The Conquest of the Moon Pool/Chapter 17
IN THE BEGINNING
LARRY and I followed Lakla into the chamber. It was her own boudoir, if so I may call it. Smaller than any of the other chambers of the domed castle in which I had been, its intimacy was revealed not only by its faint fragrance but by its high mirrors of polished silver and various oddly wrought articles of the feminine toilet that lay here and there; things I afterward knew to be the work of the artisans of the Akka—and no mean metal workers were they.
One of the window slits dropped almost to the floor, and at its base was a wide, comfortably cushioned seat commanding a view of the bridge r and of the cavern ledge. To it the handmaiden beckoned us; sank upon it, drew Larry down beside her and, smiling witchingly, motioned me to sit close to him.
"Now this," she said, "is what the Silent Ones have commanded me to tell you two: To you, Larry, that knowing, you may weigh all things in your mind and answer as your spirit bids you a question that the Three will ask. And what that is I know not," she murmured. "And I, they say, must answer, too—and it—frightens me!"
The great golden eyes widened; darkened with dread. She sighed, shook her head impatiently, leaned over toward me.
"And to you, Goodwin," she went on, "that you may understand; and understanding carry to your own world, if so it be that you attain it, a new wisdom and a warning. And be not afraid, they say, to speak, for what they utter through me is truth. Truth more eternal than that sun of yours which I so long to see, and may, perhaps, never behold—" She paused wistfully.
"Not like us, and never like us," she spoke low, wonderingly, "the Silent Ones say were they. Nor were those from which they sprang like those from which we have come. Although like these last they were born, lived and died; and like us now they live and die. But they pass only when they will it! Ancient, ancient beyond thought are the Taithu, the race of the Silent Ones. Far, far below this place where now we sit, close to earth heart itself were they born. And there they dwelt for time upon time, laya upon laya upon laya, with others, not like them, some of which have vanished time upon time agone, others that still dwelt in their—cradle.
"It is hard"—she hesitated—"hard to tell this, that slips through my mind because I know so little that even as the Three told it to me, it passed from me for lack of place to stand upon," she went on, quaintly. "Something there was of time when earth and sun were but cold mists in the—the heavens. Something of these mists drawing together, whirling, whirling, faster and faster. Drawing as they whirled more and more of the mists—growing larger, growing warm—forming at last into the globes they are, with others spinning around the sun.
"Something, too, of regions within this globe where vast fire was prisoned, and bursting forth tore and rent the young orb. Of one such bursting forth that sent what you call moon flying out to company us and left behind those spaces whence we now dwell—and of—of life particles that here and there below grew into the race of the Silent Ones, and those others. But not the Akka which, like you, they say came from above. And all this I do not understand. Do you, Goodwin?" she appealed to me.
I nodded—for what she had related so fragmentarily was in reality an excellent approach to the theory of a coalescing nebula contracting into the sun and its planets. And of the hurling out of the moon in a cataclysm of earth.
Here, too, was something of the theory of life starting on earth through the dropping upon portions favorable to their development of similar minute, life spores, propelled through space by the driving power of light and developing through the vast ages into man and every other living thing we know.
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. Here they may have developed into the race of the Silent Ones and—only they could tell what else!
"I understand," I replied, "and although it is all very—marvelous—still, I believe."
The handmaiden's voice was now surer. "They say that in their cradle near earth heart they grew; grew untroubled by the turmoil and disorder [which flayed the surface of this globe, although then they knew not that there was aught beside the place in which they dwelt. 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 when they began to know, 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 place.
"When all the face of earth was covered with waters in which only tiny, hungry things that knew naught save hunger and its satisfaction, they had attained the wisdom that enabled them to make paths such as we have just traveled 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 vanish.
EVER the green life waxed and the things which crept and crawled grew greater and took over 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 of them.
"But in none of these 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
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 all things that are, have been and shall be, lie. 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 here the ancestors of the Akka; tribes of them, not as they are now, and glowing but faintly within them the spark of—self-realization. And the Taithu seeing this, 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 shore 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 stronger and in time they became much as they, are now—my Akka.
"The Three took council after, this and said, "˜We have strengthened spirit in these until it has become articulate; shall we not create spirit?" Again she hesitated, her eyes rapt, dreaming; her gaze once more that of the pythoness through whom Apollo is whispering. "The Three are speaking," she murmured. "They have my tongue—"
"YES," she said, the golden voice vibrant, "the sin of pride was ours, and pride and wisdom such as ours are perilous, comrade, ye who are named Goodwin, and who also in your way pursue knowledge. We said that the spirit 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 wide 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 labored. 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.
