The Stranger's Crown Prevails
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Always dying, never dead. Always breaking, never broken. Always hanging, never hung.

You will know the weight of the centuries you have ravaged.

Ogden Stranger was dying in the dark. His skull was being crushed by the weight of the water around him. The load suspended by his shackles, digging into his wrists with three bloody spikes, threatened to tear his arms from his sockets. His lungs were flooded with water; he had screamed away the air an aeon ago.

The Strangers were imprisoned a mile below the surface. Ogden was fourth in the chain, connected to his father above by his left arm, who was chained to his father above him, and his father above him, and his father above him. Ogden's right arm suspended his heir, and the hundred heirs that would follow them. The Strangers were immortal, unbreakable, and in agony.

And in that ocean beyond time, where the waves break on the jade sand under a starless sky, Ogden Stranger, King of Algad, strained against the weight of his heirs, screaming in exertion now as well as pain.

Lifting the chain should have been impossible. But many impossible things will bend against eternity. Over ten thousand years, Ogden lifted them by a millimeter. Over a hundred thousand, by a centimeter. And over countless, untold aeons, Ogden Stranger raised his right arm. He grasped the chain with his left hand, freeing his right hand from the weight. And with it, he snapped the chain. His children disappeared into the depths as he unshackled his left arm.

All that remained between Ogden and his freedom was a mile of water.

Ogden, coughing and sputtering, collapsed onto the sand. An eternity of physical exertion is fairly tiring. For a while he was unconscious.

He woke to the sound of approaching footsteps. Marshaling his broken vocal cords to forgotten purpose, he croaked, "Can't an exile have a nap after an eternity of torment?"

A cruel and melodic laugh sounded in response. "Oh do forgive me, Highness; your eternity of torment has been an eternity of boredom for me."

By the power of sheer annoyance and spite, Ogden lifted his head to the speaker. He saw a lithe figure, dressed in fine and wild colors, decorated in feathers, and wearing high heels.

"You waited for me, Kli?" he asked, skeptically.

The Ambassador chuckled, "Why, your loyal servant has faithfully awaited their master! Is that really so surprising?"

Ogden spat onto the sand. "Why are you here, traitor? Planning to kill me?"

"Oh, no, no, nothing so pedestrian. In fact, though you are forgiven for doubting me, I'm here to render assistance! Algad has been in shambles ever since it banished its royal family from existence. So I offer my services, m'lord." Kli bowed.

"Your services?"

"Why, yes, Majesty! My services. Ogden, you fail to understand what you're getting yourself into. Our beloved land has become a swirling ocean of chaos, of doubt, of shifting allegiances and deceptive purposes." Ogden opened his mouth to speak, and Kli interrupted, "Yes, yes, my kind of place, I know. But impossible to control. Impossible to rule, Highness. You'll need allies, and I will be a rock of certainty for you in the current!"

"Rock of certainty," echoed Ogden, blankly and skeptically.

"Why, yes. I am a known quantity. You know who I am, you know what I want, and you know what I am willing to do to get it."

Ogden nodded slowly. "And what you want is the throne restored, so you can claim it for yourself."

Kli grinned. "Precisely! For the moment, Highness, we want the same thing. You, restored as king. And it will not be a surprise when I eventually betray you to claim that power for my own. A rock of certainty."

The Stranger drew himself to his feet, brushing off the jade sand. And he turned to face the Ambassador.

"Then we should go."

The Ambassador laughed and clapped his hands together. "Wonderful, wonderful! Come then. Algad is simply lovely this time of never."

His children sank, his fathers sung,
And Ogden lay upon the shore
And purged the water from his lungs.
He broke the shackles of his jail;

The Stranger's crown prevails.

Then back to where he ruled before;
Where he alone of all his line
Would take the burden of their war.
His people cry, "Our king we hail;

The Stranger's crown prevails!"

From never-ending starless shine,
To lands of ancient bells unrung,
Ogden rules as king divine.
The enemies of Algad wail,

"The Stranger's crown prevails!"

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