No man nor beast dared to approach his castle
which lay in darkness night and day,
but everybody knew the tales and rumours
about the horrors on his hill.
They say he trained his wolves to feed on
he trained his bats to drain the blood
from human beings, that he had a dragon
who lived on cattle and on men.
At times the brute would rise; the earth would
and fire from his mouth would burn
the fields and houses, and his breath of iron
would blow the crops and woods away.
Dwarf Killgun was his dubious loyal servant,
saddling his horse, honing his axe:
he would have liked to kill his vicious master
but was afraid in case he’d fail.
At new moon, shrouded in the coat of Darkness,
the prince collected secretly
the creatures for his cabinet of horrors,
eager to find the source of Life.
At midnight you would find him in the churchyard
(only that no one looked for him);
he took the dead ones from their resting places
and buried those who were alive.
His dungeon was the final stop for debtors,
for enemies and passers-by,
where he approached the answer to the question
what organs man can live without.
Only the abbey where the saints awaited
what has been promised from the dawn
of Time, Lord Ghni’s victorious arrival,
was safe because he feared their god.
One day the prince rode out into the mountains,
his fretful servant by his side,
and on their way they passed the dusky castle
of Earl Druyhaggly and his sons.
He was supposed to be a black magician,
for no one knew his real age:
great grandads told the younger generations
that he was old when they were born.
‘He read the books I’ve read but has no wisdom,'
the prince remarked disdainfully. -
‘Are you not jealous of the way he managed
to cling to life, my script-mad prince?'
‘No! Jealousy is fear of competition,
and Earl Druyhaggly can’t compete
with me,' he said. ‘He tries to be a monster,
but all Black Masters laugh at him.'
‘Find out the times he lived - he is a demon,'
Dwarf Killgun uttered anxiously.
‘Outside - then, if he’s a demon, I’m the Devil!'
Prince Ledvi answered with a sneer.
‘He followed me the day I picked the black rose,
the secret to prolong one’s life
for up to thirteen years, and with this knowledge
he managed to survive that long.
‘And now I feel my strength again is fading,
and I must look for her at once -
I have to find the rose before the Earl does:
she’s rare here, for she needs the sun.'
Black clouds that rose up from the dale enshrouded
the murky hills of Trichistan
as they set out to find the vital flower
on Earl Druyhaggly’s mountain range.
And as they sneaked across the hostile churchyard
to take the shortcut through the woods,
a crow emerged and led them to her hideout
behind the chapel on the knoll.
Dwarf Killgun warned the prince, ‘Why do we follow
a crow, the messenger of death?'
But like in trance his master sauntered onwards
until the bird had reached her nest.
And suddenly some hideous apparitions
ascended from derelict graves,
decaying corpses in the eerie moonlight,
and slowly hobbled towards the prince.
‘You’ll die tonight, much slower and more painful
than any of your victims did,
and on the glorious day of Ghni’s arrival
you’ll pay for all our sufferings!'
The fearful prince produced a graven image
of Lord Adonikam to keep
the ghostly mob at bay, and with his servant
he turned around and said no word.
In timid silence they went on and, climbing
the steepest rock face, they could see
the black rose blooming on the highest mountain
where not a chamois dared to go.
The servant was the first to reach the summit
and stretched his hand out, but the prince
admonished him, ‘She just bestows her magic
on him who picks the rose himself!'
Dwarf Killgun watched him as he tried to grab her,
nine hundred yards above the ground;
he didn’t push him neither did he help him
until the Prince plunged down the cliff.
Now Earl Druyhaggly ruled the twilight country,
and the black heavens soon turned grey,
the yoke of death became the yoke of sorrows;
the horror ceased, the fear remained.
For many years the farmers' life continued
without the monarch of their woes
save oral lore, for in their rustic spirits
the Prince of Darkness stayed alive.
Whatever happened in the gloomy valley,
the village people always blamed
Prince Ledvi of the Santa Cruifel Valley
at Bluezebbe Lake near Trichistan.
One frosty winter evening a tornado
announced the advent of a fiend,
and, being darker than the night around him,
a man stood in the city gate.
The veil of Evil and the gloom of Molog
fell o’er the vales of many a slave,
the mood of Doom filled the Resort of Terrors:
the Demon gnomed, the Devil lived!
‘After my fall I had a revelation
that I shall be the emperor
of every other country, every kingdom
in every corner of the world.
‘All nations on this earth my hand shall conquer
and rule them with an iron rod:
their kings shall praise and fear the King of monarchs,
known by the name of Xoanon Rex!'
He sent for King Demirva of Alassys
whose realm lay next to Trichistan
and asked the fickle ruler to join forces
against his enemy of old.
