The Wizards of Clark Ashton Smith: Evagh
As I’ve made it clear, I’m a sorcery guy. I like villainous sorcerers and heroic sorcerers, all types of sorcerers. Maybe that is what draws me (in part) to the work of Clark Ashton Smith. His ability to create these amazing characters with who can be either heroic, villainous, or both.
This time, we come to Evagh, the hero of the short story “The Coming of the White Worm.” In this story, set in the prehistoric Hyperborea, Evagh must confront a force of ancient and cosmic terror that threatens to encase the world in ice forever.
So, what kind of sorcerer is Evagh? I would say that he is in the mold of Lumivix from “The Master of the Crabs.” He is definitely heroic in the current sense of the word. He shows concern and even tries to aid the fishermen near his home, he refuses the call for power offered by Rilm Shaikorth, and he sacrifices himself to end the scourge of the White Worm.
As a sorcerer, Evagh seems to rely on his command of spirits to do his bidding. He uses them to guard his home against the unnatural frost, he uses them to gain information, and he uses them, no doubt, for other things.
But in this instance, his spirits fail him. They cannot protect him from the powers of Rilm Shaikorth, but he himself is rather immune to the frost. I only makes him sleepy, and this is a sign that he is a strong and powerful sorcerer.
The thing about Rilm Shaikorth, the White Worm, is that he needs powerful sorcerers, those immune to his spreading ice. Why? So he can eat them. His sustenance is sorcerers. So, Evagh joins a group of six or seven other sorcerers. Most of these joined out of the promises of power that Rilm Shaikorth offers them. Gradually, the number of sorcerers goes down during the sleep cycle of the White Worm. And steadily, the worm bloats in size. But it is not until the last that Evagh learns the truth about the Worm (although it is pretty clear to the reader- and Evagh does suspect something after the first disappearance).
The interesting thing is that it is clear that Evagh joins the other sorcerers not for the promise of power and knowledge but for a means to discover how to defeat the Worm. It is not until he is the last sorcerer surviving that the means to kill Rilm Shaikorth is discovered. And I love it! But the death of Rilm Shaikorth also means the death of whoever kills him. This certainly makes Evagh a hero in my book.
With Rilm Shaikorth, the appearance of unbeatable power is only that, an appearance, an illusion. The White Worm, even if it is transdimensional, is still mortal. But still, that damn Worm is pretty cool for an abomination.