A Tale of Nerikh, the Poet

Phillip A. Ellis

This is a tale concerning Nerikh the poet, and Roshiel the Damned. For Nerikh was not only a poet, but was also an Archipriest of Yavaunz of the Five Gold Bands, and was considered wise in matters pertaining to the Antients; and Roshiel the Damned was a dreamer and mystic, who felt kinship with that which men consider a pestilence upon Zothique, namely, the ghouls, and who joined with them in these latter days of Zothique, the Earth's last continent.

Now, as Nerikh tarried awhile in the house of Sandoszar of Ummaos, chief city of Xylac, there came to him Roshiel; and both were young in the lives of men, although not yet jaded or wearied in the manner of Dakloer of Ustaim, of of Bayyid the Cruel, of Zul-Bha-Sair. And Nerikh welcomed Roshiel thus, saying unto him:

"Be seated, oh Roshiel, and partake with me of the spiced wines of Eld Tasuun, or else the cordials of Yoros. And speak unto me of that which has brought thee hither."

But Roshiel partook not of the wines of Eld Tasuun, nor the cordials of Yoros, saying unto Nerikh:

"I have heard it said that thou knowest much of the wisom of the Antients, that thou knowest much of what they knew and bequethed to us in their epitomes and digests (such as that which you had put aside as I had entered the garden)."

"Verily," quoth Nerikh, "I know only a trifle of what they knew. For much of the knowledge has been lost due to the vagaries of history, whether due to the hungry flame or to the cunning worm, or whether due to neglect or through deliberate action. But I know a little portion of what has been left, and mayhaps the knowledge can serve thee in some manner: ask, then, what thou wilt of me, and I shall truly answer concerning that which I know."

"It is this," quoth Roshiel, "that I ask of thee. Many in these latter days have asked 'What shall be the ultimate fate of Zothique and of the dying Earth? Shall we, as some have supposed, be burnt up as ashes? Or shall we be frozen as the uttermost wastes? Or is there some other fate that will befall us?' What then, I ask, did the Antients impart to us, and what knew they of our ultimate fate?"

Nerikh paused awhile, sipping his wine, before answering thus:

"It is said that one Gylas, rumoured to come from a place called Kalendris the Lost (of which naught is known except for its name), once made pilgrimage to the fanes of all the gods of Zothique. And he asked of them this question: 'What shall be the ultimate fate of Zothique and of this dying Earth?'; and all, save one, gave answer, saying this fate or that, but each god gave unto Gylas a message that differed from the other in every particular.

"And so finally Gylas came unto the fane of Striosh the Truth-Sayer, who speaketh as a multitude, who is no longer worshipped, and whose fane has fallen into a decrepitude as befitting all upon this Antient Earth.

"Now, if Striosh knew aught of which the petitioner asked, He would make a sound as of a mighty wind, and He would speak with the voice of a hundred thousand people. And never had He failed to speak, therefore He was named the Truth-Sayer, Knowing of all Things upon the Earth.

"And when Gylas entered into the fane, having uttered his prayers, and having given fitting sacrifice, and having undergone the nine degrees of ritual purification, he cried thus to the eidolon of Striosh, saying unto Him: 'Oh Striosh the Truth-Sayer, who speaketh with the voice of countless multitudes, I ask of Thee one boon only. I crave only to know this: what is the ultimate fate of Zothique, and of this dying Earth? Will it be to flame or to ice, or to dust or to water, or is there some other fate?'

"But Striosh fell silent, and spake not. And lo!, the eidolon of Striosh was rent in twain, and has never spoken again. And thuswise it was supposed that the answer was unknown even to Striosh the Truth-Sayer. So, Roshiel, canst thou not see that even the wisest gods know not of Earth's ultimate fate?"

Roshiel sat silent, watching the setting sun. And at last he spoke, saying:

"I know only this, and that is, I shall partake of some wine of Eld Tasuun, or mayhaps some cordial of Yoros."

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