A Dead Man's Blade

I saw a dead man by the side of the road

His body fetid in the mid-day sun

His face so gored, he could be anyone.

So I knelt down next to this unknown man,

And looked at him with eyes unclouded with grief

And quickly cursed the thing that took his life, that unholy beast.

And I took this corpse by the arm

And dragged him to a glade

And with one sharp yank, I stole his unused blade.

Not one to get without giving,

I closed his eyes, and over him I said a prayer to whatever god was listening

Though they mustn't have been listening very hard, because his lifeblood upon him glistened.

And so, I turned, dead man's blade in hand

Because I was alive and he was very dead,

And I thought that I would need it more- Though, if I was wrong, let it be on my head.

I sauntered off into the great green unknown,

Or at least, the unknown by me,

Which is the only unknown that matters to the Powers-That-Be.

And presently, I came across a beast in the midst of a feast,

His hands streaked red with some poor fool's blood and meat

And I stopped silently, which, dear reader, I can tell you was no mean feat.

Hello, I greeted him, hands tight around the guard of the sword,

And, head jerking up, he greeted me in kind,

Eyes glimmering in interest at this new find.

Why have you come here? He asked.

Well, you see, said I, I came across a dead man

Who seems to have cut short his lifespan

And I stole his sword, but though it rude

Not to use said sword to slay the beast that slayed him.

And at this, the beast grew grim.

And are you some great warrior, then, said the beast,

That you would threaten me to my face?

And his fury then had some great, unnamable grace.

I shook my head sadly.

I must confess, your beastliness, that I am not,

But again, I found it rude to not inform you of my plot.

The beast nodded his head in thought.

Well, since you have shown me this formality, I find myself compelled to tell:

That I had plotted to kill you as well.

I thank you for your honesty, sir beast, said I, though I find myself confused,

As to why such formal creatures may not share one more respect

And instead of a battle of strength, which you would clearly win, let us engage in a battle of intellect.

To my own surprise, the beast sat down, and motioned me to continue.

Clearly, said I, you are aware of your superior battle skills,

But you must admit that you are bored with all of these easy kills.

So let us give you a challenge. And I spoke the terms of the wager thus:

If you should win, at a game of your choosing, then I will submit to your judgement without complaint,

But should I, then you must submit to mine.

The beast folded his great, furred arms, squinting his eyes in thought.

I confess, he said at present, that I am no great game master.

Were I to try and make one up, it would quickly come to disaster.

So, young foe, I offer the traditional battle:

Three riddles, with three answers. If you get them all, I will submit to your judgement.

And quickly we shook on it, as his terms were blunt.

And the first riddle went as follows:

What is the foe that a man meets only once,

Who triumphs over man more with each passing day,

And kills every man it comes across?

And this one was easy, and so I told the beast so.

The answer, dear beast, said I, is a simple one indeed

The answer is but time, I spoke with a confident speed.

The beast nodded his head.

A good answer, young foe, said he,

And a correct answer at that, he said again with little glee.

And so the second riddle followed:

What is always there but never seen,

That affects us all, from the mightiest to the meekest,

And weighs on everyday, from the brightest to the bleakest?

This one was a little harder, so I thought, and I thought, and then I thought some more.

And then came to think a thought that could be correct,

And so, when speaking it, tried my best to be direct.

Does the answer, dear beast, happen to be gravity? I asked with some measure of surety.

And he again nodded his head,

Eyes with anger red.

And so he spoke the third riddle:

Every man has this in common,

When people speak of it, their only words are silence,

And every one knows this.

I though, and thought, and then I though some more.

The answer made me laugh, for this one was a true prize-

The answer, dear beast, is nothing! I said, with some surprise.

And a third time the beast did nod his great head,

And this time he rose from his seat upon the ground,

And his face was was marred with a fearsome frown.

And he bowed his head for my judgement.

Now then, dear foe, said he,

You have bested my riddles three.

And indeed I had.

Now then, dear beast, said I,

My judgement is for you to die.

The beast showed no great surprise nor sorrow,

But still I found myself compelled to explain,

So that he would feel no further pain.

I took this dead man's blade, and thus entered into an oath,

That by taking it I was to slay the beast that slayed him,

As you left him with barely a limb.

But, be that as it may, I will show you this mercy:

You may choose the method of your own death, a right that you so cruelly denied your dead.

And so the beast chose, and took the offered blade, and with no small effort, promptly severed his own head.

I left the beast to lie where he lay,

And made my way back to the glade,

And so returned to the dead man his pilfered blade.

I next returned to the road,

Where once did the dead man lay

And continued on my own way.