TIME AND THE GODS
TIME AND THE GODS
The Coming of the Sea
A Legend of the Dawn
The Vengeance of Men
When the Gods Slept
The King That Was Not
The Cave of Kai
The Sorrow of Search
The Men of Yarnith
For the Honour of the Gods
Night and Morning
The Secret of the Gods
The South Wind
In the Land of Time
The Relenting of Sarnidac
The Jest of the Gods
The Dreams of the Prophet
The Journey of the King
These tales are of the things that befell gods and men in Yarnith
Averon and Zarkandhu and in the other countries of my dreams.
TIME AND THE GODS
Once when the gods were young and only Their swarthy servant Time was
without age the gods lay sleeping by a broad river upon earth. There
in a valley that from all the earth the gods had set apart for Their
repose the gods dreamed marble dreams. And with domes and pinnacles the
dreams arose and stood up proudly between the river and the sky all
shimmering white to the morning. In the city's midst the gleaming
marble of a thousand steps climbed to the citadel where arose four
pinnacles beckoning to heaven and midmost between the pinnacles there
stood the dome vast as the gods had dreamed it. All around terrace
by terrace there went marble lawns well guarded by onyx lions and
carved with effigies of all the gods striding amid the symbols of the
worlds. With a sound like tinkling bells far off in a land of
shepherds hidden by some hill the waters of many fountains turned
again home. Then the gods awoke and there stood Sardathrion. Not to
common men have the gods given to walk Sardathrion's streets and not
to common eyes to see her fountains. Only to those to whom in lonely
passes in the night the gods have spoken leaning through the stars to
those that have heard the voices of the gods above the morning or seen
Their faces bending above the sea only to those hath it been given to
see Sardathrion to stand where her pinnacles gathered together in the
night fresh from the dreams of gods. For round the valley a great
desert lies through which no common traveller may come but those whom
the gods have chosen feel suddenly a great longing at heart and
crossing the mountains that divide the desert from the world set out
across it driven by the gods till hidden in the desert's midst they
find the valley at last and look with eyes upon Sardathrion.
In the desert beyond the valley grow a myriad thorns and all pointing
towards Sardathrion. So may many that the gods have loved come to the
marble city but none can return for other cities are no fitting home
for men whose feet have touched Sardathrion's marble streets where
even the gods have not been ashamed to come in the guise of men with
Their cloaks wrapped about their faces. Therefore no city shall ever
hear the songs that are sung in the marble citadel by those in whose
ears have rung the voices of the gods. No report shall ever come to
other lands of the music of the fall of Sardathrion's fountains when
the waters which went heavenward return again into the lake where the
gods cool Their brows sometimes in the guise of men. None may ever hear
the speech of the poets of that city to whom the gods have spoken.
It stands a city aloof. There hath been no rumour of it--I alone have
dreamed of it and I may not be sure that my dreams are true.
* * * * *
Above the Twilight the gods were seated in the after years ruling the
worlds. No longer now They walked at evening in the Marble City hearing
the fountains splash or listening to the singing of the men they
loved because it was in the after years and the work of the gods was
to be done.
But often as they rested a moment from doing the work of the gods from
hearing the prayers of men or sending here the Pestilence or there
Mercy They would speak awhile with one another of the olden years
saying "Rememberest thou not Sardathrion?" and another would answer
"Ah! Sardathrion and all Sardathrion's mist-draped marble lawns
whereon we walk not now."
Then the gods turned to do the work of the gods answering the prayers
of men or smiting them and ever They sent Their swarthy servant Time
to heal or overwhelm. And Time went forth into the worlds to obey the
commands of the gods yet he cast furtive glances at his masters and
the gods distrusted Time because he had known the worlds or ever the
One day when furtive Time had gone into the worlds to nimbly smite some
city whereof the gods were weary the gods above the twilight speaking
to one another said:
"Surely we are the lords of Time and gods of the worlds besides. See
how our city Sardathrion lifts over other cities. Others arise and
perish but Sardathrion standeth yet the first and the last of cities.
Rivers are lost in the sea and streams forsake the hills but ever
Sardathrion's fountains arise in our dream city. As was Sardathrion
when the gods were young so are her streets to-day as a sign that we
are the gods."
