Join the Neopoet online poetry workshop and community to improve as a writer, meet fellow poets, and showcase your work. Sign up, submit your poetry, and get started.

The Legend of Inve and Tantalla IV: A Woodland Wraith

The forests round the mountain side
are shades where many creatures hide
and slink through lowly growing leaves
as though the forest sighs and heaves
with life and sentience of its own.            5
The newly planted wood had grown
into a haven queer of sort
where natures creatures held their court.
The fluttering birds in chorus sang,
and rattling branches, squirrels rang            10
and ravens raised their calling din
as Inve, hunting, trod within
the virgin forest, rodents caught
and to a little fire brought
to roast with nuts and oil. Long        15
he tarried there, the avian songs
pleasing him as passed he into
open lands that widened unto
the widest grassy plain he'd seen.
His sight and sense of smell were keen.            20
Enamoured by the beautiful
terrain and by the bountiful
pleasures awaiting him to claim
the young prince quite forgot his aim.

But Inve, quick and stern of heart            25
would never from his cause depart.
He scattered camp as though persued,
the woodland floor the prince perused
in searching for the secret sign
as promised him by fate's design.            30

He carried spear, horn and sack
with secret load tied to his back,
and like a seeking thief he slunk
o'er root and shrub, from trunk to trunk.
Yet that his errand was, in truth,            35
however base, howe'er uncouth
that task that had been set before
the eager prince who wanted more
than Hamclad's stoney walls would look.

He leapt o'er stream and running brook            40
and lightly trod where there was light.
The silver sheen was fay and bright
and lit the world with sullen hue.
Where'er the forest, mingling grew
and trapped the light between the boughs        45
will Inve, speedily glide through
in search of something urgent. Spent
he not more time than need, nor lent
he sight to calling beasts that crept
nearby, or in the roots had slept.            50

The woods spread wide from north to south,
from mountain source to river's mouth
enclosing streams that run and wove
beneath the canopy above.
The south extending mountain wood            55
at length will, where through ages stood
a very ancient forest meet.
There, newly made with aged greet.
Fresh stems with wise, old boughs commune
in there, the ageless trees consume            60
and stop its boisterous, youthful run.
Long threads of night within were spun
by creatures dark and hating light.

There lived old phantoms, ghosts and wights
that thrived in war and hateful days            65
but now retreat in secret lay,
in darkness slept, abiding time
until the more unpleasant climes
were once more raised upon the land;
then they'll awake, but now they stand            70
with silent trees and wrapped in clouds,
enclosed by spells and treacherous shrouds.

A wraith there lived, unsought, unseen
but not unheard by ear keen.
A lonely ghost, a sobbing sprite            75
who walked along in eerie light.

Her hair was dark, her eyes were sore;
a testament of pain she bore.
Her riament was pale and torn,
of ancient make and forest-worn.            80
She sung a song of great despair
that forest brought to disrepair.
She cast the wood in noble grey
with all the power of the fey
and upon all a stillness brought;            85
a deep reflection of her thought.

The entire forest she could see;
all that had been and what could be.
For ages long, alone she walked
and fading phantoms long she stalked.            90
A desp'rate yearning filled her song
as though some menace did her wrong,
as though some ill on her was wrought
and all her days reprieve she sought.

So happened Inve in that wood            95
when sudden stopped. Perplexed he stood
as though bewitched; in truth transfixed.
In sense and slumber trapped betwixt.
His sense and being will slowly fade
and thus consummed by reaching shade            100
Inve was swallowed by a deep
entombing, death-like, dreamless sleep.

Awoken with a start the prince
was shaken from the deathly trance.
Where'er he looked the wood was grey            105
and strangely lit, alive and fey.
About him shone an eerie light
that dulled his sense, made faint his sight.
But with his ears a song he heard,
unlike that sung by beast and bird.            110
About him, walking trees surround
as like some hapless prey had found.
Surrounding him they formed a glade,
enclosed it with perplexing shades.
Before him stands that noble ghost.            115
Percieved is her unspoken boast.

