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Advice to Would-be Heroes

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So want you go earning your keep with your sword

And you think it cannot be too hard– 

And you dream becoming a hero or lord 

With your praises sung out by some bard 

Well now, let me then venture to give you advice 

And when all of my lecture is done 

We will see if my words have not made you think twice 

About whether adventuring is “fun!” 


Now before you seek shelter or foot for yourself 

Go seek first for those things for your beast 

For he is worth far more than praises or pelf 

Though a fool things to value him least. 

It you’ve ever a moment at leisure to spare 

Than devote it, as if to your god, 

To his grooming, and practice, and weapons-repair 

And seeing you both are well-shod 


Eat you lightly and sparingly – never full-fed– 

For a full belly founders you mind 

Ah, but sleep when you can - it is better then bread- 

For on night-watch no rest you will find 

Do not boast up your skill, for there is always one more 

Who would prove he is better then you 

Treat sword-ladies like sisters, and not like a whore 

Or your wenching days, child, will be few 


When you look for a captain, then look for a man 

Who think first of his man and their beasts, 

And who listens to scouts, and has more than one plan, 

And heeds not overmuch to the priests 

And if you become captain, when choosing your man 

Do not look at the “Heroes” at all 

For a hero dies young – rather choose yourself ten 

Or a dozen whose pride’s not so tall 


Now your Sword-master’s god – whosoever he be– 

When he stands there before you to teach 

And don’t argue or whine, think to mock foolishly 

Or you’ll soon be consulting a leech! 

Now most booty is taken by generals and kings 

And there is little that’s left for the low 

So it’s best to learn skills, or work at odd things 

To keep food in your mouth as you go 


And last, if you should chance to reach equal my years 

You must find you a new kind of trade 

For a plea that you’re still spry will fall on deaf ears– 

There’s no work for old swords, I’m afraid 

Now if all what I’ve told you has not changed your mind 

Then I’ll teach you best as I can. 

For you’re stubborn, like me, and like me of the kind 

Becomes one fine Swords-woman or –man!

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