The Lost Continent, by Cutcliffe Hyne, , at sacred-texts.com
NOW my passage across the great continent of Atlantis, if tedious and haunted by many dangers, need not be recounted in detail here. Only one halt did I make of any duration, and that was unavoidable. I had killed a stag one day, bringing it down after a long chase in an open savannah. I scented the air carefully, to see if there was any other beast which could do me harm within reach, and thinking that the place was safe, set about cutting my meat, and making a sufficiency into a bundle for carriage.
But under foot among the grasses there was a great legged worm, a monstrous green thing, very venomous in its bite; and presently as I moved I brushed it with my heel, and like the dart of light it swooped with its tiny head and struck me with its fangs in the lower thigh. With my knife I cut through its neck, and it fell to writhing and struggling and twining its hundred legs into all manner of contortions; and then, cleaning my blade in the ground, I stabbed with it deep all round the wound, so that the blood might flow freely and wash the venom from its lodgment. And then with the blood trickling healthily down from my heel, I shouldered the meat and strode off, thankful for being so well
quit of what might have made itself a very ugly adventure.
As I walked, however, my leg began to be filled with a tightness and throbbing which increased every hour, and presently it began to swell also, till the skin was stretched like drawn parchment. I was taken, too, with a sickness that racked me violently, and if one of the greater and more dangerous beasts had come upon me then, he would have eaten me without a fight. With the fall of darkness I managed to haul myself up into a tree, and there abode in the crutch of a limb in wakefulness and pain throughout the night.
With the dawn, when the night beasts had gone to their lairs, I clambered down again, and leaning heavily on my spear, limped onward through the sombre forests along my way. The moss which grows on the northern side of each tree was my guide, but gradually I began to note that I was seeing moss all round the trees, and, in fact, was growing lightheaded with the pain and the swelling of the limb. But still I pressed onward with my journey, my last instinct being to obey the command of the high council, and so procure the enlargement of Naïs as had been promised.
My last memory was of being met by some one in the black forest who aided me, and there my waking senses took wings into forgetfulness.
But after an interval wit returned, and I found myself on a bed of leaves in a cleft between two rocks, which was furnished with some poor skill, and fortified with stakes and buildings against the entrance
of the larger marauding beasts. My wound was dressed with a poultice of herbs, and at the other side of the cavern there squatted a woman, cooking a mess of wood-grubs and honey over a fire of sticks.
"How came I here?" I asked.
"I brought you," said she.
"And who are you?"
"A nymph they call me, and I practise as such, collecting herbs and curing the diseases of those that come to me, telling fortunes, and making predictions. In return I receive what each can afford; and if they do not pay according to their means, I clap on a curse to make them wither. It's a lean enough living when wars and the pestilence have left so few poor folk to live in the land."
"Do you visit Atlantis?"
"Not I. Phorenice would have me boiled in brine, living, if she could lay easy hands on me. Our dainty Empress tolerates no magic but her own. They say she is for pulling down the priests off their mountain now."
So you do get news of the city?"
"Assuredly. It is my trade to get good news, or otherwise how could I tell fortunes to the vulgar? You see, my lord, I detected your quality by your speech, and knowing you are not one of those that come to me for spells and potions, I have no fear in speaking to you plainly."
"Tell me then: Phorenice still reigns?"
"As a maiden?"
"As the mother of twin sons. Tatho's her husband now, and has been these three years."
"Tatho! Who followed him as viceroy of Yucatan?"
"There is no Yucatan. A vast nation of little hairy men, so the tale goes, coming from the west, overran the country. They had clubs of wood tipped with stone as their only arm, but numbers made their chief weapon. They had no desire for plunder, or the taking of slaves, or the conquering of cities. To eat the flesh of Atlanteans was their only lust, and they followed it prodigiously. Their numbers were like the bees in a swarm.
"They came to each of the cities of Yucatan in turn, and though the colonists slew them thousands, the weight of numbers always prevailed. They ate clean each city they took, and left it to the beasts of the forest, and went on to the next. And so in time they reached the coast towns, and Tatho and the few that survived took ship and sailed home. They even ate Tatho's wife for him. They must be curious persevering things, these little hairy men. The Gods send they do not get across the seas to Atlantis, or they would be worse plague to the poor country than Phorenice."
