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THE STORY OF SEAN THE FISHERMAN’S SON
I. THE COMING OF THE ENCHANTER
My father (said the youth) was a fisherman, and he lived on this Western Island. It may be that he is still living here. His name was Anluan, and he was very poor. My own name is Eean, and the event that begins my story took place when I was twice seven years of age.
My father and I had gone down to the shore of the Western Oman. He was fishing in the pools of the sea, and I was putting willow rods into the mouths of the fish caught so that I might carry them in my hands to the market that very day and sell them there. I looked out and saw a speck upon the water, a speck that came nearer. I kept watching it while my father dragged the pool with his net. The speck became a boat, and the boat came on without sails or oars. It was a shining boat, a boat of brass. I called to my father and my father straightened himself up and watched it. In the boat that came toward us of its own accord there was a man standing.
The boat came into the full water between the rocks, and then it sank down, this boat of brass, until its rim touched the water. It remained still as if anchored. The man who was in the prow of the boat stepped out on the sand between my father and me.
He looked a man of high degree — like a prince or a potentate. He had a dark face and a dark, curly beard, and he had eyes that were like hawks' eyes. He had on a straight coat of a blue material covered all over with curious figures, and in his hand he held a long polished staff that had the shape of two serpents twisting together. He looked at me and I was frightened of him, and I turned to my father. But my father was standing there, holding the fishing pole in his hands, his mouth open, gasping like one of the fishes upon the rocks.
The stranger looked me over again — looked me over from my feet to my head, and then he said to my father, "There is no need that he should do aught about these fishes. I have need of an apprentice, and it would be well for you both if he should come with me."
My father then found his voice, and he said, "If my son does not sell these fishes in the market to-day he cannot bring back the bag of meal for our household."
Said the man from the strange boat, "Bring me to your house and I shall put down gold for every copper that your son would get in the market."
My father made a sign to me to throw the fishes back into the water. This I did, but I did it fearfully. And then my father stepped out of the pool of the sea and he made a sign to the stranger to follow us. We walked from the seashore and up the path of the cliffs, and we went through the heather of the headlands, following the goat tracks till we came to the wattled house where we lived. The man from the strange boat followed my father, and I came last of all. And when I went in and stood on the floor of our house my heart was thumping within me at the thought of what was before.
And there was the pot boiling over the fire with a few green herbs in it. There was Saba, my mother, stirring the last handful of meal amongst the green herbs. And there were my brothers, all older than I, sitting by the fire, waiting for the herbs and the meal to be ready.
When my mother looked toward us she saw the man from the strange boat. She thought that some crime had been committed by me or my father to bring a man of such high degree amongst us. She and my brothers were greatly afraid, for they were poor, and those who were high were harsh to them. But the stranger spoke softly, saying, "Good fortune has come to you from the sea to-day." And when they all turned toward him he said, "I who am very knowledgeable will take your son with me as an apprentice, and I shall instruct him in arts and crafts and mysteries."
My mother said, "The boy is young, sir, and we thought he would be with us for a time longer."
But the man from the strange boat said, "I would not take him to instruct him in arts and crafts and mysteries if he were a day older than he is now." He said no more, but he went to the table and he laid down on it piece after piece of shining gold.
My father went to the table and held his hands around the gold. My mother looked on me who was just twice seven years old that day. I know she thought that she could never bear to part with me. But then she looked on her other sons, and she saw that they were men grown, and she thought they should have more to eat than the meal and the green herbs that were in the pot. She threw her arms around me and I knew it was a last clasp.
"He will have to go into far places to learn the arts and crafts and mysteries that I would teach him," the stranger said. "Will he ever come back to me?" cried my mother. "He will come back to you when his cunning baffles my cunning," was what the stranger said.
My father took the gold that was on the table and made it into a heap. My mother took her arms from around my neck, and my brothers kissed me farewell. Then the man from the strange boat opened the door of our wattled house and went out, and I followed him.
We did not go back to the place where he had left his boat of brass. We went to another place where there was a harbor with ships. There we found a ship ready to sail for Urth.
My master sent me on board to ask the captain if he would take us on a voyage beyond Urth. The captain said that if my master would guide them past the Magnetberg he would give him the ship to sail where he would after the cargo had been landed. My master said he would do this, and we went on board the ship. It was evening now, and a breeze came up, and the ship sailed away, bringing me from the place where I was born and reared and toward the strange countries that were beyond the rim of the sea. I asked one of the sailors what was the Magnetberg, and he told me that it was a mountain of loadstone that drew the iron out of ships that came near it and left them loosened timbers upon the water.
