Masters of the World

The Lay of Wulfsunu

Through tangled vines of wisard-lines
Gardeners duly mark off heritages,
Selecting the best (or most convenient)
To let spill forth new fruit.

One trunk stands fast, unculled,
No pruning shears could touch it.
The Sons of the Wolf, malleable,
Form and ferocity taken from namesake.

Arcturus, to show his blood’s strength
Must track and lead, yet never guide,
Fight prepared, without worry.
Wield a staff but never lean on it.

Wisard’s orders most dire send him
In pursuit of two odd criminals,
Noble-slayers, grave-robbers,
Burners of what is proper lordly.

With the Leypawolf run two more,
Mages, former comrades in crime,
Now active captives, Wolf-advising.
Their words give him ward against harm.

The tracking is easy for wolf nose.
A lonely copse, with stashed horse,
Much like the grove where burned
A mage’s body, away from mourners.

In the shape of a man he approaches,
Not dreading his doom. An arrow strikes
From front to back, piercing his heart.
A glorious shot, but he smiles.

Such things are like mist to him,
Thanks to friends’ foreknowledge.
The weapons of his enemies are lost,
His own remain, made mage-mighty.

Only a betrayal saves the criminals,
Those same friends who bought safety
With most telling tales of past battles,
Discard their purchases and join combat.

(Their choices may be more forgivable
Than it currently seems, they knew
Of that Leypawolf nature, unlike the two
Who greeted parlay with archery.)

Tahquil’s power swirls about,
Provokes the Wolf Son to drop
Pretenses of the ordinary,
And rise himself to true height.

Bloody and desperate the fight is,
Fortunate that to the test,
The Shape leaper brought unwisely
As many foes as friends!

Iridan’s bolts fly true, searing off
Fur and fervor; Arcturus slumps.
There in the grove burns brightly,
A mage’s body, away from mourners.

(Though in some nights Nemith fears
That as they rode away, planning flight,
He turned and looked and saw a breath,
Though feeble, life-giving still.)

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The Liberator's Lay

Galmoor had barons, once,
Before Heahwisard rule.
Sword passed, father to son,
Each born where he’d rule.

But great tales are told,
Consequences left out,
And childhood dreams
Turn to adult folly.

To do great things,
One needs great force;
Which Galmoor’s people
Could not provide.

Heahwisards’ gold,
For Galmoor’s ground.
A people sold like cattle
To pursue dream-quest.

No native rulers now,
No ties to the land.
But clutching hands
And strictures unfair.

“Stay in your station,
Provide your tax,
Keep in at night,
And let us rule in peace.”

Hail to Thunor, who rights these wrongs!
Hail to his rains, that preserve the weak!

Woe to you who deliver harsh edicts,
And woe to your enforcers alike!

Burn bright, the serf-woods; but Thunor preserves.
Burn bright, high stables; they become ashes.

Freedom coming soon to those under heel,
Freedom ringing true to Galmoor’s lands.

But great tales are told,
Consequences left out.
Your land will quake
Under Heahwisards’ bought boots.

Edicts you hate, compound,
And turn Galmoor to gaol.
A Staff Mage’s grip,
Is not easily shaken.

Where find you might,
To deal with their magic?
Where find you freedom,
In homes made of soot?

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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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The Lay of Dorin ap-Morrad

(says Tahquil)
Happy come I to Dartuk-house
Your ancestors have deep deeds to cheer.
’tween Staff Mages and my Convokers
Let water be shared let bonds draw tight

(says Thewell, the herald)
Welcome you are to Dartuk-house.
My master is away and will not entertain,
Though you may cavort with un-welcomed guests.
In his broad halls be no bad host.

(says Argius)
Pleasing to eyes is the elements’ envoy
Pleased to speak am I, for a while.
For short-staff bairn, to woo is like to win,
Close enough to win for one such as me.

(says The Lucky One)
Happy come I to Dartuk-house
Your ancestors have great good to cheer.
’tween High Mages and my Convokers
Let merriment make and drink be shared.

(says Thewell)
Welcome you are to Dartuk-house.
Your face familiar have you crossed before?
No matter to Dartuk who greets not with care.
In his broad halls be no bad host.

To Darovia come they questions to ask.
Wojket, wanderer weaver of wiles, and
Nemith spell-sucked child of the earth,
To Darovia come they answers to find.