Now I had heard of these little hairy creatures before, and though indeed I had never seen them, I had gathered that they were a little less than human and a little more than bestial—a link, so to speak, between the two orders; and specially held in check by the Gods in certain forest solitudes. Also I had learned that on occasion, when punishment was needful,
they could be set loose as a devastating army upon men, devouring all before them. But I said nothing of this to the nymph, she being but a vulgar woman, and indeed half silly, as is always the case with these self-styled sorceresses who gull the ignorant, common folk. But within myself I was bitterly grieved at the fate of that fine colony of Yucatan, in which I had expended such an infinity of pains to do my share of the building.
But it did not suit my purpose to have my name and quality blazoned abroad till the time was full, and so I said nothing to the nymph about Yucatan, but let the talk continue upon other matters. "What about Egypt?" I asked.
"In its accustomed darkness, so they say. Who cares for Egypt these latter years? Who cares for any one or anything for that matter except for himself and his own proper estate? Time was when the country folk and hunters hereabouts brought me offerings to this cave for sheer pity's sake. But now they never come near unless they see a way of getting good value in return for their gifts. And, by result, instead of living fat and hearty, I make lean meals off honey and grubs. It's a poor life, a nymph's, in these latter years, I tell you, my lord. It's the fashion for all classes to believe in no kind of mystery now."
"What manner of pestilence is this you spoke of?"
"I have not seen it. Thank the Gods it has not come this way. But they do say that it has grown from the folk Phorenice has slain, and whose bodies remain unburied. She is always slaying, and so the
bodies lie thicker than the birds and beasts can eat them. For which of our sins, I wonder, did the Gods let Phorenice come to reign? I wish that she and her twins were boiled alive in brine before they came between an honest nymph of the forest and her living.
"They say she has put an image of herself in all the temples of the city now, and has ordered prayers and sacrifices to be made night and morning. She has decreed all other Gods inferior to herself and forbidden their worship, and those of the people that are not sufficiently devout for her taste have their hamstrings slit by her tormentors to aid them constantly into a devotional attitude. Will you eat of my grubs and honey? There is nothing else. Your back was bloody with carrying meat when I met you, but you had lost your load. You must either taste this mess of mine now or go without."
I harbored with that nymph in cave six days, she using her drugs and charms to cure my leg the while; and when I was recovered, I hunted the plains and killed her a fat cloven-hoofed horse as payment, and then went along my ways.
The country from there onward had at one time carried a sturdy population which held its own firmly, and, as its numbers grew, took in more ground, and built more homesteads farther afield. The houses were perched in trees for the most part, as there they were out of reach of cave-bear and cave-tiger and the other more dangerous beasts. But others, and these were the better ones, were built on the ground, of logs so ponderous and so firmly clamped and dove-tailed
that the beasts could not pull them down; and once inside a house of this fashion its owners were safe, and could progue at any attackers through the interstices between the logs, and often wound, sometimes make a kill.
But not one in ten of these outlying settlers remained. The houses were silent when I reached them, the fire-hearth before the door weed-grown, and the patch of vegetables taken back by the greedy fingers of the forest into mere scrub and jungle. And farther on, when villages began to appear, strongly walled, as the custom is, to ward off the attacks of beasts, the logs which aforetime had barred the gateway lay strewn in a sprouting undergrowth, and naught but the kitchen middens remained to prove that once they had sheltered human tenants. Phorenice's influence seemed to have spread as though it were some horrid blight over the whole face of what was once a smiling and an easy-living land.
So far I had met with little enough interference from any men I had come across. Many had fled with their women into the depths of the forest at the bare sight of me; some stood their ground with a threatening face, but made no offer to attack, seeing that I did not offer them insult first; and a few, a very few, offered me shelter and provision. But as I neared the city, and began to come upon muddy, beaten paths, I passed through governments that were more thickly populated, and here appeared strong chance of delay. The watcher in the tower which is set above each village would spy me and cry: "Here is a masterless man," and then the people
that were within would rush out with intent to spoil me of my weapons, and afterwards to appoint me as a laborer.
I had no desire to slay these wretched folk, being filled with pity at the state to which they had fallen; and often words served me to make them stand aside from the path, and stare wonderingly at my fierceness, and let me go my ways. And when at other times words had no avail, I strove to strike as lightly as could be, my object being to get forward with my journey and leave no unnecessary dead behind me. Indeed, having found the modern way of these villages, it grew to be my custom to turn off into the forest and make a circuit whenever I came within smell of their garbage.
