The Wizard King

📅 Published on August 28, 2021

“The Wizard King”

Written by Heath Pfaff
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available


Rating: 10.00/10. From 23 votes.
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“I need to see the Wizard King,” I told the wraith who guarded the King’s tower.

The entity observed me, standing motionless near the door it guarded.  The human elements were wrapped in gray cloth that seemed to sway as though floating in water, tugged at by ethereal currents that I could neither feel nor see.  Places where ‘flesh’ was exposed showed a body that had been eaten away by attrition.  Bone shone through its decayed face and arms.  The hollow eyes bored into me, cutting as deep as any blade ever could.  Creatures such as these, tarnished souls forced back into physical form, could kill with a touch if they desired.  Their hollow eyes were known to freeze men in place.  I could feel that weight upon me.

“Entering the tower is death.  You should return from whence you came.”  Its voice was a tear between our world and the next, a harsh whisper spoken across a chasm not meant to be spanned.

I reached into the pouch at my side, fingers dancing over the wooden figurine I’d brought with me.  I pulled it from my pocket and held the damned scrap of wood out in front of the wraith.  It was a simple carving in the shape of a person.

“I know why you’re here, mortal, but I also know that no one reaches the King’s roost.  You waste your life.”  There was no judgment in that voice, just an eternal melancholy that would never find solace.

“I’m going in,” I stated flatly, unwilling to be turned aside.

It considered me for a moment, as though trying to decide what sort of audacious creature stood before it, and whether or not it should try to put a stop to my entry of the tower.

“So be it.”  The wraith finally said. It lifted a hand, inviting me to take it, and I joined my warm flesh to its cold decay.  The pain was immediate, a fire starting in my palm and sending shockwaves of agony through me.  This was the curse of burning, the price of tower entry.

The door behind the wraith opened and the undead creature stood aside.  I looked at my palm where a smoldering dot was burning with an unnatural intensity.  My time was now falling away like sand through an hourglass.  I stepped into the dark.

The door shut heavily behind me, the hidden lock engaging.  No one could leave that way, but I hadn’t come expecting to turn back.  The smell of decay wrapped around me, death an odor as familiar as the touch of a passing breeze.  The dark sought to hold me firm, but I knew it too well.

Another comes.” A voice whispered through the darkness.

Another fool comes.” Another voice said almost on top of the first.  It was followed by mocking laughter.

Come then, succulent one.  Come feed us.”  Whether it was the first or second thing that said this I couldn’t tell, but I knew what they were.  I had met their like before.  I reached into my belt and pulled out a small, wax-wrapped stick.  A moment later I twisted the seal atop the bundle and it burst to life, a dazzling fire that cast back the shadows of the room I was in.  Frost fire flares could burn for hours, and I’d been certain to bring several with me.

Four creatures filled the otherwise empty first floor of the tower.  They were the size of small adults, bipedal, with feet that ended in splayed claws.  Gray skin marked them as creatures that were not accustomed to the sun. Their arms were proportional to their size, but their hands were large, ending in razors made for rending flesh.  They had large, long heads, most of the front of them taken up by a mouth that seemed to imply the main purpose of their existence was consuming flesh.  This was true.  They were yattering, abyssal predators that lived to feed.

They could only exist in our world when held in place by powerful curse magic.  Each one required the life of an innocent to be torn from the abyss.  These four represented four lives stolen, and that wasn’t including the human remains that lined the floor and walls of the chamber I was in.  Shreds of armored men in varying states of decomposition were all around, though most of the skeletons had been gnawed to the barest scraps.

The yattering hissed as the light splashed through the room.

It brings light!” One creature whispered, its mouth not moving.  Yattering spoke their vile words directly into your mind.

“Kill it!”  Another growled into the recesses of my brain.

There were echoing sentiments from the others, but I didn’t wait for them to get through their distress about the light.  I pulled the war axe from my back and launched myself into the creatures.  The burning in my palm was getting worse, reminding me that I only had a limited time to do what I needed to do, and this was just the first floor.

