King Solomon himself greeted her and extended a hand into her veiled coach; they strode side by side to his gilded court, always without reproach.
A staff bearing the image of an elder god thrust up from her hand; by her side a dark boy dressed as a pharaoh in bright silks from a far eastern land.
The black vault of night fell and the starry cosmic serpent whirled overhead, tail in mouth, as the Queen of Sheba’s retinue entered Jerusalem through the southeastern fountain gates. Solomon kissed her hand as she exited the gossamer-shrouded palanquin. Through the wafting frankincense and myrrh they passed, to speak in the Hall of Pillars.
Nearly alone in the magnificent hall, the king sought to embrace the queen but she withdrew.
“I have missed you, dear Balqis. Did you not miss me as well? What is thy wish? Have I offended thee, my love?”
She stood tall, strong and imperious, speaking in a loud voice like a herald. “I have come to introduce you to our son,” she said. “That you may learn at his feet as I have learned at his.” She beckoned then for King Solomon to behold the darkling child.
“My son?” Solomon’s brow furrowed and he waved away the multitude of eavesdropping concubines who watched from behind inlaid stone.
“My father,” said the boy, whose deep bass voice ground defiance to dust. He extended a hand in mocking supplication to his father, the king.
She said, “He is beyond the wisdom of ages; the Mazeroth burns in him and the stars have aligned, releasing all their knowledge.”
Solomon twisted his magic ring and wondered. Balqis, the woman, the queen who stood before him, had changed. No longer did her eyes shine; they were now pallid orbs, unblinking. Her voice, once soft and sweet as honey, was hard and firm as the temple stones. The ornate crown she wore shot forth the gaze of a golden-tendriled abomination, that seemed to shimmer and writhe in the flickering torchlight.
“It is late dear Queen. Let us retire for the night and discuss these things further in the light of day. Demons and djinn rule the night, and it is not meet to discuss such things during their witching hour.”
She looked to the boy who answered, “Why fear the night? There was wisdom in the darkness before there was light.”
The boy’s black-eyed gaze burned into Solomon and for a moment the king feared he might drop to his knees before the imposing child. Solomon shook off the nausea and muttered an incantation to himself, a prayer for strength, a hope for deliverance. “Send the boy away, Balqis. I would speak with you alone.”
She responded coldly, “He is not to be shunned, but obeyed.”
“Curse the child!” he shouted. “I care not for how he looks upon me.”
Solomon’s chief bodyguard, Captain Kenaz, stepped forward, hand on sword hilt. Kenaz was sandy haired and strong, he feared no man or beast, but the pale-eyed queen and lean, dark boy gave even him pause. He wiped a hand over his stubbled chin and cursed at what he must do now.
Looking to the bodyguard, the boy gave a sign of vibrant chaos and opened a gate which warped like a twisting whirlpool turned on its side.
The vortex opened.
The torches blazed momentarily, then the ferocious wind sent them guttering. A tormented sound echoed from the gate, reverberating through the stones. A maddening fear took hold of the folk and animals within the palace. The braying of donkeys echoed across the city and the cocks crowed in terror. Babes whined and pregnant women miscarried.
Sensing the unholy threat the boy posed to his king, Kenaz charged.
A long slender tendril, purple as Phoenician sackcloth, lashed out.
It took Kenaz about the head and shoulders and sucked him through the gate.
With the tentacle spiraling around Kenaz’s mouth, Solomon shuddered, wondering how he could hear the man scream.
From behind, two guardsmen broke ranks, swords raised.
“No!” Solomon shouted, expecting their doom.
The iron swords shattered upon the boy’s ebon body. Their owners were dumbstruck as the tendrils grasped and brought them to the maw of the beast from beyond.
“You shall heed me,” said the boy, with a voice deep as the pit.
Solomon nodded and knelt at his son’s feet.
And so it was that in the following weeks, the new son of Sheba and Solomon instructed the palace upon many things. He constructed brilliant artifices and skillfully showed them the nature of the universe. And Solomon did depart from his God, and even the pagan gods of his wives, and did heed the counsel of Azathoth, Yog-Sothoth and yea, even dreaming Cthulhu.
But not all in the palace were held in thrall of the dark child. Rehoboam, the former heir apparent, sought to renew his position. His was not a noble spirit but an ambitious one that would not be cheated of his destiny. He plotted with the priest Sethur some manner to destroy the dark usurper.
“Nothing of this world can harm the dark child, but we have things from beyond this world,” said the priest. He mentioned the sacred Ark and also brought forth the sword of Goliath. “Legend says this was made on another world than ours. It is hallowed and can cut the demon boy.”
“How can I know it will work?”
“You have no other choice. Slay and live, or lie and slave.”
The prince nodded, and together they prepared their assassination.
Declaring the stars were right, Solomon, Sheba and the boy prepared the invocation of the Outer Gods. The world would be reborn, reorganized in their image. In the garden and vineyards of Gehenna, signs were drawn in blood and glyphs carved into stone and wood. The moon hung overhead, uncaring.
At the temple, Sethur prepared the Ark and Rehoboam ran a finger along the edge of Goliath’s sword as he joined his father.
The celestial alignment merged with that within the gated world and the boy’s voice boomed unutterable incantations into the bleak, starred night. Phantoms swirled and green flames projected like vomit from unknown fissures.
A gelatinous mass threatened to pierce the veil of night and a formless void slowly took shape.
Now the plotters struck.
Sethur and eleven Levites projected the Ark at Gehenna. Light blasted out and wrestled with the void. Time froze and shook.
Rehoboam was there in the darkness, waiting for his chance. Casting dull acolytes aside, he lunged at the darkling child.
The queen reached out to protect her son and Solomon held her back. “This too shall pass,” he said.
The boy recognized the otherworldly sword in the prince’s hand and fled from its shining wrath. Into the darkness of Gehenna the two ran.
Without the boy’s call, the chaos was damned and held back, sucked to whatever gulf had spawned it, to sleep eons more.
Solomon and Sheba could not gaze through the gloom upon the wicked pursuit of their sons, but the cacophony of screams and the thud of bloody chops spoke the harsh truth.
Rehoboam crawled forth, the sword of Goliath in his hand and the dark child lay still. The prince collapsed and it was then Sheba took her son and prepared to depart.
Solomon asked, “Where will you go, what will you do?”
“The child is not dead, but sleeps. Twenty-seven wounds will equal twenty-seven centuries and he will rise again to bring back that which has waited eternities already.”
Always it is said that with the blessing comes a curse, and it is for both the foolish and the wise to know and understand which is worse.
Sheba was beautiful and Solomon was wise. Together they brought a thing into the world which could not love but only despise.
Halted in his infancy and pyramidal step, that crawling chaos was brought low only once: the darkling child, Nylarthahotep.
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