The day had already dawned, but it was not yet sunrise when Maskull awoke from his miserable sleep. He sat up and yawned feebly. The air was cool and sweet. Far away down the landslip a bird was singing; the song consisted of only two notes, but it was so plaintive and heartbreaking that he scarcely knew how to endure it.
The eastern sky was a delicate green, crossed by a long, thin band of chocolate-coloured cloud near the horizon. The atmosphere was blue-tinted, mysterious, and hazy. Neither Sarclash nor Adage was visible.
The saddle of the Pass was five hundred feet above him; he had descended that distance overnight. The landslip continued downward, like a huge flying staircase, to the upper slopes of Barey, which lay perhaps fifteen hundred feet beneath. The surface of the Pass was rough, and the angle was excessively steep, though not precipitous. It was above a mile across. On each side of it, east and west, the dark walls of the ridge descended sheer. At the point where the pass sprang outward they were two thousand feet from top to bottom, but as the ridge went upward, on the one hand toward Adage, on the other toward Sarclash, they attained almost unbelievable heights. Despite the great breadth and solidity of the pass, Maskull felt as though he were suspended in midair.
The patch of broken, rich, brown soil observable not far away marked Sullenbode’s grave. He had interred her by the light of the moon, with a long, flat stone for a spade. A little lower down, the white steam of a hot spring was curling about in the twilight. From where he sat he was unable to see the pool into which the spring ultimately flowed, but it was in that pool that he had last night washed first of all the dead girl’s body, and then his own.
He got up, yawned again, stretched himself, and looked around him dully. For a long time he eyed the grave. The half-darkness changed by imperceptible degrees to full day; the sun was about to appear. The sky was nearly cloudless. The whole wonderful extent of the mighty ridge behind him began to emerge from the morning mist . . . there was a part of Sarclash, and the ice-green crest of gigantic Adage itself, which he could only take in by throwing his head right back.
He gazed at everything in weary apathy, like a lost soul. All his desires were gone forever; he wished to go nowhere, and to do nothing. He thought he would go to Barey.
He went to the warm pool, to wash the sleep out of his eyes. Sitting beside it, watching the bubbles, was Krag.
Maskull thought that he was dreaming. The man was clothed in a skin shirt and breeches. His face was stem, yellow, and ugly. He eyed Maskull without smiling or getting up.
“Where in the devil’s name have you come from, Krag?”
“The great point is, I am here.”
“Not far away.”
“It seems a hundred years since I saw you. Why did you two leave me in such a damnable fashion?”
“You were strong enough to get through alone.”
“So it turned out, but how were you to know?. . . . Anyway, you’ve timed it well. It seems I am to die today.”
Krag scowled. “You will die this morning.”
“If I am to, I shall. But where have you heard it from?”
“You are ripe for it. You have run through the gamut. What else is there to live for?”
“Nothing,” said Maskull, uttering a short laugh. “I am quite ready. I have failed in everything. I only wondered how you knew. . . . So now you’ve come to rejoin me. Where are we going?”
“And what about Nightspore?”
Krag jumped to his feet with clumsy agility. “We won’t wait for him. He’ll be there as soon as we shall.”
“At our destination. . . . Come! The sun’s rising.”
As they started clambering down the pass side by side, Branchspell, huge and white, leaped fiercely into the sky. All the delicacy of the dawn vanished, and another vulgar day began. They passed some trees and plants, the leaves of which were all curled up, as if in sleep.
Maskull pointed them out to his companion.
“How is it the sunshine doesn’t open them?”
“Branchspell is a second night to them. Their day is Alppain.”
“How long will it be before that sun rises?”
“Some time yet.”
“Shall I live to see it, do you think?”
“Do you want to?”
“At one time I did, but now I’m indifferent.”
“Keep in that humour, and you’ll do well. Once for all, there’s nothing worth seeing on Tormance.”
After a few minutes Maskull said, “Why did we come here, then?”
