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The Doom That Came to Sarnath

BOOK: The Doom That Came to Sarnath
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The Doom That Came to Sarnath
Howard Phillips Lovecraft
Published:
1919
Categorie(s):
Fiction, Horror, Short Stories
Source:
http://en.wikisource.org
About Lovecraft:

Howard Phillips Lovecraft was an American author of fantasy,
horror and science fiction. He is notable for blending elements of
science fiction and horror; and for popularizing "cosmic horror":
the notion that some concepts, entities or experiences are barely
comprehensible to human minds, and those who delve into such risk
their sanity. Lovecraft has become a cult figure in the horror
genre and is noted as creator of the "Cthulhu Mythos," a series of
loosely interconnected fictions featuring a "pantheon" of nonhuman
creatures, as well as the famed Necronomicon, a grimoire of magical
rites and forbidden lore. His works typically had a tone of "cosmic
pessimism," regarding mankind as insignificant and powerless in the
universe. Lovecraft's readership was limited during his life, and
his works, particularly early in his career, have been criticized
as occasionally ponderous, and for their uneven quality.
Nevertheless, Lovecraft’s reputation has grown tremendously over
the decades, and he is now commonly regarded as one of the most
important horror writers of the 20th Century, exerting an influence
that is widespread, though often indirect. Source: Wikipedia

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There is in the land of Mnar a vast still lake that is fed by no
stream, and out of which no stream flows. Ten thousand years ago
there stood by its shore the mighty city of Sarnath, but Sarnath
stands there no more.

It is told that in the immemorial years when the world was
young, before ever the men of Sarnath came to the land of Mnar,
another city stood beside the lake; the gray stone city of Ib,
which was old as the lake itself, and peopled with beings not
pleasing to behold. Very odd and ugly were these beings, as indeed
are most beings of a world yet inchoate and rudely fashioned. It is
written on the brick cylinders of Kadatheron that the beings of lb
were in hue as green as the lake and the mists that rise above it;
that they had bulging eyes, pouting, flabby lips, and curious ears,
and were without voice. It is also written that they descended one
night from the moon in a mist; they and the vast still lake and
gray stone city lb. However this may be, it is certain that they
worshipped a sea-green stone idol chiseled in the likeness of
Bokrug, the great water-lizard; before which they danced horribly
when the moon was gibbous. And it is written in the papyrus of
Ilarnek, that they one day discovered fire, and thereafter kindled
flames on many ceremonial occasions. But not much is written of
these beings, because they lived in very ancient times, and man is
young, and knows but little of the very ancient living things.

After many eons men came to the land of Mnar, dark shepherd folk
with their fleecy flocks, who built Thraa, Ilarnek, and Kadatheron
on the winding river Ai. And certain tribes, more hardy than the
rest, pushed on to the border of the lake and built Sarnath at a
spot where precious metals were found in the earth.

Not far from the gray city of lb did the wandering tribes lay
the first stones of Sarnath, and at the beings of lb they marveled
greatly. But with their marveling was mixed hate, for they thought
it not meet that beings of such aspect should walk about the world
of men at dusk. Nor did they like the strange sculptures upon the
gray monoliths of Ib, for why those sculptures lingered so late in
the world, even until the coming men, none can tell; unless it was
because the land of Mnar is very still, and remote from most other
lands, both of waking and of dream.

As the men of Sarnath beheld more of the beings of lb their hate
grew, and it was not less because they found the beings weak, and
soft as jelly to the touch of stones and arrows. So one day the
young warriors, the slingers and the spearmen and the bowmen,
marched against lb and slew all the inhabitants thereof, pushing
the queer bodies into the lake with long spears, because they did
not wish to touch them. And because they did not like the gray
sculptured monoliths of lb they cast these also into the lake;
wondering from the greatness of the labor how ever the stones were
brought from afar, as they must have been, since there is naught
like them in the land of Mnar or in the lands adjacent.

Thus of the very ancient city of lb was nothing spared, save the
sea-green stone idol chiseled in the likeness of Bokrug, the
water-lizard. This the young warriors took back with them as a
symbol of conquest over the old gods and beings of Th, and as a
sign of leadership in Mnar. But on the night after it was set up in
the temple, a terrible thing must have happened, for weird lights
were seen over the lake, and in the morning the people found the
idol gone and the high-priest Taran-Ish lying dead, as from some
fear unspeakable. And before he died, Taran-Ish had scrawled upon
the altar of chrysolite with coarse shaky strokes the sign of
DOOM.

