How the Enemy Came to Thlunrana

It had been prophesied of old and foreseen from the ancientdays that its enemy would come to Thlunrana. And the dateof its doom was known and the gate by which it would enter,yet none had prophesied of the enemy who he was save that hewas of the gods though he dwelt with men. MeanwhileThlunrana, that secret lamaserai, that chief cathedral ofwizardry, was the terror of the valley in which it stood andof all lands round about it. So narrow and high were thewindows and so strange when lighted at night that theyseemed to regard men with the demoniac leer of somethingthat had a secret in the dark. Who were the magicians andthe deputy-magicians and the great arch-wizard of thatfurtive place nobody knew, for they went veiled in black andhooded and cloaked completely in black.

Though her doom was close upon her and the enemy ofprophecy should come that very night through the open,southward door that was named the Gate of the Doom, yet thatrocky edifice Thlunrana remained mysterious still,venerable, terrible, dark, and dreadfully crowned with herdoom. It was not often that anyone dared wander near toThlunrana by night when the moan of the magicians invokingwe know not Whom rose faintly from inner chambers, scaringthe drifting bats: but on the last night of all the man fromthe black-thatched cottage by the five pine-trees came,because he would see Thlunrana once again before the enemythat was divine, but dwelt with men, should come against itand it should be no more. Up the dark valley he went like abold man; but his fears were thick upon him; his braverybore their weight but stooped a little beneath them. Hewent in at the southward gate that is named the Gate ofDoom. He came into a dark hall, and up a marble stairwaypassed to see the last of Thlunrana. At the top a curtainof black velvet hung and he passed into a chamber heavilyhung with curtains, with a gloom in it that was blacker thananything they could account for. In a sombre chamberbeyond, seen through a vacant archway, magicians withlighted tapers plied their wizardry and whisperedincantations. All the rats in the place were passing away,going whimpering down the stairway. The man from theblack-thatched cottage passed through that second chamber:the magicians did not look at him and did not cease towhisper. He passed from them through heavy curtains stillof black velvet and came into a chamber of black marblewhere nothing stirred. Only one taper burned in the thirdchamber; there were no windows. On the smooth floor andunderneath the smooth wall a silk pavilion stood with itscurtains drawn close together: this was the holy of holiesof that ominous place, its inner mystery. One on each sideof it dark figures crouched, either of men or women orcloaked stone, or of beasts trained to be silent. When theawful stillness of the mystery was more than he could bearthe man from the black-thatched cottage by the fivepine-trees went up to the silk pavilion, and with a bold andnervous clutch of the hand drew one of the curtains aside,and saw the inner mystery, and laughed. And the prophecywas fulfilled, and Thlunrana was never more a terror to thevalley, but the magicians passed away from their terrifichalls and fled through the open fields wailing and beatingtheir breasts, for laughter was the enemy that was doomed tocome against Thlunrana through her southward gate (that wasnamed the Gate of Doom), and it is of the gods but dwellswith man.