The Moon Pool
Part 6 out of 7
for years and ages, the majority being ultimately destroyed by the
heat of some blazing star, but some few finding a resting-place on
globes which have reached the habitable stage.--W. T. G.
Nor was it incredible that in the ancient nebula that was the matrix
of our solar system similar, or rather DISSIMILAR, particles in all
but the subtle essence we call life, might have become entangled and,
resisting every cataclysm as they had resisted the absolute zero of
outer space, found in these caverned spaces their proper environment
to develop into the race of the Silent Ones and--only THEY could tell
"They say," the handmaiden's voice was surer, "they say that in
their--cradle--near earth's heart they grew; grew untroubled by the
turmoil and disorder which flayed the surface of this globe. And they
say it was a place of light and that strength came to them from earth
heart--strength greater than you and those from which you sprang ever
derived from sun.
"At last, ancient, ancient beyond all thought, they say again, was
this time--they began to know, to--to--realize--themselves. And
wisdom came ever more swiftly. Up from their cradle, because they did
not wish to dwell longer with those--others--they came and found this
"When all the face of earth was covered with waters in which lived
only tiny, hungry things that knew naught save hunger and its
satisfaction, THEY had attained wisdom that enabled them to make paths
such as we have just travelled and to look out upon those waters! And
_laya_ upon _laya_ thereafter, time upon time, they went upon the
paths and watched the flood recede; saw great bare flats of steaming
ooze appear on which crawled and splashed larger things which had
grown from the tiny hungry ones; watched the flats rise higher and
higher and green life begin to clothe them; saw mountains uplift and
"Ever the green life waxed and the things which crept and crawled grew
greater and took ever different forms; until at last came a time when
the steaming mists lightened and the things which had begun as little
more than tiny hungry mouths were huge and monstrous, so huge that the
tallest of my _Akka_ would not have reached the knee of the smallest
"But in none of these, in NONE, was there--realization--of
themselves, say the Three; naught but hunger driving, always driving
them to still its crying.
"So for time upon time the race of the Silent Ones took the paths no
more, placing aside the half-thought that they had of making their way
to earth face even as they had made their way from beside earth heart.
They turned wholly to the seeking of wisdom--and after other time on
time they attained that which killed even the faintest shadow of the
half-thought. For they crept far within the mysteries of life and
death, they mastered the illusion of space, they lifted the veils of
creation and of its twin destruction, and they stripped the covering
from the flaming jewel of truth--but when they had crept within those
mysteries they bid me tell YOU, Goodwin, they found ever other
mysteries veiling the way; and after they had uncovered the jewel of
truth they found it to be a gem of infinite facets and therefore not
wholly to be read before eternity's unthinkable end!
"And for this they were glad--because now throughout eternity might
they and theirs pursue knowledge over ways illimitable.
"They conquered light--light that sprang at their bidding from the
nothingness that gives birth to all things and in which lie all things
that are, have been and shall be; light that streamed through their
bodies cleansing them of all dross; light that was food and drink;
light that carried their vision afar or bore to them images out of
space opening many windows through which they gazed down upon life on
thousands upon thousands of the rushing worlds; light that was the
flame of life itself and in which they bathed, ever renewing their
own. They set radiant lamps within the stones, and of black light they
wove the sheltering shadows and the shadows that slay.
"Arose from this people those Three--the Silent Ones. They led them
all in wisdom so that in the Three grew--pride. And the Three built
them this place in which we sit and set the Portal in its place and
withdrew from their kind to go alone into the mysteries and to map
alone the facets of Truth Jewel.
"Then there came the ancestors of the--_Akka_; not as they are now,
and glowing but faintly within them the spark of--self-realization.
And the _Taithu_ seeing this spark did not slay them. But they took
the ancient, long untrodden paths and looked forth once more upon
earth face. Now on the land were vast forests and a chaos of green
life. On the shores things scaled and fanged, fought and devoured each
other, and in the green life moved bodies great and small that slew
and ran from those that would slay.
"They searched for the passage through which the _Akka_ had come and
closed it. Then the Three took them and brought them here; and taught
them and blew upon the spark until it burned ever stronger and in time
they became much as they are now--my _Akka_.
"The Three took counsel after this and said--'We have strengthened
life in these until it has become articulate; shall we not CREATE
life?'" Again she hesitated, her eyes rapt, dreaming. "The Three are
speaking," she murmured. "They have my tongue--"
And certainly, with an ease and rapidity as though she were but a
voice through which minds far more facile, more powerful poured their
thoughts, she spoke.
"Yea," the golden voice was vibrant. "We said that what we would
create should be of the spirit of life itself, speaking to us with the
tongues of the far-flung stars, of the winds, of the waters, and of
all upon and within these. Upon that universal matrix of matter, that
mother of all things that you name the ether, we laboured. Think not
that her wondrous fertility is limited by what ye see on earth or what
has been on earth from its beginning. Infinite, infinite are the forms
the mother bears and countless are the energies that are part of her.
"By our wisdom we had fashioned many windows out of our abode and
through them we stared into the faces of myriads of worlds, and upon
them all were the children of ether even as the worlds themselves were
"Watching we learned, and learning we formed that ye term the Dweller,
which those without name--the Shining One. Within the Universal Mother
we shaped it, to be a voice to tell us her secrets, a lamp to go
before us lighting the mysteries. Out of the ether we fashioned it,
giving it the soul of light that still ye know not nor perhaps ever
may know, and with the essence of life that ye saw blossoming deep in
the abyss and that is the pulse of earth heart we filled it. And we
wrought with pain and with love, with yearning and with scorching
pride and from our travail came the Shining One--our child!
"There is an energy beyond and above ether, a purposeful, sentient
force that laps like an ocean the furthest-flung star, that transfuses
all that ether bears, that sees and speaks and feels in us and in you,
that is incorporate in beast and bird and reptile, in tree and grass
and all living things, that sleeps in rock and stone, that finds
sparkling tongue in jewel and star and in all dwellers within the
firmament. And this ye call consciousness!
"We crowned the Shining One with the seven orbs of light which are the
channels between it and the sentience we sought to make articulate,
the portals through which flow its currents and so flowing, become
choate, vocal, self-realizant within our child.
"But as we shaped, there passed some of the essence of our pride; in
giving will we had given power, perforce, to exercise that will for
good or for evil, to speak or to be silent, to tell us what we wished
of that which poured into it through the seven orbs or to withhold
that knowledge itself; and in forging it from the immortal energies we
had endowed it with their indifference; open to all consciousness it
held within it the pole of utter joy and the pole of utter woe with
all the arc that lies between; all the ecstasies of the countless
worlds and suns and all their sorrows; all that ye symbolize as gods
and all ye symbolize as devils--not negativing each other, for there
is no such thing as negation, but holding them together, balancing
them, encompassing them, pole upon pole!"
So THIS was the explanation of the entwined emotions of joy and terror
that had changed so appallingly Throckmartin's face and the faces of
all the Dweller's slaves!
The handmaiden's eyes grew bright, alert, again; the brooding passed
from her face; the golden voice that had been so deep found its own
"I listened while the Three spoke to you," she said. "Now the shaping
of the Shining One had been a long, long travail and time had flown
over the outer world _laya_ upon _laya_. For a space the Shining One
was content to dwell here; to be fed with the foods of light: to open
the eyes of the Three to mystery upon mystery and to read for them
facet after facet of the gem of truth. Yet as the tides of
consciousness flowed through it they left behind shadowings and echoes
of their burdens; and the Shining One grew stronger, always stronger
of ITSELF WITHIN ITSELF. Its will strengthened and now not always was
it the will of the Three; and the pride that was woven in the making
of it waxed, while the love for them that its creators had set within
"Not ignorant were the _Taithu_ of the work of the Three. First there
were a few, then more and more who coveted the Shining One and who
would have had the Three share with them the knowledge it drew in for
them. But the Silent Ones in their pride, would not.
"There came a time when its will was now ALL its own, and it rebelled,
turning its gaze to the wider spaces beyond the Portal, offering
itself to the many there who would serve it; tiring of the Three,
their control and their abode.
"Now the Shining One has its limitations, even as we. Over water it
can pass, through air and through fire; but pass it cannot, through
rock or metal. So it sent a message--how I know not--to the _Taithu_
who desired it, whispering to them the secret of the Portal. And when
the time was ripe they opened the Portal and the Shining One passed
through it to them; nor would it return to the Three though they
commanded, and when they would have forced it they found that it had
hived and hidden a knowledge that they could not overcome.
"Yet by their arts the Three could have shattered the seven shining
orbs; but they would not because--they loved, it!
"Those to whom it had gone built for it that place I have shown you,
and they bowed to it and drew wisdom from it. And ever they turned
more and more from the ways in which the _Taithu_ had walked--for it
seemed that which came to the Shining One through the seven orbs had
less and less of good and more and more of the power you call evil.
Knowledge it gave and understanding, yes; but not that which, clear
and serene, lights the paths of right wisdom; rather were they flares
pointing the dark roads that lead to--to the ultimate evil!
"Not all of the race of the Three followed the counsel of the Shining
One. There were many, many, who would have none of it nor of its
power. So were the _Taithu_ split; and to this place where there had
been none, came hatred, fear and suspicion. Those who pursued the
ancient ways went to the Three and pleaded with them to destroy their
work--and they would not, for still they loved it.
"Stronger grew the Dweller and less and less did it lay before its
worshippers--for now so they had become--the fruits of its knowledge;
and it grew--restless--turning its gaze upon earth face even as it had
turned it from the Three. It whispered to the _Taithu_ to take again
the paths and look out upon the world. Lo! above them was a great
fertile land on which dwelt an unfamiliar race, skilled in arts,
seeking and finding wisdom--mankind! Mighty builders were they; vast
were their cities and huge their temples of stone.
"They called their lands Muria and they worshipped a god Thanaroa whom
they imagined to be the maker of all things, dwelling far away. They
worshipped as closer gods, not indifferent but to be prayed to and to
be propitiated, the moon and the sun. Two kings they had, each with
his council and his court. One was high priest to the moon and the
other high priest to the sun.
