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6. The Sun and the Wind


The Demon stood on the flax grown banks of Sleep River; before him flowed its heavy iron waters with a dismal sound, behind him lay the winged ship, like a dead swan. The heart of a darkness can become no darker. Yet, in the person of Azhrarn had always flamed an occult brilliancy which now was gone. And his face was bitter and terrible as he stood shrouded in hollow fear upon the river bank. Here, where he had so often pitilessly hunted the souls of men asleep, strange fancies hunted the inner creature of Azhrarn.

And as he brooded there, a translucent image, like wafer-thin ivory, rose from the waters. Not the soul of a sleeping man this, few enough slept deeply in those terrifying cataclysmic days of earth to let their souls go wandering so far. This was the soul of one dead.

Azhrarn gazed at the soul, and the soul at him. The eyes of the soul were two blue fragments of an evening, the hair amber, and about its wrist and on its shoulder lay tendrils of deep ocean weed.

Do you know me, my Lord of all Lords, asked the soul, or do you forget me as easily as you slew me? I am Sivesh who drowned in the green seas of morning because you hated me, who gave you only love. My bones are rotted away on the floor of that sea, but I have lingered in this parody of my human shape, for even at the amorphous gate beyond life, I loved you still, who disowned and destroyed me, and my love has bound me to the world.

Azhrarn looked at the soul of his dead lover, and what he thought no man knows, but he said: Many thousand mortal years have passed since I parted from you. Why do you seek me now?

The world is ending, said the soul. But of all things, the world you love. I have come to see if you will save the world or let her die, For in the worlds death is the death of Azhrarn. Though you should live two million times a million years, without the earth yet are you dead, and you will wander as I do, and you will be as dead as I, and as purposeless.

Then the soul drew close, and through its body you could see the far shore, and the dark river going by. And it kissed the hand of Azhrarn, but the touch of it was like the touch of cool smoke only. It faded like ice in the sun.

***

Hate lay upon the earth, penetrated her to her deepest caves, her most secluded valleys. Hate raped the earth, and the children of Hate burst forth. And Hate, ultimate victory, had taken at last a form, a form like a huge head, or rather, a mouth. No man could perceive this apparition, which devoured him. But no man, if he had deciphered the calamity, and seen Hate as its root, could have come up against it, as a hero would go to confront a dragon, for no man could have endured this presence. For all the little wickednesses in men, in the vicinity of such concentrated malignancy the bravest or the worst of them would falter, scorch, crumble.

Only one could meet that entity which had been Qebbas Hate, only one could see, smell, find or match it. For hate, to Azhrarn, had been a familiar, a beautiful harp which might be played, a skill, a jest.

Where the location was of Hates core, this form it had assumed, is not remembered, nor might it be written down, much as water cannot be chewed. It was supposedly some part-abstract place, neither in the world nor out of it. At any rate, the landscape was somewhat like the earths, a range of bleak crags, their lower terraces black with burned trees, and burnished thick cloud ringing the upper pinnacles, shining with a curious brownish leaden light. When dawn broke on the tortured world, the sun would also rise upon this scene, but now it was night on earth, and night here also, and here and there a red star glittered like a drop of blood through the unwholesome haze.

Somewhere in the cloud and the haze, the head and the mouth and the core of Hate was writhing its brown bulbous lips. It could see, too, through its mouth, kept open at all times, though its sight was in no way like a mortals. And now it saw a darkness on the slopes below, and the darkness took on the shape of a tall and handsome man, black of hair and eyes, and swathed in a black cloak that made him seem winged, like an eagle.

Never before had anything found Hate out, reached its citadel and stood looking at it. And Hate sensed in the figure below a powerful maleficence comparable to its own, yet imperceptibly different, a feast of evil Hate could neither feed on nor influence.

Then Hate spoke. That is to say, it communicated. Its voice was a kind of odor, like cinders from a volcano, and the language it used was like an impulse, a twitching in the joints, nerves rasped unpleasantly, an ache that did not quite ache.

I came from a mans brain, said Hate. That began me. Though I have forgotten him, his human vindictiveness was my father. But you are not a man. Why are you here? What do you want?

The figure on the slope, Azhrarn, did not answer, but instead began to climb towards the pinnacle above which the bulbous brown lips might be distinguished. He passed through one ring of dully shining cloud, then through a second. The pinnacle itself was a spike of raw grey rock. Here Azhrarn presently halted.

