Advice to Would-be Heroes

One thing I love about Mercedes Lackey, author of the Valdemar books (which consist of several stellar High Fantasy series) is just how grounded they are in reality. Grounded and, as such, so full of practical wisdom and unconventional but highly effective solutions. All this, combined with her considerable skill at song-writing (she really could have attended the Bardic Collegium at Haven), results in songs that capture some key knowledge that may be found all across the Multiverse and in Faerie as well.

So here is some Advice to Would-be Heroes from none other than Tarma shena Tale'sedrin merc, Shin'a'in Swordsworn, and dear hawk-faced friend.


"So want you go earning your keep with your sword
And you think that it can't be too hard–
And you dream of 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 haven't made you think twice
About whether adventuring's “fun!”

Now before you seek shelter or food for yourself
Seek first for those things for your beast
For he is worth far more than praises or pelf
Though a fool thinks to value him the 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 to seeing you both are well-shod

Eat lightly and sparingly – never full-fed–
For a full belly founders you mind
But sleep when you can - it's better then bread-
And on night-watch no rest will you find
Do not boast of your skill, for there's always one more
Who'd proven he's better then you
Treat sword-ladies like sisters, and not like some whore
Or your wenching days, child, will be few

When you look for a captain, then look for the man
Who thinks 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 men
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
So don’t argue or whine, or mock foolishly
Or you’ll soon be consulting the 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 chance to reach equal my years
You must find you a new kind of trade
For the plea you’re still spry will fall on deaf ears–
There’s no work for old swords, I’m afraid
Now if all that I’ve told you has not changed your mind
Then I’ll teach you best that I can .
For you’re stubborn, like me, and like me you're the kind
Becomes one fine Swords-woman or –man!"

(Kethry's granddaughter &
Tarma's prize student)

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