"The mass of this people were black-haired, but the sun king and his
nobles were ruddy with hair like mine; and the moon king and his
followers were like Yolara--or Lugur. And this, the Three say,
Goodwin, came about because for time upon time the law had been that
whenever a ruddy-haired or ashen-tressed child was born of the
black-haired it became dedicated at once to either sun god or moon
god, later wedding and bearing children only to their own kind. Until
at last from the black-haired came no more of the light-locked ones,
but the ruddy ones, being stronger, still arose from them."
The Building of the Moon Pool
She paused, running her long fingers through her own bronze-flecked
ringlets. Selective breeding this, with a vengeance, I thought; an
ancient experiment in heredity which of course would in time result in
the stamping out of the tendency to depart from type that lies in all
organisms; resulting, obviously, at last, in three fixed forms of
black-haired, ruddy-haired, and silver-haired--but this, with a shock
of realization it came to me, was also an accurate description of the
dark-polled _ladala_, their fair-haired rulers and of the golden-brown
How--questions began to stream through my mind; silenced by the
"Above, far, far above the abode of the Shining One," she said, "was
their greatest temple, holding the shrines both of sun and moon. All
about it were other temples hidden behind mighty walls, each enclosing
its own space and squared and ruled and standing within a shallow
lake; the sacred city, the city of the gods of this land--"
"It is the Nan-Matal that she is describing," I thought.
"Out upon all this looked the _Taithu_ who were now but the servants
of the Shining One as it had been the messenger of the Three," she
went on. "When they returned the Shining One spoke to them, promising
them dominion over all that they had seen, yea, UNDER IT dominion of
all earth itself and later perhaps of other earths!
"In the Shining One had grown craft, cunning; knowledge to gain that
which it desired. Therefore it told its _Taithu_--and mayhap told
them truth--that not yet was it time for THEM to go forth; that slowly
must they pass into that outer world, for they had sprung from heart
of earth and even it lacked power to swirl unaided into and through
the above. Then it counselled them, instructing them what to do. They
hollowed the chamber wherein first I saw you, cutting their way to it
that path down which from it you sped.
"It revealed to them that the force that is within moon flame is kin
to the force that is within it, for the chamber of its birth was the
chamber too of moon birth and into it went the subtle essence and
powers that flow in that earth child: and it taught them how to make
that which fills what you call the Moon Pool whose opening is close
behind its Veil hanging upon the gleaming cliffs.
"When this was done it taught them how to make and how to place the
seven lights through which moon flame streams into Moon Pool--the
seven lights that are kin to its own seven orbs even as its fires are
kin to moon fires--and which would open for it a path that it could
tread. And all this the _Taithu_ did, working so secretly that neither
those of their race whose faces were set against the Shining One nor
the busy men above know aught of it.
"When it was done they moved up the path, clustering within the Moon
Pool Chamber. Moon flame streamed through the seven globes, poured
down upon the pool; they saw mists arise, embrace, and become one with
the moon flame--and then up through Moon Pool, shaping itself within
the mists of light, whirling, radiant--the Shining One!
"Almost free, almost loosed upon the world it coveted!
"Again it counselled them, and they pierced the passage whose portal
you found first; set the fires within its stones, and revealing
themselves to the moon king and his priests spake to them even as the
Shining One had instructed.
"Now was the moon king filled with fear when he looked upon the
_Taithu_, shrouded with protecting mists of light in Moon Pool
Chamber, and heard their words. Yet, being crafty, he thought of the
power that would be his if he heeded and how quickly the strength of
the sun king would dwindle. So he and his made a pact with the Shining
"When next the moon was round and poured its flames down upon Moon
Pool, the _Taithu_ gathered there again, watched the child of the
Three take shape within the pillars, speed away--and out! They heard a
mighty shouting, a tumult of terror, of awe and of worship; a silence;
a vast sighing--and they waited, wrapped in their mists of light, for
they feared to follow nor were they near the paths that would have
enabled them to look without.
"Another tumult--and back came the Shining One, murmuring with joy,
pulsing, triumphant, and clasped within its vapours a man and woman,
ruddy-haired, golden-eyed, in whose faces rapture and horror lay side
by side--gloriously, hideously. And still holding them it danced above
the Moon Pool and--sank!
"Now must I be brief. _Lat_ after _lat_ the Shining One went forth,
returning with its sacrifices. And stronger after each it grew--and
gayer and more cruel. Ever when it passed with its prey toward the
pool, the _Taithu_ who watched felt a swift, strong intoxication, a
drunkenness of spirit, streaming from it to them. And the Shining One
forgot what it had promised them of dominion--and in this new evil
delight they too forgot.
"The outer land was torn with hatred and open strife. The moon king
and his kind, through the guidance of the evil _Taithu_ and the favour
of the Shining One, had become powerful and the sun king and his were
darkened. And the moon priests preached that the child of the Three
was the moon god itself come to dwell with them.
"Now vast tides arose and when they withdrew they took with them great
portions of this country. And the land itself began to sink. Then said
the moon king that the moon had called to ocean to destroy because
wroth that another than he was worshipped. The people believed and
there was slaughter. When it was over there was no more a sun king nor
any of the ruddy-haired folk; slain were they, slain down to the babe
"But still the tides swept higher; still dwindled the land!
"As it shrank multitudes of the fleeing people were led through Moon
Pool Chamber and carried here. They were what now are called the
_ladala_, and they were given place and set to work; and they thrived.
Came many of the fair-haired; and they were given dwellings. They sat
beside the evil _Taithu_; they became drunk even as they with the
dancing of the Shining One; they learned--not all; only a little part
but little enough--of their arts. And ever the Shining One danced more
gaily out there within the black amphitheatre; grew ever stronger--and
ever the hordes of its slaves behind the Veil increased.
"Nor did the _Taithu_ who clung to the old ways check this--they
could not. By the sinking of the land above, their own spaces were
imperilled. All of their strength and all of their wisdom it took to
keep this land from perishing; nor had they help from those others mad
for the poison of the Shining One; and they had no time to deal with
them nor the earth race with whom they had foregathered.
"At last came a slow, vast flood. It rolled even to the bases of the
walled islets of the city of the gods--and within these now were all
that were left of my people on earth face.
"I am of those people," she paused, looking at me proudly, "one of the
daughters of the sun king whose seed is still alive in the _ladala_!"
As Larry opened his mouth to speak she waved a silencing hand.
"This tide did not recede," she went on. "And after a time the
remnant, the moon king leading them, joined those who had already fled
below. The rocks became still, the quakings ceased, and now those
Ancient Ones who had been labouring could take breath. And anger grew
within them as they looked upon the work of their evil kin. Again they
sought the Three--and the Three now knew what they had done and their
pride was humbled. They would not slay the Shining One themselves, for
still they loved it; but they instructed these others how to undo
their work; how also they might destroy the evil _Taithu_ were it
"Armed with the wisdom of the Three they went forth--but now the
Shining One was strong indeed. They could not slay it!
"Nay, it knew and was prepared; they could not even pass beyond its
Veil nor seal its abode. Ah, strong, strong, mighty of will, full of
craft and cunning had the Shining One become. So they turned upon
their kind who had gone astray and made them perish, to the last. The
Shining One came not to the aid of its servants--though they called;
for within its will was the thought that they were of no further use
to it; that it would rest awhile and dance with them--who had so
little of the power and wisdom of its _Taithu_ and therefore no reins
upon it. And while this was happening black-haired and fair-haired ran
and hid and were but shaking vessels of terror.
"The Ancient Ones took counsel. This was their decision; that they
would go from the gardens before the Silver Waters--leaving, since
they could not kill it, the Shining One with its worshippers. They
sealed the mouth of the passage that leads to the Moon Pool Chamber
and they changed the face of the cliff so that none might tell where
it had been. But the passage itself they left open--having
foreknowledge I think, of a thing that was to come to pass in the far
future--perhaps it was your journey here, my Larry and Goodwin
--verily I think so. And they destroyed all the ways save that which
we three trod to the Dweller's abode.
"For the last time they went to the Three--to pass sentence upon them.
This was the doom--that here they should remain, alone, among the
_Akka_, served by them, until that time dawned when they would have
will to destroy the evil they had created--and even now--loved; nor
might they seek death, nor follow their judges until this had come to
pass. This was the doom they put upon the Three for the wickedness
that had sprung from their pride, and they strengthened it with their
arts that it might not be broken.
"Then they passed--to a far land they had chosen where the Shining One
could not go, beyond the Black Precipices of Doul, a green land--"
"Ireland!" interrupted Larry, with conviction, "I knew it."
"Since then time upon time had passed," she went on, unheeding. "The
people called this place Muria after their sunken land and soon they
forgot where had been the passage the _Taithu_ had sealed. The moon
king became the Voice of the Dweller and always with the Voice is a
woman of the moon king's kin who is its priestess.
"And many have been the journeys upward of the Shining One, through
the Moon Pool--returning with still others in its coils.
"And now again has it grown restless, longing for the wider spaces.
It has spoken to Yolara and to Lugur even as it did to the dead
_Taithu_, promising them dominion. And it has grown stronger, drawing
to itself power to go far on the moon stream where it will. Thus was
it able to seize your friend, Goodwin, and Olaf's wife and babe--and
many more. Yolara and Lugur plan to open way to earth face; to depart
with their court and under the Shining One grasp the world!
"And this is the tale the Silent Ones bade me tell you--and it is
Breathlessly I had listened to the stupendous epic of a long-lost
world. Now I found speech to voice the question ever with me, the
thing that lay as close to my heart as did the welfare of Larry,
indeed the whole object of my quest--the fate of Throckmartin and
those who had passed with him into the Dweller's lair; yes, and of
Olaf's wife, too.
"Lakla," I said, "the friend who drew me here and those he loved who
went before him--can we not save them?"
"The Three say no, Goodwin." There was again in her eyes the pity with
which she had looked upon Olaf. "The Shining One--FEEDS--upon the
flame of life itself, setting in its place its own fires and its own
will. Its slaves are only shells through which it gleams. Death, say
the Three, is the best that can come to them; yet will that be a boon
"But they have souls, _mavourneen_," Larry said to her. "And they're
alive still--in a way. Anyhow, their souls have not gone from them."
