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Under a Lake with No Water: Part 2

Updated: Oct 22, 2021

A few years ago I wrote a poem called "Under a Lake with no Water" (part of which I included in "A Month at the End of the World") that ended up being way too ambitious in scope for what I was prepared to write at the time. Whilst never fully finished, I did manage to write the first couple of parts. Here they are!

Image by Prawny from Pixabay.

[1] The smithy, not far from the gate

and the courtyard, would always make

all manner of destructive things

that sounded death with metal rings.

From war-hammers to simple swords,

To polearms and horseshoes, of course.

Mari’ had much to marvel at

Before she went inside.

“Who’s that?”

A booming voice from further in,

A voice both powerful and grim.

She brought her hand down hastily

Before she had a chance to see

If she could lift a proper sword.

The man came out now, from the forge

With blacksmith’s hammer still in hand,

Where, once he saw Maribelle standing

In his shop, he softened:

[2] “Oh!

Forgive me, ma’am, I didn’t know

It was the lovely Lady Cleve

That was visiting me this eve.

I thought a thief you may have been,

That skulked whilst I was hammering.

But never mind! Accept from me

My humblest of apologies.

I rarely see my patrons here,

Usually you’re up the tower there.

Except for younger Lady Cleve.

I always like that Geneviève…

How can I help? I’ve quite a lot

Of pieces in my smithy’s shop.

There anything that you would like?

I’ll even waive away the price!”

[3] Twas then that lady Maribelle

Conceived of what she sought.

“Pray tell

Kind blacksmith, what be your name? I’ve

A wish to know it, to derive

It from yourself. Please tell me

That I may greet you properly.”

[4] “Dear Lady, my name’s Sam. I’m known

Also as ‘Sooty’, which is owed

To all the grime that spoils my face

And beard from working in this place.”

[5] “Well, Sooty, I’ve a task for thee.

Geneviève’s almost twenty-three

And I’ve a mind to her present

An ornate knife, with your consent.

It must be made of quality

Metal alloys unknown to me.

To you, I’m sure you’ll know them well.

To me, I’m sure you’ll never tell.

Can it be made unbreakable?

Suited to killing fauna well?

You know how Jenny rides away

And returns ‘fore the end of day.

She goes out almost everyday

With those hunters, to stalk their prey.

So, I’ve a mind to give her this:

A knife for slitting throats, that sister

Geneviève will not receive

‘till of her birthday comes the eve.

Inscribe this saying when it’s done,

Along the handle, as I’ve sung:

‘Sister, remain merry and gay,

Until you reach your dying day.’

If you agree, then you’ll soon see

How generous I’d truly be.

I’d sing your name from tower-top

And recommend that father not

Overlook your services

And how you marry skill and ease.

But swear to me your secrecy

‘lest Geneviève discover me.”

[6]With that, no more encouragement

Did Sam the blacksmith heed. He sent

For ore that passed through many hands.

From sand, to sea, to icy lands,

Till finally it sat before

The forge outside the blacksmith’s door.

Any expenses were repaid

By Maribelle, who now had laid

Her plan out in her head quite well

For her to ponder, never tell.

The fated month began to end.

For Maribelle did Sooty send.

She came down to the smithy’s shop

He shut the door, and kept it locked.

From out the back he quickly brought

A hunting knife, the gift she’d bought.

[7] The scabbard was a pretty sight:

A plaited leather, tinged with white

That gathered at a steel point.

The hilt itself, whence blade was joined,

Was fashioned from rare ivory.

The engravings that she could see

Had robins perched atop a tree,

And on their breasts, two gems were set.

The rubies, coloured deep and red

Together flanked the middle tree,

That hilt fashioned from ivory.

The blade from star-metal was made

And tempered many times. Inlaid

With every word she did dictate:

Sister, remain merry and gay

Until you reach your dying day

Was writ with calligraphic flair

With loops and curls most everywhere

But still a dainty style perceived

Maribelle. Now to Geneviève

She must propose her cunning plot.

She thanked the smith, and gave a pot

Filled with gold that she had hidden

Months before it could be given.

[8] Geneviève still is happily

Flaunting her ravishing beauty

And frolicking with many friends

Until for her the Baron sends.

Whilst Maribelle is filled with hate

And plans her death beyond the gate,

Geneviève spends her time in play

And wants for naught. For everyday

She knows of all her suitors, she

Had never loved a soul but he.