“To follow Surtur.”
“True. But where is he?”
“Closer at hand than you think, perhaps.”
“Do you know that he is regarded as a god here, Krag? . . . There is supernatural fire, too, which I have been led to believe is somehow connected with him. . . . Why do you keep up the mystery? Who and what is Surtur?”
“Don’t disturb yourself about that. You will never know.”
“Do you know?”
“I know,” snarled Krag.
“The devil here is called Krag,” went on Maskull, peering into his face.
“As long as pleasure is worshiped, Krag will always be the devil.”
“Here we are, talking face to face, two men together. . . . What am I to believe of you?”
“Believe your senses. The real devil is Crystalman.”
They continued descending the landslip. The sun’s rays had grown insufferably hot. In front of them, down below in the far distance, Maskull saw water and land intermingled. It appeared that they were travelling toward a lake district.
“What have you and Nightspore been doing during the last four days, Krag? What happened to the torpedo?”
“You’re just about on the same mental level as a man who sees a brand-new palace, and asks what has become of the scaffolding.”
“What palace have you been building, then?”
“We have not been idle,” said Krag. “While you have been murdering and lovemaking, we have had our work.”
“And how have you been made acquainted with my actions?”
“Oh, you’re an open book. Now you’ve got a mortal heart wound on account of a woman you knew for six hours.”
Maskull turned pale. “Sneer away, Krag! If you lived with a woman for six hundred years and saw her die, that would never touch your leather heart. You haven’t even the feelings of an insect.”
“Behold the child defending its toys!” said Krag, grinning faintly.
Maskull stopped short. “What do you want with me, and why did you bring me here?”
“It’s no use stopping, even for the sake of theatrical effect,” said Krag, pulling him into motion again. “The distance has got to be covered, however often we pull up.”
When he touched him, Maskull felt a terrible shooting pain through his heart.
“I can’t go on regarding you as a man, Krag. You’re something more than a man — whether good or evil, I can’t say.”
Krag looked yellow and formidable. He did not reply to Maskull’s remark, but after a pause said, “So you’ve been trying to find Surtur on your own account, during the intervals between killing and fondling?”
“What was that drumming?” demanded Maskull.
“You needn’t look so important. We know you had your ear to the keyhole. But you could join the assembly, the music was not playing for you, my friend.”
Maskull smiled rather bitterly. “At all events, I listen through no more keyholes. I have finished with life. I belong to nobody and nothing any more, from this time forward.”
“Brave Words, brave words! We shall see. Perhaps Crystalman will make one more attempt on you. There is still time for one more.”
“Now I don’t understand you.”
“You think you are thoroughly disillusioned, don’t you? Well, that may prove to be the last and strongest illusion of all.”
The conversation ceased. They reached the foot of the landslip an hour later. Branchspell was steadily mounting the cloudless sky. It was approaching Sarclash, and it was an open question whether or not it would clear its peak. The heat was sweltering. The long, massive, saucer-shaped ridge behind them, with its terrific precipices, was glowing with bright morning colours. Adage, towering up many thousands of feet higher still, guarded the end of it like a lonely Colossus. In front of them, starting from where they stood, was a cool and enchanting wilderness of little lakes and forests. The water of the lakes was dark green; the forests were asleep, waiting for the rising of Alppain.
“Are we now in Barey?” asked Maskull.
“Yes — and there is one of the natives.”
There was an ugly glint in his eye as he spoke the words, but Maskull did not see it.
A man was leaning in the shade against one of the first trees, apparently waiting for them to come up. He was small, dark, and beardless, and was still in early manhood. He was clothed in a dark blue, loosely flowing robe, and wore a broad-brimmed slouch hat. His face, which was not disfigured by any special organs, was pale, earnest, and grave, yet somehow remarkably pleasing.
Before a word was spoken, he warmly grasped Maskull’s hand, but even while he was in the act of doing so he threw a queer frown at Krag. The latter responded with a scowling grin.
