Barefoot Poetry

SS Matthews

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Tavern on the Edge of Twilight

His face was clean shaven, but framed by years of untrimmed locks. Though he seemed well-mannered and calm, his features resembled those of an untamed and rather predatory creature. Never the less Sara could not deny an instant, almost instinctual attraction to the man that caused him appear exotically handsome. Amidst her dance and twirling toward dizziness, Sara found herself caught up in the eyes of a stranger.

The compelling wildness he possessed was so pervasive that it radiated through his outter veneer of civility like the howl of a wolf through a forest. His apparel, also most unusual, was tailored to fit a lean, hard frame and only added to an overwhelming aura of mystery. This was the impression Sara sensed about him immediately when he entered. When their eyes met she also sensed she was being swept downstream by a raging current.

Never the less, for Sara this encounter was something she’d always longed for, dreamed of, and suddenly; at a time when all hope had been long abandoned, become an inevitability that resisting could only delay. She wasn’t inclined to kid herself. She fully understood that the attraction she felt was probably akin to what the lamb felt toward the lion. Still, that didn’t matter. The stranger’s initial appraisal of her was so intense that it was sufficient to set off a trembling inside that was yet to cease.

Obviously he was an outlander, but caught up in a situation that couldn’t possibly be real, Sara found herself irresistibly drawn to the table where he took seat. But not until the back of a brutish hand knocked her from her feet did she realize her poor choice in timing.

Like everyone else in Twilight, Sara did her best to keep clear of the town bully. How strange it was that in approaching the stranger she hadn’t even noticed Burk was there. Stranger still was the improbable and dream-like vision of seeing the bully flipped through the air like a puppeteer’s doll.

From where she landed on the floor, to Sara the whole thing seemed much more like fantasy than actual events. Even with the resounding thud and cracking of a nearby tabletop she remained unconvinced that she wasn’t simply imagining it all. What did seem real however, was that her cheek burned like fire and was weeping blood into her mouth.

Of Course this wasn’t the first time Sara had been struck down by an angry man. Given her trade coupled with a hopeless appreciation for men of strong will, she been in this position before. Having a forgiving heart, not often did she wish herself able to retaliate.

This time though, it was different. Swatted away from something she was utterly attracted to, her first thought was how good it would feel to wash her hands in the monster’s blood. The idea so excited her that she found herself licking the inside of her swelling cheek.

How many years had it been since such a potent passion had blossomed in her breast? Enough that so distant were such passions that she found the unbridled intensity of it startling. Regardless of her response however, any retaliation Sara might imagine was destined to remain in the realm of vengeful daydreams. Dazed and looking on, it appeared the outlander moved with the speed and agility of a mountain panther. In a single movement he’d risen from his seat and taken things in hand.

There existed also in the outland stranger’s manner yet another aura. One that generated around him a warning defying interference in his affairs. This and the patrons’ ingrained fear of being accosted by Burk caused those nearest the confrontation to back well away.

Perhaps it really was a dream, Sara mused. After all, who could’ve foreseen the dance-floor becoming an impromptu arena and this unlikely savior standing over the larger brute holding him pinned to a table by his throat. Dream or no, Sara certainly found it worthy of a smile.

SS Matthews


Available at:
Barns & Noble

This excerpt is from the stand alone short story and chapter one of Wolfe’s Bane.


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Vale of the Fallen Moon (intro)

Wearing a blouse of linen dyed blue, paired with black ox-hide trousers and riding boots, the stranger sat astride a tall stallion the color of an autumn sunset. His hair, a shade of pre-midnight, hung straight past his shoulders, framing sharp, pale features and eyes that mirrored the sky. Coming to a halt, his hands came to rest upon the stallion’s back. Slumped slightly forward, the boy could see either the over-long hilt of a sword, or possibly the stump of a demon’s wing protruding over his shoulder. Whichever one it might be, thinking the Angel of Death was upon him William wondered why the devil was smiling.

“Do you have a name boy?”

As if searching for a memory distant, the boy hesitated a moment before pronouncing, “My name’s Will.”

“That’s a fine name for a brave lad. You are alone and very far from your village?”

“I can look after myself.”

Appreciating the boy’s defiant tone, the rider thought that at one time he would’ve answered very much the same.

“Who do you safeguard?” The rider voiced the question with a tone that would not brook evasion.

“Only the witch.”

“What witch is that?”

“The Singing Witch.”

Clamping a hand to his mouth, as if trying to trap a secret already set free, a chagrined look crossed Will’s face. Rowan could tell he was ready to run.

“My name is Rowan. I’m not after your witch, but your snare on the hillside has entangled a dancing hare. If you don’t mind some company, I’ll build a fire while you fetch it?”

“You’re not here to take me?”

“No Will, I’m not here for that.”

SS Matthews


Available at

Barns & Noble

This stand alone short story is chapter 2 of Wolfe’s Bane

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Riven (poetry of the savage sword)

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


A Tavern on the Edge of Twilight

A Tavern on the Edge of Twilight

The outlander didn’t really look all that imposing, sitting there quietly watching the two girls dance. Yet the assumption he was a survivor of the Steppes was enough to justify caution, prompting Burk’s generosity in including his cohorts. He hadn’t yet met the man he couldn’t handle one on one, but an auspicious night such as this wasn’t the time for taking unnecessary risks.