There is much wickedness in you, said the lips of Hate, and they silkily slavered. I would devour you if I could. Trade with me. Give me your wickedness, and you shall be a Lord of the world through all her final and tumultuous days.

But Azhrarn seated himself on the pinnacle and said nothing.

You have slain many, whispered the mouth of Hate greedily. Slay others. I will give you a whole army to slaythey will rush at you screaming and their teeth will flash in the red moonlight, and you will stretch forth your arms and they will expire, and I shall be fed. Come, I will find you beautiful women and you shall cut their pearl flesh with a jeweled knife and find rubies under the skin. I know a vault where men have buried a beautiful boy alive; I will let you see him. His flesh is like alabaster and his hair like spilled white wine. To the north of the world a great many mountains have exploded in fire. The magma runs down like golden snakes upon the cities below. To the south, the seas are running over the land like silver dogs. Come, I will give you a sea and a mountain. Come.

Azhrarn said nothing, but he took a pipe of fine bronze from his sleeve, and he began to make music with it. When the music played, the clouds ringed about the mountains started to break up, and soon they changed to cloudy shapes that danced and embraced to the rhythm of the pipe. And the bare rock of the mountains hummed and trembled gently as if the bones of them were dancing too.

The brown mouth of Hate was dry.

Do not treat me so, said Hate. There is no profit in this.

Then Azhrarn took a small silver box from his cloak, and out of it he sprinkled a spangled powder, and this gave a wonderfully sweet perfume.

The brown mouth of Hate twisted.

Ah, do not do this, it said, these things are offensive to me. You are not tender by nature, for I believe you are a demon. Yes, I am assured you are a demon. Come, be a demon, be extravagantly cruel, and please me. I cannot hurt you. We should be comrades, you and I. For, in a far past, you planted the seed which began me.

But Azhrarn took from his belt a single flower he had found still growing on the earth. It was blue-purple, the shade the sages classified as the color of love, and when Azhrarn set it on the naked pinnacle of the mountain, the flower sank its roots in the unpromising rock, and in a minute it had sprung up into a beautiful tree, whose flowery branches brushed the low sky.

Now, said the brown mouth of Hate, withdrawing slightly, for the color and the scent of flowers inclined it to nausea, you are unmannerly, my demon visitor. But I shall not have to suffer you much longer. Look in the east, and you will notice you must soon be leaving.

Azhrarn turned, and looked as the mouth of Hate suggested.

There, through the turgid haze, one dim yellow sword had struckthe first omen of the dawn.

No demon could remain above ground once the sun came there, this was well known, and even Hate knew it. Azhrarn had put aside the bronze pipe and the silver box, and leaned his back on the flowering tree.

You have said much, Azhrarn murmured, now it is my turn. None could meet you save I, for who does not recall the cunning, the wisdom of demons? None but I, my vile companion, could destroy you.

Then Hate opened wide its brown lips, and showed the cavern that yawned behind them, a gigantic maw, without teeth or tongue or throat, a pit that could never be filled.

Destruction is my prerogative, Hate said. Then its lips drew in again, and it said. The light is stronger. You had better be gone.

But Azhrarn took his ease, leaning against the tree as if on cushions of silk. And he watched the glow in the east, where two rose swords were lifted now on either side the yellow. And Azhrarns eyes were half lidded over as he gazed, and he smiled, though his lips were white.

The mouth in the sky grew abruptly pale also, ugly pale as something diseased.

Come, it said, you should be going. A demon may not face the sun.

But Azhrarn made no move, and now there were ten swords in the east, seven of silver and three of gold.

Ah, but this is foolish, said Hate, quivering, you are acting out a symbol of self-sacrificebut what is the world to you? Let the world go. There shall be others. See. How bright the sun is growing. You have only an instant or so more. Once the sun risesonly think of it. The agony of that light, the light that fades the things of the demon country and turns its folk to dust. Oh, Azhrarn, Azhrarn! howled the mouth of Hate, recognizing him suddenly, shuddering and contorting, causing the clouds to swirl and the crags to rumble, nothing is worth such hurting. Run, Azhrarn, fly, Azhrarn. The Underearth is cool and shadowy. You cannot love the earth so much that you will sacrifice eternal life for her.

There were twenty swords now in the east; five were silver, twelve were gold, three were of white steel. Azhrarn rose and stood beneath the tree. All about the sky and the land were rocked by the convulsions of Hate as it strove to move him. But Azhrarn was motionless as the rock and the sky had been. He stared straight in the direction of the sun, as does the eagle still, in memory of that stare of his.

