Mirdath the Beautiful — a fragment

Here is a scene from my Night Land novella I was not able to use. It is my character’s recollection of the events of Hodgson’s original book, as if seen from three centuries  years later, and also a description of the two main character from that book. The heroine of my story claimed to be a descendant of Mirdath the Beautiful. The logophile in my was pleased that I could find a use for the word “pulmenoscopy” which refers to the ability to read the hearts of men–what we nowadays would call telepathy.

Visions, pulmenoscopy, and extra-temporal manifestations are not unknown to the people of the Last Redoubt. The greatest among us are known to have the Gift.

Some three hundred-and-thirty years ago, a great dreamer named Andros, son of Alcinoüs, of High Aerie, was possessed of the Night-Hearing, so that the thoughts of men, and also of the beasts and dire Powers of the Night Land were known to him. He was huge in muscle and mighty in thew and sinew, said to be the strongest man ever to dwell among the folk of the last Redoubt. He was beloved of the Monstruwacans of the tower, both for his gifts, and for the humbleness and courage of his soul, the purity of his heart. Because his spirit was sensitive, he could sense the works of our enemies, and he could report to the Monstruwacans the moods and motions of the creatures and powers in the Night Lands.

One nightwatch as he stood on the balcony, six miles above the darkness of the world, he cast his mind back through time, reaching earlier than any other dreamer had dared to go, and he remembered his former life as a man in the days of light. He changed his name to Xenochthon, which means, Born in a Strange Land, for he then spoke of himself as if he were a visitor from the past aeons.

He was granted not one gift, but three: for he had not only a Great Dreamer, who knew his past lives, and also the Night-Hearing, but his past self was a Predictor. Andrew Eddins of Kent was his name, and he had dreamed, in that life, of Xenochthon in this. When the memories of Andrew came forward in time to join with those of Andros, that gift was brought as well.

He wrote of his memories in a great book, which astonished the theosophists and antiquarians, and brought great hope and cheer to the common people, for it made tales of the Days of Light no longer a matter for scoffing.

For this alone, he would have been accounted as one of the greatest figures in our long history, but greater deeds and greater fame followed: for one night, reaching with his mind beyond the zone of quiet created by the House of Silence, he heard the voices from a second and lesser redoubt, still alive, and still occupied by humans.

There was one in that Redoubt who also had the Night-Hearing, and was able to send her thoughts winging across the aether to him. She was named Naäni daughter of Nausicaä, although he knew her from a previous cycle of incarnation, and called her by the old love-name Mirdath the Beautiful, which is unlike any names we use. But she knew the Master-Word, and so all the Monstruwacans knew that this was no deception sent by the enemy. The bond of their true love, preserved across uncounted aeons, had bridged the distances and barriers no lesser thing could bridge.

Andros departed to seek the Lesser Redoubt when Naäni called out to him, for the Earth Current had failed over the aeons in the Lesser Pyramid, and the men fell under the sway of the thought-pressure of the Fixed Giants who besieged them. Because he had the Night-Hearing, Andros could sense, even in the most utter darkness, the souls and powers of evil things about him, and could avoid them as he skulked among the rocks and moss-bushes of the Night Land, or, as he slept, be awakened by his sensitive soul if a monster crept nigh.

For many a-day, he was gone, and all folk accounted him dead. Some three months were gone by. Then Andros returned out of the darkness from the North, and was seen by the great spy glass of the tower of the Monstruwacans. His armor was bloody and dented on him, and in his arms was a dead girl.

The instruments in the tower also showed that a malicious and superior power from the House of Silence was boiling and surging through the aether around him, and the measuring tubes were shattered merely from the echo, so great was the spiritual force sent to consume the hero. The Monstruwacans were certain he was soul-slain, or possessed, for no man in the records could withstand the naked force of all the stares of the Watching Things, the malice of the House of Silence, the deadlier essences and telepathic radiations coming from the windows of the Dark Palace, the thoughts of infinite hatred burning in the windowless interiors of the mile-high Towers of Night. Yet on he came.

Not only was he under an aetherial assault which surely should have slain any man such as men are now, but also dangers of tooth and claw, blood and bone, were come for him. Dozens and scores of the malformed half-men, giants, troll-things, and night-hounds came roaring and slithering, galloping and stalking down from the fire-hills and glaciers, out from shining clouds and up from dark doorways of the surrounding lands, and all were set upon him. Yet on he came.

