In the Court of the Dragon
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"In the Court of the Dragon" is a short story published by Robert W. Chambers in the collection The King in Yellow in 1895. The story is an example of Chambers' horror fiction, and is one of the stories in the collection which contains the motif of the King in Yellow.
The story follows an unnamed narrator who visits the Church of St. Barnabé. As he makes himself comfortable, he is encountered by an unknown fear which he manages to dismiss at the sight of the solemnity and beauty of the church. He begins to listen to the organ, whose tones anger him with their bombastic nature. Nobody else appears to notice. He then sees the organ-player leave and is calmed. However, as he looks around and sees that "the same man was coming out from behind the organ, and was passing along the gallery the same way", he is at first brought out of balance but puts this down to a mistake at having reckoned the passed time.
But as this organ-player leaves for the second time, he looks on the narrator with a look of unimaginable hatred which the narrator sees. Initially fearful of the organ-player's malign intent, the narrator chides himself over his own foolish notions and then exits the church. Whilst venturing home the organ-player is encountered several times along the way, filling the narrator with dread. As he gets closer to home (the Rue du Dragon) he calms himself but then sees the organ player going against him. He struggles to escape but realizes it is futile.
At the last moment he awakens at the church and thinks it all a dream yet then resolves that he knew him all along, saying: "For I knew him now. Death and the awful abode of lost souls, whither my weakness long ago had sent him — they had changed him for every other eye, but not for mine". Then the church disappears and seemingly the narrator now stands on the shore of the Lake of Hali. Then death seemingly comes: "And now I heard his voice, rising, swelling, thundering through the flaring light, and as I fell, the radiance increasing, increasing, poured over me in waves of flame. Then I sank into the depths, and I heard the King in Yellow whispering to my soul: 'It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God!'".
This story is one of the most mysterious in the collection. While we know that there is a connection between the organ-player and the narrator, we do not know what it is, or what caused the "weakness" that had "sent him" to the "awful abode of lost souls." The words of the King—"It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."— is a quote from the Bible (Hebrews 10:31), from a passage dealing with punishment for sin.
- Narrator: The unnamed narrator, stumbling to his doom.
- Organ Player: The mysterious man playing the organ. He has an unknown connection to the narrator and the King in Yellow.
- The King in Yellow: A mysterious entity of power.
- Monseigneur C: The Priest at St. Barnabé.
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