"We have looked upon the strange blossoming orbs that circle the sun ye call Arcturus, the crystal-clear globes that girdle Betelgeuse, the fantom spheres that diadem Aldebaran, the worlds of cool misty flame that swims within that ye name the Pleiades, and upon others, countless, countless others and upon them all were the children of ether even as they them- selves were her children.
"Watching we learned, and learning we formed that ye term the Dweller, that those without name—the Shining One. Within the Universal Mother we shaped it, to be a voice to tell us her secrets. A thing of glory to go before us lighting the mysteries, a guide and an interpreter. 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 fierce, 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 stars and in all dwellers within the firmament. And this is what ye call consciousness!
"Your forefathers knew this when they worshiped spirits of wood and stream, of wave and torrent and mountain, of fire and air.
"We crowned the Shining One with the seven orbs of light which are the channels between it and the sentient flood we sought to make articulate, the portals through which flows its currents and so flowing, become choate, vocal, self-realizant within our child.
"But as we shaped, there passed some of the essences 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, incompassing 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 sought its own familiar pitch.
"I listened while the Three spoke to you," she said. "˜"˜Now that shaping of the Shining One had been a long, long travail and time had flown over the world without, 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 it waned.
"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 Three, 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 and stilled its life, sending it back to that from which they had drawn it; but they would not because—they loved it!
Those to whom it had gone built for it that place I have just shown you, and they bowed to it and drew wisdom from it. But 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 and who saw clearly the peril threatening. So were the Taithu split; and in 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; sitting lonely, mourning in their place like those from whom a best beloved has run.
"Stronger grew the Dweller's pride, darker its power and less and less did it lay before its worshipers—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 no longer sea but a great fertile land on which dwelt an unfamiliar race, skilled in arts, seeking and finding wisdom—mankind! Mighty builders they were; vast were their cities and huge their temples of stone.
"They called their lands Muria and they worshiped a god Thanaroa whom they imagined to be the maker of all things, dwelling far away, careless, indifferent, as to the fate of his creations. They worshiped 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 blackhaired came no more of the light-locked ones, but the ruddy ones, being stronger, still arose from them."
She paused, running her long fingers through her own bronze-flecked ringlets.
"Above, far, far above the abode of the Shining One," she went on, "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," Lakla said. "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. With all of mankind their slaves!
"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 that even it, the Shining One itself, lacked power to swirl unaided into and through the above. Then it counseled them, instructing them what to do. They hollowed the chamber wherein I first 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 the moon. For the chamber of its birth was the chamber, too, of moon birth and into it went the subtle essences 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 knew 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, drawn by the seven torrents, shaping itself within the mists of light, whirling, radiant—the Shining One!
"Almost free, almost loosed upon the world it coveted!
"Again it counseled them, and they pierced the passage whose portal you found first; set the fires within its stones that they might breathe of their light, 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 and amaze 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 One's messengers.
"When next the moon was round and poured its flames down upon Moon Pool, 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 vapors 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 that 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. And by this, more and more, they became its slaves, even as It had planned.
"Athirst for this poison the Shining One distilled from the flame of life within those it embraced, they built for it the great temple opposite the Veil where you watched it dance. Then here, by compact with the moon king, they carried throng upon throng of the black-haired, set them in the places beyond the green roadway and drew from them the brides and bridegrooms of that which had become their god; rejoicing in the soul drunkenness with which it flooded them when the Shining One took the offerings. Further, their god counseled them, so that the Taithu who would have washed away their evil could not prevail.
"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 favor 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. Many believed, saying:
"'˜They can show us a god, but the sun king can show none. Further when he appears he warms our spirits with a fire that makes us even as gods. And does not the moon pass before the sun in the heavens and shadow him? Nor can the sun forbid it. Therefore shall we worship the moon god!'
"Yet were there many who hated the moon king and the ways of the Dweller. Battles there were and the whole land sickened. It was at this time that the evil Taithu set in place the pale stone whose keys are the moon rays and which you opened. They set it there that all who doubted might see the moon summon its spirit; but more than that to guard the Moon Pool against those whose doubts could not be stilled and who might creep in seeking to destroy. For only when the moon was full, all of its silver radiance streaming upon earth, could the Shining One draw strength to pass forth. At all other times it dwelt below; the Moon Pool Chamber was free of it, and bold, determined men might well enter, close its Portal and shatter the spheres of power.
