In the Book of Vergama

Clark Ashton Smith

{These paragraphs precede the beginning of the published version of "The Last Hieroglyph"; April 7, 1934}

It was said of Vergama, in the lattermost ages, that he had existed immortally ever since the lifting of Zothique from the foundered ruins of continents that history had forgotten. Always, throughout the wide realms and empires of the continent, there had been rumors of Vergama, and various beliefs about his identity, his essence, his birth-place and dwelling-place. The sages disputed learnedly whether he was demon, god, sorcerer, phantom, or a being from worlds whose inhabitants were not akin to any of these. Likewise they debated whether he dwelt in mummy-peopled Cincor, or amid the stark fearful mountains of northern Xylac, or in Naat, isle of evil gramaries lying shrouded with the mist and foam of the sunset ocean, or in some other kingdom or sea-lost island.

No idols were wrought in the image of Vergama, no altars were dedicated to him: yet sometimes he was addressed in prayer by savage peoples, or was called upon with-dark runic formulae by the more venturous wizards. Some claimed that the prayers and the incantations were answered; but this, like all else that concerned Vergama, was a matter of much doubt. Curious and almost omnipotent powers were ascribed to him, and attributes of tremendous bale and benignity; but there was no virtual proof of their manifestation at any time. In a land of murky enchantments, of multiform mysteries, Vergama resided unknown, occult, and apart. It was believed that vast multitudes of people had entered his secret house through the centuries and millenniums; but none had returned there from to declare the actual nature of Vergama and the situation of his abode. Certain prophets, appearing in the ultimate years, avowed that he was coeval with life and death, and was the first and the last of the uncreated gods.

Even till the ending of time, weird legends gathered about Vergama; and there were divers tales of the destinies of them that passed into his shadowy mansion; and much was fabled concerning a volume called the Book of Hieroglyphics, which belonged to this inscrutable entity. Among such tales and fablings, there is the story of what happened to Nushain, the astrologer.

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