THE SWORDSWOMAN, by Jessica Salmonson:

Sensing a weight of death and gloom
observed by shades half-human,
upon a steed that snorts at doom
there rode the brave swordswoman.
Her plume was white, her armor gleamed,
the peasants watched her coming,
hope brightened in their hearts and dreams:
She rides! The brave swordswoman!

Her sword was offered to a king
for heroes had he summoned.
“Who’ll free us from the loathly thing!”
Stepped forth the bold swordswoman.
Some twenty fellows fell by then
each caught by wing and talon.
“Can you exceed those fallen men?”
the king asked the swordswoman.

From tower trumpeted the horn,
from turret drum was booming.
To challenge on that misty morn
the beast, while the swordswoman
rode from the gate, onto a field,
her sword eagerly thrumming;
“O, Demon, come! Your fate is sealed!”
declared the brave swordswoman.

From cloud and mist the thing congealed
and hovered sure and cunning,
then beat its wings, and reared and reeled,
and fell on the swordswoman.
A bloody arc behind her sword —
thus severed was one pinion!
By spear-sharp horn the horse was gored
and claws raked the swordswoman.

There dead upon the battle ground
fell steed with soldier swooning,
as gnashing jaws her armor found
and crushed the bold swordswoman.
Then with the mist the beast withdrew
to nurse its wound uncommon:
A one-winged beast another slew —
unthanked died the swordswoman.

Jessica Amanda Salmonson is the author of three novels in the Tomoe Gozen saga, about an 11th Century woman samurai in an alternate-world Japan. She’s a recipient of the World Fantasy Award, Lambda Award and ReaderCon Certificate. She lives on a hillside overlooking Puget Sound. You can see what else Jessica’s up to at her website:




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