The Double Shadow: A Clark Ashton Smith Podcast

Transcription for Episode #6: “The Colossus of Ylourgne” pt. 2

Show notes for Episode 6

P = Phil, R = Ruth, T = Tim.

R: I have called up in all my years of sorcery / P: inch by inch, with baleful terror / R: no god nor devil / T: the red moon, ominous and gibbeous / R: no demon nor lich nor shadow / T: had declined above the terraces / P: of the wormy corpses that he dug with his hands from unconsecrated graves / R: and the thing was a streaming ooze of charnal pollution / R: dreaming of conquests / T: It is verily known by few / R: and of vaster necromancies / P: there were people — mostly priests and women, it is told — whom he picked up as they fled / T: It is verily known by few, but is nevertheless an attestable fact / P: and pulled limb from limb as a child might quarter an insect / T, P, R: The Double Shadow — A Clark Ashton Smith Podcast.

T. Hello and welcome to The Double Shadow, a podcast exploring the weird fiction of 20th-century writer Clark Ashton Smith. I’m Tim.

P. I’m Phil.

R. And I’m Ruth.

T. This week we’ll be covering the second half of “The Colossus of Ylourgne.” So if you haven’t listened to the previous podcast where we discussed the first four sections of “The Colossus of Ylourgne,” do so. Or, you know, if you’re a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of person, listen to the end and then go back to the beginning. Pretend it’s like a Tarantino movie or something. So where did we leave off?

R: Well, the infamous sorcerer / necromancer Nathaire had vanished out of Averoigne; raised a bunch of corpses which went gallivanting off into the night toward what people eventually figured out was the ruined castle of Ylourgne; frightened the heck out of some monks who came tracking down one of these corpses that happened to be their dead brother (as in, brother in the order); he reanimated a couple of corpses and chased them out of there; and then his old apprentice, Gaspard du Nord, fearlessly broke into the castle, sneaked up to see what he was doing, and discovered that he was making this 100-foot long Colossus and imbuing it with flesh. And at that point Gaspard got hit over the head and his assailant kept him from falling and dashing his brains out, so we expect that we’ll get Gaspard waking up and finding out what all’s going on. Perhaps, even, Nathaire will tell him the details of his plot, monologuing because he thinks that Gaspard can’t possibly escape now. That’s just a theory. [T laughs]

P: Before we get back into the story, I wanted to talk very very briefly about how Gaspard du Nord doesn’t really make many other fiction appearances, but he does actually appear in letters written by Lovecraft.

T: Yeah, we have one on the site where Lovecraft mentions Gaspard du Nord in giving a fictional history of Averoigne.

P: He uses him also in a really kind of comedic letter where he’s giving, I think, Robert Bloch permission to use himself in a story, and he has listed among the witnesses to his signature Gaspard du Nord. [T, laughing: Wow.] And then later, in a Clark Ashton Smith story, he will appear not as a character but as a translator of the Book of Eibon, which is kind of fun. I just want to know as much about Gaspard as I possibly can. [T: Yeah, seriously.] From these sources, I learned that he apparently lived into the 20th century and was hanging around with H.P. Lovecraft, so… there you go.

R: And is played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

T: Or Ryan Gosling.

P: Or — hear me out — Jeff Goldblum.

[T and R laugh]

R: Young Jeff Goldblum, like Jurassic Park?

T: Yeah, which Jeff Goldblum?

P: You know what’s funny? I don’t view Jeff Goldblum as aging. [T laughs] [R: He really doesn’t though!] All I see is Goldblum. Yeah. That’s right.

T: All right… so…

R: Shall we get into the story?

[reading]

Part V: The Horror of Ylourgne.

T:

[reading]

Gaspard, returning from his dark plunge into Lethean emptiness, found himself gazing into the eyes of Nathaire: those eyes of liquid night and ebony, in which swam the chill, malignant fires of stars that had gone down to irremeable perdition. For some time, in the confusion of his senses, he could see nothing but the eyes, which seemed to have drawn him forth like baleful magnets from his swoon. Apparently disembodied, or set in a face too vast for human cognizance, they burned before him in chaotic murk; Then, by degrees, he saw the other features of the sorcerer, and the details of a lurid scene; and became aware of his own situation.

Trying to lift his hands to his aching head, he found that they were bound tightly together at the wrists. He was half lying, half leaning against an object with hard planes and edges that irked his back. … Nathaire, propped among Saracenic cushions with arabesques of sullen gold and fulgurant scarlet, was peering upon him from a kind of improvised-couch, made with bales of Orient rugs and arrases, to whose luxury the rude walls of the castle, stained with mould and mottled with dead fungi, offered a grotesque foil. Dim lights and evilly swooping shadows flickered across the scene; and Gaspard could hear a guttural hum of voices behind him. Twisting his head a little, he saw one of the stone vats, whose rosy luminosity was blurred and blotted by vampire wings that went to and fro.

“Welcome,” said Nathaire…

P: Chills.

T: Yeah!

P: One of the things that I think is interesting about this description of him propped on here is the “Saracenic” thing. Which I hadn’t really thought about, but he sets up that Nathaire may have been taught by the Saracens or something, way way back in the first paragraph, and every time Nathaire comes up, the adjective “Saracenic” is used to evoke… kind of a style of dress, almost. It’s kind of like a style.

T: Like Middle Eastern, right? [P: Yeah.] But like medieval Middle Eastern.

