The Lay of Skathen Nord [cont’d]
Canto I [cont’d]
“The Corvus never sails for free.
As captain I make sure of this.
So what can you do to pay the fee
To hire me, my crew, and ship?”
“I offer ingots forged of silver
To voyage cross the Strait of Caul.
Much more than even you could pilfer
From royal ships in doldrums stalled.”
Raven took umbrage with that claim.
She scowled and said, “You surely jest.
My skill in stealing brought gold and fame.
I steal it all ‘cause I’m the best.”
“But leave that now and answer this,
Where are the silver bars you own?
The payment first, I must insist.
I won’t accept credit or loans.”
“You’ll wait until we cross the sea.
I cannot say where I have the bars.
The fellows here would steal your fee
Before we had a chance to start.
“And since I know your reputation
You cannot double-cross me yet
If I withhold the information
Until I’m safe to repay the debt.”
Raven cursed but asked in turn,
“But why should I trust you to pay?
How can I know your word’s worth
If you show no cash to back your claim?”
A table close at hand could hear
The conversation about rewards.
The greedy left their cups of beer
To steal the silver of Skathen Nord.
A sallow youth with filed teeth,
A sharp and nasty grin he showed.
“I hear you have some money, chief.
You’d best to hand us all your gold.”
But Skathen ignored the beardless boy.
“I’ll give you half upon the morn
To assure you I’d not stoop to ploys.
Once I’m across the rest is yours.”
Thus Skathen and Raven shook their hands,
Confirming a deal on even terms,
But the callow thug again demanded,
“The money now, you mangy cur.”
Nord ignored the slight on his pate
And said no word about the threat
But raised an axe to demonstrate
The youth had made a losing bet.
The battleaxe called Batwing crashed
Upon the table in front of Nord.
He rested his hand on the axe’s haft
Ready to give the boy his reward.
The greedy and senseless drew their blades
To bathe in blood and earn their keep.
So Skathen rose to seal their fate
And send them to eternal sleeps.
The youth could only sling his sword
One time before he was disarmed.
Skathen dodged the slash with scorn
And cleft the limb and shoulder apart.
He reeled and spewed a gout of blood,
The first crimson river to run.
In shock he fell and shook in a puddle
Beside his limb, holding his stump.
The crowd unfazed by the casualty
Pushed past the boy to fight.
They raised their knives to battle with he
Who owned the treasure they’d kill to find.