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The Incubus of Atlantis
(The History of Klarkash-Ton the Hierophant)
By Robert M. Price
It is said that the great arch-wizard Eibon, heretical proponent of the interdicted ancient faith of Zhothaqquah, had so faithfully served his slothlike master that the deity feared he should never find another so zealous for his divine dignity. Hence did the Lord Zhothaqquah take steps to ensure he should never lack the services of his favorite, though death gobble his mortal flesh. As all men know, Eibon was at the last assumed bodily into the heavenly sphere of Cykranosh whence his Lord himself had descended in ages past, so that Eibon should not succumb to death upon this earth. But at length death found him, restricting not his travels to any one world. And yet Zhothaqquah's plans for his son Eibon had but commenced, for the portly divinity had arranged that Eibon's soul should continue in his service by dint of metempsychosis, so that he should find himself again and again bearing a new mortal sheath when the old one had become threadbare.
In this manner, owing to the beneficence of his Master, did the one who had borne the name of Eibon pass the ages, sometimes recalling more of his previous existences, sometimes rather less. For if a man's memory begin to fade within the span of a single lifetime, how much the more over a succession of them? Much must be learned again and again as life passeth in succession after life, if it be relearned at all.
Now the seventh incarnation of Eibon the mage was as one Klarkash-Ton, he who served as high priest and sole devotee of Zhothaqquah in Atlantis during the ultimate generation ere her foundering. Shrewdly had the god foreseen his need for the services of the transmigratory spirit of Eibon, for had it not been for the admittedly somewhat lax devotion of the priest Klarkash-Ton, Zhothaqquah should have lacked any worship at all, and lacking worship, even the very gods may perish from neglect.
It is the lot of priests to take their living from the offerings rendered the deities they serve, and Zhothaqquah's cult having fallen into universal neglect, Klarkash-Ton found himself obliged to take other work unto himself to maintain a viable living. And in this endeavor his not inconsiderable scholarly gifts served him well. It was his sacerdotal duty to maintain the sacred lore of the myth-cycle of ancient Commoriom, which most had long since come to disbelieve save as merest myth, and of its literal truth not even Klarkash-Ton might any longer attest. Few would pay a silver coin even at festival season to hear him spin the tales of ancient Hyperborea. Thus it was that Klarkash-Ton expanded his repertoire to encompass droll and ribald anecdotes of sunken Mu far across the globe, great Mu which legend made the mother civilization of High Atlantis herself. Of Mu, to be sure, little positive evidence survived, but then the more rousing tales might therefore be told of her with no one being the wiser. From here did Klarkash-Ton yet further expand his canon of recitals as far as the prodigies of the distant star Antares and its circumambient worlds.
At length did the spellbinding talents of Klarkash-Ton bring him to the attention of the Tyrant of Atlantis, grim Pharnabazus, who summoned him to an official audience. Now this news was not pleasing to Klarkash-Ton, for the severity of the Philosopher King was well-known, to wit, that he frowned upon many even of the traditional sacred myths for that they portrayed the gods and heroes in a questionable light as the veriest rogues and voluptuaries. He had even been known to imprison or exile certain of the greatest of the Muse-inspired poets. So Klarkash-Ton much feared that, by reason of his extravagant tale-telling, King Pharnabazus might have devised unpleasant plans for him.
But the truth was quite different, and exceedingly palatable. During the royal audience did the Tyrant show his guest every deference and did invite him, on account of his great learning, to become official archivist of the capital. Knowing that his penurious worries should abruptly vanish should he accept his sovereign's offer, Klarkash-Ton wasted nary a moment in, as he said, acceding to the King's most generous command. With a deep and obsequious bow did the once-impoverished priest begin his career in the King's service.
In truth, everything about his new station delighted him, from the spacious apartments provided him to the scribal labors awaiting him in the Great Library of the King. Klarkash-Ton gloried in both the rich fare of the King's board and in the rare manuscripts which it was his happy chore to study and catalogue. Here were true records of the ancient days and of lost kingdoms, even a priceless collection of Naacal Tablets from the court of ancient Ra Mu himself! The Pnakotic Manuscripts were not unrepresented, and there was a curious set of inscribed plates from ancient Uzuldaroum called The Book of Eibon, a strange name that Klarkash-Ton somehow felt ought to mean more to him than it did. In these rare parchments and codices the priest delved tirelessly, his sateless curiosity growing jointly with his erudition.
As his command of the antique alphabets and cyphers grew, he discovered much concerning the methods of Elder Magick, and of the great boons a man might gain by their use. Of these the technique that intrigued him by far the most was the preternatural exercise of soul-projection whereby the mage might set his soul-substance soaring to other worlds of cosmic revelation, or simply undertake secret errands here on earth. And Klarkash-Ton thought how he might have use for such a skill and set out in all seriousness to master it.
