye was blue as tropic sea
White-flecked with spindrift foam
Her hair hung long and golden-hued
Her high cheeks flecked with loam
A set of silver armor borne
To ward away the blows of man
To stay the magely power faced
Were rings once forged by old Velan
Grim-visaged was the noble dame
From training under great Illkarm
No man's servant was she born
A mighty chevaird, strong in arm
Stands of saffron veiled her eye
In nightspawn wind her hair blew wild
The sweat of practice pearled her skin
At hand stood Alysse, her child
The girl looked to her mother stound
Eyes bright and pale as Alb'arel
For to her young adoring eye
A goddess stalked the tiny dell

Smith Dhere with all his subtle might
Crafted silver burning bright
Ashbane by name to the old wright
And hardened then with chorizite

So armed, she joined the great crusade
The army sailed to west, away
And crossed the raging Jhenecaer
For four score and a dozen day
So proud they sailed from old Planae
Their banners snapping in the wind
Argent were their alloyed keels
With stalwart larchess bound within
The damask light of sunrise washed
The churning water in their wakes
And glinted merri-ly about
The polished fittings on their rakes
Aureate sails unfurled as one
To catch the rising vendavals
Bells sounded bright along the shore
And laymen filed from the halls
With one great voice the people hailed
To wish the ships quicksilver pace
Leikotha, standing on a prow
Sought in the crowd her child's face

The tempests tossed the mighty fleet
The starless waters bucked and reared
Like mountains rising, falling fast
As had the weather-sages feared
Slow-turning galleons groaned aloud
A-tremble in their sturdy bones
The valiant chevairds sweated fast
And tossed their well-worn knucklebones
They sang the old rounds as they flinched
At every creak and grumble
Their swords and fire useless now
To fight the dark seas' tumble
Leikotha sat alone these nights
And chanted songs of ancient days
She practiced on the storm-slick deck
To maintain fine-honed warrior ways
Yet more she thought of Alysse
The gentle center of a heart
Long-given to a chevaird's steel
She grieved each day they were apart

The army fell upon the shores
Of ancient Dericost so bleak
The decayed cities stilled the heart
The mountains rose with silvered peaks
Gelid brooded in the mists
And sent its armies to the coast
But only harried their advance
Withdrawing ‘fore the serried host
Before that fell and drear plateau
Both armies drew in lines abreast
And ‘fore the dawn of winter's morn
The light advanced to face the test
The living troops of the Ice Throne
Were scattered in the foredawn mists
As somnolent birds began to stir
The battle echoed through the mists

Leikotha's host slid through their foes
As gromnatross through smoke and air
She reached old brooding Gelid's feet
As fading haze laid her host bare
Then, revealed, the undead struck
And slew her company in wrath
Yet as her fellows turned and fled
Leikotha held the one clear path
Around her Ashbane drew a ring
Declaring ground she would defend
She beckoned then to clacking bones
The passage back she would forfend
The pestilencial foes advanced
And Ashbane spun and whirled about
The dead came on in blackened waves
But Leikotha bold prevented rout
Black tide advanced and then fell back
Like seas oppressing stony shore
Yet like the Rock of Sennaj stood
The chevaird who their assaults bore
High above the Sand Kings lurked
To watch the violent play below
And Nerash, mighty general, spake
Unlimbering his mighty bow
“Beautiful,” he nodded down
At Leikotha whirling ‘round her foes
He looked at her with eyes of lust
And aimed his black and mighty bow

The string did sing; the arrow flew
And darkness ran the chevaird through
A poison sliver pierced her breast
Old Nerash smiled in private jest
Her veins did burn with crawling fire
And staggering, she then retired
But Nerash high above worked charms
To keep her marked and safe from harm
“Alysse!” she called in pain
As agony caused knee to bend
Leikotha's host did pull her back
Yet Ashbane fell from limpened hands

Meantime, behind the shambling ranks
Two heroes crept in lightless danks
Heavy-bearded Jailne and the gold-eyed Alaidain
Soldier-king of Haebrous; enchantress-empress of Yalain