Similarly, too, when I got farther on, and came among greater towns also, I kept beyond challenge of their walls, having no mind to risk delay from the whim of any new law which might chance to be set up by their governors. My progress might be slinking, but my pride did not upbraid me very loudly; indeed, the fever of haste burned within me so hot that I had little enough carrying space for other emotions.
But at last I found myself within a half-day's journey of the city of Atlantis itself, with the Sacred Mountain and its ring of fires looming high beside it, and the call for caution became trebly accentuated. Everywhere evidences showed that the country had been drained of its fighting men. Everywhere women prayed that the battles might end with the rout of the priests or the killing of Phorenice, so that
the wretched land might have peace and time to lick its wounds.
An army was investing the Sacred Mountain, and its one approach was most narrowly guarded. Even after having journeyed so far, it seemed as if I should have to sit hopelessly down without being able to carry out the orders which had been laid upon me by the high council, and earn the reward which had been promised. Force would be useless here. I should have one good fight—a gorgeous fight—one man against an army, and my usefulness would be ended. . . . No; this was the occasion for guile, and I found covert in the outskirts of a wood, and lay there cudgelling my brain for a plan.
Across the plain before me lay the grim great walls of the city, with the heads of its temples and its palaces and its pyramids showing beyond. The step-sides of the royal pyramid held my eye. Phorenice had expended some of her new-found store of gold in overlaying their former whiteness with sheets of the shining yellow metal. But it was not that change that moved me. I was remembering that, in the square before the pyramid, there stood a throne of granite carved with the snake and the outstretched hand, and in the hollow beneath the throne was Naïs, my love, asleep these eight years now because of the drug that had been given to her, but alive still, and waiting for me, if only I on my part could make a way to the place where Zaemon defied the Empress, and announce my coming.
In that covert of the woods I lay a day and a night raging with myself for not discovering some plan to
get within the defences of the Sacred Mountain, but in the morning which followed there came a man towards me running.
"You need not threaten me with your weapons," he cried. "I mean no harm. It seems that you are Deucalion, though I should not have known you myself in those rags and skins, and behind that tangle of hair and beard. You will give me your good word, I know. Believe me, I have not loitered unduly."
He was a lower priest whom I knew and held in little esteem; his name was Ro, a greedy fellow and not overworthy of trust. "From whom do you come?" I asked.
"Zaemon laid a command on me. He came to my house, though how he got. there I cannot tell, seeing that Phorenice's army blocks all possible passage to and from the Mountain. I told him I wished to be mixed with none of his schemings. I am a peaceful man, Deucalion, and have taken a wife who requires nourishment. I still serve in the same temple, though we have swept out the old Gods by order of the Empress, and put her image in their place. The people are tidily pious nowadays, those that are left of them, and the living is consequently easy. Yes, I tell you there are far more offerings now than there were in the old days. And so I had no wish to be mixed with matters which might well make me be deprived of a snug post, and my head to boot."
"I can believe it all of you, Ro."
"But there was no denying Zaemon. He burst into one of his black furies, and while he spoke at
me, I tell you I felt as good as dead. You know his powers?"
"I have seen some of them."
"Well, the Gods alone know which are the true Gods and which are the others. I serve the one that gives me employment. But Those that Zaemon serves give him power, and that's beyond denying. You see that right hand of mine? It is dead and paralyzed from the wrist, and that is a gift of Zaemon. He bestowed it, he said, to make me collect my attention. Then he said more hard things concerning what he was pleased to term my apostasy, not letting me put up a word in my own defence of how the change was forced upon me. And finally, said he, I might either do his bidding on a certain matter to the letter, or take that punishment which my falling away from the old Gods had earned. 'I shall not kill you,' said he, 'but I will cover all your limbs with a paralysis such as you have tasted already, and when at length death reaches you in some gutter, you will welcome it.'"
"If Zaemon said those words he meant them. So you accepted the alternative?"
"Had I, with a wife depending on me, any other choice? I asked his pleasure. It was to find you when you came in here from some distant part of the land and deliver to you his message.
"'Then tell me where is the meeting-place,' said I, 'and when.'