After Taran-Ish there were many high-priests in Sarnath but
never was the sea-green stone idol found. And many centuries came
and went, wherein Sarnath prospered exceedingly, so that only
priests and old women remembered what Taran-Ish had scrawled upon
the altar of chrysolite. Betwixt Sarnath and the city of Ilarnek
arose a caravan route, and the precious metals from the earth were
exchanged for other metals and rare cloths and jewels and books and
tools for artificers and all things of luxury that are known to the
people who dwell along the winding river Ai and beyond. So Sarnath
waxed mighty and learned and beautiful, and sent forth conquering
armies to subdue the neighboring cities; and in time there sate
upon a throne in Sarnath the kings of all the land of Mnar and of
many lands adjacent.

The wonder of the world and the pride of all mankind was Sarnath
the magnificent. Of polished desert-quarried marble were its walls,
in height three hundred cubits and in breadth seventy-five, so that
chariots might pass each other as men drove them along the top. For
full five hundred stadia did they run, being open only on the side
toward the lake where a green stone sea-wall kept back the waves
that rose oddly once a year at the festival of the destroying of
Ib. In Sarnath were fifty streets from the lake to the gates of the
caravans, and fifty more intersecting them. With onyx were they
paved, save those whereon the horses and camels and elephants trod,
which were paved with granite. And the gates of Sarnath were as
many as the landward ends of the streets, each of bronze, and
flanked by the figures of lions and elephants carven from some
stone no longer known among men. The houses of Sarnath were of
glazed brick and chalcedony, each having its walled garden and
crystal lakelet. With strange art were they builded, for no other
city had houses like them; and travelers from Thraa and Ilarnek and
Kadatheron marveled at the shining domes wherewith they were
surmounted.

But more marvelous still were the palaces and the temples, and
the gardens made by Zokkar the olden king. There were many palaces,
the last of which were mightier than any in Thraa or Ilarnek or
Kadatheron. So high were they that one within might sometimes fancy
himself beneath only the sky; yet when lighted with torches dipt in
the oil of Dother their walls showed vast paintings of kings and
armies, of a splendor at once inspiring and stupefying to the
beholder. Many were the pillars of the palaces, all of tinted
marble, and carven into designs of surpassing beauty. And in most
of the palaces the floors were mosaics of beryl and lapis lazuli
and sardonyx and carbuncle and other choice materials, so disposed
that the beholder might fancy himself walking over beds of the
rarest flowers. And there were likewise fountains, which cast
scented waters about in pleasing jets arranged with cunning art.
Outshining all others was the palace of the kings of Mnar and of
the lands adjacent. On a pair of golden crouching lions rested the
throne, many steps above the gleaming floor. And it was wrought of
one piece of ivory, though no man lives who knows whence so vast a
piece could have come. In that palace there were also many
galleries, and many amphitheaters where lions and men and elephants
battled at the pleasure of the kings. Sometimes the amphitheaters
were flooded with water conveyed from the lake in mighty aqueducts,
and then were enacted stirring sea-fights, or combats betwixt
swimmers and deadly marine things.

Lofty and amazing were the seventeen tower-like temples of
Sarnath, fashioned of a bright multi-colored stone not known
elsewhere. A full thousand cubits high stood the greatest among
them, wherein the high-priests dwelt with a magnificence scarce
less than that of the kings. On the ground were halls as vast and
splendid as those of the palaces; where gathered throngs in worship
of Zo-Kalar and Tamash and Lobon, the chief gods of Sarnath, whose
incense-enveloped shrines were as the thrones of monarchs. Not like
the eikons of other gods were those of Zo-Kalar and Tamash and
Lobon. For so close to life were they that one might swear the
graceful bearded gods themselves sate on the ivory thrones. And up
unending steps of zircon was the tower-chamber, wherefrom the
high-priests looked out over the city and the plains and the lake
by day; and at the cryptic moon and significant stars and planets,
and their reflections in the lake, at night. Here was done the very
secret and ancient rite in detestation of Bokrug, the water-lizard,
and here rested the altar of chrysolite which bore the Doom-scrawl
of Taran-Ish.

Wonderful likewise were the gardens made by Zokkar the olden
king. In the center of Sarnath they lay, covering a great space and
encircled by a high wall. And they were surmounted by a mighty dome
of glass, through which shone the sun and moon and planets when it
was clear, and from which were hung fulgent images of the sun and
moon and stars and planets when it was not clear. In summer the
gardens were cooled with fresh odorous breezes skilfully wafted by
fans, and in winter they were heated with concealed fires, so that
in those gardens it was always spring. There ran little streams
over bright pebbles, dividing meads of green and gardens of many
hues, and spanned by a multitude of bridges. Many were the
waterfalls in their courses, and many were the hued lakelets into
which they expanded. Over the streams and lakelets rode white
swans, whilst the music of rare birds chimed in with the melody of
the waters. In ordered terraces rose the green banks, adorned here
and there with bowers of vines and sweet blossoms, and seats and
benches of marble and porphyry. And there were many small shrines
and temples where one might rest or pray to small gods.

