The Coming Of The Shining One

: The Moon Pool

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, meine 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

sluggish current.

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

for you!"

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 ball 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

enfolded them.

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

behind them.

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

Yolara scream.

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

dreadful slavery!

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

me fled.

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.