Monday, 23 March 2015

Heavy hangs the head that wears the crown

“Canst thou, O partial sleep, give thy repose?
To the wet sea-boy in an hour so rude;
And in the calmest and most stillest night,
With all appliances and means to boot,
Deny it to a king? Then, happy low, lie down!
Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown…”
Henry IV Act III, Scene 1

“Dawn bleeds, so too do the soldiers below. Slaughter. Ambush. Early morning carnage. A young mage lies grievously wounded, legs smashed to pieces by the weighty sledge of a Warhammer. He crawls, broken limbed, leaving a crimson trail behind him. Words fail him, magic escapes him. All he has is the pain to keep him going, keep him searching for a place to hide.
The attack is over as soon as it is begun. Edvard hears the victors finishing off the survivors, one bloody scream at a time. He pulls two bodies on top of him, and for the first time in his life, he prays. He closes his eyes and waits for fate to deal her hand. Miraculously, he sleeps, and is awoken hours later by the peck-peck-peck of a carrion crow slivering his cheeks. He is alive. Never has anything felt that good to the young sorcerer.
He rolls from under the dead weight and raises himself to scan his surroundings. The sun is setting, the day is done, there’s blood in the sky and on the ground. He sees a familiar face and croaks until he is noticed. Relief washes over him, as his man-at-arms picks up his destroyed body. He passes out.
When he awakes again, he is alone in the dark. His mind returns to the attack and knows that such a brazen act could mean only one thing: betrayal. In the morning he summons what’s left of his father’s army. A quick head-count reveals who is not among them. The traitor now has a name. Prince Edvard leads them to the coast and across the sea to The Isle, and it is here that he waits for his revenge…” The Chronicles of the Lich Liege

And wait he did. Ten years became twenty. Twenty grew to forty, and still, he did not stir. His army grew, so too did his power; and when death came knocking again, he laughed in its cowled face, spat on the ground, and continued hating, continued planning.
 Then, one day, he unleashed the hate…
They spread quickly, like a plague, and over the water they came. Ships blackened the ocean and when they landed, fire and flame blackened the rest.  Edvard, the Lich Liege, rode at the head of the invaders and left none to live. The land was raised, the people destroyed, and the traitors made to pay for their deeds of yore.
 Edvard had not forgotten, nor had he forgiven, and even though these men were now very old indeed, he tortured them over as many days as their weakened frames might allow; and when they thought they were safe in death’s blessed embrace, he had them raised so he could kill them again. And again, and again, and again…
Edvard, finally King of his own lands, sat on his father’s throne and saw that it was good.
He ruled with a bloody fist.
 His reign of damnation knew no bounds. All that was, was no more. Only his castle now stood, the place of his birth, with the blood of the treacherous dripping from its walls, while the wind blew merry tunes through the eye-sockets of the fallen.
The castle became a symbol of evil, a blight on the ground from which it rose. It was dubbed the Maw, because once you went in, you never came out.
 He repopulated the land with his own people from The Isle, people he could trust. They wore his mark on their hands and around their necks; a seven pointed sign that came to signify pain and suffering on an unimaginable scale.
 His power grew even more, but so too did his distrust. Sedition, he imagined, was everywhere. He let slip his clergy on the lands to the south and they rode day and night seeking out those that would thwart their lich liege’s plans, or take up arms and turn their weapons against him.
Do-gooders, saints, fair of face and glad of heart had no place under the rule of the Lich Liege. All that was good was to be destroyed. The forces of Light fell quickly. The rule of law left the land. His clergy, or the Skinners, as they soon come to be known, were single-minded in their purpose. Driven to torture and to wear the skins of their victims over their own, they quickly turned the lands around Edvards kingdom to nought but waste.
But Edvard’s paranoia knew no bounds, he imagined he saw spies and agents of misfortune everywhere, even in those closest to him. He decimated his most loyal followers and thinned out the ranks of his armies until even they could not stand to live under his oppressive yoke.
Where there had once been nothing but dark devotion to their master, they sought to free themselves, and the land, of this, their ruinous Lich Lord. Those wearing the sigil of the Lich turned their hearts against him and stormed the very castle they had long protected. Edvard, betrayed by a revolution of his own making, watched in disbelief as his castle fell and was reduced to rubble all around him.
No one knows if he was vanquished that day, no corpse was ever found. The castle was soon deserted and left for the wilds to do with as they pleased. Stunted, misshapen trees now guard the hallways and meeting halls. Crows and rooks nest in the Black Tower and look down disdainfully at what was once the throne room of Edvard, the Lich Liege.
But true evil never dies… it lies waiting in hellish slumber for those fools brave enough to disturb its nightmarish sleep. Rumours abound of the treasures that were left behind, fortunes a thousand times over. Heaps of coin, barrels of gems, bolts of silk and other such finery all there for the taking.
And what of Edvard? Who knows, but it is said that a hollow figure dressed in ragged raiment walks the halls, planning… ever planning… his final revenge...

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