The Mountain King

Stretched taut across the earth in flowing sheets
As on the bed of king and peasant both,
A tract of grassy greenland spread its coat
Over the winter-wounded soil beneath
And sunlight fell in waves of heat
To cast a shadow from the mountain.

As a lighthouse on the shore,
It rose for every eye to see
Stark in its immensity
Jagged slopes which climbed
Uncut by rain and time
Known to dwarven lore
As a savage king's domain.

All green gave way around the shadowed peak
Upon its stone no grass nor moss would grow
And all around the earth was parched and rent
While from the south a searing wind did blow
Which drank all moisture from the earth
Around the massive mountain's girth.

A raven spake unto a crow
Sitting on a rocky crag
"Hark! Hark, the stirrings from below!"

Spake the crow unto the raven
And her feathers danced with fear.
"Tis the Mountain King you hear."

Far below, untouched by civil man
Buried under weight of monstrous stone.
Within the mountain many caverns ran
Where neither sun nor torchlight ever shone.
What sort of life within these walls could roam?

They say within this darkness lurked a man
Who lost his sight and sanity and fled
Into the refuge of the savage caves
To live his lot among the blighted trolls
Who like him, outcast, made the mount their home.

Upon his hand he wore a ring
Which filled them with a holy dread.
They named him Grimvel, fallen star,
And hence made him their king.

The legends say within a hall he sat
His faithful legions swarming to his call
And forge-fires burned with smoldering steel
In preparation for the night
When forth he'd go to claim his right
To vengeance on the men who took his sight.

And one night, it came to pass that soon
A raven lighted on the palace fountain
And underneath a pallid crescent moon
He spake: "Beware the King under the mountain!"

The prince who had condemned the wretch had heard
But to the bird of omen paid no heed.
"What fool would profit from a raven's word?"
He spoke aloud, his voice was thick with scorn.
"Away, away you silly bird,
And take your tidings most absurd!"

No sooner did the dark bird spread its wings
Then came a rumbling and an eerie light.
A sentry cried aloud atop the walls:
"Hoi! Hoi! I see torches in the night!
And smoke arising from the distant peak
And stirrings in its shadow as I speak!"

The legends further have to say
The Mountain King did come to slay
The men who stood within these walls.

But when the host stood armed beneath the gates,
A mutinous band of guards had seized the prince,
And struck a bargain to preserve their fates.

The morning came and the trolls were pained
By the burning radiance of the sun,
"Have our prince, he that did condemn you,"
The men called down to the Mountain king.
"Then let this dreadful siege be done."

A bargain was struck and the prince was given
To the king along with golden tribute.
Then from the light of day the army fled
Back to the mountain where the prince was led
Into the depths of dark foreboding caves.

And so it's said the dark birds of the mountain
Are answered nightly with a ragged cry
Which echoes from the heart of the caverns
And reaches from the depths into the sky.
A scream that's filled with terrible pain
Which from the prince must surely ring—
The vengeance of the Mountain King!

George Chadderdon © 1993