Blood, guts, broken bone.  Sending a yattering back to the abyss wasn’t easy.  Sending a pack of four back was almost impossible since the moving ones could reassemble those that had been broken.  When I finally finished I was breathing hard, standing in the midst of a great circle of blood and guts.  The heads were off in one corner, the rest of them as far in the other direction as I could get them.  The bodies still twitched and moved, but not with enough intelligence to do anything meaningful.

The first floor was done.  I had nine more to climb.  I grabbed my burning brand and started upwards.  The stairs were stone, like the walls, like the ceiling, like every piece of this place.  It was less a tower home, and more like a tower prison, each floor designed to hold some magical horror, another guardian for the man at the top.

On the second floor, I dispatched a succubus and incubus pair.

On the third floor, I met a pack of necrowolves, and had to stop long enough to burn the bodies of the beasts lest they rise again and track me up the tower.  Unlike the yattering, they could regenerate on their own without the need to recover their pieces.

On the fifth floor, I was forced to face and fight a dozen children of the forest cannibals.  Elves, once, but now mad, driven that way by the corruption of the elder forest gods.  I dispatched them all, but not before they took the pinky from my burning hand, and bit off a chunk of my leather armor.  They were not immortal, and they were starved, so the fight was easy but for the numbers, and the toll it took on my conscience.  Even as dark and jaded as I had become, I couldn’t ignore the fact that I was dispatching children.


On the sixth floor, I met an old man by a fire that had been set in a hearth, the closest thing to furniture that I’d seen so far.  He sat upon the floor, tucked inside of a battered blanket.  My marked hand was all but useless, the burning spot having consumed much of my palm, and rendered my fingers to ashes.

“You’ve come far.  No mortal has ever come to my hearth before, but you have four more floors ahead of you, and you’re short a hand.  Are you sure you wish to go further?  You could come and sit by my fire, and I would soothe your pain and let you go free of this place.”  His voice was dry and raspy, world-worn and tired.

“I’m passing through here,”  I said firmly, lifting my axe in my good hand.

“You know what that means, right?  To move past me, you must kill me.  The next floor only opens once you have finished the challenges of the current.  Are you so determined that you would kill a man who has done you no harm?”  He hunched forward, as though unable to keep himself sitting fully upright.

“I would,”  I told him.  “But we both know you are not harmless, nor are you a man, though you’ve fit yourself into one here.”

The old man tilted his head at me.  “I’m not certain I see your meaning?  If not a man, then what do you think I am?”

My memories shifted back to comfortable times, in a house where I bore no responsibility.  My mother baked away the shadows, and my father filled the evenings with stories.  Now I respun one of those stories.  “Back when my father was a young man, there were fairy creatures who stole into the houses of children at night.  The fairies sent the children fond dreams, and in exchange took from them loose teeth.  They left a copper coin on every pillow as a marker of their passing, but they did the children no harm, and their service was appreciated.”

“Oh, I think I know this story.  Go on.” Said the old man.

“When the gods of the forest went mad, their pollution took hold of all fae creatures, including these kindly fairies.  What happens when a tooth fairy goes mad with curse?”  I asked, shifting my axe up to my shoulder.

“What indeed?”  The man asked, tilting his head to the side.  His skin seemed to slide across his face, distorting his features.

“My father called them skull fairies, but I’ve heard them called other things since. Changelings.  Skin Thieves, Butcher Fairies.”  I shrugged.  “Many names, same basic monster.  Loves to kill its food, rip off the outer layer, and then wear it around.”

The old man stood up, and up, and up.  His head scraped the ceiling, the human flesh ripping on the stone ceiling.   Flesh and clothing tore away as the blanket fell from its shoulders, and it removed the pretense of humanity.  “You should have come to the fire.  You would have died faster.”  The chittering thing that had been in the old man was insect-like, but narrow and tall.  Its body was covered in limbs as long as arms that had been tucked and folded away.  The curse had twisted its fairy body into something monstrous.

