Gems 9.26

I hope you’re having a beautiful day. ♡
Here, in celebration is the first of seven ELS ¤ Gems ¤

Painting “Ghostwood” by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law,

A long time ago, or perhaps yesterday,

I heard a sad story of lovers betrayed —

  ‘twas a pity.

The story begins a short distance from here

In the time of full moon, in the Spring of the year

  near our city.

For during that time you can hear a strange call,

“Come one come all to the Pale Crab Ball

  near the river!”

“Tis a day to be merry, to dance and to sing,

“So come little crabs, let your pincers ring loudly

  “with rhythm!”

With eyestalks that wiggled, inside eyeballs jiggled,

On quick little legs, they skittered and zigged

  by the dozens.

And with them came one, a shy pale-crab lass,

Shell polished and sparkling, to this her first dance

  with her cousins.

Now off to the side, a band was beginning

With reed pipes and grass lutes, and shells for a’pinging.

   The dance started.

The pale crabs all rose up on multiple legs

And gracefully spun with each other and swayed

  so lighthearted.

While pincers were clacking along with the tune,

When no one was watching, slipped into the room

  some dark shadows.

On soft, fragrant mosses in sea-scented air,

As the company frolicked and danced, unaware

  apparitions arose.

And suddenly sinuous shapes intertwined,

And through the pale crabs in a serpentine line

  came rat dancers.

Their black coats a’gleaming and bright eyes alight,

They danced with cold passion on that humid night —

  slick romancers.

The shy pale crab lass at once stopped her dance.

She skittered behind a tall boulder first chance,

  heart fast beating.

None noticed her parting save one dancing shadow

Who slipped from the startled crabs’ number and followed

  her retreating.

Near the loud racing river, beside the great boulder,

The crab lass was startled to see looming over

   a tall darkness.

Retreating in flurry, her legs castanetas,

Her terror was total when he leaned close and whispered

  “Well met, lass.”

His black eyes appraised her with hungry intensity.

“Do you dare,” he asked her, “to come out and dance with me

  “this fair night?”

The crab lass’s fear changed at once to intrigue.

No threat was this shadow, she suddenly believed,

  no need for fright.

For she saw in his eyes more than hungry amusement.

His gaze was admiring, and in her bemusement

  she was flattered.

With all of her courage, she stopped her legs trembling.

She turned her fair eyestalks to him, not dissembling,

   and said, “Aye, sir.”

Then out from the boulder into the bright light,

Where the pale crabs whirled left and the rats circled right

  came the shy lass.

Every pale crab gasped and skittered aside.

The dark rats grinned slyly as the music subsided

  to silence.

The crab lass’s swain turned and stared at the band.

In minutes a rollicking ditty began

  for the couple.

Though no other dancer would dare join the two,

All watched with amazement their dancing debut —

  movements supple.

For no longer shy, she was graceful and sure,

And the touch of this rogue made her feel quite secure.

  It bewitched her.

Then suddenly out on legs skittering fast

Came the oldest pale crab, hissing “Unhand the lass;

  “I insist sir!”

The melody stopped, and in complete silence

Many dozens of eyes watched the tall rat and shy lass.

  None dared breathing.

The ancient old crab with a shell scarred and grey

Grabbed the shy crab lass to drag her away.

  He was seething.

The crab lass’s legs were clicking with terror,

And just as the old crab’s strong pincer ensnared her,

  she heard a sound.

Not daring to turn, nearly fainting with dread,

She was stunned to see the old crab fall, as dead

  upon the ground.

Unable to stop, then turn she did, slowly,

And there stood her partner, barred teeth, eyes unholy

  with fire.

A giant dark shadow, no longer bewitching,

His razor teeth bared and his long whiskers twitching

  beside her.

The shy pale-crab lass raised one pale pincer to shield her,

When a sneaky fast shadow streaked in, unconcealed,

  and impaled her.

A kobold stood proudly, his sword stained and dripping.

With a stupid wide grin, he proclaimed, nearly tripping,

  “Ise nailed her!”

For this very kobold the rat prince had befriended,

When fatally wounded, his life almost ended

  he had found him.

From then on the kobold swore always to serve him;

Feebleminded, and only his promise, unswerving,

  had bound him.

Now this same dark shadow, son of rivers and king

Stood dumbstruck and stared at this foul living thing —

  his betrayer.

“Healer!” he screamed as he knelt down beside the lass.

The kobold stood stupidly, his sword still held fast,

  senseless slayer.

Though he knew it too late, the rat raged against chance.

Then he heard her soft voice, “Thank ye sir, for the dance,”

  and she smiled.

His heart ripped asunder as she breathed her last.

Very gently he lowered her down to the grass,

  this sweet child.

He stood, gazing down, fists clenched, chest a’heaving,

Then through gritted teeth, looked around disbelieving

  in silence.

The dancers stood ’round, faces shocked and heartbroken.

Dark rats and pale crabs, bowed their heads, no word spoken,

  and mourned the lass.

The prince’s gaze finally fell on his foe.

No word did he speak, but the kob seemed to know

  he was doomed.

With a faltering bow, the sad slobbering creature

Looked up at his hero, his friend, and his teacher

  guilt consumed.

“Go from me now” said the rat, his voice bitter,

“For if ever I see your face near my river;

  you will die.”

The kob squealed in terror and fled his from wrath.

Then, the dark prince kneeled down, once more by the lass

  and he cried.

He looked at those gathered, the foolish and bravest.

He stood, one last bow and bitter smile he gave us

  then he disappeared.

I shall never forget for as long as live

How I mourned in the shadows where all night I hid,

  quite near.

I watched as the crabs and the rats slipped away

And it’s said that they live there in peace to this day,

  and I recall

That never again have they seen the dark prince.

‘Tis true, none I asked ever saw his face since

  the last, and the saddest,

    Pale Crab Ball.

-Sara Michele O’Sullivan, Elanthian Love Songs. First performed by Kitoko Nennet in Rivers Rest on Feastday, day 26 of the month of Lormesta, in the year 5102

Elanthian Love Songs: A Bard’s Tale by Sara Michele O’Sullivan (Niki Flow) was published on February 14, 2016. All profits go to the support of

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