Every sword was white now, and beneath, the rim of a whiteness that was not of white but of blindnessblack. The sun rose.

Two slender nails pierced the eyes of Azhrarn, two more his breast and three his loins. Dark glowing blood ran from the corners of his mouth and from his nostrils and his fingertips. He did not, the Prince of Demons, cry aloud at the agony that blasted him, though it seemed to linger many centuries, and every moment it grew harder to suffer, the sweet, needle-threaded singing pain, the roaring oxen of pain that trampled beneath. And then at length came a golden pain, worse than all the rest, and at that he must have cried out, even Azhrarn, the Prince of Demons, but in that second he was turned to smoke and to dust and to silence.

These, the ashes of Azhrarn, were blown across the face of Hate.

Hate could not bear it. Hate fed on hate, and now perforce it fed on love, and love choked it. Even the love of Azhrarn, the wickedest of all the wicked, the love of the Demon for earth that no god, gods being above such things, any longer cared for. There was an explosion of many lights and thunderings as the love of the Demon for the earth destroyed the earths Hate, as the sun had destroyed Azhrarn.

***

Hate was dead, and the Demon was dead. Nothing could follow but an age of absolute Innocence.

The face of earth was much altered, seas now where continents had been, mountains fallen or upraised, forests withered, new forest springing from rank, haphazard seed. The race of mankind had survived, due to the intervention of Azhrarn. Now, puzzled, it gazed about. Without a ruling Hate, the small hate that remained in men had shrunk, and not for several ages would it grow again to its old, honest, filthy and natural proportions. This day, all men were brothers. They fell on each others necks and sobbed, and led each other from the fallen ruins into the bright new day. And there they built altars, and blessed the aloof gods, who never noticed, and in three centuries, or less, the name of Azhrarn was forgotten, as they forgot the night at the coming of the day.

It was a unique time in the world, then, and no mistaking it. Kings who were just, few thieves and fewer murderers. The scars healed, and the soil of the lands was bathed in flowers and grain, and tall trees mantled the shoulders of the hills, and the fires of mountains slept in their high blue towers. It is said that tigers would follow a young girl like dogs and never harm her, and unicorns would act out mock battle with their golden horns in broad daylight, and that every fortieth fruit of the orange tree contained a wish, and the cats learned how to sing and did it most charmingly.

That was the earth. But below the earth there was no singing. Three centuries had passed, but little had passed with them. What the earth forgot, the Underearth had cause to remember.

Druhim Vanashta mourned. The Drin by their cold furnaces, among their neglected rusting heaps of metal, cried and sniveled, and their tears raised the level of the black lake on whose shores their forges stood. The Eshva wept, and the snakes that coiled in their long tresses wept too, tears of polished serpentine. But it was the Vazdru who railed and cursed mankind for its forgetfulness. The Vazdru did not weep easily, yet the water ran from their eyes. They put on mourning robesyellow, for the sun which had slain their beloved Lordand they tore their hair and bared their breasts, both male and female. and scourged themselves with whips of jade.

The world dishonors Azhrarn, the Vazdru princesses cried.

Let us go above ground, the princes of the Vazdru shouted, and make the accursed ones burn with shame.

Then, by night, the Vazdru visited the innocent new earth. They passed like phantoms along the sea shores and through the tall standing corn, they crossed the highways of men, and in the cities the lamps glittered on their ochre garments and their beautiful distraught faces. And they smote stringed instruments as they passed, and shook the sistrum, and called loudly: Azhrarn is dead! Azhrarn is dead! And they cast black blossoms before them, and scratched with briars of black iron on the doors.

The dogs began bowling and the nightingale was quiet.

The people said: Who is it they speak of? Azhrarn is a name we do not know. But surely he must be some great lord or king to be so mourned. And they bowed respectfully to the Vazdru, and offered them wine or money, not knowing they were demons. And the Vazdru had no heart for wickedness with their Prince dead, and they went off crying into the darkness.

There was also an Eshva woman who came to the earth by night, but she came more quietly. It was none other than Jaseve, the demoness Azhrarn had poured from a ewer to be the solace of Drezaem. Primroses no longer grew in her hair, the silver snakes were back in it. Her eyes were dry, for she had thought unaccountably of a curious place, half in the world. half out, where a tree of blue-purple flowers sprang from a barren mountain top.