II. THE INACCESSIBLE ISLAND
You have heard me so far, O King. Know now that the one to whom I was apprenticed was an Enchanter. His name is Zabulun, and in all the world there are only three Enchanters more powerful than he. The first is Chiron the Centaur, who is half man and half horse, and who taught Achilles and made him the greatest of the princes who had gone against Troy. The second is Hermes Trismegistus, the wise Egyptian. And the third is Merlin the Enchanter, whose home is in an island that is west of your Western Island.
When the night came on, Zabulun took the steering gear into his hands, and he steered the ship by a star that he alone knew. When the morning came we saw on the sea all around us the masts and the spars and the timbers of ships that had come too near the Magnetberg, and that had lost their nails and bolts, and had become loosened timbers on the waters. Those on the ship were greatly afraid, and the captain walked up and down, pulling at his beard. The night came on, and again my master took the steering gear into his own hands and steered the ship by a star that he alone knew of. And when the morning came there were no masts and spars of ships, and no loosened timbers afloat on the waters. The captain laughed and made all on the ship rejoice that they had passed the dangerous neighborhood of the Magnetberg — that mountain of loadstone that drew the iron out of ships as a magnet draws pins on a table.
We came to Urth. The great cargo that was on the ship was for the King of Urth, and it was taken off and sent over the mountain to the King's city in packs that the sailors carried on their backs. Then the captain gave the ship over to my master to sail it where he would.
did not come upon the land nor did he look upon the country at all.
But when the last pack had been carried off the ship, he said to me:
"You will have to do this, my first command to you. Go on the
land. Stay by a pool that is
And I went on the land and came to the pool that was close to the forest. And there I saw the birds that were of the whiteness of swans, but smaller. I watched them for a while so that I might know their ways. Then I made a crib of rods and set it to catch the birds. One went under the crib, and I pulled the string and caught the first bird. And then, hours afterward, I caught another. And waiting and watching very carefully, I caught a third. The fourth bird was wary, and I feared I should not catch it, for night was coming down and the birds were making flocks to fly away. One remained near the crib, and its neck was stretched toward it. But then it shook its wings, and I thought it was going to fly to the others. It went under the crib. Then I pulled the string and caught the fourth bird.
I brought the birds to the ship and my master gave them grains to feed on. At night we sailed away. My master held the steering gear while it was dark, but when light came he gave it to me to hold. Then he unloosed one of the birds. It flew in the middle distance, winging slowly, and remaining a long time in sight. He told me to hold the course of the ship to the flight of the bird.
At night he took the steering gear again into his hands and held the ship on her course. In the daylight he unloosed another bird and bade me steer by its flight. And this was done for two more days.
The morning after the last of the white birds had been freed my master bade me look out for land. I saw something low upon the water. "It is the Inaccessible Island," said my master, "where I have my dwelling and my working place." He steered the ship to where the water flowed swiftly into a great cave that was like a dragon's mouth. In that cave there was a place for the mooring of ships. The Enchanter moored the ship in its place, and then he took me up the rocky landing place.
There was a flight of great steps leading from the landing place — it was in a cave as I have told you — up to the light of day. There were a thousand wide black steps in that flight. The Enchanter took into his hands the black staff that was shaped as two serpents twisting together, and he took me with him up the stairway.
We came out on a level place and I saw a high castle before me. There was no wall around the castle, and there was no gate to be opened. But when I came near it I found I could take no step onward. I went up, and I went down, and I tried to go onward, but I could not. Then Zabulun the Enchanter said to me:
"Around this castle of mine is a wall of air. No one can see the wall, but no one can pass it. And a bridge of air crosses my wall of air. Come now with me and I will take you over the bridge."
As the wall of air that went round the Enchanter's castle was not to be seen, neither was the bridge that went across the wall of air. But I saw my master mounting up and walking across as on a bridge. And although I saw nothing before me nor beneath me, I mounted upon something and walked across something. Following him I went downward and into the courtyard of the castle.
Within that courtyard there was a horse of brass with a giant man of brass upon it, the giant man holding a great bow in his hands. My master said to me, "If one came over the bridge of air without my authority, the arrow of that bow would be loosened, and he who came across the bridge would be slain by this giant man of brass." We went within the castle. In the hall were benches and tables, and there were statues holding torches in their hands standing by the wall. Also in that hall there was the statue of a woman holding a dart in her hand. When my master came within, the statue that held the dart flung it, and the dart struck a gleaming carbuncle that was in the wall. Lights came into the torches that the statues held, and all the hall was lighted up.
I sat with my master at a table, and the statues moved to us, bringing us wine and fruits. We ate and drank, and afterward a golden figure came to the Enchanter, and, sitting down before him, played a game of chess with him.
The next day my master showed me more of the wonders of the Inaccessible Island. No ships came near, for there was no way to come to that island except by following the birds that were of the whiteness of a swan and that flew always in the middle . distance. On this island Zabulun the Enchanter had lived for longer than the lifetimes of many men, studying magic and all the ways of enchantment. And for three years I, Eean, the son of the fisherman of the Western Island, stayed with him, learning such things as were proper for one apprenticed to an Enchanter to know.
