Thursday, June 09, 2011

Chapter 19: Kings of the West

It was the better part of a month later, in the early days of Amgor, the first month of winter.

Although chill and gusty winds blew down from the mountains of the North and frost had withered the few remaining leaves to scarlet and gold, the Sun of noon blazed brilliantly in a clear azure sky and it would be long before the coming of Kyramon the Month of Snows rendered the season intolerable.

Um. Jungles? Tend not to be in temperate zones. I mean, do vandars hibernate or something?

A great procession is moving through Patanga, wearing colours with which we are all familiar - flamy gold, scarlet, green and pale gold. Jewelled harnesses, gold plumes, the works.

Obviously this is not for anything so unmanly as a wedding; Karm Karvus and Yian are in the procession, having just got married moments before, but we are spared the icky girly details.

Thongor, surprisingly, gets barely a line of description; he is merely "splendid in kingly robes". Maybe Lin has finally realised that we know what Thongor looks like by now, so need for further mention of his thick black mane and mighty thews.

Barim, on the other hand, gets a whole paragraph; he is rather uncomfortably dressed in green robes and has had to trim his beard and leave his axe behind, because he has just been declared King of Tarakus (hurrah!) - no, we didn't get to see that either, but it probably would have been quite boring. Quick flashback recap of how that happened - with the entire armada sunk, Tarakus was defenceless, and all the innkeepers (etc) who were left behind decided to surrender to Thongor's floater fleet. Hurrah!

Now we enter the mighty throne room, and Thongor strikes a pose.

From the dimness of the shadowy dome above him a vagrant beam of sunlight fell, striking to flashing fire the Flame Crown that sat his brow, all of pure redgold and studded with sparkling chandrals. Bleak and grim and impassive was the bronze mask of his features, but those that knew him well could read the glint of satisfaction in his eye, the deep happiness in the slight smile that touched his lips, and the pride in his tall stance.

All the other princes are seated around him - Zul of Zangabal, Turmis of Shembis, Thon of Thurdis, Karvus of Tsargol, Thal of Pelorm, and Barim of Tarakus. In case you were wondering. Now it's time to hand out some more honours, though there are no kingdoms left I'm afraid...

"Charn Thovis of Vozashpa, kojan of the Empire and leader of the Ninth Cohort of the Black Dragon, come forth!"

His face pale, his shoulders back, as erect as if he stood on parade, the young chanthar stepped before the dais of the Flame Throne and met the approving eyes of his Lord as Thongor smiled on him from above.

"For three years now the barony of Tallan has lain vacant since the hand of the Jasark my son struck down Dalendus Vool when he sought to usurp my station. Kneel, Charn Thovis, and rise as Lord of Tallan!"

Yes, the adventure is definitely over, we're back to reminiscing about Dalendus Vool again.

Changan Jal also gets a promotion, and then it's time for dinner! The End.


Yep, it ends with them all going off for dinner. I'm half-expecting (fat old) Blay to come in and make some jolly quip and they can all fall about laughing, but sadly Carter missed a trick there.

And thus we come to the end of this God-whelmed and age-forgot tome of crackling time-worn parchment, unearthed from the howling catacombs of David's Bargain Bookshop whence few ever return alive. Now it shall return to the mighty Archives of Min's Bookcase, never more to be opened while the watchful crimson eyes of Aedir the Sun God yet observe mankind's futile passage across the, um, ...nah, that's all I got.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Chapter 18: To the Death!

A few paragraphs about the electrified corpse of Kashtar, and what a sorry sight it is - even Thongor has to bite his lip and turn away. The mist machine is not in great shape now either. Maybe they should try turning it off and on again?

White fire spat viciously from fused electrodes and oily black smoke whirled up from the red-hot coils. The whine of the force field ebbed. No longer did the crackling aura of blue flame sparkle about the copper pole. The primitive Valkarthan knew nothing of electricity - he could not know how or why the steel blade of Kashtar had created a short circuit that had wrecked the mechanism. He only knew that the mist machine was dead and ruined beyond repair.

And that the Red Wolf of Tarakus would rove the seas no more...