A long while Jaseve searched, several years. She went to the worlds four corners and returned from them. At length she found the curious place, and the way into it. She walked where Hate had died, no longer over mountains, for they had been shaken down, no longer through a blackened wood, for it had put forth leaves, copying the fertile world. The moon had risen. It showed a terrible scar in the very sky itself, puckered and luminousthe wound where Hates mouth had been torn out of it. Beneath that scar stood a tree, as in the dream of Jaseve, though its flowers were not the shade of loving now, but grey as ashes.

Jaseve ran to the tree. She kissed its narrow stem and dug in the rubble of the mountain to free it. Her hands bled, and her blood fell on the roots of the tree and they seemed to struggle up towards her. Then it was loosened, and Jaseve drew it from the stones and put it on her back, for it weighed very little. She carried the tree from that ground on to the earth, but there she must set it down, for she was weary. At once the tree thrust its roots into the fruitful soil. Jaseve became aware they were in a forest, the tree and herself, a forest thick and close and ancient, one spot which had escaped upheaval. Here, with the boughs knotted so intense and dark above, and the trunks massed round about like sentinels, no speck of sunlight could get in, even at high noon. Jaseve observed this and smiled dreamily. She lay down beneath the tree caressing its grey bark with her hand.

***

At the edge of the ancient forest was a highway, and by the highway a farm of many fields, orchards and vineyards.

Now the farmer had seven daughters, the youngest being fourteen and the eldest twenty, for each had been born within a year of the other, and though all seven were lovely, all seven were virgins, for this was an age of innocence. However, they lacked a mothers guidance, she being dead, and small wonder. From the eldest down, the meanings of their names were as follows: Fleet, Flame, Foam, Fan, Fountain, Favour and Fair.

Now it happened that these seven sisters were not as modest, lacking a mothers guidance, as they might have been. Their father, a bluff insensitive man, had not seen his girls tricked out as they should have liked, while in the town nearby was a sly silk merchant, who had said to each of them, at one time or another: Your magnolia flesh would look far better in a gown of silk than in that homespun. Come and visit me one night, and I will see what can be done. None of the seven maidens had gone to him as yet. They did not like to, for they had noted, ignorant though they were, that his fat yellow fingers had a tendency to roam over them as much as over the bolts of silk, while the youngest had declared he housed an animal in his britches that pushed them out in a most peculiar way whenever she bent over him to admire the new silk samples, as he constantly invited her to do.

Still, the old villain kept on at them, and they kept on thinking of the silk, and one night the seven agreed upon a plan.

The silk merchant was in the back room of his shop, doctoring his books to deceive the kings tax collectors, when a delicate scratching came upon the door.

Who is there? demanded the merchant nervously. Though there were few robbers in those days. hebeing one himselfwas ever conscious of their existence, and invested the night with them. Beware my sixteen servants and my mad dog.

But a sweet voice called through the keyhole: It is I, dear merchant, Fair, the farmers seventh daughter. But if there is a mad dog

However, the merchant had leapt up, overjoyed at his luck, and flung open the door.

Enter my unworthy shop, he cried, leading Fair inside.

There are none here but I, he added, you misheard me. Mad dog! What nonsense! Do not be so timorous but come closer, and then I will see about the silk for a dress. Of course, he assured her winningly, I cannot fit you when you are clothed; you must remove your garments.

Fair promptly did as he suggested. The merchant licked his lips and rolled his eyes, and Fair noted that the strange animal was about him again.

And now, said the merchant, just stand by the wall there, and I will measure you.

Fair demurely obeyed, and the merchant, unable to restrain himself further, flung himself at her.

But is this quite necessary? inquired Fair, as he covered her with repulsive slobberings and kisses.

Indeed, yes, avowed the merchant, undoing his britches and preparing once more to advance.

No, but I do not think so, said Fair, and, raising her voice screamed for her sisters. At once all six, who had been attentively waiting outside, rushed in, brandishing various household items, with which they set about the merchant.

This is I, Fleet, the farmers first daughter, yelled Fleet, cracking him on the left shin with a huge meat-hook.

And this is Flame, yelled Flame, cracking the other shin with a small griddle.

And this Foam, a blow on the buttocks.

And this Fan, a blow on the back.

While I am Fountain, announced Fountain, appropriately pouring a jar of cold oil over him.

And I, Favour, added Favour, hitting him about the head with some tongs.