P: I love Nathaire as this sort of debauched, decadent, dying figure. In my mind, he’s a little bit like the Hedonist Bot in Futurama.

R: [laughs] Oh gosh… now that you’ve said it…

P: I don’t know if he speaks that way, but I get a similar vibe, that’s all I’m saying.

R: Well, that’s never coming out of my head, thank you Phil. [P: You’re welcome.] So Gaspard tries to interrogate him and find out what’s going on, is he trying to get to Heaven, or you know, what?

T: This is actually a cool passage that backs up something that Smith wrote before. Gaspard tries to get information out of Nathaire, and Nathaire laughs and says:

[reads, in distorted voice]

“Nay, nay, my good Gaspard. I have made another bond than the one with which puling cowards try to purchase the good will and forgiveness of the heavenly Tyrant. Hell may take me in the end, if it will; but Hell has paid, and will still pay, an ample and goodly price. I must die soon, it is true, for my doom is written in the stars: but in death, by the grace of Satan, I live again, and shall go forth endowed with the mighty thews of the Anakim, to visit vengeance on the people of Averoigne, who have long hated me for my necromantic wisdom and have held me in derision for my dwarf stature.”

R: Oh crap. [P and T laugh]

T: Yeah! But early on in the story, Smith hinted that maybe Nathaire cast his own horoscope and saw that he was going to die, so he’s kind of backing that up here.

P: Yeah, there’s a couple of fascinating things about Nathaire in this passage. I think first is the horoscope thing; he knows he’s gonna die, which is interesting because Nathaire knows he’s gonna die but also because every rumor that the people of Vyones said about him is true. [T, laughing: Yeah.] [R: Mm-hm.] But then I also like that Nathaire is this figure who’s not really… he sort of seems to view Heaven and Hell as equal things for him to play with, in a sense. Because he says that he hasn’t made a deal with God, but he has kind of made a deal with the Devil, but he got Hell to pay him for it, in effect, which is interesting. It’s kind of like a John Constantine kind of thing that’s going on, which is kind of cool. And then you have the last sentence of this, which puts him very much in the same light as Blaise Reynard. I’m left kind of wondering, if the people of Averoigne hadn’t been such [bleeped]s to him, would he have been such a bad guy? I think probably Nathaire would have been, but Smith does put a shade of moral gray here, which is kind of interesting.

T: I think he would have been… he definitely would have sought life beyond his failing body, but it might not have been as vengeance-driven. But he mentions something about the Anakim… Anakim is a Biblical reference to a strong and tall giant people mentioned in a few books of the Old Testament. Is that like David and Goliath? No, Goliath wasn’t an Anakim…

P: No, he was… it’s kind of slightly more obscure than that…

T: Is it kind of like the Annunaki?

R: The Sons of God and the daughters of men…

T: Right.

P: Yes, those are the ones. It comes up when Moses is leaving Egypt and he sends scouts out to see what’s out there, and they run into the Anakim, and that’s where this description of strong and tall comes from. And then I guess they come up in some later books too, but they’re always sort of tangential Biblical figures.

T: Like Jacques Le Loupgarou. [R laughs]

P: [laughing] Yeah, they’re like the Bible’s Jacques Le Loupgarou. So Nathaire’s plan is pretty much spelled out here: he’s making a giant out of the bones and flesh of the dead, and he’s then going to transmigrate his soul into the thing as his body dies, so this giant 100-foot tall monstrosity will become Nathaire.

T: And he’s just gonna let Gaspard hang out and watch, right?

R: Well, not let him hang out. He’s gonna throw him in the oubliette.

T: In the oubliette.

P: You know who else is a strong young man? Jeff Goldblum.

T: [laughing] I don’t know if Jeff Goldblum could get himself out of an oubliette though.

P: You clearly haven’t seen… um… I can’t even think of an appropriately obscure Jeff Goldblum movie. [R laughs]

T: So what is an oubliette?

R: It’s a little dungeon cell deep, deep under a castle, generally where you’d throw people to forget about them, hence the name coming from the French word for “forgetting.”

P: So it really is to put somebody in to just forget about them?

R: Yeah, you throw somebody down there and you don’t check on them. Kind of like, when he’s down in the oubliette he’ll stumble over a skeleton. That guy was thrown down there, probably by one of the barons that used to have the castle, and locked up and…

P: So is it like the dungeon of the dungeon?

R: Yeah. You’re not coming out of an oubliette… theoretically. Now I’m not gonna say it’s a BAD oubliette. He took over a castle that has been out of use for hundreds of years, so nobody’s really at fault. The oubliette just kind of sucks.

P: [laughing] Hold on, hold on.

R: Well it’s not like he thought he was going to have to repair the oubliette, you know? He would have just killed Gaspard and put him in the skeleton. It’s his own fault for not just killing Gaspard right there!

P: Before we move on to the escape from the oubliette, I just want to point out the phrase when he’s talking about the oubliette, Smith says it was made “strong and deep by the grim lords” of the place. Grim Lords is totally, if it’s not already the name of a metal band, it is now the name of my metal band.

T: Yeah, the Grim Lords of Ylourgne

P: [laughing] Aw, I just want to listen to an album by the Grim Lords of Ylourgne so bad right now!

R: It’ll be our side project.

T: What’s the album called? The Oubliette Beneath the Castle?