All the other pirate ships are now heading this way, to investigate the battle that is still raging with undiminished fury. Boat after boat comes gliding through the misty waters! Fortunately, Charn Thovis appears to have no particular sense of fair play or sportsmanship, and deals with this crisis by turning the Lamp of Madness on the approaching ships, like the burning eye of Avangra the Death God himself!

In no time, it seemed, half the fleet was thrown into a roiling chaos. Ships swung drunkenly in the hands of raving maniacs, to crash and ram into their neighbours. The orderly lines of the armada broke up in a twinkling, and the fleet lost wau and floundered in the choppy waters.

Charn Thovis watches impassively as men set themselves on fire and hurl themselves into the water, etc etc, bathing ship after ship in the ray. Do we get any condemnation of this behaviour? Nope.

Sometimes the Gods are just. The horror of death and madness the corsairs would have brought down upon the hapless citizens of the City of the Flame was now turned upon their own heads. He swung the beam back and forth, again and again, until eventually he sickened of the slaughter, and thrust the lever back. Then, even as the humming died and the eerie glow faded and dulled within the sparkling crystal tube, Charn Thovis bent and seized up a fragment of broken oar and battered the Lamp of Madness into a tangle of splintered glass and twisted metal.

The machine from hell should have perished with the fall of elder and God-whelmed Nianga. It should have remained forever hidden from the knowledge of men under the dead dry sands of the Grey Barrens.

But now, at any rate, no man would ever use this horrible invention in war against his fellow man again...

Now that the mist machine has been destroyed, the mist is starting to clear, and the faint red glimmer of dawn appears to the East. No more the mists of foul enchantment cloaked the invading fleet from watchful eyes! Thongor is pleased to realise that his city will be saved, which means it's time to go back to the air-traffic control officer, hovering impractically at 20,000 feet...

Changan Jal is coming to the end of his shift, but before he heads home for a cold bottle and a warm bed, he decides to take one last look at that mysterious fog-bank that's been approaching up the Gulf.

Just as the trim little floater arched over the harbor, and as Changan Jal peered down at the roiling mists that had by now moved very close to the sea wall... the gusting wind whipped aside the mantle of deception and he saw with a thrill of unearthly shock the black-hulled war galleys of the dread pirates of Tarakus!

His floater is armed with some kind of lightning gun, so he orders his pilot to fire at will while he digs out a device built by the wise Nephelos, Iothondus. (?) It's a sort of flare gun, only to be used in the direst of emergencies, which explodes in the air above Patanga in a blinding dazzle of blue-white fury. The rest of the floater fleet are on their way!

Like lean and deadly hawks they swooped down upon the confusion of tangled and blazing ships, and like hawks they struck to kill. Soon the darkness before full dawn was ablaze with flickering fingers of fire, and ship after ship exploded into a cloud of flaming wreckage as the stored energy of the sithurl crystals was expended in irresistable beams of electric fire.

Back on the ship, Thongor is so awesomed by his floater fleet that he forgets to fear for his own safety, until they start firing on the flagship. The battle is still raging on deck, but things are heating up unpleasantly:

The deck jumped and slapped the soles of his feet as the rear of the ship blew apart in a deafening explosion andan eye-searing flash of white and crimson flame.

Thundering a command to the others who fought with him to hold the foredeck, Thongor sprang lightly over the rail and wove through the staggering throng of battling seamen. The air was thick with oily black smoke now; the upper works were ablaze, and smoking cinders drifted down like some grim Pompeiian rain to bestrew the decks with smoking sparks.

Barim blows a horn, and they all swing across the gory decks, back onto the Scimitar, where they instantly hack themselves free. And just in time! Cos the Red Wolf is sinking fast...

To stave off attacks from above, fat old Blay is dispatched to run up a flag of surrender, and the boat heads to the harbour, where the city guards are astonished to see Thongor. In two more paragraphs the rest of the pirate fleet is destroyed... and Patanga is saved!

It's all over bar the knighthoods...

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Chapter 17

I've noticed a trend with Carter's chapter naming, in that he tends to give away the chapter's surprise cliffhanger ending in the actual title, rather spoiling any suspense that might otherwise have built up. On that note, I bring you:

Chapter 17: Kashtar's Doom

I wonder what might happen at the end of it?

Anyway, Belshathla has just switched on the Lamp of Madness, everyone is either paralysed with shock or trapped behind other pirates... except for THONGOR, last seen swinging down from the rigging in the direction of the fog machine...

