“Bothon” by Henry S. Whitehead with H.P. Lovecraft, part 5

A view of the end.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Bothon”

Henry S. Whitehead with H.P. Lovecraft

part 5

“We depart straight this night, for the great mountains of A-Wah-Ii,” answered Bothon, “if so be the four great forces allow us possession of a war chariot. And, to that end, your ring, my beloved.”

The Lady Ledda nodded again, understandingly, and removed from the middle finger of her right hand the ring of the two suns and the eight-pointed star which, as a member of the Royal Family, she was entitled to wear. Bothon received it, and slipped it upon the little finger of his right hand.

The sentinel on guard before the barracks of the officer commanding the military enclosure of the Aluvian supply-barracks, saluted the commanding looking Elton of the Legion of the Hawk who stepped down from the ornamented litter. The Elton addressed him in formal military phrases.

“Report at once to the Ka-Kalbo Netro, the arrival of the Elton Barko of the Legion of the Hawk, conveying a member of the Imperial household into exile. I am requisitioning one battle-chariot of capacity for two persons, and officer’s rations sufficient for fourteen days, together with the medicinal supply for a full kit-va of men. My authority, the Imperial Signet. Behold!”

The sentinel saluted the sun-and-star ring of the Emperor, repeated his orders like an efficient automaton, saluted the Elton of the Hawk Legion, and departed at the double to fetch the commandant, the Ka-Kalbo Netro.

The Ka-Kalbo arrived promptly in answer to this summons. He saluted the Imperial Signet, and, as a Ka-Kalbo outranked an Elton by one full grade, was punctiliously saluted according to military usage by the Elton Barko of the Legion of the Hawk, an officer whose personal acquaintance he had not previously made.

Within ten minutes, the Netvissa Ledda had been ceremoniously carried to and placed upon her seat in the commandeered battle-chariot, and the Elton Barko had taken his place beside her. Then, the dozen sweating mechanicians who had carried out their commandant’s orders in record time standing in a stiff, saluting row, the battle-chariot started off at a stiff gallop, the driver standing and plying his long thong with loud, snapping reports over the horses’ backs, while at the great chariot’s rear the spare-horse leader whistled continuously to the four relay animals which galloped behind.

The heights of A-Wah-Ii, to the northwest, gave some promise, in Bothon’s opinion, of security from the anciently predicted submersion of the continent. Those towering mountains would, at least, be among the last sections to sink, should the gas belts, hypothecated by the scientists of the mother continent, explode, and remove the underseas support of this great land of the globe’s most ancient and noble civilization.

Shortly after daybreak, and accurately, according to the map and careful explanations of the painstaking Ka-Kalbo Netro, the chariot paused in the centre of a great level table-land one quarter of the way to its destination. The country was utterly uninhabited. They were relatively safe here in a region only lightly visited by the earthquakes, and not at all by fire. The roar of the north wind troubled the Netvissa Ledda severely. Bothon barely noticed it. He was now convinced that he was losing his sense of hearing.

They ate and slept and resumed their journey at noon after a readjustment of the provisions and a change of the now rested animals.

Their four days’ journey steadily northwest was uneventful. The charioteer drove onward steadily. On the fourth day, as the coppery ball which was the smoking sun reached and touched a flat horizon, they caught their first view of the lofty summits of the A-Wah-Ii region, a goal of a possible immunity.

Dr. Cowlington, an anxious look on his face, was standing beside Meredith’s bed when he awakened in mid-morning. He had slept twenty hours. However, what the doctor thought of as his patient’s mental condition was so entirely normal, and his cheerfulness so pronounced after his protracted sleep, that Dr. Cowlington was reassured, and changed his mind about removing the bottle of sleeping medicine. Plainly, it had had an excellent effect on Meredith.

Stretched out in his usual quiet-inducing attitude on the davenport just before lunch, Meredith suddenly ceased reading and put down his magazine. It had occurred to him that he had heard none of the turmoil of Alu during that waking period. He sat up, puzzled. Bothon, he remembered, had been hearing the sounds about him only dimly, a strange, perhaps a significant, coincidence.

He felt the bruise behind his right ear. It was no longer even slightly painful to the touch. He pressed his finger-tips firmly against the place. The contusion was now barely perceptible to the sense of touch.

He reported the apparent loss of what the ear-specialist Gatefield had named his “clairaudience” to Dr. Cowlington after lunch.

“Your bruise is going down,” said the doctor significantly. He examined the posterior edge of Meredith’s right temporal area.

“I thought so,” remarked the doctor, nodding. “Your secondary ‘hearing’ began with that injury to your head. As it goes down, some obscure stimulation of the auditory apparatus, which accounts for your ability to hear those sounds, diminishes accordingly. You could probably hear only some stupendous sound from there now. And in a day or so, I predict that you will be hearing nothing more, and then you can go home!”

Within an hour came the “stupendous sound” in very truth. It broke in upon Meredith’s quiet reading once more as though someone had opened that sound-proof door.

A curious, secondary, mental vision accompanied it. It was as though Meredith, in his own proper person, yet through the strange connection of his personality with the General, Bothon, stood on the heights of Tharan-Yud, overlooking the stricken city of Alu. The utter fury of mountainous waves accompanied the now titanic rumblings of malignant earth, the wholesale crashing of the cyclopean masonry of Alu as the vast city crumbled and melted beneath his horrified eyes. With these hellish horrors went the wild roaring of ravaging flame, and the despairing, hysterical cacophony of Alu’s doomed millions.

Then there came, at last, a sound as of the veritable yawning of the nethermost watery gulf of earth, and the high sun itself was blotted out by a monstrous green wall of advancing death, and within the wall of water, visible for an instant, was the weird and horrible shadow of a giant with wings and malformed head. The sea rose up and fell upon accursed Alu, drowning forever the shrieks of utter despair, the piping and chittering of the obscurely gnawing Gyaa-Hau, distracted at last from their loathsome banquet–hissings, roarings, shriekings, whinings, tearings, seethings–a cacophony more than human ears might bear, a sight of utter devastation more onerous than man might look upon, and live.

There came to Meredith a merciful stupor, as the waters of Mu-Iadon closed in forever over the mother continent, and as his consciousness failed him, he emerged once more out of that quiet bedroom–away from his overlooking of the world’s major catastrophe, and as Bothon, walked beside the Lady Ledda along a wooded ravine in A-Wah-Ii, goal of safety, among laden fruit trees, yet not, it seemed, upon the towering heights of those noble mountains but upon an island about the shores of which rolled and roared a brown and viscid ocean choked with the mud which had been the soil of the mother continent.

“We are safe here, it would appear, my Bothon,” said the Netvissa Ledda. “Let us lie down and sleep, for I am very weary.”

And after watching for a little space while the Lady Ledda reclined and slept, Bothon lay down beside her and fell at once into the deep and dreamless slumber of utter physical exhaustion.

Meredith awakened on his davenport. The room was dark, and when he had risen, switched on the lights and looked at his watch, he found that it was four o’clock in the morning. He undressed and went to bed and awakened three hours later without having dreamed.

A world and an era had come to its cataclysmic end, and he had been witness of it.

The contusion on his head had disappeared, Dr. Cowlington observed later in the morning.

“I think you can go home now,” said the doctor, in his judicial manner. “But, by the way, Meredith, what, if you can remember, was the name of that ‘mother continent’ of yours?”

“We called it Mu,” said Meredith.

The doctor was silent for a while; then he nodded his head. “I thought so,” said he, gravely.

“Why?” Meredith asked.

“Because Smith called it that,” replied the doctor.

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