The Crimson Sea
: The Moon Pool
I was in the heart of a rose pearl, swinging, swinging; no, I was in a
rosy dawn cloud, pendulous in space. Consciousness flooded me, in
reality I was in the arms of one of the man frogs, carrying me as
though I were a babe, and we were passing through some place suffused
with glow enough like heart of pearl or dawn cloud to justify my
Just ahead walked Lakla in earnest talk with Rador
and content enough
was I for a time to watch her. She had thrown off the metallic robes;
her thick braids of golden brown hair with their flame glints of
bronze were twined in a high coronal meshed in silken net of green;
little clustering curls escaped from it, clinging to the nape of the
proud white neck, shyly kissing it. From her shoulders fell a loose,
sleeveless garment of shimmering green belted with a high golden
girdle; skirt folds dropping barely below the knees.
She had cast aside her buskins, too, and the slender, high-arched feet
were sandalled. Between the buckled edges of her kirtle I caught
gleams of translucent ivory as exquisitely moulded, as delectably
rounded, as those revealed so naively beneath the hem.
Something was knocking at the doors of my consciousness--some tragic
thing. What was it? Larry! Where was Larry? I remembered; raised my
head abruptly; saw at my side another frog-man carrying O'Keefe, and
behind him, Olaf, step instinct with grief, following like some
faithful, wistful dog who has lost a loved master. Upon my movement
the monster bearing me halted, looked down inquiringly, uttered a
deep, booming note that held the quality of interrogation.
Lakla turned; the clear, golden eyes were sorrowful, the sweet mouth
drooping; but her loveliness, her gentleness, that undefinable
synthesis of all her tender self that seemed always to circle her with
an atmosphere of lucid normality, lulled my panic.
"Drink this," she commanded, holding a small vial to my lips.
Its contents were aromatic, unfamiliar but astonishingly effective,
for as soon as they passed my lips I felt a surge of strength;
consciousness was restored.
"Larry!" I cried. "Is he dead?"
Lakla shook her head; her eyes were troubled.
"No," she said; "but he is like one dead--and yet unlike--"
"Put me down," I demanded of my bearer.
He tightened his hold; round eyes upon the Golden Girl. She spoke--in
sonorous, reverberating monosyllables--and I was set upon my feet; I
leaped to the side of the Irishman. He lay limp, with a disquieting,
abnormal sequacity, as though every muscle were utterly flaccid; the
antithesis of the rigor mortis, thank God, but terrifyingly toward
the other end of its arc; a syncope I had never known. The flesh was
stone cold; the pulse barely perceptible, long intervalled; the
respiration undiscoverable; the pupils of the eyes were enormously
dilated; it was as though life had been drawn from every nerve.
"A light flashed from the road. It struck his face and seemed to sink
in," I said.
"I saw," answered Rador; "but what it was I know not; and I thought I
knew all the weapons of our rulers." He glanced at me curiously. "Some
talk there has been that the stranger who came with you, Double
Tongue, was making new death tools for Lugur," he ended.
Marakinoff! The Russian at work already in this storehouse of
devastating energies, fashioning the weapons for his plots! The
Apocalyptic vision swept back upon me--
"He is not dead." Lakla's voice was poignant. "He is not dead; and
the Three have wondrous healing. They can restore him if they
will--and they will, they will!" For a moment she was silent. "Now
their gods help Lugur and Yolara," she whispered; "for come what may,
whether the Silent Ones be strong or weak, if he dies, surely shall I
fall upon them and I will slay those two--yea, though I, too perish!"
"Yolara and Lugur shall both die." Olaf's eyes were burning. "But
Lugur is mine to slay."
That pity I had seen before in Lakla's eyes when she looked upon the
Norseman banished the white wrath from them. She turned, half
hurriedly, as though to escape his gaze.
"Walk with us," she said to me, "unless you are still weak."
