13 October 2007

The Fall of the Wizard-King

Well, it's that time again - Sîan Barraj, the Dwarven sabbath, when the forges are banked, and we all gather 'round the fires, fill our mugs and flagons, settle our feet near the embers, and talk quietly while the chanter tunes his lute or viol, clears his throat, and runs over in his mind the words of an ancient ballad.

This evening's song is another selection from the Tales of the Wyrm - a mournful and distressing tune in a minor key, with plenty of the accidentals and syncopation that were popular with the Elven bards a few centuries past, when Elvehelm's virtuoso, Ceorlinus Rectinarius, was doing his finest work. The eldest of the College Chanters, and those most knowledgeable about the tunes and poesie of ancient Harad, tell an odd tale about this piece: that although Rectinarius penned the words, he refused to set them to music, in the belief that such a tale of horror and betrayal should never become part of the Elven musical tradition. Thus, while the Evincum is attributed to Rectinarius, his name is never invoked when the piece is sung to music, for fear that his spirit - long since gone to the Long Halls - will rise up again in wrath, and punish those who dared to lay such a fell deed at his feet.

What terrible tale could prompt so great a bard to eschew recognition? Why, a tale of a daughter who, along with her mother, conspired to kill her own father, taking by murder that which would have, in time, been her due. One of the darker chapters in the history of the Fair Folk, to be sure, and one which they devoutly wish had never occurred.

But it did.

* * * * *

Rune the Eighth:
Evincum Rex Venificus
(The Fall of the Wizard King)

First Canto, from the Canto Renovatium
by Ceorlinus Rectinarius

Ill-born Bîardath, King of Harad
met the heralds on the heath,
Who, in the words of dark-eyed Mærglyn,
cast this challenge in his teeth:
“Yield thy crown, and yield thy kingdom”;
this the message heralds brought,
“Else damnation and destruction
in the dark shall be thy lot.”

Bîardath, fell and full of fury
on this missive briefly thought;
Bold and numerous his legions,
strong with arms that he had wrought.
Thus unto his daughter’s spokesmen
he addressed him in this wise,
Daring her to come and face him
‘neath the brazen Lastreap skies.

“Come thou forth and face me, youngling;
dare my wrath with blade and bow.
Thou shalt find in me the might
that laid thy feckless grandsire low.
Thou shalt find a fire of darkness
stoked to scorch thy being whole;
Thou shalt find a fatal venom
to consume thy trait’rous soul.

Whither now, thy mighty armies,
reft of flesh, and naught but bone?
Whither now, thy monstrous minions?
For it seems thou stand’st alone.
Bring thy warriors; dare my anger,
I will see their corpses piled;
Come thou forth, and taste the vengeance
due a foul, rebellious child!”

At these words, the heralds horsed them,
and unto their mistress rode.
Dark her ire and dark her visage,
when she felt her sire’s goad.
Fire in violet eyes was kindled;
shining swords from scabbards sprung;
Spears were piled, and bowstrings twisted;
helm and shield from saddle slung.

Long and long, the ranks of archers;
long the ranks of spearmen ran.
Nigh as numerous strode the sword-thegns
and the horsemen of her clan.
But when Mærglyn looked upon them
and recalled her father’s words,
Thought she then her vict’ry called for
more than darkling shafts and swords.

Bright the knife shone in the stonelight;
Mærglyn’s hands ran red with blood.
Swift she cast a sorcerous circle;
Soon, within, a figure stood:
A beguiling, wingèd demon,
white of breast and red of eye;
A hornèd denizen of darkness,
called from where cold shadows lie.

Mærglyn knelt unto this vision,
and, in supplication, cried:
Äiti Varjo, lend thy powers,
come and stand thou at my side;
Bring thy sword and fire, I beg thee,
venture forth from thy dark lair;
By thy cursèd blood, I charge thee;
by that cursèd blood we share.”

Then the beast stepped forth in fire,
through the shining, rune-set ring,
And behind her raged a maelstrom
horned and scaled, on claw and wing.
From this dreadful host, a clamour
to the star-washed heavens rose,
Howling to unleash their fury
on the flesh of Mærglyn’s foes.

And before them strode the demon
of dark beauty and desire,
A reeking sword of ice in one hand,
and the other wreathed in fire.
Forth this vision strode in shadows,
and on Mærglyn softly smiled;
“Thus I answer to the summons
of my wilful, wond’rous child.”

Mærglyn’s host forsook their hiding,
and unto the Earth arose,
And the fair face of Anuru
was besmirched by Anã’s foes.
Strengthened so by Üru’s minions,
Mærglyn’s might could not be stayed,
Thus they fell upon the Elflands
and beset them, wood and glade.

In the verdant fields, her horsemen
broke the ranks of fair Harad;
Helm was riv’n, and shield splintered,
and the red blood stained the sod.
Thus with life the fields were watered,
and in the streets, ran fetlock deep;
Thus the lords of light were slaughtered;
Thus there none were left to weep.

When the final rank was shattered
and the last defender fled,
Trait’rous Mærglyn faced her father
in the thronehall, stained and red.
Red the heather of the hillside;
red the wheatfields of the plain;
Red the fangs of fiends feasting
on the mountains of the slain.

“Fie on thee, unfaithful child,”
glowered Bîardath in his ire;
“Fie on thee, unfaithful lover,”
quoth the demon wreathed in fire.
“Good my father, thou art vanquished,”
Mærglyn said unto her sire;
“Doff thy crown, and beg my mercy,
lest I cast thee to the pyre.”

“Do thy will as thou wouldst do it,”
prideful Bîardath answered fair,
And he brandished forth his wand,
with power over earth and air.
“Thou canst not hope to overcome me,
for my arts exceed thy ken;
If I fall, I will avenge me,
when in time I rise again.”

Coldly smiling, Mærglyn answered,
“Father mine, I know thy might.
How to slay thee I have pondered
through the long expanse of night.
‘Twas a riddle dark and daunting,
that I studied long and hard,
‘Till thy might vouchsafed mine answer!”
And she swung her gleaming sword.

Swift her blade flamed in the darkness,
and it fell on Bîardath’s fist;
And she cut his right hand from him,
severed cruelly at the wrist.
As he fell, she hastened forward,
Tasting blade, and blood-kin’s bond;
Then stooped, and when she stood again,
held to her heart his dreadful wand.

“Father mine, I know thy power,”
quoth the maiden to his pain,
“And I know I cannot slay thee,
lest in wrath thou rise again.
So by thy might, thou now art banished;
from the light, thy soul is hurled.
Unto darkness, I condemn thee,
‘till the breaking of the world.”

With one hand, she cast a circle
scribed in runes upon the ground;
With the wand, she called forth darkness,
‘void of light, and life, and sound.
Thus with art she bound her father
and she cast him through the gate,
Thus Bîardath left Anuru,
sharing mighty Tîor’s fate.

With the Wand, she shut the portal,
and in wrath and vict’ry stood,
Buttressed by her howling minions;
stainèd with her peoples’ blood.
Mærglyn mounted to the dais,
where at last she stood alone.
Thus with wand and blood-washed crown,
the daughter took the father’s throne.