First of all, I apologize for yet another long absence. It was a number of projects which held me away this time, most of which will be detailed here — but some that will end up being revealed elsewhere, or at a later date in any case. I’ve been working on a few art projects, which tend to consume a great deal of my time outside of work, as well as a great deal of work on a custom Quake project I’ve been pursuing for at least a decade now (I’ve been through at least four or five versions of it until finally hitting upon the proper balance of aesthetics and gameplay to satisfy my appallingly specific desires). But enough grumbling, here at least is one of the fruits of my ardor, the epic poem The Battle of Bad Galeth.
As mentioned in the other entries dealing with my developing D&D world setting, the fortress was the final venue of battle in the first Mannish civil war, between the Kingdom of Eburelon and the forces of Jehar the Usurper. What began as an experiment in putting the history of Eurychra to verse ultimately became a massive, five-page behemoth that, while sticking to a strict meter, ended up detailing some facets of the conflict that I had not considered previously. After a couple of months of a process more like sculpture than writing per se, we have the dramatic results entered below. Prepare for a long read, folks — but I sincerely hope you enjoy it.
THE BATTLE OF BAD GALETH.
King Brandrach of the Bladed Hand made sure that all could understand
The keep of White Oak meant sanctuary;
But Jehar was a willful man, and many stood at his command,
Unlike the King, he sought adversaries.
Now in the end the King prevailed, had Jehar and his soldiers jailed,
Held by some to be seen as true martyrs;
Their followers made ardent threats, with prejudice without regrets,
Brandrach got much more for what he’d bartered.
He signed a writ to set them free, conditioned that they’d never see
The borders of Eburelon again;
While Jehar and his people left, accepting loss, feeling bereft,
Their leader never lost the will to reign.
Now Jehar took a southern path, on past the Shrine at Malacath,
Down to the foothills of the Hinder Peaks;
His numbers swole after release, the last thing on his mind was peace,
Although his current futures looked quite bleak.
But Esta proved to be a boon, her witching grace made Jehar swoon,
Her visions fueled his dimming source of ire;
And Golgamed, with eyes coal black, drove the hoards of goblins back,
With searing flames of his magical fire.
Through them, Jehar’s lot was leased, he now commanded man and beast,
A massive force led by faith or by flame;
They took to mining in the hills, supplanting stone with fevered skill
To erect a great fortress in his name.
It was christened Bad Galeth, with twisted towers and great breadth,
A dividing wall from which to take
The true forces of the White Oak, and then at his leisure choke
The life from those that he would not forsake.
Jehar bid dread Golgamed to fashion minions from the dead,
And forge a score of soldiers set to prowl;
The mage drew back souls from beyond, to his cold will they did respond,
He mated women-folk with beasts most foul.
The orcs thus came into the world, their blackened heavy lips were curled
Over sharp tusks and fangs with slavering snouts;
Devoted were they to their liege, but any else would besieged
By the savagery of these repugnant louts.
Attending them would be the band of slayers known as the Black Hand,
The highest allies to their master’s will;
Their servitude was writ in blood, their devotion to Jehar would
Prove to be grist of a fated mill.
Among those that were once sworn, a crease of mistrust had been worn,
In light of evils set to run amok;
To mute witness were cabals kept, their secrets held to bare except
Those wishing their necks on the chopping block.
Among these was a rogue most sly, one Melayina the Nightseye,
Who bid that Jehar had grown quite insane;
So grossly overwhelmed with power, from the highest twisted tower,
He could not be recalled to sense again.
Nonetheless he set his eyes upon the Dwarven paradise known to common folk as Lendalath,
His forces took the Mountains Dread, allying with or leaving dead
Any evils that set to block their path.
They stole at last into the vale, and with renewed numbers prevailed,
Secured the quarry they had come to take;
The eminent smith Agmundar, whose works were known both near and far,
And his kin whose lives would be put at stake.
In return the smith conceived plated breasts and chain-mailed sleeves,
The likes of which had never been before;
With metals drawn from hidden hoards, the treasures of forgotten lords,
And weapons forged from a magical flaming ore.
Thus armed, equipped and willed to wrath, the army beat a northern path
To take on their foes within the wood;
But as they’d rose to Malacath, a vale-elf legion from Khadath
Had leapt into the fray before they could.
Feathered arrows filled the sky, their infantry made battle-cries
And tore deep into the enemy’s rear;
Their blades-men took to hack and hew, followed the remaining few
That stood between them and the nearest mear.
Now Jehar’s men gave hew and hack to drive the elves from Khadath back,
Who’d kept them far from their intended goal;
Despite their armor, flaming blades and many other dark charades,
Their numbers were held to the eastern knolls.
