The Shadow of the Sleeping God

James Ambuehl


1Although it had been many a month since Satampra Zeiros, master-thief of all Hyperborea had set eyes upon his latest in a long string of companions, fellow-adventurers and oftimes partners-in-crime, the youth called Alu Kuthos, their reunion was not a particularly joyous occasion. In fact, both rogues had once again met up with each other in the throne-room of Ruul-Vash, hierophant and high-priest of the temple of the moon-god Leniqua — which stood untouched for centuries imemmorial in the suburbs of Uzuldaroum, capitol since the fall of mighty Commoriom, of all Hyperborea — having each been dragged therein perforce by a company of sickle-armed temple guards.

It seems that the young Alu Kuthos had been discovered in the pre-dawn hours by way of a sneezing fit brought on by the inevitable cold he had come down with whilst earlier that eve clutching to the ramparts of the outer temple walls, all the while an over-eager Captain disciplined a contingent of temple guards within the hallways a mere few yards from the youth's long-intended ingress. At long last the Captain had finished his bellowing and gesturing, and the guards had moved on to their posts. Alu Kuthos had finally entered, but a while later even more alert temple guards, following the sound of his uncontrollable sneezing, found him secreted within the chambers of the daughter of Ruul-Vash, even Filhomeena.

Now had it been her bed-chambers the youth had occupied the high-priest would not have been so concerned, in fact would have been overjoyed at such a prospect as gaining a new son-in-law, the maiden Filhomeena having become rather insufferable to hm of late. But it had been the maiden's treasure room, alas, in which the youth had been discovered, indeed buried nearly to the neck in a great pile of gold pazoors. One thing this Ruul-Vash certainly could not tolerate, being particularly greedy himself, was the chance that someone would have the audacity to steal from him or his, yet still did he offer the rash and impetuous Alu Kuthos an out from his current unfortunate predicament. All that would be required of him was that he merely wed the afore-mentioned Filhomeena, and even be given a fiefdom of his own to rule as he saw fit in the bargain. But Alu Kuthos gained one look at the maiden Filhomeena -- who was neither fair nor willowy, but in fact rather squat and portly, with a face not too unlike that of the wild boar — and decided he'd do better to take his chances with Ruul-Vash.

Satampra Zeiros on the other hand, older and assuredly wiser, had been caught red-handed as they say, attempting merely to relieve a rather fat and jovial merchant of his likewise fat purse — whose bulging contents promised to make the thief decidedly jovial himself. But when he at last gained hold of it he was astonished to see it move as of a life all its own, fully a-squirm and setting the not-too-modest contents a-jingle! For he, master-thief of Hyperborea, found himself betrayed by a burglar alarm worthy of even his own cleverness and wit — a tiny live Marmot, placed within the pouch of pazoors! And how was he, Satampra Zeiros, to know that the merchant was the high-priest's own brother?

So it was that the two companions presently found themselves manacled and at sickle-point at the foot of the dais of the throne of Ruul-Vash.

"Ah, it seems that Leniqua shines his fortune down upon me this very night!" exclaimed Ruul-Vash. "It is you, is it not, my friend? Yes, long-saught Satampra Zeiros, before me in chains at last!"

The high-priest rose from his throne to his full, gaunt height, and strode down the dais steps to stand before the guard-encircled rogues. Reaching forth a thin, almost skeletal hand, he seized a shank of Alu Kuthos' hair and brought the youth's face up to his own.

"No . . . I don't know you. Still, you would have done well to accept my offer of my daughter in wedlock, lad." The boy stared at the high-priest and said naught, merely sniffled, stifling a sneeze.

Ruul-Vash dropped the boy's head and crossed to Satampra Zeiros. The master-thief stared at him defiantly.