I caught a hope from his words--sceptic though I am--holding that the
existence of soul has never been proved by dependable laboratory
methods--for they recalled to me that when I had seen Throckmartin,
Edith had been close beside him.
"It was days after his wife was taken, that the Dweller seized
Throckmartin," I cried. "How, if their wills, their life, were indeed
gone, how did they find each other mid all that horde? How did they
come together in the Dweller's lair?"
"I do not know," she answered, slowly. "You say they loved--and it is
true that love is stronger even than death!"
"One thing I DON'T understand"--this was Larry again--"is why a girl
like you keeps coming out of the black-haired crowd; so frequently and
one might say, so regularly, Lakla. Aren't there ever any red-headed
boys--and if they are what becomes of them?"
"That, Larry, I cannot answer," she said, very frankly. "There was a
pact of some kind; how made or by whom I know not. But for long the
Murians feared the return of the _Taithu_ and greatly they feared the
Three. Even the Shining One feared those who had created it--for a
time; and not even now is it eager to face them--THAT I know. Nor are
Yolara and Lugur so SURE. It may be that the Three commanded it: but
how or why I know not. I only know that it is true--for here am I and
from where else would I have come?"
"From Ireland," said Larry O'Keefe, promptly. "And that's where
you're going. For 'tis no place for a girl like you to have been
brought up--Lakla; what with people like frogs, and a half-god three
quarters devil, and red oceans, an' the only Irish things yourself and
the Silent Ones up there, bless their hearts. It's no place for ye,
and by the soul of St. Patrick, it's out of it soon ye'll be gettin'!"
Larry! Larry! If it had but been true--and I could see Lakla and you
beside me now!
Larry and the Frog-Men
Long had been her tale in the telling, and too long, perhaps, have I
been in the repeating--but not every day are the mists rolled away to
reveal undreamed secrets of earth-youth. And I have set it down here,
adding nothing, taking nothing from it; translating liberally, it is
true, but constantly striving, while putting it into idea-forms and
phraseology to be readily understood by my readers, to keep accurately
to the spirit. And this, I must repeat, I have done throughout my
narrative, wherever it has been necessary to record conversation with
Rising, I found I was painfully stiff--as muscle-bound as though I had
actually trudged many miles. Larry, imitating me, gave an involuntary
"Faith, _mavourneen_," he said to Lakla, relapsing unconsciously into
English, "your roads would never wear out shoe-leather, but they've
got their kick, just the same!"
She understood our plight, if not his words; gave a soft little cry of
mingled pity and self-reproach; forced us back upon the cushions.
"Oh, but I'm sorry!" mourned Lakla, leaning over us. "I had
forgotten--for those new to it the way is a weary one, indeed--"
She ran to the doorway, whistled a clear high note down the passage.
Through the hangings came two of the frog-men. She spoke to them
rapidly. They crouched toward us, what certainly was meant for an
amiable grin wrinkling the grotesque muzzles, baring the glistening
rows of needle-teeth. And while I watched them with the fascination
that they never lost for me, the monsters calmly swung one arm around
our knees, lifted us up like babies--and as calmly started to walk
away with us!
"Put me down! Put me down, I say!" The O'Keefe's voice was both
outraged and angry; squinting around I saw him struggling violently to
get to his feet. The _Akka_ only held him tighter, booming
comfortingly, peering down into his flushed face inquiringly.
"But, Larry--darlin'!"--Lakla's tones were--well, maternally
surprised--"you're stiff and sore, and Kra can carry you quite
"I WON'T be carried!" sputtered the O'Keefe. "Damn it, Goodwin, there
are such things as the unities even here, an' for a lieutenant of the
Royal Air Force to be picked up an' carted around like a--like a
bundle of rags--it's not discipline! Put me down, ye _omadhaun_, or
I'll poke ye in the snout!" he shouted to his bearer--who only boomed
gently, and stared at the handmaiden, plainly for further
"But, Larry--dear!"--Lakla was plainly distressed--"it will HURT you
to walk; and I don't WANT you to hurt, Larry--darlin'!"
"Holy shade of St. Patrick!" moaned Larry; again he made a mighty
effort to tear himself from the frog-man's grip; gave up with a groan.
"Listen, _alanna_!" he said plaintively. "When we get to Ireland, you
and I, we won't have anybody to pick us up and carry us about every
time we get a bit tired. And it's getting me in bad habits you are!"
"Oh, YES, we will, Larry!" cried the handmaiden, "because many, oh,
many, of my _Akka_ will go with us!"
"Will you tell this--BOOB!--to put me down!" gritted the now
thoroughly aroused O'Keefe. I couldn't help laughing; he glared at me.
"Bo-oo-ob?" exclaimed Lakla.
"Yes, boo-oo-ob!" said O'Keefe, "an' I have no desire to explain the
word in my present position, light of my soul!"
The handmaiden sighed, plainly dejected. But she spoke again to the
_Akka_, who gently lowered the O'Keefe to the floor.
"I don't understand," she said hopelessly, "if you want to walk, why,
of course, you shall, Larry." She turned to me.
"Do you?" she asked.
"I do not," I said firmly.
"Well, then," murmured Lakla, "go you, Larry and Goodwin, with Kra and
Gulk, and let them minister to you. After, sleep a little--for not
soon will Rador and Olaf return. And let me feel your lips before you
go, Larry--darlin'!" She covered his eyes caressingly with her soft
little palms; pushed him away.
"Now go," said Lakla, "and rest!"
Unashamed I lay back against the horny chest of Gulk; and with a smile
noticed that Larry, even if he had rebelled at being carried, did not
disdain the support of Kra's shining, black-scaled arm which, slipping
around his waist, half-lifted him along.
They parted a hanging and dropped us softly down beside a little pool,
sparkling with the clear water that had heretofore been brought us in
the wide basins. Then they began to undress us. And at this point the
O'Keefe gave up.
"Whatever they're going to do we can't stop 'em, Doc!" he moaned.
"Anyway, I feel as though I've been pulled through a knot-hole, and I
don't care--I don't care--as the song says."
When we were stripped we were lowered gently into the water. But not
long did the _Akka_ let us splash about the shallow basin. They lifted
us out, and from jars began deftly to anoint and rub us with aromatic
I think that in all the medley of grotesque, of tragic, of baffling,
strange and perilous experiences in that underground world none was
more bizarre than this--valeting. I began to laugh, Larry joined me,
and then Kra and Gulk joined in our merriment with deep batrachian
cachinnations and gruntings. Then, having finished apparelling us and
still chuckling, the two touched our arms and led us out, into a room
whose circular sides were ringed with soft divans. Still smiling, I
sank at once into sleep.
How long I slumbered I do not know. A low and thunderous booming
coming through the deep window slit, reverberated through the room and
awakened me. Larry yawned; arose briskly.
"Sounds as though the bass drums of every jazz band in New York were
serenading us!" he observed. Simultaneously we sprang to the window;
We were a little above the level of the bridge, and its full length
was plain before us. Thousands upon thousands of the _Akka_ were
crowding upon it, and far away other hordes filled like a glittering
thicket both sides of the cavern ledge's crescent strand. On black
scale and orange scale the crimson light fell, picking them off in
little flickering points.
Upon the platform from which sprang the smaller span over the abyss
were Lakla, Olaf, and Rador; the handmaiden clearly acting as
interpreter between them and the giant she had called Nak, the Frog
"Come on!" shouted Larry.
Out of the open portal we ran; over the World Heart Bridge--and
straight into the group.
"Oh!" cried Lakla, "I didn't want you to wake up so soon,
"See here, _mavourneen_!" Indignation thrilled in the Irishman's
voice. "I'm not going to be done up with baby-ribbons and laid away in
a cradle for safe-keeping while a fight is on; don't think it. Why
didn't you call me?"
"You needed rest!" There was indomitable determination in the
handmaiden's tones, the eternal maternal shining defiant from her
eyes. "You were tired and you hurt! You shouldn't have got up!"
"Needed the rest!" groaned Larry. "Look here, Lakla, what do you
think I am?"
"You're all I have," said that maiden firmly, "and I'm going to take
care of you, Larry--darlin'! Don't you ever think anything else."
"Well, pulse of my heart, considering my delicate health and general
fragility, would it hurt me, do you think, to be told what's going
on?" he asked.
"Not at all, Larry!" answered the handmaiden serenely. "Yolara went
through the Portal. She was very, VERY angry--"
"She was all the devil's woman that she is!" rumbled Olaf.
"Rador met the messenger," went on the Golden Girl calmly. "The
_ladala_ are ready to rise when Lugur and Yolara lead their hosts
against us. They will strike at those left behind. And in the meantime
we shall have disposed my _Akka_ to meet Yolara's men. And on that
disposal we must all take counsel, you, Larry, and Rador, Olaf and
Goodwin and Nak, the ruler of the _Akka_."
"Did the messenger give any idea when Yolara expects to make her
little call?" asked Larry.
"Yes," she answered. "They prepare, and we may expect them in--" She
gave the equivalent of about thirty-six hours of our time.
"But, Lakla," I said, the doubt that I had long been holding finding
voice, "should the Shining One come--with its slaves--are the Three
strong enough to cope with it?"
There was troubled doubt in her own eyes.
"I do not know," she said at last, frankly. "You have heard their
story. What they promise is that they will help. I do not know--any
more than do you, Goodwin!"
I looked up at the dome beneath which I knew the dread Trinity stared
forth; even down upon us. And despite the awe, the assurance, I had
felt when I stood before them I, too, doubted.
"Well," said Larry, "you and I, uncle," he turned to Rador, "and Olaf
here had better decide just what part of the battle we'll lead--"
"Lead!" the handmaiden was appalled. "YOU lead, Larry? Why you are to
stay with Goodwin and with me--up there, there we can watch."
"Heart's beloved," O'Keefe was stern indeed. "A thousand times I've
looked Death straight in the face, peered into his eyes. Yes, and with
ten thousand feet of space under me an' bursting shells tickling the
ribs of the boat I was in. An' d'ye think I'll sit now on the
grandstand an' watch while a game like this is being pulled? Ye don't
know your future husband, soul of my delight!"
