• Published 13th Jul 2012
  • 4,436 Views, 155 Comments

The Six Deeds of Harmony - Defoloce

A poem of a knight's quest to earn love. Written in iambic pentameter.

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The Deed of Fealty

──────THE DEED OF FEALTY──────

bexia, the weather’d home of goats,
Was naught but moors enshrouded far in mists
And lonely rocks which ancient mountains set
When fire made earth and all the world was young.

It met with Wingless Heron on the dawn
Which marked third day from Anchormeet's depart,
And thereupon the knight and princess stepped
Them down to meet the barren blacken’d sand.

So payment full was taken at the shore,
Sea Nettle bowing low along with crew,
For rare it was that royalty would heave
Across the seas as wingless moveth so.

A weeded path set them to Caprahall,
In which was sat a duke in bypast days,
Yet long-placed years erodes on wisdom’s word
And puts in stead a bleak and specter’d thought.

The knight and princess made a course anon
Far inland where no trees had wont to stand.
Familiar soil wish’d to keep them fast,
And from the fens were they pulled close to earth.

“Too soft and welcoming, this peatèd ground!”
Said knight as hard was sought to keep his pace.
“My princess, fain would I have thee take up
To sky and soil not thy gilded hooves.”

A chide from Love gave lightness to his fret:
“No milksop, I, as so in Anchormeet,
Though truly be there strife in this traverse.
Let’s keep the course and give our best account.“

The lowlands of the coast gave soon to hills
And watching mountains, sentinel in mist,
Which gave horizons teeth to chew the sky
As rocks abound now drew them to a path.

“I bid thee soft; 'tis plain that we are watched,”
Said low the knight to his companion fair.
“No saddle hence could still my standing coat,
Nor gentle words relieve uneasy thoughts.”

“The mist grows thicker, lo, as we do speak!”
Said soft Cadenza with her lower’d ears,
“The mist be not of earth, yet 'tis of sky?
What sorceress could wright a fog so fell?”

“A chill, too, as ye pass up tae the mount,”
Came presently a gruff and scoring voice,
“Ba grace ye be nae hairm’d, yet still in chance
Ere nicht befawen there mey be bluid tae loose.”

Awhirl was looked by both of the ponies
With only rock espied to claim the words.
“A goat now speaks! Yet pray, my lord, we see
Thee not, and so would have thee shown in turn.”

“A laird be A? Anon A’ll hae a laugh
Ahint the duke’s auld ear has had a fill!
A see ye, full on, aye, a stallion stark
And ane as fair and pink as sunrise-blush.”

A halfscore goats gave form out from the mist
And at their head stood tall a fearsome bill.
Around his neck a hunting-horn was lash’d,
Betwixt his eyes was set a crossèd scar.

“A tribute do ye hae fer oor duke’s wont?
We’re nae hospitable in practice, yet
Sic rarity do others come a-call
That wirds of visitors mey be well come.”

The knight put forward smart a single hoof
And brought low a somber face before the goat.
“Confess me that I’ve naught to offer up
Save food and audience from yonder borne.”

The goat did snort and paw but once aground.
“It mey be ‘nough tae keep yer heid attach’d
Whaur ears can heark and een can still behold,
But it be fer the duke tae claim his just.”

They now were under charge, two ducal guests,
And haste were given escort to the mount.
The bill who bore three horns stood at the van,
With all the silent others at each side.

The air brought cold, as promised, as they crept
Upon snow-trails so faint they chanced to be
But shared illusion looked-for by those such
Whose hooves ere then knew only grass and cloud.

A fall of snow beset them as they climbed;
Though gentle 'twas, and silent, still it put
A freeze unto the armour of the knight,
Yet Love’s own rose-gold crown would brook no frost.

In thinning air, at last, they came to be
Before a well-appointed great hall’s door.
The walls were wrought from season’d lumber-cut,
The roof from strongly-woven highland hemp.

About them was a shiv’ring hamlet, stowed
Away by palisade from winter’s bite.
Some bills and nans were tending larders’ stocks,
But most were hid away to hearths and beds.

The three-horn goat, reflective, preen’d his beard.
“Keep mind, ma buck, and speak but smartlike wirds;
Guid humour nou is rarer still a guest
Tae him than thee, so mark this coonsel well!”