"'There is none appointed, nor is a day fixed,' said he. 'You must watch and search always for him. But when he comes, you will be guided to his
place.' Well, Deucalion, I think I was guided, but how I do not know. But now I have found you, and if there's such a thing as gratitude, I ask you to put in your word with Zaemon that this deadness be taken away from my hand: It's an awful thing for a man to be forced to go through life like this, for no real fault of his own. And Zaemon could cure it from where he sat if he was so minded."
"You seem still to have a very full faith in some of the old Gods’ priests," I said. "But so far I do not see that your errand is done. I have had no message yet."
"Why, the message is so simple that I do not see why he could not have got some one else to carry it. You are to make a great blaze. You may fire the grasses of the plain in front of this wood if you choose. And on the night which follows you are to go round to that flank of the Sacred Mountain away from the city where the rocks run down sheer, and there they will lower a rope and haul you up to their hands above."
"It seems easy, and I thank you for your pains. I will ask Zaemon that your hand may be restored to you."
"You shall have my prayers if it is. And look, Deucalion, it is a small matter, and it would be less likely to slip your memory if you saw to it at once on your landing. Later you may be disturbed. Phorenice is bound to pull you down off your perch up there now she has made her mind to it. She never fails, once she has set her hand to a thing. Indeed, if she was no Goddess at birth, she is making herself
into one very rapidly. She has got all the ancient learning of our priests, and more besides. She has discovered the Secret of Life these recent months—"
"She has found that?" I cried, fairly startled. "How? Tell me how? Only the Three know that. It is beyond our knowledge even who are members of the Seven."
"I know nothing of her means. But she has the secret, and now she is as good an immortal (so she says) as any of them. Well, Deucalion, it is dangerous for me to be missing from my temple overlong, so I will go. You will carry that matter we spoke of in your mind? It means much to me." His eye wandered over my ragged person. "And if you think my service is of value to you—"
"You see me poor, my man, and practically destitute."
"Some small coin," he murmured, "or even a link of bronze? I am at great expense just now buying nourishment for my wife. Well, if you have nothing, you cannot give. So I'll just bid you farewell."
He took himself off then, and I was not sorry. I had never liked Ro. But I wasted no more precious time then. The grass blazed up for a signal almost before his timorous heels were clear of it; and that night when the darkness gave me cover, I took the risk of what beasts might be prowling, and went to the place appointed. There was no rope dangling, but presently one came down the smooth cliff-face like some slender snake. I made a loop, slipped it over a leg, and pulled hard as a signal.
[paragraph continues] Those above began to haul, and so I went back to the Sacred Mountain after an absence of so many toilsome and warring years. There were none to disturb the ascent. Phorenice's troops had no thought to guard that gaunt, bare, seamless precipice.
The men who hauled me up were old, and panted heavily with their task, and, until I knew the reason, I wondered why a knot of younger priests had not been appointed for the duty. But I put no question. With us of the Priests’ Clan on the Sacred Mountain it is always taken as granted that when an order is given, it is given for the best. Besides, these priests did not offer themselves to question. They took me off at once to Zaemon, and that is what I could have wished.
The old man greeted me with the royal sign. "All hail to Deucalion," he cried, "King of Atlantis, duly called thereto by the high council of the priests."
"Is Phorenice dead?" I asked.
"It remains for you to slay her and take your kingdom, if, indeed, when all is done, there remains a man or a rood of land to govern. The sentence has gone out that she is to die, and it shall be carried into effect, even though we have to set loose the most dreadful powers that are stored in the Ark of the Mysteries, and wreck this continent in our effort. We have borne with her infamies all these years by command sent down by the most High Gods; but now she has gone beyond endurance, and They it is who have given the word for her cutting off."
"You are one of the highest Three; I am only one of the Seven; you best know the cost."
"There can be no counting of the cost now, my brother and my King. It is an order."
"It is an order," I repeated formally, "so I obey."
"If it were not impious to do so, it would be easy to justify this decision of the Gods. The woman has usurped the throne; yet she was forgiven and bidden rule on wisely. She has tampered with our holy religion; yet she was forgiven. She has killed the people of Atlantis in greedy, useless wars, and destroyed the country's trade; yet she was forgiven. She has desecrated the old temples, and latterly has set up in them images of herself to be worshipped as a deity; yet she was forgiven. But at last her evil cleverness has discovered to her the tremendous Secret of Life and Death, and there she overstepped the boundary of the High Gods’ forbearance.
