The Moon Pool
Chapter 30: The Building of the Moon Pool
She paused, running her long fingers through her own bronze-flecked ringlets. Selective breeding this, with a vengeance, I thought; an ancient experiment in heredity which of course would in time result in the stamping out of the tendency to depart from type that lies in all organisms; resulting, obviously, at last, in three fixed forms of black-haired, ruddy-haired, and silver-haired--but this, with a shock of realization it came to me, was also an accurate description of the dark-polled ladala, their fair-haired rulers and of the golden-brown tressed Lakla!
How--questions began to stream through my mind; silenced by the handmaiden’s voice.
“Above, far, far above the abode of the Shining One,” she said, “was their greatest temple, holding the shrines both of sun and moon. All about it were other temples hidden behind mighty walls, each enclosing its own space and squared and ruled and standing within a shallow lake; the sacred city, the city of the gods of this land--”
“It is the Nan-Matal that she is describing,” I thought.
“Out upon all this looked the Taithu who were now but the servants of the Shining One as it had been the messenger of the Three,” she went on. “When they returned the Shining One spoke to them, promising them dominion over all that they had seen, yea, under it dominion of all earth itself and later perhaps of other earths!
“In the Shining One had grown craft, cunning; knowledge to gain that which it desired. Therefore it told its Taithu--and mayhap told them truth--that not yet was it time for them to go forth; that slowly must they pass into that outer world, for they had sprung from heart of earth and even it lacked power to swirl unaided into and through the above. Then it counselled them, instructing them what to do. They hollowed the chamber wherein first I saw you, cutting their way to it that path down which from it you sped.
“It revealed to them that the force that is within moon flame is kin to the force that is within it, for the chamber of its birth was the chamber too of moon birth and into it went the subtle essence and powers that flow in that earth child: and it taught them how to make that which fills what you call the Moon Pool whose opening is close behind its Veil hanging upon the gleaming cliffs.
“When this was done it taught them how to make and how to place the seven lights through which moon flame streams into Moon Pool--the seven lights that are kin to its own seven orbs even as its fires are kin to moon fires--and which would open for it a path that it could tread. And all this the Taithu did, working so secretly that neither those of their race whose faces were set against the Shining One nor the busy men above know aught of it.
“When it was done they moved up the path, clustering within the Moon Pool Chamber. Moon flame streamed through the seven globes, poured down upon the pool; they saw mists arise, embrace, and become one with the moon flame--and then up through Moon Pool, shaping itself within the mists of light, whirling, radiant--the Shining One!
“Almost free, almost loosed upon the world it coveted!
“Again it counselled them, and they pierced the passage whose portal you found first; set the fires within its stones, and revealing themselves to the moon king and his priests spake to them even as the Shining One had instructed.
“Now was the moon king filled with fear when he looked upon the Taithu, shrouded with protecting mists of light in Moon Pool Chamber, and heard their words. Yet, being crafty, he thought of the power that would be his if he heeded and how quickly the strength of the sun king would dwindle. So he and his made a pact with the Shining One’s messengers.
“When next the moon was round and poured its flames down upon Moon Pool, the Taithu gathered there again, watched the child of the Three take shape within the pillars, speed away--and out! They heard a mighty shouting, a tumult of terror, of awe and of worship; a silence; a vast sighing--and they waited, wrapped in their mists of light, for they feared to follow nor were they near the paths that would have enabled them to look without.
“Another tumult--and back came the Shining One, murmuring with joy, pulsing, triumphant, and clasped within its vapours a man and woman, ruddy-haired, golden-eyed, in whose faces rapture and horror lay side by side--gloriously, hideously. And still holding them it danced above the Moon Pool and--sank!
“Now must I be brief. Lat after lat the Shining One went forth, returning with its sacrifices. And stronger after each it grew--and gayer and more cruel. Ever when it passed with its prey toward the pool, the Taithu who watched felt a swift, strong intoxication, a drunkenness of spirit, streaming from it to them. And the Shining One forgot what it had promised them of dominion--and in this new evil delight they too forgot.
“The outer land was torn with hatred and open strife. The moon king and his kind, through the guidance of the evil Taithu and the favour of the Shining One, had become powerful and the sun king and his were darkened. And the moon priests preached that the child of the Three was the moon god itself come to dwell with them.
“Now vast tides arose and when they withdrew they took with them great portions of this country. And the land itself began to sink. Then said the moon king that the moon had called to ocean to destroy because wroth that another than he was worshipped. The people believed and there was slaughter. When it was over there was no more a sun king nor any of the ruddy-haired folk; slain were they, slain down to the babe at breast.
“But still the tides swept higher; still dwindled the land!
“As it shrank multitudes of the fleeing people were led through Moon Pool Chamber and carried here. They were what now are called the ladala, and they were given place and set to work; and they thrived. Came many of the fair-haired; and they were given dwellings. They sat beside the evil Taithu; they became drunk even as they with the dancing of the Shining One; they learned--not all; only a little part but little enough--of their arts. And ever the Shining One danced more gaily out there within the black amphitheatre; grew ever stronger--and ever the hordes of its slaves behind the Veil increased.
“Nor did the Taithu who clung to the old ways check this--they could not. By the sinking of the land above, their own spaces were imperilled. All of their strength and all of their wisdom it took to keep this land from perishing; nor had they help from those others mad for the poison of the Shining One; and they had no time to deal with them nor the earth race with whom they had foregathered.
“At last came a slow, vast flood. It rolled even to the bases of the walled islets of the city of the gods--and within these now were all that were left of my people on earth face.
“I am of those people,” she paused, looking at me proudly, “one of the daughters of the sun king whose seed is still alive in the ladala!”
As Larry opened his mouth to speak she waved a silencing hand.
“This tide did not recede,” she went on. “And after a time the remnant, the moon king leading them, joined those who had already fled below. The rocks became still, the quakings ceased, and now those Ancient Ones who had been labouring could take breath. And anger grew within them as they looked upon the work of their evil kin. Again they sought the Three--and the Three now knew what they had done and their pride was humbled. They would not slay the Shining One themselves, for still they loved it; but they instructed these others how to undo their work; how also they might destroy the evil Taithu were it necessary.
“Armed with the wisdom of the Three they went forth--but now the Shining One was strong indeed. They could not slay it!