Under kingly patronage, Klarkash-Ton lacked for no necessity and, in truth, for nary a luxury. But this left what little fruit that remained forbidden unto him seeming all the sweeter. And one night, having recently completed his studies of soul-projection (and emboldened somewhat, perhaps, by the great quantities of wine he had come to consume of late, it being freely available unto him) he resolved upon an experiment. For he had decided he could no longer resist the alluring charms of the fairest in all Atlantis, for all that these were no common courtesans, nor even peasant girls, but the noble wives of the King himself and of his nobles.
It was instant death, all knew, for any man so much as to speak unto them without being first spoken to. And besides, Klarkash-Ton knew well enough that none of these fair ones would likely look fondly upon his spindle-shanked, scholarly mien. But another thing he knew was the art of astral travel. So upon that night he betook himself out of his fleshly body and glided upon the spring breezes into the most forbidden of inner adyta, even the royal bedchamber, where his majesty lay all naked with his fair queen, similarly arrayed. It looked to their invisible observer that their loveplay had barely commenced, and seeing them thus, he could restrain himself no longer.
The old scrolls had spoken truly! Klarkash-Ton now found himself behind the eyes of his lord the King and lost no time placing himself inside his lady the Queen as well. And all courtesy of the cooperative body of the King, the which he had borrowed. While after a few attempts Klarkash-Ton found he could not after all guide the movements of the body in which he sojourned, he could and did feel every sensation of that body, and this was more than satisfactory for now. Perhaps later he could perfect the method and come to control any form he might usurp.
After a night of fervid lovemaking, the priestly archivist returned to his apartments to find his accustomed form ready and waiting for him. Rising a bit light-headedly, Klarkash-Ton stepped up to his polished looking-glass and surveyed himself. He was in truth rather pleased with himself, for had he not managed to commit adultery with the Queen herself and all without displacing her royal husband or infringing upon his own vows of priestly celibacy? For his true bodily form had been resting quietly at home all the night.
Things continued in much the same manner for some months to come, as Klarkash-Ton showered his affections vicariously but no less passionately upon all the loveliest women of the realm. And it is to be feared that, complacent in his scheme, he overstepped himself in the end. For he ought to have taken note one evening, at the King's table, of a jaundiced eye cast steadily in his direction by one of the most powerful of the royal counselors, even the chief mage Mozillan, a man on whom little was lost and who had close familiarity with every magickal manuscript housed in the Great Library. And, too, he had a concubine of great comeliness.
Nor had she escaped Klarkash-Ton's epicurean scrutiny. Indeed, he had oftimes sampled her charms in his sorcerous manner, and soon he would come round to her again when he tired of the charms of certain others in his secret harem. One day as Klarkash-Ton went about his curatorial duties, he was accosted by none other than the Lord Mozillan, who required his assistance in locating a familiar manuscript. He had not yet grown used to the new storage system instituted by the archivist, who was glad to show him to the text he desired. Thanking the librarian, the mage caught him with a peculiar twinkle in his eye. "I'll wager you have familiarized yourself with much of the lore these scrolls contain."
"Verily, my Lord, the better to serve you!" So he bowed and spoke, but secretly Klarkash-Ton despised the proud sorcerer whom he, a mere stripling in the esoteric arts, had so easily outwitted. Yes, this very night he would betake himself to the bedchamber of Mozillan, and if he were not in an amorous mood already, Klarkash-Ton had honed his skills sufficiently to suggest and, if need be, impel, the first move loveward.
The golden moon was high over the breezy streets of Atlantis that night when Klarkash-Ton sent his wandering spirit forth on its latest erotic errand. He hovered a moment outside the window of the high tower of Mozillan's palace. Things were already well underway, the wizard's concubine moaning pleasurably, with the great broad back of her master, draped with the bedsheet, visible between her arched legs. Delighted at the sensuous spectacle, the floating soul of Klarkash-Ton dropped at once into the form before him.
And found his essence afloat in wine! Through the heavy crockery he could barely hear the triumphant shout of the cuckolded Mozillan, who had of course been wise to his devices. The wizard swiftly lifted the weight of the tall amphora from where his mystified but obedient concubine had been balancing it with some difficulty on her thighs. Rapping on the glazed exterior of the man-sized jar, the mage Mozillan mocked the errant spirit he had confined within it.
"I shall see to it, O Klarkash-Ton, that your vacant body is suitably disposed of, for, the gods know, you shall be having no further need of it! You shall bide the ages in the confines of this ensorcelled wine pot, a besotted genie in a bottle, till some poor fool of future days may chance to dredge your prison up from the wine-dark depths where I shall shortly drop you!"
And not long thereafter, as he felt himself falling over the rim of a boat and into the sea, Klarkash-Ton had cause to reflect that there surely were worse ways to spend the centuries than pickled in fine Atlantean wine.
Robert M Price
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