When he opened his mouth to speak, his voice was a vibrating baritone, but it was at the same time strangely womanish in its modulations and variety of tone.
“I’ve been waiting for you here since sunrise,” he said. “Welcome to Barey, Maskull! Let’s hope you’ll forget your sorrows here, you over-tested man.”
Maskull stared at him, not without friendliness. “What made you expect me, and how do you know my name?”
The stranger smiled, which made his face very handsome. “I’m Gangnet. I know most things.”
“Haven’t you a greeting for me too — Gangnet?” asked Krag, thrusting his forbidding features almost into the other’s face.
“I know you, Krag. There are few places where you are welcome.”
“And I know you, Gangnet — you man-woman. . . . Well, we are here together, and you must make what you can of it. We are going down to the Ocean.”
The smile faded from Gangnet’s face. “I can’t drive you away, Krag — but I can make you the unwelcome third.”
Krag threw back his head, and gave a loud, grating laugh. “That bargain suits me all right. As long as I have the substance, you may have the shadow, and much good may it do you.”
“Now that it’s all arranged so satisfactorily,” said Maskull, with a hard smile, “permit me to say that I don’t desire any society at all at present. . . . You take too much for granted, Krag. You have played the false friend once already. . . . I presume I’m a free agent?”
“To be a free man, one must have a universe of one’s own,” said Krag, with a jeering look. “What do you say, Gangnet — is this a free world?”
“Freedom from pain and ugliness should be every man’s privilege,” returned Gangnet tranquilly. “Maskull is quite within his rights, and if you’ll engage to leave him I’ll do the same.”
“Maskull can change face as often as he likes, but he won’t get rid of me so easily. Be easy on that point, Maskull.”
“It doesn’t matter,” muttered Maskull. “Let everyone join in the procession. In a few hours I shall finally be free, anyhow, if what they say is true.”
“I’ll lead the way,” said Gangnet. “You don’t know this country, of course, Maskull. When we get to the flat lands some miles farther down, we shall be able to travel by water, but at present we must walk, I fear.”
“Yes, you fear — you fear!” broke out Krag, in a highpitched, scraping voice. “You eternal loller!”
Maskull kept looking from one to the other in amazement. There seemed to be a determined hostility between the two, which indicated an intimate previous acquaintance.
They set off through a wood, keeping close to its border, so that for a mile or more they were within sight of the long, narrow lake that flowed beside it. The trees were low and thin; their dolm-coloured leaves were all folded. There was no underbrush — they walked on clean, brown earth, A distant waterfall sounded. They were in shade, but the air was pleasantly warm. There were no insects to irritate them. The bright lake outside looked cool and poetic.
Gangnet pressed Maskull’s arm affectionately. “If the bringing of you from your world had fallen to me, Maskull, it is here I would have brought you, and not to the scarlet desert. Then you would have escaped the dark spots, and Tormance would have appeared beautiful to you.”
“And what then, Gangnet? The dark spots would have existed all the same.”
“You could have seen them afterward. It makes all the difference whether one sees darkness through the light, or brightness through the shadows.”
“A clear eye is the best. Tormance is an ugly world, and I greatly prefer to know it as it really is.”
“The devil made it ugly, not Crystalman. These are Crystalman’s thoughts, which you see around you. He is nothing but Beauty and Pleasantness. Even Krag won’t have the effrontery to deny that.”
“It’s very nice here,” said Krag, looking around him malignantly. “One only wants a cushion and half a dozen houris to complete it.”
Maskull disengaged himself from Gangnet. “Last night, when I was struggling through the mud in the ghastly moonlight — then I thought the world beautiful.”
“Poor Sullenbode!” said Gangnet sighing.
“What! You knew her?”
“I know her through you. By mourning for a noble woman, you show your own nobility. I think all women are noble.”
“There may be millions of noble women, but there’s only one Sullenbode.”