P: That’s more of a track name. I think… I think the album’s probably called Jacques Le Loupgarou, actually. [T and R laugh]

T: OK, so he chucks — or he has one of his apprentices chuck Gaspard down the oubliette.

R: And that takes us into…

[reading]

Part VI. The Vaults of Ylourgne.

And this is the pretty straightforward part. Gaspard wakes up in the oubliette, he stumbles around for a bit, they throw down some wine and bread at one point…

P: Which goes against the whole philosophy of an oubliette! They bring him food and wine?

T: Yeah, they actually remembered to give him some food.

R: I don’t think Nathaire is really up on this whole “lord of the castle” thing. He still hasn’t changed.

T: And it shows that… it struck me a little bit that maybe Nathaire — and there’s nothing else in the story to back this up — but maybe because Gaspard was once his pupil, he kind of feels that he can still either turn him, or he still cares about him a little bit?

P: It’s possible. I mean this is… this, to me, Nathaire acts a little bit here like a fairly cliché villain, the whole “I’m gonna tell you what I’m gonna do and then I’m gonna put you in a place that you can’t escape from, even though clearly you can.”

T: Right.

P: And then… I don’t understand why he doesn’t just kill him, I don’t understand why they’re giving him food and wine…

R: Mm-hmm. And they don’t take his dagger either.

T: Right! Yeah, they leave him his food and his dagger.

P: That is a serious problem with villains in Averoigne. [T and R laugh]

T: But I think the giving him food and wine, and not killing him, kind of backs up that Nathaire still views him as either a friend or somebody that he can use later on.

P: Kind of, but that goes directly against what he says to him, which is “if you had gotten here earlier, I would have killed you and made you part of my new super-cool body.” So I don’t know. I see the logic of what you’re saying, but I don’t know that I 100% buy it.

R: This is our “blood-drunk vampire” of the story. [P and T: Yes, right, exactly.] In the bottom of the oubliette, he finds this little stream of water and fresh air. So he thinks “hmm, that’s kind of interesting,” and so he starts digging at it with his handy dagger. And after a while the bricks are loose enough that he starts pulling them out, and as I picture, chucking them over his shoulder back into his cell. And everybody’s upstairs working, so nobody hears any of this. And so he builds himself a little tunnel, and at first he thinks “oh crap, I’m never ever going to go anywhere,” and gets to this cavern under it and thinks “OK, this is bad, I’m just as trapped as I was before,” and I wonder if he kind of walled it in after him? Because he seems rather despondent, like he couldn’t just go back to the oubliette. But then…

T: I took it that he’s hardcore, like he’s never gonna go backward. He’s going forward, digging blindly forward.

R: And then he finds stairs, which is pretty exciting. And he hears odd sounds as he climbs upward. Banging, chanting. And instead of running away, he heads toward the banging and the chanting, which is actually pretty hardcore of him.

T: In spite of the “horripilations” he gets.

P: “Horripilation” is my word of the episode. It’s a super-fancy way of saying he got goosebumps because he was scared. [laughs]

T: So he was down there for a day and a night. A whole day, and part of another night. And now he’s out!

P: Yeah, and he’s sort of back… he seems to have kind of the same vantage as he had before, right? Or is he not… he’s not above the central chamber, he’s on level with it? Is that where he is?

R: Mm-hmm, yeah, he’s just back at the regular central chamber.

P: And in the center chamber, the ten pupils, the necromantic crew, are chanting and performing what seems to be kind of the end-game of their whole ritual.

[Reads]

Fearfully, as one who confronts an apparition reared up from nether hell, Gaspard beheld the colossus that lay inert as if in Cyclopean sleep on the castle flags. The thing was no longer a skeleton: the limbs were rounded into bossed, enormous thews, like the limbs of Biblical giants; the flanks were like an insuperable wall; the deltoids of the mighty chest were broad as platforms; the hands could have crushed the bodies of men like millstones…. But the face of the stupendous monster, seen in profile athwart the pouring moon, was the face of the Satanic dwarf, Nathaire — re-magnified a hundred times, but the same in its implacable madness and malevolence!

The vast bosom seemed to rise and fall; and during a pause of the necromantic ritual, Gaspard heard the unmistakable sound of a mighty respiration, The eye in the profile was closed; but its lid appeared to tremble like a great curtain, as if the monster were about to wake; and the outflung hand, with fingers pale and bluish as a row of corpses, twitched unquietly on the castle flags.

… The thing is about to come to life. And Gaspard sensibly thinks to himself “I am going to get the crap out of here, and so he starts to make his way out, but on his way out, he sees for a moment “through bellying folds of vapour, the couch on which the shrunken form of Nathaire was lying pallid and motionless. It seemed that the dwarf was dead, or had fallen into a stupor preceding death.” So, two things are happening at the same time, and we kind of knew they were going to happen. One is that Nathaire is finally dying, and of course he’s now transmigrating his soul into this horrible giant. And for whatever reason, I have to wonder: did they have them sculpt the face to look like him? Or is that just a natural consequence of his soul entering the giant body?

T: He seems pretty vain.

R: I think it was on purpose. I mean he was a dwarf, and he was mocked for being a dwarf, and so I think he wants people to be sure to know who’s coming for them, and “who’s the little guy now, I’m 100 feet tall.”

T: [laughing] I agree, I agree exactly with that sentiment. “Who’s the little guy now, huh?”