They entered then to respite from the slight
And clawing edge of wind at mountain’s foot.
A close and haggard court were found within
As though to wring out warmth from pride alone.

The duke himself was sejant at the back
Upon a dais, which, in its surround,
Appointments were of silk and selfsame wool,
Come as it had from Caprahall’s own backs.

“Ma laird, A’ve come up from the wet
A-gift with hoofèd kindred put ashore
From land o’ Sun and Muin, two gentle kind
A mark them. Nou, tae bid they gie their names—”

“We bid them nae!” the duke was stood to shout.
“Yairn we hae, yet yairns we need in these,
Oor days of cauld and hated perfidy.
A name be nae sore needed whaur A sit.”

“And perfidy be wherefore we are come,”
Was quick the knight’s words. “Verily, I am
Put to right whate’er upsets a friend,
Impeding as it would fair Harmony.”

“A be nae kid, indeed, A hae ma horns!
So think yeself tae be the foremaist knicht
Tae issue from Equestria’s lang reach?
The Sun, She e’er middles in oor times!”

The knight made rear and trod the air a breath.
“Illusions I keep not, even in rest!
I have erewhile sold out that precious scape
Which giveth gladness unto tired hearts.
A deep’ning bitterness doth issue more
Than knights from Canterlot, as I behold
A riven duchy, frozen in its pride.
Thou speakest ‘perfidy’, but tell me here
Who perfidy’s own wounds are made to bear!
Be it thee, or art thou but the knife
Which cuts a bleeding furrow from the land
And makes thy subjects then to live so rent,
So cloven as thy hooves? Then what of guilt,
And peoples who would have a mended hurt
Made out of sundry quarrels entertain’d?”

The court went blanch in fear for what they saw
As such affront that would cost one his blood
And life beyond, perhaps, an humours kept
In balance poor, as winter’s custom held.

“Ye stallion stood, in bold and proodlike air!
Ye seekst tae make me wroth! Hou fatuous,
Yet, aye, A ken cælestial designs
Upon thy candour, lorn as it may be.

“Ibexia be rent by partisans,
A faction led by ma ain arms-brither.
They dwall upon the summit high abuin
Whilst daftlike he pretends towards ma croun.”

The knight kept wit, betraying not his thoughts.
“Shall I to them, and parley for thy half?
Though hardy be the goat-folk of thy land,
A winter even there would slay them all.”

The duke spat out, and turned his back to them.
“Tae come doon off it nou would slay him too,
As A’d hae his ain heid on palisade,
Yet sooth be with ye in yer clear designs.
Go furth, an that is whit ye wish,
And speak tae him, but all tae meet ye there
Will scorn and anger be, so as A mark.
A wish nae bluid, but bluid A’ll sooner hae
Than brou of mine withoot a croun tae keep.”

“So chill seeps in and out, as it must be,”
Then gentle spake the knight as he stepp’d back.
“The bitter biting moves from coat to chest
And stirs a heart which ought to resteth there.”

He gave depart, with Love, and there they made
Ascent the mountainside, with none along.
Cadenza stayed Her close to the knight’s side
And in the shroud of cold gave tutelage.

“Thou thinkst I know it not, the common cause,”
Said She, “in being as I am, a goddess true,
Made from the stuff of stars, ere memories,
And elevated up by ponykind,
Yet verily I know the lurch of class
And envy that one has on others borne.
I know thy love—i’faith, I know all loves
And bitterness, like cold, to high are look’d,
An upswept wind of malcontent below.”

“Dost thou?” said sharp the knight, his mane gone hard
From that strange winter which the goats had wrought.
“My love is for a noblemare, and I,
Too base and earthen for her sneering dam,
Am given colours only in secret,
Her eyes beset with guilt as it is done.
Yet wherefore, I so ask, is the sky seen
As higher still than earth in earthly things?
Her magic, there, or thine, I have no need:
An we be wed, would I still be her shame?
Would I go to her courts, or she to mine,
Her grace to flag within low company?”

The Princess of all Love looked through the white
To see Ibexia’s assaulted top.
“An these six deeds be seen out to their ends,
No nobler knight than thee would court attend.”

As one of earth, the knight gave good account
And proved himself too hardy for the climb
To turn him back and seek out Fealty
Where wings might master winds and horns the cold.

The summit pushed away the cutting gale
And showed to them a glit’ring spire of snow
Which there within was set a threshold slight,
Cut from the side o’er epochs long forgot.

The knight look’d to his single company.
“No creature, neigh, not even one from goats
Could long abide in bareness to the wild
Such as we find it here. Let us approach.”

They stole into the cavern, where out-doors
Could not assail their coats or frost their manes.
The passage in was close and bore them down,
Their heads made low like pilgrims to a shrine.

The cavern-room to which they came at last
Held there a score of stain’d and wretchèd goats,
Their horns cut from their heads, down to the last,
No spirit to be seen in eyes or deed.

A mighty bill, far larger than the lot,
Stood to and fix’d the knight’s eyes to his own.
“Seek not well come, ye pony, so A say
The Sun sends ye insteid of Her ain light!”

The knight befirm’d his hooves, his quarter kept.
“The Sun is here a’ready, but thou seest
It not, for mistrust turns it now away.
It shines—now goats must wish to be shined ‘pon.”

Cadenza kept Her tongue, but a young doe
Took long Her countenance and then stepp’d forth
To place herself betwixt the knight and bill.
She made a curtsy facing the princess.

“A peace, ma laird, A pray that ye find peace!
Afore us be the highness true of Love
Hersel, the brichtest star of morn there be!
Tae see a prayer so answered, we be bless’d!”

The goddess bid her rise with Her own hoof,
Her smile to melt the bill’s own anger down.
“I’faith, my friends, I am that selfsame Love
Attending now to thee to see cares eased.”

The bill gave deference but to the mare.
“And whit of this’un here, who’s fashion’d naught
Of presences but challenge-wirds
A’m like to answer smart, aye, whit of him?”

The knight look’d strong to him and raised his head.
“Thou art the other general, I see,
And object of the careless tempest spewn
As speech in harden’d hearts when they be wronged.”

Princess Cadenza made to speak before
More harshness then could fly ‘twixt hardened minds.
“He be my knight, though not mine to command;
An Fealty is gone, he shall restore.”

The bill looked to the doe with careful eyes,
A chilling heat or heatèd chill was there,
In equal parts of love and judgement plain
To all who dote and lament o’er the same.

“A maiden then did truly pray her heart
Tae Goddess Muin, the Princess of the Nicht
That She would send a pony oot tae we
Who dwyne in close and new uncertainty.
O faur ben pony, thirlt tae serve the Sky,
Yer bonnie princess names ye Her ain knicht,
So ye must tilt, or nae knicht can ye be.
Ye meet me, or ye bring nae Fealty
Tae here whaur wirds canna be made tae turn
A lust for pouër tae humility.”

“An I defeat,” said knight, “then speak it plain
The matters which gave rise to bitter brows.
An thou defeatest, then we shall away
And leave Ibexia to what may pass.”

The two turned then a-piece to their own side
And bid a colour there to champion.
Cadenza gave a ribbon from Her mane,
The doe a kerchief from about her neck.

“I see thy cares,” low whispered then the knight,
“Yet this be sole and solely tournament;
The selfsame reason Thou wouldst colours bear
Be now wherefore I tilt to honour them.”

The contest, as it was, could but be held
Out-doors where still the angry winter raged.
The duelists there were girt a blunted lance
Atop two saddles worn from honest use.

The bill pawed once and ducked his hornless head.
“A be pretender tae Ibexia,
A tilt nou fer ma claim and colours these,
Tae ken an ye be whit oor hearts doth need.”

The knight made bow and raised him up again.
“I be a knight of fair Equestria,
I tilt now for my love, and Love Herself,
To give out Fealty and earn my weal.”

The charge and strike came true and swift upon
Each other, bardings split and shatter’d points set fly
Out into boiling skies, for-ever gone.
The goat was on his side, and so had lost.

The knight stood over him with raisèd hoof.
“And dost thou yield?” spake he in such a voice
Princess Cadenza had not erewhile heard,
A met a-brooking none but martial thought.
“Aye, verily, A yield,” said gruff the bill.
“A name yer colours championed, so haste
Us back inby whaur we can rest us doon
And A’ll unfold the measure of oor tale.”

“In turn I name thy colours honoured well,
Upheld in chivalry and valour’d state.”
The ponies then made follow after him
As storms did quicken there behind their path.