And so we started toward the golden opening, squads of the frog-men
following us soldierly and disappearing about the huge structure. Nor
did we stop until we came to the handmaiden's boudoir. There we seated
"Now," said Larry, "two things I want to know. First--how many can
Yolara muster against us; second, how many of these _Akka_ have we to
Rador gave our equivalent for eighty thousand men as the force Yolara
could muster without stripping her city. Against this force, it
appeared, we could count, roughly, upon two hundred thousand of the
"And they're some fighters!" exclaimed Larry. "Hell, with odds like
that what're you worrying about? It's over before it's begun."
"But, _Larree_," objected Rador to this, "you forget that the nobles
will have the _Keth_--and other things; also that the soldiers have
fought against the _Akka_ before and will be shielded very well from
their spears and clubs--and that their blades and javelins can bite
through the scales of Nak's warriors. They have many things--"
"Uncle," interjected O'Keefe, "one thing they have is your nerve.
Why, we're more than two to one. And take it from me--"
Without warning dropped the tragedy!
"Your Love; Your Lives; Your Souls!"
Lakla had taken no part in the talk since we had reached her bower.
She had seated herself close to the O'Keefe. Glancing at her I had
seen steal over her face that brooding, listening look that was hers
whenever in that mysterious communion with the Three. It vanished;
swiftly she arose; interrupted the Irishman without ceremony.
"Larry darlin'," said the handmaiden. "The Silent Ones summon us!"
"When do we go?" I asked; Larry's face grew bright with interest.
"The time is now," she said--and hesitated. "Larry dear, put your
arms about me," she faltered, "for there is something cold that
catches at my heart--and I am afraid."
At his exclamation she gathered herself together; gave a shaky little
"It's because I love you so that fear has power to plague me," she
Without another word he bent and kissed her; in silence we passed on,
his arm still about her girdled waist, golden head and black close
together. Soon we stood before the crimson slab that was the door to
the sanctuary of the Silent Ones. She poised uncertainly before it;
then with a defiant arching of the proud little head that sent all the
bronze-flecked curls flying, she pressed. It slipped aside and once
more the opalescence gushed out, flooding all about us.
Dazzled as before, I followed through the lambent cascades pouring
from the high, carved walls; paused, and my eyes clearing, looked
up--straight into the faces of the Three. The angled orbs centred upon
the handmaiden; softened as I had seen them do when first we had faced
them. She smiled up; seemed to listen.
"Come closer," she commanded, "close to the feet of the Silent Ones."
We moved, pausing at the very base of the dais. The sparkling mists
thinned; the great heads bent slightly over us; through the veils I
caught a glimpse of huge columnar necks, enormous shoulders covered
with draperies as of pale-blue fire.
I came back to attention with a start, for Lakla was answering a
question only heard by her, and, answering it aloud, I perceived for
our benefit; for whatever was the mode of communication between those
whose handmaiden she was, and her, it was clearly independent of
"He has been told," she said, "even as you commanded."
Did I see a shadow of pain flit across the flickering eyes? Wondering,
I glanced at Lakla's face and there was a dawn of foreboding and
bewilderment. For a little she held her listening attitude; then the
gaze of the Three left her; focused upon the O'Keefe.
"Thus speak the Silent Ones--through Lakla, their handmaiden," the
golden voice was like low trumpet notes. "At the threshold of doom is
that world of yours above. Yea, even the doom, Goodwin, that ye
dreamed and the shadow of which, looking into your mind they see, say
the Three. For not upon earth and never upon earth can man find means
to destroy the Shining One."
She listened again--and the foreboding deepened to an amazed fear.
"They say, the Silent Ones," she went on, "that they know not whether
even they have power to destroy. Energies we know nothing of entered
into its shaping and are part of it; and still other energies it has
gathered to itself"--she paused; a shadow of puzzlement crept into her
voice "and other energies still, forces that ye DO know and symbolize
by certain names--hatred and pride and lust and many others which are
forces real as that hidden in the _Keth_; and among them--fear, which
weakens all those others--" Again she paused.
"But within it is nothing of that greatest of all, that which can make
powerless all the evil others, that which we call--love," she ended
"I'd like to be the one to put a little more FEAR in the beast,"
whispered Larry to me, grimly in our own English. The three weird
heads bent, ever so slightly--and I gasped, and Larry grew a little
white as Lakla nodded--
"They say, Larry," she said, "that there you touch one side of the
heart of the matter--for it is through the way of fear the Silent Ones
hope to strike at the very life of the Shining One!"
The visage Larry turned to me was eloquent of wonder; and mine
reflected it--for what REALLY were this Three to whom our minds were
but open pages, so easily read? Not long could we conjecture; Lakla
broke the little silence.
"This, they say, is what is to happen. First will come upon us Lugur
and Yolara with all their host. Because of fear the Shining One will
lurk behind within its lair; for despite all, the Dweller DOES dread
the Three, and only them. With this host the Voice and the priestess
will strive to conquer. And if they do, then will they be strong
enough, too, to destroy us all. For if they take the abode they banish
from the Dweller all fear and sound the end of the Three.
"Then will the Shining One be all free indeed; free to go out into the
world, free to do there as it wills!
"But if they do not conquer--and the Shining One comes not to their
aid, abandoning them even as it abandoned its own _Taithu_--then will
the Three be loosed from a part of their doom, and they will go
through the Portal, seek the Shining One beyond the Veil, and,
piercing it through fear's opening, destroy it."
"That's quite clear," murmured the O'Keefe in my ear. "Weaken the
morale--then smash. I've seen it happen a dozen times in Europe. While
they've got their nerve there's not a thing you can do; get their
nerve--and not a thing can they do. And yet in both cases they're the
Lakla had been listening again. She turned, thrust out hands to
Larry, a wild hope in her eyes--and yet a hope half shamed.
"They say," she cried, "that they give us choice. Remembering that
your world doom hangs in the balance, we have choice--choice to stay
and help fight Yolara's armies--and they say they look not lightly on
that help. Or choice to go--and if so be you choose the latter, then
will they show another way that leads into your world!"
A flush had crept over the O'Keefe's face as she was speaking. He
took her hands and looked long into the golden eyes; glancing up I saw
the Trinity were watching them intently--imperturbably.
"What do you say, _mavourneen_?" asked Larry gently. The handmaiden
hung her head; trembled.
"Your words shall be mine, O one I love," she whispered. "So going or
staying, I am beside you."
"And you, Goodwin?" he turned to me. I shrugged my shoulders--after
all I had no one to care.
"It's up to you, Larry," I remarked, deliberately choosing his own
The O'Keefe straightened, squared his shoulders, gazed straight into
the flame-flickering eyes.
"We stick!" he said briefly.
Shamefacedly I recall now that at the time I thought this
colloquialism not only irreverent, but in somewhat bad taste. I am
glad to say I was alone in that bit of weakness. The face that Lakla
turned to Larry was radiant with love, and although the shamed hope
had vanished from the sweet eyes, they were shining with adoring
pride. And the marble visages of the Three softened, and the little
flames died down.
"Wait," said Lakla, "there is one other thing they say we must answer
before they will hold us to that promise--wait--"
She listened, and then her face grew white--white as those of the
Three themselves; the glorious eyes widened, stark terror filling
them; the whole lithe body of her shook like a reed in the wind.
"Not that!" she cried out to the Three. "Oh, not that! Not
Larry--let me go even as you will--but not him!" She threw up frantic
hands to the woman-being of the Trinity. "Let ME bear it alone," she
wailed. "Alone--mother! Mother!"
The Three bent their heads toward her, their faces pitiful, and from
the eyes of the woman One rolled--tears! Larry leaped to Lakla's side.
_"Mavourneen!"_ he cried. "Sweetheart, what have they said to you?"
He glared up at the Silent Ones, his hand twitching toward the
high-hung pistol holster.
The handmaiden swung to him; threw white arms around his neck; held
her head upon his heart until her sobbing ceased.
"This they--say--the Silent Ones," she gasped and then all the courage
of her came back. "O heart of mine!" she whispered to Larry, gazing
deep into his eyes, his anxious face cupped between her white palms.
"This they say--that should the Shining One come to succour Yolara and
Lugur, should it conquer its fear--and--do this--then is there but one
way left to destroy it--and to save your world."
She swayed; he gripped her tightly.
"But one way--you and I must go--together--into its embrace! Yea, we
must pass within it--loving each other, loving the world, realizing to
the full all that we sacrifice and sacrificing all, our love, our
lives, perhaps even that you call soul, O loved one; must give
ourselves ALL to the Shining One--gladly, freely, our love for each
other flaming high within us--that this curse shall pass away! For if
we do this, pledge the Three, then shall that power of love we carry
into it weaken for a time all that evil which the Shining One has
become--and in that time the Three can strike and slay!"
The blood rushed from my heart; scientist that I am, essentially, my
reason rejected any such solution as this of the activities of the
Dweller. Was it not, the thought flashed, a propitiation by the Three
out of their own weakness--and as it flashed I looked up to see their
eyes, full of sorrow, on mine--and knew they read the thought. Then
into the whirling vortex of my mind came steadying reflections--of
history changed by the power of hate, of passion, of ambition, and
most of all, by love. Was there not actual dynamic energy in these
things--was there not a Son of Man who hung upon a cross on Calvary?
"Dear love o' mine," said the O'Keefe quietly, "is it in your heart to
say YES to this?"
"Larry," she spoke low, "what is in your heart is in mine; but I did
so want to go with you, to live with you--to--to bear you children,
Larry--and to see the sun."
My eyes were wet; dimly through them I saw his gaze on me.
"If the world IS at stake," he whispered, "why of course there's only
one thing to do. God knows I never was afraid when I was fighting up
there--and many a better man than me has gone West with shell and
bullet for the same idea; but these things aren't shell and
bullet--but I hadn't Lakla then--and it's the damned DOUBT I have
behind it all."
He turned to the Three--and did I in their poise sense a rigidity, an
anxiety that sat upon them as alienly as would divinity upon men?