III. THE ENCHANTER GOES TO BABYLON
In the three years that were passed in the Inaccessible Island, nothing that is worth my telling happened, O King. But at the end of the three years my master said to me, "We will leave the Inaccessible Island, for I have a mighty business before me." And when I asked, "Where do we go, O master?" he answered, "We go to Babylon."
And then, when it was the first day after the new moon, we descended the black stairway that led into the cave where the waters came. There we found a boat of brass that was like the boat that came to the Western Island on the day when my father and I were fishing in the pools of the sea. We went into that boat of brass, and it took us through the water, steering itself. We rested on lonely islands, and at last we came to a mainland, and there the Enchanter left the boat to sink beneath the water. As travelers then we went on. We came to a town, and there my master bought for himself and me the dresses of merchants. Then we came to the river that flows toward Babylon. Men go down the river in round boats that are made of rods woven together. In every boat a live ass is carried, and when the cargo is landed the boats are broken up, for they cannot go back against the current of the river. And the cargo is loaded on the ass and brought into the market in Babylon. And whatsoever the merchants buy in Babylon is loaded on the ass, and the ass is driven back over the mountains into the country that they came from, these men.
And in such boats we went down the river and came into Babylon. No city in the world is as mighty or as wonderful as Babylon. It has three hundred and sixty-five streets, and in every street there are three hundred and sixty-five palaces, and to every palace there are three hundred and sixty-five steps leading up to its door of gold and ebony. The streets when we came into them were thronged with mighty, black-bearded men. I was much in dread when I stood in those great streets, and looked on the mighty men who went through them.
In the center of the city were the palace and the wide-spreading gardens of the King. In those gardens, as my master told me, were one or two of all the beautiful or terrible animals of the world. Those gardens I will speak of again, O King, for it was within them that I came upon the danger that was greater than the danger that I am now in.
But first the Enchanter showed me that great wonder that was near the gardens — the Tower of Babylon. It was a red tower mounting very high into the air. Outside of it there were steps that went round it and to the very top of it — a thousand steps. And on the top of the tower, resting against the Spear of Nimrod, was the Magic Mirror of Babylon. Zabulun the Enchanter made me look to the top, and I was made fearful by looking so high.
Oh, that I might tell you, King Manus, of the wonders of the Tower of Babylon! In the shadow of it there slept two mighty ones — the two Genii who guarded Babylon, Harut and Marut they were named. Giant beings they were. As they slept there the beard of each was spread across his mighty chest, and it was a beard so broad that no horse of the mighty horses that the King owned could leap across it. Very great but very old were Harut and Marut, the Genii who guarded Babylon.
I was made fearful by looking to the top of the tower. And then I was made still more fearful by the words that Zabulun said to me. "We have come here," he said, "to steal the Magic Mirror of the Babylonians.
"It is there on the top of the tower," said the Enchanter, "resting against the Spear of Nimrod. One looking into that mirror sees all the Kings of the world. The one who threatens Babylon is shown with a spear raised in his hand. And if a King should bring an army against Babylon, the number of its men and the ways by which it comes would be shown in the mirror. The Babylonians, by means of this Magic Mirror of theirs, are always ready for their enemies, and because of this no King in all the world will venture to make war on Babylon.
"But we shall steal the mirror and make the Tower of Babylon fall. Know that I, Zabulun, was once a Prince of Babylon. They dishonored me, the men of Babylon, and drove me out of their city. And for that I shall make an end of their pride and an end of their security.
"Fear not. It will not be hard to steal the mirror and throw down the tower. Know that the King of the city is a foolish King, and that he cares only for his gardens and for the beautiful and terrible beasts that he can bring into them. And as for the Genii who guard Babylon — behold them! They are mighty beings, truly, Harut and Marut! Immeasurably old are they, and they pass their days in sleep beside the tower that they guard. I say to you that it will not be hard to overthrow the tower, and take away from the Babylonians the Magic Mirror that is their security."
As Zabulun spoke the terrible beasts in the King's gardens roared mightily, and Harut and Marut, the mighty beings who slept in the shadow of the Tower of Babylon, turned in their sleeping. The flocks of birds that had built nests in their beards (the oldest owl and the littlest humming bird were amongst them) flew up and rested on the steps of the tower.
The black-bearded men of Babylon passed in their throngs, while he who was once a prince in their city, and who was now Zabulun the Enchanter, stood there with his staff in his hands and smiling to himself. And I, Eean, The Boy Apprenticed to the Enchanter, felt as if I were falling, falling down from the top of the tower.
