Witch-King Dwyr turned his face to the sky.
Witch-King Dwyr was waiting to die.
Flurries of powder blew past his crowned head:
The dust of the land and the bones of the dead.
From his hill to the shores all the earth lay decayed,
The ripple of ruin from a last debt unpaid.
The witch-king trembled, and spoke an old spell;
Across the gray valley his chant struck like a bell.
A great mountain split from the peak like a seam.
From the door of deep magic blew sulphureous steam.
A terrible presence like a dry boiling storm
Arose from the deepness and uncovered its form.
Behold a fell angel! A terrible light—
Wings made of iron, a sword dripping blight;
Smoking and burning, thrice-crowned with horns;
A chest like a man’s but split hooves like a faun’s;
A smooth hide of glass and wrought brass and bright bronze;
A hood like a cobra’s, a neck like a swan’s.
It spake, and the earth writhed and whorled, tore in twain;
It flared wide its cloak and the stars shrieked in pain.
Then the force of its maddening, quick-piercing gaze
Turned on Dwyr like a wheel, a wheel ablaze—
A single eye opening like hell’s fires unbound—
And Witch-King Dwyr was flung back to the ground.
The Aegelich screamed in cruel joy and raw lust;
It gazed on the king struggling mute in the dust.
It raised a glass finger like an ash-blackened spear,
And spoke six dark words that brought pain just to hear—
A chant of destruction, a malevolent spell;
The black voice of binding, the forked tongue of Hell.
Witch-King Dwyr raised his blade like a shield.
The hilt rotted to ash and the cold iron peeled.
His plate and his mail and his helm split in half;
The dwarf-woven iron rusted to chaff.
The gold of his crown, once bright, became gray;
The jewels lost their hue and faded away.
The Aegelich smiled, and drew its head near.
It bared all its teeth and mocked the king’s fear.
Then the fell angel struck! With a move sleek as wine,
It pierced Dwyr through his chest and out through his spine.
It raised the long finger impaling its prey,
And displayed the witch-king to the stars in array.
The blood of the king soaked the ravening earth.
The joy of the Aegelich thundered with mirth.
It screamed of its victory to heaven’s high tower;
It boasted its swiftness and flaunted its power.
Then it looked on the king, and a snarl bent its lips.
And it spoke in a voice like the breaking of ships:
“FOR YOUR BLOOD I HAVE THIRSTED FOR THREE THOUSAND YEARS.
I HAVE MOANED DEEP IN DARKNESS AND WEPT POISONOUS TEARS
MY CLAIM IS ON YOU FOR THE DARK ARTS YOU SELL.
YOU ARE SEPARATE FROM GOD AND DESTINED FOR HELL.
THIS IS MY JUDGEMENT. THIS IS MY RIGHT.”
And the edge of its sword spewed the blackest of blight.
Nailed to the sky Witch-King Dwyr hid his face.
His heart fled away and despair took its place.
His bones turned to water and his old strength to sand,
The hilt of his sword slipped and fell from his hand.
But he mustered his breath, and in words streaked with pain,
He said, coarse and wretched, “Remember your name.”
“You are the shadow, the secret, the sin;
You are the plague that my error let in.
You are the child of the dark inside me;
You are the smith of my land’s agony.
You are the whip, the cruel master, the chain,
You are my Death and you are my bane.
“Your name I wrote on the stones of the Chart,
In the ink of my blood, by the strings of my heart.
My soul I bound tight in the blackest of chains,
To claim all they promised, such glory, such gains!
I made you to serve me, to lend me your might,
But no king can master a Child of Night.”
“TIS TRUE,” said the Aegelich, “I CANNOT BE BOUND.
SO YOU SOUGHT TO BURY ME DEEP IN THE GROUND.
YOU HID YOUR OWN CHAINS. YOU BURNED YOUR DARK ART.
YOU TRIED TO BRING FREEDOM TO EVERY HEART.
BUT MY WRATH BOILED UP THROUGH THE STONE AND THE SAND.
I CRUSHED YOUR BEST EFFORT. I POISONED YOUR LAND.”
Witch-King Dwyr turned his face to the sky.
His body wept blood but his dark eyes were dry.
“The words I speak now are the last of my breath.
I am bleeding and broken, destined for death.”
He gripped the sharp edge of the spear in his breast,
Met the eye of the Aegelich and whispered the rest:
“I saw my hopes crumble, my dreams turn to coal.
I saw all I had crafted slip from my control.
I saw I had loosened a terrible foe
That would draw all my deeds and my land into woe.
The brightest of runes and my bitterest tears
Could not stop the tide bearing all of my fears.
“But when all my arts and my days turned to rot,
I sought out the hands of a God I forgot.
He commands you to smite me, to strip me like chaff,
But my blood and my flesh are the end of your path.
You are the child of all my ill gain,
So you are my Death—but my Death is your bane.”
The Aegelich faltered; its wings missed a beat.
Its burning eye dulled as it pondered defeat.
A silence descended from the east to the west
As the last breath of Dwyr fled his shattered old chest.
His gray withered crown glowed red in the night.
It smoldered and smoked, and then burst alight.
The spear in the flesh of the king flared in flame;
The Aegelich shrieked, shaking free of its claim.
It leapt to the sky but its wings broke like glass,
Raining iron like knives on the hilltop’s dry grass.
Its hide burned like paper; its bones dripped like wax.
Its blighted black blade slipped free, blunted and cracked.
Last fell the Aegelich, wreathed in flame,
Cursing its Death and cursing its name.
Upon that dead hill, on the bones of old Dwyr,
The fell angel burns yet upon its bright pyre.
And a crown of white gold waits deep in the earth,
Forged pure in the fire of a lost soul’s rebirth.