Gargo the warrior, of the Alonsi tribe, loved the fair-haired girl Misilla, who was deemed a budding weird woman. She would one day be the great enchantress of her people, and the mate of Gargo as he would have it; but tragedy befell them. The folk of the unfriendly Vontolei tribe lusted after her for less gentle motives, for their weird woman, called Derlundra, was old and ugly, and cantankerous, and no longer prone to do the bidding of their chief as his whims craved. Therefore that chief (whose name has been blotted out of all lore), his soul gorged with pride and lust, sent his hardiest men to seize the maiden, conveying her to the hostile tribe, where she would be forced to conjure might for them, and supplicate the powerful spirits of the land, and abase herself before him.
When Gargo learned of this fell deed he declared, “I will free Misilla, that we be united and happy.” He undertook this feat alone at night, reasoning that stealth must be preferred to the bludgeons of numbers. So he went armed with knife of flint, in all his strength and brawn slinking through the dark forest like a snake, fast and unseen. The sentinels of the Vontolei saw him not, nor heard him, or in any fashion suspected his passage and presence, and then he entered their village on the sly, and from within the shadows of shadows he crept about the huts, peering and seeking. He recognized the unique abode of their weird woman, for it resembled the similar place erected by his people, and having looked this way and that, he crossed the threshold.
Inside, the sacred fire burned and fumed oily smoke. By its flickering light, now red, now yellow, now blue, Gargo beheld a horrible sight. “What madness this,” he cried, “but foul murder?” For there, in a strange wide coffin hewn from hallowed oak, lay the defiled bodies, their throats slashed, of the two weird woman Derlundra and, ghastly to relate, Misilla. She was dead at the hands of the Vontolei.
Asked Gargo, “Can there be cause for this crime?” He spoke to no one, but someone answered. The eyes of Derlundra opened to stare dully, and her lips twitched, and hoarse words issued. Said she: “Gargo, know that our chief, whose name shall be forever abhorred, to the acclamation of his henchmen would force the maiden to weave spells for him, and demanded of her base favors as well. These she refused, and I dared defend her against such evil foolishness, so the vile one, out of pique, ordered us slain. This his henchmen did, cloaking the act in laughter, while their kin cheered them on. Now we of the weird are dead by mortal hand, yet have I tarried within this corpse for a brief period, praying that you would come bearing justice.”
To this Gargo replied, “It is a terrible tale, and a wondrous one, that you can speak of it. I am filled with fury, and nought remains of my life save vengeance against these folk. I shall hurl myself upon them, and perish amidst much killing.”
But the dead lips of Derlundra whispered, “If you would sacrifice yourself for Misilla, then your vengeance must be complete. Harken, for the commandments of the greatest of spirits, all-mighty Xenophor, the very wellspring of the weird, flow through me. Gargo, face your dead love.”
This he did, much pained, and lo, the eyes of that maiden opened too. And she spoke, in a voice the ghost of one he cherished, and she said, “Kiss me, Gargo, one last time, that you may visit upon my murderers absolute retribution.” And Gargo shuddered, but his desire for Misilla still flamed, so he kissed her on the mouth, and an essence rushed from her lifeless lips to pervade his being.
Then Misilla and Derlundra were truly dead, silent and motionless, while Gargo was as a man reborn, for the strangeness of the weird coursed in his veins, and insights beyond the earthly imbued his brain. He strode forth from the hut of Derlundra, illuminated by torchlight, no longer chary of attention, indeed welcoming it. He tossed aside his knife and called to the Vontolei, his voice loud and leaden, beckoning them to confront him, the chief and all his men. This they did, first in amazement, then with jeers and imprecations. They advanced with spears and clubs at the ready, and gleefully they howled, “What brings Gargo here, but to offer us his death as amusement?”
Responded Gargo of the Alonsi, speaking as a man entranced, “Death it is that I offer you; for I am full of death, and I will contain it no more.” And he spread his arms wide, raised his eyes to the stars, clenched them tightly, and opened wide his mouth. And death burst from him as a thick black cloud, exploding into the pressing throng. Gargo, willing messenger of the wronged weird women, passed painlessly beyond on the instant, perhaps to meet again his beloved Misilla, but the fates of his surrounding enemies were not so kind. Indeed, they writhed as they screamed, shrieking for mercy where none could be found, as the coalescing dark destroyer ripped and tore and flayed. All they died, and all they died hard. When finally the mortal fragments of the chief and his warriors grew still, and the carrion beetles scuttled hungrily forward, the womenfolk fled from the fading death cloud with their young, scattering to other peoples. The tribe of the Vontolei ceased to exist.
Such was the revenge of Gargo, and such the revenge of the weird. The fleeing women carried with them this story of love and retribution, of the chief whose haughtiness and cruelty brought his own downfall, of the vigilance of the spirits who rule all. Since those long-ago days this tale has been told in many forms, handed down the ages. May its lessons also endure.
Jeffery Scott Sims says: “I am an author devoted to fantastic literature, living in Arizona, which forms the background for many of my stories. My recent publications include a volume of weird tales, Science and Sorcery III; and the short stories ‘A Sojourn in Crost,’ ‘Klinghofer’s Preview,’ ‘Danger Below the East Rim,’ ‘Dark Doings in Sedona,’ ‘The Search for Doctor Vane,’ and ‘Comes the New World.’ ”