It was impossible for him, at this juncture, to alter the direction of his swing. But he seized the hilt of Sarkozan and brought the great broadsword from its sheath with a squeal of rasping leather.

The great blade flashed in the misty air as he swung it with a desperate surge of strength.

The hissing blade caught Belshathla just below the ear and sheared his head off cleanly.

The wizard's head thudded to the deck and rolled away into a corner of the deck like some great grisly fruit.

Black blood spewed up in a hideous fountain from the severed stump. The headless body lurched drunkenly and fell over. In falling, one shoulder struck the central tube of the ray projector, and it swung aside with a screech of swiveling gimbals.

The mind ray is now pointing, not at Barim, but at the next ship along, the Thurdan Maid, which had been approaching to investigate the noises of battle, and the men on board suddenly went raving mad! In an instant, the decks of the ship were a screaming maelstrom of homicidal maniacs battling each other like wild beasts.

Some more paragraphs of pirates insanely disembowelling each other pirates, until one of them knocks the wheel and steers the boat into the side of the next ship to portside, sinking both of them. The lamp of madness now shines on loads of the other ships too, bringing murder and madness and death to each!

Back on board the Red Wolf, Barim is battling mightily, and now Karm Karvus joins the frey! (Shit. Now I've just remembered that I had a dream with Karm Karvus in this morning, he was in some kind of superhero flick with the Marvel Superhero Squad.) In typical KK fashion, he manages to slip on some blood within two paragraphs and has to be rescued by his new girlfriend. Generously, he decides not to chastise her for disobeying his order to stay on board the Scimitar.

Battle makes her look pretty hot, too:

Never had she looked more beautiful. The cold wind had whipped fresh colour into her cheeks. The black jewels of her almond eyes glittered with mischief. the slim rapier she held clenched in one capable fist was crimson to the hilt, and gave further proof - if further proof were needed - of the truthof her claim that she could ride and hunt and fight like any man.

With her long slender legs clad in the glove-tight breeches, and her loose white blouse stretched taut against the rise of her sharp young breasts, a scarlet kerchief twisted about the heavy black cataract of her hair - she looked very desirable.

They interrupt the fierce battle for a bit of a snog. What the hell is she doing with an idiot like KK?

Meanwhile, Thongor is just about to smash the mist machine, but the steely glitter of a sabre-blade flickers before him! It is Kashtar, at last!

The Red Wolf of Tarakus was very changed. His face was a snarling mask of fury. Red murder blazed in his glaring eyes. His sallow features were slick with sweat and his brow was smeared with hot blood where a sword-point had slashed the flesh. His sleek dark hair was disarranged, and hung wetly in a tangle about his snarling face.

His upper torso was half-naked. Steel had ripped his scarlet raiment to shreds, and his sleek tawny flesh shone wetly with droplets of mist and sweat and gore.

"Dog of a Valkarthan savage!" he spat. "I'll spit your foul heart on the point of my steel!"

Thongor's Valkarthan broadsword is not suited for duelling, but luckily great thews swelled along Thongor's arm and his thick wrist was strong where sinewy tendons were braided about solid bone, and he manages to effortlessly bat Kashtar's weapon aside.

However, Kashtar's a pretty good swordsman, and after a while Thongor starts to get weary, and his muscles start to ache from the effort. Oh, hang on, pronoun fail, it is KASHTAR who is starting to get weary, damn these unheralded POV shifts! Thongor, in fact, is ice-cold.

Thongor fought silently. His chest rose and fell calmly and he did not seem to weary. Cruel amusement glinted in his strange gold eyes under the scowling black brows, as he read the desperation, the growing fury, and the fear and the frustration in the face of his opponent. Effortlessly he turned aside the flickering blade of Kashtar's sword.

Kashtar is getting desperate by now, and spots a pool of blood near Thongor's feet, so tries to edge him in that direction to try and make him slip (cos T has bare feet). Thongor slips! Kashtar swings back his rapier for the killing blow! But!

Kashtar's sword touched the copper antenna of the mist machine, which flashed and crackled with its aura of blue fire - and the Red Wolf of Tarakus stiffened as ten thousand volts of man-made lightning tore through him!

