in the land of Mnar a vast still lake that is fed by no stream and out
of which no stream flows. Ten thousand years ago there stood by its
shore the mighty city of Sarnath, but Sarnath stands there no more.
told that in the immemorial years when the world was young, before ever
the men of Sarnath came to the land of Mnar, another city stood beside
the lake; the grey stone city of Ib, which was old as the lake itself,
and peopled with being not pleasing to behold. Very odd and ugly
were these beings, as indeed are most beings of a world yet inchoate and
rudely fashioned. It is written on the brick cylinders of Kadatheron
that the beings of Ib were in hue as green as the lake and the mists that
rise above it; that they had bulging eyes, pouting, flabby lips, and curious
ears, and were without voice. It is also written that they descended
one night from the moon in a mist; they and the vast still lake and grey
stone city of Ib. However this may be, it is certain that they worshipped
a sea-green stone idol chiselled in the likeness of Bokrug, the great water-lizard;
before which they danced horribly when the moon was gibbous. And
it is written in the papyrus of Ilarnek, that they one day discovered fire,
and thereafter kindled flames on many ceremonial occasions. But not
much is written of these beings, because they lived in very ancient times,
and man is young, and knows but little of very ancient living things.
many aeons men came to the land of Mnar; dark shepherd folk with their
fleecy flocks, who built Thraa, Ilarnek, and Kadatheron on the winding
river Ai. And certain tribes, more hardy than the rest, pushed on
to the border of the lake and built Sarnath at a spot where precious metals
were found in the earth. Not far from the gray city of Ib did the
wandering tribes lay the first stones of Sarnath, and at the beings of
Ib they marveled greatly. But with their marveling was mixed hate,
for they thought it not meet that beings of such aspect should walk about
the world of men at dusk. Nor did they like the strange sculptures
upon the gray monoliths of Ib, for those sculptures lingered so late in
the world, even until the coming men, none can tell; unless it was because
the land of Mnar is very still, and remote from most other lands, both
of waking and of dream.
men or Sarnath beheld more of the beings of Ib their hate grew, and it
was not less because they found the beings weak, and soft as jelly to the
touch of stones and arrows. So one day the young warriors, the slingers
and the spearmen and the bowmen, marched against Ib and slew all the inhabitants
thereof, pushing the queer bodies into the lake with long spears, because
they did not wish to touch them. And because they did not like the
gray sculptured monoliths of Ib they cast these also into the lake; wondering
from the greatness of the labor how ever the stones were brought from afar,
as they must have been, since there is naught like them in the land of
Mnar or in the lands adjacent.
of the very ancient city of Ib was nothing spared save the sea-green idol
chiseled in the likeness of Bokrug, the water lizard. This the young
warrior took back with them as a symbol of conquest over the old gods and
beings of Ib, and as a sign of leadership in Mnar. But on the night
after it was set up in the temple, a terrible thing must have happened,
for weird lights were seen over the lake, and in the morning the people
found the idol gone and the high-priest Taran-Ish lying dead, as from some
fear unspeakable. And before he died, taran-Ish had scrawled upon
the altar of chrysolite with coarse shaky strokes the sign of DOOM.
Taran-Ish there were many high-priests in Sarnath but never was the sea-green
stone idol found. And many centuries came and went, wherein Sarnath
prospered exceedingly, so that only priests and old woman remembered what
Taran-Ish had scrawled upon the altar of chrysolite. Betwixt Sarnath
and the city of Ilarnek arose a caravan route, and the precious metals
form the earth were exchanged for other metals and rare cloths and jewels
and books and tools for artificers and all things of luxury that are known
to the people who dwell along the winding river Ai and beyond. So
Sarnath waxed mighty and learned and beautiful, and sent forth conquering
armies to subdue the neighboring cities; and in time there sat upon a throne
in Sarnath the kings of all the land of Mnar and of many lands adjacent.
wonder of the world and the pride of all mankind was Sarnath the magnificent.
Of polished desert-quarried marble were its wall, in height three hundred
cubits and in breadth seventy-five, so that chariots might pass each other
as men drove them along the top. For full five hundred stadia did
they run, being
open only on the side toward
the lake where a green stone sea-wall kept back the waves that rose oddly
once a year at the festival of the destroying of Ib. In Sarnath were
fifty streets from the lake to the gates of the caravans, and fifty more
intersecting them. With onyx were they paved, save those whereon
the horses and camels and elephants trod, which were paved with granite.