"I hope you lived well on the loot gained you from the fencing of the thirty-nine girdles stolen from this temple of Leniqua, lo so many years agone, Satampra Zeiros." The high-priest paused. Sensing rather than seeing the master-thief's look of surprise, Ruul-Vash went on. "Actually, I am rather indebted to you, O Satampra Zeiros. For had you not committed so rash and bold a robbery as the girdles of Leniqua the former high-priest of Leniqua, Marquanos, would not have been deposed, and I'd still be a mere acolyte of the moon-god. But deposed Marquanos was, for his failure to bring you to justice — as I have finally done -- and your fellow in the girdles affair," the high-priest added as an afterthought.

Satampra Zeiros started at this last. He quickly regained his composure, but not before the high-priest noted his surprise.

"Yes, Satampra Zeiros, I know it was you who took part in the theft of the thirty-nine girdles. Your part in the affair was long suspect, but it was finally confirmed by the confession I extracted personally from your companion in the affair and once true-love. A confession extracted under torture, of course." The high-priest fairly gloated.

"You damned buzzard!" Satampra Zeiros strained at his chains. "What did you do to her?" he cried.

"The beautous Vixeela?" asked the high-priest, clearly unconcerned. "Why, I simply took from her what I desired and put her to death" he replied off-handedly.

The form of the master-thief slumped forward and shook with mighty sobs.

"All right, you've ah, ah, caught us," challenged Alu Kuthos. "Now wha-what do you in-ah, ah, intend to do with us, you da-da-choo! damned priest?" snifle.

Ruul-Vash turned again to the youth and began to lean closer to him, as if to impart an obscene and mocking secret, and Alu Kuthos couldn't help himself but to at that moment give forth a particularly virulent and wet sneeze — directly into the face of the high-priest. Startled, Ruul-Vash quickly drew himself to his full height and slapped the youth a hard backhand across the face. "You sniveling snot! I shall have you drawn and quartered for this!" Ruul-Vash wiped his face on his tunic sleeve.

Then a sardonic look stole across the features of the high-priest and he began cackle like a rabid hyena.

"Wait, I have a better fate in store for you. Aye, and your stoic partner as well!" He stole a look at the now-receovered Satampra Zeiros, then began pacing purposefully before the two prisoners, hands rubbing together behind his back pensively.

"It is a task I would have of you, one I wouldn't wish upon my worst enemy!" he began. "But then," he cackled softly, "I have never heretofore set eyes upon you two ere fate, or perhaps Leniqua himself, thought to bring you to my very door. And perhaps, if you should fail in this quest, I shall ever have the fortune to do so again!" he intoned sarcastically. "Aye, I think you two shall do quite nicely indeed."

Here Ruul-Vash paused, to gather his thoughts before continuing.

"Have either of you two heard aught of the fabulous and noxious Voormish Tablets? I thought not. Well, they are a fabulously rare collection of sigils set in ancient stone, the written records of the half-legendary furry and pre-human Voormis, who ruled Hyperborea long ages ere man ever set foot upon her glorious shores.

Now as the Voormish Tablets have it, at the height of the Voormish reign there did stand a mighty citadel, Ta-Shon, on an unnamed isle in the Cinartrel Sea, which was itself the main stronghold of the Voormis ere it sank beneath the waves long ages past."

Satampra Zeiros, his chains biting uncomfortably into his wrists, who was sorely irascible and vexed with anger at the high-priest's rambling monologue, suddenly felt compelled to express his perturbance quite vociferously.

"Cease this prattle, priest!" he bellowed. "My companion and I care naught for sunken lands nor near-extinct furry savages! Please release us, O Ruul-Vash, from these chains, or mercifully put us to death, or at least hack off our ears that we may be spared this interminable chatter!" the master-thief waxed sarcastically.

For a moment the high-priest was stunned into silence, white-faced and livid with anger. His worm-thin lips compressed into a narrow line, and he sputtered and choked furiously.

Alu Kuthos rattled his chains mightily, protesting to his companion, as well as Ruul-Vash: "No, Ruul-Vash! Please spare us! Ah-Choo. Do not put us to death!" The youth was fairly trembling with fear.