(Hands up who wasn't expecting this...)

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Chapter 16: The Ray of Madness

Back a bit, to Barim's POV slightly earlier on. He'd allowed the pre-ramming time to elapse, but on hearing the red music of battle from across the dark waters, he knew it was time to put Plan B into action.

No sooner does he give the command than the Scimitar crashes into the Red Wolf, then Barim seizes a dangling shroud and swings across to board the flagship, wielding his great Belnarthan battleaxe with the savage strength of his tireless arms. His pirate companions follow suit.

Wave after wave of his men came swarming over the shattered wreckage of the rail, and in mere instants the decks were alive with battling figures and hte roar of yelling men; the shriek of the wounded, the screams of the dying, rang through the fog like a chorus of the damned yowling up from the scarlet hells of the Ultimate Pit.

Even Blay gets in on the action:

Blay was stout and heavily-built. Not to be unkind, one might as well admit he was - fat. But beneath his wobbling paunch and red, moon-faced exterior there beat the valiant heart of a fighting man.

I do love the way that Carter acts all coy about referring to Blay as fat, like he hasn't been using that very adjective in every description of Blay throughout the entire book...

Some more pirate-battlin' action, interspersed by jolly comedy moments like Blay sneaking a drink from a wine-bottle during a lull in the fighting.

Back to Thongor's POV. Typically, he was the only one who hadn't been thrown off his feet when the ship got rammed, so managed to extricate himself from his circle of foes by climbing up into the rigging. His plan now is to disable the mist machine, so the Patangan air fleet will be able to raise the alarm and arrange some defences. He grabs a rope and swings down towards the crackling blue machine...

More pirate battlin', much the same as before, cutlasses are brandished and buckles are swashed, etc etc. But! There's someone else we'd forgotten about!

Suddenly the noisy air thrilled to a weird sound.

A deep-throated humming rose amid the clangor of battle, rising swiftly to a shrill scream that sent crawling terror through the tingling nerves of all who heard it. The vigor of battle faltered, as men turned to see the source of this eerie song.

At the controls of the Lamp of Madness stood Belshathla.

He is pointing the lamp at all the pirates, friend and foe alike, ready to thrust home the throttle. (?)

No-one could move or think fast enough to avert the horror that hung over them.

Minga, Turan and Gorchak* were too far away, there at the head of the stair.

Only Charn Thovis was upon the foredeck. And he was held back by a wall of swordsmen. He could never cut through them in time.

The glittering crystal eye of the Lamp of Madness glared straight at the figure of Barim Redbeard.

The hand of Belshathla tightened on the lever.

And thrust it home!

End of chapter!

*these are three of Barim's men, but they haven't done anything interesting enough for me to bother introducing them.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Chapter 15: The Golden Dragon

A phantom monstrous in the gloom,
He rose out of the waves to stand
Before the awesome Lamp of Doom,
And naked steel was in his hand.
- Thongor's Saga, Stanza XIX

Thongor was upon the first guard in an instant. He bore him to the deck before his rush, like a charging lion. Before hte corsair had time to utter a single cry, the iron hands of the Barbarian had crushed him to silence. And even in the same instant Thongor sprang upon the first guard, Charn Thovis hurled himself upon the second. Bright steel flashed and red blood spurted, and hte second watchman sank to the deck without a groan.

Guards dispatched already? Nothing to stop them from destroying the machine? Sadly not. As befits a clumsy sidekick, Charn Thovis's victim had a sword which accidentally struck the base of the lamp as he fell, and made a noise like an alarm bell. (?) Pirates start to swarm up the stairs - the fight is on!

Thongor tells CT to get destroying the machine while he holds the stairs, and promptly starts hacking his way through a bunch of pirates.

Little there was in life the great Valkarthan loved more than a good fight - and this was one of the best! His broadsword rose and fell tirelessly, and soon with every sweep the blade left a curve of crimson droplets traced upon the air. Blocking the head of the stair as he did, the Barbarian had the great advantage of height - and a second, in that the maddened pirates could only come at him one at a time. For a short while he killed and killed, sustaining no more than a sabre-cut on his bare thigh and a scratch or two on chest and shoulder.

But! A mysterious silence at his back tells him that all is not well with CT's machine-destroying duties. He glances back - and Belshathla taps him with a paralysing wand!