“If Sullenbode can exist,” said Gangnet, “the world cannot be a bad place.”
“Change the subject. . . . The world’s hard and cruel, and I am thankful to be leaving it.”
“On one point, though, you both agree,” said Krag, smiling evilly. “Pleasure is good, and the cessation of pleasure is bad.”
Gangnet glanced at him coldly. “We know your peculiar theories, Krag. You are very fond of them, but they are unworkable. The world could not go on being, without pleasure.”
“So Gangnet thinks!” jeered Krag.
They came to the end of the wood, and found themselves overlooking a little cliff. At the foot of it, about fifty feet below, a fresh series of lakes and forests commenced. Barey appeared to be one big mountain slope, built by nature into terraces. The lake along whose border they had been travelling was not banked at the end, but overflowed to the lower level in half a dozen beautiful, threadlike falls, white and throwing off spray. The cliff was not perpendicular, and the men found it easy to negotiate.
At the base they entered another wood. Here it was much denser, and they had nothing but trees all around them. A clear brook rippled through the heart of it; they followed its bank.
“It has occurred to me,” said Maskull, addressing Gangnet, “that Alppain may be my death. Is that so?”
“These trees don’t fear Alppain, so why should you? Alppain is a wonderful, life-bringing sun.”
“The reason I ask is — I’ve seen its afterglow, and it produced such violent sensations that a very little more would have proved too much.”
“Because the forces were evenly balanced. When you see Alppain itself, it will reign supreme, and there will be no more struggling of wills inside you.”
“And that, I may tell you beforehand, Maskull,” said Krag, grinning, “is Crystalman’s trump card.”
“How do you mean?”
“You’ll see. You’ll renounce the world so eagerly that you’ll want to stay in the world merely to enjoy your sensations.”
Gangnet smiled. “Krag, you see, is hard to please. You must neither enjoy, nor renounce. What are you to do?”
Maskull turned toward Krag. “It’s very odd, but I don’t understand your creed even yet. Are you recommending suicide?”
Krag seemed to grow sallower and more repulsive every minute. “What, because they have left off stroking you?” he exclaimed, laughing and showing his discoloured teeth.
“Whoever you are, and whatever you want,” said Maskull, “you seem very certain of yourself.”
“Yes, you would like me to blush and stammer like a booby, wouldn’t you! That would be an excellent way of destroying lies.”
Gangnet glanced toward the foot of one of the trees. He stooped and picked up two or three objects that resembled eggs.
“To eat?” asked Maskull, accepting the offered gift.
“Yes, eat them; you must be hungry. I want none myself, and one mustn’t insult Krag by offering him a pleasure — especially such a low pleasure.”
Maskull knocked the ends off two of the eggs, and swallowed the liquid contents. They tasted rather alcoholic. Krag snatched the remaining, egg out of his hand and flung it against a tree trunk, where it broke and stuck, a splash of slime.
“I don’t wait to be asked, Gangnet. . . . Say, is there a filthier sight than a smashed pleasure?”
Gangnet did not reply, but took Maskull’s arm.
After they had alternately walked through forests and descended cliffs and slopes for upward of two hours, the landscape altered. A steep mountainside commenced and continued for at least a couple of miles, during which space the land must have dropped nearly four thousand feet, at a practically uniform gradient. Maskull had seen nothing like this immense slide of country anywhere. The hill slope carried an enormous forest on its back. This forest, however, was different from those they had hitherto passed through. The leaves of the trees were curled in sleep, but the boughs were so close and numerous that, but for the fact that they were translucent, the rays of the sun would have been completely intercepted. As it was, the whole forest was flooded with light, and this light, being tinged with the colour of the branches, was a soft and lovely rose. So gay, feminine, and dawnlike was the illumination, that Maskull’s spirits immediately started to rise, although he did not wish it.
He checked himself, sighed, and grew pensive.
