Into their valley late one spring day, strode
a man of muscular body and noble bearing.
‘Tho he now sought solitude, once he rode
in the company of kings, loyal and serving.
The day grown hot and the road dry and dusty,
the weary warrior took to a stream to cool and clean.
That is where the fair maidens, young and lusty,
first saw him, watching intently but keeping unseen.
As he washed away the grime, his muscles bulged,
and they could see the scars of many war wounds.
They whispered among themselves, then indulged
their desire, “Kind sir, night will arrive quite soon.
“We bid you sup with our family and stay the night.”
They felt his steely stare, as he took their measure.
Then he smiled. “To refuse you ladies wouldn’t be right.
This night promises to be an experience I’ll treasure.”
As they walked up the road towards their small farm,
they passed large plots newly plowed and freshly sown,
but at their farm the fields stood fallow, without the charm
well-tended land shows. Better days this family had known…
The mother and father welcomed him into their home
and warmly bade him share their wine and meager meal.
Supper now scarcely done, “Must you continue to roam?
Would staying through harvest have for you any appeal?
“I have no sons left, and the lord of this valley drives away
any man who dares work my fields. He seeks to drive us out.”
The wanderer thinks hard, then replies, “Farming isn’t my way,
and this isn’t my fight. No, I leave in the morning without doubt.”
The morning comes. The mother hands him biscuits and lard
for his travels. He is just leaving their yard when up ride
the evil lord and his sons. The lord’s horse bumps him hard,
sending him sprawling face-down in the dirt, denting his pride.
“We don’t take kindly to strangers lingering in this valley.
You had best get on your way,” the lord menacingly sneers.
The wanderer uncoils from the ground. “What if I dally?”
“Then we shall drive you out amidst our blows and our jeers.”
The wanderer stands erect and ready. “You swine deserve killing.”
Outraged, the first son charges his horse at the unarmed man,
who, averting the charge, grabs the reins and sends tumbling
both horse and rider. He straddles the son even before he can
realize what has happened. Drawing the son’s dagger, he deftly
slits his throat. At this, the lord and his three remaining sons
dismount and draw their swords. This will prove to be a ghastly
mistake! In unison they rush the stranger, who any retreat shuns.
As one son lunges at him, he sidesteps the thrust, grabs his hand
and wrests the sword from his grasp. He shoves the son toward
his father, whose sword accidentally buries itself into the man.
Now armed with a sword, the warrior warns, “Retreat, my lord,
while you still have the lives of your two last sons, plus your own.”
His words fall upon dead ears, and the three outraged bullies
charge into his whirlwind of swordplay, until all three lay prone,
bleeding their heart’s blood into the ground through severed arteries.
The fair maidens and parents have watched the debacle with awe.
Now they rush to the side of the bloody warrior. “Thank you, sir.
You’ve delivered us from our enemies.” He replies, “I did not draw
their blood for you! They caused the fury buried within me to stir.
“They reminded me of what I once was and the code I lived by.”
“Come. Stay the night. Let my daughters attend your every need.”
The wanderer stays the night. None of his wishes do they deny.
On the morrow, he leaves their valley astride the lord’s trusty steed.