And the gates of Sarnath were as many as the landward ends of the streets,
each of bronze, and flanked by the figures of lions and elephants carven
from some stone no longer known among men. The houses of Sarnath
were of glazed brick and chalcedony, each having its walled garden and
crystal lakelet. With strange art were they builded, for no other
city had houses like them; and travelers from Thraa and Ilarnek and Kadatheron
marveled at the shining domes wherewith they were surmounted.
more marvelous still were the palaces and the temples, and the gardens
made of Zokkar the olden king. There many palaces, the last of which
were mightier than any in Thraa or Ilarnek or Kadatheron. So high
were they that one might sometimes fancy himself beneath only the sky;
yet when lighted with torches dipped in the oil of Dother their walls showed
vast paintings of kings and armies, of a splendor at once inspiring and
stupefying to the beholder. Many were the pillars of the palaces,
all of tinted marble, and carven into designs of surpassing beauty.
And inmost of the palaces the floors were mosaics of beryl and lapis lazuli
and sardonyx and carbuncle and other choice materials, so disposed that
the beholder might fancy himself walking over beds of the rarest flowers.
And there were likewise fountains, which cast scented waters about in pleasing
jets arranged with cunning art. Outshining all others was the palace
of the kings of Mnar and of the lands adjacent. On a pair of golden
crouching lions rested the throne, many steps above the gleaming floor.
And it was wrought of one piece of ivory, though no man lives who knows
whence so vast a piece could have come. In that palace there were
also many galleries, and many amphitheaters where lions and men and elephants
battled at the pleasure of the kings. Sometimes the amphitheaters were
flooded with water conveyed from the lake in mighty aqueducts, and then
were enacted stirring sea-fights, or combats betwixt swimmers and deadly
and amazing were the seventeen tower-like temples of Sarnath, fashioned
of a bright multi-colored stone not known elsewhere. A full thousand
cubits high stood the greatest among them, wherein the high-priests dwelt
with a magnificence scarce less than that of the kings. On the ground
were halls as vast and splendid as those of the palaces; where gathered
throngs in worship of Zo-Kalar and Tamash and Lobon, the chief gods of
Sarnath, whose incense-enveloped shrines were as the thrones of monarchs.
Not like the eikons of other gods were those of Zo-Kalar and Tamash and
Lobon. For so close to life were they that one might swear the graceful
bearded gods themselves sat on the ivory thrones. And up unending
steps of zircon was the tower-chamber, wherefrom the high-priests looked
out over the city and the plains and the lake by day; and at the cryptic
moon and significant stars and planets; and their reflections in the lake,
at night. Here was done the very sacred and ancient rite in detestation
of Bokrug, the water-lizard, and here rested the altar of chrysolite which
bore the Doom-scrawl of Taran-Ish.
likewise were the gardens made by Zokkar the olden king. In the center
of Sarnath they lay, covering a great space and encircled by a high wall.
And they were surmounted by a mighty dome of glass, through which shone
the sun and moon and planets when it was clear, and from which were hung
fulgent images of the sun and moon and stars and planets when it was not
clear. In summer the gardens were cooled with fresh odorous breezes
skillfully wafted by fans, and in winter they were heated with concealed
fires, so that in those gardens it was always spring. There ran little
streams over bright pebbles, dividing meads of
green and gardens of many hues,
and spanned by a multitude of bridges. Many were the waterfalls in
their course, and many were the lilied lakelets into which they expanded.
Over the streams and lakelets rode white swans, whilst the music of rare
birds chimed in with the melody of the waters. In ordered terraces
rose the green banks, adorned here then there with bowers of vines and
sweet blossoms, and seats and benches of marble and porphyry. And
there were many small shrines and temples where one might rest or pray
to small gods.
year there was celebrated in Sarnath the feast of the destroying of Ib,
at which time wine, song, dancing and merriment of every kind abounded.