Each year there was celebrated in Sarnath the feast of the
destroying of lb, at which time wine, song, dancing, and merriment
of every kind abounded. Great honors were then paid to the shades
of those who had annihilated the odd ancient beings, and the memory
of those beings and of their elder gods was derided by dancers and
lutanists crowned with roses from the gardens of Zokkar. And the
kings would look out over the lake and curse the bones of the dead
that lay beneath it.

At first the high-priests liked not these festivals, for there
had descended amongst them queer tales of how the sea-green eikon
had vanished, and how Taran-Ish had died from fear and left a
warning. And they said that from their high tower they sometimes
saw lights beneath the waters of the lake. But as many years passed
without calamity even the priests laughed and cursed and joined in
the orgies of the feasters. Indeed, had they not themselves, in
their high tower, often performed the very ancient and secret rite
in detestation of Bokrug, the water-lizard? And a thousand years of
riches and delight passed over Sarnath, wonder of the world.

Gorgeous beyond thought was the feast of the thousandth year of
the destroying of lb. For a decade had it been talked of in the
land of Mnar, and as it drew nigh there came to Sarnath on horses
and camels and elephants men from Thraa, Ilarnek, and Kadetheron,
and all the cities of Mnar and the lands beyond. Before the marble
walls on the appointed night were pitched the pavilions of princes
and the tents of travelers. Within his banquet-hall reclined
Nargis-Hei, the king, drunken with ancient wine from the vaults of
conquered Pnoth, and surrounded by feasting nobles and hurrying
slaves. There were eaten many strange delicacies at that feast;
peacocks from the distant hills of Linplan, heels of camels from
the Bnazic desert, nuts and spices from Sydathrian groves, and
pearls from wave-washed Mtal dissolved in the vinegar of Thraa. Of
sauces there were an untold number, prepared by the subtlest cooks
in all Mnar, and suited to the palate of every feaster. But most
prized of all the viands were the great fishes from the lake, each
of vast size, and served upon golden platters set with rubies and
diamonds.

Whilst the king and his nobles feasted within the palace, and
viewed the crowning dish as it awaited them on golden platters,
others feasted elsewhere. In the tower of the great temple the
priests held revels, and in pavilions without the walls the princes
of neighboring lands made merry. And it was the high-priest
Gnai-Kah who first saw the shadows that descended from the gibbous
moon into the lake, and the damnable green mists that arose from
the lake to meet the moon and to shroud in a sinister haze the
towers and the domes of fated Sarnath. Thereafter those in the
towers and without the walls beheld strange lights on the water,
and saw that the gray rock Akurion, which was wont to rear high
above it near the shore, was almost submerged. And fear grew
vaguely yet swiftly, so that the princes of Ilarnek and of far
Rokol took down and folded their tents and pavilions and departed,
though they scarce knew the reason for their departing.

Then, close to the hour of midnight, all the bronze gates of
Sarnath burst open and emptied forth a frenzied throng that
blackened the plain, so that all the visiting princes and travelers
fled away in fright. For on the faces of this throng was writ a
madness born of horror unendurable, and on their tongues were words
so terrible that no hearer paused for proof. Men whose eyes were
wild with fear shrieked aloud of the sight within the king's
banquet-hall, where through the windows were seen no longer the
forms of Nargis-Hei and his nobles and slaves, but a horde of
indescribable green voiceless things with bulging eyes, pouting,
flabby lips, and curious ears; things which danced horribly,
bearing in their paws golden platters set with rubies and diamonds
and containing uncouth flames. And the princes and travelers, as
they fled from the doomed city of Sarnath on horses and camels and
elephants, looked again upon the mist-begetting lake and saw the
gray rock Akurion was quite submerged. Through all the land of Mnar
and the land adjacent spread the tales of those who had fled from
Sarnath, and caravans sought that accursed city and its precious
metals no more. It was long ere any travelers went thither, and
even then only the brave and adventurous young men of yellow hair
and blue eyes, who are no kin to the men of Mnar. These men indeed
went to the lake to view Sarnath; but though they found the vast
still lake itself, and the gray rock Akurion which rears high above
it near the shore, they beheld not the wonder of the world and
pride of all mankind. Where once had risen walls of three hundred
cubits and towers yet higher, now stretched only the marshy shore,
and where once had dwelt fifty million of men now crawled the
detestable water-lizard. Not even the mines of precious metal
remained. DOOM had come to Sarnath.

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