P: So Gaspard is kind of backing his way out as he sees Nathaire, and as soon as he sees that he’s clear of the eye-line of the evil peoples, he basically just turns and runs. As he does, he gets a sense that the giant has stirred “like one who tosses in light slumber.” So runs out of the courtyard, and then without looking back “he fled like a devil-hunted thing upon the steep and chasm-riven slopes below Ylourgne.” Which, again, this seems to me to be similar to how the corpses were described as moving, which I think is kind of fun. Like, Gaspard is now running full-bore out of the castle just like all of the liches and resurrected corpses were running into it just a few weeks before, you know?

R:

[reading]

Part VII: The Coming of the Colossus.

After the cessation of the exodus of liches, a universal terror still prevailed; a wide-flung shadow of apprehension, infernal and funereal, lay stagnantly on Averoigne. There were strange and disastrous portents in the aspect of the skies: flame-bearded meteors had been seen to fall beyond the eastern hills; a comet far in the south had swept the stars with its luminous bosom for a few nights, and had then faded, leaving among men the prophecy of bale and pestilence to come. By day the air was oppressed and sultry, and the blue heavens were heated as if by whitish fires. Clouds of thunder, darkling and withdrawn, shook their fulgurant lances on the far horizons, like some beleaguering Titan army. A murrain, such as would come from the working of wizard spells, was abroad among the cattle. All these signs and prodigies were an added heaviness on the burdened spirits of men, who went to and fro in daily fear of the hidden preparations and machinations of hell. But, until the actual breaking-forth of the incubated menace, there was no one, save Gaspard du Nord, who had knowledge of its veritable form.

T: So it’s like the End Times.

P: Yeah.

T: Signs in the heavens, plagues among the cattle…

P: So Gaspard, the one guy who knows definitely what’s going on, is running like crazy through the forests of Averoigne trying to get back to Vyones, and there’s a few cool things about him running back to Vyones. First, which is pretty badass but kind of horrible, is that he doesn’t stop to warn anybody on the way because he figures they would not be able to save themselves anyway, so he’s… I just picture him seeing, like, the same people he stayed with on his way to Ylourgne, and saying, like “sorry, I’ve got something that I have to do, and I can’t save you.” Which is pretty interesting. And the second notable thing is that the werewolves do come up again here.

R: [laughs] I was wondering if you would say that.

P: Timothy.

T: Yeah, let’s hear it.

P: “He plunged like a madman through the towering woods that were haunted by robbers and were-WOLVES.” [emphasis on the plural “s”]

T: [laughs]

R: Point Phil.

P: Yes, point me. So, all the while that he’s running, despite his rather harried and breathless state, Gaspard du Nord, ever our hero, is formulating a desperate plan to stop this thing.

R:

[reading]

In the interim, several monks of the Cistercian brotherhood, watching the grey wall of Ylourgne at early dawn with their habitual vigilance, were the first, after Gaspard, to behold the monstrous horror created by the necromancers. Their account may have been somewhat tinged by a pious exaggeration; but they swore that the giant rose abruptly, standing more than waist-high above the ruins of the barbican, amid a sudden leaping of long-tongued fires and a swirling of pitchy fumes erupted from Malbolge. The giant’s head was level with the high top of the donjon, and his right arm, out-thrust, lay like a bar of stormy cloud athwart the new-risen sun.

The monks fell grovelling to their knees, thinking that the Archfoe himself had come forth, using Ylourgne for his gateway from the Pit. Then, across the mile-wide valley, they heard a thunderous peal of demoniac laughter; and the giant, climbing over the mounded barbican at a single step, began to descend the scarped and craggy hill.

When he drew nearer, bounding from slope to slope, his features were manifestly those of some great devil animated with ire and malice towards the sons of Adam. His hair, in matted locks, streamed behind him like a mass of black pythons; his naked skin was livid and pale and cadaverous, with the skin of the dead; but beneath it, the stupendous thews of a Titan swelled and rippled. The eyes, wide and glaring flamed like lidless cauldrons heated by the fires of the unplumbed Pit.

…OK, I have just a couple of quibbles here. Well, I have one quibble really. It calls it “lidless cauldrons,” and perhaps he’s just saing that like “open cauldrons,” but clearly his eyes have lids. Because Gaspard just saw them. So, putting that out there, the eyes have lids. And he’s naked, which I hadn’t thought about!

P: Yeah, he’s totally naked.

T: Yeah, he’s naked and he’s got dreadlocks!

R: Geez. To quote from Young Frankenstein, “he must have an enormous schwanzstucker!”

[T and P laugh]

P: And there you have it!

T: Yeah, so… holy crap!

P: Dude’s awake! And dude’s pissed!

T: And I love that it’s not, like, this slow, lumbering giant. Like, the monks swore that it just popped up. He’s just like “boom.” And then he laughs! Awesome.

P: He’s got a brand new body. It’s awesome. I love the description of his right arm “out-thrust like a bar of stormy cloud athwart the new-risen sun.” [laughs] It’s awesome!

T: It’s frustating because I would love to go line-for-line over this entire part [P and R agree] because pretty much everything about it is cool.

P: So! Tim! Who among the monks is brave enough to watch this monstrosity as it lumbers across the valley?

T: Well, I don’t think there’s one monk who is brave enough, but there are two: Bernard and Stephane, their backs probably still aching from the hiding they took from Nathaire’s demon servants. But they watch.

R: And it’s good that they’re not hanging out in the church, because the Colossus totally chucks some boulders at it and smashes it, mingling their flesh with the splinters of their cross and stuff. Which is another great, I mean this whole thing, the religion versus necromancers… as I’m re-reading through this, I see the two just coming together and clashing against each other and I love it.

T: And it’s not even a match. [R: No.] This Colossus is just unstoppable. And he tramples Phil’s heroic goatherds!

P: He does! As the Colossus turns to leave… he just sort of throws the boulder through the church and kills a bunch of monks, and then he decides he has other things to do. But as he turns around and leaves, Stephane and Bernard catch sight of his back, on which is “a huge basket made of planking, that hung suspended by ropes between the giant’s shoulders. In the basket, ten men — the pupils and assistants of Nathaire — were being carried like so many dolls or puppets in a peddler’s pack.” The Colossus has a backpack!

T: [laughing] Yeah, full of people! See, this makes me… this also kind of backs up… he wants his pupils around. So maybe even ex-pupils like Gaspard du Nord…

R: I don’t even know why! I’m so confused by this, he’s got a backpack of necromancers, oh, and Backpack of Necromancers is the name of, I guess my next metal band? I’m not sure.

P: It’s gonna be my next erotica, honey. [R, laughing: How dare you.] Sorry.

T: All right, so now the Colossus goes on a rampage.

[Reading]

Men heard his mighty laughter, his stormy bellowing; they saw his approach from a distance of many leagues, and fled or concealed themselves as best they could. The lords of moated castles called in their men-at-arms, drew up their drawbridges and prepared as if for the siege of an army. The peasants hid themselves in caverns, in cellars, in old wells, and even beneath hay-mounds, hoping that he would pass them by unnoticed. The churches were crammed with refugees who sought protection of the Cross, deeming that Satan himself, or one of his chief lieutenants, had risen to harry and lay waste the land.

In a voice like summer thunder, mad maledictions, unthinkable obscenities and blasphemies were uttered ceaselessly by the giant as he went to and fro. Men heard him address the litter of black-clad figures that he carried on his back, in tones of admonishment or demonstration such as a master would use to his pupils. People who had known Nathaire recognized the incredible likeness of the huge features, the similarity of the swollen voice to his. A rumour went abroad that the dwarf sorcerer, through his loathly bond with the Adversary, had been permitted to transfer his hateful soul into this Titanic form; and, bearing his pupils with him, had returned to vent an insatiable ire, a bottomless rancour, on the world that had mocked him for his puny physique and reviled him for his sorcery. The charnel genesis of the monstrous avatar was also rumoured; and, indeed it was said that the Colossus had openly proclaimed his identity.

… Damn.

P: Yeah. I like the “openly proclaimed his identity” part because it’s like, occasionally he just says “I’m Nathaire.”

T: He pauses from his ceaseless blasphemies to tell everybody who he is.

R: I like to think he threw out a “kneel before me!” or something like that while he was working on it.

P: The rampage is so awesome.

T: Yeah, it really is. And this also goes back to what we were talking about in the last podcast, how Smith is all about escalation. It’s not just that there’s this Colossus who we know wants to get revenge on the citizens of Vyones who threw rocks at him and lamed his leg. But he basically also travels all over Averoigne, just causing carnage, and here’s some of it:

[reading]

There were people — mostly priests and women, it is told — whom he picked up as they fled, and pulled limb from limb as a child might quarter an insect…. And there were worse things, not to be named in this record….

Many eye-witnesses told how he hunted Pierre, the Lord of La Frênaie, who had gone forth with his dogs and men to chase a noble stag in the nearby forest. Overtaking horse and rider, he caught them with one hand, and bearing them aloft as he strode over the tree-tops, he hurled them later against the granite walls of the Chateau of La Frênaie in passing. Then, catching the red stag that Pierre had hunted, he flung it after them; and the huge bloody blotches made by the impact of the bashed bodies remained long on the castle stone, and were never wholly washed away by the autumn rains and the winter snows.

Countless tales were told, also, of the deeds of obscene sacrilege and profanation committed by the Colossus: of the wooden Virgin that he flung into the Isoile above Ximes, lashed with human gut to the rotting, mail-clad body of an infamous outlaw; of the wormy corpses that he dug with his hands from unconsecrated graves and hurled into the courtyard of the Benedictine abbey of Perigon; of the Church of Ste. Zenobie, which he buried with its priests and congregation beneath a mountain of ordure made by the gathering of all the dungheaps from neighbouring farms.

… This is just awful! This is awful stuff. He’s digging up dead bodies and throwing them into churchyards…

P: But more than that, he buries a church in [bleeped]!

T: It’s just amazing.

P: It’s crazy. There’s a couple of little nods in here to other Averoigne things that we’ve run into before. [T: Yeah.] [R: Mm-hmm.] The Lord of La Frênaie… they make ale, right? [R: Yes.] And that’s what Blaise Reynard is drinking in “Maker of Gargoyles.” And then Perigon is the monastery or the abbey in… “End of the Story,” is it? [R: Yes.] Yeah.

R: Fortunately, nobody we care about got buried in that dunghill. Ste. Zenobie is not…

T: Yeah, the Colossus is just… I think he mentions it somewhere here that Nathaire is kind of saving Vyones for last, and he’s just… “To and fro in a mad frenzy of destruction, like a deathdrunken Cyclops, he wandered all that day.” So he’s just wandering around, causing chaos and carnage.

P: It —
R: Unfortunately it — oh, wait, go.

