Off the road a little way
I saw a glowing fire.
Ending was this too long day;
I thought there to retire.

Grassy was the little rise
I climbed to reach the light.
Then I saw him with my eyes,
the one I met that night.

Speaking in a hush-ed tone,
he bid me have a seat.
Greatly had the darkness grown,
and wearied were my feet.

Sitting down across from him,
I asked the man his name.
Claimed to be a mister Grim,
then asked to play a game.

He’d a set of chessmen near
—carved from living bone.
Stopped my heart, I saw with fear,
the game, half played, was known.

This I’d played within a dream,
and played it all my days.
Nothing could this game redeem.
I gazed into the blaze.

There, all burning in the coals,
were heaps of fallen kings.
There, all burning, were damned souls.
My host began laughing.

Make your move. I’ll mate in four.
I saw there no escape.
Make a move, make it before
the sun paints the landscape.

Staring at the hopeless game,
a thought occurred to me.
Kings were burning in the flames,
and I could set them free.

Fate, for me already set,
might be undone for these.
Fate might change, it was my bet,
if from the fire ‘twere seized.

Screaming, I put forth my hand
and grasped the burning kings.
Snatched out of that hellish land,
they quickly sprouted wings.

Mothlike, rising in the air,
their souls flew out of sight.
Heavy, Mister Grim’s dark glare
did fall on me that night.

Blistered was my hand, and red;
my arm still burned with heat.
Laughing at the game, I said:
I now fear no defeat.

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