By the time the last scrap of flesh was falling away, I already had the first swing of my axe launched.  The blade clove into a section of its torso, causing it to rear back and scream.  I continued the force of the blow and swung the axe back up to hit the monster in the face.  I cut deep, but I didn’t stop there.  Its arms were slashing at the air with unnatural strength.  I struck again and again as it tried to pierce the armor I was wearing.  It tried to fall atop me, but I dropped my axe and punched through one of the gouges I’d made in its flesh, reaching the creature’s black heart and crushing it.  It convulsed and then collapsed heavily atop me.

I rolled the corpse off of me and staggered to my feet.  Below my wrist on the burning side, all of my hand was blackened flesh wrapped around charred bone.

“Four more,”  I growled, recovering my axe. My voice was ragged with pain.

On floor seven I killed a plague gryphon, while dislocating my bad shoulder and shredding most of the backplate of my armor.

On floor eight I fought a pair of undead knights, bearing the sigil of the lord of the damned, and when I finally removed the head of the final fell thing, I tossed it to the ground and crushed it beneath my boot.  Their swords, edged in curse magic, rotted the leather from my armor straps, and left rust on my axe.

Then, on floor nine, I came to the final boundary.  It was the door itself that stood in my way.  The imposing portal was made of ancient wood, carved from frame to frame in a mural depicting the fall of the ancient city of Kavris to the hordes of the Hungry Queen.  Millions died, becoming meat for the demonic legion, and fueling the cursed magic of their fell matriarch.

This door was a thing I had never seen before.  I approached it cautiously.  The seam between the two panels was difficult to make out in the intricate carving.  There were no handles or obvious points to hold.  I hefted my axe and swung it with all my might at the place where the doors should split, and the blade hit as though striking an anvil.  The reverberation numbed my fingers and caused me to stagger backwards a step.  Raw force wasn’t going to work.

I dropped my axe to the ground and stepped towards the door again.  I was still for a moment, closing my eyes and becoming still.   I could feel the shifting of the air near the door, the crackle of magic that poisoned the world through its existence.  I could smell the rancid corruption of dark magic.  This door was more than just a door.  I carefully reached out my good hand and touched the wood.  It was cold, and a feeling of revulsion washed through me.  I grit my teeth and pushed against the door with my hand.

The world around me vanished, and suddenly I was standing amidst a city being devoured.  I could smell the char of burning bodies, and hear the screams of those who’d expected their walls to keep them safe.  I was lost in the horror of a memory made real, and then I knew what the door was.  It was an artifact of Kavris, some ancient wood salvaged from the fallen city and repurposed into the final portal.  Dark magic had been performed to draw the horrors of the city’s final moments into the wood and lock it in place, creating an object that could ensnare those foolish enough to touch it without an understanding of its nature.

Most would be lost in the illusion, doomed to stand in place and suffer the horror of the fall of Kavris over and over again until they finally succumbed to thirst, or perhaps some denizen of the tower.  I knew these traps for what they were.  My mind was trapped, but my body knew the way to freedom.  On instinct alone it pushed forward, breaking the seal on the door and stepping through the last boundary between me and the Wizard King.

As I passed the door frame, the vision of the city fled.  I walked up the last stairs and came up into a large room, one impossibly sized to fit atop the tower.  This was a hollow space, I knew immediately, a magic realm created by the will of the Wizard.  The whole tower was a part of this, but this floor was the one where the magic was strongest.  This place was a threat unto itself.  The size of it was a testament to the power of the being who controlled the space.

“No one has made it here before.”  A voice spoke to one side, and I turned to face it.  I’d seen wizards before, though none so strong as this one.  They were always unsettling creatures.  They began as human mages, magic users who pursued the arcane in an effort to help their fellows, but some of those mages lost sight of their goals and became hungry for more and more power.

A human body can only contain so much arcane magic.  Most of the greater magics were tainted by the curse, and tapping into them meant surviving a constant struggle with corruption.  Wizards, though, had discovered a way around this limitation.  If a human body was weak, then why restrict yourself to flesh?  The first step in going from mage to Wizard was the shedding of the human prison.

The Wizard that spoke to me now was one of the most horrifying examples of that shedding I’d yet encountered.  Many sought to make their new forms look somewhat like the one they were leaving behind; this Wizard had clearly not cared.

