Titus Crow and his faithful companion and record-keeper fight the gathering forces of darkness-the infamous and deadly Elder Gods of the works of H.P. Lovecraft. Cthulhu and his dark minions are bent on ruling the earth. A few puny humans cannot possibly stand against these otherworldly evil gods, yet time after time, Titus Crow drives the monsters …
The Call of Kthanid
De Marigny had first flown the time-clock two weeks earlier under Titus Crow’s expert tutelage. Now Crow was goneâ”back to Elysia and the incredible girl-goddess he loved there, Tianiaâ”and de Marigny had decided to follow him, alone.
Crow had done a marvelous job of instruction during the brief flights he had shared with his friend in the clock, and de Marigny was by no means lost in regard to controlling that fantastic machine. It was simply a matter of “meshing oneself” with the thing, so that the clock became an extension of its passenger’s body and mind, an extra limb or sixth senseâ¦or both.
Thus, while half the world slept and darkness covered the land, Henri-Laurent de Marigny set out to prove himself worthy of a new and higher life in Elysia; and he did so in the only way open to him, by pitting himself and his vessel against all the currents of space and time. The world, all unawares, dwindled behind him as he cruised out into the void in his strangely hybrid craft, his almost “human” machine, and a wild enthusiasm and exhilaration filled him as he piloted that vessel in the direction of Orion. Somewhere out thereâ”somewhere in the distant void, behind invisible hyperdimensional barriersâ”he knew that faerie Elysia waited for him, and it seemed only reasonable to de Marigny that since Elysia lay “adjacent” to Orion, that star should mark his starting point.
On one thing de Marigny had already and irreversibly made up his mind: though Titus Crow had told him that in the event of insurmountable difficulties he could always contact him through the clock, he would not do so unless his life itself were threatened. From what he knew of it there seemed to be only one way into Elysia for a creature not born to it, and that was the way of peril. Only those who deserve Elysia may ever enjoy her elder wonders, and de Marigny did not intend to be dependant upon Titus Crow for hisâ”birthright?
His birthright, yesâ”Elysia was his birthright, Crow had hinted as much. What was it his friend had said to him? “Lover of mysteries you are, Henri, as your father before you. And I’ll tell you something, something which you really ought to have guessed before now. There’s that in you that hearkens back into dim abysses of time, a spark whose fire burns still in Elysia. And one more thing you should know.
“Those places of fantasy and dream I’ve mentionedâ”they’re all as real and solid in their way as the very ground beneath your feet. The Lands of Dream, after all, are only dimensions lying parallel to the Worlds of Reality. Ah, but there are dreamers and there are dreamers, my friend, and your father was a great dreamer. He still isâ”for he is a Lord of Ilek-Vad, Counselor to his great friend Randolph Carter, who is himself a just and honored king!
“I intend to visit them there one day, in Ilek-Vad deep in Earth’s dreamland, and when I do you can be with meâ¦”
Musing on these things that Crow had told him, physically and emotionally weary now that the initial stage of his flight was successfully completed and the journey safely underway, de Marigny lay back and watched with his mind’s eyeâ”which was now a part of the time-clock’s equipment, a mental “scanner” of sortsâ”as the stars visibly moved in the inky blackness about him, so tremendous was the velocity of his craft as it hurtled through the airless, frozen deeps.
“As real and solid as the very ground beneath your feet,” Crow had said of dreams. Well, if Titus Crow said it was so, then it was so. And hadn’t Gerhard Schrach hinted much the same thing back in the thirties, and other great thinkers and philosophers before him? Certainly they had. De Marigny could remember Schrach’s very words on the subject:
“â¦My own dreams being particularly vivid and realâ”to such an extent that I never know for sure whether or not I am dreaming until I wake upâ”I would not like to argue which world is the more vital: the waking world or the world of dream. Certainly the waking world appears to be the more solidâ”but consider what science tells us about the atomic make-up of so-called solidsâ¦ and what are you left with?”
