A death-barge washed up on the shores of the North lands,
It carried a strange manly form,
His eyes were of jade, and we watched him, afraid,
As he waded in toward the shore.
The folk tune for Raqefet
He was lean and ill fed, half starved, almost dead,
"Former King," some called him -- they scorned.
But the darkbeast he'd fight, the North tribes unite,
By Kuln-Holn we were duly forewarned.
Ara-Karn, former lord, spoke nary a word,
His countenance stern and opaque,
Only later we learned, from the dead he'd returned
To fight for the North people's sake.
Some watched in alarm, as he beat fierce Gen-Karn,
The two men fought hand to hand.
Then the tribes chose him chief, but it gave no relief,
For a grand campaign had he planned.
The Northernmost tribes have offered a bribe,
To their King a princess they present.
Ara-Karn won't consent, gives anger his vent,
Then retires for the night and weeps in his tent.
Ara-Karn led wild bands down from North lands
In order to pillage and loot,
They raped and they killed, their coffers they filled,
While he watched them, distant and mute.
We men of the South are soft to the touch,
Our skin is less rough than a North woman's cheek;
The men of the North are rude and uncouth,
We Southerners idle and weak.
Some say Ara-Karn is no Northern man,
But one of our own who took up their cause.
Some say Ara-Karn is as large as a barn,
Seven score old with strange beastly claws.
Allissal, Allissal, Divine Queen of the South,
Fought for the right to fight back.
With the council she'd plead: "It is time for brave deeds,
"To stop the retreat and begin the attack."
The Queen's pride and joy, her sweet golden boy,
He will set out to battle her foes.
Her flesh and her blood, he's the son of a god,
Or so the official tale goes.
But the boy's still a youth and cannot, forsooth,
By law wield scepter or rod.
He may ride out to war with a score and no more,
So his guardians decreed with a nod.
Elnavis, Elnavis, a youth and a novice,
Knew not of his one true birthright,
Did not think it was odd that his father, the god,
Never came to his aid in the fight.
It seems that our Queen, when a girl of fifteen,
Had a roll in the hay with a stablehand, yet!
It meant nothing to her, cast him off as a cur,
But her he could never forget.
The boy who was lean, his eyes flecked with green,
Loved her true and would not forget.
But not so Allissal, a mistake we would all
In due time come to regret.
Ara-Karn, Ara-Karn, caused us much harm
Pursuing the girl of his dreams,
While somewhere out there, his child and his heir
Fought for our right to be free.
A year now has passed, since Elnavis rode last
With a handful of lads for to tame the North lands.
Lost his helmet and shield, the which he'd never yield,
Unless he were vanquished and slain.
The Priestess most high has given last rites
To guide well his ghost on oblivion's tack,
A great barge they burned; his soul's in an urn.
Sacrilege should he ever come back.
The great Allissal wept for her son,
Then returned to the palace a desolate mother.
In her bed she was laid by a strange man of jade
Who gave comfort to her as a lover.
There's a spy in our van; he foils all our plans,
But the Queen smiles again, and we do what we can.
Merchant towns fall to barbarians in thrall.
Allissal puts her trust in a strange green-eyed man.
Back from the North boldly rides forth
Elnavis with rough warrior band.
He's come back to find the hordes at the door,
But he's now of an age to command.
"Mother, my dear, never fear, I am here.
"So bring out the mead and let fly the banners."
The men laugh at her and guzzle their beer,
Rough warrior lads have no manners.
Allissal paled a shade. To her dear son, she said:
"How dare you come back from the dead?!
"I am now in command and your sword I demand,
"While the enemy pounds at our gate."
"I wept for you once, but now that you've come,
"Elnavis, you come back too late.
"Why not before? Now I need you no more.
"Elnavis, why did you wait?"
Elnavis fought well, then stopped for a spell,
After more than a day at a shrine.
He was battered and bruised and a little confused,
And drank to his fill potioned wine.
Elnavis, Elnavis, a fool and a novice,
Was slain by the old high priestess.
A soul laid to rest has no right to exist.
Spake the gods: "He must die, nothing less."
Elnavis, who fought hard, died lamb to the slaughter,
Dam and sire made a martyr of him.
The lovers still quarrel and bloody the war.
The hope for our people is dim.
Ara-Karn, Allissal, may you both rot in hell!
Your people you two have betrayed.
For ruler should never by feeling for lover
Let action or judgment be swayed.
The streets are blood red, filled with dying and dead,
But the Queen knows the truth, knows the jaded man's ruse,
And when next they meet, one will know a defeat.
What issue will this day produce?
Elnavis, Elnavis, we need you, Elnavis.
Your blood cries out and we long to obey.
But who now will rule us? Guide us, console us.
Elnavis, show us the way!
(c) 1987, 2009 Aya Katz
This poem, based on the books by Adam Corby, The Former King and The Divine Queen, was first published in 1987 in the anthology called A Child Possessed.
It can be sung to the folk tune Raqefet.