P: I was just gonna comment again on how it’s awesome.

T: As the capper as to why this is all awesome, and why we can’t go through it all, Smith even admits it and writes in the story: “It would be tedious to make explicit mention of all the enormities, all the atrocities, that were ascribed to the marauding giant.”

P: Actually, the one other notable thing about this, and then we should move on I guess, is that he steps out of the story for a second, and calls the story a “record,” as if it’s something… and I mean there’s no narrator in this story that we’re aware of except for this one weird sentence, where he’s like “I can’t tell you everything in this record.” I don’t really know what to make of that because it’s a weird storytelling device that’s not found anywhere else in the story.

R: It’s actually very fortunate that he does go hither and yon, because while he’s doing that, Gaspard is tearing like a crazy dude back toward Vyones and coming up with his plan. Because if he had gone straight to Vyones, he would have beaten Gaspard there and everything would have, well… his plan would have worked, probably. But Gaspard makes it back to Vyones in the last section of the book…

[Reading]

Part VIII: The Laying of the Colossus.

T: We’re like death-drunk Colossuses right now.

P: I’m totally death-drunk right now! I’m just thinking about that poor church buried in manure. It’s so upsetting.

T: It is. OK, so Gaspard makes it back to Vyones. The Colossus is still making a mad path of murder and carnage through the forests. In fact, Smith calls it a “drunken, zigzag course, from end to end and side to side of the harried realm.” So Gaspard’s back in Vyones, and we get kind of a picture of what’s going on in the cathedral city now.

P:

[reading]

In spite of his rags and filth, which rendered him practically unrecognizable and gave him a most disreputable air, Gaspard was admitted without question by the guards at the city gate. Vyones was already thronged with people who had fled to the sanctuary of its stout walls from the adjacent countryside; and no one, not even of the most dubious character, was denied admittance. The walls were lined with archers and pike-bearers, gathered in readiness to dispute the entrance of the giant. Crossbowmen were stationed above the gates, and mangonels were mounted at short intervals along the entire circuit of the ramparts. The city seethed and hummed like an agitated hive.

Hysteria and pandemonium prevailed in the streets. Pale, panic-stricken faces milled everywhere in an aimless stream. Hurrying torches flared dolorously in the twilight that deepened as if with the shadow of impending wings arisen from Erebus. The gloom was clogged with intangible fear, with webs of stifling oppression. Through all this rout of wild disorder and frenzy, Gaspard, like a spent but indomitable swimmer breasting some tide of eternal, viscid nightmare, made his way slowly to his attic lodgings.

… Things in Vyones aren’t good.

T: No.

R: No, and I like that Smith has some verisimilitude here, that Gaspard has to force his way back to his lodgings, that he probably wouldn’t have even been admitted to the city if it weren’t streaming with refugees, and then his first actions are to eat and pass out because he’s been running all day long! And I like that; I like that it’s not like, oh yeah, our hero, with his hair completely fine, sits down and starts going over his books. No, he looks terrible, he has to eat, he passes out, and he doesn’t wake up until it’s very late. But then he gets right down to it. [P: It’s true.] It’s awesome.

P: ‘Cause he’s got stuff to do. He’s got a Colossus to lay. [T and R laugh.]

R: That should be your next erotica.

T: So he knows what to do. Well, he has an idea. Gaspard, he was Nathaire’s pupil, so he knows some of Nathaire’s methods, and it gives him kind of an insight into how Nathaire has done this. So he kind of knows how to counter it. So he sets about making a gray powder, one that he’s seen Nathaire use to put down resurrected liches, and he figures it’s just a big lich, essentially, so if he uses this powder, it should work against it.

R: And he realizes that he’s going to need more than just a dab of this gray powder. He…

[reading]

… made a considerable quantity of the mixture, arguing that no mere finger-pinch would suffice for the lulling of the gigantic charnel monstrosity. His guttering yellow candle was dimmed by the white dawn as he ended the Latin formula of fearsome verbal invocation from which the compound would derive much of its efficacy. The formula, which called for the cooperation of Alastor and other evil spirits, he used with unwillingness. But he knew that there was no alternative: sorcery could be fought only with sorcery.

T: “Sorcery could only be fought with sorcery.”

P: That’s officially what I live by now.

R: And I like that he called up Alastor, who was supposedly Nathaire’s father.

P: I don’t think — I mean look, I don’t know Alastor that well, but I don’t think that’s actually Nathaire’s father.

T: That’s just a rumor.

P: That’s the one rumor that’s just a rumor in this story.

T: Oh, OK.

R: Maybe Nathaire’s like Hellboy!

P: He could be.

T: Dwarfboy. {P and R laugh]

P: So he makes this gray powder — makes a lot of this gray powder. How much gray powder do you think he makes?

T: Well, he mentions later that he’s got a pouch full, so it’s probably like a wiffle ball. A wiffle ball-sized pouch of this powder.

P: See, I want it to be like a milk jug.

R: Well he probably just needs like a dash to lay a real corpse, so…

P: Yeah. So he’d need a hundred dashes to lay a 100-foot corpse, I guess? [R: Yeah.] So anyway, dawn breaks over the city and Gaspard sort of, via some intuition that he has, figures the Colossus is going to strike his final vengeance against the city on that day. And he knows that he has to get up to basically face-level of the Colossus, because he needs to get this stuff into his lungs. And the only place in the city that’s tall enough for him to do this is of course the infamous cathedral of Vyones.