"I myself went to carry a final warning, and once more faced her in the great banqueting-hall. Solemnly I recited to her the edict, and she chose to take it as a challenge. She would live on eternally herself, and she would share her knowledge with those that pleased her. Tatho that was her husband should also be immortal. Indeed, if she thought fit, she would cry the secret aloud so that even the common people might know it, and death from mere age would become a legend.
"She cared no whit how she might upset the laws of Nature. She was Phorenice, and was the highest law of all. And finally she defied me there in that banqueting-hall and defied also the High Gods that stood behind my mouth. 'My magic is as strong as yours, you pompous fool,' she cried, 'and presently you
shall see the two stand side by side upon their trial.'
"She began to collect an army from that moment, and we on our part made our-preparations. It was discovered by our arts that you still lived, and King of Atlantis you were made by solemn election. How you were summoned you know as nearly as it is lawful that one of your degree should know; how you came you understand best yourself; but here you are, my brother, and being King now, you must order all things as you see best for the preservation of your high estate, and we others live only to give you obedience."
"Then being King, I can speak without seeming to make use of a threat. I must have my Queen first, or I am not strong enough to give my whole mind to this ruling."
"She shall be brought here."
"So! Then I will be a general now, and see to the defences of this place, and view the men who are here to stand behind them."
I went out of the dwelling then, Zaemon giving place and following me. It was night still, but there is no darkness on the upper part of the Sacred Mountain. A ring of fires, fed eternally from the earth-breath which wells up from below, burns round one-half of the crest, lighting it always as bright as day, and in fact forming no small part of its fortification. Indeed, it is said that in the early dawn of history men first came to the Mountain as a stronghold because of the natural defence which the fires offered.
There is no bridging these flames or smothering them. On either side of their line for a hundred paces the ground glows with heat, and a man would be turned to ash who tried to cross it. Round full one-half of the mountain slopes the fires make a rampart unbreakable, and on the other side the rock runs in one sheer precipice from the crest to the plain which spreads beyond its foot. But it is on this farther side that there is the only entrance way which gives passage to the crest of the Sacred Mountain from below. Running diagonally up the steep face of the cliff is a gigantic fissure, which succeeding ages (as man has grown more luxurious) have made more easy to climb.
Looking at the additions, in the ancient days, I can well imagine that none but the most daring could have made the ascent. But one generation has thrown a bridge over a bad gap here, and another has cut into the living stone and widened a ledge there, till in these latter years there is a path with cut steps and carved balustrade such as the feeblest or most giddy might traverse with little effort or exertion. But always when these improvers made smooth the obstacles, they were careful to weaken in no possible way the natural defences, but rather to add to them.
Eight gates of stone there were cutting the pathway, each commanding a straight, steep piece of the ascent, and overhanging each gate was a gallery secure from arrow-shot, yet so contrived that great stones could be hurled through holes in the floor of it, in such a manner that they must irretrievably
smash to a pulp any men advancing against it from below. And in caves dug out from the rock on either hand was a great hoard of these stones, so that no enemy through sheer expenditure of troops could hope to storm a gate by exhausting its ammunition.
But though there were eight of these granite gates in the series, we had the whole number to depend on no longer. The lowest gate was held by a garrison of Phorenice's troops, who had built a wall above them to protect their occupation. The gate had been gained by no brilliant feat of arms—it had been won by threats, bribery, and promises; or, in other words, it had been given up by the blackest treachery.
And here lay the key-note of the weakness in our defence. The most perfect ramparts that brain can invent are useless without men to line them, and it was men we lacked. Of students entering into the colleges of the Sacred Mountain there had been none now for many a year. The younger generation thought little of the older Gods. Of the men that had grown up among the sacred groves, and filled offices there, many had become lukewarm in their faith and remained on only through habit, and because an easy living stayed near them there; and these, when the siege began, quickly made their way over to the other side.
Phorenice was no fool to fight against unnecessary strength. Her heralds made proclamation that peace and a good subsistence would be given to those who chose to come out to her willingly; and as an alternative she would kill by torture and mutilation those she caught in the place when she took it by storm,
as she most assuredly would do before she had finished with it. And so great was the prestige of her name that quite one-half of those that remained on the Mountain took themselves away from the defence.