“What a place for languishing eyes and necks of ivory, Maskull!” rasped Krag mockingly. “Why isn’t Sullenbode here?”
Maskull gripped him roughly and flung him against the nearest tree. Krag recovered himself, and burst into a roaring laugh, seeming not a whit discomposed.
“Still what I said — was it true or untrue?”
Maskull gazed at him sternly. “You seem to regard yourself as a necessary evil. I’m under no obligation to go on with you any farther. I think we had better part.”
Krag turned to Gangnet with an air of grotesque mock earnestness.
“What do you say — do we part when Maskull pleases, or when I please?”
“Keep your temper, Maskull,” said Gangnet, showing Krag his back. “I know the man better than you do. Now that he has fastened onto you there’s only one way of making him lose his hold, by ignoring him. Despise him — say nothing to him, don’t answer his questions. If you refuse to recognise his existence, he is as good as not here.”
“I’m beginning to be tired of it all,” said Maskull. “It seems as if I shall add one more to my murders, before I have finished.”
“I smell murder in the air,” exclaimed Krag, pretending to sniff. “But whose?”
“Do as I say, Maskull. To bandy words with him is to throw oil on fire.”
“I’ll say no more to anyone. . . . When do we get out of this accursed forest?”
“It’s some way yet, but when we’re once out we can take to the water, and you will be able to rest, and think.”
“And brood comfortably over your sufferings,” added Krag.
None of the three men said anything more until they emerged into the open day. The slope of the forest was so steep that they were forced to run, rather than walk, and this would have prevented any conversation, even if they had otherwise felt inclined toward it. In less than half an hour they were through. A flat, open landscape lay stretched in front of them as far as they could see.
Three parts of this country consisted of smooth water. It was a succession of large, low-shored lakes, divided by narrow strips of tree-covered land. The lake immediately before them had its small end to the forest. It was there about a third of a mile wide. The water at the sides and end was shallow, and choked with dolm-colored rushes; but in the middle, beginning a few yards from the shore, there was a perceptible current away from them. In view of this current, it was difficult to decide whether it was a lake or a river. Some little floating islands were in the shallows.
“Is it here that we take to the water?” inquired Maskull.
“Yes, here,” answered Gangnet.
“One of those islands will serve. It only needs to move it into the stream.”
Maskull frowned. “Where will it carry us to?”
“Come, get on, get on!” said Krag, laughing uncouthly. “The morning’s wearing away, and you have to die before noon. We are going to the Ocean.”
“If you are omniscient, Krag, what is my death to be?”
“Gangnet will murder you.”
“You lie!” said Gangnet. “I wish Maskull nothing but good.”
“At all events, he will be the cause of your death. But what does it matter? The great point is you are quitting this futile world. . . . Well, Gangnet, I see you’re as slack as ever. I suppose I must do the work.”
He jumped into the lake and began to run through the shallow water, splashing it about. When he came to the nearest island, the water was up to his thighs. The island was lozenge-shaped, and about fifteen feet from end to end. It was composed of a sort of light brown peat; there was no form of living vegetation on its surface. Krag went behind it, and started shoving it toward the current, apparently without having unduly to exert himself. When it was within the influence of the stream the others waded out to him, and all three climbed on.
The voyage began. The current was not travelling at more than two miles an hour. The sun glared down on their heads mercilessly, and there was no shade or prospect of shade. Maskull sat down near the edge, and periodically splashed water over his head. Gangnet sat on his haunches next to him. Krag paced up and down with short, quick steps, like an animal in a cage. The lake widened out more and more, and the width of the stream increased in proportion, until they seemed to themselves to be floating on the bosom of some broad, flowing estuary.
Krag suddenly bent over and snatched off Gangnet’s hat, crushing it together in his hairy fist and throwing it far out into the stream.
“Why should you disguise yourself like a woman?” he asked with a harsh guffaw — “Show Maskull your face. Perhaps he has seen it somewhere.”
