Harper

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An extraterrestrial animal from the moon of Saturn that emits music hypnotic to humans. From the "The Harpers of Titan: A Captain Future Novelet." by Edmond Hamilton, and first appearing in the September 1950 issue of Startling Stories.

He flung back his cloak. Beneath it in the curve of his left arm, was something wrapped in silk.

Simon instinctively stepped back,

Taras ripped the silk away. And in his hands was a living creature no larger than a dove, a thing of silver and rose-pearl and delicate frills of shining membrane, and large, soft, gentle eyes.

A dweller in the deep forests, a shy-sweet bearer of destruction, an angel of madness and death.

A Harper !

A low moan rose among the councilors, and there was a shifting and a swaying of bodies poised for flight. Taras said,

“Be still. There is time enough for running, when I give you leave.”

The councilors were still The king was still, white-faced upon his throne. But on the shadowy benches, Simon saw Keogh’s son bent forward, yearning toward the man he, thought to be his father, his face alight with a child’s faith.

Taras stroked the creature in his hands, his head bent low over it.

The membranous frills began to lift and stir. The rose-pearl body pulsed, and there broke forth a ripple of music like the sound of a muted harp, infinitely sweet and distant.

The eyes of the Harper glowed. It was happy, pleased to be released from the binding silk that had kept its membranes useless for the making of music.. Taras continued to stroke it gently, and it responded with a quivering freshet of song, the liquid notes running and trilling upon the silent air.

And two more of the helmeted men brought forth silvery, soft-eyed captives from under their cloaks, and they began to join their music together, timidly at first, and then more and more without hesitation, until the council hall was full of the strange wild harping and men stood still because they were too entranced now to move.

Even Simon was not proof against that infinitely poignant tide of thrilling sound. He felt his body respond, every nerve quivering with a pleasure akin to pain.

He had forgotten the effect of music on the human consciousness. For many years he had forgotten music. Now, suddenly, all those long-closed gates be- tween mind and body were flung open by the soaring song of the Harpers, Clear, lovely, thoughtless, the very voice of life unfettered, the music filled Simon with an aching hunger for he knew not what. His mind wandered down vague pathways thronged with shadows, and his heart throbbed with a solemn joy that was close to tears.

Caught in the sweet wild web of that harping, he stood motionless, dreaming, forgetful of fear and danger, of everything except that somewhere, in that music was the Vi^hole secret of creation, and that he was poised on the very edge of understanding the subtle secret of that song.

Song of a newborn universe joyously shouting its birth-cry, of young suns calling to each other in exultant strength, the thunderous chorus of star-voices and the humming bass of the racing, spinning worlds!

Song of life, growing, burgeoning, bursting, on every world, complicated counterpoint of a million million species voicing the ecstasy of being in triumphant chorus !

Something deep in Simon Wright’s tranced mind warned him that he was being trapped by that hypnotic web of sound, that he was falling deeper, deeper, into the Harpers’ grip. But he could not break the spell of that singing.

Soaring singing of the leaf drinking the sun, of the bird on the wing, of the beast warm in its burrow, of the young, bright miracle of love, of birth, of living!

And then the song changed. The beauty and joy faded from it, and into the sounds came a note of terror, growing, growing ...

It came to Simon then that Taras was speaking to the thing he held, and that the soft eyes of the Harper were afraid.

The creature’s simple mind was sensitive to telepathic impulses, and Taras was filling its mild emptiness with thoughts of danger and of pain, so that its membranes shrilled now to a different note.

Captain Future also enjoys relaxing with his Venusian guitar.

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