There was no attempt to hold back these sorry priests, nor was there any punishing them as they went. Zaemon, indeed, was minded (so he told me with grim meaning himself) to give them some memento of their apostasy to carry away which would not wear out, but the others of the high council made him stay his vengeful hand. And so, when I came to the place, the garrison numbered no more than eighty, counting even feeble old dotards who could barely walk; and of men not past their prime I could barely command a score.
Still, seeing the narrowness of the passages which led to each of the gates, up which in no place could more than two men advance together, we were by no means in desperate straits for the defence as yet; and if my new-given kingdom was so far small, consisting as it did in effect of the Sacred Mountain, and no other part of Atlantis, at any rate there seemed little danger of its being further contracted.
Another of the wise precautions of the men of old stood us in good stead then. In the ancient times, when grain first was grown as food, it came to be looked upon as the acme of wealth. Tribute was always paid from the people to their priests, and presently, so the old histories say, it was appointed that this should take the form of grain, as this was a medium both dignified and fitting. And those of the
people who had it not were forced to barter their other produce for grain before they could pay this tribute.
On the Sacred Mountain itself vast storehouses were dug in the rock, and here the grain was teemed in great yellow heaps, and each generation of those that were set over it took a pride in adding to the accumulation.
In more modern days it had been a custom among the younger and more forward of the priests to scoff at this ancient provision, and to hold that a treasure of gold or weapons or jewels would have more value and no less of dignity; and more than once it has been a close thing lest these innovators should not be outvoted. But as it was, the old constitution had happily been preserved, and now in these years of trial the Clan reaped the benefit. And so with these granaries, and a series of great tanks and cisterns which held the rainfall, there was no chance of Phorenice reducing our stronghold by mere close investment, even though she sat down stubbornly before it for a score of years.
But it was the paucity of men for the defence which oppressed me most. As I took my way about the head of the Mountain, inspecting all points, the emptiness of the place smote me like a succession of blows. The groves, once so trim, were now shaggy and unpruned. Wind had whirled the leaves in upon the temple floors, and they lay there upswept. The college of youths held no more than a musty smell to bear witness that men had once been grown there. The homely palaces of the higher priests, at
one time so ardently sought after, lay many of them empty, because not even one candidate came forward now to canvass for election.
Evil thoughts surged up within me as I saw these things, that were direct promptings from the nether Gods. "There must be something wanting," these tempters whispered, "in a religion from which so many of its priests fled at the first pinch of persecution."
I did what I could to thrust these waverings resolutely behind me; but they refused to be altogether ousted from my brain; and so I made a compromise with myself: First, I would with the help that might be given me, destroy this wanton Phorenice, and regain the kingdom which had been given me to my own proper rule; and afterwards I would call a council of the Seven and council of the Three, and consider without prejudice if there was any matter in which our ancient ritual could be amended to suit the more modern requirements. But this should not be done till Phorenice was dead and I was firmly planted in her room. I would not be a party, even to myself, to any plan which smacked at all of surrender.
And there as I walked through the desolate groves and beside the cold altars, the High Gods were pleased to show Their approval of my scheme, and to give me opportunity to bind myself to it with a solemn oath and vow. At that moment, from His distant resting-place in the east, our Lord the Sun leaped up to begin another day. For long enough, from where I stood below the crest of the Mountain,
[paragraph continues] He himself would be invisible. But the great light of His glory spread far into the sky, and against it the Ark of the Mysteries loomed in black outline from the highest crag where it rested, lonely and terrible.
For any one unauthorized to go nearer than a thousand paces to this storehouse of the Highest Mysteries meant instant death. On that day when I was initiated as one of the Seven I had been permitted to go near and once press my lips against its ample curves; and the rank of my degree gave me the privilege to repeat that salute again once on each day when a new year was born. But what lay inside its great interior, and how it was entered, that was hidden from the Seven, even as it was from the other priests and the common people in the city below. Only those who had been raised to the sublime elevation of the Three had a knowledge of the dreadful powers which were stored within it.
I went down on my knees where I was, and Zaemon knelt beside me, and together we recited the prayers which had been said by the priests from the beginning of time, giving thanks to our great Lord that He has come to brighten another day. And then, with my eyes fixed on the black outline of the Ark of Mysteries I vowed that, come what might, I at least would be true servant of the High Gods to my life's end, and that my whole strength should be spent in restoring Their worship and glory.