NOW suddenly 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 wide 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 at breast.
"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, too, 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 that little enough—of their arts. And ever the Shining One danced more gaily out there within the black amphitheater; 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 imperiled. Shattered mountains crashed through, and there were quakings as though its eternal walls strove to march upon each other. 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 tide. 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 this 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 laboring 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 necessary.
"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 council. This was their decision; that they would go from their 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.
"For the last time they went to the Three, to pass sentence upon them. They found them broken, their wisdom dulled with sorrow. And this was the doom they put upon the Three—that here they should remain, alone, among the Akka, served by them, until that time dawned when they would have strength and 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 that guard the place of wonders and are in turn guarded by the winged serpents, 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 was the portal the Taithu had sealed. The moon king became the Voice of the Dweller and always with the Voice is a beautiful woman of the moon king's kin who is its priestess. The Shining One is kinder to his priestess than to his Voice; and so really the woman rules. Long have they dwelt here and many have been the ladala who have danced—before the tiers of jet, upon the ivory daïs, and passed in the Shining One's train over the Silvery Waters and through the Veil.
"And many have been the journeys upward of the Shining One, through the Moon Pool, returning with still others in its coils.
"Long has it watched the world swarm with man—and now again is 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 even stronger, drawing to itself power to go far on the moon stream where it wills from the Moon Pool Chamber. Thus was it able to seize your friend, Goodwin, and Olaf's wife and babe, and many more. Yolara and Lugur plan to open ways to earth face; to depart with their court and under the Shining One grasp the world!
"But now is the va about to strike when it will be settled whether the Shining One shall rule, or whether the Three shall destroy it!
"And this is the tale the Silent Ones bade me tell you—and it is done."
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 preceded him—can we not save them?"
"I'll volunteer to go into that joint any minute and I'll bet I can get 'em," Larry's face was grim. "Lakla's been buffaloed like all the rest. Give me a hose or just make me one gas cylinder—and I'll get 'em out, don't doubt it."
He had spoken in English and the handmaiden had not understood.
"Tell him what he wants to know, heart's delight," he spoke to her. "If you can," he added.
"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 great indeed."
"Gassed—let us get 'em away once, Doc, and we'll put up a fight to get 'em back all right," whispered O'Keefe.
"But they have souls, mavourneen," he said to her. "And they're alive still, in a way. Anyhow, Lakla, their souls have not gone."
"It was weeks before he passed that my friend Throckmartin was taken," I said. "How did he and his wife 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. By soul, Larry dear, you mean, I think that which is in us that lives forever. But I do not know. I only know that those whom the Shining One has taken live ever as you see them; fed by its own life, doing as it commands and in a measure partaking of its power. Whether their souls go far—or dwell there, being imperishable—when life fire has been eaten—I do not know."
"Lakla," I said, "this blight the Dweller puts upon what it touches—its power to eat what you call the fire of life—whence comes it?"
"From the time of the first sacrifice," she answered. "Before that its touch was clean. So, too, of the sounds that accompany it—you heard, like little bells of glass—whence they came I know not; but they were not there before the sacrifices and they, too, grow ever stronger as the Shining One—eats!"
"Can—er—Fireworks go wherever he pleases?" This was Larry. "If he can, why all that ceremony Goodwin and I watched when Olaf tried to do for him? And why the spot-light?"
"Spot-light?" she repeated, wonderingly.
"˜The path of radiant colors that swept over the Silvery Waters and through which the Shining One came," I interpreted.
"At the first that was necessary," she answered, "as the seven lights in the Moon Pool Chamber were; and still are, needed to open its path to the above. The Taithu made the light—but as the Child of the Three grew stronger it could pass beyond the Veil unaided, going where it willed about the land beyond the Portal. But the fair-haired clung to the forms, and as long as they gave their god all the brides and bridegrooms for whom it lusted, why should it wander?" she asked. "And then I have told you that the Shining One is cunning and has great wisdom. Perhaps it fears to affright too much those who serve it and feed it," she added.
"One thing I don't understand," Larry said, "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 redheaded 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'!"