The Two Brothers Poem by Peter Bolton

The Two Brothers

There were once two brothers, princes both
Who, on their father’s death, shared his kingdom as he directed.
Thus Halbert took the flat country of Höannia
With its rich farmland and booming towns,
And Silbert was allotted the mountains of Traithe
With its population of shepherds and crofters.

Halbert, being thus endowed with a life of luxury,
Decided that he would live life to the full.
He therefore decreed that virgins be found to share his bed
His pretext being that one be chosen as his queen,
She who won the contest.
Halbert was not a handsome man and many girls chose to lose the flower of their youth elsewhere rather than be entered into his chamber.
So it came about that the youth of his land spent more time taking such pleasure than in constructive pursuits.

Silbert felt hard done by in his father’s settlement.
Now, seeing the general decline across the border,
He bethought himself to put things right.
He raised a small army, loyal and well disciplined,
And when he marched he met with little resistance.

The gatekeeper of Halbert’s castle had a daughter named Shaleema,
Whose thoughts were far away from this world.
She was a child who wanted to remain a child for the normal span of childhood.
Thus she emphasised her childish ways to hide her years.
The reservoir of maidens ran dry and the king could no longer be satisfied.
No one had been awarded the prize.
Shaleema was now remembered,
The closest to home being so easily overlooked.
At that time a messenger came to her father warning him of the invasion.
He was a solid man and prepared himself to do his duty.

Meanwhile, Shaleema was summoned to the royal bedchamber.
‘Why do you rob us of our joy? ’ she challenged King Halbert.
‘Nay, it is to joy that I bring you, ’ he answered.
‘We will see what joy is brought shortly, ’ she commented,
And she placed herself amongst the sheets.
She waited until he was prepared and, as he came to her, leaped up and said, ‘You had better put that sword away and grasp one of steel for, even now, your brother is upon you.’
Whereupon she drew such a blade from the king’s idle sheath, and held it up as Silbert burst into the room.
‘Sir, ’ she spat at him, ‘you have only come here over the bodies of those who hold the gate.
Even if you take from the weak in their own folly yet you are still a thief.’
Filled with grief for her parents, Shaleema wielded the weapon with all her might and its swinging blade took off Silbert’s right hand.
‘You see what joy you have brought, ’ she said, turning on Halbert. ‘I will show you what joy has been lost.’
The blade flashed again and sliced off his manhood.
‘Call a physician to stem this bleeding, ’ she commanded the cowering servants, ‘and then I think you had better summon a priest, for my heart is broken.’

Esme is re-assessing the reasons behind the death of her parents. At the same time, she sees that she can no longer cling to her lost childhood.
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