“A lecherous sunrise flaunted itself over a flatulent sea, ripping the obsidian bodice of night asunder with its rapacious fingers of gold, thus exposing her dusky bosom to the dawn’s ogling stare.”
Thus I declaimed those famed words of Stud Uval, one of the greatest poets and writers ever to dwell in Port Naain. For numberless centuries, every ten years, the poets of this city have celebrated our liberation from tyranny. In all candour one could number the centuries but I confess I have forgotten how many have passed since the event we celebrate.
When the last Castellan of the fallen Dreen Dynasty took his forces south to join in the wars to pick a successor, the great keep in Port Naain, the ‘Old King’s Shackles’ was occupied by lesser men. Petty tyrants all of them, but not necessarily warriors. Warriors they could hire. Many of our Tyrants were men who made their money in trade, in the Law, or as usurers. This provided them with wealth which brought fighting men flocking to their standard. Each would fall, torn down by his successor, and each would be a lesser man than the one who had gone before. Thus eventually it was Braggan Dorkwind who sat uneasily on the great seat of the Castellans.
By profession a lawyer, by nature a pedant, he too eventually fell, slain by one of his own concubines, and his followers sold the keep to the city and we had no more tyrants.
But poets celebrate the fall because we were there! The woman who slew Braggan Dorkwind and displayed his head from the roof of the keep so all knew he was no more, was Amelia Cols. A lady who was beautiful, intelligent, literate, and a poet in her own right.
Dorkwind had, barely a year before his timely demise, issued an edict. In it he bound poetry in chains, cruelly restricting the use of metaphor, allegory, and analogy. As a magistrate told one poet who he ordered led away for execution, “It is perfectly proper to describe the sea as ‘wine dark’; provided one can then produce wine and sea of the same dark colour.
Stud Uval was without doubt the greatest of his generation. He wrote not merely poetry but painted, wrote novels and had a fine satirical wit. Thus and so he was understandably hated by those lesser minds who were in power. But for a year he was hidden by his friends, until he was finally betrayed to the constables by a wine merchant who quibbled over a fifty dreg debt.
Stud Uval was dragged in chains in front of Dorkwind who judged him in person. Dorkwind sent for the manuscript Uval was working on at the time of his arrest. Passages were read out in court by a prosecutor who could barely control his incontinent fury.
Dorkwind not merely sentenced Uval to death but also gave instructions that he should be skinned and his skin used to bind his finished manuscript. Dorkwind then declared that this manuscript would be kept for all time to show the depths to which literature had sunk.
Uval was led away for execution. Yet, purely by chance, there is still a letter extant which was written by Braggan Dorkwind. I included it here. Admittedly some of the letter has obviously been lost, but still, it shows the literary capability of the man who aspired to judge the greatest of us all.
“…under no circumstances shall the writer of this letter have any liability, whether in contract, tort (including negligence), strict liability, other legal theory, or breach of warranty for: (i) any lost profits; (ii) any loss or replacement of documents or materials lost or damaged; (iii) consequential, special, punitive, incidental or indirect damages arising out of this agreement, (iv) consequential, special, punitive, incidental or indirect damages arising out of any inaccuracy or loss incurred as a result of this letter; even if the writer is not merely wrong but is recklessly so and has been advised of the possibility of such damages.”
Three days after Uval was executed, Dorkwind was slain by Amelia Cols and both Poetry and Port Naain regained their freedom. Amelia Cols rescued the book bound in the skin of Stud Uval and every ten years since that day, a great poet will take the book in his or her hands and read the opening sentence to their assembled peers. Then each poet present will join in the ritual excoriation of Braggan Dorkwind. Finally in solemn procession we will make our way to the assumed site of Dorkwind’s grave and there a bucket of slops and substances both disgusting and unmentionable will be poured over the grave.
And today I was that poet, and held in my own hands that ancient volume and read those hallowed words. For I am a poet, and poets remember.
Believe it or not, this Webster chap has written another damned book and expects me to pimp it for him!
When you arrive home after a long absence, there’s always a few things that need sorting out. Sometimes they can be more complicated than you initially thought.
But at least there are opportunities for an honest man to make money, with maidens to be rescued and tyrants slain, or was it the other way about.
And who uses energy carbines any more? Military fashions have moved on.
“You are Storth, ex-pilot and thief.”
“I have done rather more than that.” Storth sounded genuinely aggrieved.
“Yes but this is meant to be an identity check, not a charge sheet. We also felt mercenary, smuggler and thief verged on the tautological.”
“Oh, well I’m Storth.”
“And you are Hutton, wife of Storth, just a thief.”
“You could call me ‘Hutton, wife of Storth, housewife and thief’ if it makes it any better for your records.”