And with thoughts such as these swirling in his head, and the fascinating panoply of vasty voids sprinkled with a myriad jewels in his mind’s eye, de Marigny bade the clock speed on and drifted into a sleep; a sleep which seemed eagerly to open its arms to him, and one which was far from dreamless.
* * *
Beyond the slightest shadow of a doubt the slumbering de Marigny’s dreams were not natural ones, and but for his previous knowledge of Elysia, passed on to him through Titus Crowâ”particularly of the Hall of Crystal and Pearl, wherein Kthanid the Elder God Eminence had his seat in an inviolable sanctuary beneath a great glacierâ”certainly he must have considered himself the victim of a vilest nightmare. For the thing upon which he suddenly found himself gazing was a shape of primal horror, the blasphemous shape of Cthulhu himselfâ”except that it was not Cthulhu but Kthanid, and where the former was black as the pit the latter shone with the light of stars.
Thus, while his subconscious body hurtled through the star-voids within the spacetime-defying matrix of the great clock, de Marigny’s dreaming mind was present in that very Hall of Crystal and Pearl which Titus Crow had described to him in so much detail. And he saw that Crow had painted an almost perfect picture of that magnificently alien palace beneath the ice of Elysia’s “polar” regions.
Here was the massive high-arched ceiling, the Titan-paved floor of great hexagonal flags, the ornate columns rising to support high balconies which glowed partially hidden in rose-quartz mists and pearly hazes. And everywhere were the white, pink, and blood hues of crystal, strangely diffused in all those weird angles and proportions that Crow had spoken of. Even the hall’s centerpieceâ”the vast scarlet cushion with its huge, milky crystal ballâ”was just as Crow had described it. And of course, Kthanid was there, tooâ¦
Kthanid the Eminence, Elder God and cousin to Great Cthulhuâ”indeed of the same strain of cosmic spawn that bred the Lord of R’lyehâ”moved massively in the Cyclopean hall. His body was mountainous! And yet his folded-back, fantastic wings trembled in seeming agitation as Kthanid paced the enormous flags, his great octopoid head, with its proliferation of face-tentacles, turning this way and that in what was plainly consternation.
But for all that this Being was alien beyond words, what might easily have been horrific was in fact magnificent! For this great creature, bejeweled and glittering as though dusted with diamonds, stared out upon the hall through huge eyes that glowed like molten gold; eyes filled with compassion and loveâ”yes, and fearâ”almost impossible to imagine as existing within so terrible a fleshly house. And those eyes returned again and again to peer intently at the lustrous crystal upon its scarlet cushion.
It was because of Kthanid’s eyes that de Marigny knewâ”was certainâ”that there was nothing to fear here, and he knew too that this was much more than merely a dream. It was as if he had been called into the Elder God’s presence, and no sooner had this thought occurred to the dreamer than the Eminence turned and stared straight at him where his disembodied being “stood” invisible within the vast subterranean vault.
“Henri-Laurent de Marigny,” a rumbling but infinitely kindly voice spoke in the dreamer’s mind. “Man of Earth, is it you? Yes, I see that it is. You have answered my summons, which is good, for that was a test I had intended to set you beforeâ”beforeâ”” The mental voice faded into uncertain silence.
“Kthanid,” de Marigny spoke up, unsure as to how to address the mythical Being, “I see that you areâ¦distrubed. Why have you called me here? Has the trouble to do with Titus Crow?”
“With Titus, yes, and with Tiania, whom I love as a father. But come,” the great voice took on urgency, “look into the crystal and tell me what you see.”
Disembodied, nevertheless de Marigny found that he was capable of movement. He followed Kthanid to the edge of the great cushion, then moved on across its silken expanse to the center. There the huge, milky crystal ball reposed, its surface opaque and slowly mobile, as a reflection of dense clouds mirrored in a still lake.
