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The Pathway

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It was always the same dream that seemed to haunt Randolph Carter’s slumbers now, ever since his return from the journey to unknown Kadath. No longer could he travel at will to all the places he had loved, to Ulthar beyond the river Skai or to the bright city of Celephaïs, or to any other area of the Dreamlands he might have wished to explore further. All his nightly wanderings found him in surroundings which were magnificent and luxurious, and where his every comfort was anticipated and provided for, but where an atmosphere of dread and foreboding appeared to linger, insubstantial yet ever-present, in the background. He was summoned to the same regions again and again by an invisible, yet irresistible force that he was completely powerless against.

Every time Carter awoke from these dreams, it was in a cold sweat and with trembling hands, despite the pleasures he had experienced and the beauty he had seen. He knew that only one being could be responsible for the waylaying of his subconscious mind – only this dark entity had the power and the force of will to captivate and entice Carter at the same time as he terrified and repelled him.

This unspeakable horror, this unnatural yet alluring creature from beyond the world of human beings, was the Crawling Chaos Nyarlathotep.

Each night before he lay down to sleep, Carter prayed to the gods of dream that his visions would not take him to the dreamscapes where he feared to be, but his prayers went unheeded every time. He always found himself in one of two places; one was a bath-house of some sort, the other an opulent bedchamber or similar room of rest and relaxation. In either place, he was attended to with gracious hospitality and respect, but whenever he found himself within the ivory-hued marble walls of these majestic rooms, he trembled and grew fretful with anticipation of most fearful things, even though no ills had yet befallen him.

The bath-house was a paradise of large, warm-watered pools, each lined with smooth blue stones that glowed like sapphires and felt like softest satin to the touch on Carter’s naked skin. Clouds of exotic incense with aromas of cedar and sandalwood perfumed the air, and the baths were ringed by carved figures of eldritch gargoyles, each intricately formed from onyx, lapis lazuli and leaves of finest gold. Their eyes were made from large, egg-shaped rubies, each jewel lighting the room with a spark of sinister fire from its very depths. From the wide, distorted mouth of each statue issued a steady stream of some greenish, viscous substance, the scent of which was pleasant and somewhat oceanic, but the sight of which was chilling to Carter in its ominous incongruity with the beautiful surroundings.

In this grand establishment, Carter was waited upon, assisted and lovingly bathed by handsome young male attendants, each one seeming as though he had been chosen for his task solely by reason of his appeal to Carter’s senses. The bodies of these most perfect youths were slender, bronzed and lithely muscled, and all of them were clad alike, in a style that was pleasing beyond all measure to Carter’s eyes.

Each of these servants wore a tunic of some gauzy fabric that was too wondrous to be a substance from the world of the mundane – more delicate and luminous than the silks of Earth could ever be. Cloudy white and sparkling silver, diaphanous and seeming both to float around and cling to the young men in all the most delightful ways, these androgynous costumes both concealed and revealed enough exquisite flesh to tempt and dazzle Carter.

As they gave devoted service to Carter, cleansing him gently and thoroughly and assenting to his every wish, providing him with everything he could possibly require, these beauteous boys were always obedient and deferential, addressing Carter at all times as Master, even as they flirtatiously caressed Carter’s chest or the hardness between his thighs with careful hands or the softest of sponges. Yet something about their uncanny perfection, their too-fluid movements or the slightest, fleeting traces of a seductive gleam in their dark, kohl-lined eyes told Carter that these men were not mortal, but could only be emanations or manifestations of the Crawling Chaos himself.

And when his dreams did not lead him to the decadence of the bath-house, Carter would find himself in a room that was no less splendid than that most lavish of places. It was a chamber designed for ease, for sleep or more erotic pleasures, with several plush velvet couches that did not conform to the shape of any furniture from Earth laid out for the convenience and delight of the host and any guests, of which Carter always appeared to be the only one.

The divans were upholstered in glorious shades of scarlet and mauve, their ebony legs and backs displaying carvings of people, plants and animals Carter had never seen in any land he had visited, whether dreaming or awake. Brilliant flaming torches lit up the sumptuous chamber, each one held in an ornamental sconce studded with garnets and amethysts, formed to resemble the writhing tentacles of some fantastic sea-beast that seemed to belong to the realm of nightmare rather than the one of pleasant and sensual reveries.

On the walls hung ornate tapestries of the most wondrously vivid brocade, depicting scenes where the creatures whose existence was hinted at by the sconces, with their mighty tentacles, sharp beak-like mouths and wickedly glaring eyes loomed and towered, threatening or moving to devour the puny mortals who shrank in terror from them. These hangings were most beautifully crafted, but their horrific subject matter brought an unwelcome air of menace to the otherwise appealing room.

On one of these couches, Carter would recline and await the approach of his host, the god-king who had so terrified and enticed him on his previous dream-quest. The man with the handsome and dignified features of an ancient Pharaoh, tall and slim, regal and graceful in his gait and stature. Dressed in garments more magnificent and richly decorated than any Carter had ever seen before, Nyarlathotep was a vision of haunting beauty, of unearthly strangeness and divinity. His robes shone and glittered as if they were prisms of living glass or moon-dust, and a rainbow of patterns and threads that shimmered more lustrously than any jewel extant served as perfect enhancements to the grandeur that was his very being. He wore, as always, the golden pschent that signified his authority, and although Carter shivered in fear at the knowledge of who and what the Crawling Chaos was, he could not help but pulse with an unbidden attraction and desire.

Carter would lie upon his divan, nude and vulnerable, his skin flushed with arousal and moistened with scented, warming oils, as if he had just come from the bath-house of his other dreams. In the presence of Nyarlathotep and his amused yet definitely lustful gaze, Carter knew that here, in this place and time, the dark overlord of the Dreamlands was the master and he himself was a captive, although an oddly willing one in the face of so much glamour.

Every time their lovemaking was different, and yet the same. Always there would be possessive strokes from the god-king’s dexterous fingers upon the bare flesh of Carter, the supple digits ghosting over Carter’s chest and lingering teasingly over the risen peaks of his nipples before sliding with a claiming caress to encircle Carter’s swollen shaft.

Sometimes the Crawling Chaos would pleasure Carter with his mouth; at other times he would raise the dream-quester’s legs and part them to prepare his entrance with more aromatic oil before thrusting into him passionately and roughly. He would remain robed above the waist, though bare beneath, so that the silky texture of his clothing would further stimulate Carter’s almost overloaded senses until he feared for his sanity and even his life, for he was so utterly at the mercy of Nyarlathotep.

And as the two of them lay together afterwards, Carter almost swooning from the ecstasy they had shared, the Crawling Chaos would inevitably whisper in Carter’s ear:

“It was I, Randolph Carter, who revealed to you the secret of the sunset city you once sought. Will you repay my kindness and lead me there too? For I so long to share with you the beauties and the pleasures of your world. If you consent to this, then all the raptures and riches you have experienced within my realm will belong to you forever, and I shall be both your benevolent lord and most devoted slave for all eternity …”

Carter would wake up from every one of these nightly excursions shaken to the core, gripped by an icy near-madness and making futile resolutions to struggle against returning to that part of the dream-world ever again, lest he be lost completely and damned to some dreadful fate far worse than death. Yet from time to time, during the later portions of his waking hours, Carter caught himself poring over antique and horrific tomes, including the forbidden Necronomicon, to discover the pathway Nyarlathotep sought in order to enter and become a part of the human world.