"Silence, whelp!" comanded Ruul-Vash, his composure once again fully regained. "No, I'll not put you to death. He again seized a shank of the lad's hair and gae it a savage twist, eliciting a yelp of pain from Alu Kuthos' lips but ensuring his undivided attention. "But you'll wish I had, boy!" He twisted his wrist again, savagely.

He turned again to the master-thief, a look of unholy glee crossing his nigh-skeletal features, lips drawing back to bare teeth like those of a rabid canine's.

"It is not Ta-Shon, nor even of the Voormis that I wish to ultimately discuss, Satampra Zeiros, but rather the dark and noisome god of that pre-human civilization,even black and plastic Tsathoggua, who himself sleeps beneath Mount Vormithadreth!"

At the utterance of that black and accursed name even he, Satampra Zeiros, could not stiflea sudden chill. Indeed, the foetid air in that dank chamber seemed to grow a few degrees colder — as if the icy breath of a star-born god suddenly had been exhaled from voids unknown. For Tsathoggua was himself one of that race of ancient and terrible gods come down to Earth from the stars in ages long past, one of the very Great Old Ones themselves!

Too, at the sound of that alien name the fight went out of the master-thief, and he slumped uselessly in his chains, his mind wandering unbidden upon sundry dim horrors. The wolfish countenance of the high-priest of the moon-god, Leniqua, picked up upon this at once.

"Ah, yes, it seems I've heard that you yourself had a little adventure with the Spawn of this selfsame Tsathoggua a few years a-back." The high-priest gestured to the stump of Satampra Zeiros' right hand pointedly. He chuckled. "It was a frightening tale indeed," he continued. "But let me assure you, Satampra Zeiros, that this adventure I plan to set you on promises to be even more harrowing, even for one such as you!" Ruul-Vash's mocking face gloated nearly into his own. "But let me at last continue before I digress further."

"You see, as the Voormish Tablets state, a hierophant and shaman of these furry Voormis, one Hurun, was himself the high-priest of this selfsame Tsathoggua in this citadel of Ta-Shon. Many and dark were Hurun's magicks, doubtless gained him by his monstrous beneficiary, and nearly all Hyperborea bent itself under his rule. But, alas, Hurun was not imparted his sponsor's immortality, and with the Curse of Rhan-Tegoth he at last succumbed to his death.

"How he came to bear the Curse of Rhan-Tegoth and thereby succumb, or even just what this curse entails is of no matter to me, as it is all recorded in the Voormish Tablets, which I myself own a set — albeit a fragmentary one — should I ever wish to peruse such matters. But what is of import to me, aye, of even greater import than my own post here as high-priest to Leniqua, the moon-god, is, quite simply, Hurun's magicks." He paused for effect.

"And my simple task, dear gentlemen," continued the high-priest, "is for the pair of you to acquire for me those magickal relics and artefacts said to be buried within the earthen mound-tomb of Hurun, just within the gates of the citadel of Ta-Shon sunken in the Cinartrel Sea!"


For Ruul-Vash, high-priest of Leniqua the moon-god and sorcerer seldom surpassed in his own right, it was no great matter to use his magickal potions and charms to transport Satampra Zeiros and his youthful companon Alu Kuthos to the wave-pressured realm beneath the Cinartrel Sea of the sunken citadel of Ta-Shon, within whose fabulous gates lay the mound-tomb of Hurun. And it was likewise no great feat to administer to the two rogues the wondrous properties bequeathed them by use of the Breath of Dagon, to be found hidden within the text of the black Tablets of R'Lyeh, which, many centuries later would come to be known as the R'lyeh Text. This spell benefited the pair the ability to breathe in water, aye, even unto the very bottom of the sea, as if they were themselves denizens of the deep.

Great indeed was the two thieves' surprise by this method of transportation and transformation, so that it were several moments before they had at last sufficiently regained their faculties to unroll the map enscribed on Pterosaur-hide given them by Ruul-Vash and directing them to the location of Hurun's tomb. This done, they pressed onward through the very gates of the wondrous citadel that loomed before them. The pair had, too, the benefits of a fantastic ring the high-priest had given unto Satampra Zeiros, which itself had the ability to cast forth at will a veritable cone of light whch spread out before the pair and lit all in their path . . . aye, even in the murky green depths of the Cinartrel Sea!

