The Barrow Downs by Alex Bailey


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The Winds of Winter blew cold around
the ancient Barrow Downs.

From thither came the Olden Dead,
with flesh a-shriveled and brown.

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The High King noticed with startled dread,
what the Winter Winds had wrought.

A summons was sent to the men of the land
for the Olden Dead they fought.

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A-warring they went, these men of the king,
together they reached the old Downs.

And a battle it was, against the Old Dead,
while the Winds of Winter blew 'round.

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The men fought on with blades of bronze,
and burning brands of flame.

While the dead fought on with teeth and claws,
with the Winds raising more of the slain.

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Not a man did return from the old Barrow Downs,
though they arose when the Winter Winds blew.

When the men did not come with the turn of a moon
the King mourned for the men that he knew.

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As the King braced for his eventual fall,
A Child walked up from the town

He spoke of holdfasts and castles and villages small,
of their allies beyond the old Downs.

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And so the Child set out to prepare for his trip,
across the ancient Barrow Downs.

A Horse was then found near the old smithy,
and at the stables a bridle was found.

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Thus spoke the Child to his Father, the Smith
about his need for a blade.

And though the Father did bluster and roar,
A keen-edged Sword was made.

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The Child then went to his friends,
who'd grown up with him in the creche.

They all pledged their unwavering friendship,
though in the end but one stood in the flesh.

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As the Child was about the depart,
across the ancient Barrow Downs,

A great Hound was found on the roadside,
which followed him with leaps and bounds.

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As they left the lands of the High King,
and felt the Winter Winds blow.

The horse fell and shattered his hind leg,
and now the taste of death they know.

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As they saw the first of the Barrow Downs,
they found the first of the Dead.

And his Friend found death at base of a stone,
While the Child fought on with his dread.

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When they finally won free of the Old Dead,
the Child and Hound found rest.

Amongst the tombs and the stones of the Old Downs,
they paused their arduous quest.

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'Till out of the gloom of a nightmare,
stood twoscore bands of armed men.

The Hound first noticed their presence,
Baying loudly 'till an arrow found him.

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The Child did flee from the Old Downs,
alone with naught but a sword.

He fled south to the lands of his allies,
but was halted at a swift-running ford.

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As he crossed slowly across the chill waters,
his swordbelt did slip from his waist.

No time did he have to retrieve it,
for he had not a moment to waste.

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Alone and soaked wet he fled southward,
bereft of all but his clothes.

He stumbled over and under and forward,
'till he found the end of his road.

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The land, it ended abruptly,
Right in front of the poor Child's face.

He had known the wiles of the blue sea,
and knew he was at the end of his race.

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As the pursurers came up to the cliffside,
they arrived just in time to construe.

That the Child had leapt to his own doom,
And with him the message t'was due.

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Southward from the fateful dropoff,
a body did wash on the shore.

A Child who had drowned, with a message held dear
the Allied King's men rode to war.

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All armored they were, with iron and with bronze,
And armed with an axe and a brand.

Northward they rode, to the aid of the King,
To relieve him of his final stand.

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The Winter Winds blew cold around,
the High King's encircled keep.

But when relief rode swiftly in,
the Old Dead were buried deep.

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Strength and speed and skill and age,
mean naught when a heart's afraid.

For a Child can do what a hundred man can,
if he's of what heros are made.