Feeling upset, Edmund went for a stroll
along an arboreal road, bole to bole,
and was surprised to find a lost cave troll.
“What is wrong?” the Apprentice asked him.
“I am trapped by the evening sun’s whim,”
the troll said, huddling beneath a tree limb.
Edmund looked up at the sunny sky
and remembered how easy a troll might die,
if sunlight should touch him, or even meet his eye.
The troll was very large and very hairy,
and his mane was like a lion’s, his tusks scary,
and Edmund knew it was wise to be wary.
Edmund said, “You appear trapped, friend.
If I help save you from this end
will you hereafter your life amend?”
“By the bones of the titans upon the earth
and the cavernous womb of my birth,”
the troll said, “I will prove my trollish worth.”
And so, trusting the troll to keep his word,
Edmund summoned clouds in a large herd
to block the sun, spread out like a bird.
But instead of fleeing for his cave
the troll grabbed Edmund, like a knave,
and told him what he really did crave.
“I’ve caught you now,” the troll thus said,
“and now I’ll butter my breakfast bread
with the sweet jellies from your head.”
He held Edmund tightly by the waist,
grinning toothsomely, all ape-faced,
while sizing Edmund up, and his taste.
“I am the Apprentice,” Edmund replied,
“and so it would not be good if I died.”
The troll only laughed, and Edmund sighed.
The troll said, “Flint-Tusk is my name
and I am a troll who feels no shame.
Apprentice, you have only yourself to blame.
“First, you wander near my house,
and now you speak like a mouse.
Never trust a troll, you dandy’s blouse.”
Edmund motioned again to the sky
and the clouds fled from up on high
so the sun could shine, by and by.
“That will not save you,” the troll growled.
The troll held him tight, safely cowled
by the shadow of the tree he prowled.
“Have you ever heard the old tale,”
Edmund said, “of the lion with a nail
who needed the mouse to get well?”
Flint-Tusk snorted in utter disdain.
“All I care about in your little brain
is the jelly that is used to keep you sane.”
Edmund said, “The lion’s paw hurt him so,
and a mouse helped his paw, even though
he knew, in the end, it might bring him woe.”
Once again the troll huddled beneath the tree
while holding Edmund in his fist, tightly—
each one trapped, neither one free.
Edmund knew if he did not use his brain
then it might as well be jelly, for all its gain,
and so he flexed his muscle without refrain.
“But the thing about such stories
is that they neglect to mention the mouse’s fleas
and, therefore, the subsequent disease.”
“Disease?!” the troll exclaimed in fright.
“What disease?” he demanded, as if he might
run away, out into the bright sunlight.
“A brain disease,” Edmund said with an even tone,
“a disease unlike any other ever known—
to love someone who will never be your own.”
The troll looked at Edmund as if to see
if there dwelled in his face any duplicity,
and then released him beneath that tree.
“I understand,” the troll said with a groan.
“Love is a disease that withers to the bone.
I, too, know what it is to love, yet be alone.”
And so the troll spoke to him about his love
who had rejected him from her cave with a shove,
speaking until the moon reigned above.
They then bid each other farewell and good will
knowing that nothing jellied brains like being ill
with unrequited love, a thing painful to feel.
The Apprentice, Edmund, went to see
something unlike any other, a tree
which was called the Tree Of True Love,
which can be inferred from the words above
to be a magical tree that can tell you, too,
if who you are chasing is a love that is true.
Along its trunk are many knotted places,
but none more so than around the two faces
of a man and a woman who move within the tree
to show couples if they are meant to be.
If a couple truly belongs together in life
then the faces cuddle close, like husband and wife,
and the branches blossom full and bright
with pretty little petals of pink and white;
but if they do not, the tree lets them know
as the faces turn away from each other to show
what will happen if they continue together
and try to fare far fouler weather:
the tree sheds its blossoms, blackens its bark,
and grows thorns along its flanks, pointy and dark.
It is a prophecy that none may defy,
no matter how much you beg, cajole, or cry.
Feeling his frets, therefore, Edmund dared a glance
at the tree as if to see if he had the slightest chance
with the Princess Felicia, the Golden-Hearted Maiden
whom all of the knights of Gran Stone felt overladen
with affection for, that prized jewel in the gilded crown
of a kingdom whose bravery had earned renown.
And when he looked to see where his heart would reside
the faces turned indifferent— an unbridgeable divide.
“Maybe,” he thought, “if I give it more time
she will come around to me, like a perfect rhyme.”
Above her, the stars dim and fade
and, below, a god’s monolith cracks and breaks,
yet she still grins, a goblin girl made
to live a life of endless Wakes.
What are we to make of such earthly things
as scepters and thrones and imperial maps
except baubles for those Broken Crown Kings
whose glories succumb to Man’s mishaps?
For what is conquest, in its destined course,
but an idle man’s hobby horse?