SMITH, CLARK ASHTON – THE DARK EIDOLON in THE EMPEROR OF DREAMS. 2002. Fantasy Masterworks #26. Gollancz Books. A powerful fantasy story of epic proportions, despite its short length.
When Imperial ruler Zotulla fails to give alms to a young beggar, Namirrha, but later rides him down in his eagerness to pass by, he has no idea how embittered the beggar will become. Years later, Namirrha has become a notorious powerful sorcerer, and he returns to his homeland seeking a spectacular revenge. One day Zotulla discovers that a new city has sprung up in the desert right beside his own. His warriors are afraid to investigate it, especially when ghostly horses hooves ride around Zotulla’s palace many times. Giant skeletal warriors are seen at Namirrha’s palace. Many of Zotulla’s servants hide, and though he boasts of taking action, Zotulla is Cleary too afraid to act. Then one day, he receives a summons to a banquet feast at Namirrha’s citadel. While he contemplates taking flight, Zotulla finds himself, and all of his hidden servants summoned by a hypnotic call, and they march to the feast laid on by his mortal enemy. Among the dead guests dining there are people Zotulla had assassinated in his rise to office. The food is all poisonous. The dancing involves the skeletons dancing on Zotulla’s now tied up and bound servants until they are crushed like grapes under the feet of the creatures leaping about over them. As an alternative to a firework display, Namirrha destroys Zotulla’s city by making the clouds into giant monsters, which crush the buildings. Namirrha now poisons both himself and Zotulla, so that both men are reduced to disembodied ghosts. Still his vengeful torment is not finished. Zotulla’s ghost is ordered to get into a giant statue, the Dark Eidolon of the title of the story, where he is told that he will be imprisoned, looking out but not free to escape. From there he watches helplessly as the ghost of his enemy takes on a demonic steed-shape and rapes the lover of Zotulla before his helpless eyes. Zotulla now gets an unexpected chance to get is own revenge. The statue contains the spirit of another enemy of Namirrha. This powerful sorcerer allows Zotulla to bring the statue to life, and with its weaponry, he gets an anger and courage that was always lacking before. He takes the fight back to Namirrha. The characters die in mutual blood lust and madness as the city is trampled to dust as Namirrha had done to its once proud neighbour.
Few novels pack as much spectacle and incident as this short story manage. Filming it would require a truly astronomical budget. . http://www.fantasticfiction.co.uk/s/clark-ashton-smith/
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