“And I gat the giant above the middle part, and the Diskos did glut itself, and went through the giant as that he did be naught . . .for the upper part of the giant-man went horrid to the earth, and the legs and the trunk stood plain in the light of the fire-hole, and the blood went upward as a fountain in the night.”
We open chapter 16 with slaughter. Our narrator, carrying his direly wounded love in his arms, is literally cutting his way across the landscape. The whole land is awake to him being there & monsters are throwing themselves at him endlessly. A mental message from the Master Monstruwacan has promised aid, but our narrator hasn’t seen any of it yet & things are looking dire. The Night Hounds are baying & he knows that they would be far too much for him to handle.
So two miles out or so from that glowing Circle of Earth-Current that protects the Pyramid, the hounds are on him, hundreds of these things, & the narrator reminds us that they are as large as horses.
“And lo! Even as I lookt that last time unto the Pyramid, there brake out a monstrous bursting flame, that did rush downward from the Sealed lower part of the Mighty Pyramid.” This is a bit like the Death Star cannon, or the wave-motion cannon from Starblazers: those inside the Pyramid blast the Night Hounds with a focused release of the Earth-Current itself. It sunders them all & the land they were running on, boulders are thrown skyward, it “did rend and split the air”. Just as sudden as the blast hit, it stops. The interesting thing that follows is that the whole Pyramid is diminished for a while after using that weapon. We’re told the lifts & air pumps & such all freeze up for a time, even the protective Circle wavers some.
All this while the narrator has been wondering where all the warriors that were going to aid him have been. Now as he gets so close to the Circle he can see “monstrous Black Mounds all along without of the Circle, and did rock and sway with a force of strange life that did set an horror into my soul as I ran.” Some of what follows I found a little confusing. So the hundred thousand warriors can’t leave the Circle for fear of the Black Mounds, which are manifestations of the Evil Forces in the land. Ok. As the narrator closes in on the Circle he is attacked by these tusked monsters but has no issue with the Black Mounds. Maybe I’m just not picturing it right. He of course slaughters all the tusked monsters & reaches through past the Circle into safety. As assured of his reaching the Pyramid is, the whole scene is fraught with gory combat & great fun to read.
Once inside the Circle he immediately calls for a doctor. All those warriors there reach out to him to offer some kind of aid, but each of them pulls back, shies away with awe: the narrator has become something strange to them. The Master Doctor arrives. But no, it’s too late for Naani. She’s dead. I did not see this coming & the melancholy of it is tangible in the text:
“And I stoopt, in a little, and I lifted Mine Own Maid into mine arms for that last journeying.”
The narrator is devastated. He can only think that at least he saved her from a lonely death on her own out there in the ruins of the Lesser Redoubt. What follow reads like a pageantry of sorrow: the crowd splits before him & he carries her into the Pyramid. We’re told of the great silence upward & downward through the strange miles of the Redoubt. All are in mourning. It’s a very effective passage & Hodgson’s style here does convey the weight of the sadness well. It’s on one of the lifts, the Earth-Current now flowing again, that it’s realized the narrator is bleeding everywhere. He collapses, his head a-swim.
Three days later he wakes, sore, still wounded, but better. The way Hodgson phrases a lot of this part is strange & really makes it sound like this will also be the end for the narrator: “…that I not to live after that Mine Own did die.” He won’t wear the robe they offer him, but instead dresses in his broken armor. They are going to the Burial for Naani & descend the hundreds of miles down to the Country of Silence where everyone has gathered. Millions of people are spread out over the land there. Naani has been laid out in white. Songs wash over the millions & fade. I really expected to have the narrator lie down next to her & be consigned to the end. The text all but assures us that this is the last time the narrator will be doing any of these things. But instead Naani is rolled away on the Road, a kind of conveyance, towards a misty wall of the Earth-Current. I’m not sure what is supposed to happen with this Earth-Current wall, but as she enters it the narrator thinks he sees her move. But no, it was just a trick of the glow – but yes, she did move! He’s off, running down that motorized road. Chaos erupts in the crowd, people need to be held back. When the narrator reaches Naani she is indeed awake, with a look of wonder in her eyes. The narrator crashes into her arms, his wounds reopened from his running & he’s bleeding everywhere again. Naani sits up & has his head on her breast as he passes out.
We’ve only got one chapter left now. More anon.