The merchant roared and skipped and soon slipped over in the oil and fell on the ground. Here the seven daughters beat him unmercifully till he entreated them to take all the silk they could carry, and let him alone. This turned out more generous than he had intended, for the seven had prudently brought their fathers oxen and cart with them, and loaded it high. The merchant wailed and wrung his hands.

And now, said Fleet, you will tell no one we have been here.

You must say robbers attacked you, advised Flame.

If you do not, said Foam,

And if you accuse us, said Fan,

Of anything, said Fountain,

We will also tell how you made our little sister stand naked against the wall of your shop, went on Favour,

And meant to take a vicious wild animal, probably your mad dog, out of your trousers and set it on me, finished Fair indignantly.

The merchant accordingly roused the town with cries of twenty gigantic black-bearded robbers toting clubs of iron, while the sisters rode home along the highway with a cart full of silk.

But, as the laden vehicle came up to the farm where it stood against the black curtain of the ancient forest, the sisters beheld, in the moonlight, a most beautiful lady waiting in the road.

Why, said Fleet, she must be very rich. See, she has silver snakes in her hair, so cunningly wrought they seem alive.

But look, said Fair, her hands have been bleeding.

What can she want with us? said Fan.

When the woman came nearer, the oxen sighed and halted, and shut their large eyes. She walked three times about the cart, studying every sister in turn, and then she walked away up the road and aside from it into the dark forest.

She must be a sprite, said Foam.

Or a deranged princess, said Flame.

Fountain and Favour sniffed haughtily.

Jaseve meantime, who had been attracted, as were the demons ever, by the scent of this little wickedness of theirs, returned to the grey-flowered tree, and embraced it. Next, on the flat mossy lawn between the close knit trunks, Jaseve began to dance.

A wild dance it was, a dance to wake the night and the air, to call creatures and things. A black hare came first, and sat to gape at her with round pale eyes, then foxes who did not even seem to notice the hare, and after them two stags with daggered horns, and owls on wings like banners, and a lion, pale as smoke with age. Even water beasts stole up, drawn from the deep pools of the forest and the swamps there by the silent irresistible dancing of the Eshva woman. At last even the wind came from the east to the forest, pulled by her magic.

When Jaseve heard it shaking the leaves on the trees, she loosed her sash and the wind swirled into it, billowing there as if in a sail. And Jaseve swiftly knotted the sash together so the wind could not get free, for such things demons had power to do. Then she stopped dancing. The animals ran away. The wind struggled and complained in the sash as Jaseve tied it securely among the boughs of the grey-flowered tree.

***

The seven daughters of the farmer made for themselves dresses of silk, but did not dare wear them by day for fear of discovery. Then somehow they got the notion to dress up at night, and steal out to the edge of the ancient forest. Here they would flounce up and down, pretending they were princesses, and discussing the weather, as they had heard princesses exclusively did, since everything else was within their jurisdiction, and therefore, bored them.

How strange it is, said Fleet, that there is no east wind tonight.

There has been none for days, said Flame.

The ships are becalmed at sea, said Foam.

And the windmills must be turned by teams of men, said Fan.

As for the buzzards and other floating birds, said Fountain, they sit on the fences and grumble, unable to sail the air currents.

And the scarecrow stays still, and does not scare off the pigeons, said Favour.

Yet, added Fair, the foul smell from the midden no longer blows into the vineyard at dawn.

Just then, the seven sisters glimpsed a figure standing before them among the trees. It was none other than the beautiful lady they had come across on the night of the robbery.

What does she want? the sisters asked each other. Now she is beckoning us to go with her. But we must not follow, they said, finding they already were. The forest was ebon and mysterious, yet they were not afraid. The woman led them deeper and deeper into the gloom, and somehow they did not wish to turn back. Finally they came to a tree unlike the other trees, a tree of flowers, but they were grey, and in its branches was a sash that blew about by itself.

As they were looking at it, Jaseve began a second time to dance. But on this occasion none came near, for the dance was for the tree and for the wind bound in the branches and for the seven virgin sisters. And suddenly the sisters began dancing also, unafraid and unwondering, as if it were only natural that they, clad in silk, hand in hand and led by a woman with snakes in her hair, should circle round and round a grey-flowered tree in an archaic forest at midnight.

