In Zaccarath

"Come," said the King in sacred Zaccarath, "and let ourprophets prophesy before us."

A far-seen jewel of light was the holy palace, a wonderto the nomads on the plains.

There was the King with all his underlords, and thelesser kings that did him vassalage, and there were all hisqueens with all their jewels upon them.

Who shall tell of the splendour in which they sat; of thethousand lights and the answering emeralds; of the dangerousbeauty of that hoard of queens, or the flash of their ladennecks?

There was a necklace there of rose-pink pearls beyond theart of the dreamer to imagine. Who shall tell of theamethyst chandeliers, where torches, soaked in rareBhyrinian oils, burned and gave off a scent of blethany?

(This herb marvellous, which, growing near the summit ofMount Zaumnos, scents all the Zaumnian range, and is smeltfar out on the Kepuscran plains, and even, when the wind isfrom the mountains, in the streets of the city of Ognoth. At night it closes its petals and is heard to breathe, andits breath is a swift poison. This it does even by day ifthe snows are disturbed about it. No plant of this has everbeen captured alive by a hunter.)

Enough to say that when the dawn came up it appeared bycontrast pallid and unlovely and stripped bare of all itsglory, so that it hid itself with rolling clouds.

"Come," said the King, "let our prophets prophesy."

Then the heralds stepped through the ranks of the King'ssilk-clad warriors who lay oiled and scented upon velvetcloaks, with a pleasant breeze among them caused by the fansof slaves; even their casting-spears were set with jewels;through their ranks the heralds went with mincing steps, andcame to the prophets, clad in brown and black, and one ofthem they brought and set him before the King. And the Kinglooked at him and said, "Prophesy unto us."

And the prophet lifted his head, so that his beard cameclear from his brown cloak, and the fans of the slaves thatfanned the warriors wafted the tip of it a little awry. Andhe spake to the King, and spake thus:

"Woe unto thee, King, and woe unto Zaccarath. Woe untothee, and woe unto thy women, for your fall shall be soreand soon. Already in Heaven the gods shun thy god: theyknow his doom and what is written of him: he sees oblivionbefore him like a mist. Thou hast aroused the hate of themountaineers. They hate thee all along the crags of Droom. The evilness of thy days shall bring down the Zeedians onthee as the suns of springtide bring the avalanche down. They shall do unto Zaccarath as the avalanche doth unto thehamlets of the valley." When the queens chattered ortittered among themselves, he merely raised his voice andstill spake on: "Woe to these walls and the carven thingsupon them. The hunter shall know the camping-places of thenomads by the marks of the camp-fires on the plain, but heshall not know the place of Zaccarath."

A few of the recumbent warriors turned their heads toglance at the prophet when he ceased. Far overhead theechoes of his voice hummed on awhile among the cedarnrafters.

"Is he not splendid?" said the King. And many of thatassembly beat with their palms upon the polished floor intoken of applause. Then the prophet was conducted back tohis place at the far end of that mighty hall, and for awhile musicians played on marvellous curved horns, whiledrums throbbed behind them hidden in a recess. Themusicians were sitting cross-legged on the floor, allblowing their huge horns in the brilliant torchlight, but asthe drums throbbed louder in the dark they arose and movedslowly nearer to the King. Louder and louder drummed thedrums in the dark, and nearer and nearer moved the men withthe horns, so that their music should not be drowned by thedrums before it reached the King.

A marvellous scene it was when the tempestuous horns werehalted before the King, and the drums in the dark were likethe thunder of God; and the queens were nodding their headsin time to the music, with their diadems flashing likeheavens of falling stars; and the warriors lifted theirheads and shook, as they lifted them, the plumes of thosegolden birds which hunters wait for by the Liddian lakes, ina whole lifetime killing scarcely six, to make the creststhat the warriors wore when they feasted in Zaccarath. Thenthe King shouted and the warriors sang -- almost theyremembered then old battle-chants. And, as they sang, thesound of the drums dwindled, and the musicians walked awaybackwards, and the drumming became fainter and fainter asthey walked, and altogether ceased, and they blew no more ontheir fantastic horns. Then the assemblage beat on thefloor with their palms. And afterwards the queens besoughtthe King to send for another prophet. And the heraldsbrought a singer, and placed him before the King; and thesinger was a young man with a harp. And he swept thestrings of it, and when there was silence he sang of theiniquity of the King. And he foretold the onrush of theZeedians, and the fall and the forgetting of Zaccarath, andthe coming again of the desert to its own, and the playingabout of little lion cubs where the courts of the palace hadstood.

"Of what is he singing?" said a queen to a queen.

"He is singing of everlasting Zaccarath."

As the singer ceased the assemblage beat listlessly onthe floor, and the King nodded to him, and he departed.

When all the prophets had prophesied to them and all thesingers sung, that royal company arose and went to otherchambers, leaving the hall of festival to the pale andlonely dawn. And alone were left the lion-headed gods thatwere carven out of the walls; silent they stood, and theirrocky arms were folded. And shadows over their faces movedlike curious thoughts as the torches flickered and the dulldawn crossed the fields. And the colours began to change inthe chandeliers.

When the last lutanist fell asleep the birds began tosing.

Never was greater splendour or a more famous hall. Whenthe queens went away through the curtained door with alltheir diadems, it was as though the stars should arise intheir stations and troop together to the West at sunrise.

And only the other day I found a stone that hadundoubtedly been a part of Zaccarath, it was three incheslong and an inch broad; I saw the edge of it uncovered bythe sand. I believe that only three other pieces have beenfound like it.