Stories of the Magicians - Alfred J. Church
As Yamen spoke, there fell a sudden silence throughout the doleful region of death, a silence more awful than all the cries of lamentation and despair which had been heard before. Then through the silence there was heard an unwonted sound, that grew deeper as it advanced. It was the sound of Kehama's approach, for now all the rites of sacrifice and penance had been accomplished, and he came in the fulness of his power to seize on the throne of Padalon.
In all his might and majesty he came; and, by the attribute of deity which he had won from heaven, he came self-multiplied, assailing the fortress of Yamen on every side at once. At each of the eight gates he stood at one and the same time, and beat down the eight guardians under his feet, and then in his brazen chariots of triumph drove through each gate at the same moment. Each chariot was drawn by a hundred aulays, creatures bigger than the biggest elephant, ten yokes of ten abreast. So he passed on in his strength to the throne of Yamen himself.
Then Yamen put forth all his strength to do battle with his enemy. A darkness, thicker than the blackest night, concealed their strife; but, when it cleared away, it was seen that the might of sacrifice' had prevailed. The Rajah was triumphant; and absorbing again his many shapes into one, he took his seat on the marble sepulchre, with the conquered Yamen's neck under his feet.
He sat silent, a smile upon his lips, dallying with his power, as a guest at some rich banquet sips once and again from the goblet before he drains it. Before him stood the golden throne. He could not choose but see it, and seeing it could not but wonder.
"Who are ,ye," he cried, "that in such torment bear this throne of gold? And why are ye but three? And for whom is the fourth place reserved?"
The first bearer said: "I was the first of men to heap superfluous wealth, adding store to store which I needed not."
The second said: "I was the first of men to usurp power that was not mine, to set up a throne as king and conqueror."
The third said: "I was the first of men that imposed upon mankind a tale of falsehood in the name of God. Here we have stood for ages tormented, and still we are but three. A fourth will come to share our torment, to bear at yonder vacant corner his portion of the burden. Thus it has been appointed; and he must be equal in guilt to us. Come, Kehama, we have waited for thee too long."
And all three took up the words like a choral song: "Kehama, Almighty Man, we have waited for thee too long!"
A laugh of wondering pride burst from him. He deigned to make no reply; but, with an altered look, he turned to Kailyal. "Maiden," he said, "thou seest how idle it is to seek escape from the devices of fate. Thou hast fled to Yamen's throne, and to! I am here. We two are destined to share the Amreeta cup of immortality. Then join thy hand in mine with a willing heart."
"It cannot be," said she. "Almighty as thou art, still the heart and will are free."
"Once more bethink thee," said the Rajah. "Take thy seat upon this throne, Kehama's willing bride, and I will place all the kingdoms of the world beneath thy father's feet. Refuse, and he shall stand for ever its fourth supporter."
"I have spoken," said Kailyal; and Ladurlad caught her proudly in his arms.
"Bring forth the Amreeta cup," said Kehama to Yamen.
"It is within the sepulchre," replied the god; "bid it be opened."
"Give up thy treasure," cried the Almighty Man to the marble sepulchre; and at his word it opened wide, and showed a huge skeleton within holding the cup in its hand.
"Give me the cup," Kehama cried again; and, obedient to his word, the ghastly shape arose, and gave the Amreeta into the Rajah's hands.
"Drink," it said; "for thee only and for Kailyal, of all the children of mankind, is the cup designed by Fate."
"This is the end," cried, with heart elate, the Almighty Man. "Now have I triumphed over death. Henceforth I wage war with thee, Seeva, on equal terms, a god against a god."
And he raised to his lips the fatal bowl.
Thus far the Glendoveer had stood, still strong in faith, even when he saw the Lord of Padalon beaten down under the Rajah's feet. He had hoped to see Seeva put forth his destroying might. But now, when he saw Kehama stand with the cup in his hand, he resolved to dare the conflict. But, as he sprang forward, the skeleton barred his way, and from the throne of gold the three renewed their strain: "Kehama, come; we wait for thee too long."
In the madness of his wickedness, not knowing the mystery of the cup, that its quality is as the lips that drink it, a blessing to the good, a curse to the evil, Kehama drank.
Then Seeva opened on the accursed man his eye of wrath. He shuddered, but it was too late; the deed was done. He is immortal now, and immortal he must remain. The Amreeta runs like a stream of poison through his veins.
"Then the three take up again their strain: "Come, brother; we have waited for thee too long; too long we have borne the unequal burden. Come, brother, we are four."
Vain was his almighty power. A mightier pain subdued it. He yielded to the bony hand the cup, still unemptied, and took his stand at the vacant corner. Then on the golden throne, at last complete, Yamen took his seat.
The skeleton exclaimed: "For two only of mankind has the Amreeta cup been reserved. The man has drunk; now comes the woman's turn. Come, Kailyal, come, and receive the doom of Heaven."
Wonder and fear and awe perplexed her when she heard; but hope still rose triumphant over all. With trembling hands she took the fated cup, and drank.
And Seeva turned upon her the eye of mercy, and all that was earthly melted from her, and left the pure heavenly soul.
"Go," said Yamen, "Daughter of Earth, that art become the child of Heaven; go, and with thy heavenly lover, in the bowers of Swerga, enjoy a happiness that shall know no end."
But Kailyal still lingered, and keeping her human love and pity, stretched out her hands to her father.
"Go," said Yamen again; "thou shalt find him above in thy mother's bower."
Thus saying, he reached out his hand and laid it gently on Ladurlad's head. He sank to sleep as peacefully as sinks a child, and woke again amidst those whom he loved in the Swerga bowers.