IV. THE PALACE OF THE KING OF BABYLON
And now at the supper board of King Manus those who were eating, or drinking, or whispering to each other as the youth began his story, became silent and eager when he spoke of Babylon and the Tower of Babylon. The King himself was fain to hear about that city that was the greatest in the world, and about the King who was the mightiest of all Kings, and he commanded the attendants to cease going here and there. So the servers and chamberlains and stewards, with the dishes, and napkins, and rods of office in their hands, stood still behind those who were seated at the table. The lords leaned forward with their eyes upon the youth who sat in the story-teller's place, and the King made a sign for him to tell on. But the youth Eean was speechless for a while. Such was the memory of the high Tower of Babylon upon him that had he been standing he would have fallen down. His head sank on the arm rest of the chair, and those near him who touched his hand felt it chilled. Then King Manus signed for a chamberlain to go to him, and he went and wiped Eean's brow with a napkin, and then brought him a goblet of the richest wine. He raised up his head and drank, and looked down the table, and saw the high candles that burned brightly, and saw the face of the King and the faces of the lords who sat with the King. But for a while his look was the look of a man whose spirit is in another place. He heard the words that were spoken around him — words that were about the King of Babylon, and the King of Babylon's palace. The youth caught at these words, and went on to speak of what befell him.
The walls of the King's palace (said Eean, The Boy Apprenticed to an Enchanter) make seven circles, one wall rising higher than the other, and each wall having a different color. The first wall is white, the second wall is black, and the third wall is scarlet; the fourth wall is blue, the fifth wall is orange, the sixth wall is plated with silver, and the seventh wall is plated with gold. I was filled with wonder when I looked on the walls of the King's palace.
The Enchanter that day had put on the dress of a merchant, but under it he had left his own garb — the straight dress that had the curious figures upon it. He took into his hand the staff that was made of two serpents twisting together, and he told me that the time had come to go to the palace and speak with the King.
At an early hour, before it was yet market time, we went through the streets of the city. The soldiers let us pass through the Gate of Brass along a way that has on each side great lions carved in stone. We came to the palace, and my master spoke to the doorkeepers and they permitted us to enter. We went through the outer courts where there were soldiers who carried naked swords in their hands. And because my master gave himself out to be a merchant from far-off parts, and because the King greatly desired to speak with those who came from far-off parts, we were brought into the presence of the King of Babylon.
He looked, O King Manus, like a King that was of a long line of Kings. His black beard was powdered with gold, and spices burned before him. But his face was white, and it was like to the face of a man in a dream. Only one person stood near him — a dwarf from the Country of the Dwarfs. He had on his head a crown of scarlet feathers.
When we came before him, and after we had bowed, the King looked upon us. He spoke to my master, and said, "What have you to sell, merchant?"
And my master, before he spoke, let fall his merchant's robe, and he showed himself in the straight garb that was covered with curious figures — the garb of a Magus it was.
"What I have to sell," he said, "is the meaning of dreams, O King."
And now, O King Manus, I have to tell of a cheat worked upon a King, and of a cheat worked by my master, Zabulun the Enchanter, upon the King of Babylon. Pretending to speak of the meaning of dreams he led the King to destruction, hoping thereby to encompass the destruction of Babylon.
The King turned to his ancient dwarf and he said, "Remind me of my dreams." And then the ancient dwarf said to the King, "Of the three dreams that seemed remarkable to you, O King, the first was the Dream of the Three Dishes."
"It is even so," said the King. "I dreamed that there were three dishes set before me, no more than three dishes. And then I dreamed that afterward these three dishes were hidden from me and were not to be found. There was no one to tell me the signification of this dream."
"The signification of this dream," said Zabulun the Enchanter cunningly, "is easy to discover. In the lore of the Chaldeans a dish signifies a treasure. You have dreamed of a threefold treasure that is hidden away."
But the dwarf who was beside the King spoke up and said, "Why does a dish signify a treasure?" "That is something I may not reveal," said my master, Zabulun the Enchanter, and he turned to the dwarf the staff that was formed of two serpents twisting together. The end of the staff lifted itself as though the serpents were rising up. The dwarf covered his eyes, and cried out, "O Magus!"
"Remind me of the second dream that was considered remarkable," said the King. And the dwarf said, "The second dream was the Dream of the Laden Ass."
"It is even so," said the King. "I dreamed that I looked down the Way of the Lions, and there came along the way a laden ass. Of that dream also those skilled in the signification of dreams could tell me nothing."
"And yet the dream is plain," said the Enchanter, looking full into the eyes of the King. "A laden ass signifies a treasure found — your dream is of a treasure being brought into your palace."
"It is so," said the ancient dwarf with the crown of scarlet feathers upon his head. "In dreams an ass is always laden with treasure."
"And what was my third dream?" said the King.
"Your third dream," said the ancient dwarf, "was the Dream of the Arrows."
"It is even so," said the King. "I dreamed of arrows that were shot upward to a great height."
