Study Guide

Lord of Light Chapter 4

By Roger Zelazny

Chapter 4

  • Hellwell: an immense pit that begins at a large metal door on top of Channa mountain and leads deep beneath the planet. Few have dared to travel to this forbidden place. It is located in the kingdom of Malwa, a place ruled by a real jerk of a rajah named Videgha.
  • Sam climbs the thin, snow-encrusted trail to the entrance of Hellwell. Since he's one of the First, he knows the combination to open the metal door.
  • He traverses the cavernous depths. Many faces of fire appear in the walls, begging him to free them in their own distinct languages; Sam ignores these and moves on.
  • At the bottom of the well, he comes to a great blaze, larger than the rest. The blaze sees that the "Hated One" (4.43) has returned.
  • Sam asks if the blaze is Taraka, and the thing seems a wee-bit insulted that the one who bound him can't remember him. He doesn't write, he doesn't call, and now this—ugh.
  • The two talk about the old days. Good times, like how Sam bound Taraka and his people into Hellwell and took the planet for the humans.
  • Sam suggests a way of reparations. They could ally together against heaven, and that would require Sam setting Taraka and his kind free.
  • Here's a question, though: How does one trust a demon? Sam says he'll free Taraka first, so the head Rakasha can scout Heaven's defenses. While he's away, both shall think of an agreement.
  • Sam frees Taraka, who immediately attacks him to test his power, so Sam binds him again to prove the point.
  • Before leaving for Heaven, Taraka wants to know how Sam manages his power. Sam says to consider it "electrodirection" and let that be that.
  • While Taraka is away, Sam stays in the cavern. The other Rakasha tempt him with images of worldly pleasures, and when Sam doesn't free them, they try images of a more, um, threatening nature. Sam resists those, too.
  • Taraka returns, reporting that his people can access Heaven though the air vents. There are also elevators that Sam's more human warriors can use.
  • Sam decides just to trust Taraka and releases sixty-five of his kin. One attacks him, but he easily kills it.
  • Tired from his labors, Sam rests in the cavern. Don't let the name Hellwell confuse you—it's totally comfy.
  • When he wakes up, however, he finds that Taraka has bound himself within Sam.
  • The Rakasha explains he's been in spiritual lockdown for too long—he simply wants to borrow Sam's body and take it for a little worldly joyride; when he's done, they'll attack heaven. Pinky promise.
  • Sam tries to convince Taraka that the gods will come soon and are far more powerful than before, so Taraka forces the Sam side of their body to sleep to keep those bothersome words silent.
  • Sam's consciousness awakens briefly here and there, catching tidbits of what his body has been up to. He gambles, whores, and drinks his way through his reality. In one gambling match, he wins the royal palace at Palamaidsu and imprisons Prince Videgha.
  • He realizes with horror that some of Taraka's joys are his own as well.
  • Sam builds his power and bides his time. One day, within Sam's body, the two do spiritual battle. Taraka wonders why Sam begrudges him this time of pleasure, and Sam says, "I am a man who has set out to do a thing, and you are now blocking my way" (4.215). That's one way to tell a demon to take a walk.
  • He then curses Taraka with the curse of the Buddha. Unable to win mano-a-mano—or spirit-a-spirit, as the case may be—Taraka summons other Rakasha to aid him; Sam slips back into darkness.
  • When Sam comes to (again), he finds a far more morose Taraka. Seems the curse of the Buddha has taken effect, and while Taraka has been rubbing off on Sam, Sam's humanity has been rubbing off on Taraka. The poor demon now knows the awful curse of guilt.
  • Taraka weeps. Poor demon guy.
  • The next morning, a guard enters their chamber warning that the palace is under attack. He describes the assailant, and Sam instantly recognizes as Lord Agni, the god of fire.
  • Sam pleads with Taraka that they should flee, but Taraka decides he must test this new power of the gods himself.
  • Taraka says not to worry. He strengthened Sam's flame so that he can survive as pure energy, like a Rakasha. That's some comfort, we suppose.
  • Taraka and Agni square off. The Rakasha throws the forces of nature, and much of the castle, at the god, but Agni uses his fire wand (read: thermonuclear butt-kicker) to defend himself.
  • Within the chaos, Taraka/Sam flies away from the palace and watches from the sky as the palace is destroyed by Agni.
  • They escape to Hellwell. Knowing the gods will pursue them, Sam agrees to free the remainder of the Rakasha.
  • Later, a Rakasha returns to give his scouting report to Taraka/Sam: Four gods are coming on the thunder chariot of Shiva—Agni, Yama, Kali, and, of course, Shiva.
  • Taraka's guilt leads him to desire a victory for Sam, but Sam says no. If they fight, they will lose, so instead, they'll send some Rakasha against the gods. Should they lose, then Taraka will carry Sam away from Hellwell.
  • Taraka and Sam listen to the battle in the distance when Sam has an idea. Why don't they steal the gods' thunder chariot? When a report comes back that things aren't going so well for Team Rakasha, Taraka decides grand theft space chariot is the way to go.
  • Taraka/Sam flies over the special effects masterpiece that is the battle. Agni's flame chases them, but they manage to escape out the cave and down the side of the mountain.
  • At the chariot, another Rakasha reports that the gods are after them; as Sam warms up the engines, the Rakasha goes to buy them time.
  • Agni runs into the valley, raises his wand to destroy the chariot, but the result is a fizzle, not a bang—Sam's electrodirection comes through again.
  • Agni bursts into the cabin, but Sam is too quick and attacks, knocking his opponent out. Unfortunately, he's not quick enough, though, and both Yama and Kali hit Sam with their death gazes.
  • Taraka is expelled from their body, and Sam is knocked out. (We're not neuroscientists, but all of this unconsciousness must be seriously bad for Sam's gray matter. Don't you think?)
  • Sam comes to—yet again—and finds Yama smoking.
  • They're taking him to the Celestial City to face Brahma. As for Taraka, Yama's not quite sure. He hit the demon hard, so it'll be a while before he recovers… if he's not dead. Plus Sam's doused with demon repellent, so no worries on repossession.
  • The two discuss godhood, but it becomes clear that Yama has a more rose-tinted perspective on the subject that Sam.
  • Seems Yama didn't take Sam's advice on Kali since the two are to be married.
  • They then spend the rest of the trip playing chess.