Unnamed Journal Volume 2, Issue 5 - Page 25

The Dying Goddess to keep a sense of his location through Guhlia's winding streets. He knew, of course, where the ziggurat was. He had seen it from the harbor square. But what he wanted, what compelled him to this farcical deception, was to know how to gain entrance to the place. Only then could its secrets be unlocked. The squat brick ziggurat rose in the distance, jutting up with Mt. Amos in the background, seeming to climb over the mountain itself. This seemed absurd to Tygg, but his eyes experienced it nevertheless. Some charm or illusion is this, he thought, and kept his eyes at Fera's back. As they approached, others joined them, men and women of all walks of life, walking in mesmerized helplessness toward the mystery temple. Many had been poisoned, it seemed. Many would join the cult. Tygg nearly lost Fera in the crowd but kept close to her. They came to the wall, and in perfect unison of the kind that soldiers drill a lifetime for, stopped. Tygg looked up and down the wall but saw no gate or any kind of egress. He began to have his doubts about the worthiness of his plan. He felt his dagger cloaked under his tunic and set his teeth. A hum began to arise in the crowd. Tygg could not tell if it was the people who hummed or some other force, but it filled the air with a strange charge and made his very skin resonate. As it built, the hum began to make his head pound. He closed his eyes but could not cover his ears, or at any rate, dared not. His jaw felt the strain and his muscles were tense as a drawn bowstring but still the hum built. Just when he felt he could bear it no longer, an intuition of some kind told him to open his eyes, and he did. Before him the wall itself was shifting, glowing, transfixed with a lurid pale green light emanating from within. He watched, fascinated, forgetting the earsplitting hum as the wall of the temple melted away as though it had never been, and the crowd, and him, going through the wall itself without taking a step, simply shifting from one place to another as by the operation of some cosmic hand moving the very earth on which they stood from one receptacle to another. Tygg felt ill. Soon the hum stopped and some equilibrium returned. He saw above him a dome of black metal that burned at the edges with the same pale green light. He saw around him torches that burned with no earthly flame but with orbs of cold light. He saw a phalanx of tattooed priests standing before the crowd of new thralls. In front of them was the lizard man from the harbor, Lord Sephar. The next thing Tygg noticed was a thick pungency coming from behind the priests. It had the same register and stink as the foulness he had detected in his wine. As the priests moved forward to gather the thralls, they revealed a bulbous vat that sat upon a single thin metallic stump that squeezed and pumped like a vein. In this massive gourd frothed a sickly grey liquid that oozed from open tubes into casks below. The casks were filled by wide-eyed thralls with a red substance that looked like wine. Occasionally the casks were changed. The stench pierced Tygg's nose like a blade and he fought not to retch. While he held himself together, the thralls banded together in tight circles around the lizard priests. Tygg did not notice this at first, and when he made a few hasty steps to put himself in a circle, the crowds parted and he was facing Sephar. The priest stared at him with a queer predatory yellow in his eyes, as though he was commanding Tygg with his mind, or perhaps casting some spell upon him, but nothing happened. This went on for a few moments and Tygg began to consider just pulling his dagger and going for the man's throat or chest to see what would happen. They'd proba bly overwhelm him but he had felt cruelly denied after that incident in the Harbor Square, and anyway what else was he here for? "You sham poorly," said Sephar at last.