Barefoot Poetry

SS Matthews

Riven (poetry of the savage sword)

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Art by Frank Frazetta

This piece was crafted around 2000 and looking at it now it begs for a revision. For today however, I’ll let it stand. Growing up I fell in love with the works of Robert E. Howard- Solomon Kane, Kull, Carter and of course Conan the Barbarian, The accompanying artwork by Frank Frazetta, Jeff Jones and others made for some fantastic fantasy material. I confess to having collected many of the early paperbacks and had a subscription to the Savage Sword. I don’t read like I once did, but that’s because of degenerating eyesight. For those of you Sword & Sorcery fans who may yet persist, this one’s for you.


Deep in darkness where I wander
done with thought no more to ponder.
I came upon a roadside tavern
more brightly lit than my own cavern.

Inside the laughing of the merry
lost in drink and thus unwary.
I enter through the tavern door
and pace across the oaken floor.

The barkeep offers ale and feast.
“I do not drink there comes a beast.
Best you rest with shutters drawn
his stride will bring him here ‘ere dawn.”

The guests withdraw a pace from hell.
Alone I’ll wait and mete the knell.
I pull my cloak of black about
and draw my blade to draw him out.

The fire’s feeble sparking light
bespeaks of wind out in the night.
I hear the wail of midnight air
a sighing hiss ‘He comes, prepare!’

Beyond the door a wretched cry
to curse my scent my sword and I.
A hilt of silver in my grip
warms my nerve as shutters split.

Fearsome eyes with hellish glare
seek my own to spring a snare.
He’d steal my strength and my resolve
then drive me down with razor claws.

I let him look into my eyes
so he will fully recognize
the foe is death that he must face
to stand within this blighted space.

Glimmer from the fire’s light
betrays my arcing wand of might.
Immortal blade finds fiend to fray
a bloody song to sing at play.

His bellow rattles men in beds
with blankets pulled across their heads.
Whom he would rend and then devour
were I not here in this dark hour.

He seeks with overwhelming weight
to be the dealer of my fate.
But I have yet to make my point
with breast of beast this floor anoint.

Fear creeps in to stall his strike
and there exposed to driven spike
of steel honed keen for such a chance.
I pry into his heart with dance.

He staggers back. His gaze goes dim.
My work has been the best of him.
The river Styx he will re-cross
with ferryman to soothe his loss.

SS Matthews

More from Fearsome Foes


Author: SSMatthews

Author of The Moon and Rowan Wolfe and Wolfe's Banes.

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