In the valley of Nis the accursed waning moon shines thinly, tearing a path
for its light with feeble horns through the lethal foliage of a great
upas-tree. And within the depths of the valley, where the light reaches
not, move forms not meant to be beheld. Rank is the herbage on each slope,
where evil vines and creeping plants crawl amidst the stones of ruined
palaces, twining tightly about broken columns and strange monoliths, and
heaving up marble pavements laid by forgotten hands. And in trees that grow
gigantic in crumbling courtyards leap little apes, while in and out of deep
treasure-vaults writhe poison serpents and scaly things without a name.
Vast are the stones which sleep beneath coverlets of dank moss, and mighty
were the walls from which they fell. For all time did their builders erect
them, and in sooth they yet serve nobly, for beneath them the grey toad
makes his habitation.
At the very bottom of the valley lies the river Than, whose waters are
slimy and filled with weeds. From hidden springs it rises, and to
subterranean grottoes it flows, so that the Daemon of the Valley knows not
why its waters are red, nor whither they are bound.
The Genie that haunts the moonbeams spake to the Daemon of the Valley,
saying, "I am old, and forget much. Tell me the deeds and aspect and name
of them who built these things of Stone." And the Daemon replied, "I am
Memory, and am wise in lore of the past, but I too am old. These beings
were like the waters of the river Than, not to be understood. Their deeds
I recall not, for they were but of the moment. Their aspect I recall
dimly, it was like to that of the little apes in the trees. Their name I
recall clearly, for it rhymed with that of the river. These beings of
yesterday were called Man."
So the Genie flew back to the thin horned moon, and the Daemon looked
intently at a little ape in a tree that grew in a crumbling courtyard.