Perilandor’s town was in deadly danger from an evil mist that crept into the valley from the north and froze all it touched. He grabbed a few essentials and fled with his father, unable to locate his mother, sister, or brother before the lethal cloud closed in on his home. They scaled the eastern slope to escape the mist. Upon achieving the ridge, they stopped to rest. From a rucksack, Peril’s father drew a small brass spyglass.
“Peril,” he said softly, “years ago I found this spyglass in a high lonely place not unlike this one. Take it; look back.”
Peril drew the spyglass out to its full length, held it to his left eye and looked down into the valley of his birth. The glass penetrated the mist and revealed scenes of horror wherever he directed it. He searched throughout the valley for his missing family, but could not locate them. Overwhelmed, he lifted his eyes and found himself alone.
Peril traversed the ridge and descended into the next valley. He traveled eastward, alone, for several years. Whenever he came to a high place, he used his spyglass to gaze back toward his lost home. Regardless of how far he traveled, the spyglass revealed the scenes with undiminished clarity, immediacy and horror. He could not explain to himself the fascination these images held for him, painful as they were.
Eventually Peril arrived in a valley too deep to afford a view of the land of mist, and there he learned a trade, found a wife and raised a family. Over many years, he thought less and less of the disaster of his youth, until the day a tribe of migrants passed through his adopted home. Among them were some survivors of the deadly mist, including his own mother. They were reunited and he cared for her until her death.
As he laid his mother to rest, he thought again of the spyglass. He took leave of his family and made pilgrimage to the south, for it was said the mountains there were the tallest in all the land.
From a very high crag, Peril extended the spyglass once more, held it to his eye and directed it toward the land of his birth.
Even from this great distance of space and time, the power of the magic spyglass was nearly undiminished: once more it revealed the familiar scenes with freakish, vivid detail. But from this new position, he saw the same frozen scenes from quite a different angle. He could see down lanes and through windows that had been hidden from him as a younger man. Amidst the horror he saw acts of heroism and sacrifice; friends he had long supposed to have suffered bitter anguish he now discovered in postures of peaceful repose.
Then, for the first time in his life, Peril directed the spyglass not upon the land of his birth, but upon his present home. He saw his family, his neighbors, his fellow-tradesmen, his mother’s grave. And in each scene, the magic spyglass revealed to him his own absence.
Peril collapsed the spyglass. He placed it on a flat stone there in the high and lonely place, and headed for home.