"Tell me this, Silent Ones," he cried. "If we do this, Lakla and I,
is it SURE you are that you can slay the--Thing, and save my world? Is
it SURE you are?"
For the first and the last time, I heard the voice of the Silent Ones.
It was the man-being at the right who spoke.
"We are sure," the tones rolled out like deepest organ notes, shaking,
vibrating, assailing the ears as strangely as their appearance struck
the eyes. Another moment the O'Keefe stared at them. Once more he
squared his shoulders; lifted Lakla's chin and smiled into her eyes.
"We stick!" he said again, nodding to the Three.
Over the visages of the Trinity fell benignity that was--awesome; the
tiny flames in the jet orbs vanished, leaving them wells in which
brimmed serenity, hope--an extraordinary joyfulness. The woman sat
upright, tender gaze fixed upon the man and girl. Her great shoulders
raised as though she had lifted her arms and had drawn to her those
others. The three faces pressed together for a fleeting moment; raised
again. The woman bent forward--and as she did so, Lakla and Larry, as
though drawn by some outer force, were swept upon the dais.
Out from the sparkling mist stretched two hands, enormously long,
six-fingered, thumbless, a faint tracery of golden scales upon their
white backs, utterly unhuman and still in some strange way beautiful,
radiating power and--all womanly!
They stretched forth; they touched the bent heads of Lakla and the
O'Keefe; caressed them, drew them together, softly stroked
them--lovingly, with more than a touch of benediction. And withdrew!
The sparkling mists rolled up once more, hiding the Silent Ones. As
silently as once before we had gone we passed out of the place of
light, beyond the crimson stone, back to the handmaiden's chamber.
Only once on our way did Larry speak.
"Cheer up, darlin'," he said to her, "it's a long way yet before the
finish. An' are you thinking that Lugur and Yolara are going to pull
this thing off? Are you?"
The handmaiden only looked at him, eyes love and sorrow filled.
"They are!" said Larry. "They are! Like HELL they are!"
The Meeting of Titans
It is not my intention, nor is it possible no matter how interesting
to me, to set down _ad seriatim_ the happenings of the next twelve
hours. But a few will not be denied recital.
O'Keefe regained cheerfulness.
"After all, Doc," he said to me, "it's a beautiful scrap we're going
to have. At the worst the worst is no more than the leprechaun warned
about. I would have told the Taitha De about the banshee raid he
promised me; but I was a bit taken off my feet at the time. The old
girl an' all the clan'll be along, said the little green man, an' I
bet the Three will be damned glad of it, take it from me."
Lakla, shining-eyed and half fearful too:
"I have other tidings that I am afraid will please you little,
Larry--darlin'. The Silent Ones say that you must not go into battle
yourself. You must stay here with me, and with Goodwin--for
if--if--the Shining One does come, then must we be here to meet it.
And you might not be, you know, Larry, if you fight," she said,
looking shyly up at him from under the long lashes.
The O'Keefe's jaw dropped.
"That's about the hardest yet," he answered slowly. "Still--I see
their point; the lamb corralled for the altar has no right to stray
out among the lions," he added grimly. "Don't worry, sweet," he told
her. "As long as I've sat in the game I'll stick to the rules."
Olaf took fierce joy in the coming fray. "The Norns spin close to the
end of this web," he rumbled. "_Ja!_ And the threads of Lugur and the
Heks woman are between their fingers for the breaking! Thor will be
with me, and I have fashioned me a hammer in glory of Thor." In his
hand was an enormous mace of black metal, fully five feet long,
crowned with a massive head.
I pass to the twelve hours' closing.
At the end of the _coria_ road where the giant fernland met the edge
of the cavern's ruby floor, hundreds of the _Akka_ were stationed in
ambush, armed with their spears tipped with the rotting death and
their nail-studded, metal-headed clubs. These were to attack when the
Murians debauched from the _corials_. We had little hope of doing more
here than effect some attrition of Yolara's hosts, for at this place
the captains of the Shining One could wield the _Keth_ and their other
uncanny weapons freely. We had learned, too, that every forge and
artisan had been put to work to make an armour Marakinoff had devised
to withstand the natural battle equipment of the frog-people--and both
Larry and I had a disquieting faith in the Russian's ingenuity.
At any rate the numbers against us would be lessened.
Next, under the direction of the frog-king, levies commanded by
subsidiary chieftains had completed rows of rough walls along the
probable route of the Murians through the cavern. These afforded the
_Akka_ a fair protection behind which they could hurl their darts and
spears--curiously enough they had never developed the bow as a weapon.
At the opening of the cavern a strong barricade stretched almost to
the two ends of the crescent strand; almost, I say, because there had
not been time to build it entirely across the mouth.
And from edge to edge of the titanic bridge, from where it sprang
outward at the shore of the Crimson Sea to a hundred feet away from
the golden door of the abode, barrier after barrier was piled.
Behind the wall defending the mouth of the cavern, waited other
thousands of the _Akka_. At each end of the unfinished barricade they
were mustered thickly, and at right and left of the crescent where
their forest began, more legions were assembled to make way up to the
ledge as opportunity offered.
Rank upon rank they manned the bridge barriers; they swarmed over the
pinnacles and in the hollows of the island's ragged outer lip; the
domed castle was a hive of them, if I may mix my metaphors--and the
rocks and gardens that surrounded the abode glittered with them.
"Now," said the handmaiden, "there's nothing else we can do--save
She led us out through her bower and up the little path that ran to
Through the quiet came a sound, a sighing, a half-mournful whispering
that beat about us and fled away.
"They come!" cried Lakla, the light of battle in her eyes. Larry drew
her to him, raised her in his arms, kissed her.
"A woman!" acclaimed the O'Keefe. "A real woman--and mine!"
With the cry of the Portal there was movement among the _Akka_, the
glint of moving spears, flash of metal-tipped clubs, rattle of horny
spurs, rumblings of battle-cries.
And we waited--waited it seemed interminably, gaze fastened upon the
low wall across the cavern mouth. Suddenly I remembered the crystal
through which I had peered when the hidden assassins had crept upon
us. Mentioning it to Lakla, she gave a little cry of vexation, a
command to her attendant; and not long that faithful if unusual lady
had returned with a tray of the glasses. Raising mine, I saw the lines
furthest away leap into sudden activity. Spurred warrior after warrior
leaped upon the barricade and over it. Flashes of intense, green
light, mingled with gleams like lightning strokes of concentrated moon
rays, sprang from behind the wall--sprang and struck and burned upon
the scales of the batrachians.
"They come!" whispered Lakla.
At the far ends of the crescent a terrific milling had begun. Here it
was plain the _Akka_ were holding. Faintly, for the distance was
great, I could see fresh force upon force rush up and take the places
of those who had fallen.
Over each of these ends, and along the whole line of the barricade a
mist of dancing, diamonded atoms began to rise; sparking, coruscating
points of diamond dust that darted and danced.
What had once been Lakla's guardians--dancing now in the nothingness!
"God, but it's hard to stay here like this!" groaned the O'Keefe;
Olaf's teeth were bared, the lips drawn back in such a fighting grin
as his ancestors berserk on their raven ships must have borne; Rador
was livid with rage; the handmaiden's nostrils flaring wide, all her
wrathful soul in her eyes.
Suddenly, while we looked, the rocky wall which the _Akka_ had built
at the cavern mouth--was not! It vanished, as though an unseen,
unbelievably gigantic hand had with the lightning's speed swept it
away. And with it vanished, too, long lines of the great amphibians
close behind it.
Then down upon the ledge, dropping into the Crimson Sea, sending up
geysers of ruby spray, dashing on the bridge, crushing the frog-men,
fell a shower of stone, mingled with distorted shapes and fragments
whose scales still flashed meteoric as they hurled from above.
"That which makes things fall upward," hissed Olaf. "That which I saw
in the garden of Lugur!"
The fiendish agency of destruction which Marakinoff had revealed to
Larry; the force that cut off gravitation and sent all things within
its range racing outward into space!
And now over the debris upon the ledge, striking with long sword and
daggers, here and there a captain flashing the green ray, moving on in
ordered squares, came the soldiers of the Shining One. Nearer and
nearer the verge of the ledge they pushed Nak's warriors. Leaping upon
the dwarfs, smiting them with spear and club, with teeth and spur, the
_Akka_ fought like devils. Quivering under the ray, they leaped and
dragged down and slew.
Now there was but one long line of the frog-men at the very edge of
And ever the clouds of dancing, diamonded atoms grew thicker over them
That last thin line of the _Akka_ was going; yet they fought to the
last, and none toppled over the lip without at least one of the
armoured Murians in his arms.
My gaze dropped to the foot of the cliffs. Stretched along their
length was a wide ribbon of beauty--a shimmering multitude of
gleaming, pulsing, prismatic moons; glowing, glowing ever brighter,
ever more wondrous--the gigantic Medusae globes feasting on dwarf and
Across the waters, faintly, came a triumphant shouting from Lugur's
and Yolara's men!
Was the ruddy light of the place lessening, growing paler, changing to
a faint rose? There was an exclamation from Larry; something like hope
relaxed the drawn muscles of his face. He pointed to the aureate dome
wherein sat the Three--and then I saw!
Out of it, through the long transverse slit through which the Silent
Ones kept their watch on cavern, bridge, and abyss, a torrent of the
opalescent light was pouring. It cascaded like a waterfall, and as it
flowed it spread whirling out, in columns and eddies, clouds and wisps
of misty, curdled coruscations. It hung like a veil over all the
islands, filtering everywhere, driving back the crimson light as
though possessed of impenetrable substance--and still it cast not the
faintest shadowing upon our vision.
"Good God!" breathed Larry. "Look!"
The radiance was marching--MARCHING--down the colossal bridge. It
moved swiftly, in some unthinkable way INTELLIGENTLY. It swathed the
_Akka_, and closer, ever closer it swept toward the approach upon
which Yolara's men had now gained foothold.
From their ranks came flash after flash of the green ray--aimed at
the abode! But as the light sped and struck the opalescence it was
blotted out! The shimmering mists seemed to enfold, to dissipate it.
Lakla drew a deep breath.
