"Mordiggian is the god of Zul-Bha-Sair," said the innkeeper with unctuous solemnity. "He has been the god from years that are lost to man's memory in shadow deeper than the subterranes of his black temple. There is no other god in Zul-Bha-Sair. And all who die within the walls of the city are sacred to Mordiggian. Even the kings and the optimates, at death, are delivered into the hands of his muffled priests. It is the law and the custom. A little while, and the priests will come for your bride."Nevertheless, as the innkeeper predicted, the priests of Mordiggian come to claim Elaith for their divine master, despite the objections of Phariom, who then vows to enter the Charnel God's temple and reclaim her.
"But Elaith is not dead," protested the youth Phariom for the third or fourth time, in piteous desperation. "Her malady is one that assumes the lying likeness of death.
But Phariom is not the only mortal seeking to steal his way into the sacred precincts for his own purposes. So too does the sorcerer Abnon-Tha, a native of the "half-mythic isle of Sotar," who had slain Arctela, the beautiful daughter of Quaos, an important nobleman of Zul-Bha-Sair,
in a manner none could detect, with a rare and subtle invultuation of that had left no mark; and her body lay now among the dead, in Mordiggian's temple. Tonight, with the tacit connivance of the terrible, shrouded priests, he would bring her back to life.He had murdered Arctela so that he might claim her as his own, for, as foreigner and a necromancer, he would otherwise have been deemed unfit to seek her hand. Slain, reanimated, and spirited out of the city, Arctela would be wholly within Abnon-Tha's power to possess as he wished. Once inside the temple, events follow their own inexorable logic and Phariom and Abnon-Tha both discover truths about Mordiggian and his masked priests -- truths presented as only Clark Ashton Smith can.
"The Charnel God" is probably one of Smith's "lightest" reads, in the sense that his language is subdued, even if it remains laden with portent. And while not filled with sword fights or indeed anything that might be called "action," it's nevertheless a very "adventurous" tale, closer to swords-and-sorcery in tone than horror. I certainly find it very inspiring when thinking of roleplaying adventures. A whole city in my Dwimmermount campaign is modeled closely on Zul-Bha-Sair, with the bodies of any who die within its walls being claimed by its ruling necromancers for use as workers and soldiers to shore up the city in its battles against Chaos. Consequently, I strongly recommend "The Charnel God" to anyone looking for a straightforward dark fantasy yarn from the pen of Clark Ashton Smith.