Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’


~ Ian







Today’s installment of Creative Writing Wednesday is… well… a gift. And I don’t mean that in the pompous, arrogant way of “oh it’s so good it’s a gift to the universe”. I mean I literally wrote it to be someone’s Christmas present.

That someone, specifically, being Gabby Castro, my brother’s girlfriend.

Now, when I first met Gabby, she and Calum were only friends. They were in marching band together, and hung out all the time. I met her (for real) at a dinner for the parents of the band members. Gabby had already been to my house lots of times.

This was last summer, a couple days after school let out.

A week later, she and Calum were dating.

(I take no credit for this turn of events.)

In any case, Gabby and I feel really close. In fact, I think of her as kind of like a little sister (which makes it INCREDIBLY weird whenever I see Calum and Gabby kissing, let me tell you). So when I asked her, “What would you like for Christmas?” I had the full intention of getting her whatever she wanted, as a gesture of brotherly affection.

“I’d love it if you gave me something you made yourself,” Gabby said.

I thought about this. “I could write you a poem,” I said.

“That would be lovely,” she replied.

Of course, now that I’d decided on a poem, I had to think of what form of verse to write it in. Let me tell you– this was somewhat of a tricky task.

Obviously, the form of verse that everyone knows is the Sonnet. But Sonnets are associated with romance and love, and because of that, I didn’t want to give it to my brother’s girlfriend who I think of as a sister. (Plus, she’s fifteen. So, ew.)

Free verse? No. Free verse is too easy. As Robert Frost said, it’s like playing tennis without a net. I needed to craft something. I couldn’t just randomly shit out some words– this was a present. I needed to show dedication and care– and when you’re writing in free verse, you have the room to be sloppy.

Haiku? I like haiku, but they’re a little too… short. And I’m not particularly interested in writing about the late spring frost on the petals of a cherry blossom.

Sestina? Too hard.

Limerick? Um… NO.

Then it finally hit me. My friendship with Gabby is epic. And therefore, I needed to choose an epic form of verse.

I had to bust out the edda.

For those of you who don’t know, an edda is an old Germanic form of alliterative verse. It’s the form that Beowulf was written in, and also many of the Old Norse legends that go today into the making of epic heavy-metal cheese albums. And I wanted to write an epic. I am a connoisseur of epics of all kinds.

It was settled.

There was a lot of work to be done. The edda was designed to be a verse-form for Old English poetry, and if you’ve ever read one of those editions of Beowulf with the original text on the left page and the translation on the right, you know that Old English is a different beast entirely from modern English. So I had to make adjustments.

But when I finally finished the poem, it became something awesome. Something starring Gabby as a Red Sonja-type barbarian heroine in a Viking-tinged post apocalyptic future.

Hope you enjoy it.

~ Ian


The Edda of Gabby Castro

by Ian P. Johnson


High out on the hilltops    And ‘cross the cold chasms

Of witch-tit-cold wastelands    And forests of flame

The sky it was silent    The warriors weeping

For full-strong and fearless    great Gabby was walking

Striding the cold earth    steel in her hand

Her great sword Gatringas    and borne on her back

A shimmering shield    most mighty Milkhéndum

And the bow on her back    had full fifteen stones’ pull

She walked in the wastelands   a land lost from light’s glory

By fallout forever     cursed and chaotic

Where wild were-folk wander    and robots do rule

Far lost from home’s hearthfire    Gabby walked through the wilds

Where no man dare wander    and no man calls home.

Laid waste by men’s lustings    for power and politics

Through mountains of madness    Gabby walked all alone.


Through Thaldor’s thick forests    and Dalshiel’s deserts

The muckmires of Mordûn   and the ice caps of Kroth

She searched ever seeking    though all men know not

Why she walked the wastelands   so heavy her heart

But when she breached the border    of shadowed Shagath

There was a great thunder    over mountain and marsh.

The sky it rent screaming    for Dulrak’s dread dreaming

Had suddenly ended    and the steel king stirred.

Titanium tentacles    had roused and were writhing

The steel king stood staring    with nary a word.


Stars spun in the sky-dome    the ground it was groaning

No voice in the valleys    was stirring with song

As Gabby came gleaming   to the top of Mount Tambrill

And looked down in wonder    at the city below

Ten miles stretched her towers    climbing into the cloud-scape

And her halls and houses    were perfectly preserved

Under a sun brown as umber    the sky dark with dreadhawks

It lay, golden-gleaming    the city of Su’im.


And downwards to destiny    Great Gabby was going

When the day it was darkened    and no noise could be heard

The ground it was groaning    the sky it was screaming

The Guardian faced Gabby    with nary a word

Full fifty-two feet    stood the Guardian skyward

His throat was like thunder    his tail like a tree trunk

His legs like a lizard’s    his arms they were armored

His head it was hideous    his eyes bright with ire

His voice like volcanoes   he stomped up a storm

Then groaned the great Guardian,    “Where wander you, Gabby?

Come you with courage    to silent Su’im?