"The Silent Ones forgive me for doubting them," she whispered; and
again hope blossomed on her face even as it did on Larry's.
The frog-men were gaining. Clothed in the armour of that mist, they
pressed back from the bridge-head the invaders. There was another
prodigious movement at the ends of the crescent, and racing up,
pressing against the dwarfs, came other legions of Nak's warriors. And
re-enforcing those out on the prodigious arch, the frog-men stationed
in the gardens below us poured back to the castle and out through the
"They're licked!" shouted Larry. "They're--"
So quickly I could not follow the movement his automatic leaped to his
hand--spoke, once and again and again. Rador leaped to the head of the
little path, sword in hand; Olaf, shouting and whirling his mace,
followed. I strove to get my own gun quickly.
For up that path were running twoscore of Lugur's men, while from
below Lugur's own voice roared.
"Quick! Slay not the handmaiden or her lover! Carry them down.
Quick! But slay the others!"
The handmaiden raced toward Larry, stopped, whistled shrilly--again
and again. Larry's pistol was empty, but as the dwarfs rushed upon him
I dropped two of them with mine. It jammed--I could not use it; I
sprang to his side. Rador was down, struggling in a heap of Lugur's
men. Olaf, a Viking of old, was whirling his great hammer, and
striking, striking through armour, flesh, and bone.
Larry was down, Lakla flew to him. But the Norseman, now streaming
blood from a dozen wounds, caught a glimpse of her coming, turned,
thrust out a mighty hand, sent her reeling back, and then with his
hammer cracked the skulls of those trying to drag the O'Keefe down the
A cry from Lakla--the dwarfs had seized her, had lifted her despite
her struggles, were carrying her away. One I dropped with the butt of
my useless pistol, and then went down myself under the rush of
Through the clamour I heard a booming of the _Akka_, closer, closer;
then through it the bellow of Lugur. I made a mighty effort, swung a
hand up, and sunk my fingers in the throat of the soldier striving to
kill me. Writhing over him, my fingers touched a poniard; I thrust it
deep, staggered to my feet.
The O'Keefe, shielding Lakla, was battling with a long sword against a
half dozen of the soldiers. I started toward him, was struck, and
under the impact hurled to the ground. Dizzily I raised myself--and
leaning upon my elbow, stared and moved no more. For the dwarfs lay
dead, and Larry, holding Lakla tightly, was staring even as I, and
ranged at the head of the path were the _Akka_, whose booming advance
in obedience to the handmaiden's call I had heard.
And at what we all stared was Olaf, crimson with his wounds, and
Lugur, in blood-red armour, locked in each other's grip, struggling,
smiting, tearing, kicking, and swaying about the little space before
the embrasure. I crawled over toward the O'Keefe. He raised his
pistol, dropped it.
"Can't hit him without hitting Olaf," he whispered. Lakla signalled
the frog-men; they advanced toward the two--but Olaf saw them, broke
the red dwarf's hold, sent Lugur reeling a dozen feet away.
"No!" shouted the Norseman, the ice of his pale-blue eyes glinting
like frozen flames, blood streaming down his face and dripping from
his hands. "No! Lugur is mine! None but me slays him! Ho, you Lugur--"
and cursed him and Yolara and the Dweller hideously--I cannot set
those curses down here.
They spurred Lugur. Mad now as the Norseman, the red dwarf sprang.
Olaf struck a blow that would have killed an ordinary man, but Lugur
only grunted, swept in, and seized him about the waist; one mighty arm
began to creep up toward Huldricksson's throat.
"'Ware, Olaf!" cried O'Keefe; but Olaf did not answer. He waited until
the red dwarf's hand was close to his shoulder; and then, with an
incredibly rapid movement--once before had I seen something like it
in a wrestling match between Papuans--he had twisted Lugur around;
twisted him so that Olaf's right arm lay across the tremendous breast,
the left behind the neck, and Olaf's left leg held the Voice's
armoured thighs viselike against his right knee while over that knee
lay the small of the red dwarf's back.
For a second or two the Norseman looked down upon his enemy,
motionless in that paralyzing grip. And then--slowly--he began to
Lakla gave a little cry; made a motion toward the two. But Larry drew
her head down against his breast, hiding her eyes; then fastened his
own upon the pair, white-faced, stern.
Slowly, ever so slowly, proceeded Olaf. Twice Lugur moaned. At the
end he screamed--horribly. There was a cracking sound, as of a stout
Huldricksson stooped, silently. He picked up the limp body of the
Voice, not yet dead, for the eyes rolled, the lips strove to speak;
lifted it, walked to the parapet, swung it twice over his head, and
cast it down to the red waters!
The Coming of the Shining One
The Norseman turned toward us. There was now no madness in his eyes;
only a great weariness. And there was peace on the once tortured face.
"Helma," he whispered, "I go a little before! Soon you will come to
me--to me and the Yndling who will await you--Helma, _mine liebe!_"
Blood gushed from his mouth; he swayed, fell. And thus died Olaf
We looked down upon him; nor did Lakla, nor Larry, nor I try to hide
our tears. And as we stood the _Akka_ brought to us that other mighty
fighter, Rador; but in him there was life, and we attended to him
there as best we could.
Then Lakla spoke.
"We will bear him into the castle where we may give him greater care,"
she said. "For, lo! the hosts of Yolara have been beaten back; and on
the bridge comes Nak with tidings."
We looked over the parapet. It was even as she had said. Neither on
ledge nor bridge was there trace of living men of Muria--only heaps of
slain that lay everywhere--and thick against the cavern mouth still
danced the flashing atoms of those the green ray had destroyed.
"Over!" exclaimed Larry incredulously. "We live then--heart of
"The Silent Ones recall their veils," she said, pointing to the dome.
Back through the slitted opening the radiance was streaming;
withdrawing from sea and island; marching back over the bridge with
that same ordered, intelligent motion. Behind it the red light
pressed, like skirmishers on the heels of a retreating army.
"And yet--" faltered the handmaiden as we passed into her chamber, and
doubtful were the eyes she turned upon the O'Keefe.
"I don't believe," he said, "there's a kick left in them--"
What was that sound beating into the chamber faintly, so faintly? My
heart gave a great throb and seemed to stop for an eternity. What was
it--coming nearer, ever nearer? Now Lakla and O'Keefe heard it, life
ebbing from lips and cheeks.
Nearer, nearer--a music as of myriads of tiny crystal bells, tinkling,
tinkling--a storm of pizzicati upon violins of glass! Nearer,
nearer--not sweetly now, nor luring; no--raging, wrathful, sinister
beyond words; sweeping on; nearer--
The Dweller! The Shining One!
We leaped to the narrow window; peered out, aghast. The bell notes
swept through and about us, a hurricane. The crescent strand was once
more a ferment. Back, back were the _Akka_ being swept, as though by
brooms, tottering on the edge of the ledge, falling into the waters.
Swiftly they were finished; and where they had fought was an eddying
throng clothed in tatters or naked, swaying, drifting, arms tossing
--like marionettes of Satan.
The dead-alive! The slaves of the Dweller!
They swayed and tossed, and then, like water racing through an opened
dam, they swept upon the bridge-head. On and on they pushed, like the
bore of a mighty tide. The frog-men strove against them, clubbing,
spearing, tearing them. But even those worst smitten seemed not to
fall. On they pushed, driving forward, irresistible--a battering ram
of flesh and bone. They clove the masses of the _Akka_, pressing them
to the sides of the bridge and over. Through the open gates they
forced them--for there was no room for the frog-men to stand against
that implacable tide.
Then those of the _Akka_ who were left turned their backs and ran. We
heard the clang of the golden wings of the portal, and none too soon
to keep out the first of the Dweller's dreadful hordes.
Now upon the cavern ledge and over the whole length of the bridge
there were none but the dead-alive, men and women, black-polled
_ladala_, sloe-eyed Malays, slant-eyed Chinese, men of every race that
sailed the seas--milling, turning, swaying, like leaves caught in a
The bell notes became sharper, more insistent. At the cavern mouth a
radiance began to grow--a gleaming from which the atoms of diamond
dust seemed to try to flee. As the radiance grew and the crystal notes
rang nearer, every head of that hideous multitude turned stiffly,
slowly toward the right, looking toward the far bridge end; their eyes
fixed and glaring; every face an inhuman mask of rapture and of
A movement shook them. Those in the centre began to stream back,
faster and ever faster, leaving motionless deep ranks on each side.
Back they flowed until from golden doors to cavern mouth a wide lane
stretched, walled on each side by the dead-alive.
The far radiance became brighter; it gathered itself at the end of the
dreadful lane; it was shot with sparklings and with pulsings of
polychromatic light. The crystal storm was intolerable, piercing the
ears with countless tiny lances; brighter still the radiance.
From the cavern swirled the Shining One!
The Dweller paused, seemed to scan the island of the Silent Ones half
doubtfully; then slowly, stately, it drifted out upon the bridge.
Closer it drew; behind it glided Yolara at the head of a company of
her dwarfs, and at her side was the hag of the Council whose face was
the withered, shattered echo of her own.
Slower grew the Dweller's pace as it drew nearer. Did I sense in it a
doubt, an uncertainty? The crystal-tongued, unseen choristers that
accompanied it subtly seemed to reflect the doubt; their notes were
not sure, no longer insistent; rather was there in them an undertone
of hesitancy, of warning! Yet on came the Shining One until it stood
plain beneath us, searching with those eyes that thrust from and
withdrew into unknown spheres, the golden gateway, the cliff face, the
castle's rounded bulk--and more intently than any of these, the dome
wherein sat the Three.
Behind it each face of the dead-alive turned toward it, and those
beside it throbbed and gleamed with its luminescence.
Yolara crept close, just beyond the reach of its spirals. She
murmured--and the Dweller bent toward her, its seven globes steady in
their shining mists, as though listening. It drew erect once more,
resumed its doubtful scrutiny. Yolara's face darkened; she turned
abruptly, spoke to a captain of her guards. A dwarf raced back between
the palisades of dead-alive.
Now the priestess cried out, her voice ringing like a silver clarion.