And then the King was silent, and he and the dwarf looked long upon Zabulun the Enchanter. But Zabulun took a step nearer to them, and he said:
"In the lore of the Chaldeans, arrows shot upward signify a very high tower. I can tell you now the significance of your three dreams, O King. They are of a treasure that is to come into your possession. The treasure is hidden. It is hidden beneath a tower. The height to which the arrows were shot shows that the treasure is hidden under the highest of towers — under the Tower of Babylon."
At the mention of the Tower of Babylon, O King of the Western Island, a great fear came over me, for I knew that it was now that Zabulun's plan for the taking of the Magic Mirror was being put into practice. And it seemed to me that fear came over the ancient dwarf too, for he fell down upon his face. But rage grew in the King, and his black brows drew together in a frown.
"Are you one who would have the King make search for treasure beneath the Tower of Babylon?" he cried out.
"No search need be made there," said Zabulun the Enchanter. "And yet if the King should dream of treasure again it is proper that he should sacrifice a black cock upon the place where the treasure has been shown to be hidden. If that be done the dream will be banished and will come to the King no more. I speak as a Magus. But now I have shown you the meaning of the three dreams, and there is no more to be shown." And saying this the Enchanter put the garb of a merchant over the robe of the Magus. A cup was handed to him and a cup was handed to me also. This was to signify to us that our speech with the King was at an end. There was wine in our cups, but bitterness had been mixed with the wine, to signify that what had been told the King was not pleasing to him.
We went from the presence of the King, and when we were far outside the palace my master said to me:
"It will come about that the King will search for the treasure that I have put into his dreams. Moreover, he will speak to others of this treasure, and they, too, will search for it. It will come about that these many searchers, digging for the treasure, will break upon the foundations of the Tower of Babylon. Thereupon I will take the Magic Mirror and make myself the master of the Babylonians."
This he said to me as I went with him from the King's palace along the Way of the Lions. I was affrighted, and it seemed to me that the lions that were in stone looked ragefully down on us as we passed.
V. THE KING OF BABYLON
We lived for a whole moon in Babylon, my master Zabulun and I, before the danger that was greater than the danger that is upon me now showed itself to me. Just before the hour of the market we would go through the streets of the city and toward the great market place. Throngs of people would be there, gathered together for buying or selling, or for talk of the happenings of the day before. My master would take me to a shady place, and we would sit there, resting or refreshing ourselves with draughts of the wine of the palm.
And Zabulun would tell me that the King we had spoken with was the most foolish King who had ever ruled over Babylon. "Great and terrible he seems when he sits upon his throne in his palace," Zabulun would say, "but for all that he is foolish, and he delights more to come into the market and hear the talk of strangers than to sit in his council chamber."
Again and again Zabulun would speak of the King, and he would say: "Often he comes here, and he sits in the market place and talks with all comers, which is against the customs of the Kings of Babylon. We will see him come here, and we will watch him do what is reported of him."
Seated in the market in a shady place I would watch the throngs that moved about there. I saw the merchants who had come down the river in such round boats as we had voyaged in. They brought casks of the wine of the palm to the market. And I saw those who had come from Arabia with spices, and my master would tell me how these spices had been gathered. Some had frankincense that grows on trees that are guarded by winged serpents. Only with smoke of burning styrax could they drive the serpents from the trees. And others had cassia that is found in a shallow lake guarded by fierce, bat-like creatures. To gather it men have to cover themselves all over with the hides of cattle, leaving openings for their eyes only. And there are the merchants who have the ladanum that settles on low bushes, and that sticks to the beards of he-goats that go amongst the bushes. Others have the cinnamon that is used by birds to build their nests against high cliffs. Men cannot climb these cliffs to gather the sticks of cinnamon, but they make the birds bring into their nests such weights as break the nests down and so strew on the ground the sticks of cinnamon. They slaughter cattle under the cliffs, and the birds fly into their nests with great pieces of the meat, and the weight of these pieces of meat breaks down the nests. And so men gather cinnamon in Arabia.
And one day my master showed me the King of Babylon as he came into the market place.
He wore a black cloak that had only one stripe of purple in it, and a boy went beside him holding an Indian hound in a leash. Having come into the market the King seated himself in a special place, and he drank wine and ate honey cakes, and talked with the strangers that were brought before him, and let himself be gaped at by throngs of people. And then, from one to another of those who were around him, my master and I heard it said, "The King, surely, has had remarkable dreams."
In three days my master was sent for by the King, and he came into the palace again bringing me with him, and he was saluted as a Magus. The King's dreams were told to him. The first dream was of a drinking cup that blazed with fire, and the second dream was of a ram-headed man with golden horns, and the third dream was of a soldier in a black cloak. All those dreams, according to those in the palace who considered dreams, were of a treasure. Zabulun, my master, agreed that assuredly they were of a treasure, knowing that whatever the King dreamed of after he had put the thought of a treasure into the minds of those in the palace would be thought to be of that and of nothing else.