Good Inve, wherefore are you late?
You tarry long. Make haste, make haste!

And who are you, you phantom dame,
and how came you to know my name?            120

I know all things that pass within
this ancient wood, I know wherein
you made your camp and where you slept,
the paths you trod, and where you crept.

Then Inve, rising, took his spear            125

Do you not, son of Hamclad, fear?
I break your shaft and hunting tools.
Though you are brave, be you no fool.

"I pray you, mistress of the wood,"
spoke Inve, kneeling where he stood.        130

My quest is of the greatest need.
Spare me no more of this, I plead.

I know your name, and know your quest,
and though you think not to request
of my assistance, grant you aid            135
I must, for certain is the need,
and consequences shall this deed
most dire have beyond your thought.
When many things for ages sought
shall at last by your hand be found,        140
much rumour thereof shall resound
and West will war with Ubeline.

O phantom fair! O dame divine!
Of your assistance now I ask,
but look, you wear a noble mask            145
and in rich garment are you clad,
yet ghost you are, your song is sad.
Whence came you here, how came you now?
'Tis this I humbly ask to know
dread beauty of this queer domain.            150
I ask, pray tell, what is your name?

On discourse time cannot be spent,
My aid to foolish you I lent,
but still you ask, so I will tell
and lift from you my slumbering spell.        155
Long have I lived with leaf and tree
and know all that your eyes can see.
I stand commanding wraiths and wights
and seeking sprites I put to flight.
I know your quest and know your claim.            160
Alas! I know your secret aim.
Of all the pow'rs in all the lands
'Tis I who knows and understands
the wretched beast you seek to slay,
I've known that same for all my days.            165

"For I", said she, the phantom mild,
"Am Tantalla, the dragon's child".

Style / type: 
Structured: Western
Review Request (Intensity): 
I want the raw truth, feel free to knock me on my back
Review Request (Direction): 
What did you think of my title?
How was my language use?
What did you think of the rhythm or pattern or pacing?
How does this theme appeal to you?
Last few words: 
At last, we meet the second titular character. Now the stage is set, and the climax of the story may begin. I hope you are enjoying the story. Again, I must add that this is unedited, so common typos and such will be noticed.
Editing stage: 


This is an epic adventure for Inve, and i dare say for you. I like this very much, only thing i have a problem with is. To many and's and as's, i think as you have said this is unedited i should mention this. You have been very creative with this poem, story, but try stretching just a little further and i think this could be terrific. I will return to read again. Regards Roscoe..

Roscoe Llane,

Religion will rip your faith off, and return
for the mask of disbelief that's left.

Thanks Ross, I really respect your opinion. I'm glad you've taken time to read this poem this far.

What you noted, alas, is a huge problem for me. I've fallen into the habit of using ands and as's, and several others to help carry my poem and maintain the meter. I usually go over and try to get rid of as many of them as I can.

I'll definitely go over this one. I know what I've done...Lol, and I'll polish it up.

Thanks for reading!