"Ye are done, ye Three! The Shining One stands at your door,
demanding entrance. Your beasts are slain and your power is gone. Who
are ye, says the Shining One, to deny it entrance to the place of its
"Ye do not answer," she cried again, "yet know we that ye hear! The
Shining One offers these terms: Send forth your handmaiden and that
lying stranger she stole; send them forth to us--and perhaps ye may
live. But if ye send them not forth, then shall ye too die--and soon!"
We waited, silent, even as did Yolara--and again there was no answer
from the Three.
The priestess laughed; the blue eyes flashed.
"It is ended!" she cried. "If you will not open, needs must we open
Over the bridge was marching a long double file of the dwarfs. They
bore a smoothed and handled tree-trunk whose head was knobbed with a
huge hall of metal. Past the priestess, past the Shining One, they
carried it; fifty of them to each side of the ram; and behind them
Larry awoke to life.
"Now, thank God," he rasped, "I can get that devil, anyway!"
He drew his pistol, took careful aim. Even as he pressed the trigger
there rang through the abode a tremendous clanging. The ram was
battering at the gates. O'Keefe's bullet went wild. The Russian must
have heard the shot; perhaps the missile was closer than we knew. He
made a swift leap behind the guards; was lost to sight.
Once more the thunderous clanging rang through the castle.
Lakla drew herself erect; down upon her dropped the listening
aloofness. Gravely she bowed her head.
"It is time, O love of mine." She turned to O'Keefe. "The Silent Ones
say that the way of fear is closed, but the way of love is open. They
call upon us to redeem our promise!"
For a hundred heart-beats they clung to each other, breast to breast
and lip to lip. Below, the clangour was increasing, the great trunk
swinging harder and faster upon the metal gates. Now Lakla gently
loosed the arms of the O'Keefe, and for another instant those two
looked into each other's souls. The handmaiden smiled tremulously.
"I would it might have been otherwise, Larry darlin'," she whispered.
"But at least--we pass together, dearest of mine!"
She leaped to the window.
"Yolara!" the golden voice rang out sweetly. The clanging ceased.
"Draw back your men. We open the Portal and come forth to you and the
Shining One--Larry and I."
The priestess's silver chimes of laughter rang out, cruel, mocking.
"Come, then, quickly," she jeered. "For surely both the Shining One
and I yearn for you!" Her malice-laden laughter chimed high once more.
"Keep us not lonely long!" the priestess mocked.
Larry drew a deep breath, stretched both hands out to me.
"It's good-by, I guess, Doc." His voice was strained. "Good-by and
good luck, old boy. If you get out, and you WILL, let the old
_Dolphin_ know I'm gone. And carry on, pal--and always remember the
O'Keefe loved you like a brother."
I squeezed his hands desperately. Then out of my balanceshaking woe a
strange comfort was born.
"Maybe it's not good-by, Larry!" I cried. "The banshee has not
A flash of hope passed over his face; the old reckless grin shone
"It's so!" he said. "By the Lord, it's so!"
Then Lakla bent toward me, and for the second time--kissed me.
"Come!" she said to Larry. Hand in hand they moved away, into the
corridor that led to the door outside of which waited the Shining One
and its priestess.
And unseen by them, wrapped as they were within their love and
sacrifice, I crept softly behind. For I had determined that if enter
the Dweller's embrace they must, they should not go alone.
They paused before the Golden Portals; the handmaiden pressed its
opening lever; the massive leaves rolled back.
Heads high, proudly, serenely, they passed through and out upon the
hither span. I followed.
On each side of us stood the Dweller's slaves, faces turned rigidly
toward their master. A hundred feet away the Shining One pulsed and
spiralled in its evilly glorious lambency of sparkling plumes.
Unhesitating, always with that same high serenity, Lakla and the
O'Keefe, hands clasped like little children, drew closer to that
wondrous shape. I could not see their faces, but I saw awe fall upon
those of the watching dwarfs, and into the burning eyes of Yolara
crept a doubt. Closer they drew to the Dweller, and closer, I
following them step by step. The Shining One's whirling lessened; its
tinklings were faint, almost stilled. It seemed to watch them
apprehensively. A silence fell upon us all, a thick silence, brooding,
ominous, palpable. Now the pair were face to face with the child of
the Three--so near that with one of its misty tentacles it could have
And the Shining One drew back!
Yes, drew back--and back with it stepped Yolara, the doubt in her eyes
deepening. Onward paced the handmaiden and the O'Keefe--and step by
step, as they advanced, the Dweller withdrew; its bell notes chiming
out, puzzled questioning--half fearful!
And back it drew, and back until it had reached the very centre of
that platform over the abyss in whose depths pulsed the green fires of
earth heart. And there Yolara gripped herself; the hell that seethed
within her soul leaped out of her eyes, a cry, a shriek of rage, tore
from her lips.
As at a signal, the Shining One flamed high; its spirals and eddying
mists swirled madly, the pulsing core of it blazed radiance. A score
of coruscating tentacles swept straight upon the pair who stood
intrepid, unresisting, awaiting its embrace. And upon me, lurking
Through me swept a mighty exaltation. It was the end then--and I was
to meet it with them.
Something drew us back, back with an incredible swiftness, and yet as
gently as a summer breeze sweeps a bit of thistle-down! Drew us back
from those darting misty arms even as they were a hair-breadth from
us! I heard the Dweller's bell notes burst out ragingly! I heard
What was that?
Between the three of us and them was a ring of curdled moon flames,
swirling about the Shining One and its priestess, pressing in upon
them, enfolding them!
And within it I glimpsed the faces of the Three--implacable,
sorrowful, filled with a supernal power!
Sparks and flashes of white flame darted from the ring, penetrating
the radiant swathings of the Dweller, striking through its pulsing
nucleus, piercing its seven crowning orbs.
Now the Shining One's radiance began to dim, the seven orbs to dull;
the tiny sparkling filaments that ran from them down into the
Dweller's body snapped, vanished! Through the battling nebulosities
Yolara's face swam forth--horror-filled, distorted, inhuman!
The ranks of the dead-alive quivered, moved, writhed, as though each
felt the torment of the Thing that had enslaved them. The radiance
that the Three wielded grew more intense, thicker, seemed to expand.
Within it, suddenly, were scores of flaming triangles--scores of eyes
like those of the Silent Ones!
And the Shining One's seven little moons of amber, of silver, of blue
and amethyst and green, of rose and white, split, shattered, were
gone! Abruptly the tortured crystal chimings ceased.
Dulled, all its soul-shaking beauty dead, blotched and shadowed
squalidly, its gleaming plumes tarnished, its dancing spirals stripped
from it, that which had been the Shining One wrapped itself about
Yolara--wrapped and drew her into itself; writhed, swayed, and hurled
itself over the edge of the bridge--down, down into the green fires of
the unfathomable abyss--with its priestess still enfolded in its
From the dwarfs who had watched that terror came screams of panic
fear. They turned and ran, racing frantically over the bridge toward
the cavern mouth.
The serried ranks of the dead-alive trembled, shook. Then from their
faces tied the horror of wedded ecstasy and anguish. Peace, utter
peace, followed in its wake.
And as fields of wheat are bent and fall beneath the wind, they fell.
No longer dead-alive, now all of the blessed dead, freed from their
Abruptly from the sparkling mists the cloud of eyes was gone. Faintly
revealed in them were only the heads of the Silent Ones. And they drew
before us; were before us! No flames now in their ebon eyes--for the
flickering fires were quenched in great tears, streaming down the
marble white faces. They bent toward us, over us; their radiance
enfolded us. My eyes darkened. I could not see. I felt a tender hand
upon my head--and panic and frozen dread and nightmare web that held
Then they, too, were gone.
Upon Larry's breast the handmaiden was sobbing--sobbing out her
heart--but this time with the joy of one who is swept up from the
very threshold of hell into paradise.
"My heart, Larry--" It was the handmaiden's murmur. "My heart feels
like a bird that is flying from a nest of sorrow."
We were pacing down the length of the bridge, guards of the _Akka_
beside us, others following with those companies of _ladala_ that had
rushed to aid us; in front of us the bandaged Rador swung gently
within a litter; beside him, in another, lay Nak, the frog-king--much
less of him than there had been before the battle began, but living.
Hours had passed since the terror I have just related. My first task
had been to search for Throckmartin and his wife among the fallen
multitudes strewn thick as autumn leaves along the flying arch of
stone, over the cavern ledge, and back, back as far as the eye could
At last, Lakla and Larry helping, we found them. They lay close to
the bridge-end, not parted--locked tight in each other's arms, pallid
face to face, her hair streaming over his breast! As though when that
unearthly life the Dweller had set within them passed away, their own
had come back for one fleeting instant--and they had known each other,
and clasped before kindly death had taken them.
"Love is stronger than all things." The handmaiden was weeping softly.
"Love never left them. Love was stronger than the Shining One. And
when its evil fled, love went with them--wherever souls go."
Of Stanton and Thora there was no trace; nor, after our discovery of
those other two, did I care to look more. They were dead--and they
We buried Throckmartin and Edith beside Olaf in Lakla's bower. But
before the body of my old friend was placed within the grave I gave it
a careful and sorrowful examination. The skin was firm and smooth, but
cold; not the cold of death, but with a chill that set my touching
fingers tingling unpleasantly. The body was bloodless; the course of
veins and arteries marked by faintly indented white furrows, as though
their walls had long collapsed. Lips, mouth, even the tongue, was
paper white. There was no sign of dissolution as we know it; no shadow
or stain upon the marble surface. Whatever the force that, streaming
from the Dweller or impregnating its lair, had energized the
dead-alive, it was barrier against putrescence of any kind; that at
least was certain.
But it was not barrier against the poison of the Medusae, for, our sad
task done, and looking down upon the waters, I saw the pale forms of
the Dweller's hordes dissolving, vanishing into the shifting glories
of the gigantic moons sailing down upon them from every quarter of the
Sea of Crimson.