Its head was a wedge of rusted metal with articulated jaws crammed full of jagged metal teeth.  This wedge sat atop a bipedal frame with long metal arms that ended in three-fingered hands, all of it articulated with more joints than any living creature I’d seen before.  It could move these limbs in impossible directions.  Some parts of it were wood, most were metal, but there were chunks of bone in places as well, and I was aware that there were stretched sheets of human flesh covering parts to its chest and legs, leather accents to the rest of its horror.  Inside that frame would be a human heart and brain, though tucked deep inside in places no weapon could penetrate.

“You survived the climb, mortal.  I will grant you one boon, as is the law of the tower.”  I knew it could see me, though it had no eyes that I was aware of.

I took a step forward, reaching into my pocket to pull out the wooden figurine.  I tossed it to the ground at the Wizard King’s feet.

One of its arms stretched to the ground, bending and writhing down to pick up the figure.  It picked up the piece of wood, rolling it over in its three-fingered appendage.  “This should have been turned in to your village elders.  It would have gotten you a large sum of coin.”  Its voice was metallic, as though rolling up from the inside of a suit of armor.  It dropped the figure, then stepped forward and crushed it under a tri-toed metal foot.  “Yet you return your blessing to the one that gave it to you.  Do you seek to offend me?”

“Give me back my daughter.”  The fire of my anger burned deep and hot.

“Her life was paid for,” the King answered quickly.

“I never agreed to this.  Give her back.”  I growled the words back at the monster.

“You live within my domain, mortal.  That is all the agreement that is needed.  The protection of my magic has a cost.  I am benevolent, and in exchange for what I require, I leave you with a significant sum of coin.  This is how it has always been.  If you did not like the laws of my land, perhaps you should have lived elsewhere.”  It stood up taller, towering a full foot and a half over me.

I had known the Wizard King’s lands worked this way.  Even when I’d settled in them ten years earlier I had known this risk existed, but like a fool I’d assumed that this creature would never come for my family.  I had allowed for this evil to thrive and taken no action against it because this problem had not been mine, and now I paid for that.

“I have earned my boon,” I spoke firmly. “Give me back my daughter.”

“Your daughter is long dead.  Would you have her back as a wraith?  Perhaps I should drag her essence from beyond the veil and string it to a corpse.  Is that what you want?”  He laughed.  “I am a fair man.  Make a reasonable request and I will grant it.  Perhaps you would like the curse of burning removed from you?”  He glanced at my shoulder that was smoldering, my arm mostly burned away now.

I barely noticed his words.  A deep pit had opened up inside of me, a darkness of pain and rage so deep that I felt it consuming me.  I reached up and unfastened what remained of my chest plate.  I wanted to collapse and scream, to roar my despair to the sky.  The image of the last time I’d seen my daughter playing in the garden danced through my head, her smile like a dagger in my stomach, twisting.

“Well, what is it you want?” it asked.

As my chest plate hit the floor I reached up and grabbed the pendant on my neck.  “My father once told me that a man who will not stand up to evil because it does not yet touch him, is a man who does not deserve to keep that which he loves.  He was right.  It’s easy to forget the voices of those that came before when you just want to live in peace.”

“You are trying my patience.  What is it you want?”  It snapped its metal jaws at me.

“I want you to listen,” I told it.  “I want you to understand what you have done, and what is going to happen now.”

The Wizard King sighed and stepped back, slumping into a chair at a desk.  “Then speak.  Tell me what you think is going to happen.”

“My father was a man of many stories, and all of them built upon his journey through life.  Stories, legends, these are the cornerstones of what makes us who we are.  All families have stories they pass on, mine more than most I think.”  My voice I kept calm, but inside I was a broken ball of chaos, filled with an insurmountable rage.  I undead my pauldron on my ruined left arm and shrugged it to the floor with a grunt.

“You see, by the time I was growing up, most of my father’s people were already gone.  Even my mother was dead.  He couldn’t stress how important it was that I learn the tales of my people, that I understand what it meant to be a man of my lineage.  There was a responsibility that came with who we were.”