Then speaking as a Magus he told them that the blazing fire of the drinking cup, the golden horns on the ram-headed man, and the blackness of the soldier's cloak all signified the Tower of Babylon. The King and the ancient dwarf became very silent when my master spoke of the tower. It was then that the Enchanter took the staff that was made of two serpents twisting together into his right hand, and declared that in order to make the dream of the tower cease to trouble him, the King should sacrifice a black cock in the lowest place of the tower.
Wine was brought us then, and my master and I drank, and this time no bitterness had been put into the wine. We were given permission to go, and we went from the palace.
As for the King and the ancient dwarf who was with him, they took horses and they rode to the Tower of Babylon, the dwarf bringing with him a black cock for the sacrifice. Harut and Marut, the sleeping guardians of Babylon, they looked on, but they went past them and within the tower. In the lowest place in the tower they made preparations for the sacrifice of the black cock.
Zabulun and I sat in the market place and waited, for my master said to me, "That which happens to the King, no matter how great it may be, he will speak of it in the market. We shall wait here and see if the King will come here on his way back from the tower."
So in the market place we sat, my master and I. And in the tower the King and the ancient dwarf took the black cock and fastened him by a leg to a ring that was in a very light board in the floor. The cock, fluttering upward, lifted the board. Looking down they saw a chamber beneath. They went down into that chamber, the King and the ancient dwarf, and behold! they found in it a treasure of silver pieces, each piece marked with the mark of a King of the old times in Babylon.
Soon Zabulun, seated in the shade in the market place, showed me the King and the ancient dwarf as they came amongst the throng. The King seated himself in his special place and drank wine and ate cakes of honey. My master, watching him from afar, knew that he talked about the treasure he had found. For the dwarf who went with him opened a leather bag and showed certain pieces that made those around them gape in wonder.
Not long were the King and the ancient dwarf there before the Hour of the Market came to its close. Those in the market left and went to their homes. My master and I likewise departed. But those who had listened to the King brought with them the memory of the wonder they had been told about. A treasure was hidden beneath the tower — that was the thought that now possessed every one. And when dusk had fallen upon the city companies of men made their way toward the tower, carrying with them spades and mattocks. The next day, when the King came with the ancient dwarf, he found that all around the tower, and all around the place where Harut and Marut slept, trenches and holes had been dug.
He himself, with a company of men, went down into the lower chamber where the treasure of silver pieces had been found, and there they began to delve. The King found no treasure that day.
When he came out of the lower chamber he found many around the tower digging and delving. He forbade them to do this, and he set guards around the tower. But in the night those who were set to guard the tower began to delve.
The digging and delving within and around the tower went on in secret as well as openly. My master took me to show me what was being done. "Foolish is the King, and foolish are the people of Babylon," he said. "What I have told you will befall them. Very soon they will strike at the foundations of the tower, and the tower will stand no more. Then will I take to myself the Magic Mirror, and make myself the master of the Babylonians."
VI. THE GENII WHO GUARDED BABYLON
O King of the Western Island (said Eean, The Boy Apprenticed to an Enchanter), I was there in Babylon for the whole of a moon before the danger that was greater than my present danger overtook me. Often Zabulun, my master, went to the palace of the King, bringing me with him. And the King would now receive us in his cool chamber, and he would permit my master to seat himself on a purple cushion in his presence. The King would ask him about the ways of governing a kingdom, or he would tell him of his wonderful gardens, and of the strange and terrible beasts he had there. Or else he would talk about a mighty treasure that was to be found, and of the beasts he would buy for his gardens when that treasure came into his hands. Zabulun would tell the King of beasts he had seen or heard of — of the aurochs with its mighty horns, of the unicorn that was so white and so swift, of the satyr that is so marvelous that no one knew whether it was a wonderful beast or a wild man. And often, as they sat there talking, the King would have his servants stir up the beasts in his gardens so that their roarings might be heard by those in the palace.
Over the King and the King's ancient dwarf there had come a change, I thought. For the dwarf with the crown of crimson feathers on his head would stand silent before the throne, silent even though the King spoke to him, silent as if listening to the sound that the spades and mattocks made on the ground around the Tower of Babylon. And the King no longer had the look of a ruler on his face, but had the look of a watcher and a waiter. There had come a change over my master also. Zabulun the Enchanter had eyes like yellow lamps, and they had become wider and more gleaming as the digging and delving around the Tower of Babylon went on. I could see his eyes widening in the dark when I could hardly see his face. And I began to have a great fear of Zabulun, even though he was kind to me, and had taught me many things.