Drawing their daggers, the pair made their way forward, peering all about them in awe. Aye, of a certain was Ta-Shon a wondrous city in its day, for though it lay submerged n the aqueous murk of silt and slime it virtually lay untouched by time. Very little of the citadel lay in ruin, but stood almost whole and silent as if awaiting its re-emergence into the light of the Hyperborean sun. Here rose great pillars of basaltic black stone, and there stood towering arches of soapy green stone, and white marbled columns and and smooth gray flagstones spread out before them in every direction.

Too, the citadel teemed with life — albeit life of an aquatic and submarine nature. Fish swam, crabs scuttled, sea-snakes slithered, and things less nameable flopped and humped their way across the slimy flags.

Shadows loomed before them in the cone of light given off by the ring worn by the elder master-thief, and more than once Alu Kuthos felt sure he espied trident-bearing merfolk swimming amidst the alien masonry, following them curiously yet cautiously. But Satampra Zeiros and Alu Kuthos found themselves thankfuly unmolested on their outre trek, and at last they reached the earthen mound-tomb of the Voormish shaman Hurun.

Before them lay a low humped hill of black mud, bearing a rough cave-like entranceway choked with a great boulder of scintllant crystal. At once the two rogues put their shoulders to the task of rolling away the boulder, relishing an end at last to this sub-aqueous realm of horror.

It was as the boulder began to move, albeit slowly but surely, when the youth spotted something in the distance swimming weirdly toward them. It rather rolled at them, and as it came into the light the two were alarmed to see a monstrous disc-shaped thing with tentacles radiating from it in a spoke-like fashion leering malevolently at them from a score of spider-like red eyes. Its curcular maw stood a-gape and was rined with a number of gnashing teeth like those of the shark. The two rogues prepared for the worst. But even as it moved to attack the Hyperboreans at the last it turned aside and swam off of a sudden, almost as if signaled to do thereby.

Catching their breaths again, the two thieves heave-hoed a final time, and at last the boulder rolled aside and they entered the tomb. They made their way up a gently sloping passageway, which must have formed an air pocket, for as they neared the top of the tunnel they emerged into the air once again. Miraculously, the Breath of Dagon put its effects on hold, even as Ruul-Vash warned it might should they encounter dry air. Nonplussed, they made their way into the main burial chamber.

In the direct center of the circular vault, on a low pedestal stood the stone sarcophagus of the arch-ancient Hurun. Satampra Zeiros made haste to extract from his pack the mallet and iron spikes, with which to break the ancient seal of the sarcophagus. But ere the hammer-blow fell the master-thief paused and shuddered.

"What is it, Satampra Zeiros? Why do you pause?" asked the frightened youth.

"Look you, Alu Kuthos," answered the master-thief, "atop this stone-carven lid . . ." — he pointed with one of the iron spikes — ". . . and look ye upon the unholy carven Seal of Tsathoggua! And be damned in the doing!"

For there, carven into the surface of the lid stood something monstrous: something not altogether bat, nor toad, nor sloth, nor ape, but instead something suggesting a soul-shattering composite of all four!

Alu Kuthos stifled a shriek, then buried his head in his hands and sobbed. The older thief put a reassuring hand on his shoulder. "Aye, Alu Kuthos, I truly wish to all the gods, divine and demoniacal alike, of Hyperborea, I had not involved you in this affair." The master-thief's heart weighed heavy.

"Nay, Satampra Zeiros," protested the youth, gazing up at his mentor in admiration. "You are not at fault! I am the one who dared to rob that sow-daughter of Ruul-Vash!"

