The Story of High Paladin Ogdin

I’ll spin a yarn for thee
Of time I’d spent in little Bovree
Of my impossible fear
For Paladin Ogdin of Tyr
And I’ll tell you, the first story’s free

Ogdin was the tower’s guard
I was instructed to be his bard
To tell all his tales
To keep him looking hale
And to give him some support when the baddies hit hard

The man was built like a house
(Like no man I’d seen built, else)
Despite his careful dieting
With unshakable piety
His workout he’d gladly espouse

Ogdin was the talk of the fief
And his new station provided relief
He’d bring any monster
To heel through the slaughter
And he’d pray with you through your grief

One day in Bovree, Ogdin sat
Plates piled high on his prayer-mat
I passed the time
Scribbling rhymes
Wondering where the adventure was at

Up came a peasant, distraught
“Orcs have trampled my plot
Now I cannot eat
For nearly a week
So Ogdin, can ya help me or not?”

Ogdin arose in a moment
(Apparently done with atonement)
He waved me over to squire
(A job sure to inspire)
As he prepared to face his opponents

I shackled down every plate
I dexterously moved at a rate
Quicker than most
But my pulse still arose
Ogdin was never late

“Show me your trampled land”
Ogdin demanded the man,
“Because if it was recent,
Our chances are decent,
That those beasts still may be at hand.”

Ogdin hefted his sword
As I tied his cloak with a cord
We descended the tower
Walked for some hours
And in an instant were bored

Over the time, I do not think
That once I saw Ogdin blink
His eyes scanned the trees
Of Forest Bovree
And never did his eyelids sink

We finally came to a home
With half of a field left fallow
Ogdin looked ‘round for hints
Spotted some prints
And we traced whence they roamed

The peasant-farmer came ‘long
And asked if I knew traveling songs
But deep in the wood
I don’t know if I could
Sing! Something felt very wrong

We walked parallel to the path
And Ogdin was propelled by his wrath
As the wood thickened
Ogdin’s pace quickened
Hurtling toward a bloodbath

We heard the sound of a fire
And I began to perspire
Incomprehensible dread
Flooded my head
And deep in my soul snapped a wire
The woods smelled of cooked rye
And smoke trailed in my eyes
Ogdin was praying for power
The farmer smelled the cooked flour
And I’m not sure which part made me cry

I counted an orc family of three
With one just up to my knee
The father looked on
With no weapon drawn
He stared through the smoke right at me

Ogdin readied his blade
All of his deals had been made
Through order and devotion
He’d been given promotion
And knew through the battle he’d be saved

My hand wrenched out my rondel
My other hand readied a spell
Better not to upset the gods
I’d’ve been faced with the odds
That when I died I’d go to hell

Ogdin raced forward in a blaze
My mind was wrapped in a haze
The dad rose to parry
The family was harried
The peasant looked on, amazed

My left hand fluttered with signs
Of languages long left behind
I ate away at the will
His urge to kill
And I held Ogdin there, resigned

The orc man looked past the paralysis
And gave me momentary analysis
He lowered his axe
Ogdin’s subconscious wracked
And I tinkered with all of his malices

“I knew an orc was not to be trusted”
Ogdin said as my enchantment rusted
“In the fires of Hell ye will be singed”
He said with jaw-unhinged
That’s when my rondel thrusted

It danced in caverns of his bone-cage
And his mind swelled with unknown rage
I saw him, his world’s protector
Shimmering lights in his mind’s projector
All alone, center stage

The hungry family stood in shock
The farmer froze and couldn’t talk
And from his body I dagger-pulled
Felt the blood, both hot and cold
As Ogdin sloughed off onto a rock

“Count your blessings, orcish bard.
For if you thought your life was hard
Take just a moment, let it ring
The song that the world will sing
To die in Bovree, cut down, charred.”

He mumbled blessings and then pressed
A faintly-lighted hand to his chest
And in a moment sprang back to life
Propelled by hellfire-strife
Never thought he’d meet a test

I cast a forceful aegis back
And made his breastplate crack
I ducked and dived beneath his blows
His sword-swings with Tyr’s fire-glowed
And this compelled the father to attack

We flanked Ogdin, him and I
Neither wished for the other to die
The father swung his battle-axe
And carved down the hunter who’d followed tracks
Who’s quarry hungered for only rye

Not to be tricked by gods again
With my dagger, I checked him slain
I eyed the farmer who brought me here
Whose face was cast in light of fear
Who’d watched us slay Bovree’s thane.

“Walk free, farmer, I apologize,
But see you not the hunger in their eyes?”
I motioned toward the huddled kin
Famished was the state they’re in
“Recompense will come from my Ogdin’s supplies.”

“It seems to me there’s not much choice.”
He warbled out in shaking voice
“But I am quite hungry too, you see,
Perhaps they could break bread with me?”
The mother smirked with calm rejoice.