Suddenly the swart figure of Time stood up before the gods with both
hands dripping with blood and a red sword dangling idly from his
fingers and said:
"Sardathrion is gone! I have overthrown it!"
And the gods said:
"Sardathrion? Sardathrion the marble city? Thou thou hast overthrown
it? Thou the slave of the gods?"
And the oldest of the gods said:
"Sardathrion Sardathrion and is Sardathrion gone?"
And furtively Time looked him in the face and edged towards him
fingering with his dripping fingers the hilt of his nimble sword.
Then the gods feared with a new fear that he that had overthrown Their
city would one day slay the gods. And a new cry went wailing through
the Twilight the lament of the gods for Their dream city crying:
"Tears may not bring again Sardathrion.
"But this the gods may do who have seen and seen with unrelenting
eyes the sorrows of ten thousand worlds--thy gods may weep for thee.
"Tears may not bring again Sardathrion.
"Believe it not Sardathrion that ever thy gods sent this doom to
thee; he that hath overthrown thee shall overthrow thy gods.
"How oft when Night came suddenly on Morning playing in the fields of
Twilight did we watch thy pinnacles emerging from the darkness
Sardathrion Sardathrion dream city of the gods and thine onyx lions
looming limb by limb from the dusk.
"How often have we sent our child the Dawn to play with thy fountain
tops; how often hath Evening loveliest of our goddesses strayed long
upon thy balconies.
"Let one fragment of thy marbles stand up above the dust for thine old
gods to caress as a man when all else is lost treasures one lock of
the hair of his beloved.
"Sardathrion the gods must kiss once more the place where thy streets
"There were wonderful marbles in thy streets Sardathrion."
"Sardathrion Sardathrion the gods weep for thee."
THE COMING OF THE SEA
Once there was no sea and the gods went walking over the green plains
Upon an evening of the forgotten years the gods were seated on the
hills and all the little rivers of the world lay coiled at Their feet
asleep when Slid the new god striding through the stars came
suddenly upon earth lying in a corner of space. And behind Slid there
marched a million waves all following Slid and tramping up the
twilight; and Slid touched Earth in one of her great green valleys that
divide the south and here he encamped for the night with all his waves
about him. But to the gods as They sat upon Their hilltops a new cry
came crying over the green spaces that lay below the hills and the
"This is neither the cry of life nor yet the whisper of death. What is
this new cry that the gods have never commanded yet which comes to the
ears of the gods?"
And the gods together shouting made the cry of the south calling the
south wind to them. And again the gods shouted all together making the
cry of the north calling the north wind to Them; and thus They
gathered to Them all Their winds and sent these four down into the low
plains to find what thing it was that called with the new cry and to
drive it away from the gods.
Then all the winds harnessed up their clouds and drave forth till they
came to the great green valley that divides the south in twain and
there found Slid with all his waves about him. Then for a space Slid
and the four winds struggled with one another till the strength of the
winds was gone and they limped back to the gods their masters and
"We have met this new thing that has come upon the earth and have
striven against its armies but could not drive them forth; and the new
thing is beautiful but very angry and is creeping towards the gods."
But Slid advanced and led his armies up the valley and inch by inch
and mile by mile he conquered the lands of the gods. Then from Their
hills the gods sent down a great array of cliffs against hard red
rocks and bade them march against Slid. And the cliffs marched down
till they came and stood before Slid and leaned their heads forward and
frowned and stood staunch to guard the lands of the gods against the
might of the sea shutting Slid off from the world. Then Slid sent some
of his smaller waves to search out what stood against him and the
cliffs shattered them. But Slid went back and gathered together a hoard
of his greatest waves and hurled them against the cliffs and the
cliffs shattered them. And again Slid called up out of his deep a
mighty array of waves and sent them roaring against the guardians of
the gods and the red rocks frowned and smote them. And once again Slid
gathered his greater waves and hurled them against the cliffs; and when
the waves were scattered like those before them the feet of the cliffs
were no longer standing firm and their faces were scarred and
battered. Then into every cleft that stood in the rocks Slid sent his
hugest wave and others followed behind it and Slid himself seized hold
of huge rocks with his claws and tore them down and stamped them under
his feet. And when the tumult was over the sea had won and over the
broken remnants of those red cliffs the armies of Slid marched on and
up the long green valley.
