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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe People Of The Mist - Chapter XXIX - THE TRIAL OF THE GODS
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The People Of The Mist - Chapter XXIX - THE TRIAL OF THE GODS Post by :stormpay Category :Long Stories Author :H. Rider Haggard Date :March 2011 Read :2321

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The People Of The Mist - Chapter XXIX - THE TRIAL OF THE GODS

Juanna had scarcely restored the remainder of her deadly medicine to
its hiding-place, when the curtains were drawn and Nam entered. After
his customary salutations, which on this occasion were more copious
than usual, he remarked blandly that the moon had risen in a clear

"Which means, I suppose, that it is time for us to start," said
Leonard gruffly.

Then they set out, Juanna in her monk-like robe, and Otter in his red
fringe and a goat-skin cape which he insisted upon wearing.

"I may as well die warm as cold, Baas," he explained, "for of cold I
shall know enough when I am dead."

At the palace gate Olfan and a guard were waiting, but they found no
opportunity of speaking with him. Here also were gathered a great
number of priests, who preceded and followed them.

The procession being formed, they were led solemnly to a different
gate of the temple from that by which they had entered it on their
previous visits. On this occasion the secret passages were avoided,
and they passed up a broad avenue though the centre of the
amphitheatre, to seats that had been prepared for them on that side of
the pool which was furthest from the colossal idol. As before, the
temple was crowded with human beings, and their advance through it was
very impressive, for the priests chanted as they walked, while the
multitude preserved an ominous silence.

At first Leonard was at a loss to know why they were placed on the
hither side of the pool, but presently he saw the reason. In front of
the chairs to be occupied by Juanna and Otter, an open space of rock
was left, semicircular in shape, on which were set other seats to the
number of thirty or more. These seats were allotted to elders of the
people, who, as Leonard guessed rightly, had been chosen to act as
their judges. The position was selected for the convenience of these
elders, and in order that the words they spoke might be heard by a
larger proportion of their vast audience.

When Juanna and Otter were seated, and Leonard and Francisco had taken
their places behind them, Nam came forward to address the Council and
the multitude beyond.

"Elders of the People of the Mist," he said, "I have conveyed your
wishes to the holy gods, who but lately have deigned to put on the
flesh of men to visit us their people; namely, that they should meet
you here and talk with you of the trouble which has come upon the
land. And now the gracious gods have assented to your wish, and
behold, they are face to face with you and with this great company of
their children. Be pleased therefore to make known what you desire to
the gods, that they may answer you, either with their own mouths or by
the voice of me, their servant."

He ceased, and after a pause, during which the people murmured
angrily, an elder rose and said:

"We would know of you how it is, O Aca and O Jal, that the summer has
deserted the land. Now our strait is very sorry, for famine will come
upon us with the winter snows. A while ago, O Aca and O Jal, you
changed the worship of this people, forbidding the victims who had
been prepared to be offered up at the spring festival, and lo! there
has been no spring. Therefore we ask a word of you on this matter, for
the people have consulted together, and say by our voice that they
will have no gods who kill the spring. Speak, O ye gods, and you, Nam,
speak also, for we would learn the reason of these evils; and from
you, O Nam, we would learn how it comes that you have proclaimed gods
in the land whose breath has destroyed the sunshine."

"Ye ask me, O People of the Mist," answered Juanna, "why it is that
the winter stretches out his hand over the slumber of the spring,
forbidding her to awake, and I will answer you in few words and short.
It is because of your disobedience and the hardness of your hearts, O
ye rebellious children. Did ye not do sacrifice when we forbade you to
take the blood of men? Ay, and have not our servants been stolen
secretly away and put to death to satisfy your lust for slaughter? It
is for this reason, because of your disobedience, that the heavens
have grown hard as your own hearts and will not bless you with their
sunshine and their gentle rain. I have answered you."

Then again the spokesman of the elders rose and said:

"We have heard your words, O Aca, and they are words of little
comfort, for to sacrifice is the custom of the land, and hitherto no
evil has befallen us because of that ancient custom. Yet if there has
been offence, it is not we who have offended, but rather the priests
in whose hands these matters lie; and as for your servants, we know
nothing of them, or of their fate. Now, Nam, make answer to the
charges of the gods, and to the questions of the people, for you are
the chief of their servants and you have proclaimed them to be true
gods and set them over us to rule us."

