THE VOICE OF SCARILIOP
H. V. B.
Four pillars, arising out of the stone like strange growing things of demoniac shape—these Redforth saw and comprehended, knowing full well that Tarath had always abounded in monstrosities. "But what," he asked himself, "will knowing of such as this, be of use to me, as I search for Ghiltharmie?" For he had at last come to realise, to admit even to himself, that he was a lost thing. The Yulphog had taken his soul. They had exiled him to this lost land of dread. But they'd hinted of escape, if he could find it. "Si Yamlon," he had told him, pointing to a writhing belt of suns, lifting and lowering at the horizon like the yellow crest of a flaming wave. And he had nodded his head. They had vanished, disintegrating, it seemed. He didn't then know that they were related to Topper's friends and the jeep in one thing: that their Typonisif and Tregoifer was applicable to the atmosphere.
The four pillars were bending from their own weight. Strange colors—like an idiot's conception of a spectrum, spectrally rippled like irid waves across the columns. Like music in color. Assailed by their complex harmonies, Redforth could only stand speechless, hands thrust defensively forward. IT WAS THEN THAT HE SAW EIRY.
The pillars split. From each of then drifted a whiff of steam. They united into a wavering cloud which shimmered an instant in mid-air, then settled to the ground. And as it touched the metallic grass blades which stretched on and on like the upraised swords of a midget army, the vapor-cloud condensed into a woman's body. EIRY. Queen of Scariliop!
He recognized her at once, tho he had only read of her. She was not human. Her body was like a snake's, and she had bat wings. From a cluster of writhing worm-tentacles leered her face, like a mask in the heart of a seething flower. It was oval, and the scarlet mouth was like a velvet cushion—disproportionate—waiting for some priceless burden. Her nose was negligible, but her lone eye was vast and blue; like a doorway opening upon a sky too blue to belong to our world. Like blue incarnate: and blue is the color of MYSTERY.
She opened her mouth, and her tongue unrolled, uncoiled toward Redforth. Three feet long, the tongue was filamental, like a strand of red cobweb, tipped by a touch of fluff like a dandelion's seed. This member wandered lightly over Redforth's cheek, and for the first time EIRY spoke: "It comes to me that here is the man for whom we have been seeking, Yasgorphitove." Her voice was soft as clouds. Redforth in vain peered to behold her companion. "Now shall we enlighten him as to the ways of escape? In return for a favor, of course."
The air about her, for a fleeting instant, had turned blue. Then she nodded. She leaned forward, to whisper, but suddenly there was a crackling. "The rock!" she cried. "The rock! I must return before it is too late and I too am trapped!" She writhed, became coiling wreathes of smoke, and the smoke flowed back to the rocks, hovered over it. The four pillars quivered and joined into one and then, in a twinkling, had crumbled to powder.
But there was an uncanny blueness in the air about Redforth. And that night he had a dreadful dream.
For he had become—Yrthicaol! And EIRY had been merely—THE BAIT!