The Sentries of Parnagie Hill

An original poem

Photo by Gabriella Clare Marino on Unsplash

Down from the mountains, an odd pair they come,
Relieved from the watch they have kept since autumn
A cry from the city rings through the spring chill,
‘Here’s two more—the sentries from Parnagie Hill!’

And in through the gates, with a spring in their step,
Stroll two men in breastplate, dark armour and cap
Smelling of stale sweat and numb to their toes,
Searching the crowd for the people they know.

The first would be handsome, if you could see
‘Neath the dirt on his face and the mischievous gleam
The girls say that dance with him is worse than death 
He could talk for a year without pausing for breath 

‘But the other,’ they whisper, and guard the shop door,
‘Is impossibly quiet, easy to ignore’
His smile is set in a sad, twisted line
And never a word has it formed in good time

The two formed a friendship through the long nights it snowed,
The first watched the days when the sun barely showed
The other took watch through the cold, lonely nights
Never speaking a word, never needing a light

This young man stepped round the crowd on the street
And smiled at the thought of the one he would meet
Three months he’d been waiting, and missing her grin
His fingers were twitching to hug her again

But his keen ears were traitors, an old temptation
Whispered it might be nice to have an ovation
Like his friend, telling stories of snow trolls and bears
To anyone who made the mistake to show care

The bears were all sleeping, he thought with a frown.
He’s mixed it up with the St. Bernard we found.
But you can’t let your tale be ruined by truth
And the mountain was far enough not to need proof

He opened his mouth and tried telling his own,
But the words in his head got all jumbled and thrown
He was left with an almost-half-started first word,
And was thankful to see it seemed no one had heard.

Well, one day I’ll get it, he thought, looking down
And I’ll say all the things I’ve been thinking till now
But somewhere in his dreams was a story he’d tell
Of the world that was hidden by Parnagie Hill

Prepared through the long nights alone and on watch,
He knew all the characters, planned the whole plot
Some scenes he had stolen from tales of his friend:
The fall from a window; the kiss at the end

He turned down the road, shouldering through the press,
Not caring for those he’d spent months to protect
A brisk jog seemed slow, but the cold left him weak
So an hour had passed when he came to his street

It looked just the same as he’d left it last fall,
The clothes hanging down between narrow-set walls
Pushing open his door and squinting through the black,
He grinned at his sister who’d just heard he was back   

Perhaps it was simply the dust of the room
Or the curtain that kept the sun out from the gloom—
She seemed a bit paler, her arms had less flesh,
But she hugged a bit tighter than when he had left

‘Oh, brother I missed you, I missed you so much!’
A clatter rang out as she dropped her old crutch
She leaned on his arm going back to her bed,
Laughing and crying and shaking her head.

‘Are you sick? Are you injured? Did you see anything?
There were rumours of orders sent straight from the king!
You saw nothing? Oh, maybe t’was some other mounts.
So you didn’t see any invaders or scouts?’

The sky’s blue turned navy, street noise went away
But the siblings weren’t sleeping; there was too much to say.
‘Oh!’ cried his sister. ‘Did your story get done?’
And the young sentry smiled. ‘J—j—just… o—one.’

His words got all twisted; she knew what he meant
Interrupting with theories of where the plot went
Her silver eyes shone when he told of the kiss
And demanded a sequel come from his next shift. 

Published by Debbie Coll

I'm a storyteller, songwriter and author who loves God, fairy tales and music. I write about tales, creative tips and process on my blog, debbiecoll.com.

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