The boy would meet her in the wood

Where there, in twain, their bodies could

Be joined together, secretly.

He called his darling ‘my Jenny.’

The boy, his name forgotten now,

Worked in the stable. Wonder how

he met the lovely Geneviève?

I’ll tell you quick. There’s little need

To dwell on subjects such as these


Geneviève caught his eye one day,

And was too slow to turn away.

She noticed that and made him blush.

He made her laugh, his face so flushed.

And after that she’d often stop

To watch the stable-horses trot

And pretend that she wasn’t there

To see the boy with features fair.

[9] At last, the day of Geneviève’s

Birthday arrived. The Baron Cleve

Had organised a massive feast.

To prove that no expense was missed

He offered legs of lamb, and pig,

And beef, and vegetables to dig

At all along the banquet hall

Along the tables, great and small.

Flanked by all kinds of pies and tarts

Were jugs of wine that warmed the hearts

Of guests towards his Geneviève,

The favourite child of Baron Cleve.

Mayhap a suitor might appear

From lands perhaps quite far, or near,

To sweep his daughter off her feet

And marry her ‘for year’s end meet.

[10] Completely unaware, he was,

His daughter planned a double-cross.

His Maribelle had withdrawn to

Geneviève’s happy haunt – into

The stable yard hoping to find

Geneviève there, her death in mind.

She found her quick, she’s hard to miss:

Her auburn hair and skin sun-kissed.

“Dear Geneviève,” Mari’ began,

“I must assume you’re not a fan

To dawdle here, in some distress.

Just look at you! Not nearly dressed

Enough to join the party guests

When they arrive. You’ll look a mess!

But I’ve a thought – a special treat –

Why don’t we slip away, discreetly

And go on a jolly hunt

Before we must endure the brunt

Of birthday celebrations? What

Do you think? Or… maybe not?”

[11] “’Tis true,” mused Jen, “I hesitate

to join my father’s side of late.

For once the drinking’s underway,

My interest turns the other way

And I begin to roll eyes

When any man who wanders by

Betrays his moral qualities

And thinks for him, I’ll bed with ease.

And when the mighty throng arrives

His friends will say such pretty lies

And patronise his selflessness

To indulge in their selfishness.

I so detest their double-face.

Those sycophants are a disgrace

And never keep good company

With anyone lesser than me.

“But pray tell, why so suddenly

Do you request a hunt with me?

In all this time I’ve never known

Your feet to grace a wilder home

You’ve never faced the frothing wrath

Of wild boar, down the forest path

Or tracked the bears that haunt the glade

Or watched the wolves together play.

It seems to me a novel thing

That you’re proposing such a thing.

I’m curious quite as to why.”

[12] “Sweet Geneviève, you’ll surely die

Of laughter when I tell you this:

Hunting with you, I’ve been remiss

And never given thought because

My hunting kills have many flaws.

But on your birthday, since you don’t

Seem keen to join the rest, we won’t!

Let’s get away and have some fun!

Your sister knows you best. Someone

Ought to come with us just in case.

To make sure we can keep the pace.

Might you know someone we could bring?”

[13] At this, Geneviève’s eyes did sing.

She knew her lover be close by.

Here was a chance with him ally.

“I confess you do surprise me not,

My hunting skills they want for naught.

It’s true I’m bored by father’s frets

And being besieged by suitors. Let’s

Head off now, I know just the boy

Who’ll come keep us from nature’s ploys.”

[14] Scarcely a minute passed before

The three of them slipped out the door

On horseback. They galloped away

Into the woods where they could play.

Before long, they had lost themselves

Among the trees, ruins, and dells

From chasing any animals

And racing forth to reach the falls.

Once there, Maribelle noticed how

The plunging pool was quite far down,

Surrounded by some evil rock

All meaner than the headsman’s block.

The basin was too far to jump,

But far enough to hide the thump.

[15]She fingered the knife on her belt;

Her present for the girl who felt

She was so much better than her.

No one would know quite where they were

When Geneviève would disappear.

The boy had killed her out of fear

He gaze would wander finally.

He’d lose the love of ‘my Jenny’.

Now was the time: there they both sat

Barely pretending from their chat

That they weren’t infatuated

With each other. Maribelle waited

For a time until he left

Her lounging there, alone, bereft

Of protection from lover’s aid.

Maribelle touched the knife she’d made.

She walked towards fair Geneviève

And removed the knife from its sheath

And kept it hid behind her back

Until the moment she’d attack.

