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collected sonnets zhandivar The Raven King Keeper
Wild Flowers

The Keeper Of Her Soul

Mount Merabus guards the Western Lands
A king, he cuts the sky with icy peak
His roots run down into the plains
His height is more than men can tame
He is the guardian of the East

The wild lands lie in between
Where mountains end and plains begin
And in those lands live mountain men
Who graze their goats
Between the mountain’s toes

Below the heights of Mount Merabus
Well above the fertile plain
Not far from where the great road runs
The mountain men had built a village
They called it Perrawanda

The fairest maid of all dwelt there
In royal courts a maid so fair
Might well be wooed by royalty
But not in Perrawanda
Leona was her name

Her figure held a woman’s curves
Her lips were soft and cherry red
Her skin was smooth as sweetened cream
Her every feature was precise
And she did smile enticingly

One day there came a handsome prince
Who rode along the royal road
With all his princely retinue
While riding by the village Perrawanda
The prince’s horse lost a shoe

The captain of the color guard
Said he had an answer to this fix
“There’s a smithy not too far from here
In a village not too far from here
You may shoe your horse in Perrawanda.”

The princely retinue turned aside
Left the great road for the low road
Made their way to Perrawanda
Where never a prince had come before
Made their way to where the smithy stood

The villagers flocked to see
These strangers dressed in finery
Among them stood the maid Leona
As wont to look as all the rest
The prince espied her there

Fair Leona caught the prince’s eye
Caught his eye and caught his heart
In all the cities of the realm
There was no fairer maid than fair Leona
He would have, he thought, the maid Leona

The contriving prince spoke to his retinue
To his retinue and the folk of Perrawanda
The fall of evening is drawing nigh
So we shall stay here overnight
And I shall give a party

The village folk were simple folk
They were amazed and they were awed
By all the courtly entertainments
Of the party that the prince set forth
They enjoyed it though

A canopy was raised upon the village green
And cooks prepared their favorite foods
A raid was made upon the prince’s stores
For exotic spices and esoterica
The prince broke out his store of wine

Everyone ate and everyone drank
And everyone danced as well
The village fiddler set the tune
And the color guard was his band
Everyone partied into the night

Fair Leona partied most of all
Her face was flushed with food and drink
Her hair flew wild as she danced
She was intoxicated with delight
She was the prince’s favored guest

Soft he spoke with silken words
Plied her well with sweetened wine
Gave to her his fine attention
And danced a wild dance with her
And thus he won fair Leona

When morning came as morning does
The prince and fair Leona said goodbye
They’d loved and having loved they knew
This was a love that could not be
For he was a prince and she was a village maid

The handsome prince and his retinue
Rode away from Perrawanda
They returned to their royal tasks
That evening but a pleasant memory
And one quite soon forgot

Within the village Perrawanda
Leona found that passion leaves
Traces not alone in memory
She had loved a handsome prince
And soon would be a mother

She did not rue her pregnancy
She did not bow her head in shame
She had loved and treasured love
And carried now the fruit of love
She would bear a prince’s child

A nine month moment in the time of life
From passion’s lust to childbirth
Nine months to make a human life
From her womb there came a baby girl
Leona died in childbirth

The villagers vowed to raise the girl
As though she were a prince’s child
They had loved the fair Leona
They swore to love her child as well
They named the girl Lutetia

The child was a strange one
She lived with kin and yet she lived alone
She didn’t feel the love that others gave her
And loved instead the mother she never knew
She saw visions others didn’t see

She grew to be a beauty
The image of her mother and yet more fair
The village lads, they would have wooed her
Save that her manner clearly said
She didn’t want the love of men

One day a wizard rode up the royal road
And stopped upon his way to visit Perrawanda
There is a wizard in the making here, he said
The mage’s gift in this girl
The one you call Lutetia

If she were trained at the university
She might be the greatest of us all
Her gift is strong but she’s untrained
She doesn’t know what she must know
To be the wizard she could be