Great honors were then paid to the shades of those who had annihilated
the odd ancient beings, and the memory of those beings and of their elder
gods was derided by dancers and lutanists crowned with roses from the gardens
of Zokkar. And the kings would look out over the lake and curse the
bones of the dead that lay beneath it.
the high-priests liked not these festivals, for there had descended amongst
them queer tales of how the sea-green eikon had vanished, and how Taran-Ish
had died from fear and left a warning. And they said that from their
high tower they sometimes saw lights beneath the waters of the lake.
But as many years passed without calamity even the priests laughed and
cursed and joined in the orgies of the feasters. Indeed, had they
not themselves, in their high tower, often performed the very ancient and
secret rite in detestation of Bokrug, the water-lizard? And a thousand
years of riches and delight passed over Sarnath, wonder of the world.
beyond thought was the feast of the thousandth year of the destroying of
Ib. For a decade had it been talked of in the land of Mnar, and as
it drew nigh there came to Sarnath on horses and camels and elephants men
from Thraa, Ilarnek, and Kadatheron, and all the cities of Mnar and the
lands beyond. Before the marble walls on the appointed night were
pitched the pavilions of princes and the tents of travelers. Within
his banquet-hall reclined Nargis-Hei, the king, drunken with ancient wine
from the vaults of conquered Pnoth, and surrounded by feasting nobles and
hurrying slaves. There were eaten many strange delicacies at that
feast; peacocks from the distant hills of Implan, heels of camels from
the Bnazic desert, nuts and spices from Sydathrian groves, and pearls from
wave-washed Mtal dissolved in the vinegar of Thraa. Of sauces there
were an untold number, prepared by the subtlest cooks in all Mnar, and
suited to the palate of every feaster. But the most prized of all
the viands were the great fishes from the lake, each of vast size, and
served upon golden platters set with rubies and diamonds.
the king and his nobles feasted within the palace, and viewed the crowning
dish as it awaited them on golden platters, other feasted elsewhere.
In the tower of the great temple the priests held revels, and in pavilions
without the walls the princes of neighboring lands made merry. And
it was the high-priest Gnai-Kah who first saw the shadows that descended
from the gibbous moon into the lake, and the damnable green mists that
arose from the lake to meet the moon and to shroud in a sinister haze the
towers and the domes of fated Sarnath. Thereafter those in the towers
and without the walls beheld strange lights on the water, and saw that
the gray rock Akurion, which was wont to rear high above it near the shore,
was almost submerged. And fear grew vaguely yet swiftly, so that
the princes of Ilarnek and of far Rokol took down and folded their tents
and pavilions and departed, through they scarce knew the reason for their
close to the hour of midnight, all the bronze gates of Sarnath burst open
and emptied forth a frenzied throng that blackened the plain, so that all
the visiting princes and travelers fled away in fright. For on the
faces of this throng was writ a madness born of horror unendurable, and
on their tongues were words so terrible that no hearer paused for proof.
Men whose eyes where wild with fear shrieked aloud of the sight within
the king's banquet-hall, where through the windows were seen no longer
the forms of Nargis-Hei and his nobles and slaves, but a horde of indescribable
green voiceless things with bulging eyes, pouting, flabby lips, and curious
ears; things which danced horribly, bearing in their paws golden platters
set with rubies and diamonds and containing uncouth flames. And the
princes and travelers, as they fled from the doomed city of Sarnath on
horses and camels and elephants, looked again upon the mist-begetting lake
and saw the gray rock Akurion was quite submerged. Through all the
land of Mnar and the land adjacent spread the tales of those who had fled
from Sarnath, and caravans sought that accursed city and its precious metals
no more. It was long ere any travelers went thither, and even then
only the brave and adventurous young men of yellow hair and blue eyes,
who are no kin to the men of Mnar. These men indeed went to the lake
to view Sarnath; but though they found the vast still lake itself, and
the gray rock Akurion which rears high above it near the shore, they beheld
not the wonder of the world and pride of all mankind. Where once
had risen walls of three hundred cubits and towers yet higher, now stretched
only the marshy shore, and where once had dwelt fifty million of men now
crawled the detestable water-lizard. Not even the mines of precious
metal remained. DOOM had come to Sarnath.
half buried in the rushes was spied a curious green idol; an exceedingly
ancient idol chiseled in the likeness of Bokrug, the great water-lizard.
That idol, enshrined in the high temple at Ilarnek, was subsequently worshipped
beneath the gibbous moon throughout the land of Mnar.