Thus adjured, Nam stood forward, and his mien was humble and anxious,
for he saw well that his accusers were not to be trifled with, and
that his life, or at least his power, was at stake, together with
those of the gods.

"Children of the Mist," he began, "your words are sharp, yet I do not
complain of them, for, as ye shall learn, my fault has been grievous.
Truly, I am the chief of the servants of the gods, and I am also the
servant of the people, and now it would seem that I have betrayed both
gods and people, though not of my own will.

"Listen: ye know the legend that has come down to us, that Aca and Jal
should reappear in the land, wearing the shapes of a fair white maiden
and of a black dwarf. Ye know also how they came as had been promised,
and how I showed them to you here in this temple, and ye accepted
them. Ye remember that then they put away the ancient law and forbade
the sacrifices, and by the hand of their servant who is named
Deliverer, they destroyed two of the priests, my brethren, in a
strange and terrible fashion.

"Then I murmured, though they threatened me with death, but ye
overruled my words and accepted the new law, and from that hour all
things have gone ill. Now I took counsel with my heart, for it seemed
wonderful to me that the gods should discard their ancient worship,
and I said to my heart: Can these be true gods, or have I perchance
been duped? Thenceforward I held my peace, and set myself to watch,
and now after much watching--alas! I must say it to my shame--I have
discovered that they are no true gods, but wicked liars who have
sought to usurp the places of the gods."

He paused, and a roar of rage and astonishment went up from the
assembled thousands.

"It has come at last," whispered Leonard into Juanna's ear.

"Yes, it has come," she answered. "Well, I expected it, and now we
must face it out."

When the tumult had subsided, the spokesman of the elders addressed
Nam, saying:

"These are heavy words, O Nam, and having uttered them you must prove
them, for until they are proved we will not believe readily that there
are human beings so wicked that they dare to name themselves as gods.
When you proclaimed these strangers to be Aca and Jal, we accepted
them, perhaps too easily and after too short a search. Now you
denounce them as liars, but we will not disclaim them whom we have
once received till we are sure that there is no room for error. It may
chance, Nam, that it would please you well to cast aside those gods
who have threatened you with death and do not love you."

"I should be bold indeed," answered Nam, "if I dared to speak as I
have spoken lacking testimony to establish a charge so dreadful as
that which I bring against these wanderers. Nor should I seek to
publish my own shame and folly were I not forced thereto by knowledge
that, did I conceal it, would make me a partner of their crime.
Listen, this is the tale of those whom we have worshipped: the fair
woman, as she herself told us, is named Shepherdess of the Heavens,
and she is the wife of the white man who is named Deliverer, and the
dwarf Dweller in the Waters is their servant, together with the second
white man and the others.

"Dwelling in a far country, these men and women chanced to learn the
story of our people--how, I shall show you presently--and also that we
find in the earth and use in the ceremonies of our temple certain red
and blue stones which among the white people are of priceless value.
These they determined to steal, being adventurers who seek after
wealth. To this end the Shepherdess learned our language, also she
learned how to play the part of Aca, while the dwarf, dog that he is,
dared to take the holy name of Jal. I will be short: they accomplished
their journey, and the rest you know. But, as it happened, none of the
stones they covert have come into their hands, except that gem which
the Shepherdess wears upon her forehead, and this she brought with

"Now, People of the Mist, when doubts of these gods had entered into
me I made a plan: I set spies to watch them in the palace yonder,
those spies being the wife who was given to the dwarf and her
handmaidens. Also, I caused their black servants to be seized and
thrown to the Snake, one or two of them at a time, for of this I was
sure, that if they had the power they would protect their servants.
But, as the Snake knows, those men were not protected. Meanwhile
reports came to me from the women, and more especially from Saga, the
granddaughter of my brother, who was given as a bride to Jal. And this
was their report: that the dwarf behaved himself like a cur of low
birth, and that when he was in liquor, which was often, he babbled of
his doings with the Deliverer in other lands, though all that he said
they could not tell me because even now he has little knowledge of our