And now I come to the day when that danger beset me that was greater than my present danger. That morning I had walked in the King's gardens with Zabulun, my master. I saw the great palm trees that grew there. So high and so shapely they grew that I was made to think again of the Tower of Babylon, and I was shaken by my thought. I looked along the great avenue of palms, and I saw down to the lake where the King's blue herons flew. And from the lake coming toward us I saw a young girl. She had laid the long blue feathers of the heron across her breast, and I saw her white forehead and her white knees, for her dress was the dress of a woman of the mountains. But she, seeing Zabulun and I, sprang as a young deer springs, and went amongst the palm trees. I kept thinking of that girl, and how free she was, and how no terror of a falling tower beset her as she went by the lake where the King's blue herons flew or rested.
Again Zabulun, my master, sat in the King's presence, and the ancient dwarf and I attended on them. The dwarf's head hung down where he stood, and he muttered. The King's voice was low when he spoke, but Zabulun spoke loudly. Also his yellow eyes shone as he twisted around his finger a purple strip that had been torn off the King's robe.
And suddenly there came the mighty roaring of beasts in the King's gardens. The dwarf looked at the King, and the King spoke to the dwarf, and there was astonishment on both their countenances, for no command had been given to have the beasts stirred up. The King rose from where he sat and went to the doorway. I, too, saw what he saw. The doorkeepers, and even the soldiers who had naked swords in their hands, were fleeing as before some terror. The King shouted his commands, but no one heeded them. I looked upon the King, and the King's wrath was terrible to behold.
And then I saw the King himself draw back in fear. What was it that approached? I, too, looked, and there, O King Manus, as I declare to you, I saw Harut and Marut, the giant guardians of Babylon, come through the outer courts and toward the chamber where the King stood.
They were naked but for their great beards and their flowing hair. They came with great strides, but their heads and their hands were swaying about like the heads and hands of men suddenly waked out of a deep slumber. The ancient dwarf saw them approach, and he screamed out and fled.
The King went out of the chamber and into the hall where the great pillars were. I called to my master, and he arose from the cushions where he sat, and he looked upon the two who came nearer. Along the line of the pillars Harut and Marut came, but Zabulun the Enchanter looked upon them without fear.
The King fell upon his knees as they came near him. My master's face did not become fearful, but he, too, went down on his knees as if powerful and unseen hands had forced him down. His eyes did not lose their look of scorn, but he knelt even as the King knelt. The King and the Enchanter were both Princes of Babylon, and when Harut and Marut showed themselves in their might, there was that within them that forced them to sink down on their knees.
And nearer and nearer Harut and Marut came, their heads swaying about and their arms hanging down. Nearer and nearer they drew. They touched the head of the King, and the King lay prone on the ground as though the life had left him. They came to where Zabulun the Enchanter knelt. But not on Zabulun's head did they lay their hands. They took him by the arms and they held him. Turning around they dragged him along the line of the pillars. I saw him being drawn across the outer court and through one of the great doorways of the King's palace.
And then it seemed that I was the only one left in the palace of the Kings of Babylon. The King did not stir where he lay prone, and the dwarf did not return, and the doorkeepers did not show themselves any more. I ran from the chamber, and out through one of the great doors, and into a place where branches of trees seemed to shield me from the terror that had fallen upon the palace. And I did not know then that I was running from terror clear into the mouth of danger.
For dire things had happened outside as well as within the palace of the King. The beasts that were in the gardens had broken out of their pits and their cages. I saw the beasts and I felt them all around me. I saw the hippopotami as they lay with their backs against the crimson wall of the palace. I saw the zebras stamp between the yellow wall and the blue wall, and ostriches run between the black and the white walls. And when I looked back from where I was in the gardens I saw monkeys climb on the golden and silver walls, frightened by the lions that went roaring through the courts of the palace. I ran on and on, down the great avenue of palms and toward the lake where the King's blue herons flew or rested.
I ran on. But I had gone aside from the avenue of the palms, seeing a great buffalo that stood in my way. Something caught at my feet as I ran on the clear ground, and being pitched I fell into a deep pit. I lay there, and I looked to the sky, and I saw that the pit narrowed to the top, and for that reason was hard to climb out of. It was higher again by my own height, as I saw when I stood upward thinking of a way that might get me out.
But then there came a sound that made me look downward, a hissing sound. And when I looked down I saw into what place I had fallen — into the Pit of the Serpent. In the shadow of the pit there was a dreadful snake. It was still in its coils, but its head was raised, and it was swaying toward me.
Then, O King of the Western Island, I was in a danger greater than I am in now. This snake was mighty enough to crush a man, and from that pit there was no escape without help, and at that moment there was no help. The snake raised itself higher, and its eyes fastened my eyes. Judge, then, of my danger, and whether it was not greater than the danger I am in now as I sit here with the gleam of the slaying sword before my eyes.