‘Deep in the Rorie Wood there is a building
he calls his little Iron Core,
and all the shields and weapons for his soldiers
are manufactured in that forge.
‘He doesn’t know I know of it, and therefore
he doesn’t guard the place too well;
there we shall start the battle, kill the blacksmiths,
destroy the forge and take their swords!
‘While Earl Druyhaggly will await our armies
right at his country’s borderline,
we’ll sneak across the thickets of his forest
and then attack them from behind!'
So they agreed to meet before the sunrise
after the solstice in the woods,
and King Demirva left the dusky castle
like he had been attacked himself.
‘Why did you talk about the plan to enter
the province at the Rorie Wood
to set the little Iron Core on fire?'
Dwarf Killgun wondered with a frown.
‘He won’t believe a word I say, and therefore
I took the opportunity
to tell the truth in order to conceal it,'
Prince Ledvi answered with a sneer.
As he expected, all the troops had mustered
right at the foot of the mountain range
which separates the Santa Cruifel Valley
from the highland realm of Trichistan.
Meanwhile Prince Ledvi’s undefeated army
had sneaked into the Rorie Wood
and, covered by the bracing fogs of morning,
they secretly besieged the forge.
And then the soldiers lit and hurled their torches
and with their arrows killed the posts;
within a minute everything was over,
the blacksmiths dead, the forge burnt down.
From there the troops approached the nation’s
hidden behind the many trees;
it was less than a chain that separated
the army from their enemy.
And as the signal sounded, they attacked them:
before the foe could turn around,
Prince Ledvi’s soldiers threw their spears, their halberds
and battle axes in their back.
Their helpless victims put up no resistance
as they were taken by surprise,
but still the Sable Army slew the soldiers
until no man was left alive.
The battle chief arrested Earl Druyhaggly
and King Demirva in the fort,
put them in chains, then marched them through the city
and made them kneel before the prince.
Their vanquisher looked at his former rivals
contemptuously and drew his sword,
decapitated them and gave the order
to have their heads exposed on poles.
‘This is but the beginning,' claimed Prince Ledvi,
‘for soon the name of Xoanan Rex
will make the nations on this planet tremble
with fear of him who rules the world!
‘Our people has been made to reign and govern
all other races on this earth,
and Xoanan Rex, your god-appointed leader,
will conquer all the world with you!
‘But for this purpose we require an army
much bigger than the one we have,
so all of you have to pick up a weapon
and struggle for our native right!'
Prince Ledvi had all citizens conscripted
to fight against their fellowmen,
and armed with pitchforks, shovels, spades and sickles
the peaceful farmers faced the war.
And all his subjects carried on their forehead
or their right hand the royal mark,
the King’s initials, and like branded cattle
endured his arbitrariness.
Prince Ledvi called a war upon the nations
who did not willingly submit;
the saints came down to pray and bless the weapons,
and everybody hailed their king.
His pastime soldiers spread in all directions
and butchered, looted, raped and burned
what they could find, and where the foe was stronger
the Sable Army came to help.
Soon every other country was defeated
and the known world was in his hands,
but still the raids and massacres continued:
Terror became the way of life.
But some put up resistance ’gainst the warfare
and tyranny of Xoanan Rex;
a group of dauntless rebels had beleaguered
and seized the fort of Trichistan.
Whoever sought to enter without weapons
or left them with the post in charge
was welcomed to the fellowship of humans
amidst a world of savage beasts.
Some undercover agitators ventured
to join them, trying to incite
the people to rebel against the rebels
who thought they could withstand the prince.
But they were sneered at every time they
their zealous hosts' sincerity;
some stopped complaining, and they chose to stay there,
while their companions were expelled.
The Sable Army was brought in; unable
to get anywhere near the fort,
Prince Ledvi’s force besieged the rebels' stronghold,
and no one could get in or out.
Thirst and starvation soon set in; the rebels
rationed the water and the food,
but to make sure the fort could be defended
they claimed the bigger share themselves.
Some families decided to surrender,
hoisted the white flag and left the fort:
the soldiers let them pass without disturbance
and watched them as they left the scene.
A task force had to follow them in secret,
and when the fort was out of sight,
they massacred the children, men and women
before they were aware of them.
And after many weeks Prince Ledvi’s army
hauled an impressive catapult
up to the palisades from where Batgado,
his battle chief, addressed the crowd,
‘We do not fight against you,' he assured them,
‘we know you’re victims of a group
of marauding outlaws, bandits who deceived you
into opposing law and order!
‘Your leaders are ambassadors of Evil:
there’s food for all, but they let you starve,
and while you’re at your post and do your duty,
they rape your daughters and your wives.