Gangnet did remind Maskull of someone, but he could not say of whom. His dark hair curled down to his neck, his brow was wide, lofty, and noble, and there was an air of serious sweetness about the whole man that was strangely appealing to the feelings.
“Let Maskull judge,” he said with proud composure, “whether I have anything to be ashamed of.”
“There can be nothing but magnificent thoughts in that head,” muttered Maskull, staring hard at him.
“A capital valuation. Gangnet is the king of poets. But what happens when poets try to carry through practical enterprises?”
“What enterprises?” asked Maskull, in astonishment.
“What have you got on hand, Gangnet? Tell Maskull.”
“There are two forms of practical activity,” replied Gangnet calmly. “One may either build up, or destroy.”
“No, there’s a third species. One may steal — and not even know one is stealing. One may take the purse and leave the money.”
Maskull raised his eyebrows. “Where have you two met before?”
“I’m paying Gangnet a visit today, Maskull but once upon a time Gangnet paid me a visit.”
“In my home — whatever that is. Gangnet is a common thief.”
“You are speaking in riddles, and I don’t understand you. I don’t know either of you, but it’s clear that if Gangnet is a poet, you’re a buffoon. Must you go on talking? I want to be quiet.”
Krag laughed, but said no more. Presently he lay down at full length, with his face to the sun, and in a few minutes was fast asleep, and snoring disagreeably. Maskull kept glancing over at his yellow, repulsive face with strong disfavour.
Two hours passed. The land on either side was more than a mile distant. In front of them there was no land at all. Behind them, the Lichstorm Mountains were blotted out from view by a haze that had gathered together. The sky ahead, just above the horizon, began to be of a strange colour. It was an intense jale-blue. The whole northern atmosphere was stained with ulfire.
Maskull’s mind grew disturbed. “Alppain is rising, Gangnet.”
Gangnet smiled wistfully. “It begins to trouble you?”
“It is so solemn — tragical, almost — yet it recalls me to Earth. Life was no longer important — but this is important.”
“Daylight is night to this other daylight. Within half an hour you will be like a man who has stepped from a dark forest into the open day. Then you will ask yourself how you could have been blind.”
The two men went on watching the blue sunrise. The entire sky in the north, halfway up to the zenith, was streaked with extraordinary colours, among which jale and dolm predominated. Just as the principal character of an ordinary dawn is mystery, the outstanding character of this dawn was wildness. It did not baffle the understanding, but the heart. Maskull felt no inarticulate craving to seize and perpetuate the sunrise, and make it his own. Instead of that, it agitated and tormented him, like the opening bars of a supernatural symphony.
When he looked back to the south, Branchspell’s day had lost its glare, and he could gaze at the immense white sun without flinching. He instinctively turned to the north again, as one turns from darkness to light.
“If those were Crystalman’s thoughts that you showed me before, Gangnet, these must be his feelings. I mean it literally. What I am feeling now, he must have felt before me.”
“He is all feeling, Maskull — don’t you understand that?”
Maskull was feeding greedily on the spectacle before him; he did not reply. His face was set like a rock, but his eyes were dim with the beginning of tears. The sky blazed deeper and deeper; it was obvious that Alppain was about to lift itself above the sea. The island had by this time floated past the mouth of the estuary. On three sides they were surrounded by water. The haze crept up behind them and shut out all sight of land. Krag was still sleeping — an ugly, wrinkled monstrosity.
Maskull looked over the side at the flowing water. It had lost its dark green colour, and was now of a perfect crystal transparency.
“Are we already on the Ocean, Gangnet?”
“Then nothing remains except my death.”
“Don’t think of death, but life.”
“It’s growing brighter — at the same time, more sombre, Krag seems to be fading away. . . . ”
“There is Alppain!” said Gangnet, touching his arm.