"When these tales came to my ears, you may guess, O People of the
Mist, that if I had doubted before, now my heart was shaken, and yet I
had no proof. In my darkness I prayed to the gods for light, and lo!
light came. Among the followers of these wanderers was a woman, and
but yesterday this woman visited me and confessed all. Forty years ago
she had fled from among our people--I know not why, but she took with
her a knowledge of our secrets. It was she who told them of the gods
and the story of the gods, and she instructed them how they should
deceive us and win the red stones which they desired. But now her
heart repents her of the evil, and I will summon her before you, that
ye may judge between me and these liars who have brought me to this
shame. Bring forth the woman."

There was a silence, and so intense was the interest that no sound
came from the audience, which watched for the appearance of the
witness. Presently Soa advanced from the shadows at the foot of the
colossus, and escorted by two priests took her stand in the centre of
the semicircle of judges.

"Speak, woman," said Nam.

Then Soa spoke. "I am of the People of the Mist," she said, "as ye may
know by looking on me and hearing me. I was the daughter of a priest,
and forty years ago, when I was young and fair, I fled this land for
my own reasons, and travelled south for three months' journey, till I
came to a village on a mighty river, where I dwelt for twenty years
earning a livelihood as a doctoress of medicine. Then there came into
that village a white man, whose wife gave birth to a daughter and
died. I became the nurse of that daughter; she is the woman who sits
before you, and her name is Shepherdess.

"Twenty years more went by, and I desired to return to my own land
that I might die among my people. I told the tale of my land and of
its wealth to the Shepherdess and to her husband the Deliverer, for I
dared not travel alone. Therefore in my wickedness I showed them how
they might feign to be the gods of the People of the Mist, come back
according to the legend, for I saw that the dwarf, the Deliverer's
servant, was shaped like to the shape of the statue of Jal, who sits
in stone above you. Being greedy, they fell into the plan, for above
all things they desired to win the precious stones. But when we were
come hither the true gods visited me in a dream so that my heart was
troubled because of the evil which I had done, and yesterday I escaped
to Nam and told him all the tale which you have heard. That is the
story, People of the Mist, and now I pray your mercy and your pardon."

Soa ceased, and Leonard, who had been watching the multitude,
whispered to Juanna:

"Speak quickly if you can think of anything to say. They are silent
now because of their astonishment, but in another minute they will
break out, and then----"

"People of the Mist," cried Juanna, taking the hint, "you have heard
the words of Nam and the words of her who was my servant. They dare to
tel you that we are no gods. So be it: on this matter we will not
reason with you, for can the gods descend to prove their godhead? We
will not reason, but I will say this in warning: put us away if you
wish,--and it may well chance that we shall suffer ourselves to be put
away, since the gods do not desire to rule over those who reject them,
but would choose rather to return to their own place.

"Yet for you it shall be a sad and an unlucky day when ye lift a hand
against our majesty, for in going we will leave you that by which we
shall be remembered. Ay, we will bequeath to you three things: famine
and pestilence and civil war, which shall rage among you and destroy
you till ye are no more a people. Ye have suffered our servants to be
murdered, and disobeyed our commands, and it is for this reason, as I
have told you, that the sun shines no more and the summer will not
come. Complete your wickedness if ye will, and let the gods follow by
the path that their servants trod. Then, People of the Mist, ye shall
reap as ye have sown, and death and desolation shall be your harvest.

"Now for that base slave who has borne false witness against us. Among
the many things she has told you, one thing she has left untold: that
she is daughter to Nam the priest; that she fled the land because she
was chosen bride to the Snake, and is therefore an apostate worthy of
death. One word also as to Nam, her father; if his tale be true, then
he himself is condemned by it, for doubtless he knew all at the
beginning, from the lips of his daughter Soa.

"Yes, knowing the truth he dared to set up gods in the land whom he
believed to be false, trusting thereby to increase his own power and
glory, and when these failed him because of his wickedness, then he
did not scruple to cry aloud his shame. I have spoken, People of the
Mist. Now judge between us and let fate follow judgment, for we
renounce you."