Lutetia and the village folk
Thought long upon the wizard’s words
The saw advantage for both of them
If Lutetia went to the university
And studied wizardry

Lutetia and the village folk
Made a solemn pact between them
The villagers would gather all their wealth
And fund Lutetia at the university
That she might learn to be a wizard

On her part she would return
To Perrawanda when she was done
Where she would make her bower
And she would help the villagers
With the wizardy she had learned

Her duties would be light they said
They would ask of her to heal the sick
And bless the crops in times of drought
And most of all protect the village
From the dragon Azgorath

High above on Mount Merabus
The dragon Azgorath made his nest
Down he’d fly from time to time
To dine upon some villagers
And make of them a dragon’s meal

They sealed their pact and Lutetia went
To study at the university
Twould take her a year and many more
To learn the craft that she must learn
Afore she were a wizard

She quickly learned the minor spells
And studied deep the subtle laws
That govern how the major spells
Are woven from the elements
In time she learned the greatest spell of all

For common folk body and soul
Are united one and one
The soul must suffer the body’s fate
To live with it and die with it
Wizards have a subtler way

They can hide their souls
Within an object of their choice
While it remains the body carries on
Such wizards never die
While their object is untouched

Tis a dangerous thing they do
For body and soul were never meant
To be apart from one another
The body’s life is lessened
By the absence of the soul

In time Lutetia learned
How this wizard’s trick was done
She thought upon it long and hard
On whether she would make this choice
And this is what she said

My mother loved and paid her price
Touched by a man, she gave her life
Men take more than simple flesh
They take your life and love as well
They mean to be the keeper of your soul

I vow no man shall touch my heart
I vow no man shall touch my flesh
I vow that I shall never let
Myself be swayed by love or lust
And I shall never pay my mother’s price

So she spoke and so she said
And having said she used her wizards craft
To protect her soul as wizards do
She hid her soul in an emerald
Which she hung around her neck

She said to herself no man
Could ever touch her heart
That she would never be the slave of love
Her soul was hid and she alone
Was keeper of her soul

Her time of studies were at an end
She’d learned what they could teach
Twas time to leave the university
And go back to Perrawanda
Where she would keep her pact

Back she went to Perrawanda
Back she went to heal the sick
Back she went to bless the crops
Back she went to her native village
To shield it from Azgorath

In a grove outside the village
In a grove she built her bower
She cast her spells upon the earth
And made of it an enchanted place
And there she made her residence

Far above on Mount Merabus
Azgorath marked that she had come
He felt the wards that she placed
To protect the village from his hunger
This mustn’t be, he said

High above he sensed her wizards skill
And knew that she would be no easy meat
He was determined though
That he would have his natural prey
She and he would have to fight

Azgorath marked his time
And studied Lutetia from afar
He sought her weakness and sought her strength
For when they fought they’d fight but once
And he was sore afraid of her

At length he saw what she had done
He saw that she had hid her soul
Within the jewel hanging from her neck
The dragon marked this as a weakness
Her body and her soul weren’t as one

Twould be, he knew, a mage’s war
A dragon’s magic against a wizard’s craft
From afar he studied spells she used
The little spells she used in daily tasks
That he might know her magic’s shape

At last his studies were complete
The battle spells were ready now
He was done with preparation
The time of battle was drawing nigh
Down he flew from Mount Merabus

Down he flew to the battle plain
And loudly called his challege
From her bower Lutetia came
To face him on the battle plain
Dragon and wizard began their fight

The dragon’s flame enveloped her
Lutetia countered with a spell
Of cold that froze the dragons flame
In icicles made of fire
Twas a wondrous thing to see

Across the plain their battle raged
As dragon fought with dragon spells
And wizard fought with wizard spells
A mighty battle without respite
The dragon won it in the end

Fair Lutetia lay upon the ground
Her body wracked by fearsome wounds
Exhausted now and half alive
She lay there, all defenses gone
Azgorath stood over her

