Masters of the World

The Slaying of Bryling

So, we know that in days gone by
Golems walked the land as we do,
Servants to proud, debased masters.
You’ve heard of their bloody war,
How the heroes of bedtime stories
Strode out to face down their menace.
You’ve heard, also, Darovian whispers
Of hollow hills stirring some nights
And spewing out remnants of armies
That blade and spell shattered imperfectly.

For these golem-purposes, just a head
Is required. The rest of the corpse
Is tossed aside, a mute reminder
That despite Heahwisard protection
No man should feel safe at night.

The banes of Dartuk traveled those hills,
Meet those haunters of darkness,
And scattered their rocks while Thunor,
Rain-friend, bore down from the heavens.
Their murders avoided, they found
That not all had been so lucky.
Haunts had claimed merchants and farmers,
But the most troubling worry held that
So too was Count Bryling, the Mage,
Rich in the land’s love, but gold-short,
Missing on a journey through the hills.

Would that he had been golem-claimed!
He would have better judge after death,
And better memories of those he ruled,
Who might reminisce for bygone day,
As Dartuk chooses a new ruler for them
Who takes cows without recompense,
Who uses lives without mercy.
Such a ruler might have seemed cruel,
Next to the illusion Bryling bore.
But in truth, that cruelty’s a mercy
When laid against murder, thuggery,
And golem making. “Bring peasants,”
He said, “For they’re used to orders,
Their easy brains take out, and place
In golems’ shells. My fiendish friend
Counsels true, our trials succeeding,
Each dead serf serves to help us rule.”

The Companions set out to rescue Bryling,
Bring him back home, safe and sound.
In time, though, they’d lose their want
For his wellness, and after a battle,
Lose his cold conjurer’s death heap too.
(The Mage-Count was pursued by Dartuk as well,
Though no friend that bad host could be.
Striking at illusions is no way to rule.)

Under Golem Hills was his lair,
Hidden it seemed, a miscreant’s tale
Led them to wall’s seam. All the way,
It was guarded by slaves various,
From gruesome corpse-stitched hulks,
To pitiful spider-ridden thralls,
To those who needed no chains but gold.
None could stand firm against fury
From those who had no quarter to give.
A bear rends true, arrows fly truer,
While sword and hammer deal grievous blows.
Not even golem makers abided!
Two of their number were captive,
In chains they were placed;
It’s good to smile at a ruler bound.

Another was pierced by Spider’s fang,
Then demon friend asunder was torn,
And the goal of the quest, Bryling himself,
Stood firm with his staff, flinging
His frightening spells with all force,
Until Stormcleaver visited upon him,
With the blessing of Thunor, reign-foe,
A blow greater than most told in tales;
Her hammer took him from crown to crotch.
He spread out his offal before her,
Though in truth it was less foul
Than his putting brains in golems.
His crimes never repented,
His mistakes never admitted,
Bryling died exactly as he lived,
Like a blood-sucking bug, soon popped.

Alas for the tale, the body is lacking.
No Heahwisard left corpse or captive.
At caverns’ mouth were Companions met
By Gray Riders, three, whose blades
Bit deep, drawing blood and magic
Through gaping, gushing veins.
Conquered they were! The grim riders,
Question-generous, stole Wisardry,
Took staves and corpses; captives too.
Where they go, and what they become,
No mortal should know. Some say
That the vortex all mages swim near
Is embodied in them; a mage who lingers,
Never falling into void, might,
With a push, met the fate he fears.



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