Saturday, January 14, 2012
The Sarnath Texts
Two men groped through the ancient catacombs beneath the glorious city of Sarnath lighting their way with torches that barely penetrated the gloom. One man was very old and frail, and he was far older even than his appearance suggested. He was Ysra the Hyperborean and he was a great wizard. The other man was young and large, his name was Malak and he was one of Ysra's apprentices, although he was reckoned by many to have neither the talent nor intelligence to make a wizard.
In the streets above them the men of Sarnath celebrated the three hundred year anniversary of the destruction of Ib, a neighboring city that had been populated by odd creatures considered repulsive and inferior to men. Malak had wished to join in the celebration, but Ysra had no interest in such foolishness, he had witnessed the destruction of Ib and he knew eventually Sarnath would pay a dire price for the transgression. They traveled ever deeper into the earth until the sounds of the city and it's riotous festival ceased to echo the tunnels.
Ysra stopped at the entrance to the deepest section of the catacombs, runes carved in the rock caught the old wizard's attention and he read them for a bit. He spoke, "Douse your torch, good Malak, fire is no friend to those who dwell beyond this portal. We shall instead view this realm with the second sight granted by this potion." He produced a flask and they each took a sip. For a moment all was black, then a pale green glow began to illume the tunnel and the men could see easily as well as in the torchlight. Malak was amazed by his master's craft, his father had been wise to pay Ysra the tremendous sum required for acceptance as the old man's apprentice.
Peering about with his new vision Malak was disturbed by the number and size of the spiders crawling the walls, he sought to crush one under his foot that crawled near but Ysra pulled him back with surprising strength. The wizard hissed, "Fool! Would you enter a great kingdom and kill it's people?" Bewildered by the comment Malak made no reply.
The pair came to a gigantic cavern, massive pillars carved with ancient runes of power stretched up a hundred feet to the ceiling and the floor was like a living carpet of spiders. The arachnids were all sizes and colors, some no bigger than a coin and jet black, others large enough to kill a house cat and covered in wild hues of yellow and purple, the largest were pale white spiders that had never seen the light of day clinging to the walls and seemingly watching them with their clusters of black eyes.
The spiders parted and cleared a path as the men approached a dais made of human skulls and webbing. Malak shook with terror as he looked up for resting atop it was the supreme horror of this subterranean realm, a great thing like a spider but as big as a horse and with a face similar to that of a man. The spider thing spoke with a harsh rasping voice, "Greetings, Ysra of the Crimson Circle, hast thou come to gain more of my knowledge?" The old wizard replied, "Indeed Great Son of Atlach, I would know of the Swarm of Nebros and how they devour a man when summoned and yet that man lives on in their swarm. I would know of the depths under this realm and the foul dwellers below, and I would know of the dimension of Lord Kour-Gath and to what gods he sacrifices endlessly. I have brought this gift according to our ancient bargain."
Suddenly the dim-witted Malak realized his fate and turned to flee. Ysra was faster, he struck Malak in the neck with his left hand. One of his rings had a tiny needle dipped in black lotus extract and it pierced Malak's skin, the apprentice dropped to stone floor. Malak was awake but his limbs were paralyzed by the lotus extract, he could not even scream as the great white spiders carried him high up the wall and cocooned him in webbing. He hung there for many days, listening to the Great Son of Atlach whisper arcane secrets to Ysra, while the wizard carefully wrote down all that the monster spoke.