‘We hate to see you suffer, and we’ll help you!' -
The sceptic crowd still stayed at bay.
Loaded with clothes, with food and bottled water
the catapult was being fired.
There was some dispute whether or not to trust
who thought that poor wights were not worthwhile;
when finally the hungry crowd approached them,
the soldiers launched the burning coal.
The fort caught fire at once, and the survivors
who managed to escape the flames
were killed outside its walls by furious soldiers
who left no adult nor child alive.
The public cheered their army, and St Noelan,
the abbot, celebrated Mass
to thank Lord Ghni for having rid the empire
of its disloyal enemies.
Meanwhile one of Prince Ledvi’s many satraps
whom he himself had once installed
to fight and terrorise his peaceful neighbours
gathered an army of his own.
He hadn’t openly opposed his master
so far, but it was rumoured that
Oriac planned a coup against Prince Ledvi
who’d trained him in the ghastly arts.
In Zefna which was once a wealthy kingdom
and now the emperor’s colony
he ruled since he had slaughtered king and gentry
in the dreadful name of Xoanan Rex.
‘twas autumn in the Santa Cruifel Valley:
the children frolicked in the fields,
harvesters sang their songs and swung their sickles,
the market place was buzzing with life.
The fire started from all sides; nobody
survived apart from Xoanan Rex,
who, by some lucky accident, was hunting
the murky hills of Trichistan.
Without a word he watched the valley burning
till there was nothing left to burn,
and, looking at the crater, he asserted,
‘He’ll pay for that! He’ll pay for that!'
Assuring everyone it was Oriac
who’d masterminded this attack,
he asked his pliant vassals for assistance
in order to restore the peace.
‘We’re challenged to stand up for freedom and
he thundered in a public speech,
‘this man has killed defenceless women and children,
and he will have to pay for it!
‘There only is one punishment we know of
for the slaying of the innocent!' -
Thousands of subjects cheered their raging ruler
and called for vengeance and for war.
Having secured support for any action
’gainst Zefna and its citizens,
the lucifugous emperor decided
to fight the battle in the night.
Ten rivers flow across the realm of Zefna,
and hundred water springs supply
its residents, and all of them were poisoned
the night Prince Ledvi took revenge.
And at the sunset of the day that followed
the Sable Army combed the land,
searching all places and the streets and houses
to kill the ones who didn’t die.
But there was not a trace of Earl Oriac
nor of his soldiers to be found;
yet the contented emperor gave orders
to celebrate his victory.
And on the streets his subjects were rejoicing
and waving banners with his arms,
and without cease they all intoned the chorus,
‘Long live our emperor Xoanan Rex!'
The emperor received congratulations
from those he deemed to be his friends;
throughout the night the festival continued
till the last visitor went home.
Prince Ledvi then retired to his chambers
and went to sleep, the door ajar,
but in the middle of his dearest nightmare
he heard one of the hinges creak.
So he sat up, and through the sombre darkness
he saw that Lord Adonikam
stood in the door; without a word Prince Ledvi
fell to his knees and vailed his crown.
‘You’ve always been a dedicated servant,
and well I know of your pursuit
of immortality which you embarked on
a hundred and eighty years ago.
‘Since your return to the Santa Cruifel Valley
you’ve helped my cause enormously,
and as I need reliable disciples,
I now shall grant your vain request.
‘At full moon, walk up to the clerics' chapel,
bring the black rose, one of your locks,
take down the wooden idol of Lord Ghni
and burn them on his altar, chanting,
"Live for a staminal eon!" - when the wolf howls,
take the hot ashes in your hands
and gently blow them through the eastern window,
and you shall live for evermore!'
So when the moon completed his next cycle,
Prince Ledvi took one of his locks
and the black rose; he walked up to the abbey
and burnt them with the cross of Ghni.
‘Live for a staminal eon,' he incanted
and heard one of the hinges creak;
as he turned round, he realised the presence
of Noelan and the other saints.
He timidly stepped back as they approached him;
raising the cross against the prince,
and with a voice that made the belfry tremble
the abbot drove him to the door.
‘This world cries out against the King of Terror:
because of your atrocities
Lord Ghni condemned you, and the reign of horror
shall end before the moon goes down!
‘The morning sun shan’t see you in your empire,
for if he does, you’ll have to die
the longest death a man has ever suffered,
the hills will echo with your screams:
‘Make haste and walk beyond the farthest mountain
where human beings daren’t dwell,'
he told the prince and pushed him cross the threshold
from where he stumbled to the gates;
With crucifix, thyme leaves and Holy Water
the fierce twelve clerics sent away
Prince Ledvi of the Santa Cruifel Valley
at Bluezebbe Lake near Trichistan.