Alaidain alone returned
To join her soldiers on the field
The pools of night were gathering then
The wounded had begun to heal
The lesser undead fell like wheat
The greater slunk away
And vowed upon eternal life
They'd have revenge one day
The dead and twice-dead lay in heaps
Across the smoking, frosted grounds
The once were gathered in straight rows
The twice in flaming charnel mounds
“My lady,” spake Leikotha weakly
To the grieving Alaidain
“Did the dread lord speak to thee
Before sent into dark again?”
“Nay,” replied the Empress then
“No words from that fell beast”
Yet turned a worried weather eye
To the deep and darkening east

The army gathered then to leave;
Return across the frozen plains
Among them groaned the wounded souls
And Gelidites in sobbing train
But in the silvered mountain peaks
Above the cities so decayed
A fearsome squall brought heavy snow
Besieged, the army was delayed

One moonless night
As ill winds gusted
Nerash approached
A tent snow-dusted

Inside Leikotha tossed and rolled
In the grips of foul dream;
Her child held by rotted arms
Alysse facing undead screamed
The chevaird awoke with a brief howl
To face the face of which she'd dreamed
Nerash's rotted teeth did grin
In hollow sockets pale fire gleamed
“I love thee, pretty one,” he said
And laid his hands upon her
“I would have thee by my side
Until all ends in fire.”
Leikotha scrabbled for a sword
Yet none lay close at hand
And weakened by the poison bow
She fell before the damned
The camp awoke to find her gone
And not a trace was found
The snow withdrew, and so did they
Back to Planae bound

The proud chevaird was bound in chain
None know the torments that occured
To Leikotha at Nerash's hand
In darkness of the underworld

Three years hence a tattered ship
Reached port at Haebrean Aribel
From this wretched craft debarked
A figure wrapped in grey, and fell
Of all the greeters on the shore
None stood forth to meet her;
Though none saw face or skin beside
Her voice was woman or of girl
To blooming Dernehale she walked
And spoke to few along the road
Her way was paid with sparkling gems
And walked as if with heavy load
In blooming Dernehale she asked
For the Lady Orsinu, and begged those
In the fields if any of them knew
Of the child-ward kept in her safe repose
“Alysse?” the herdsmen shrugged
For they knew of her mother's fame
“Still in the lady's safe repose
For her Leikotha never came”
And the figure hurried on
With pain'ed gait and shuffling
To the Lady's verdant hold
Where grain stood softly rustling

Night had gathered up her skirts
When the figure did arrive
And ventured cautiously upon
The well-worn stonework drive
She sought not the iron gate
Nor any other entry there
But crept along the outer wall
Until she reached a casement fair
She entered into the great house
Moved silently along the hall
She ventured for the tower room
Her thin hand clutching at the wall
There within the tower room
Lay Alysse in sweet repose
A girl of thirteen seasons now
And blooming like the summer rose
The figure wept then, silently
A thin hand to her shadowed face
And looked upon Alysse sweet
Curled up in her sleeping lace
With a shaking, whispered voice
The figure sang to Alysse
An ancient Haebraen sleepsong crooned
To drive the fears of night away

But then the household guard did pass
Along his nightly rounds
And from Alysse's room he heard
The whispered, sobbing sounds
The door flung wide, he entered in
And saw the figure stading there
He drew his sword to slash and kill
But only sliced the empty air
The figure had evaded yet
In motion lost her long grey shroud
There disclosed by torchlight stood
A rotting woman, proud head bowed
The guard decried the vile thing
Not-dead reviled by his race
Alysse wakened in a fear
And shuddered at the rotting face
The woman glided for the sill
And turned for one last stare
“I love you,” she said to the girl
And leapt into the starless air

The house was in a row till dawn
Alysse clutching close beside
Her warder Lady Orsinu
Only the cloak was found outside
At the guard's description
Orsinu shook her head, dismayed
Yet would not let her men alert
The chevairds in Alaidain's pay
“There is a monster on the loose!”
The guard exclaimed in rage
Yet Orsinu bade him to stay
And spake words greatly sage;
“I will not have her so decried
So let it thus be known;
Despite an evil done to her
Leikotha Arenir came home”

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