And then I heard a whisper that seemed to come to me from the sky. I drew my eyes from the snake's eyes and I looked to the top of the pit. One was bending from the opening — a girl, and she had in her hands a little drum. She began to beat on the drum, and the snake's head that was swaying toward me began to sway sideways. The girl beat again on the drum, and the snake's head swayed and swayed and went down upon its coils. At last the dreadful head was at rest, and the eyes of the snake no longer fastened themselves upon my eyes.
The girl who stood above the pit put down a board for me to climb up by. I climbed, and I stood outside the pit, and I looked upon the girl, and I saw the blue heron's feathers laid across her breast. Then I sank down on the ground, and for a while I knew no more of the world's happenings.
VII. AGAIN THE HORSES OF KING MANUS
It was as if the eyes of the snake were still upon him. Eean stopped in his story, and his eyes were wide as if they looked upon a terrible thing. One of the servers brought him a cup of wine and placed it in his hands, but although he kept his fingers around it, he did not raise it to his lips.
Nor did he appear to hear what was being said around the King's supper table: "A great danger the boy was in, truly." "The danger he is in now is not as great as the danger he has told us of." "We must hear the end of this story." "It seems that he is too fearful to tell us any more." This last speech came to the ears of King Manus. "Be not so fearful, boy," said the King. "You have been in a greater danger than ever I heard a man speak of, and by my sword, you are in less danger now than you were then. Drink the wine that is in it and keep the cup you have for a remembrance. I would have you at your ease, too, for we will sit here and listen to the rest of your story."
When the King said this the lords who were sitting around the supper board applauded, and then the stewards signed to the attendants to bring more lights in. Fresh candles were put upon the board, and fresh torches were put into the sconces, and fresh logs were put upon the hearth. When all this was done the King and his lords turned their faces to Eean, for they were ready to listen to the rest of the story. But the boy had not seated himself in the story-teller's chair: still he was standing with the wine cup between his hands, and still his eyes were widened as if a terrible thing was before him.
It was then, as they were waiting for him to begin, that the neigh of a horse was heard again. It was a very shrill neigh, and every one in the supper hall was startled by it. Out they rushed, King and lords, stewards, servers, and attendants, and they neither stopped nor stayed until they came before the King's great stable. Then they could hardly believe what their eyes looked upon: the iron door of the stable was open wide; the watchers were there, but their heads were bent in sleep and their swords were upon the ground. Through the open door of the stable came the whinnyings and the plungings and the tramplings of a horse. Quickly they went into the stable. There, by the light of the torches that the attendants held, they saw the white horse and the red horse still in their stalls, but the black horse they saw rearing above a figure that was prone upon the ground.
The blaze of their torches made the black horse swerve so that his hoofs did not come down upon the figure that was upon the stable floor. The horse was taken hold of and put back into his stall. Then the attendants raised up the one who was upon the ground. "Another one come to steal my horses," cried King Manus. "Well, this one shall pay the penalty that the other has been delivered from."
They took up the one who was on the floor of the stable. They locked the stable door again and they put a double watch before it. They brought the one whom they had taken into the supper hall; a lad, younger even than Eean, this second robber seemed.
Eean was standing by the story-teller's seat as they came into the supper hall. Looking upon the one they brought in he cried out in the voice of the heart-broken, "O Bird-of-Gold, why didst thou peril thyself by staying here? Too faithful to me thou hast been!" Hearing this speech, all looked on the one who was called Bird-of-Gold: it was then that they saw they had taken, not a youth as they had supposed, but a young girl whose dress was a youth's dress.
In the light of the torches and candles they looked at her wonderingly. She had knitted brows and heavy eyelids that gave to her face the look of one who ponders deeply. And there was such fire behind the depths of her eyes that it seemed as if her thought was always burning. But her lips were colorless and her cheeks were thin and sunken; her hair and her eyes and her eyebrows were dead black. And when they went to bind her as they had bound Eean they saw that her hands were finely shaped and yet strong and hard.
"Who is she?" said King Manus.
"I have told you of her," said Eean. "This is she who found me in the Pit of the Serpent and who drew me away from the venom of the snake."
There was silence for a while, and then the King said, "The chance that was given you shall be given her also. If she can show us that she was in a danger greater than the danger she is in now her life shall not be taken. If she cannot show that she shall be slain by the sword on tomorrow's sunrise."
At that some of the trouble that was on Eean's face seemed to leave it. He cried out, "O Bird-of-Gold, tell the King the story of your adventures from the beginning. Bethink thee, Bird-of-Gold, of the terrible things you have gone through and speak to the King and the lords of them. This King is very generous, and you may win our lives from him."
The girl who was called Bird-of-Gold turned to the King her face that seemed to him to be like the face of a slave and a victorious warrior. Her hands were bound before her and her black hair fell over her breast. Like one who was ever ready in deed and word, as soon as King Manus made a gesture, she began: