not all men seek rest and peace; some are born with the spirit of the storm in their blood, 

restless harbingers of violence and bloodshed, knowing no other path

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               ― Robert E. Howard

Mundus vult decipi, ergo decipiatur 

GURPS Fantasy

Bow down: I am the emperor of dreams;

I crown me with the million-colored sun

Of secret worlds incredible, and take

Their trailing skies for vestment when I soar,

Throned on the mounting zenith, and illume

The spaceward-flown horizons infinite.

Like rampant monsters roaring for their glut,

The fiery-crested oceans rise and rise,

By jealous moons maleficently urged

To follow me for ever; mountains horned

With peaks of sharpest adamant, and mawed

With sulphur-lit volcanoes lava-langued,

Usurp the skies with thunder, but in vain;

And continents of serpent-shapen trees,

With slimy trunks that lengthen league by league,

Pursue my flight through ages spurned to fire

By that supreme ascendance; sorcerers,

And evil kings, predominanthly armed

With scrolls of fulvous dragon-skin whereon

Are worm-like runes of ever-twisting flame,

Would stay me; and the sirens of the stars,

With foam-like songs from silver fragrance wrought,

Would lure me to their crystal reefs; and moons

Where viper-eyed, senescent devils dwell,

With antic gnomes abominably wise,

Heave up their icy horns across my way.

But naught deters me from the goal ordained

By suns and eons and immortal wars,

And sung by moons and motes; the goal whose name

Is all the secret of forgotten glyphs

By sinful gods in torrid rubies writ

For ending of a brazen book; the goal

Whereat my soaring ecstasy may stand

In amplest heavens multiplied to hold

My hordes of thunder-vested avatars,

And Promethèan armies of my thought,

That brandish claspèd levins. There I call

My memories, intolerably clad

In light the peaks of paradise may wear,

And lead the Armageddon of my dreams

Whose instant shout of triumph is become

Immensity's own music: for their feet

Are founded on innumerable worlds,

Remote in alien epochs, and their arms

Upraised, are columns potent to exalt

With ease ineffable the countless thrones

Of all the gods that are or gods to be,

And bear the seats of Asmodai and Set

Above the seventh paradise.


In culminant omniscience manifold,

And served by senses multitudinous,

Far-posted on the shifting walls of time,

With eyes that roam the star-unwinnowed fields

Of utter night and chaos, I convoke

The Babel of their visions, and attend

At once their myriad witness. I behold

In Ombos, where the fallen Titans dwell,

With mountain-builded walls, and gulfs for moat,

The secret cleft that cunning dwarves have dug

Beneath an alp-like buttress; and I list,

Too late, the clam of adamantine gongs

Dinned by their drowsy guardians, whose feet

Have fell the wasp-like sting of little knives

Embrued With slobber of the basilisk

Or the pail Juice of wounded upas. In

Some red Antarean garden-world, I see

The sacred flower with lips of purple flesh,

And silver-Lashed, vermilion-lidded eyes

Of torpid azure; whom his furtive priests

At moonless eve in terror seek to slay

With bubbling grails of sacrificial blood

That hide a hueless poison. And I read

Upon the tongue of a forgotten sphinx,

The annulling word a spiteful demon wrote

In gall of slain chimeras; and I know

What pentacles the lunar wizards use,

That once allured the gulf-returning roc,

With ten great wings of furlèd storm, to pause

Midmost an alabaster mount; and there,

With boulder-weighted webs of dragons' gut

Uplift by cranes a captive giant built,

They wound the monstrous, moonquake-throbbing bird,

And plucked from off his saber-taloned feet

Uranian sapphires fast in frozen blood,

And amethysts from Mars. I lean to read

With slant-lipped mages, in an evil star,

The monstrous archives of a war that ran

Through wasted eons, and the prophecy

Of wars renewed, which shall commemorate

Some enmity of wivern-headed kings

Even to the brink of time. I know the blooms

Of bluish fungus, freaked with mercury,

That bloat within the creators of the moon,

And in one still, selenic and fetor; and I know

What clammy blossoms, blanched and cavern-grown,

Are proffered to their gods in Uranus

By mole-eyed peoples; and the livid seed

Of some black fruit a king in Saturn ate,

Which, cast upon his tinkling palace-floor,

Took root between the burnished flags, and now

Hath mounted and become a hellish tree,

Whose lithe and hairy branches, lined with mouths,

Net like a hundred ropes his lurching throne,

And strain at starting pillars. I behold

The slowly-thronging corals that usurp

Some harbour of a million-masted sea,

And sun them on the league-long wharves of gold—

Bulks of enormous crimson, kraken-limbed

And kraken-headed, lifting up as crowns

The octiremes of perished emperors,

And galleys fraught with royal gems, that sailed

From a sea-fled haven.

Swifter and stranger grow

The visions: now a mighty city looms,

Hewn from a hill of purest cinnabar

To domes and turrets like a sunrise thronged

With tier on tier of captive moons, half-drowned

In shifting erubescence. But whose hands

Were sculptors of its doors, and columns wrought

To semblance of prodigious blooms of old,

No eremite hath lingered there to say,

And no man comes to learn: for long ago

A prophet came, warning its timid king

Against the plague of lichens that had crept

Across subverted empires, and the sand

Of wastes that cyclopean mountains ward;

Which, slow and ineluctable, would come

To take his fiery bastions and his fanes,

And quench his domes with greenish tetter. Now

I see a host of naked gents, armed

With horns of behemoth and unicorn,

Who wander, blinded by the clinging spells

O hostile wizardry, and stagger on

To forests where the very leaves have eyes,

And ebonies like wrathful dragons roar

To teaks a-chuckle in the loathly gloom;

Where coiled lianas lean, with serried fangs,

From writhing palms with swollen boles that moan;

Where leeches of a scarlet moss have sucked

The eyes of some dead monster, and have crawled

To bask upon his azure-spotted spine;

Where hydra-throated blossoms hiss and sing,

Or yawn with mouths that drip a sluggish dew

Whose touch is death and slow corrosion. Then

I watch a war of pygmies, met by night,

With pitter of their drums of parrot's hide,

On plains with no horizon, where a god

Might lose his way for centuries; and there,

In wreathèd light and fulgors all convolved,

A rout of green, enormous moons ascend,

With rays that like a shivering venom run

On inch-long swords of lizard-fang.


From this my throne, as from a central sun,

The pageantries of worlds and cycles pass;

Forgotten splendors, dream by dream, unfold

Like tapestry, and vanish; violet suns,

Or suns of changeful iridescence, bring

Their rays about me like the colored lights

Imploring priests might lift to glorify

The face of some averted god; the songs

Of mystic poets in a purple world

Ascend to me in music that is made

From unconceivèd perfumes and the pulse

Of love ineffable; the lute-players

Whose lutes are strung with gold of the utmost moon,

Call forth delicious languors, never known

Save to their golden kings; the sorcerers

Of hooded stars inscrutable to God,

Surrender me their demon-wrested scrolls,

lnscribed with lore of monstrous alchemies

And awful transformations.

If I will

I am at once the vision and the seer,

And mingle with my ever-streaming pomps,

And still abide their suzerain: I am

The neophyte who serves a nameless god,

Within whose fane the fanes of Hecatompylos

Were arks the Titan worshippers might bear,

Or flags to pave the threshold; or I am

The god himself, who calls the fleeing clouds

Into the nave where suns might congregate

And veils the darkling mountain of his face

With fold on solemn fold; for whom the priests

Amass their monthly hecatomb of gems

Opals that are a camel-cumbering load,

And monstrous alabraundines, won from war

With realms of hostile serpents; which arise,

Combustible, in vapors many-hued

And myrrh-excelling perfumes. It is I,

The king, who holds with scepter-dropping hand

The helm of some great barge of orichalchum,

Sailing upon an amethystine sea

To isles of timeless summer: for the snows

Of Hyperborean winter, and their winds,

Sleep in his jewel-builded capital,

Nor any charm of flame-wrought wizardry,

Nor conjured suns may rout them; so he fees,

With captive kings to urge his serried oars,

Hopeful of dales where amaranthine dawn

Hath never left the faintly sighing lote

And lisping moly. Firm of heart, I fare

Impanoplied with azure diamond,

As hero of a quest Achernar lights,

To deserts filled with ever-wandering flames

That feed upon the sullen marl, and soar

To wrap the slopes of mountains, and to leap

With tongues intolerably lengthening

That lick the blenchèd heavens. But there lives

(Secure as in a garden walled from wind)

A lonely flower by a placid well,

Midmost the flaring tumult of the flames,

That roar as roars a storm-possessed sea,

Impacable for ever; and within

That simple grail the blossom lifts, there lies

One drop of an incomparable dew

Which heals the parchèd weariness of kings,

And cures the wound of wisdom. I am page

To an emperor who reigns ten thousand years,

And through his labyrinthine palace-rooms,

Through courts and colonnades and balconies

Wherein immensity itself is mazed,

I seek the golden gorget he hath lost,

On which, in sapphires fine as orris-seed,

Are writ the names of his conniving stars

And friendly planets. Roaming thus, I hear

Like demon tears incessant, through dark ages,

The drip of sullen clepsydrae; and once

In every lustrum, hear the brazen clocks

Innumerably clang with such a sound

As brazen hammers make, by devils dinned

On tombs of all the dead; and nevermore

I find the gorget, but at length I find

A sealèd room whose nameless prisoner

Moans with a nameless torture, and would turn

To hell's red rack as to a lilied couch

From that whereon they stretched him; and I find,

Prostrate upon a lotus-painted floor,

The loveliest of all beloved slaves

My emperor hath, and from her pulseless side

A serpent rises, whiter than the root

Of some venefic bloom in darkness grown,

And gazes up with green-lit eyes that seem

Like drops of cold, congealing poison.


What word was whispered in a tongue unknown,

In crypts of some impenetrable world?

Whose is the dark, dethroning secrecy

I cannot share, though I am king of suns,

And king therewith of strong eternity,

Whose gnomons with their swords of shadow guard

My gates, and slay the intruder? Silence loads

The wind of ether, and the worlds are still

To hear the word that flees mine audience.

In simultaneous ruin, al my dreams

Fall like a rack of fuming vapors raised

To semblance by a necromant, and leave

Spirit and sense unthinkably alone

Above a universe of shrouded stars

And suns that wander, cowled with sullen gloom,

Like witches to a Sabbath. . . . Fear is born

In crypts below the nadir, and hath crawled

Reaching the floor of space, and waits for wings

To lift it upward like a hellish worm

Fain for the flesh of cherubim. Red orbs

And eyes that gleam remotely as the stars,

But are not eyes of suns or galaxies,

Gather and throng to the base of darkness; flame

Behind some black, abysmal curtain burns,

Implacable, and fanned to whitest wrath

By raisèd wings that flail the whiffled gloom,

And make a brief and broken wind that moans

As one who rides a throbbing rack. There is

A Thing that crouches, worlds and years remote,

Whose horns a demon sharpens, rasping forth

A note to shatter the donjon-keeps of time,

Or crack the sphere of crystal. All is dark

For ages, and my toiling heart-suspends

Its clamor as within the clutch of death

Tightening with tense, hermetic rigors. Then,

In one enormous, million-flashing flame,

The stars unveil, the suns remove their cowls,

And beam to their responding planets; time

Is mine once more, and armies of its dreams

Rally to that insuperable throne

Firmed on the zenith.

Once again I seek

The meads of shining moly I had found

In some anterior vision, by a stream

No cloud hath ever tarnished; where the sun,

A gold Narcissus, loiters evermore

Above his golden image. But I find

A corpse the ebbing water will not keep,

With eyes like sapphires that have lain in hell|

And felt the hissing coals; and all the flowers

About me turn to hooded serpents, swayed

By flutes of devils in lascivious dance

Meet for the nod of Satan, when he reigns

Above the raging Sabbath, and is wooed

By sarabands of witches. But I turn

To mountains guarding with their horns of snow

The source of that befoulèd rill, and seek

A pinnacle where none but eagles climb,

And they with failing pennons. But in vain

I flee, for on that pylon of the sky

Some curse hath turned the unprinted snow to flame—

Red fires that curl and cluster to my tread,

Trying the summit's narrow cirque. And now

I see a silver python far beneath-

Vast as a river that a fiend hath witched

And forced to flow reverted in its course

To mountains whence it issued. Rapidly

It winds from slope to crumbling slope, and fills

Ravines and chasmal gorges, till the crags

Totter with coil on coil incumbent. Soon

It hath entwined the pinnacle I keep,

And gapes with a fanged, unfathomable maw

Wherein Great Typhon and Enceladus

Were orts of daily glut. But I am gone,

For at my call a hippogriff hath come,

And firm between his thunder-beating wings

I mount the sheer cerulean walls of noon

And see the earth, a spurnèd pebble, fall—

Lost in the fields of nether stars—and seek

A planet where the outwearied wings of time

Might pause and furl for respite, or the plumes

Of death be stayed, and loiter in reprieve

Above some deathless lily: for therein

Beauty hath found an avatar of flowers-

Blossoms that clothe it as a colored flame

From peak to peak, from pole to sullen pole,

And turn the skies to perfume. There I find

A lonely castle, calm, and unbeset

Save by the purple spears of amaranth,

And leafing iris tender-sworded. Walls

Of flushèd marble, wonderful with rose,

And domes like golden bubbles, and minarets

That take the clouds as coronal-these are mine,

For voiceless looms the peaceful barbican,

And the heavy-teethed portcullis hangs aloft

To grin a welcome. So I leave awhile

My hippogriff to crop the magic meads,

And pass into a court the lilies hold,

And tread them to a fragrance that pursues

To win the portico, whose columns, carved

Of lazuli and amber, mock the palms

Of bright Aidennic forests-capitalled

With fronds of stone fretted to airy lace,

Enfolding drupes that seem as tawny clusters

Of breasts of unknown houris; and convolved

With vines of shut and shadowy-leavèd flowers

Like the dropt lids of women that endure

Some loin-dissolving ecstasy. Through doors

Enlaid with lilies twined luxuriously,

I enter, dazed and blinded with the sun,

And hear, in gloom that changing colors cloud,

A chuckle sharp as crepitating ice

Upheaved and cloven by shoulders of the damned

Who strive in Antenora. When my eyes

Undazzle, and the cloud of color fades,

I find me in a monster-guarded room,

Where marble apes with wings of griffins crowd

On walls an evil sculptor wrought, and beasts

Wherein the sloth and vampire-bat unite,

Pendulous by their toes of tarnished bronze,

Usurp the shadowy interval of lamps

That hang from ebon arches. Like a ripple

Borne by the wind from pool to sluggish pool

In fields where wide Cocytus flows his bound,

A crackling smile around that circle runs,

And all the stone-wrought gibbons stare at me

With eyes that turn to glowing coals. A fear

That found no name in Babel, flings me on,

Breathless and faint with horror, to a hall

Within whose weary, self-reverting round,

The languid curtains, heavier than palls,

Unnumerably depict a weary king

Who fain would cool his jewel-crusted hands

In lakes of emerald evening, or the field

Of dreamless poppies pure with rain. I flee

Onward, and all the shadowy curtains shake

With tremors of a silken-sighing mirth,

And whispers of the innumerable king,

Breathing a tale of ancient pestilence

Whose very words are vile contagion. Then

I reach a room where caryatids,

Carved in the form of voluptuous Titan women,

Surround a throne flowering ebony

Where creeps a vine of crystal. On the throne

There lolls a wan, enormous Worm, whose bulk,

Tumid with all the rottenness of kings,

Overflows its arms with fold on creasèd fold

Obscenely bloating. Open-mouthed he leans,

And from his fulvous throat a score of tongues,

Depending like to wreaths of torpid vipers,

Drivel with phosphorescent slime, that runs

Down all his length of soft and monstrous folds,

And creeping among the flowers of ebony,

Lends them the life of tiny serpents. Now,

Ere the Horror ope those red and lashless slits

Of eyes that draw the gnat and midge, I turn

And follow down a dusty hall, whose gloom,

Lined by the statues with their mighty limbs,

Ends in golden-roofèd balcony

Sphering the flowered horizon.

Ere my heart

Hath hushed the panic tumult of its pulses,

I listen, from beyond the horizon's rim,

A mutter faint as when the far simoom,

Mounting from unknown deserts, opens forth,

Wide as the waste, those wings of torrid night

That shake the doom of cities from their folds,

And musters in its van a thousand winds

That, with disrooted palms for besoms, rise,

And sweep the sands to fury. As the storm,

Approaching, mounts and loudens to the ears

Of them that toil in fields of sesame,

So grows the mutter, and a shadow creeps

Above the gold horizon like a dawn

Of darkness climbing zenith-ward. They come,

The Sabaoth of retribution, drawn

From all dread spheres that knew my trespassing,

And led by vengeful fiends and dire alastors

That owned my sway aforetime! Cockatrice,

Chimera, martichoras, behemoth,

Geryon, and sphinx, and hydra, on my ken

Arise as might some Afrit-builded city

Consummate in the lifting of a lash

With thunderous domes and sounding obelisks

And towers of night and fire alternate! Wings

Of white-hot stone along the hissing wind

Bear up the huge and furnace-hearted beasts

Of hells beyond Rutilicus; and things

Whose lightless length would mete the gyre of moons—

Born from the caverns of a dying sun

Uncoil to the very zenith, half-disclosed

From gulfs below the horizon; octopi

Like blazing moons with countless arms of fire,

Climb from the seas of ever-surging flame

That roll and roar through planets unconsumed,

Beating on coasts of unknown metals; beasts

That range the mighty worlds of Alioth rise,

Afforesting the heavens with mulitudinous horns

Amid whose maze the winds are lost; and borne

On cliff-like brows of plunging scolopendras,

The shell-wrought towers of ocean-witches loom;

And griffin-mounted gods, and demons throned

On-sable dragons, and the cockodrills

That bear the spleenful pygmies on their backs;

And blue-faced wizards from the worlds of Saiph,

On whom Titanic scorpions fawn; and armies

That move with fronts reverted from the foe,

And strike athwart their shoulders at the shapes

The shields reflect in crystal; and eidola

Fashioned within unfathomable caves

By hands of eyeless peoples; and the blind

Worm-shapen monsters of a sunless world,

With krakens from the ultimate abyss,

And Demogorgons of the outer dark,

Arising, shout with dire multisonous clamors,

And threatening me with dooms ineffable

In words whereat the heavens leap to flame,

Advance upon the enchanted palace. Falling

For league on league before, their shadows light

And eat like fire the arnaranthine meads,

Leaving an ashen desert. In the palace

I hear the apes of marble shriek and howl,

And all the women-shapen columns moan,

Babbling with terror. In my tenfold fear,

A monstrous dread unnamed in any hall,

I rise, and flee with the fleeing wind for wings,

And in a trice the wizard palace reefs,

And spring to a single tower of flame,

Goes out, and leaves nor shard nor ember! Flown

Beyond the world upon that fleeing wind

I reach the gulf's irrespirable verge,

Where fads the strongest storm for breath, and fall,

Supportless, through the nadir-plungèd gloom,

Beyond the scope and vision of the sun,

To other skies and systems.

In a world

Deep-wooded with the multi-colored fungi

That soar to semblance of fantastic palms,

I fall as falls the meteor-stone, and break

A score of trunks to atom powder. Unharmed

I rise, and through the illimitable woods,

Among the trees of flimsy opal, roam,

And see their tops that clamber hour by hour

To touch the suns of iris. Things unseen,

Whose charnel breath informs the tideless air

With spreading pools of fetor, follow me,

Elusive past the ever-changing palms;

And pittering moths with wide and ashen wings

Flit on before, and insects ember-hued,

Descending, hurtle through the gorgeous gloom

And quench themselves in crumbling thickets. Heard

Far off, the gong-like roar of beasts unknown

Resounds at measured intervals of time,

Shaking the riper trees to dust, that falls

In clouds of acrid perfume, stifling me

Beneath an irised pall.

Now the palmettoes

Grow far apart, and lessen momently

To shrubs a dwarf might topple. Over them

I see an empty desert, all ablaze

With ametrysts and rubies, and the dust

Of garnets or carnelians. On I roam,

Treading the gorgeous grit, that dazzles me

With leaping waves of endless rutilance,

Whereby the air is turned to a crimson gloom

Through which I wander blind as any Kobold;

Till underfoot the grinding sands give place

To stone or metal, with a massive ring

More welcome to mine ears than golden bells

Or tinkle of silver fountains. When the gloom

Of crimson lifts, I stand upon the edge

Of a broad black plain of adamant that reaches,

Level as windless water, to the verge

Of all the world; and through the sable plain

A hundred streams of shattered marble run,

And streams of broken steel, and streams of bronze,

Like to the ruin of all the wars of time,

To plunge with clangor of timeless cataracts

Adown the gulfs eternal.

So I follow

Between a river of steel and a river of bronze,

With ripples loud and tuneless as the clash

Of a million lutes; and come to the precipice

From which they fall, and make the mighty sound

Of a million swords that meet a million shields,

Or din of spears and armour in the wars

Of half the worlds and eons. Far beneath

They fall, through gulfs and cycles of the void,

And vanish like a stream of broken stars

into the nether darkness; nor the gods

Of any sun, nor demons of the gulf,

Will dare to know what everlasting sea

Is fed thereby, and mounts forevermore

In one unebbing tide.

What nimbus-cloud

Or night of sudden and supreme eclipse,

Is on the suns opal? At my side

The rivers run with a wan and ghostly gleam

Through darkness falling as the night that falls

From spheres extinguished. Turning, I behold

Betwixt the sable desert and the suns,

The poisèd wings of all the dragon-rout,

Far-flown in black occlusion thousand-fold

Through stars, and deeps, and devastated worlds,

Upon my trail of terror! Griffins, rocs,

And sluggish, dark chimeras, heavy-winged

After the ravin of dispeopled lands,

And harpies, and the vulture-birds of hell,

Hot from abominable feasts, and fain

To cool their beaks and talons in my blood—

All, all have gathered, and the wingless rear,

With rank on rank of foul, colossal Worms,

Makes horrent now the horizon. From the wan

I hear the shriek of wyvers, loud and shrill

As tempests in a broken fane, and roar

Of sphinxes, like relentless toll of bells

From towers infernal. Cloud on hellish cloud

They arch the zenith, and a dreadful wind

Falls from them like the wind before the storm,

And in the wind my riven garment streams

And flutters in the face of all the void,

Even as flows a flaffing spirit, lost

On the pit s undying tempest. Louder grows

The thunder of the streams of stone and bronze—

Redoubled with the roar of torrent wings

Inseparable mingled. Scarce I keep

My footing in the gulfward winds of fear,

And mighty thunders beating to the void

In sea-like waves incessant; and would flee

With them, and prove the nadir-founded night

Where fall the streams of ruin. But when I reach

The verge, and seek through sun-defeating gloom

To measure with my gaze the dread descent,

I see a tiny star within the depths-

A light that stays me while the wings of doom

Convene their thickening thousands: for the star

increases, taking to its hueless orb,

With all the speed of horror-changèd dreams,

The light as of a million million moons;

And floating up through gulfs and glooms eclipsed

It grows and grows, a huge white eyeless Face

That fills the void and fills the universe,

And bloats against the limits of the world

With lips of flame that open . . .