[16] But as she took a step behind

Her sister dear, a brilliant shine

Pierced through the leafy canopy

And onto Jenny and Mari’.

Maribelle paused to shield her eyes

But heard a laugh, to her surprise.

Though she was stalking Geneviève,

Jenny was looking at Mari’

And giggling like she’d never heard:

A laugh most sweet, more so than birds’.

Her smile was sweet and genuine.

There was no nastiness within.

Maribelle met her sister’s gaze

but now a doubt began to raise

Its ill-timed head inside her mind.

Her steps were stopped while it opined:

“It’s odd,” she thought, “that now I’m here

I find I’d rather not revere

The death of pretty Geneviève,

No – of younger sister Cleve.

Regardless what she’s done to me,

I’d feel guilt for eternity.

Perhaps there’s still a chance for us

To be the family we must.

To be complete and whole again.

Her death no longer pre-ordained.

To be the woman I believe

That mother would want me to be.”

[17] Her hesitance by the waterfall

Meant that the boy had seen it all.

He’d come back from the horses, where

He’d unpacked lunch for them to share.

And when he’d seen that girl advance

But briefly pause, he saw his chance

To save his love. He rushed to her

And tackled that deceitful cur.

Maribelle watched her sister’s grin

Become agape to shout at him.

Maribelle turned to see the boy

Running at her to end her ploy.

As he tackled her to the ground,

That mossy ground, his stomach found

The knife that Maribelle had made,

The knife for Geneviève’s birthday.

[18] The screams from every side were sharp

And quick. The boy rolled off the barb

And groaned a probed the hole within

His gut that was his undoing.

Maribelle stared in stunned surprise

And dropped the knife between her thighs

When she had seen what she had done.

They both could see the red blood run.

The boy could not allow his mate

To fall to her. Without escape

From his demise he stood again

With fury in his eyes, and then

He grabbed Maribelle by the throat

And with his slipping strength he smote

Maribelle by the waterfall,

And Geneviève, who’d watched it all.

Maribelle choked under his grip,

And fumbled for the dagger tip

Geneviève ran to her beloved

But was rebuked by shoulder shove.

Geneviève, shocked, could not believe

Her love had blocked her small reprieve.

She shouted “stop! You’ll kill yourself!

Please lend a thought to your own health!

I could not live if you should die,

So stop this, or from cliff I’ll fly!”

His grip released quite gradually,

The boy was fading fast, you see.

Maribelle seized a panicked chance

And stabbed without a second glance.

With that, the boy’s throat filled with blood

A croak, a gurgle, then a thud.

Maribelle heaved; Geneviève wailed

And held his head until he failed.

Slowly, she pulled the knife from him

And through the blood she spied a rhyme:

Sister, remain merry and gay

Until you reach your dying day.

[19] “This knife was not meant for my love,

Was cutting my throat not enough?

His life is spent all over me.

But this knife speaks a prophecy.

Do you think that I’ll let you live?

I’ll cut your throat with this, Marib’.

It’s all so clear now, don’t you see?

This knife was never meant for me!”

She slashed across Maribelle’s face

From whence a stream of dark blood traced

A gash which reached from chin to ear.

Once more, Maribelle, filled with fear

Struggled with Geneviève the Fair.

She scratched her face and pulled her hair.

They lurched towards the crumbling cliff

When Maribelle threatened to slip.

Jenny was pressing down the knife,

Ready to end this tragic strife.

With wild eyes swollen with grief,

Geneviève hissed through bloody teeth:

“I’ll curse our mother when you’re felled

For giving birth to Maribelle!

This is to be your end it seems!”

Maribelle blinked back crimson streams.

“Sister, you’ve reached your dying day!”

But underneath, the stone gave way

And crumbled, so the sisters Cleve

Fell far below, where none could grieve.

[20] Geneviève’s scream was short and blocked.

She smashed her head against a rock

And with one final, sickening crack

She hit the floor and snapped her back.

But Maribelle, her fate was cruel.

She fell into the plunging pool

And was kept under for a time

Until she surfaced. Out she climbed

And fell down next to Geneviève,

To lay next to the better Cleve.

Finally, when her strength gave out

She closed her eyes and thought about

Her terrible, destructive need

To be better than Geneviève.

The water continued to fall.

The sky darkened, and through it all

The sisters were both left alone

Beside each other, far from home.


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