"Aye, lad, so you did. Still, your association with me has earned you much more punishment indeed than you would have else recieved. Aye, I am to blame, just as I myself brought on the death of my beloved Vixeela, to say nothing of the awful and doubtless total dissolution of my lifelong companion from my dim-remembered youth, Tirouv Ompallios in the digestive acids and stomach-enzymes of that formless hell-spawn of that . . . that thing!" He gestured contemptuously at the pictoglyph of the Sleeping God Tsathoggua. "Of a certain, young Alu Kuthos, have I, Satampra Zeiros been the death and doom of all — and there have been many — who have ultimately befriended me!"

"Not so, friend Satampra!" shouted Alu Kuthos. "You, my dear old friend, have been the greatest boon to my budding nimble-fingered career, and aye, my comradeship since first we met in the spectre-haunted ruins of Yongras. Remember you the plundering of the Lord Vester? And how about the affair of the Jewel of Deb'r-shen and our adventure on Gar Hill? Gods, we made a haul that night!" He clapped the elder thief on the shoulder. "Nay, I'll not have you down in the doldrums whilst I break my strong young back on this damned sarcophagus lid, my not-so-aged friend. Now break you the seal, and let us begin our plunder!"

His spirits lifted by his companion's reminiscences, Satampra Zeiros proceeded to do just that, and the two adventurers thereafter heave-hoed again. Not long after the lid fell with crash to the floor.

The pair could not believe their eyes, for instead of coins or gems, wands or books or any relics of sorcerous power, instead of swords or daggers or even bones nor the dust therefrom of the long-dead Hurun, the sarcophagus was empty! Indeed it contained naught but a fine black powder or dust, certainly not the dust of the remains of the Voormish shaman! Moreover, this powder had of itself a noxious stench, so that Alu Kuthos' cold-sensitized nose set to sneezing once again. And as he sneezed he half-stumbled, half-fell into the open stone box, thereby smudging his fine gray cloak with the noxious sooty powder. The youth tried to rub it out, but it was of a certain ground into the very grain of the fibers and the noisome stench clung cloyingly to the hapless Alu Kuthos.

Stunned and shaken, there was naught for the pair to do but intone the words given them by Ruul-Vash to return them to the temple of the moon-god Leniqua.


Of course, Ruul-vash did not believe the sarcophagus of the Voormish Hurun had been empty, and charged Satampra Zeiros and Alu Kuthos with having secreted away the doubtless many sorcerous relics and artefacts found therein. Moreover, so convinced of this trickery on the part of the thieves was Ruul-Vash that no entreaty to the contrary would be recognized. As a result, Ruul-Vash had had the two thieves conducted to his dungeon, and there stripped of their garments and tortured mercilessly. Satampra Zeiros had been forced to undergo the pain of the rack whilst being forced to watch the painful ordeal that Alu Kuthos had to endure. Even now the youth's face was battered and bruised, blood flowing from crushed lips as Ruul-Vash's head torturer stood over his weeping form.

"So, Satampra Zeiros, are you now ready to tell me what I wish to hear?" taunted Ruul-Vash. Behind him the high-priest's head torturer, Dobros, chuckled, Alu Kuthos' blood dripping freely from his mailed and hooked gloves. "Tell me, master-thief, the veracity, that you and the lad conspired against me." Satampra Zeiros watched the bald giant Dobros wipe his bloody metaled fists on Alu Kuthos' previously fine gray, now smudged cloak and contemptuously throw the garment into the corner behind him.

"Tell me, thief, else I shall have Dobros fetch the irons a-warming in the forge, and set them to your hapless companion."

Even through his pain Stampra Zeiros sensed movement in the corner where Alu Kuthos' cloak lay. Focussing his mind on the cloak, he tried to block out the high-priest's taunts. What did he see there?

"Look, Dobros, he fights us still. Very well, get you the irons."

It was a crawling, slithering motion. Shadowy, yet semi-solid. He watched in fascination.

Dobros lifted the irons from the fire and returned to his spot behind Ruul-Vash, the rods glowing incandescently in the gloom of the dungeon.

Now it was a floating, swirling motion . . . something was coalescing . . . .

Alu Kuthos' shriek pierced the air, as the red-hot iron met his skin. The acrid reek of burning flesh filled the room. Mercifully, the youth passed out.