The deep, glowing disk of the blue sun peeped above the sea. Maskull was struck to silence. He was hardly so much looking, as feeling. His emotions were unutterable. His soul seemed too strong for his body. The great blue orb rose rapidly out of the water, like an awful eye watching him. . . . it shot above the sea with a bound, and Alppain’s day commenced.
“What do you feel?” Gangnet still held his arm.
“I have set myself against the Infinite,” muttered Maskull.
Suddenly his chaos of passions sprang together, and a wonderful idea swept through his whole being, accompanied by the intensest joy.
“Why, Gangnet — I am nothing.”
“No, you are nothing.”
The mist closed in all around them. Nothing was visible except the two suns, and a few feet of sea. The shadows of the three men cast by Alppain were not black, but were composed of white daylight.
“Then nothing can hurt me,” said Maskull with a peculiar smile.
Gangnet smiled too. “How could it?”
“I have lost my will; I feel as if some foul tumour had been scraped away, leaving me clean and free.”
“Do you now understand life, Maskull?”
Gangnet’s face was transfigured with an extraordinary spiritual beauty; he looked as if he had descended from heaven.
“I understand nothing, except that I have no self any more. But this is life.”
“Is Gangnet expatiating on his famous blue sun?” said a jeering voice above them. Looking up, they saw that Krag had got to his feet.
They both rose. At the same moment the gathering mist began to obscure Alppain’s disk, changing it from blue to a vivid jale.
“What do you want with us, Krag?” asked Maskull with simple composure.
Krag looked at him strangely for a few seconds. The water lapped around them.
“Don’t you comprehend, Maskull, that your death has arrived?”
Maskull made no response. Krag rested an arm lightly on his shoulder, and suddenly he felt sick and faint. He sank to the ground, near the edge of the island raft. His heart was thumping heavily and queerly; its beating reminded him of the drum taps. He gazed languidly at the rippling water, and it seemed to him as if he could see right through it . . . away, away down . . . to a strange fire. . . .
The water disappeared. The two suns were extinguished. The island was transformed into a cloud, and Maskull — alone on it — was floating through the atmosphere. . . . Down below, it was all fire — the fire of Muspel. The light mounted higher and higher, until it filled the whole world. . . .
He floated toward an immense perpendicular cliff of black rock, without top or bottom. Halfway up it Krag, suspended in midair, was dealing terrific blows at a blood-red spot with a huge hammer. The rhythmical, clanging sounds were hideous.
Presently Maskull made out that these sounds were the familiar drum beats. “What are you doing, Krag?” he asked.
Krag suspended his work, and turned around.
“Beating on Your heart, Maskull,” was his grinning response.
The cliff and Krag vanished. Maskull saw Gangnet struggling in the air — but it was not Gangnet — it was Crystalman. He seemed to be trying to escape from the Muspel-fire, which kept surrounding and licking him, whichever way he turned. He was screaming. . . . The fire caught him. He shrieked horribly. Maskull caught one glimpse of a vulgar, slobbering face — and then that too disappeared.
He opened his eyes. The floating island was still faintly illuminated by Alppain. Krag was standing by his side, but Gangnet was no longer there.
“What is this Ocean called?” asked Maskull, bringing out the words with difficulty.
Maskull nodded, and kept quiet for some time. He rested his face on his arm. “Where’s Nightspore?” he asked suddenly.
Krag bent over him with a grave expression. “You are Nightspore.”
The dying man closed his eyes, and smiled.
Opening them again, a few moments later, with an effort, he murmured, “Who are you?”
Krag maintained a gloomy silence.
Shortly afterward a frightful pang passed through Maskull’s heart, and he died immediately.
Krag turned his head around. “The night is really past at last, Nightspore. . . . The day is here.”
Nightspore gazed long and earnestly at Maskull’s body. “Why was all this necessary?”
“Ask Crystalman,” replied Krag sternly. “His world is no joke. He has a strong clutch — but I have a stronger . . . Maskull was his, but Nightspore is mine.”
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:52