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SMITH, CLARK ASHTON –THE CHARNEL GOD in THE EMPEROR OF DREAMS. 2002. Fantasy Masterworks #26. Gollancz Books. 

 

Fantasy short story of intense power. Phariom, and his wife, Elaith, get themselves lost in a desert. As they find a small town in an oasis, Elaith collapses into a catatonic coma, which makes it, look as if she has died. Phariom is not too worried, as he has seen her do this before. He explains the situation to the medical experts in the town, which is called Zul-Bha-Sair. Unfortunately, the medics there declare her truly dead, refusing to listen to Phariom.  They insist that she be interred immediately in the temple of their carrion eating God, Mordiglion. Phariom protests and even reacts violently as the temple priests escort his wife to her final resting place, but he is powerless for now to prevent her fate. He does however decide to raid the temple to recover her sleeping body after dark, though he could be executed if the god who is said to reside within the temple does not devour him. Phariom’s raid coincides with plans by a trio of necromancers to raid the same temple at the same time and steal the corpse of a young woman who really has died. Phariom gets into the temple and he has just found the bodies of both his wife and the other girl when the evil grave robbers arrive. Phariom hides away as the necromancers raise both women from their eternal sleep. Phariom’s presence is now discovered, and he is involved in a fight to save his wife, Elaith, when the temple god himself intervenes. The god rekills the girl who was dead, but he recognises that Elaith was never dead anyway and respectfully allows Phariom to take her to safety. He then releases his priests, with faces like jackals, on the temple desecrators. Phariom hears their screams as he leaves the temple and the town for safer havens. A powerful, well told,  if rather unlikely little tale.   http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/s/clark-ashton-smith/

 

Arthur Chappell

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