They there within reposed and took comfort
Whilst all the host of goats convened a-round
To hear how their grim leader might recount
The way the goat-lands had come under strife.

“‘Twas the deith of oor last duke tae set it so,
The duchess of oor land, she fell tae ill.
No hardness did a soul e’er hold tae her.
A canny-nanny, aye, by all accoont!”

The goats in the surround gave bleating laughs
At that small lightness that the bill had brought
In both the heavy den within their hearts
And that which gave them shelter from the ice.

“The croun, upon a deith, is brought up high
Tae then await a new brou ‘pon tae sit.
Tae croun a duke, one sheds both horns as sic
Fer that be but the way a goat can pass
On throu yon passageway, as ye hae come.
A, ready strong, did shed ma horns so that
The croun could be kept safe abuin whilst we
Saw oot the mourning-time and gave oor tears.
Alas that she’d nae issue tae give reign!
Ma comrade, then, he named hissel the duke
And made me tae go fetch the croun from here,
As he did coont hissel the wiser one,
Though A, i’faith, be of same rank as he.
A did ascend, but nae tae bring a croun!
With force of will he vied, for he be virr,
And banished all ma faithful here tae me.
So here we languish'd whilst we plied oor woe
And ye are come at last, guid providence,
Tae ease us in oor hunger and oor want.
They fear him, aye, they dare no harmful act
Tae swift remuive him from his ill-kept throne!
Ye must unseat him, pony, by the sword.”

With shake of mane, the knight refused at once.
“But neigh! I swore to Sun and Moon alike
I would not put a blade to any foe.
The lady’s prayer was Fealty, not blood.”

The bill was steel’d, his eyes gone cold again.
“Nae Fealty, there, but sole ambition be
What within him dwalleth in these days.
He’d hence ken naught but steel tae soothe his will!“

“There beeth deeds apart from war and words,”
Said soft the knight as Love gave gentle looks.
“That court be one of ill ease and of fear,
And thence can cometh such no wholesome rule.”

The knight then bid the doe whom Moon favoured
To come with him and Love down back the mount
That there his deed of Fealty might set
Ibexia to course on warmer days.

The bill was also bid to come and stand
Before his grim usurper with no crown
Between them. In this way the knight did put
His plan to practice, trusting to their good.

Though sour’d on this, the bill knew privilege
So given to a victor. He agreed
To move in step behind and trust to him
And Goddess Love the rule of days ahead.

Through burning cold the four returned to him
To stand before two generals’ great ire.
They fain would have commenced a battle there
If not for Love’s petition to their hearts.

“O sirs, I do call out to threaded wits
And patience that thou hast for matters thus.
My knight doth mean to see this storm abate
And great Ibexia with a warm throne.”

“Whit farce be this, are we tae duel it here?”
Said strong the elder, backing to the throne.
“Withoot the croun, A hae nae pouer, true,
But swift A’d gore this ain whom mercy tests!”

The knight put out his game for all to hear:
“This mission be of Fealty, i’faith,
And now we’ll see what Fealty there is
Within these bills, and with what it might lay.
I call for tablets two, of scribing clay,
With one then given a pretender each.
A faithful from each court will bear witness
To scribing of the other side’s response,
Yet hidden from us all beside. And so,
They then will turn and face and show their mark:
A square affirms their claim, a line doth yield.
If both should yield, then the crown shall pass
To whosoever maiden sent the prayer
Beseeching such attention from the Moon
That She would send to thee one of Her knights.
If both should press, then Chaos will but win,
Ibexia here left to freeze and die
In winters everlasting, sent by Him.”

“And whaurfore should we honour each other
Instead of bringing it tae bluid at last
Where ain’s a heid to hold a croun on up
And t’ither missing his tae do the same?”

Cadenza’s mane then glowed but for a beat
Of all the hearts assembled in witness:
“Chaos doth smile long upon this land;
A duke so won is duke of but a tomb.”

The looming weight of His disharmony
Then pressed upon them all. The tablets came,
And there the two pretenders turned their backs
And made their marks apiece on rubbing-clay.

The doe bore witness to the elder, and
One of his faction did the same in turn.
It was but moments ere the game was done
And then in unison they turn’d about.

“Thou now shalt show thy marks,” cried out the knight,
“And let the spoils of this game decide
Who thinks the more or same of Fealty.”
And so, the generals put down their lots.