I shook my head, gave a last look at O'Keefe; there was nothing I
could do; I stepped beside her. She thrust a white arm into mine
protectingly, the wonderfully moulded hand with its long, tapering
fingers catching about my wrist; my heart glowed toward her.
"Your medicine is potent, handmaiden," I answered. "And the touch of
your hand would give me strength enough, even had I not drunk it," I
added in Larry's best manner.
Her eyes danced, trouble flying.
"Now, that was well spoken for such a man of wisdom as Rador tells me
you are," she laughed; and a little pang shot through me. Could not a
lover of science present a compliment without it always seeming to be
as unusual as plucking a damask rose from a cabinet of fossils?
Mustering my philosophy, I smiled back at her. Again I noted that
broad, classic brow, with the little tendrils of shining bronze
caressing it, the tilted, delicate, nut-brown brows that gave a
curious touch of innocent diablerie to the lovely face--flowerlike,
pure, high-bred, a touch of roguishness, subtly alluring, sparkling
over the maiden Madonnaness that lay ever like a delicate, luminous
suggestion beneath it; the long, black, curling lashes--the tender,
rounded, bare left breast--
"I have always liked you," she murmured naively, "since first I saw
you in that place where the Shining One goes forth into your world.
And I am glad you like my medicine as well as that you carry in the
black box that you left behind," she added swiftly.
"How know you of that, Lakla?" I gasped.
"Oft and oft I came to him there, and to you, while you lay sleeping.
How call you him?" She paused.
"Larry!" I said.
"Larry!" she repeated it excellently. "And you?"
"Goodwin," said Rador.
I bowed quite as though I were being introduced to some charming young
lady met in that old life now seemingly aeons removed.
"Yes--Goodwin." she said. "Oft and oft I came. Sometimes I thought
you saw me. And he--did he not dream of me sometime--?" she asked
"He did." I said, "and watched for you." Then amazement grew vocal.
"But how came you?" I asked.
"By a strange road," she whispered, "to see that all was well with
him--and to look into his heart; for I feared Yolara and her beauty.
But I saw that she was not in his heart." A blush burned over her,
turning even the little bare breast rosy. "It is a strange road," she
went on hurriedly. "Many times have I followed it and watched the
Shining One bear back its prey to the blue pool; seen the woman he
seeks"--she made a quick gesture toward Olaf--"and a babe cast from
her arms in the last pang of her mother love; seen another woman throw
herself into the Shining One's embrace to save a man she loved; and I
could not help!" Her voice grew deep, thrilled. "The friend, it comes
to me, who drew you here, Goodwin!"
She was silent, walking as one who sees visions and listens to voices
unheard by others, Rador made a warning gesture; I crowded back my
questions, glanced about me. We were passing over a smooth strand,
hard packed as some beach of long-thrust-back ocean. It was like
crushed garnets, each grain stained deep red, faintly sparkling. On
each side were distances, the floor stretching away into them bare of
vegetation--stretching on and on into infinitudes of rosy mist, even
as did the space above.
Flanking and behind us marched the giant batrachians, fivescore of
them at least, black scale and crimson scale lustrous and gleaming in
the rosaceous radiance; saucer eyes shining circles of phosphorescence
green, purple, red; spurs clicking as they crouched along with a gait
at once grotesque and formidable.
Ahead the mist deepened into a ruddier glow; through it a long, dark
line began to appear--the mouth I thought of the caverned space
through which we were going; it was just before us; over us--we stood
bathed in a flood of rubescence!
A sea stretched before us--a crimson sea, gleaming like that lost
lacquer of royal coral and the Flame Dragon's blood which Fu S'cze set
upon the bower he built for his stolen sun maiden--that going toward
it she might think it the sun itself rising over the summer seas.
Unmoved by wave or ripple, it was placid as some deep woodland pool
when night rushes up over the world.