His strength was the thing of legends, and it was made double by his grief and fury. He was like a demigod, and the spyglass saw him slaying monsters at one stroke, behemoths and grendels, Great Gray Men and Putrid Pale Mounds, monstrous serpents, cockodrills and hydrae and amphisbaena, and dire-worms, crested centipedes and white-eyed scolopendras, and slug-things as great as a train of loaded mine-wagons. All these monstrosities are noted in our bestiaries as too well-armored for even a company of men to slay. He neither looked to the right nor the left as he strode forward, coming toward the Pyramid gates, and he made no attempt at stealth; nor did he put aside the dead girl he held, but he cut a pallid giant in half with a one-handed stroke when it rose up against him. His spirit was in his weapon, and the blade was too bright to look upon, and spun so rapidly that it made no noise a human ear could hear. And when it struck flesh, his anger made a hundred lightning-bolts fly from the blade.

The Council of the Watch was inspired to set aside the rules and protocols of the Gate, and, with hardly any Preparation at all, thousands of Diskos-men were sent out to break the siege, and the ancient weapons-of-power that were too gluttonous of Earth-Current to employ, despite the risk, were cabled up to the Core Supply Axis. Four of the five exploded on their carriages, killing their gun-crews, but the fifth one held, and lighting was sent down the sides of the pyramid, and slew monsters by the score.

It is also said that there are Good Powers that dwell in the aether, who, from time to time, moved by benevolence for mankind, exert their unknown properties to deflect the malice of the dreadful powers of the Night Land. It is said that the Good Powers were not absent from the field of battle on that night: strange signs were seen in the air.

Andros won free and crossed the Circle; the purity of his soul, the utter and selfless love that had sent him across a world of horror and darkness to rescue his one own true love, had somehow protected him from the malice of the House of Silence. The girl in his arms was indeed none other than Mirdath the Beautiful. Although she seemed to be dead for many a-day, when she was taken for her last rites, and exposed to the benevolent radiations of the Earth Current, she stirred and opened her eyes. Either because her physiology was different than the men of the Greater Pyramid, or because of the divine intervention of some good power, or because the love of the hero, which had reached across a million million years to find her again, reached now into the unknown we call death, she rose again and embraced her one true love.

A monument was placed in the Agora for his honor, in an alcove next to the Three Founders, on the side facing the Lawgiver Iaseon; and the hero was acclaimed to join the Table of Notables. Later was elevated to the rank of Master of the Watch, and he also served as Aedile of the Houses of Man. His wise laws are still studied by professors; the books of maxims he wrote, the histories of the before-times, are read both by the hearth of private places, and in the public courts of the peace.

Mirdath is not any less revered. She is the only woman known to have crossed the Night Lands, and her nine scrolls of the histories and customs of the Lesser Redoubt are the only record of any kind we have for the history, literature, folkways and sciences of that long-lost race of mankind. All the mathematical theories of Galois we know only from her memory; the plays of Euryphaean, and the music of an instrument called a pianoforte, the incandescent tube and the shunt valve and all the inventions that sprang from them, are due to her recollection. Her people were a frugal folk, and the energy-saving circuits they used, the methods of storing battery power, were known to them a million years ago, and greatly conserved our wealth. Much of what she knew of farming and crops we could not use, for the beasts of our buried fields were strange to her.

She knew more of the lost aeons of the past than Xenochthon, and was able to tell tales from her dreams of the time of the Cities Ever Moving West, of the Painted Bird, and of the Gardens of the Moon; she knew something of the Failures of the Star-Farers, and of the Sundering of the Earth.

More, she also had the gift of the foretelling, for some of the dreams she had were not of the past, but of the future, and she detailed the things to come, the Darkening, the False Reprieve, the disaster of the Diaspora into the Land of Water and Fire, the collapse of the Gate beneath the paw of the South Watching Thing, the years of misery and the death of man, beyond which is a time from which no dreams return, although there is said to be a screaming in the aether, dimly heard through the doors of time, the time-echo of some event after the destruction of all human life. All these things are set out in the Great Book, and for this reason Naäni is also called The Predictress.

Mirdath and Xenochthon had fifty sons and daughters, and all the folk of High Aerie claim descent from them, some truly, and some not.