Then the gods heard Slid exulting far away and singing songs of triumph
over Their battered cliffs and ever the tramp of his armies sounded
nearer and nearer in the listening ears of the gods.
Then the gods called to Their downlands to save Their world from Slid
and the downlands gathered themselves and marched away a great white
line of gleaming cliffs and halted before Slid. Then Slid advanced no
more and lulled his legions and while his waves were low he softly
crooned a song such as once long ago had troubled the stars and brought
down tears out of the twilight.
Sternly the white cliffs stood on guard to save the world of the gods
but the song that once had troubled the stars went moaning on awaking
pent desires till full at the feet of the gods the melody fell. Then
the blue rivers that lay curled asleep opened their gleaming eyes
uncurled themselves and shook their rushes and making a stir among
the hills crept down to find the sea. And passing across the world
they came at last to where the white cliffs stood and coming behind
them split them here and there and went through their broken ranks to
Slid at last. And the gods were angry with Their traitorous streams.
Then Slid ceased from singing the song that lures the world and
gathered up his legions and the rivers lifted up their heads with the
waves and all went marching on to assail the cliffs of the gods. And
wherever the rivers had broken the ranks of the cliffs Slid's armies
went surging in and broke them up into islands and shattered the
islands away. And the gods on Their hill-tops heard once more the voice
of Slid exulting over Their cliffs.
Already more than half the world lay subject to Slid and still his
armies advanced; and the people of Slid the fishes and the long eels
went in and out of arbours that once were dear to the gods. Then the
gods feared for Their dominion and to the innermost sacred recesses of
the mountains to the very heart of the hills the gods trooped off
together and there found Tintaggon a mountain of black marble staring
far over the earth and spake thus to him with the voices of the gods:
"O eldest born of our mountains when first we devised the earth we
made thee and thereafter fashioned fields and hollows valleys and
other hills to lie about thy feet. And now Tintaggon thine ancient
lords the gods are facing a new thing which overthrows the old. Go
therefore thou Tintaggon and stand up against Slid that the gods be
still the gods and the earth still green."
And hearing the voices of his sires the elder gods Tintaggon strode
down through the evening leaving a wake of twilight broad behind him
as he strode: and going across the green earth came down to Ambrady at
the valley's edge and there met the foremost of Slid's fierce armies
conquering the world.
And against him Slid hurled the force of a whole bay which lashed
itself high over Tintaggon's knees and streamed around his flanks and
then fell and was lost. Tintaggon still stood firm for the honour and
dominion of his lords the elder gods. Then Slid went to Tintaggon and
said: "Let us now make a truce. Stand thou back from Ambrady and let me
pass through thy ranks that mine armies may now pass up the valley
which opens on the world that the green earth that dreams around the
feet of older gods shall know the new god Slid. Then shall mine armies
strive with thee no more and thou and I shall be the equal lords of
the whole earth when all the world is singing the chaunt of Slid and
thy head alone shall be lifted above mine armies when rival hills are
dead. And I will deck thee with all the robes of the sea and all the
plunder that I have taken in rare cities shall be piled before thy
feet. Tintaggon I have conquered all the stars my song swells through
all the space besides I come victorious from Mahn and Khanagat on the
furthest edge of the worlds and thou and I are to be equal lords when
the old gods are gone and the green earth knoweth Slid. Behold me
gleaming azure and fair with a thousand smiles and swayed by a
thousand moods." And Tintaggon answered: "I am staunch and black and
have one mood and this--to defend my masters and their green earth."
Then Slid went backward growling and summoned together the waves of a
whole sea and sent them singing full in Tintaggon's face. Then from
Tintaggon's marble front the sea fell backwards crying on to a broken
shore and ripple by ripple straggled back to Slid saying: "Tintaggon
Far out beyond the battered shore that lay at Tintaggon's feet Slid
rested long and sent the nautilus to drift up and down before
Tintaggon's eyes and he and his armies sat singing idle songs of
dreamy islands far away to the south and of the still stars whence
they had stolen forth of twilight evenings and of long ago. Still
Tintaggon stood with his feet planted fair upon the valley's edge
defending the gods and Their green earth against the sea.
