The Traveler’s Prize

The delighted man set off, poised to claim his honor.
For he had lifted his country, leading his people from squalor.
He paced with glee, sang joyfully, his triumph gained with valor.

The path was smooth and straight, no labor in his stroll.
Sheltered by the shady breeze, endless steps would take no toll.
No cares surrounded, thus he gaily bounded, and made way down the quiet knoll.

There a man sat, head down and looking glum.
Our traveler gazed upon him, inquired what had become.
The man was quite lost, now full of exhaust, in need of an ear and a chum.

“Go south for a mile, turn left at the farm.
Stay straight for a while, ’til you come ‘pon the barn.
Cut straight through the wood, and in two minutes you should, reach the village for which you now yearn.”

This cheered the man, he got up and made way.
The traveler beamed at relieving dismay.
He cherished his words, claimed his self-made reward, and merrily moseyed away.

As he did he stepped over a quiver.
‘Twas left by the chum that went thither.
Little notice he paid it, left it where the chum laid it, no concern for no arrows within her.

And so he skipped gaily for hours.
Happening ‘pon a vast field of gold flowers.
There a man with his steed, in a quandary indeed, for a broken machine left him dour.

“I still have an acre to mow.
Yet the ardor has crippled my tow.
I know not what to do, for my tool is wrecked, too, and I haven’t the time to be slow.”

The traveler peered hard at the steel.
And stepped forward with intention to deal.
Measured strength and astutely, notched the pieces resolutely, and beheld the fixed tow rig with zeal.

The farmer expressed his deep thanks.
For the traveler had displaced the angst.
So he kept right along, down the path with a song, assured he’d ascended the ranks.

As he did so he bypassed the field.
Largely charred laid its smoldering yield.
Yet so he skipped on, not happening to dawn, was the thought of what source scorched the deal.

So he hummed with unflappable spirit,
Til he came ‘pon a hill with men near it.
Bedraggled they seemed, so bewildered this team, that he asked ’bout their fate, lest he bear it.

“Nomadic are we in this region.
Displaced from our homes for a season.
Now have no land to work, and our enemy lurks, pray he not buffet us like a legion.”

The kind traveler considered the tale.
Not content to let sadness prevail.
So his map he produced, offered land for their use, so they’d prosper ‘pon trekking the trail.

The men moved along with new hope,
For the traveler had thrown them a rope,
He ascended the mount, while proceeding to count, these fine deeds and gay feelings he evoked.

And he paced ‘pon a ground most indented,
From some sort of tracks that imprinted,
But he gave it no measure, just ahead lay the treasure, no trough could now leave his sights tinted.

Alas he reached his journey’s end, a cave upon a mount
Prepped to meet a new friend, and receive a blessed fount
Yet quickly met, the creature that, he’d rather do without.

A scaly terror sauntered forward, and gazed with fearsomeness
The joyful traveler cowered back, his countenance now depressed
Then felt he ought, to relay his thought, to briefly relieve his distress.

“I’ve come this way, for I was due, a gift for my good deeds.
And on the way, helped man some more, supplied his very need.
Shall not these acts, of filling lack, warrant a prize, indeed?”

As he spoke the monster moved ever closer still.
And sneered at every utterance the traveler chose to spill.
He flicked his tongue, with words he hung, the secret to unveil.

“Good you may have done for man, enough to claim the prize.
In fact you have received it, your reward was in disguise.
Now see your error, behold the terror, you’re deceived by your own eyes.”

“So rapt in self-contentment you were blind to see the signs,
Arrowless packs, a crop ransacked, death’s footprints left behind.
Man’s woe I’ve laid, his sun I shade, spawn chaos ‘pon his mind.”

“But you, I may devour, or perhaps more awful yet,
Complete the curse upon your body that your soul had long beget.
Become like me, observe men flee, your face they’ll ne’r forget.”

The traveler contorted about
Felt a jolt of his inside to out
All his skin became scales, sharp claws replaced nails, now his body made beastly throughout.

As he lay there the other went ‘way
Saying nothing to make fears allay
But abandoned the post, disappeared like a ghost, leaving traveler alone in the gray.

So he made the dark cave his abode
From his perch he watched as men strode
‘Til they came to his dwelling, with vanity swelling, and suffered the prize he bestowed.