The Moon Pool HTML version

Chapter 22. The Casting Of The Shadow
NOW we were racing down toward that last span whose ancientness had set it apart from
all the other soaring arches. The shell's speed slackened; we approached warily.
"We pass there?" asked O'Keefe.
The green dwarf nodded, pointing to the right where the bridge ended in a broad platform
held high upon two gigantic piers, between which ran a spur from the glistening road.
Platform and bridge were swarming with men-at-arms; they crowded the parapets,
looking down upon us curiously but with no evidence of hostility. Rador drew a deep
breath of relief.
"We don't have to break our way through, then?" There was disappointment in the
Irishman's voice.
"No use, Larree!" Smiling, Rador stopped the corial just beneath the arch and beside one
of the piers. "Now, listen well. They have had no warning, hence does Yolara still think
us on the way to the temple. This is the gateway of the Portal--and the gateway is closed
by the Shadow. Once I commanded here and I know its laws. This must I do-by craft
persuade Serku, the keeper of the gateway, to lift the Shadow; or raise it myself. And that
will be hard and it may well be that in the struggle life will be stripped of us all. Yet is it
better to die fighting than to dance with the Shining One!"
He swept the shell around the pier. Opened a wide plaza paved with the volcanic glass,
but black as that down which we had sped from the chamber of the Moon Pool. It shone
like a mirrored lakelet of jet; on each side of it arose what at first glance seemed towering
bulwarks of the same ebon obsidian; at second, revealed themselves as structures hewn
and set in place by men; polished faces pierced by dozens of high, narrow windows.
Down each facade a stairway fell, broken by small landings on which a door opened; they
dropped to a broad ledge of greyish stone edging the lip of this midnight pool and upon it
also fell two wide flights from either side of the bridge platform. Along all four stairways
the guards were ranged; and here and there against the ledge stood the shells --in a
curiously comforting resemblance to parked motors in our own world.
The sombre walls bulked high; curved and ended in two obelisked pillars from which,
like a tremendous curtain, stretched a barrier of that tenebrous gloom which, though
weightless as shadow itself, I now knew to be as impenetrable as the veil between life
and death. In this murk, unlike all others I had seen, I sensed movement, a quivering, a
tremor constant and rhythmic; not to be seen, yet caught by some subtle sense; as though
through it beat a swift pulse of --black light.
The green dwarf turned the corial slowly to the edge at the right; crept cautiously on
toward where, not more than a hundred feet from the barrier, a low, wide entrance opened