The Green Decay by Robert M. Price
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's "wife."

In the elder days of fair Hyperborea, when all things were possible for that men deemed them so, did one Nabulus win wide acclaim by a feat of thaumaturgy undreamt of and unmatched, even the infusing of warm life into a carving of bronze. And it happened on this wise.

Nabulus, a solitary figure of indeterminate age and arrayed, like any magus, with floor-length braided beard and flowing robes, lacked neither arcane power nor considerable renown. Unlike many wizards before and after him, he neglected not the simple mortals who abode in the settlements nearby, instructing them in such simple marvels of science as he deemed them capable of mastering, among which were the arts of medicine and irrigation, together with some rudimentary mechanical implements. Weapons he refused to grant, knowing that in this one sphere, increased knowledge made men more like unto the beasts, not less.

For these and many like boons was Nabulus worshipped by the humble of the land, nor did he lack apprentices drawn from among those astute enough to grasp that it is superior knowledge, and not divine fiat, which masters nature's secrets. By patient instruction and issuance of judicious challenges did Nabulus test his pupils' resources, for he knew that even wizards must one day perish, and he was desirous that knowledge not expire with him.

Yet for all his benefactions and the gratitude of his people, Great Nabulus suffered a loneliness rendered the more grievous by reason of the very veneration in which he was held. For no man seeketh lightly to befriend a living god, and as such was he regarded. True, he did hold converse with extradimensional entities who regarded him somewhat more as a peer, but such fellowship held little of common human warmth. And most of all did Nabulus pine for the sweetness of the female.

Now the path of the mage is a solitary one, requiring the seeker to keep the strictest oath of chaste celibacy, lest his life-force flow into the wide and undistinguished river of mundane mortality. The sorcerer must needs apply his begetting desire unto ethereal and ectoplastic works, and to expend one's energies in the pleasures of the flesh is to bind oneself to the way of all the earth. Even so had mighty Nabulus thought long ago to have cast out every sentimental pang for the gentler sex. But of late did his mind more and more repair to a forbidden notion: would not his triumphs be much the sweeter if he possessed a heart's companion with whom to share them? Was this too great a boon, in return for his many sacrifices? And might there not be some apt way to sate his longing, meet unto a wizard?

Upon the matter did Nabulus ponder much, turning a silent answer to those among his pupils with sufficient wits to detect his consternation. At length he arrived at a solution and charged his servants and apprentices to leave him undisturbed in his laboratory till his latest work was fulfilled. Of his disciples he would require the assistance only of the eldest, Aimoth the Acolyte, who should attend his supine form as his spirit vaulted high into the ultratelluric Zone of the Colossi, that akashic realm of eternal primotypes of which, Atlantean savants teach, all earthly things are material mirrorings.

Venturing thus into the dimension of pure essence, he resolved to capture a direct vision of the Eternal Female, the Divine Wisdom, for his own companion, then return with her to solid earth. His devotion to such a mate would be a love more celestial than the empyrean heavens, and no mere coupling of human breedingstock.

Nabulus lay upon a straw mat spread within a chalk pentagram of many strange hues, having placed at his head a full-sized brazen statue of a naked woman, flawless in every point. The mage had straightly instructed the youth Aimoth what he must do to aid in the ritual ascent. Many times he circumnavigated the mandala, uttering words of ancient Senzar and forming elaborate patterns with hand-held banners and veils in a prescribed order. All these were aids to his master's meditations. The apprentice showed his skill in a flawless performing of the rite.

Of the astral journey Nabulus would thereafter vouchsafe little, but it was soon known that he had not returned alone from his expedition into arcane realms. The Acolyte Aimoth had finished his share in the task and at length fell into a sound slumber, a natural concomitant of one's presence at an epiphany of the Other. But, he averred afterward, when he awoke it was to behold his master cradling the naked, statuesque form, for whom he requested his young assistant to fetch a robe, for the metallic homuncula forsooth had taken on living vitality. Great Nabulus had succeeded in causing the ultramundane Female Archetype to enter into a prepared vessel. Seeing her thus living and vivacious, the youth Aimoth at once found his code of chaste impassivity a great vexation.

The feat of Nabulus the Wonder-Worker spread swiftly, both among his sorcerous brethren and among the common people. The latter rejoiced in their simple, good-hearted way, while the former took in the news with astonishment and some perturbation. For, though none sought to belittle the phenomenal magnitude of their colleague's feat, they liked not the notion of his casting aside so basic a tenet of the wizardly code as celibacy.

For his part, Nabulus deemed himself in no wise to have infringed on the ancient ways of the magi, as he sought naught but the spiritual love of a noble and chaste goddess. Besides, he liked not the hypocrisy of some of his detractors who were widely known to cavort with succulent succubi, keeping within the letter of the ancient law only by reason that their affections were lavished upon beings with no true flesh.

Alas, there were others of Nabulus' great household whose intentions were not so pure as his. For one evening, Nabulus having taken to his bed in exhaustion after a greatly taxing feat of exorcism in the village below, Aimoth the Acolyte, he who had of late found it more and more burdensome to pursue his studies with a single mind, chanced to espy the heart-shaking beauty of Nabulus' mate, the fair Akhamot, as she stood at the railing of the balcony gazing down upon the countryside of a world of matter to which she was still mostly a stranger. Aimoth waxed bold to approach his mistress and to speak.