No verse is free for the man who wants to do a good job. - TS Eliot

author comment

Being a later canto, I feel the poet cutting himself some slack and rushing through allowing things to be phrased however he “says” it at first without as much care to meter as previously. Fatigue and “instant gratification” are two of our greatest enemies. This is an early draft, but one of the things I have learned and adopted when writing a long tale is to take the time in the initial draft. Moving more slowly at the outset makes later work not only easier, but far more effective.
The story in this canto is much clearer than some other sections. There was never a moment I needed to double back and figure out just what was happening. We have a silly saying in the horse trade that I think fits here. “One needs to move as quickly as possible in slow motion.” Meaning the mind must race ahead to all the various underlying plot twists while taking the greatest care to move slowly with the actual words.
Line 2: Instead of “are” try something like “have” or “hold”.
5: Cliché. Forests and all their parts do have sentience and life of their own. You try to express that the forest as an “individual” has separate life, but the words don’t say that.
8: nature’s is possessive.
10: Beware words like “squirrel”. They have two syllables, but the reader must read it “like poetry” to use them. Say “squirrel” to yourself in a sentence and you will likely use only one syllable. We need to write in a way that encourages the reader to read as naturally as possible. Keats said “… if poetry is not written naturally, it should not be written at all.” This is doubly true for a story because we don’t want the reader bogged down in “poesy”.
15: I think “Long” is too short to end the line with. As I said… too much convenience writing going on. It rhymed, so let’s move on…
17&18: “into” and “unto”. Hmmm. Too conveniently easy. Also, try “did please him as he passed into”. “Pleasing” is trochaic. As I’ve noted before, they work when no enjambment is present. 18 has too many meter problems.
23: Trochee. “awaiting there for him to claim.” “Bountiful” in the previous line says enough.
27: “pursued.”
31: “He carried spear, (his) horn and sack”
33: I’m not crazy about “slunk”. It IS a real live word, but…
41: I’m not sure I understand why he trod lightly where it was light. What am I missing?
42 & 43: You have a contradiction in terms here. “Bright” and “sullen” don’t mix.
47: Here again is a single word at the end of a verse. I think sometimes this works, but usually it’s simply too stark.
53 & 54: “wove” and “above” are eye rhymes. I try never to use “love” or “above” because there is simply nothing meaningful that rhymes with them. Treat them like the plague. Some eye rhymes will work for us in the larger tale, but usually only when the pace is brisk.
58: With “aged” what? The logic doesn’t roll from the previous sentences.
59-74: This is what I’m talking about. Meter, logic clean. Images easily conveyed.
74: Try “but not unheard by (hearing) keen.”
79: Try “Her (raiment… spelling here) pale was (blah-blah) torn.”
85: Replace “upon” with “on it” and the meter is fixed. A lot of your little meter stumbles can be repaired by little changes like that.
87: The meter is a problem. I couldn’t seem to fix it, but “entire” is a hard one to use.
89-100: Again some clean work. This is the poet I see more often in Enedentian. Consider giving more time to the first draft. I used to think I should just spill it out emotionally, just hurl the chaos and intensity all athunder knowing I can go back and “fix” it later. I think you would be happier in the end result (and certainly with the process) if you put the “good poet” down in the first place.
103 & 104: Here is an example of assonance that gets away with it. “prince” and “trance” slip gently by us because the pace of the two verses doesn’t slow us enough to allow a stumble. However, in my BIG EDIT I have been striving to utterly eliminate all near rhymes. I argue with myself that if the poetry is to take care of itself (as I advertise) then it needs to be as clean as I can make it.
112: Try “as like some hapless prey (was) found.” More good verse. Were you sucking coffee or just well rested?
129: I’m going to have to give this more thought. I have wanted to run a workshop on Dramatic Verse which sections of Inve are. There is an inherent problem with dialogue and where to stick the quotation marks when you have a character speaking in the midst of a character speaking. Tolkien used single quotations throughout which freed him to use common double quotations for other things, but I really have to research this. Look at that section of the ghost’s speech with Inve’s quote and tell me what you think.
140: Try “shall (lastly) by your hand…”
148: “Come” instead of “came”.
153: Don’t use “you” as a name. It sounds like Archie Bunker. Try “My aid to fools and you I lent.”
162: Eliminate the second “all”.
163: “know” not “know(s)”.

I’ll reiterate. I wanted to hassle you with the rough draft first, so you grew more comfortable with how brutal I can get (I’m not yet up to speed) before we talk about the other work which is in a much more polished state.
Forgive me for taking so long. Reading and taking notes is second nature to me, but getting them down in cohesive whole is harder. That is the lesson I am learning. The faster, more concise and clear I can make my comments to you, the better goes the work on my Edit.

W. H. Snow

A poet is a nightingale, who sits in darkness and sings to cheer its own solitude with sweet sounds. Percy Bysshe Shelley

Learn how, teach others.
The NeoPoet Mentor Program

(c) No copyright is claimed by Neopoet to original member content.