She ended, her face alight with anger and her eyes flashing with
excitement, and so great was the power of her eloquence and beauty
that it seemed to throw a spell of silence over the hearts of her
fierce and turbulent audience, while Soa slunk back into the shadow
and Nam cowered visibly.

"It is false, O people," he cried in a voice that trembled with rage
and fear. "My daughter told me the tale for the first time at dawn

His words awoke the audience as it were, and instantly there arose a
babel of sounds that rent the very skies. "His daughter! He says that
she is his daughter! Nam owns his crimes!" yelled some.

"Away with the false gods!" shouted others.

"Touch them not, they are true gods and will bring a curse upon us!"
answered a third party, among whom Leonard recognised the voice of

And so the clamour went on. For full ten minutes it raged, till the
exhaustion of those that made it brought it to its end, and Juanna,
who all this while sat silent as some lovely marble statue, became
aware that the spokesman of the elders was once more addressing the

"People of the Mist," he said, "hold your peace, and hearken to me. We
have been chosen judges of this matter, and now, having consulted
together, we will give judgment, and you shall be bound by it. As to
whether these strangers who are named Aca and Jal are true gods or
false, we say no word. But if they are false gods, then surely Nam is
guilty with them."

Here a shout of assent burst from the audience, and Leonard watching
the high priest saw him tremble.

"Yet," he went on, "they have told us by the mouth of her who sits
before you, that it is because of our offences that the sun has ceased
to shine at their command. Therefore at their command it can be made
to shine. Then let them give us a sign or let them die, if indeed they
are mortal, for if they are not mortal we cannot kill them. And this
shall be the sign which they must give: If to-morrow at the dawn the
mists have vanished and the sun shines red and clear on the snows of
yonder mountain, then it is well and we will worship them. But if the
morning is cold and mist-laden, then, true gods or false, we will hurl
them from the head of the statue into the pit of the Snake, there to
be dealt with by the Snake, or to deal with him as it may chance. That
is our judgment, People of the Mist, and Nam shall carry it out if
need be, for he shall keep his power and his place until all these
wonders are made clear, and then himself he shall be judged according
to their issue."

Now the great mass of the people cried aloud that this was a wise and
just saying, but others were silent, for though they did not agree
with it they dared not dispute the sentence. Then Juanna rose and

"We have heard your words and we will withdraw to consider them, and
by dawn ye shall see us seated on the Black One yonder. But whether we
will cause the sun to shine or choose to pass to our own place by the
path of boiling waters, we do not know, though it seems to me that the
last thing is better than the first, for we weary of your company,
People of the Mist, and it is not fitting that we should bless you
longer with our presence. Nevertheless, should we choose that path,
those evils which I have foretold shall fall upon you. Olfan, lead us

The king stepped forward with his guards and the procession passed
back towards the palace solemnly and in silence, for none attempted to
bar their way. They reached it safely at exactly ten o'clock by
Leonard's watch.

"Now let us eat and drink," said Leonard when they stood alone in the
throne-room, "for we shall need all our strength to-night."

"Yes," answered Juanna with a sad smile, "let us eat and drink, for
to-morrow we die."

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When they had finished their meal, which was about as sad anentertainment as can well be conceived, they began to talk."Do you see any hope?" asked Juanna of the other three.Leonard shook his head and answered:"Unless the sun shines at dawn to-morrow, we are dead men.""Then there is little chance of that, Baas," groaned Otter, "for thenight is as the nights have been for these five weeks. No wonder thatthis people are fierce and wicked who live in such a climate."Juanna hid her face in her hands for a while, then spoke:"They did not say that any harm was to come

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The morrow drew towards its evening. Like those that had gone beforeit, this day had been misty and miserable, only distinguished from itspredecessors by the fall of some sharp showers of sleet. Now, as theafternoon waned, the sky began to clear in its accustomed fashion; butthe bitter wind sweeping down the mountains, though it drove away thefog, gave no promise of any break in the weather. At sunset Leonardwent to the palace gates and looked towards the temple, about thewalls of which a number of people were already gathering, as though inanticipation of some great event. They caught sight of him,