"Of a truth did my master capture the very essence of beauty and bring it back to our poor earth, the which is scarce worthy of thy charms, my lady."

The Lady Akhamot craned her sleek neck a few inches to face the impertinent youth. But she did not rebuke the unaccustomed forwardness, that an underling and a youth should speak uninvited to a goddess. For in truth she did regard him with silent mouth and wide, awaiting eyes. Little was she accustomed to the ways of mortals, so far from ordinary mortality was her mate Nabulus.

Emboldened that she had not at once rebuffed him, Aimoth advanced to further outrages, mayhap misapprehending her silence. Nor did she resist when the lustful youth abruptly grasped her beauteous form and ravished her perfect mouth and breast with hot kisses. Even so she did not thrust him from her, though her bronze-born strength was sufficient to the need, for she yet observed events in pure puzzlement. All was new to her as noble Nabulus had not laid warm hand upon her form.

Akhamot's rounded body had been fashioned from molten bronze, forsooth, but now it was flesh, and flesh, too, hath a molten fire. The profaner Aimoth knew little of the alchemical art, but he did know how to awaken the flame within his mistress, and ere long she was returning his passion measure for measure. And no great distance away the cuckolded Nabulus slept his sleep.

Weeks and months passed on, and from his love did Nabulus detect no sign of evasion nor of deception, for truly all she did was done in naive innocence. Naught would she have kept back from Nabulus, had not Aimoth the betrayer warned her, with some cheap deceit, not to speak of it. But, being a vain and foolish fellow, Aimoth himself showed no similar discretion, boasting in secret, as he believed, of his conquest to some among his fellow apprentices, and even to a few of the household servants.

Not the lightest of Aimoth's sins was that his boastings fired the latent lusts of the other youth, yet new to the discipline of chastity, and many became corrupted in mind. And so the betrayer became the betrayed, for in no great space of days, several of his fellow-pupils had applied unto their mistress and enjoyed the same forbidden intercourse with her. For once ignited, her carnal fire, being archetypically perfect, could not be quenched.

How these degeneracies at length reached the ears of the cuckold Nabulus is not known, though there is no mystery to it. He required no scrying crystal to learn what all else knew, down to the lowliest milk-maid. Deeply did he grieve for the betrayal of his love and trust, but more for the defilement of the heavenly purity of Akhamot. She was too noble for the world nor could any act of hers be done with wickedness, but with Nabulus' tricky former apprentices, now traducers, it was another story. And, most unfortunate for them, Nabulus was by no means above the human lust for vengeance.

Naive he might have been, indeed, very nearly so naive as his Akhamot, but an utter fool he was not. So he planned a plan and continued in seeming obliviousness, making no one the wiser. What he did at last was to weaken, day by day, the binding spell that held the sky-born spirit of beauteous Akhamot captive to the material vessel into which he had contained it, so that little by little the cord linking soul to body was played out longer and longer. To her lovers was the process but dimly perceived as a slow lessening of her fleshly suppleness and a gradual ebbing of the tide of her ardor. But at first the decline was scarcely to be noticed. Nabulus would by this means at length unfetter her spirit and send it aloft again to that realm of pure possibility from whence he had unlawfully seized it.

But that alone was not his plan. If he had sinned in overpassing the bounds between the worlds, his iniquity was light when weighed against that of his betrayers. For their doom's sake did he prolong the process. They must not suspect their awful plight till much too late, and to this end did the bitter Nabulus apply a second conjure, a mighty apotrope to turn away, for a time, the desultory effects of Akhamot's decline and to send them instead upon those who dallied with her, quite in the manner of the savage Voormi shamans and their hexes.

Thus, while fair Akhamot appeared to grow no worse, her suitors all alike commenced to mark a queer stiffness of the joints, a worriesome heaviness of limb, and a dismaying sluggishness of digestion. Akhamot seemed to have recovered all her vigor, but most of the apprentices of Nabulus sank deeper into deadening paralysis. And yet would they have traded much to retain even this sorry state, for as the weeks progressed, their very flesh did crumble away most loathsomely into patches of seeming verdigris, until at length naught remained of them but greasy piles of noxious green detritus.

The servants in the house of Nabulus the Wonder-Worker stolidly set about disposing of the heaps of filth the color of jealousy, but never were they apprised of the true cause of these astonishments, as, about the same time, the chief steward discovered the loss of both his master and his mistress. The mortal body of the wizard was found on his laboratory floor, by the looks of it, in the midst of an experiment that had gone wrong. But of the lady Akhamot there survived not a trace, nothing in fact but a curious life-like bronze statue of her.

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© 1997 Edward P. Berglund
"The Green Decay": © 1997 Robert M. Price. All rights reserved.
Graphics © 1997 Old Arkham Graphics Design. All rights reserved. Email to: Corey T. Whitworth.

Created: August 11, 1997; Updated: August 9, 2004