I shall not eat you, the dragon said
For I do not care for wizard flesh
But I shall do what I wish to do
And I shall eat what I wish to eat
And I shall take your emerald

You may go your way, you wizard woman
You may do what ever you wish
Save never stop me when I dine
Or come between me and mine
Azgorath took her emerald

Her flesh all wracked with dragon wounds
Lutetia left the battle field
Her spirit wracked with wounds as well
For she had lost her emerald
To Azgorath

Long days she lay within her bower
Long days she spent in healing time
By craft and art and medicine
She healed the dragon wounds she bore
But only those her body wore

The scars upon her limbs
They faded all away. No medicine
Could heal the scar upon her soul
Or place her emerald upon her breast
The dragon now was keeper of her soul

When she had healed her body’s wounds
She swore that this was not the end
That what was hers was hers alone
And she would have it back
A wizard has her ways

She called upon the high craft
And drew upon the greatest magic
She cast a spell throughout the land
To bring to her the heroes
That one might slay this Azgorath

To her call there came a man
Full armed and full of pride
Whose boasts were all of deeds he’d done
And all the victories he had won
I’ll slay this Azgorath he said

The hero’s call is one I heed
My sword is sharp, my thews are strong
I fear no man, I fear no beast
Nor dragons waiting in their nests
I shall slay this Azgorath

Up the mountain he did climb
Up the mountain full of pride
Up the mountain with his sword
Up the mountain to the nest
Where Azgorath awaited him

Full armed he challenged Azgorath
No fear of him the dragon had
The would be hero drew his sword
And fell before the dragon’s fire
The dragon crunched his bones for lunch

Lutetia’s spell crept through the land
And would be heroes answered to her call
One by one they came to fight
And one by one they came to die
The dragon had them all for lunch

Lutetia waited in her bower
As lesser men were come to die
Like years and leaves they fell in turn
And answered not her desperate need
Until at last her hero came

A man of war and a dragon’s bane
Known for deeds and not for words
Born to walk the hero’s path
And walk he did for many a year
He bore a weary competence

From the furthest Southern point
Where the highlands vanish in the sea
Where dragons nest in rocky isles
Came the hero in answer to her call
The hero’s name was Roderik

In the village of Perrawanda
The maidens smiled as he passed
They blushed and eyed his manly frame
But he had no eye for maiden’s blush
The hero’s call was why he came

To the bower of Lutetia
Roderik made his way
He paused upon her doorstep
As Lutetia welcomed him
I am here, he said, in answer to your call

I have traveled far and long
I am weary from my trip
I heard your call from far away
And I am here to answer it
What would you have of me

Lutetia smiled to see this man
She knew as wizards know
That he was more than other men
A hero and no braggart fool
He would be her dragon’s bane

Come in, she said, invitingly
My need is dire and I must have
A champion to tend my need
The dragon men call Azgorath
Has stole my precious emerald

This is what I ask of you
Scale the heights of Mount Merabus
Find the nest of Azgorath
Slay the dragon in his nest
And bring to me my emerald

Roderik listened as she spoke
And eyed her shapely frame
When she was done he spoke in turn
And said to her, I have my price
You must marry me

I shall not slay this Azgorath
For nothing or for gold
I have walked the hero’s path too long
Tis time for me to settle down
And I would have a wizard for my wife

Lutetia blushed and confused herself
She’d never thought of matrimony
She eyed his frame and found it fair
Her need was great; this was the price
She said, I must consider this

She had sworn no man
Would ever touch her flesh
That she would be forever free
Of love and all that it entailed
And so she’d lived for many a year

And yet she knew twas only he
Who could slay her Azgorath
She must yield her love to him
If not, she would forever be
Enslaved by Azgorath

Do not be fooled, she said to him
I will not be an easy wife
But I must have my jewel back
If love be the price that I must pay
Then I will be your wife