Cadenza reared and whinnied out in joy.
“O pages, pages! Hie thee out and seek
What maiden called up to the Sky in care
And bring her hither, so she may be crowned!”

A nanny bustled in to Caprahall:
“Ma lairds, ma lairds, the storm be dith’rin’ oot!
The sky a’ready shows oot blue and clear,
The muntain-peak nou soon will kythe itsel!”

A festive uproar burst out from the goats
And even the two generals. Anon,
The hornless on the summit wended down
And with them came the crown, the tidings good.

Two days passed then in healing festival,
With hurts set out to heal and hearts to warm
As strong did too the sky and harden’d ground
The season now allowed its glad retreat.

The maiden was an inward-seeming doe
Who was of grace unlooked-for ‘mongst them all,
A quiet wisdom seemed to gild her thoughts,
Her speech at once a clear and humble song.

On third day she was there the duchess crowned,
The generals both pledging Fealty
In confidence to serve Ibexia.
And, after coronation, the knight did speak:

“My gentle goat-folk, here be given thee
What Harmony would have us all protect.
Though yea, my princesses be powerful,
They are the servants of Equestria,
The peoples put before their rulers fair.
Thou canst not rule or be ruled well in fear,
Regret or lamentation for what be.
Hold not thy Fealty to any one,
But to the land thou sharest in company.
This doe—her thoughts were for Ibexia,
Not for this goat or that one’s will to rule.
No comfort here was stowed up for her thoughts;
Such was her desperation that she brought
Concerns immortal to the Sun and Moon.
No thought she gave ambition, or of gain,
Just peace and Harmony to thee enthrall.
The generals who vied them for the crown
Forgot their love of country, but ‘twas there,
A blade of grass left with’ring in the frost.
They could recall it, though, when they were pressed
To choose between that waxing want and how
The sacrifice of Fealty would doom
Their land and all her lives within.
So follow them, I bid thee—do the same.”

The elder general addressed the court.
“A new bluid-line begins this selfsame day!
Oor duchess nou will need oor service such
Tae ready fer a springtime thaw anon!“

The revelry was fading from the ears
Of two small ponies walking east to chase
The sunrise and another deed
Which lay with those bereft of Harmony.

A humour found Cadenza, and ere long
She close beheld the knight with quiet muse.
The gaze of mares did quick besot the knight;
He flushed as he at last Her purpose asked.

“O knight, a game! ‘Tis how their hope was brought!
Is Harmony now set upon caprice
And chance of lots or other fancies hence?
If generals would both stand firm, what then?“

The knight brought warmth into a sullen soul
With such a smile that She Herself was put
A-back within its perfect clarity,
A nascent, strange potential saw her there.

“Neigh, verily, I ken the met of those
Who serve and those to service given without strife.
They would not ever have both dug in pikes
In knowing such a price would come to call.
Neigh, better that the other then should reign
Than precious fleeing days of bitter will
In power, there to die with all his love.
In Fealty be trust, and they forgot
The trust of comrades, brothers of the sword,
I promise thee, O princess, as they look’d
Upon those earthen tablets, giving weight
To their apiece desires, they recalled:
‘The other shareth love, so I will love.
The other wisheth peace, so I make peace.’
And like Thy presence in a looking-glass,
They saw within themselves the other goat
Ere lures of power beckon’d him to stray
To madd’ning thoughts of golden heavy crowns.
Now there anew their duty’s set once more:
To ease the weight of power on the wise
And gentle heart of goodly lands,
And be the breastplate where within it beats.
In Fealty be trust, as I of them.“

And, after days, the eyries came with dawn.
It was the Greifland, home of griffin-folk,
A stern and proud race of the beaten sky,
Long pony-friends and enemies in turn.

The get of Chaos weakened on their thoughts,
Which turned instead to levity and hope,
The rain by which all Harmony doth bud
Into the bonds of friendship and of love.

Author's Note:

Many of you have probably noticed here that the knight's "game" is nothing more than a simple Prisoner's Dilemma intended to force the two generals to remember where their true loyalties are. I used the Prisoner's Dilemma because I am bad at thinking up games.

The proper names "Ibexia" and "Caprahall" are, of course, references to the words ibex and capra used in goat taxonomy.