BOOK FOUR: AND OLD WORLDS DIE
Argos, in Deepest Space.
"How blessed a creature," thinks Kara,
"on whose entrails Rao should imprint
the image of things long ago done,
that, in sacrifice, we might rerun
the evidence, and our tomorrows tint
with reverence cautionary. Zola!,"
she shouts, lifting the furry vermin,
"I send you thus to the Sun Prince!"
She murmurs an incantation,
guts the zola and makes libation
on the altar coals. These ignite.
She looks into the bubbling blood
through their dark red light.
THE VISION IN THE CLOUD WHICH THEN AROSE
Into the Hall of Wisdom Jor-El strode
and the dais mounted. The Alchemen
arrayed around him stiffened at his pose.
It appeared he'd not repent. He'd
hold fast to his dissent and oppose them.
None living had seen the like.
"For vain delusions," Beaker Re-Zun
to the Recorder whispered:
defies communal peace and procedures
customary. He posits presumed 'truths'
with no such authority, and endure
it we shall not. Panic would ensue
should he publish his conclusions,
or the people will this body mock.
Our Revolution's no laughingstock! His
laboratory work shall in seclusion
not reflective, not pensive this time,
but in chill solitude's confines result.
Stifle conscience and the law's confusion!
To his crime's surcease must we catapult!"
But Jor-El spoke first and broke the quiet:
-- Noble seekers, fellows who this room
do fill. I will not retract,
but do my claim repeat
for it is fact: Krypton is doomed!
Their gathered, aged faces loomed
larger in their rage
than they'd ere before seemed, as,
in every conceivable ill term,
they denounced him.
Then Re-Zun stilled the ruckus.
-- Order, order, please brethren!
Jor-El, you disappoint me.
This deranged scheme to truck us
all off to Earth in great 'space arks?'
Were we to embark on it, a better
destination you surely could find
than that galactic backwater,
and a more practical kind
of transportation. But, these are moot
objections. The Committee of Seven
found our recent tremors to be rooted
in the shifting of Krypton's orbit.
Nothing more. Can't you accept that?
He could not.
"This planet will explode in ninety days,"
he said, and renewed the fray.
Jor-El listened to them as they brayed:
-- Doomsdayer! -- Alarmist!
-- Gloomsayer! -- Raoist!
Then they appointed an eleven
member Commission of Judgment.
The panel were quick jurors.
They either ignored
the main precedents or
held them inapposite. The rescue
of ancient Urrika's populace
from the waters of the Great Deluge
was mere myth, they said, and traced
the "prophet" Jaf-El's "winged beasts"
to subsequent beatings of breast
by arrogant El family rulers.
After their summary "investigation"
the foreman, Din-Bet,
the Alcheman from West Ju-dee,
announcing that the defendant would get
to keep quiet and avoid banishment.
Jor-El chewed it over, contempt
concealed, and answered. "Neither I,
nor my wife, will attempt migration,"
he said. "We will remain silent."
(Kara thinks it odd, Jor-El's stress
on subjects. The clauses impress
her -- it is an oath sworn with care --
and she averts her stare
to ponder: Had Jor-El in mind
another, who could have fled
yet left intact this solemn vow?
Who? And, where would that one be now?
Eyes reddened by the altar's glare,
she almost misses the defrocking.)
The Hall itself gently rocking
under another tremor,
the Recorder spoke, icily.
"Condemned to family quarters
until further notice," said he,
and Re-Zun rapped the gavel.
The Councilors all swiveled
in their seats -- the ritual
not one to be watched with glee --
Din-Bet stepped into the circle,
removed Jor-El's royal blue sash,
and with that emblem of status
in the brotherhood of Science
he lashed the excommunicatee.
Once, twice, thrice,
El's cheeks he whacked,
then joined he his colleagues
in showing his back.
Jor-El exited, no lack
of swagger to his stride.
Rao's hidden legions
have never wanted for pride;
he marched right to a chapel
under Kandor's east side
and there branded a zola
with his blood, the date, and the time.
No act of depravity this,
for, once smuggled to Argos
aboard a cloaked freighter,
the beast would give up its ghost,
and the priests, or his posterity,
would know that Jor-El had lost
without becoming a traitor.
Against neither the gods he was sworn to,
nor the stiff-necked people he served
had the eldest El committed any crime.
Now Kara knows this tale sublime.
Lost in thought, she sweeps zo' remnants
from the altar, intones the proper
blessings and leaves the sodium cove,
closing the azure brick door behind her.
In her chamber she undresses.
Dropping her priestess' robes,
she looks into a glass, and wonders.
Who can she assign the task
of finding whom she now suspects
may yet live -- her cousin, the last
male El? At Earth the inspection
must begin (the place obsessed
Jor-El); but, facts known, or guessed,
about it pre-Holocaust
in the priestly insurrection.
Traveling through the Phantom Zone
the planet can be accessed,
but who'd assume the risks posed
by such a venture? None known
to her. She rings for a handmaiden.
There is no wait. Her servants
are quick, and the best of the lot
tonight is on call...! She's the one!
What's her name, the former actress?
The door opens. "My mistress?,"
says the maid, and Kara recalls
and says, "All will be well
if you'll but travel, dear."
-- The journey will try you; naught to fear.
Rao will reward you, make your name renown
as once it was upon the world profane.
Go now. Make refrain at an oracle near,
for, come morn the High Priest will hear
and ring for you as I just did here.
See it! (Kara clasps the golden cord.)
Not for me doth this bell toll.
It tolls for thee, Lyla Lerrol!
So taken aback is she,
Lyla drops Kara's washing bowl.
Henceforth, she'll need to be
more sturdy. 'Tis a worthy goal.