The spinning mass grew in the corner as it spilled forth inky black pseudopods. One of these lashed out at Dobros. As it touched him he screamed. His giant body began to instantly blacken and crumble like charcoal, thenfell to a fine black powder.

Ruul-Vash turned, eyes wide with fear.

It had ceased its whirling now, its coalescent complete. For a moment it hulked in the shadow, the it hopped into the light on its massive splayed feet.

It was a monstrous conglomeration of bat, toad, sloth and ape, the thing from the carving on the lid of the sarcophagus of Hurun — but no mere carving could do it justice! Its greasy-furred body was grossly swollen like an obscene fat toad, and yet there was a noisome plasticidy to its bulk, a suggestion of its being capable of fluid movement. There was also that which suggested it could change its shape at will. Its half-closed eyes regarded them sleepily, and its cavernous maw smiled evilly.

"Tsathoggua!" breathed Ruul-Vash.

An impossibly long, snaky tongue protruded from the great fanged maw, coiled itself about the body of the high-priest Ruul-Vash, and drew him, screaming and kicking, within. The great lips of the Sleeping God smacked monstrously.

At once the Tsathoggua shadow-thing, the simulacrum of the real Sleeping God, whose actual body yet slumbered beneath Mount Voormithadreth, and whose indomitable will made manifest this psychic projection for its unholy purpose as guardian of the tomb of Hurun — brought here in the smudge on the Hyperborean youth's cloak, of course — hopped horribly on those massive splayed feet over to the bound form of Satampra Zeiros. Its sleepy eyes glared down at his helpless body, regarded him hungrily. The master-thief's eyes nearly burned from their sockets, his skin a-crawl. A cold, emotionless yet powerful voice reverberated in the master-thief's mind.


With that the Sleeping God stretched forth a great splayed claw and touched the master-thief's bonds, and at Tsathoggua's touch the chains rusted and fell away instantly! The shadow-entity dd the same for the still-unconscious form of Alu Kuthos, then the god turned and hopped again into the gloom and shadows of the dungeon of the temple of the moon-god.

When Alu Kuthos regained consciousness, he and Satampra Zeiros made haste to quit that noxious place, and return once again to the haunts of civilized man, truly shaken yet wiser in a cosmic way for their experiences. And ever more the dreams of Satampra Zeiros were singularly haunted by the form of that cyclopean thing from far Cykranosh, black and plastic and furry Tsathoggua, the Sleeping God.

Note From the Author:

The story is based, on the plot-outline by CAS entitled "The Shadow from the Sarcophagus/The Antique Shadow." I wrote this up as the sequel to the other two Satampra Zeiros tales, "The Tale of Satampra Zeiros" and "The Theft of the Thrty-Nine Girdles." But in utilizing this plot, I had to make a few changes to Smith's original ideas, and explain a few other facts. First of all, Smith's outline featured one Ruul-Vash, high-priest of the temple of the moon-god Leniqua as the heavy, while "Girdles" had the high-priest as one Marquanos. I simply explained this change away as Ruul-Vash having succeeded the former Marquanos, he being deposed after his failure in the affair of the girdles.

Secondly, CAS's poem "Lament for Vixeela" tells of this former love of Satampra's death — yet nowhere does Smith tell of how she perished! Again, I solved this conundrum, by placing the blame on old Ruul-Vash.

Thirdly, CAS's outline featured Tirouv Ompallios as the master-thief's partner in crime and adventure — but of course he met his ghastly demise in "Tale." So I simply gave ole Satampra another young companion (I see him as sort of an HPL-ish figure, attracting to his impressive wing a whole flock of young would-be students of his wisdom!), the brash Alu Kuthos.

And lastly, I wanted to use Tsathoggua in the tale, and did so as well. There you have it: the genesis of an adventure! (I sure would like to do more in the series later too!)

This story is Scheduled to apear in Chaosium's TSATHOGGUA CYCLE. But we got it first !

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