Roderik knew the dragon’s way
He needed sword and magic both
To slay this dragon Azgorath
He needed wards against its flame
And poisons for his blade

Hero and wizard together planned
The death of Azgorath
A meld of hero’s battle craft
And wizard’s spells and charms
To bring the dragon to its doom

At last their planning was complete
Twas time for deeds and not for words
Twas time to walk the hero’s path
To scale the heights of Mount Merabus
Where Azgorath awaited him

Before I go, he said to her
I would have a lover’s kiss
A token of our love to come
That I might know for what I fight
When dragon’s flame envelops me

Lutetia was embarrassed
She wasn’t ready for a kiss
But, keeping to her word,
She gave it anyway
And with that kiss she gave her heart

Up the mountain he did climb
Up the mountain for his bride
Up the mountain with his sword
Up the mountain to the nest
Where Azgorath awaited him

Azgorath felt no fear of him
No man or wizard was his match
So it had been and so he thought
He waited in his nest for Roderik
Another hero he would have for lunch

This hero was a strange one
The other ones had tried to fight
By challenge face to face
Fools of courage and little craft
This one knew his trade

Roderik sought advantage
To catch the dragon from behind
Azgorath wasn’t fooled
He turned to meet the man
But couldn’t meet him face to face

Roderik entered into the nest
And caught the dragon in its side
Roderik struck the first blow
And pierced the dragon in its side
Azgorath felt the poison in the blade

The dragon knew his doom was near
This one was no easy lunch
He must be quick and he must kill
Before the poison reached his heart
Else he would fall before a dragon’s bane

He breathed his fire on Roderik
And fiery icicles fell to the ground
He fought with claw and spike and tooth
And raked the hero to and fro
But still the poisoned blade struck back

The fight was fierce and very short
The poisoned dragon lay supine
The battered hero barely stood
All fight was gone from each of them
The hero lived; the dragon died

Half alive the hero stirred
Ignored the dragon lying there
Ignored the treasure lying there
Found the wizard’s emerald
And hung it round his neck

Down the mountain he did go
Down the mountain to his bride
Down the mountain with his sword
Down the mountain to the bower
Where Lutetia awaited him

To her threshold Roderik came
An ambling corpse half alive
Torn and scarred and dripping blood
To her threshold Roderik came
Her hero had returned

Lutetia cried to see him
Cried to see the wounds he bore
She led him in and laid him down
And tended him most tenderly
For this was the man she’d sworn to love

She bathed him as he lay there
Spread her balms upon his wounds
Dressed them all and bound them
And watered them with tears
And then she saw the jewel

I see you’ve found my emerald
Mighty glad am I of that
No longer am I slave to Azgorath
You have freed me from the beast
I will take it now

Nay lass, Roderik replied
I have given half my life
To win in battle for my bride
The jewel hanging from my neck
I would keep it for my own

Let it be so, Lutetia said
And silently kept her thought
That he had fought for pride
And never fought for love
He must not be the keeper of my soul

She said to him, I’ll fix a potion
To heal your wounds and cure your hurt
And so she did and made for him
A potion laced with poison and with tears
He drank of it; and died

She laid him down within the earth
And wept upon his grave
And said to him all still and white
I would have loved but I must be
The keeper of my soul

When tears were dried and death was done
She took the emerald from his neck
The jewel that held Lutetia’s soul
She took the jewel and hung it round her neck
And thus she paid Lutetia’s price

Long it had lain in the dragon’s nest
It was a thing of dragons now
Her soul had become a dragon’s soul
Scarce aware she changed her shape
And the change of shape was absolute

In the heights of Mount Merabus
The dragon makes her nest
And in her nest the dragon keeps
Her treasured emerald
She is the keeper of her soul

See Notes on The Keeper of Her Soul for commentary. See also the folk lore version which is in the form of a traditional fairy tale.
Copyright © 1998 by Richard Harter
This page was last updated January 1, 1999.