By Lisa Hering, 2019

Narration 2021

True loyalty to your fellow man can never be replaced. We may not always know who our friends really are until we are in time of need. Hear how this one man changed the future for his own people by his everlasting loyalty and love of peace. 

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All I Ever Was

The Story of the Ember Keeper

A Poem by Lisa Hering

 

In ancient days, there was a man, a cripple born to lose.

His back was hunched, he could not fight. He could not pay his dues.

 

His only job, to keep the fire and embers glowing strong.

And though adept, he felt that this, somehow made him wrong.

 

His leader was an honorable chief, a warrior strong and brave.

And to his people did he make a vow to love and save.

 

So of this man, the cripple asked, to show that he was tough,

“I want to serve. I want to fight. I want to be enough!”

 

The chief then said, his wise voice loud, “Your talents lie elsewhere.

Your crippled back, will make us weak. And death will find us there.”

 

“Your love of kin, a welcome gift, shows me your true desire.

You must give up, this errant wish. We need you by the fire.”

 

But anger flared, as he replied, “A hero I shall be.

“I’ll give the gift, of life to thee, my deeds I can foresee.”

 

“I am the man, you need the most. Our village I defend.

Without my deeds, the village dies. I am your greatest friend.”

 

The leader thought him good of heart, but feared the course of war.

This man could cause such problems as they’d never known before.

 

He must ensure the safety of his people and his clan.

This man must die to save the rest, and so devised a plan.

 

To kill him by his own true sword, a deed he did not want,

But for the good of his own tribe, he’d fool him with a taunt.

 

And so he said, I need a man with skills that you possess.

And if you do this then you’ll be my friend I do confess.

 

In days of yore we had a shrine to honor those we lost.

For those who saved their countrymen, but at the greatest cost.

 

A man of great importance would light an altar fire,

With embers bright to guide the way to heaven’s holy sire.

 

It needs to be rekindled and to glow both day and night.

“I need a man with honor strong, to guard with all his might.”

 

“The altar here reminds us of the greatness of our cause.”

“Come with me now, and you will be, all I ever was.”

 

“I am your man!” the keeper said, his chest so proud displayed.

With true delight, and unaware his soul had been betrayed.

 

He started down, the narrow path, excitement in his stride.

Followed by his gallant lord whose sword was by his side.

 

They made their way, beyond the walls, and past the village fields,

Of corn and wheat, the folks lived on, the goodness that it yields.

 

They walked until they saw a spot, an altar standing high.

And ashes having lost their glow without a watchful eye.

 

Without a pause the keeper’s skill soon gave the embers breath.

Not knowing that the day would end in tragedy and death.

 

Behind him stood the chieftain tall, the sharpened sword he drew.

The cripple’s hearing was his gift. He heard the blade and knew.

 

He turned to see, his master’s sword, held high into the skies.

Intent upon the bloody task, so poised for his demise.

 

Yet in response and unafraid, the keeper’s voice was clear,

A bow I’ve heard, an arrow comes, tis your death that I fear.

 

He pushed his leader’s massive arm, the blade fell off its course,

But stopped the arrow in its tracks, and fouled the killing force.

 

The broken arrow at his feet, was meant to kill the chief.

Who had but seconds to decide, a new plan of relief.

 

With godly strength, he grabbed his friend and hid behind the wall,

Into safety, shielded from the arrows that would fall.

 

Though brave and strong, the leader fought, but what would be the cost?

For by himself, he could not last. The village would be lost.

 

He shouted out, “Go quickly now and warn the village men.”

“No time to bring them here to fight as I’ll be lost by then.”

 

But they can ready castle gates and pull the women in.

They can see another day and live to love again.

 

The cripple tried, but could not run. His weakness was most dire.

But then he saw, the embers flare, and thought about the fire.

 

He knew so well, the job to do, to signal far and wide.

He quickly set about to light, a blaze no man could hide.

 

And when the village saw the sign, each man jumped on a horse.

In droves they came with weapons bared, Oh, they were quite a force.

 

They fought, they clashed, they saved their land, and gave the battle cry.

Too late it was, a mortal wound, the chief himself would die.

 

And with his last breath did he say, aloud for all to know,

“The keeper did his job so well so we could beat our foe.”

 

“Because of that, your village lives. No more can one repay.

Your worth cannot be measured. And your debts are gone today.”

 

When you die, lie by my side, my right man to the end.

For you are all, I ever was. And are my greatest friend.

 

Yes, one of them did die that day, and one of them remained,

The leader was enshrouded by the stones his blood had stained.

 

For years to come the flame was lit so embers could ascend,

And show the souls the path to go up where their hearts could mend.

 

The ember keeper taught his skill to men who couldn’t fight

And they in turn built outposts all around the village site

 

An internet that made them safe because of this one man,

Who showed them how to have great peace that spread across the land.

 

And when he left this world behind, they laid him by the side,

Of the man who nearly killed the greatest of the tribe.

 

 
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