R:

[reading]

The cathedral nave was packed with worshippers, and solemn masses were being said by priests whose voices faltered at times with inward panic. Unheeded by the wan, despairing throng, Gaspard found a flight of coiling stairs that led tortuously to the gargoyle-warded roof of the high tower.

Here he posted himself, crouching behind the stone figure of a cat-headed griffin. From his vantage he could see, beyond the crowded spires and gables, the approaching giant, whose head and torso loomed above the city walls. A cloud of arrows, visible even at that distance, rose to meet the monster, who apparently did not even pause to pluck them from his hide. Great boulders hurled from mangonels were no more to him than a pelting of gravel; the heavy bolts of arbalests, embedded in his flesh, were mere slivers.

Nothing could stay his advance. The tiny figures of a company of pikemen, who opposed him with out-thrust weapons, swept from the wall above the eastern gate by a single sidelong blow of the seventy-foot pine that he bore for a cudgel. Then, having cleared the wall, the Colossus climbed over it into Vyones.

… I love that he’s hiding behind the cat-headed gargoyle! [T: Yeah!] The gargoyle of wrath! That’s clearly the same gargoyle… but he’s not animated anymore, which is kind of a pity for this story.

P: It’s true. If, like, Gaspard du Nord teamed up with the gargoyle of wrath, that sounds like a… buddy-cop movie to me.

T: So the Colossus, he’s at the city, he’s there, he steps over the wall, nothing can stop him.

R: Nope. He just punches into houses so they collapse, and…

T: Wait, did we mention that he made a club out of a tree?

P: We didn’t mention it earlier, but he made a club out of a tree.

T: [laughing] Yes.

R: [laughing] A 70-foot tall tree. It’s awesome.

T: Yeah, and he’s using it to just smash windows and houses, and then he sees the cathedral. This is the thing that he wants to take his time with. So he reaches it, and cries out…

[Reading]

“Ho! Ye puling priests and devotees of a powerless God! Come forth and bow to Nathaire the master, before he sweeps you into limbo!”

It was then that Gaspard, with a hardihood beyond comparison, rose from his hiding-place and stood in full view of the raging Colossus.

“Draw nearer, Nathaire, if indeed it be you, foul robber of tombs and charnels,” he taunted. “Come close, for I would hold speech with you.”

[Ed.note: Nathaire / The Colossus’s lines are read by T in a distorted, monstrous voice. Gaspard’s lines are read by R in a slightly distorted, lower voice.]

T: Awesome!

P: [laughs] I guess this part kind of speaks to Tim’s theory, that even in this strange moment, Nathaire does draw closer to Gaspard.

T: Right! He leans in to make sure that it is Gaspard, sees that it is, and kind of — this is kind of cool — he, like, reaches his gigantic, titanic hand up and, like, twitches in front of Gaspard’s face.

R:

[reading]

Gaspard had furtively loosened his leathern pouch that hung at his belt, and had untied its mouth. Now, as the twitching fingers descended towards him, he emptied the contents of the pouch in the giant’s face, and the fine powder, mounting in a dark-grey cloud, obscured the snarling lips and palpitating nostrils from his view… But then the evil lambence died in the pit-deep eyes, as the monster inhaled the flying cloud. His lifted hand, narrowly missing the crouching youth in its sweep, fell lifelessly at his side. The anger was erased from the mighty, contorted mask, as if from the face of a dead man; the great cudgel fell with a crash to the empty street; and with drowsy, lurching steps, and listless, hanging arms, the giant turned his back to the cathedral and retraced his way through the devastated city.

He muttered dreamily to himself as he went; and people who heard him swore that the voice was no longer the awful, thunderswollen voice of Nathaire, but the tones and accents of a multitude of men, amid which the voices of certain of the ravished dead were recognizable. And the voice of Nathaire himself, no louder now than in life, was heard at intervals through the manifold mutterings, as if protesting angrily.

The Colossus went to and fro for many hours, no longer wreaking a hellish wrath and rancour, but searching, as people thought, for the various tombs and graves from which the hundreds of bodies that composed it had been so foully reft. From charnel to charnel, from cemetery to cemetery it went, through all the land; but there was no grave anywhere in which the dead Colossus could lie down.

Then, towards evening, men saw it from afar on the red rim of the sky, digging with its hands in the soft, loamy plain beside the river Isoile. There, in a monstrous and self-made grave, the Colossus laid itself down, and did not rise again. The ten pupils of Nathaire, it was believed, unable to descend from their basket, were crushed beneath the mighty body; for none of them was ever seen thereafter.

For many days no one dared to approach the place where the corpse lay uncovered in its self-dug grave. And so the thing rotted prodigiously beneath the summer sun, breeding a mighty stench that wrought pestilence in that portion of Averoigne. And they who ventured to go near in the following autumn, when the stench had lessened greatly, swore that the voice of Nathaire, still protesting angrily, was heard by them to issue from the enormous, rook-haunted bulk.

Of Gaspard du Nord, who had been the saviour of the province, it was related that he lived in much honour to a ripe age, being the one sorcerer of that region who at no time incurred the disapprobation of the Church.

… Dang straight.

P: And that’s how you end a story. It’s crazy, this part, because, like, what is the… I’m befuddled, and just so intrigued by the magic at work. What is it… why, suddenly, do they all talk?

