Part eleven of The Archives of the Moon
by Robert Gibson
“Liugk, and people of Xaxepp, listen to me. I will give you the formula which – if you are worthy of the chance – will give you victory over Klapatt and all the other powers of Urom.
“In return for this favour, you will cross the void to Yyu as speedily as possible, to earn your reward – namely, participation in my victory over the other gods!
“The formula for the super-fuel, for which your industrialists have sought in vain, is – XONOHCAHAH – ” shouted Dzhaoo, and the gibberish was doom-laden, a word of fateful meaning for the chemists of Xaxepp. (Royden’s vision undulated as if warped by heat-rippled air, under pressure of the contempt embodied in the narrative: the plodding, stinking, meddlesome, utilitarian chemists of Xaxepp... the accompanying emotion distorting the tale as ink runs under floods of tears.)
The formula that would make space-travel possible had long been known to the Yyr, but had not been widely used by them. If any neighbouring destination had had a low enough gravity for beings of Selenite build, they might have essayed the great adventure, but Fate had not been kind in this respect; the closest suitable worlds were the asteroids, too many millions of miles away. So they lacked a stepping-stone to tempt them across the great gulf.
By contrast, the Uromians were under no such restraint! If they had the means, they might easily come to Yyu. They were ready, they had the rockets and the confidence – they had only lacked a safe and effective fuel.
Presently, while Atth awaited invasion from Palabaraz, there came a spate of reports from the observatories of all Yyr nations which maintained a watch upon Urom.
Skipping from one impression to another, the narrative showed Royden the puffs of flame emanating from the larger world; notes taken by anxious observatory staff; then, with brutal rapidity, the arrival of the Uromian rocketships upon Yyu, causing terror in witnesses who flew to the nearest cities bearing garbled accounts of swart behemoths, prodigious colossi with caterpillar treads, and tentacle towers of metal which emerged from the prone transports.
The reader was unsure of the time-scale of these happenings. The narrative had become disjointed chronologically. Snippets of vision were pressed into service to create an irresistible picture of events succeeding one another with dire inevitability, illustrating the judgement being passed by the author: the nemesis of ambition which overtook Dzhaoo, and Vaphru, and the whole of Atth, as well as the invading Uromians. Direr still was the verdict of history awarded to Yyu as a whole, as a consequence of its long interference with Uromian life.
The city of Atth was invested and overthrown by Pihinxin’s forces before its space-faring devotees could arrive to save it. The waxen walls were broken, the tall cone levelled and much of the swarm annihilated. In the long days which followed, Dhzaoo, Vaphru and their surviving followers hid in the forests of their former domain. They heard, in eagerness not unmingled with horror, of the vengeance wrought by their allies from Xaxepp upon one of the swarms which had followed Pihinxin – namely, the city of Tchoorm, ally of Palabaraz.
Tchoorm stood in the path of the Uromian invaders, who, after discovering that they were too late to save Atth, marched across Yyu towards Palabaraz in the belief that they were bound to avenge their god.
The Tchoormis sighted their foes – in the form of moving ramparts and fortalices, ramified with metal limbs and occasionally revealing, behind the lucite windows which were the litten eyes of these jointed monsters, the shaggy forms of their Uromian controllers. Some of the Yyr flew bravely at them, and immolated themselves uselessly in the fire which spurted from lethal heat-tubes, or were knocked out of the sky by metal tentacles. Other members of the Tchoormi swarm remained immured in their city during the brief siege, and perished in the conflagrant ruin of its overthrow. The beetling invaders, having hurled fire and rock at the doomed city, clambered over its final wrack, stepping among the cumuli of toppled remnants interstewn with oleaginous pools.
The scene of this calamity blazed in the reader’s vision with an unspeakable abstract anguish, so that Royden the reader suffered almost as if he personally had been a victim of the sack of Tchoorm. But the narrative of this war could not continue for much longer before its subsequent confusions somewhat undermined the author’s emotional certainties.
No sooner had the vanquishers of Tchoorm surmounted the debris of their victim, than an unlooked-for menace appeared on the horizon. Uromians were about to fight Uromians. The approaching colossi were not reinforcements from Xaxepp: they formed a contingent from Klapatt, Xaxepp’s rival, come to defend Palabaraz.
Bewildering and prolonged was the conflict which ensued, especially for the reader who had no control over the narrative’s jerkiness. The various Uromian contingents lashed out at one another, in battle at Tchoorm and elsewhere, not fully aware of their own strength as they spread havoc over the face of Yyu, and still fighting for their supposed gods rather than for themselves. A naive people, who for all their mechanical skill possessed limited imagination, the shaggy giants did not fully understand or release the typhonic forces which could have made them masters of their world’s satellite. Instead, they remained subordinate to their various Yyr rulers who, after a long period of unpleasant chaos, managed to discipline and control the clanking cohorts at last.
After a historical age had passed the Uromians upon Yyu died away, leaving no successors; and no reinforcements arrived from their home world. The reasons for this decline in importance were unclear to Royden. The narrative vistas had become somehow slurred, as if soon after the destruction of Tchoorm the author had lost interest in the tale, or had become too disheartened to continue it in the same detail as before.
At length it became apparent to the reader that the civilization of Yyu had evolved through change to attain a new stability, under a different and perhaps better set of conditions; while the pessimistic assumptions with which the author had imbued the narrative were now seen to be unwarranted. Dzhaoo was remembered after his lifetime not as a traitor but as an ambiguous villain/hero, a channel for historical forces.
The author’s disapproval could not alter this fact: that the legacy of Dzhaoo was a culture in which the Yyr swarms had (in the long term) absorbed strength from the Uromian influx. The science, history and sociology of Yyu after the invasions reveal ed an unarguable enhancement of vigour.
From the horned crags of either pole to the equatorial lands ran the fibrous threads of the half-vegetable, half-mineral growths developed by Yyr savants as part of a great compromise between animate and inanimate strengths; a project inspired by the wartime mixture of Yyr and Uromian skills. Webs of electromagnetic force enclosed the globe and thrummed new life into dormant cities, while semi-organic mechanical servants were designed to repair damage and improve upon the buildings of former times, often using materials which the Uromians had left behind. The swarms meanwhile awakened into that democratic awareness which Dzhaoo had foretold; an awareness hastened by the war he had caused. Colour and vitality burgeoned everywhere; gorgeous and sumptuous were the artistic achievements; ethereally subtle the social harmonies of the Yyr, blending the old wisdom of the swarms with the new individuality. Even space-travel was eventually achieved, when new propulsive forces were developed which could drive Yyr ships as far as the asteroids and the outer planets’ moons. The inhabitants of Zdakash (Mars), Nuzhryven (Venus) and Valeddom (Mercury), as well as those of Urom, acknowledged the paramountcy of the Yyr, whose savants orbited their worlds, and for a while there was an Empire of Yyr which embraced most of the Solar System in a voluntary and prosperous union.
And yet the reactionary author, who at this point in the tale revealed himself to be Nurphazz of Tchoorm, maintained a constant aversion to the acts of Dzhaoo – the revolutionist who, long dead, was now venerated and respected by almost all the Yyr.
The narrative now reached Nurphazz’s own time, about eighteen thousand years after the Uromian invasions. The authorial frown returned to the words of the story, as a sudden cloud casts a shadow over a sunlit scene.
The moment had come for Nurphazz to append his own experiences – in an attempt to show that beneath the brilliant surface of vitality and felicity, a bane lurked in readiness for the destruction of the Yyr.