They danced till a marvelous sensuous weariness overcame them, and then the seven virgin sisters sank down in a ring about the trunk, and their heads fell back on the springy moss, and their eyes were glazed by dreams. Jaseve stole by them and, reaching up, she swiftly loosed the knot in the sash and shook forth the wild east wind. Furious to be free, the wind was. It lashed the tree so all the grey flowers were violently tossed in it, and from their petals the greyness flew off in a thick cloud. It was actually ash that had turned them ash-grey; and now the ash was sucked up into the wind as it flew about the tree, and next, as the wind raced in a circle, the ash scattered from it. It settled upon the seven maidens beneath the tree and, as it did so, each one moaned and twisted as if some invisible force of pleasure had seized her. And then each cried out aloud several times, and lay quiet. The ash had vanished and the wind had fled. Jaseve sighed, and she too went away, patiently to wait.

Seven girls woke in the morning, woke in the ancient forest dressed in silk. Seven girls remembered an unusual experience and seven girls blushed. Over their heads a tree of blue-purple flowers was not as they recalled.

Bemused, whispering, giggling, they crept home and took off their silk, and hid themselves virtuously in their beds.

Some months later, there was no hiding anything.

Oh my daughters! bellowed the farmer. All seven deflowered. All seven with child.

It was true enough, no mistaking the signs. Seven lovely girls with high round bellies, lowering their demure eyes.

Who is the wretchthe wretches? bawled the farmer.

A dream, murmured Fleet.

A dream of a tree, murmured Flame.

A flower from a tree, murmured Foam.

No, the wind, murmured Fan.

A fiery wind, murmured Fountain.

Ash on the wind, murmured Favour.

No, said Fair the youngest, it was a beautiful man with black hair and eyes like the burning coals.

The shame! howled the farmer. But he told the neighbors his seven daughters had a strange malady, highly infectious. And he secluded them in the house and allowed no visitors. It was an age of Innocence, he was believed, though for seven months the malady persisted.

On the last day of the seventh month the sun went down, and seven sisters each gave a scream and fell on their beds. For seven hours there was screaming. In the last minute of the seventh hour, seven sisters each gave a triumphant shriek.

The old servant woman of the house, who had been assisting the labor, began to scream instead. The father ran in and shook her, Well, are they sons or daughters?

The servant woman, regaining her natural fortitude, remarked: I declare that never in my long life, which now has doubtless been shortened by this shock, have I witnessed such a thing. Fleet has given birth to a little babys arm, and Flame to another little arm, and I will be struck dead if Foam has not given birth to a leg and Fan to another leg, while poor Fountain brought forth a whole torso, and Favour a head.

And Fair? whimpered the farmer.

Well, said the servant woman wisely, I am sure I cannot say what Fair has given birth to, but rest assured, it is a fine specimen.

The farmer wept, and when he had ceased weeping, he commanded all these pieces of a childs body, so unnaturally accrued, to be bundled in a sheet and buried. But no sooner were the portions of anatomy in the sheet together than the sheet began to writhe.

The farmer fled, but the wise servant woman peeped in, and she saw a wonderous joining had taken place, and a whole healthy child, of striking beauty, lay there sleeping.

Now, said the servant woman, which of you girls has milk to give this infant? She had got herself in a mundane mood, but she was to be tested still further. None of the seven daughters were found to have any milk upon them and, in any case, it was not needed. For, turning to the child again with clucks of commiseration, the servant woman saw he was prodigiously grown. Indeed, the child in the sheet was now a handsome boy of perhaps eleven years. Steady, my chick, cried the servant woman disparagingly, you will overtax yourself. But to no avail. In another minute the child had grown further, and further yet. Now a toothsome, adolescent youth lay there, jet black of hair, thrilling to look on, so the old servant trembled all over. Then, even the youth was gone. A man was stretched upon the sheet. He seemed made of dark light, he glowed with beauty, and his naked body was like a gods, or as they thought a gods should be, the eight who shivered awestruck above him. His sleeping face deprived them of speech.

But abruptly Fair, the youngest of the seven sisters, crept to the window, and there in the east she saw a single yellow sword uplifted, the token that the sun was coming. What made her do it she never knew, but she hurried to the incredible man, and, kneeling by him, she kissed his mouth, and whispered: Azhrarn, awake, for the sun returns to earth and you must return to your own kingdom.

And the mans eyelids flickered up, and two dark fires blazed suddenly between the bladed lashes, and he smiled, and touched the lips of Fair with his cool fingers. And then he was gone.

The room was filled with screaming yet again, while a black eagle rose unseen into the sky of earth, turned on its broad wings, and vanished without trace.

Moments after, the bright sun rose. But be sure, the age of Innocence was ended.

***




5. A Ship with Wings | Night's Master | About the Author