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‘Betwixt the Strokes of Night’
The Wrastling for Demonland: The Worm Ouroboros, Chapter 2

Chapter 2 is the most mythological passage of Lessingham’s dream flight into Mercury with his martlet, with the little creature proving to harbor partisan sympathies with the demons against the witches and their dastard King, expressed like so:

“…that the innocent eye of day should be enforced still to look upon the children of night everlasting. Corund of Withland and his cursed sons.”

Lessingham admonishes the bird that they are neutral observers and they observe the emergence of the King, said to appear “fey” as if “the dice fall against him.”

The undercurrent of the chapter is that the King's vassal, Lord Gro, has had a prognostication in dream form that serves as an omen of the King’s impending doom, a king who is crowned like so:

“The crown of Witchland, fashioned like a hideous crab and encrusted with jewels so thickly that none might discern the iron whereof it was framed, weighed on his beetling brow.”

The wrastling, refereed by a third party, The Red Foliet, precedes in three bouts, the first based on Jacob’s wrestling with the angel, in which the king attacks the hero's leg and the bout ends in a draw, the second rendered in tone like the bout between Ajax and Odysseus in the Iliad, but ending in a foul by the King and featuring a graphic illustration of a crawling full nelson hold and another kingly foul, finally ending with the third round in which the fouled hero slays the king, breaking his neck with a throw.

The undercurrent is omen-fraught and the subtext emerges as an allegory of rage against dishonorable acts rising to topple the ruler.

The King's actions consist of terribly cruel boasts and culminated in the “beastly deed” of driving his fingers up into Goldrty Bluzco’s nose.

Chapter 2 satisfies the requirements of heroic myth and is set on a bed of weirdly undulating dream.

A Well of Heroes: Two:

Literary Impressions of the Prose and Verse of Robert E. Howard

Add Comment
LaManoAugust 28, 2017 3:51 PM UTC

This chapter also answers the question:

"Instead of armies fighting wars, why don't the two kings, or their champions, just fight a duel and the warring nations agree to abide by the results, and let each other alone?"

The chapter explains why!
LaManoAugust 28, 2017 1:21 PM UTC

Gro is one of the more interesting characters in this fantasy so far.

You want to think he's just a weasely toady, but the more he talks (and maybe it's just talk) he reveals a sort of non-fighting courage that's actually admirable.

Supposedly he's been to the death-land of Morna Maruna and returned. He several times faces down, unarmed, an armed man who has the ability and the desire to kill him on the spot (or maybe I'm reading ahead a chapter), and calmly squares off with him with the assurance that even as the blade is drawn, his tongue and his reason will save him.

Remember in the movie "The Ten Commandments", where Dathan (Edward G. Robinson) is telling Ramses about Moses' secret. Ramses puts his sword against Dathan's throat. "Draw ONE more breath to tell me why Moses or any other Egyptian would free the Hebrew slaves!" And Dathan calmly looks him in the eye and tells him ....

I'll be interested to see how it comes out!
LynnAugust 28, 2017 11:12 AM UTC

I found it striking that the Lord Gro twice described his dream as an object or creature that came to his room in the night.