“Quest of Iranon, The.” Short story (2,800 words); written on February 28, 1921. First published in the Galleon (July–August 1935), edited by Lloyd Arthur Eshbach; rpt. WT (March 1939); first collected in BWS; corrected text in D; annotated version in TD.
A youthful singer named Iranon comes to the granite city of Teloth, saying that he is seeking his far-off home of Aira, where he was a prince. The men of Teloth, who have no beauty in their lives, do not look kindly on Iranon and force him to work with a cobbler. He meets a boy named Romnod, who similarly yearns for “the warm groves and the distant lands of beauty and song.” Romnod thinks that nearby Oonai, the city of lutes and dancing, might be Iranon’s Aira. Iranon doubts it, but goes there with Romnod. It is indeed not Aira, but the two of them find welcome there for a time. Iranon wins praises for his singing and lyre-playing, and Romnod learns the coarser pleasures of wine. Years pass; Iranon seems to grow no older, as he continues to hope one day to find Aira. Romnod eventually dies of drink, and Iranon leaves the town and continues his quest. He comes to “the squalid cot of an antique shepherd” and asks him about Aira. The shepherd looks at Iranon curiously and states that he had heard of the name Aira, but that it was merely an imaginary name invented by a beggar’s boy he had known long ago. This boy, “given to strange dreams,” provoked laughter by thinking himself a king’s son. At twilight an old, old man is seen walking calmly into the quicksand. “That night something of youth and beauty died in the elder world.”
“The Quest of Iranon” is among the best of HPL’s Dunsanian imitations, although there is perhaps a hint of social snobbery at the end (Iranon kills himself because he discovers he is of low birth). HPL wished to use it in his own Conservative (whose last issue had appeared in July 1919), but the next issue did not appear until March 1923, and HPL had by then evidently decided against