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'Out of the Mouth of Destruction'
The Worm Ouroboros: Chapter 9, Salapanta Hills

Of the Landing of Lord Juss and his Companions in Outer Impland and their Meeting with Zeldornius, Helteranius and Jalcanaius Fostus; and of the Tidings told by Mivarsh, and the Dealings of the Three Great Captains on the Hills of Salapanta.

The fleet of the Demonlords, set out to find their companion, Goldry, who had been taken by the sending of the Witch King, is driven for 40 days before sleet and hale and dashed to pieces on the very shores they set out to explore—the tempests being the work of the Witch King in Carce, who even set a hungry under toe to drag survivors off the lee shore out to sea. The Witch King's use of the weather to thwart those questing against him prefigures the snow and ravens of Sauron in The Lord of the Rings.

To this King Juss remarks:

"...all occasions are steps for us to climb fame by."

When Juss and Spitfire and their men finally come across Brandoch Daha, they greet him as if he were a dead friend resurrected "beyond hope." This theme is echoed in Tolkien's work with Gandalf's loss and return and is common throughout this story, which is highly devoted to the ideal of a band of heroes, to the point where the heroes are most bothered by their separation from one another. One wonders if the separation of so many men from their fraternities during and after the Great War engrained this sense of masculine separation anxiety in the author, and considers further that this separation of like minded men into specialized trades serves, in our world, a manipulative cause.

The Demonlords meet at a spy tower and observe the strange plight of three great captains of mercenary armies who conquered this land for the witches and are now cursed to wander it, seeking each other out for battle. The logistics, even for a fairytale, of three armies circling through the same wilderness for decades, are improbable to the point of straining the suspension of disbelief—but have a metaphoric appeal. The battle of two heroes against one is joined to the mutual discussion, with all of this observed by the Demonlords who do not take a hand in the carnage.

A wonderful set of word images are wrought by Eddison as the Demonlords discuss these three great captains:

"Was he little and dark" asked Juss, "like a keen dagger, suddenly unsheathed at midnight? Or bright with the splendor of a pennoned spear at a jousting on high holiday? Or was he dangerous of aspect like an old sword, rusty in the midst but bright at point and edge, brought fourth for deeds of destiny on the fated day?"

Before the battle of the three former comrades shatters what came before, a six verse poem is offered as a prologue. The first verse begins:

"The hag is astride

This night for a ride;"

In the end the outcome is heroically tragic, with the surviving hero forlorn over the slaying of his enemies and the loss of his men to the point of calling on the enchanted land to swallow him up. With the mention of mud by one lord and the senseless and mutually devastating battle, one seas the recent Great War echoed in this oddly heroic fairytale.

Diction of Interest

Bedung: (third-person singular simple present bedungs, present participle bedunging, simple past and past participle bedunged) To cover with dung or manure.

Fortalice: a small fort, fortified house, or outwork of fortification.

Stoat: a small carnivorous mammal of the weasel family that has chestnut fur with white underparts and a black-tipped tail. It is native to both Eurasia and North America and in northern areas the coat turns white in winter.

Puissant: having great power or influence.

Heath: an area of open uncultivated land, especially in Britain, with characteristic vegetation of heather, gorse, and coarse grasses. vegetation dominated by dwarf shrubs of the heath family: a dwarf shrub with small leathery leaves and small pink or purple bell-shaped flowers, characteristic of heathland and moorland.

Colubrine: of or belonging to a snake; snakelike

Catarrh: excessive discharge or buildup of mucus in the nose or throat, associated with inflammation of the mucous membrane.

A Well of Heroes: Two:

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

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