(This is standalone, but if you want, it definitely follows the events of “The Twice-Cursed Apprentice“.)
…And now, for the past twenty years,
I’ve wandered this Citadel, decorating with tears,
Afraid outside to ever go,
For what goes on, I fear I know.
“Etrenal life” was the vengeful snit
Cast by my Teacher, before she split,
And now, all of Humankind’s
Living forever, and losing their minds.
Why fight wars when none can die?
Because the blood of others pleases our eye.
Why spend eternity being hateful?
Because it’s simpler than being kind or grateful.
They’ve traced the problem – oh, not themselves,
But a loon who communes with Daemons and Elves.
How did they all reach this undying state?
To whom ought they be righteously irate?
The Wizard in the Tower, they curse with shouts,
And they’ve dire threats for when I come out.
But the gates with magic still are sealed,
And I go on, with heart congealed.
I could tell you a tale or three
About the pain of Immortality,
Suffice to say that all Mankind
Rather hates the never-dying bind.
But above all else (literally)
They hate the Wizard most bitterly
They despise him with voice united,
A situation I might, perhaps, have incited.
Oh, to start, I was fully horrified:
Endless nightmare, with me inside,
And no way to prove my innocence
To an angry world seeking recompense!
I had an advantage: I knew first
That all Humankind was thoroughly cursed.
I’d have some time (so I was guessing)
While they (briefly) thought it was a blessing.
So I gave some thought to Consequence,
And induction thereby brought me hence:
There’s an age-old trick for unification:
Be hated by each and every damn civilization.
Sure, human kindness has sweet milk,
But poison spiders spin great silk,
And aye, were humans gentle and resolute,
They’d render all of my plans moot,
…And I’d rejoin the ranks of Man,
Live out my never-ending span
Of years of bliss and poetry,
With nobody firing arrows at me.
…but I suspected, when news turned sour,
They’d be at each other’s throats in half an hour.
They’d resent all of the crushing bores
With whom they shared endless Forevermores.
And they’d be seeking to bring disaster
Upon the original spellcaster
Who wasn’t me (as you’re aware;
But I doubt that they’d believe. Or care.)
The best case my tale might elicit
Would be “Not guilty, but complicit.”
First they’d torture me, I’m sure,
And then they’d insist upon a cure.
What my Master did, I can’t unravel.
And she’s off on her Elsewhere-travel.
And even if I prove I’m not the wrecker,
Nobody listens to their fact-checker.
I can’t give a cure; and that, they can’t abide
They’ll have to settle for my hide.
I try not to think of pain without end;
My nightmares already have plenty of friends.
It’s fortunate that the walls are tall and mighty
(And throwing myself off won’t help even slightly.)
They can’t get in, and the mountain’s steep.
They’ve got the world; I’ve got the Keep.
I check the ward-runes; none are faulty
(And I drip on them tears countless and salty).
I’d need to be a Master myself; even then
Quite thorough’s her spell on the World of Men.
If I can’t cure it, what help can I be?
…well, perhaps I might add some enmity.
So now I’m stuck, all alone, indoors.
And the only sympathetic ear is yours.
Stuck! All alone! One apprentice-speller,
With a giant library, and a vast wine-cellar.
Trapped, like a rat! If rats were trapped
With halls full of wonders to keep your mind rapt,
And scrying stones of every variety,
(And a bit more wine, to chase off sobriety…)
The Ensorceled Kitchen produces viands
to awaken nearly all of my glands;
My Master made this her homely home,
With miles of halls to explore and roam.
And so many magical secrets to find
Stretching and stretching the bounds of my mind.
And just for fun, when the full moon’s risen,
I howl hard, to frighten the guards of my prison.
(Oh, armies have encamped outside,
But there’s not a lot they haven’t tried,
And while stubbornness is the human condition,
They’re tired of wasting ammunition.)
“Magic Mirror, vision and thought
Show me the image of what I’ve wrought!”
And obligingly, with a silvery note,
It shows me the world at my very throat:
Most warriors, sages, engineers,
Hedge-wizards and bombardiers,
Most makers of acid or Greek Fire,
Most wielders of sword and whip and wire,
Most Knights and Assassins, Princes and Queens,
Have brought their armies and war machines,
To the foot of my mountain, hoping to slake
Their bloodlust on my first mistake.
My first mis-step, my first foray
Outside of the tower would (without delay)
Lead to my capture, and soon thereafter,
I’d be making sounds quite the opposite of laughter.
But that, oh, that will never be.
Because I’m joyous in my villainy.
I’ve embraced the role that they did force;
Let them believe I’m the curse’s source.
Better they expend their ballestae
Firing uselessly at this guy,
Than hack off hands and heads and limbs
From other fools, with chances slim.
(Yes, we’re immortal. It grows back.
But not without the aching wrack:
First pain of loss, then agonized regrowth
Trust me here: you’d hate them both.)
So I raided the cellars, and bribed a bard
To ride towards Civilization, hard
(or hard as could anyone whose mount
was carrying beer, chablis, and stout) –
And let them know they’d an Enemy!
And lo! Oh, how they ran to me!
To shout imprecations at my gates,
And declare, like pompous magistrates,
That they’d now see the spell unmade,
And give me the justice of rope and spade.
And now they hate me, in unison,
But by the Keep’s walls are they undone.
So they’ve declared me the very Fiendiest Fiend,
Whose tarnished soul will ne’er be cleaned.
I’ll never rejoin the human ranks,
For which I owe them a most profound thanks.
The Keep provides me food and drink,
And entertainment, if spirits sink,
If Villainy’s a draught, I drank it.
Now their hate keeps me warm,
like a toasty blanket.
Am I a hero, to trick them thus?
A target for hatred’s blunderbuss?
Am I a Villain, horribly filthy,
To let them chase shadows, and not even feel guilty?
I know what I am: I’m the Sorcerer-King
Most despised despot of Everything.
The primary target for every nation,
Here in my splendid isolation.
Call me the Hero, or call me the Villain.
Whatever you’d call me,
Just call me; I’m willin’.
Picture me cloaked in Dark or in Light;
I know that I’ll sleep well tonight.
Monster or helper?
Being both is my habit.
But if you’re offered Villainy,
My name is Jeff Mach (“Dark Lord” is optional) and I build communities, put on events, and make stories come into being. I also tweet a lot over @darklordjournal.