Updated: Oct 22
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!
 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.
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:
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!”
 Twas then that lady Maribelle
Conceived of what she sought.
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.”
 “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.”
 “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.”
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.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 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?”
 “’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.”
 “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?”
 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.”
 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.
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.
 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.”
 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.
 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.
 “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.
 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.
END OF CHAPER 1