one in a billion (siege) wrote,
one in a billion

The Power of Light

(Inspired by this comment by zanda_myrande. "Realta" is a Gaelic name meaning "Star", but in Italian the word means "reality". I had no idea this poem would be so epically long!)

Realta stood atop Bleak Dome in the Meadow Lee.
It had taken days of riding and marching to arrive.
Her horse was near foundered;
She'd have trouble leaving again.

But she was here, on the blasted top,
Just within the ring
Of scarred dirt and stone
That marked the hill with its name.

The stone altar stood bare,
Its granite cleft in four,
Surface weathered and pitted,
Its edges softened slightly by time.

The scars marking streams of innocent blood
Were profound in its surface,
As if the lighting that had struck
At the final desecration had etched the liquid in.

Realta was here at last,
As she had been told
By the priest and his holy vision.
She would cleanse this place of its sin.

How, she did not know.
She was told only to sleep here one night,
Hold vigil the next.
She would learn what to do.

It was the ninth day in,
The sun was high,
Realta's horse at browse.
His hoof was improving with care.

Realta herself had been
Practicing her figures,
Her sword cutting air
Like a crowd of demon-rode men.

There was a voice,
Soft as sunlight in her ear.
"Realta," it said;
Then no more.

She had not spoken her name while there,
Nor was it borne upon her.
She knew she had been called,
But by whom?

The god whom she served
Held no sway here.
She was his anchor
In this darkened place.

So Realta knelt with her sword,
In her padded garments,
In the dust,
And prayed.

She had learned many prayers
When the priests were still teaching.
She had learned the best prayer
Was a willing heart, open to her Lord.

Her Lord heard.
She was pushed to her feet,
Toward her armor and tent.
"Yes, Sir," she said as she dressed.

She knelt again,
Now before the altar.
She prayed for the souls
Taken in violence's name.

There was a touch to her shoulder
Like soft air,
Like the sun made gentle,
Like an emotion that had no name.

She had known that touch before,
And startled not:
A horse well-trained to war.
Her own horse nickered to its friend.

"Lady, will you feast a beggar?"
She smiled. Her Lord was rich with prosperity
But loved humility,
And generous gifts.

"I brought little," she said,
"But I can share."
"Good," was the answer,
"It will be enough."

Realta took up her dinner,
Blessed it as she was taught,
And divided it in two.
To the angel she offered half.

Her visitor smiled,
And was gone with a word:
"Tonight, Beloved."
Tonight, the wild things come.

Realta scattered the god's half
To the grasses,
And feasted, knowing
She must fast.

That night she held vigil,
Unsure of what exactly would come.
The moon rose, just a crescent,
Its horn-tips sharp in the sky.

Kneeling was hard,
But she was not old.
With her sword on her knee
She knelt, watched and prayed.

The moon set, and Realta waited.
There was a shuffle nearby,
And a feeling like poison
Gripping her belly.

Realta prayed as she was taught,
The prayer for forgiveness
And release from imprisonment,
Offering it up for the stolen souls.

The shuffling sounds drew ever closer.
There was a pressure,
Soft in her heart.
Realta finished and stood to face them.

The sky had gone cloudy,
No light could be seen
But their eyes glimmered softly,
Like wormwood or faefire.

Realta spoke softly,
As she would to a squirrel,
Saying, "Hello! Have you come very far?
I am Realta, from the land south and east."

One gave a hiss,
Another a snarl.
Answers were heard further back.
Closer they came.

The woman saw shapes now,
And knew them from art
In the books of teaching
That the priests had shown her.

These were the soul-eaters,
The snatchers of spirits
Who took innocents away
And buried them in the dark.

Realta lifted her eyes to the clouded sky,
Her sword she set firmly, its point in the ground.
Her voice became choked, though,
Their spiritual poison overwhelming her strength.

Augoma! was all
That her mind could emit.
It was enough.
The angel came back.

Sudden, soft light trickled down in slow rays
From somewhere beyond the sky.
The soul-eaters blinked and began to shrink back,
Though Realta knew light was not what they feared.

The scent of sandalwood,
Strong and brisk with freshness,
Filled the air.
The poison broke, and Realta breathed again.

She tried lifting her sword,
But was pushed into place,
Guarding the altar
As her god took it back.

Then came a rumble from beyond the burnt ring,
A shuddering thump,
A falling tree's crash.
Realta thought of her horse.

The light grew stronger,
And amber and myrrh
Joined the incense upon the air.
In the light was a being of purpose -- and of joy.

She had not seen where he came from,
As she had not seen how he left.
He was there as sudden as earlier absence.
She knew him, though, and laughed.

The soul-eaters gabbered like gossips at that,
Then pointed at the holy one.
They seemed to shrink as if melting now,
Their bodies fading into smallness and then fully away.

The light was as strong as full-noon day.
The rumbles and thumping were coming close.
As one, the two warriors turned from the dark
And laid hands upon the red-stained stone.

Together they chanted: The Blessing of Life,
The Prayer for Redemption,
The Offering for Sin,
The Office of Hours.

The angel lifted his hand.
"Realta, your knife."
She gave him the handle.
His finger was cut in an instant.

One drop of blood fell.
There was a crash as of stone falling upon the dirt,
And the rumbling ended.
All was quiet.

"Be not afraid,"
The angel said to the dark.
"We have come to release you,
Not for harm, but for love."

"Come into the light,"
The warrior said to the dark.
"We desire to clothe you,
And feed you good things."

One wisp of a figure
Stepped into the radiance.
Her body was thin,
Maybe ten at the most.

There was cloth from the angel,
And a kiss from Realta,
And a bowl of warm stew from--
Somewhere kind.

Then by the dozen
The victims came forth,
Old and young, every gender,
Every race and class too.

A whole kitchen full of
Grandmotherly women
And a feast-hall as well
Came forth in the light,

And every soul fed,
Every torn body seen to,
Every shame put away,
Every fear given seat.

When sunlight touched
The altar stone,
Realta wavered.
The vision did, too.

One dark beast stood alone at the dawn,
One foot in the circle,
Its mighty teeth bared,
Its claws ready to strike.

Realta lifted her hand,
Held it out to the monster.
"Will you join us, good one?
Will you feast with us here?"

It struck, and her blood
Splattered out on the stone.
Her mind quickly cleared,
Like the light of sunrise.

"I offer again, as I have been taught:
Will you feast in our hall,
In Augoma's name?"
The beast narrowed its eyes, and shrank back.

Realta waited.
Then she knew.
This was the one who had murdered them all.
This was the man who had buried them here.

She lifted her sword, and high held the point,
Then called out her war-cry
Like the wild thing she was:
"For Augoma and Light!"

The light shone upon it,
And the beast fell away:
It was seen, it was known,
And its heart was ashamed.

Then a curious fear took it further aback:
Acceptance was here!
Who could accept its foul deeds?
Its soul was forfeit!

The darkness rose up
And swallowed him whole,
Then faded away like the morning's soft fog,
Leaving only old bones in the dawn.

Realta knelt by the bones,
And read an old man,
Arthritic but strong,
Who had held a bright sword of his own.

She wept for him slow,
Then half-blinded by tears
Turned to the altar-

The granite was whole.

Its surface was smooth,
Polished and dark.
Veins of gold and silver
Traced letters inside:

"Whosoever believes
In Love and in Light
Let him come and receive
My feast of delight."
Tags: poetry, realta and daingean
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