The farmer sat beside the youth
Who cherished bread ‘tween sharpened tooth
I sat too, and thought a while
As my body chewed through stomach bile
I recognized in Ogdin, truth

The world seems pitted against itself
We common folk just vye for wealth
I almost carried out a strike
Against those whom I’m most alike
Not just the orcs, but the farmer’s health

Now to me it’s clearly known
That for that day I need not atone
A man propelled by vile hate
Can never stand at Heaven’s gate
Because he’d stand alone.

Well that was really fun to write.

The orc bard looks confident. He wears fine clothes and flowing trousers. There is a large lute strapped to his back.

The human paladin is cast in shadow. He wears polished plate armor , and wields a flaming sword and carries a shield.  He seems poised to defend himself.

The human farmer wears rattan clothes and a wide-brimmed hat. He stands in a neutral pose, and has a blank expression.
A few visuals of what our Bard, Paladin, and Farmer may look like.
Picture of an orc woman in clean peasant clothes. She looks down toward her swaddled child, who is being held by the orc father. The orc father is sitting on a large stump.
Oh, and our young Orc family.

I like poems that tell stories, and I think rhyme is actually under appreciated in modern poetry discussions. I have always loved limericks in particular. I like to say I get that from my dad. He taught me what might be the only poem he has ever learned.

There once was a man from Mass
Who had balls made out of brass
In stormy weather
They clung together
And lightning shot out of his ass

True poetry

Honestly though, I have always found limericks to be a great way to keep a whimsical tone, while using a built-in tension between the lines. The final line in any given limerick is expected to be a punchline, but it can deliver so many cool surprises. Here I wanted the orcish bard to play with the comedy of limericks early on to make the reader pick up on the whimsy, get nestled into a respect for Ogdin, and an appreciation for the bard’s wit. One thing that I missed in Beowulf was tension. Everything resolved so quickly, and yet still the lead-up always felt like it took forever, so I wanted to play with a “hero’s” story and then subvert it at the end.

I was also inspired in Beowulf by how active the narrator seemed to be. The narrator has a lot of opinions that he shares throughout, so I wanted to make him an active member of the plot as well in my poem.

Now onto themes and stuff like that. The boring stuff that is boring and barely has anything to do with sword fights and/or magic. Well, I wanted to address the criticism levied against my most cherished love, Dungeons & Dragons. Particularly, I wanted to make a piece that acknowledges the racist mythologies that the game is built on. In Orcs, Britons, And The Martial Race Myth, James Mendez Hodez explores the history and problematic outcomes of the fantasy race of orcs, like how they were literally created as a stand-in for Asian people by Tolkien, who was very much a racist dude. I wanted to give a more nuanced view of orcs, but I probably failed, if Hodez’s instructions on how to write good orcs are anything to go off of.

I wanted to give the orcs more agency. In a lot of D&D worlds, orcs are nothing but sword-fodder, but I wanted them to have more depth while I still maintained an over-the-top, engaging, fantasy story.

I made Ogdin to be a member of a high social class, and I made him at first out to be sterling-silver-perfect. I also made him a paladin of the Forgotten Realms god of Justice, Tyr. He was meant as a stand-in for the holier-than-thou and still violent nature of colonizers, and I suppose the British specifically. I extended the fight scene with the characters for a few reasons (not the least to make it a little more interesting than the Grendel fight). I wanted to give the orcish father a chance to work with the bard, to show unity in rising up to combat oppressors. In doing this I also realized I failed the Bechdel test pretty hard in the poem. It’s supposed to be sort of ambiguous which “he” the bard ensorcels in limerick 21, and the final line of that limerick is supposed to be a reveal. Because of that, the mother wasn’t the one acting in the story, and so she is sectioned off to a single line of silent response.

Drawing of an orc mother. She is holding a baby orc under each arm, and there is a baby orc on her back. The three orc children are rowdy.
I may have dropped the ball there.

My poem, weird and imperfect as it is, is a really clear example of why I value literature in times like these. It’s been a dark few months, and I have found a lot of comfort in role playing and fantasy over that time. I want to help make those spaces safer for others to hide in too. I definitely felt attacked the first few times people pointed out the racial problems of D&D, but I recovered from it, and it has come to my attention that with some work we can all make gaming welcoming to all people. Sharing stories with more complex fantasy worlds can help change that. Imagining people complexly can help change that. We need to tell more stories so we can hear more stories, we need to hear more stories so we can hear more people.

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One thought on “The Story of High Paladin Ogdin

  1. I can’t believe how many limericks make this thing up. Holy cow dude.
    I can see that we both took the rhyming angle here. I gotta say though, your effort here is much more mature lol. I don’t have much experience writing in meter, so I just went with like an aabb Dr. Seuss scheme. But limericks dude?? What a challenge lol. Not to mention you manage to tell a very clear story over the course of all of them. And I’d also like to mention that telling the story from the perspective of the bard is awesome. What an interesting take. Instead of following a third person omniscient as is often the case in these poems, we follow a dude who has his own thoughts and feelings during the events of the story. Love it. 10/10

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