Entrance they seek to Dartuk-house
Entrance they gain by Luck’s stroke
But fellow traveler with unwise words
Puts plan to peril, mars careful masks.

(says Kita)
Why lay you blows, oh Staff Mage,
On your faithful man? Harbor you not
The kindness of kin that all alive share?
Our words warn you before blows best you.

(says a wicked Mage-Baron)
Baron I am, and better for it.
Curse you the rain when down it beats?
More insolent still to curse I for same.
Run hence, before I, like rain, beat all around.

(says Wojekt)
Your staff may seem solid and strong,
But methinks that its reach isn’t long.
And thine true staff is loose and limp;
It has never found something to touch.

(says Nemith)
Run we now, for see, our opinions offend.
Fly you few, become you winged. I’ll behind,
Stay with servants, for my legs lack vigor
And meet at the morn if hidden I remain.

The two noble born find the one noble-seeming,
Aghast at the ruse, see his false Engro-form.
Unknowable it is, why a woman he mocked,
Unknowable also, why what follows, does.

Bad-hosting Dartuk, to amend his failing,
Jails all who had cause to complain.
Their screams ring; ransoms they seek,
They come to ken they’re hosted for good.

In the morn few meet, the Norns’ will done,
Nemith caught out by grasping gaze
Tahquil and Argius by soldiers snared.
Luck and Kita to birds belong.

(says Argius)
Though pain you bring, pain I can stand,
If only by the binds that support me.
I’ve told you true of treacherous friends,
What more want you? Only screams remain.

(says Dorin, the Torturer)
Only screams want I, only pain brings me peace.
For Balegyr I hold to be truest above.
Writhing and writhing ’neath his widening eye
Is how he demands you. Who am I to decline?

(says Tahquil)
Though pain you bring, pain I can stand,
By the knowledge of what fate awaits you.
My father, your enemy implacable has been,
And to retrieve me your gaol is no barrier.

(says Dorin)
Imagine the grief when he comes in that door,
Troops clad in mail bearing keen arms,
And sees his child lying still on floor
Clad in blood, bearing no arms.

(says Nemith)
Pain they bring me, this pain I can stand.
Glad I am low born of interest little,
Those nobler sorts are getting far worse
Than I’d ever want for test of my own.

(says Dorin)
All in time, all in plan.
When have the poorest escaped true pain?
When full up I am on nobler blood,
I wake late at night to lap at yours.

Wojekt, leaping, brine-blessed, protected,
Finds those who flew and weaves rescue.
Into gaol’s heart Luck wears soldier’s face,
Loom and the Cold One, in fetters, but unbound.

“I chant a charm the chains to break
so the fetters will fly off my feet,
and off my hands the halter – "

No spell need they now, but battle is joined.

Within hall and tunnel blades flash, boots stomp.
The battle raging, the darers winning,
Though blade and bite burn deep, blood seeping,
Triumphs compound, the lost find rescue.

Kita, Freer, Saver of souls lost and kept,
In cell after cell, from misery removes
All those who hurt, and with Smiter swung wide,
Head-ringing, strikes all those who hurt.

A Staff-Day truer no Mage has seen
Than when the gaoled raised dreamt-of staves
’Gainst former keepers, flinging might and fury,
Warring on men, and dreaded Spell-Sucker.

Reunions on hold, accusations unspoken,
All thoughts are bent on escape, on survival.
Their blades quick and spells mighty,
They hew well; but with cost.

(says Dorin)
Embattled you are, Once-Bear has fallen,
A half-man revealed how pitiful he seems!
And his guardian, the Snow-Sent,
adds corpse to wounded, adds grief to inglory!

My master smiles on at this my defeat,
Pain wants he, and pain I on send,
The wounds, the deaths I’ve done are enough
To win me good harbor In Scaetha’s Hall

(says Kita)
Struck down, I seemed, but unwounded, I be.
And the pain you crave passes, if slowly.
The prison has bars it can but briefly reach past
And all you’ve done will not last.

(says Dorin)
In this world true does pain ebb and flow
But tides never change in the lands below.
Think that all you will escape, in the end?
Yes! Balegyr clutches all hurt straight to him!

My soul, it shall be as damned and black
As Echoing Screams whereto it goes;
In death as in life all shall be howls;
My master smiles, and I grim grin back.

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