T: This kind of speaks back to what we were talking about in, I think it was the last episode: what was in the white vat? The white vat might have been, like… the souls? [P: Right.] Or the personalities? Because…

R: I’m still going with it being bones.

T: But then why would all of these voices ring out, including Nathaire’s? Like they’re obviously separate from the actual physical part.

P: It’s true, and they would not have used Nathaire’s body — I think we know they didn’t use Nathaire’s body as part of the Colossus.

T: No, ‘cause Nathaire’s body is still sitting there to this day on that couch in the castle of Ylourgne.

P: Let’s go to Ylourgne and find Nathaire’s bones! [laughs] It doesn’t exist, we can’t do that.

T: Aw.

R: Now I’m depressed. [T and P laugh] Road trip!

T: Can I just say how proud I am of Clark Ashton Smith for writing this story?

P: [laughs] You can! But I want to talk about how awesome it is that it doesn’t just keel over and die. [T: No!] [R: Mm-hmm.] Like, it’s so great that it has this horrible — OK, I feel sorry for the Colossus at the end of this story. It has no place to die. [T and R: No.] It has to go and dig itself this amazing tomb! Or, er, grave.

T: It’s the Ashton Smith escalation effect.

P: It is, yeah, totally.

T: Things just drag out and get more and more horrible.

R: And I think while Nathaire is probably pissed off, as he seems to be ranting angrily from this rook-haunted carcass, I think he’d be kind of pleased that at least when the Colossus rotted, it wrought pestilence on the land. [T: Yeah.] [P: That’s true.] So some of the omens that they saw actually came true, but not from the Colossus, they came true from the dead Colossus. I like that little touch.

P: Yeah. This is why I find it a shame that Averoigne as a setting never took off, and, like, L. Sprague de Camp never wrote Averoigne stories. [T: Right.] [R: Mm-hmm.] I would love for a hero of Averoigne, like 200 years afterward, to find the bones of the Colossus. [T: Right!] That would be so awesome.

T: Or quest after the deformed skull of Nathaire.

P: Right?! It’s awesome.

T: Yeah, it is.

P: There are two stories that were written much later that I think were directly inspired by this story. The first one, Ruth, is the Hellboy story, right?

R: Yes! The story is called “Almost Colossus.” It’s one of the earlier Mike Mignola Hellboy stories. It’s really fantastic; it involves some homunculi — that’s clay humans — and one of them is trying to get revenge, and so he builds himself this same sort of flesh golem. And Hellboy is trying to track down why all these bodies are suddenly getting up and walking away, and I won’t give away the ending — it’s a little bit different, but it’s similarly awesome. And again, fortunately he does not completely succeed at his goals.

P: And my story that I think was inspired by this although it may not have been because it’s so much stranger, but does have a somewhat similar conceit — is a story that Clive Barker wrote called “In the Hills, the Cities.” It is about two men on vacation, I think in England, like the woods of England, and they go off the path and find these two villages that have a ritual where everybody in the village ties themselves together to form a Colossus. They’re also alive, so you have to image a giant human that’s just made of…

T: People.

P: Like, hundreds of little people all strapped together in a very intricate pattern. And these two innocent bystanders witness this — like, each village turns into a person, and they have a ritual fight, and unfortunately the two bystanders witness the fight go wrong, and… well, not to give it away, but one of the Colossi isn’t built properly so everybody in it gets crushed, and there’s this great river of blood, and then the second Colossus goes instantly mad and starts rampaging across the landscape.

R: So you did just give it away.

P: I did. But it’s an amazing story, and it’s well worth reading regardless of whether you know the ending or not because the imagery is some of the strangest that I’ve ever read, I think. And I don’t know, like, it’s hard to tell if it’s directly related to this story or not, but certainly the idea of making a giant person out of many other people is very similar.

R: Well, it’s horrifying and I want to read it now, so…

P: It’s good.

T: I have nothing to share.

P: [laughs] But I guess all that is to say that I wish there were more Clark Ashton Smith-inspired stories, whether explicitly or not.

T: And that is “The Colossus of Ylourgne!”

P: I also want to say, I don’t think this is the peak of the Averoigne stories. We’re at the apex, but there are a couple of others that are as good as this one. [T: OK.] I don’t think any of them get any better than this, but it’s pretty damn good.

T: All right, and to quote Phil’s note, the conclusion for this story is: “this story kicks ass.”

P: That’s my scholarly assessment.

T: [laughing] Yeah! Next episode, we will discuss… “The Mandrakes.”

R: We’ll have a link to that in the show notes. You can find us at our website, TheDoubleShadow.com, on Facebook.com/TheDoubleShadow, on Twitter at Twitter.com/TheDoubleShadow. You can also find us on Google Plus, but there’s not an easy link for that one [T: No.], so give it a search, you’ll find us on there too. And until next time… sorcery can only be fought with sorcery.

[outro music]

P: No, you’re wrong!

T: We’ll see.

P: [laughing] No, ‘cause I’m looking at “Beast of Averoigne” right now.

T: If I’m wrong, I’ll apologize, but for right now this is what I believe.

P: No, for right now… [T laughs] “Beast of Averoigne” takes place in 1369, AND they still call it the “werewolf-haunted forest” of Averoigne.

T: OK, so by then there are actual werewolves, but before that…

P: No, you know what you’re not allowed to do? [R laughs] You’re not allowed to perform these theory acrobatics.

T: [laughs]

Show notes for Episode 6

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