And all the while that Slid sang his songs and played with the nautilus
that sailed up and down he gathered his oceans together. One morning as
Slid sang of old outrageous wars and of most enchanting peace and of
dreamy islands and the south wind and the sun he suddenly launched
five oceans out of the deep all to attack Tintaggon. And the five oceans
sprang upon Tintaggon and passed above his head. One by one the grip of
the oceans loosened one by one they fell back into the deep and still
Tintaggon stood and on that morning the might of all five oceans lay
dead at Tintaggon's feet. That which Slid had conquered he still held
and there is now no longer a great green valley in the south but all
that Tintaggon had guarded against Slid he gave back to the gods. Very
calm the sea lies now about Tintaggon's feet where he stands all black
amid crumbled cliffs of white with red rocks piled about his feet. And
often the sea retreats far out along the shore and often wave by wave
comes marching in with the sound of the tramping of armies that all may
still remember the great fight that surged about Tintaggon once when he
guarded the gods and the green earth against Slid.
Sometimes in their dreams the war-scarred warriors of Slid still lift
their heads and cry their battle cry; then do dark clouds gather about
Tintaggon's swarthy brow and he stands out menacing seen afar by
ships where once he conquered Slid. And the gods know well that while
Tintaggon stands They and Their world are safe; and whether Slid shall
one day smite Tintaggon is hidden among the secrets of the sea.
A LEGEND OF THE DAWN
When the worlds and All began the gods were stern and old and They saw
the Beginning from under eyebrows hoar with years all but Inzana
Their child who played with the golden ball. Inzana was the child of
all the gods. And the law before the Beginning and thereafter was that
all should obey the gods yet hither and thither went all Pegana's gods
to obey the Dawnchild because she loved to be obeyed.
It was dark all over the world and even in Pegana where dwell the
gods it was dark when the child Inzana the Dawn first found her
golden ball. Then running down the stairway of the gods with tripping
feet chalcedony onyx chalcedony onyx step by step she cast her
golden ball across the sky. The golden ball went bounding up the sky
and the Dawnchild with her flaring hair stood laughing upon the
stairway of the gods and it was day. So gleaming fields below saw the
first of all the days that the gods have destined. But towards evening
certain mountains afar and aloof conspired together to stand between
the world and the golden ball and to wrap their crags about it and to
shut it from the world and all the world was darkened with their plot.
And the Dawnchild up in Pegana cried for her golden ball. Then all the
gods came down the stairway right to Pegana's gate to see what ailed
the Dawnchild and to ask her why she cried. Then Inzana said that her
golden ball had been taken away and hidden by mountains black and ugly
far away from Pegana all in a world of rocks under the rim of the sky
and she wanted her golden ball and could not love the dark.
Thereat Umborodom whose hound was the thunder took his hound in
leash and strode away across the sky after the golden ball until he
came to the mountains afar and aloof. There did the thunder put his
nose to the rocks and bay along the valleys and fast at his heels
followed Umborodom. And the nearer the hound the thunder came to the
golden ball the louder did he bay but haughty and silent stood the
mountains whose plot had darkened the world. All in the dark among the
crags in a mighty cavern guarded by two twin peaks at last they found
the golden ball for which the Dawnchild wept. Then under the world went
Umborodom with his thunder panting behind him and came in the dark
before the morning from underneath the world and gave the Dawnchild
back her golden ball. And Inzana laughed and took it in her hands and
Umborodom went back into Pegana and at its threshold the thunder went
Again the Dawnchild tossed the golden ball far up into the blue across
the sky and the second morning shone upon the world on lakes and
oceans and on drops of dew. But as the ball went bounding on its way
the prowling mists and the rain conspired together and took it and
wrapped it in their tattered cloaks and carried it away. And through
the rents in their garments gleamed the golden ball but they held it
fast and carried it right away and underneath the world. Then on an
onyx step Inzana sat down and wept who could no more be happy without