While the frog-men, those late levies from the farthest forests, were
clearing bridge and ledge of cavern of the litter of the dead, we
listened to a leader of the _ladala_. They had risen, even as the
messenger had promised Rador. Fierce had been the struggle in the
gardened city by the silver waters with those Lugur and Yolara bad
left behind to garrison it. Deadly had been the slaughter of the
fair-haired, reaping the harvest of hatred they had been sowing so
long. Not without a pang of regret did I think of the beautiful, gaily
malicious elfin women destroyed--evil though they may have been.
The ancient city of Lara was a charnel. Of all the rulers not
twoscore had escaped, and these into regions of peril which to
describe as sanctuary would be mockery. Nor had the _ladala_ fared so
well. Of all the men and women, for women as well as men had taken
their part in the swift war, not more than a tenth remained alive.
And the dancing motes of light in the silver air were thick,
They told us of the Shining One rushing through the Veil, cometlike,
its hosts streaming behind it, raging with it, in ranks that seemed
Of the massacre of the priests and priestesses in the Cyclopean
temple; of the flashing forth of the summoning lights by unseen
hands--followed by the tearing of the rainbow curtain, by colossal
shatterings of the radiant cliffs; the vanishing behind their debris
of all trace of entrance to the haunted place wherein the hordes of
the Shining One had slaved--the sealing of the lair!
Then, when the tempest of hate had ended in seething Lara, how,
thrilled with victory, armed with the weapons of those they had slain,
they had lifted the Shadow, passed through the Portal, met and
slaughtered the fleeing remnants of Yolara's men--only to find the
tempest stilled here, too.
But of Marakinoff they had seen nothing! Had the Russian escaped, I
wondered, or was he lying out there among the dead?
But now the _ladala_ were calling upon Lakla to come with them, to
"I don't want to, Larry darlin'," she told him. "I want to go out
with you to Ireland. But for a time--I think the Three would have us
remain and set that place in order."
The O'Keefe was bothered about something else than the government of
"If they've killed off all the priests, who's to marry us, heart of
mine?" he worried. "None of those Siya and Siyana rites, no matter
what," he added hastily.
"Marry!" cried the handmaiden incredulously. "Marry us? Why, Larry
dear, we ARE married!"
The O'Keefe's astonishment was complete; his jaw dropped; collapse
"We are?" he gasped. "When?" he stammered fatuously.
"Why, when the Mother drew us together before her; when she put her
hands on our heads after we had made the promise! Didn't you
understand that?" asked the handmaiden wonderingly.
He looked at her, into the purity of the clear golden eyes, into the
purity of the soul that gazed out of them; all his own great love
transfiguring his keen face.
"An' is that enough for you, _mavourneen_?" he whispered humbly.
"Enough?" The handmaiden's puzzlement was complete, profound.
"Enough? Larry darlin', what MORE could we ask?"
He drew a deep breath, clasped her close.
"Kiss the bride, Doc!" cried the O'Keefe. And for the third and,
soul's sorrow! the last time, Lakla dimpling and blushing, I thrilled
to the touch of her soft, sweet lips.
Quickly were our preparations for departure made. Rador, conscious,
his immense vitality conquering fast his wounds, was to be borne ahead
of us. And when all was done, Lakla, Larry, and I made our way up to
the scarlet stone that was the doorway to the chamber of the Three. We
knew, of course, that they had gone, following, no doubt, those whose
eyes I had seen in the curdled mists, and who, coming to the aid of
the Three at last from whatever mysterious place that was their home,
had thrown their strength with them against the Shining One. Nor were
we wrong. When the great slab rolled away, no torrents of opalescence
came rushing out upon us. The vast dome was dim, tenantless; its
curved walls that had cascaded Light shone now but faintly; the dais
was empty; its wall of moon-flame radiance gone.
A little time we stood, heads bent, reverent, our hearts filled with
gratitude and love--yes, and with pity for that strange trinity so
alien to us and yet so near; children even as we, though so unlike us,
of our same Mother Earth.
And what I wondered had been the secret of that promise they had wrung
from their handmaiden and from Larry. And whence, if what the Three
had said had been all true--whence had come their power to avert the
sacrifice at the very verge of its consummation?
"Love is stronger than all things!" had said Lakla.
Was it that they had needed, must have, the force which dwells within
love, within willing sacrifice, to strengthen their own power and to
enable them to destroy the evil, glorious Thing so long shielded by
their own love? Did the thought of sacrifice, the will toward
abnegation, have to be as strong as the eternals, unshaken by faintest
thrill of hope, before the Three could make of it their key to unlock
the Dweller's guard and strike through at its life?
Here was a mystery--a mystery indeed! Lakla softly closed the crimson
stone. The mystery of the red dwarf's appearance was explained when we
discovered a half-dozen of the water _coria_ moored in a small cove
not far from where the _Sekta_ flashed their heads of living bloom.
The dwarfs had borne the shallops with them, and from somewhere beyond
the cavern ledge had launched them unperceived; stealing up to the
farther side of the island and risking all in one bold stroke. Well,
Lugur, no matter what he held of wickedness, held also high courage.
The cavern was paved with the dead-alive, the _Akka_ carrying them out
by the hundreds, casting them into the waters. Through the lane down
which the Dweller had passed we went as quickly as we could, coming at
last to the space where the _coria_ waited. And not long after we
swung past where the shadow had hung and hovered over the shining
depths of the Midnight Pool.
Upon Lakla's insistence we passed on to the palace of Lugur, not to
Yolara's--I do not know why, but go there then she would not. And
within one of its columned rooms, maidens of the black-haired folks,
the wistfulness, the fear, all gone from their sparkling eyes, served
There came to me a huge desire to see the destruction they had told us
of the Dweller's lair; to observe for myself whether it was not
possible to make a way of entrance and to study its mysteries.
I spoke of this, and to my surprise both the handmaiden and the
O'Keefe showed an almost embarrassed haste to acquiesce in my hesitant
"Sure," cried Larry, "there's lots of time before night!"
He caught himself sheepishly; cast a glance at Lakla.
"I keep forgettin' there's no night here," he mumbled.
"What did you say, Larry?" asked she.
"I said I wish we were sitting in our home in Ireland, watching the
sun go down," he whispered to her. Vaguely I wondered why she blushed.
But now I must hasten. We went to the temple, and here at least the
ghastly litter of the dead had been cleaned away. We passed through
the blue-caverned space, crossed the narrow arch that spanned the
rushing sea stream, and, ascending, stood again upon the ivoried pave
at the foot of the frowning, towering amphitheatre of jet.
Across the Silver Waters there was sign of neither Web of Rainbows nor
colossal pillars nor the templed lips that I had seen curving out
beneath the Veil when the Shining One had swirled out to greet its
priestess and its voice and to dance with the sacrifices. There was
but a broken and rent mass of the radiant cliffs against whose base
the lake lapped.
Long I looked--and turned away saddened. Knowing even as I did what
the irised curtain had hidden, still it was as though some thing of
supernal beauty and wonder had been swept away, never to be replaced;
a glamour gone for ever; a work of the high gods destroyed.
"Let's go back," said Larry abruptly.
I dropped a little behind them to examine a bit of carving--and,
after all, they did not want me. I watched them pacing slowly ahead,
his arm around her, black hair close to bronze-gold ringlets. Then I
followed. Half were they over the bridge when through the roar of the
imprisoned stream I heard my name called softly.
"Goodwin! Dr. Goodwin!"
Amazed, I turned. From behind the pedestal of a carved group
slunk--Marakinoff! My premonition had been right. Some way he had
escaped, slipped through to here. He held his hands high, came forward
"I am finished," he whispered--"Done! I don't care what THEY'LL do to
me." He nodded toward the handmaiden and Larry, now at the end of the
bridge and passing on, oblivious of all save each other. He drew
closer. His eyes were sunken, burning, mad; his face etched with deep
lines, as though a graver's tool had cut down through it. I took a
A grin, like the grimace of a fiend, blasted the Russian's visage. He
threw himself upon me, his hands clenching at my throat!
"Larry!" I yelled--and as I spun around under the shock of his
onslaught, saw the two turn, stand paralyzed, then race toward me.
"But YOU'LL carry nothing out of here!" shrieked Marakinoff. "No!"
My foot, darting out behind me, touched vacancy. The roaring of the
racing stream deafened me. I felt its mists about me; threw myself
I was falling--falling--with the Russian's hand strangling me. I
struck water, sank; the hands that gripped my throat relaxed for a
moment their clutch. I strove to writhe loose; felt that I was being
hurled with dreadful speed on--full realization came--on the breast of
that racing torrent dropping from some far ocean cleft and
rushing--where? A little time, a few breathless instants, I struggled
with the devil who clutched me--inflexibly, indomitably.
Then a shrieking as of all the pent winds of the universe in my
Consciousness returned slowly, agonizedly.
"Larry!" I groaned. "Lakla!"
A brilliant light was glowing through my closed lids. It hurt. I
opened my eyes, closed them with swords and needles of dazzling pain
shooting through them. Again I opened them cautiously. It was the sun!
I staggered to my feet. Behind me was a shattered wall of basalt
monoliths, hewn and squared. Before me was the Pacific, smooth and
blue and smiling.
And not far away, cast up on the strand even as I had been,
He lay there, broken and dead indeed. Yet all the waters through
which we had passed--not even the waters of death themselves--could
wash from his face the grin of triumph. With the last of my strength I
dragged the body from the strand and pushed it out into the waves. A
little billow ran up, coiled about it, and carried it away, ducking
and bending. Another seized it, and another, playing with it. It
floated from my sight--that which had been Marakinoff, with all his
schemes to turn our fair world into an undreamed-of-hell.
My strength began to come back to me. I found a thicket and slept;
slept it must have been for many hours, for when I again awakened the
dawn was rosing the east. I will not tell my sufferings. Suffice it to
say that I found a spring and some fruit, and just before dusk had
recovered enough to writhe up to the top of the wall and discover
where I was.
The place was one of the farther islets of the Nan-Matal. To the north
I caught the shadows of the ruins of Nan-Tauach, where was the moon
door, black against the sky. Where was the moon door--which, someway,
somehow, I must reach, and quickly.
At dawn of the next day I got together driftwood and bound it together
in shape of a rough raft with fallen creepers. Then, with a makeshift
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