Down came the men of Brandrach, all poised and ready for attack,
The moment had been planned long in advance;
In Jehar’s absence had the King gone far south negotiating,
He and his allies left nothing to chance.
The standard of the White Oak flew as outnumbered enemies knew
To flee lest they join the ranks of the dead;
They were driven back to Bad Galeth, pursued by almost certain death,
When the long-fought battle came to a head.
The allied force of Elves and Men found themselves opposed again
By the host that met them at the fortress gate;
The undead, orcs and black-garbed hordes that duly served as castle wards,
Intended to abruptly end their fate.
Forged metal cleft into bone, as above the sentry horns were blown,
And all within the walls were drawn to battle;
Again elf-arrows filled the sky as greater throngs were drawing nigh,
All around could be heard their death’s rattle.
Deep within the walls beyond, a revolution had been spawned
At the sounds of bloodshed from outside;
Led stealthily upon the fly by Melayina the Nightseye,
Many minions duly fell by the wayside.
But her campaign was cut far short, her actions met a sound retort
By Black Hand guardsmen that remained within;
They seized the rebels, bled them dry, and manacled the Nightseye
To bring before their lord and dealt by him.
At the gates when all seemed lost, the very winds themselves were tossed
At the entrance that held all opposed aghast;
A fiery burst and crack of thunder tore the evil host asunder,
At its center, the wizard Andarast.
The mage wielded searing flame, and summoned beasts from higher planes
That appeared at his bidding and attacked;
With his allies at his side, they then began to turn the tide,
And soon the wards of Bad Galeth were sacked.
The remaining orcs fled in the night, the undead faded beyond sight,
While their master watched from overhead;
In disbelief from what had passed, he called attendants to him fast
To go and fetch the wizard Golgamed.
The Nightseye had been pushed aside as her departed jailors hied
Deep within the dungeons of the castle;
Still manacled but yet unseen, she stole down to the mezzanine
Of the tower, no longer its vassal.
She bravely shadowed their path down into the fortress underground,
Teeming with blackness, barely lit by flame;
Guided by echoes off its walls, she finally stepped into the halls
Where Agmundar and his ilk hid in shame.
The old Dwarf had succumbed to age, and Jehar’s minions in their rage
Had tortured him and made him feel their wrath;
They’d hobbled him to make him lame, and against threats to do the same
To his folk, he had prevented their scath.
“Greatest of Smiths,” said the Nightseye, “Thee and thy family should fly,
For now the battle has made the way clear;”
“My mate and kin shall pass,” said he, “But I have ailed miserably,
My wounding so grievous I must stay here.”
As yet unbeknownst to all, mad Golgamed’s imminent fall
Was due to the waning of his spirit;
The demands had taken their toll, though fallen just beyond their goal,
Wielding such great power made him fear it.
Now when brought forth before his liege, poor Golgamed‘s mind was besieged
By demons of desire and doubt and pain;
When put to task the mage lashed out, in a foul tongue did he thus shout,
“I’ll never be thy wonton thrall again!”
Jehar with Esta took aback from Golgamed’s heinous attack,
As the wizard assaulted them in ire;
The Usurper clung to his mate, barely escaping from their fate
Of being duly consumed by the fire.
Jehar called upon his men to come to his aid yet again,
But the Black Hand guards ignored his command;
One glance at Golgamed’s dire eyes had made them come to realize
That things had gone far worse than they had planned.
Then Esta spat and cursed them all, with upraised hands she made a call
To summon some foul beast from the Nine Hells;
It took Esta and Jehar on its back and in a flash was gone,
Beyond the tower despite blades and spells.
Below the fortress on the ground, a crowd had gathered all around
To watch as their foes made their scant escape;
“They’re making their way towards the Waste,” said Andarast with urgent haste,
The exit left all with their mouths agape.
Then before them came the Nightseye, Agmundar‘s folk following nigh,
Her wearied brow and dark eyes filled with dread;
“I know that ye’ve taken great pains,” she said, “But one more threat remains,
That of the enraged wizard Golgamed.”
Far above them the wizard fumed, his mania had him consumed,
Denied the chance to slay his perceived foe;
His growing furor reached its peak, for the Black Hand guards it seemed bleak,
They all were taken, in one mighty blow.
That highest tower did explode, along its length it bent and bowed,
And collapsed far below into the hold;
The guard towers to east and west were then the next to become stressed,
They crumbled and collapsed to join the fold.
The warden walls, once high and stern, had fallen each upon its turn,
They trembled and fell flat upon the earth;
Their impact made a rumbling sound, and shook the land from all around,
As every massive blockade met its berth.
The keep of the place was thus strained, its failure could not be contained,
Like a chest that had exhaled its last breath;
Amid the clouds of smoke and dust, of crumbled stone and detritus
Lie the corpse of that had once been Bad Galeth.