I pulled hard and snapped the necklace from around my neck.  It was a small vial that I always kept with me. I popped out the cork and drank the foul-tasting liquid inside of it.  Immediately I could feel it ravaging the insides of my body, peeling back the work of the serums I’d taken to make myself normal, to allow me to live as a human.

“Where is this going?” The creature before me asked, suspicion creeping into its voice.  “What are you doing?”

Magic crackled in the room, its scent heavy on the air, and I felt the pressure of cursed energy wrapping around my good arm, and around my legs as a maddened smile split my face.  The bones in my spine began to pop as the muscle along my spine expanded and stretched, and the vertebrae began to expand.  The pain was excruciating as I became taller.

“I should have come for you when you first came into my lands.”  My voice was a growl, deepening as my jaws began to snap and pop, the human skin on my face tearing.

“Werewolf!”  The King cursed, standing up and pulling his power to him.  Glyphs lit up on the ground, circles of protection sending pale green light up into the room.  “I watch for your kind! How did you get past wraith!?  It will not let your filth into the tower!”

My good arm snapped and stretched, my fingers turning into talons as the arm on the other side of my body ripped from the burned-off stump, quenching the spell fire that had been burning in the empty socket.

I laughed darkly.  “We were once werewolves, but that was long, long ago.  We have grown beyond those bounds.”  I roared with the last of my human voice.  I stepped through the bounding circle around me, the spell’s light flickering out as I stepped through it.

“No!”  The Wizard King yelled as he realized what I was.  Werewolves were resistant to magic, but I wasn’t a werewolf.  My kind had come from werewolves, bred for power and strength against our will until we broke free of our human keepers. Despite our treatment, we turned on the darkness and joined humanity in quenching the curse-borne demons of our world.  We were the war cult, and very few of us still remained.

I walked across the distance between myself and Wizard King as he backed away, pulling his dark magic to him.  Undead things began to rise from wells of light around him, but I broke them to pieces as they got in my path.  One shoved an old sword into my side, but the blade barely penetrated and I batted the creature away, closing the distance to my prey even further.

“Stop!”  He commanded in a roaring voice.  “I can give you your daughter back!”

Lies.  I’d known she was gone when I left my home.  I’d known she was dead when I passed the wraith.  This trip had never really been about getting her back, as badly as I wanted exactly that.  This was about revenge.  This was about doing what I should have done years before.  I’d tried so hard to forget the words of my father, to forget the part of me that was born for war, but creatures like me never really escaped.  We fought until we died, and loving anyone was always dangerous for that person.  It had been true for my wife, and now my daughter was gone, and fate had reminded me that none of us ever got away.

The Wizard threw fire and lightning, cursed me, and tried to bind me to the ground, but I shrugged off the magic.  Finally I reached him and then I rent him asunder, pulling his mechanical pieces apart and crushing them into rubble before I grabbed his metal skull and folded it between my clawed hands.  The crush of the soft flesh within ended the struggling, and quieted the magic of the tower.  I dropped the few pieces of the wizard that remained and turned to watch this magically created realm fall to shreds until none of the room I’d been in remained.

I stood in a bare tower, holes broken in the walls.  The whole structure seemed to sway lightly in the breeze.  The only evidence that remained of my fight, was the broken body of the Wizard King.  I threw back my head and howled at the emptiness that clung to me.  I howled for my daughter, and for the life I’d tried to have.

It was done, and I was alone and empty.

Rating: 10.00/10. From 23 votes.
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🎧 Available Audio Adaptations: None Available

Written by Heath Pfaff
Edited by Craig Groshek
Thumbnail Art by Craig Groshek
Narrated by N/A

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Publisher's Notes: N/A

Author's Notes: N/A

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Copyright Statement: Unless explicitly stated, all stories published on are the property of (and under copyright to) their respective authors, and may not be narrated or performed, adapted to film, television or audio mediums, republished in a print or electronic book, reposted on any other website, blog, or online platform, or otherwise monetized without the express written consent of its author(s).

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