I will not be idle    nor permit your passing.

So come, stand and kill me    if you want to go by.”


She drew her dark weapon    the gory Gatringas

And shouldered her shield    and readied her sword.

“I will not shrink from struggle,    nor will I be nervous,”

Great Gabby said sternly    sharp steel in her stare.

The two came together    Like hammer and anvil

The strinking of streel    was loud as a lion

Her enemy stronger    though fleetness of foot

Was Gabby’s great power    and she leapt around

Finding his failings    and striking his soft spots

Lopped of a long leg    with a slash of the sword

The Guardian was grounded    but still he fought fiercely

He let loose the laughter    that breaks strong men’s bones

Great Gabby was weakened    though still she stayed strong.

As angry as Alledûm    the grimmest of gods

The Guardian beat downwards    and cracked the cold earth.

But Gabby was quickest    and leapt like a leopard

The tall mountains trembled    as Gatringas met flesh

The beast he lay broken    at the top of Mount Tambrill

His blood ran in rivers    his eyes they were clear

And Gabby went onward    she looked not to the rear.


The tendril-thin towers    in the sky of Su’im

Hung high in the heavens   as Gabby came to the gate

And daylight was dying    the stars they were shining

The shadows hid foul shapes    in the streets of the city

In squares of cement    foul Elder-things lurked

From shadowed Shagath    dark Dulrak came flying

As the night reached its nadir    and the clouds covered stars.

But Gabby knew not    as she stopped at a spring

In the subway beneath    Su’im’s largest square.

She lay on her shield    and dreamed until daylight

The dawn-light was breaking    and cold was the air.


When Gabby awakened    to the sound of silence

She bathed and she broke fast    in the cavernous caves

That trains had passed trembling    through the bowels of the borough

In far days before fallout    had ruined the Earth.

She left the Tube blinking    and stared up at the sunlight

Then the daylight was darkened   and the heavens were black.


From the steppes of Shagath    there came a great shadow

The sky over Su’im    was the color of coal

And shimmering shadows    danced dim and darkly

On the blackened-bronze blade    of gloried Gatringas

Gabby gazed at the sky gaping    her eyes wide with wonder

As dread Dulrak came dancing    through the heavens so black

As black as death’s shadow    Dulrak had fifty eyeballs

And unnumbered tentacles    before his mad maw

An ally of the ancients    in the fallout forgotten

But now become maddened    with hunger and hate

He screamed out of Shagath    five hundred feet fully

Six hundred score stones    Dulrak was weighed

And from his jaw gaping    gums grain with gore

He wailed without words.


Gabby bent her bow.

The arrow flew arcing.


Like the lightning it leaped

Through the black mists of Dulrak    But glanced off the scales

That plated his back.    She nocked yet another

And pulled back the bowstring    And this one was blesséd

For the arrow arced true.    It dealt dark Dulrak

A wound on the wingtip    And Dulrak dropped down

From out of the sky.    Down sixty stories…


…Yet still he survived.


Dulrak hit the ground groaning.


As fast as a fireball    Gabby charged with Gatringas

Dulrak came to meet her    like Death’s dread embrace

Their crazed bloody crashing    was like flint and tinder

Like gray wolf and badger    Like daylight and dark.

With the might of a million    Dulrak’s dark digits flew

But Gabby was nimble    and skillfully severed

The unnumbered tentacles.   Dulrak cried with rage.

His dark blood in droplets    her red blood in ribbons

Across her broad back    as the two came together.

From the thickets of Thaldor    to the cold wastes of Kroth

And from Dalshiel’s dustbowl    to Mordûn’s black bogs

The earth it was silent    as the two titans battled

One mortal yet mighty    the other like God.

Gabby struck Dulrak’s soft spot…


…and down Dulrak dropped.


Though Dulrak lay dying    and Gabby victorious

She still remained mortal    and stronger than steel

Is the black blood of Dulrak    so feared by the ancients

Poisoned by fallout    in ages long gone.

The black blood touched Gabby    in a wound on her wrist

And she fell sickened    and into a swoon.


For nine nights she lay there    in the city of Su’im

And dreamed of dark demons    that danced in her head

She walked in the night-realms    in mountains of madness

As Dulrak grew rotten    in the plaza of stone.

But as it grew darkest    on the tenth day’s bright morning

Gabby shook off the sickness    and then she stood tall.


For six score long days    Gabby limped out of Su’im

She traversed Mount Tambrill    and returned to green lands

Of meads and bright meadows    Of sheep softly grazing

A sky bright with sunlight    A people at peace.

But the foulness of Dulrak    Penetrated and poisoned

And as Gabby reached safety    she grew ever weaker.

Then I came across her–    I, Baldur the Bard

And bore her weak body    to my home in the hills.

I tended her sickness    and she told me her story

Her will to live weakened.


In five nights, she died.


I sing of great Gabby    not to vouch for her valor

But to tell you truly,    sitting mute in the mead-hall:

Though mortals be mighty    and heroes courageous

As time passes onward    Death comes to us all.