It seemed molten--or as though some hand great enough to rock earth
had distilled here from conflagrations of autumn sunsets their flaming
A fish broke through, large as a shark, blunt-headed, flashing bronze,
ridged and mailed as though with serrate plates of armour. It leaped
high, shaking from it a sparkling spray of rubies; dropped and shot up
a geyser of fiery gems.
Across my line of vision, moving stately over the sea, floated a half
globe, luminous, diaphanous, its iridescence melting into turquoise,
thence to amethyst, to orange, to scarlet shot with rose, to
vermilion, a translucent green, thence back into the iridescence;
behind it four others, and the least of them ten feet in diameter, and
the largest no less than thirty. They drifted past like bubbles blown
from froth of rainbows by pipes in mouths of Titans' young. Then from
the base of one arose a tangle of shimmering strands, long, slender
whiplashes that played about and sank slowly again beneath the crimson
I gasped--for the fish had been a ganoid--that ancient, armoured
form that was perhaps the most intelligent of all life on our planet
during the Devonian era, but which for age upon age had vanished, save
for its fossils held in the embrace of the stone that once was their
soft bottom beds; and the half-globes were Medusae, jelly-fish--but
of a size, luminosity, and colour unheard of.
Now Lakla cupped her mouth with pink palms and sent a clarion note
ringing out. The ledge on which we stood continued a few hundred feet
before us, falling abruptly, though from no great height to the
Crimson Sea; at right and left it extended in a long semicircle.
Turning to the right whence she had sent her call, I saw rising a mile
or more away, veiled lightly by the haze, a rainbow, a gigantic
prismatic arch, flattened, I thought, by some quality of the strange
atmosphere. It sprang from the ruddy strand, leaped the crimson tide,
and dropped three miles away upon a precipitous, jagged upthrust of
rock frowning black from the lacquered depths.
And surmounting a higher ledge beyond this upthrust a huge dome of
dull gold, Cyclopean, striking eyes and mind with something unhumanly
alien, baffling; sending the mind groping, as though across the
deserts of space, from some far-flung star, should fall upon us linked
sounds, coherent certainly, meaningful surely, vaguely familiar--yet
never to be translated into any symbol or thought of our own
The sea of crimson lacquer, with its floating moons of luminous
colour--this bow of prismed stone leaping to the weird isle crowned by
the anomalous, aureate excrescence--the half human batrachians-the
elfland through which we had passed, with all its hidden wonders and
terrors--I felt the foundations of my cherished knowledge shaking.
Was this all a dream? Was this body of mine lying somewhere, fighting
a fevered death, and all these but images floating through the
breaking chambers of my brain? My knees shook; involuntarily I
Lakla turned, looked at me anxiously, slipped a soft arm behind me,
held me till the vertigo passed.
"Patience," she said. "The bearers come. Soon you shall rest."
I looked; down toward us from the bow's end were leaping swiftly
another score of the frog-men. Some bore litters, high, handled, not
"Asgard!" Olaf stood beside me, eyes burning, pointing to the arch.
"Bifrost Bridge, sharp as sword edge, over which souls go to Valhalla.
And she--she is a Valkyr--a sword maiden, Ja!"
I gripped the Norseman's hand. It was hot, and a pang of remorse shot
through me. If this place had so shaken me, how must it have shaken
Olaf? It was with relief that I watched him, at Lakla's gentle
command, drop into one of the litters and lie back, eyes closed, as
two of the monsters raised its yoke to their scaled shoulders. Nor was
it without further relief that I myself lay back on the soft velvety
cushions of another.
The cavalcade began to move. Lakla had ordered O'Keefe placed beside
her, and she sat, knees crossed Orient fashion, leaning over the pale
head on her lap, the white, tapering fingers straying fondly through
Presently I saw her reach up, slowly unwind the coronal of her
tresses, shake them loose, and let them fall like a veil over her and
Her head bent low; I heard a soft sobbing--I turned away my gaze, lorn
enough in my own heart, God knew!