“Look!” the Eminence commanded yet again, and slowly the milky clouds began to part, revealingâ¦
The dreaming de Marigny gazed upon a scene that filled him with icy dread, a scene he could understand even less than he could believe it. The crystal on its scarlet cushion now burned with red fires of its own, and dark shadows danced as flames leaped high above four hugely flaring, blackly-forged flambeaux. These torches stood at the corners of a raised dais or altar, atop which a great reddish massâ”a living, malignant jewel at least three feet acrossâ”pulsed evilly as it reflected the ruddy light of the torches. The thing seemed to be an impossibly vast ruby; and guarding it, patroling the round-cobbled square in which the dais stood, were several squat, strangely turbaned figures with awful wide-mouthed faces. At their belts these guardsmen wore viciously curving scimitars, and as they moved about the foot of the raised altar de Marigny saw that they paused occasionally to torment two ragged figures whose limbs were roped to irons hammered into the steps of the dais.
The horror and sick shock that de Marigny experienced had its source in these two figures; for one of them was certainly his great friend of olden adventures, Titus Crow, while the otherâ”ruddily illumined in the light of the flaring flambeaux, fantastically beautiful even in her present distressâ”must be the girl-goddess Tiania, late of Elysia. Then, as suddenly as it had come, while de Marigny tried desperately to commit all the vision’s details to memory, the milky clouds rolled back across the crystal’s surface and all was gone.
Away in the time-clock, still hurtling through the star-voids half a universe away in space and time, de Marigny’s recumbent form sweated, tossed and turned; while in the great Hall of Crystal and Pearl his disembodied subconscious turned imploringly to Kthanid the Eminence to ask: “But what does it mean? Where are they? And how did thisâ””
“Hold!” The great Being turned abruptly and for a moment his huge eyes were slits, glittering with something other than compassion or love. Kthanid was every inch a God, and de Marigny sensed that for a moment he had been very close to witnessing the release of awesome energies. The Elder God’s frustration was a living force that the dreamer felt as surely as his waking body would feel the warmth of sunlight or the chill of a bitter wind. Then the golden eyes blinked rapidly and Kthanid’s towering form trembled violently as he fought to bring his emotions under control.
“Hold, de Marigny,” the mental voice finally rumbled again, this time less forcefully, “and I will explain all. But understand that every wasted moment increases their perilâ¦”
Then the great voice seemed almost to become resigned, as if giving a telepathic shrug. “Still, what other way is there? I must tell you as much as I know, for of course you are their one hope of salvation. Indeed, you will be the instrument of that salvationâ”if you are able. Have you the strength, de Marigny? Are you the man Titus Crow believes you to be? Would you really presume to enter Elysia? I tell you now, I am not unjustâ”but I love those two. Bring them back to me, and I will welcome you to Elysia as a son. Fail me, andâ”” again the mental shrug, “and you remain a child of Earth all your daysâ”if you live through your ordeal!”
“Whatever needs to be done to help Titus Crowâ”yes, and his Tianiaâ”I’ll try to do it,” the dreamer fervently answered. “Wherever I need to go, I’ll go there.”
“You will need to do more than merely try, de Marigny, and indeed there is far to go. When I have told you all I am able to tell, then you must be on your wayâ”immediately.”
“And my destination?”
“Earth?” the dreamer gaped. “Butâ””
“Earth, yes, for your own homeworld is the only safe stepping-stone to your ultimate destination, to the place where even now Titus Crow and Tiania face unknown terrors.” For a brief moment Kthanid paused, then he turned his golden eyes in the dreaming de Marigny’s direction. “Obviously your mind is receptive to telepathic attraction, man of Earth, else I could not have called you here to Elysia. But tell me, can you dream? Can you truly dream?”
“Can I dream? Why, Iâ””
“Your father was a great dreamer.”
“Titus Crow has told me much the same thing, butâ”” de Marigny began, then paused as an astounding thought came to him. “Are you trying to tell me that Titus and Tiania areâ””
The great Being nodded: “Yes, they are trapped in Earth’s dreamworld, de Marigny. To find them, free them, and return them to Elysia unscathed, that is your quest. One man against all Earth’s dreamworldâ”which is also the land of her nightmares!”
book is an omnibus edition, consisting of The Clock of Dreams, copyright Â© 1978 by Brian Lumley.