On a pedestal before the castle stood his carved reflection. The elder King admired the statue. What might was here represented; how regal was its bearing. It wore not a smile but the sneer of command. Etched in stone, it stood: his legacy ever-lasting. In imperfect representation he found a more perfect self: gray, lidless eyes for his harsh blues; the white marble matched his cracked pale hands; the lifeless regard of its icy stare made for a flawless facsimile of his own cold features.
“Even when my kingdom fades,” He said, not to the sculptor who worked silently at mirroring his passions and his trunkless legs, but to his own ego. “Even when none alive remember my works or my name. Even when the wind wipes my legacy into the sea. When I am ossein, scattered and broken.”
This will remain.
His kingdom perched at the edge of a desert. One that encroached more with each passing year on its borders. Its approach matched his slowing joints, his increasingly labored heartbeat, as if it merely awaited his passing before swallowing his nation entire.
“No matter how hard we fight against entropy, it always wins in the end. But stone? Stone lasts.” He pats the rock monarch affectionately on its jagged side.
The sculptor steps back to appreciate his own work. He had no love for the king--a hard man, just on the generous side of tyranny--but was dedicated to his craft. Even he had to admit, this was his best, most honest work.
“What do you think, my lord?”
The King too retreated a pace, to better see the whole piece. He thought a minute, considering if there were any changes that needed making. The statue echoed a younger man, his peak self, but the art was true, from the cracks that paired his scars to the cruel set of his jaw. He nodded, it was a grand opus, yes, even great but it needed…
“Beg your pardon, my liege?” Inwardly the artist groaned. All he wanted was to be done and paid and returned to his family. Toiling these long months he had not been allowed to see them. He and the king ate together, they talked day and night of past conquests when he wasn’t at the stone with his hammer and chisel. He slept in chambers beside the monarch’s own.
“How can you hope to sculpt a perfect me if you do not know the man you hope to mimic?” Had been the king’s reasoning.
And so, alone, he had teased man from mineral. Now he hoped for home.
“It needs… words, an explanation. Who knows how long, and how far, history will curve away from what I’ve built? Or what, many years from now, will endure? Who knows what tourists may someday pass through our then-antique land? Who knows how many names this kingdom will take, how many kings or queens will rule, before someone comes before this masterwork and wonders: Who is this magnificent figure? We will give them an answer.”
“And what would you like it to say, my Lord?”
The King considered this a while. The phrasing was vital for words that would stand the test of time better than flesh.
“Beneath my feet, may they never be cast asunder, let it read-” The following he intoned in a vain and self-serious manner, “My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings…”
Hundreds of years into the far flung future, some lost traveler stopped in the desert, in the midst of the wastes where nothing lived. Where the only sign of the kingdom that once thrived was a crumbling, colossal statue and a few well-worn words. He reads them aloud to himself in clear bemusement
“Gaze upon my works?”
The traveler paused and looked around. Nothing but sand and burning emptiness stretched for miles around. He shrugged, took a quick drink from his canteen, and continued trekking through the shimmering air. The long-dead king he left to languish, the forgotten mighty, in grave disrepair.