His arm goes numb and he drops the sword, and the pirates crush him to the deck, though he manages to break a few jaws and ribs as they do so. Belshathla got a better shot on CT, who is totally unconscious, but Thongor is only half-paralysed and is otherwise in possession of his faculties. Kashtar comes out to see what's going on, a mirthless smile on his lips.

"Shall we slay him, Lord?" the Gray Magicial asked. "It is dangerous to permit him to live, even though a captive. For, although many men have held the Barbarian prisoner ere now, none of them are now alive. He has a way of eluding captivity..."

Kashtar shook his head.

"Wizard you may be, but you are also a great fool, you grey dog," he said. "For you would throw away the key that Fate has set within our very grasp! Aye, here's the key that will unlock the gates of Patanga before us... think you they will dare oppose us, when we hold a knife at the heart of their Lord and King?"


Belshathla is still dubious, but can't really do much about it as Thongor is shackled and dragged across the deck, where they plan to bind him to the prow. But! Even as the hand of one burly rogue went forth to lock the shackles, they are interrupted by... Charn Thovis, who has evidently gotten over his paralysis and is now at the controls of the Lamp of Madness!

The pirates all withdraw in horror, and Thongor grabs the keys and unshackles himself, then picks up his broadsword from where it lay in a welter of gore. But there's someone else we'd forgotten about - Duranga Thool! He grabs CT from behind just as Thongor starts hacking away with his sword again, battling like a trapped tiger amidst the howling mob. All was howling pandemonium at the next instant! To be fair to Mr Carter, there are actually 8 lines between the two uses of "howling".

Grinning, Duranga Thool beat Charn Thovis back with lusty blows from his cutlass. The pirate chieftain was the taller and the heavier man, and his burly shoulders drove the blade against the youth with telling force. Step by step, Charn Thovis was driven back until at length he stood against the rail and could retreat no further. With every ounce of skill and strength within him, the young warrior strove to keep the edge of that flying blade from his throat.

Sidekick fight!

It's not looking good for Thongor either, so much so that Carter even loses his masterful grasp of the simile - T's latest victims lie heaped about him "like a wall of gory corpses". Exactly like a wall of gory corpses, in fact. But he's now surrounded, and knows that within moments he will be struck down from behind...

Duranga Thool finally manages to beat CT's weapon aside, and is but a split second from plunging his sword into the young warrior's heart... but then something happens!

Then, even as he watched, a miraculous change came over the face of Duranga Thool. From a snarling mask of murderous fury it was transformed to blank astonishment. The eyes goggled unbelievingly and the sword, drawn back for the final lunge, went wavering aside.

Chran Thovis knew not the cause of the gap-jawed amazement that had struck the other, but his hand flew to seize this momentary advantage. And in the next instant, with the last dregs of his strength, he had thrust his own sharp rapier through the hairy breast before him.

But what could this distraction be?

For looming out of the phantasmal mists, the contorted face of a dragon towered above the rail. Light glinted gold from its burnished beak and frowning brow.

In the next instant the deck shuddered under their feet as the brass-beaked dragon prow of the Scimitar drove full against the hull of the Red Wolf.

It's Barim and his crew, to save the day!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Chapter 14: Naked Steel

After making such a fuss over the fact that the "magic" mist is actually just Science!, Carter now decides to give it supernatural properties after all.

All about the decks, gray streamers of the clammy fog swirled like the impalpable draperies that clad the skeletal limbs of the spirits of the dead. Queer tricks were played by fog and wind: leering mask-like faces appeared out of the sliding film of fog ,eye-holes and maw but gaping rents in the mist, torn by unpredictable gusts of wind.

Long coils of mist drifted out, like reaching arms, as if to seize the sailors clustered on the mid-ship deck. Although they knew the nature of the mist to be Belshathla's demon sorcery, tihs did little to allay the superstitious fears that arose in many of the seamen. Many a grim-faced wrrior, standing with naked steel in his hands, ready to face death on the signal, felt his heart go cold and the chill sweat of terror on his brow. Even fat old Blay felt the clammy fingers of fear clutch about his stout old heart as he blinked and gawped at the gliding phantasmal forms that flickered eerily across the deck, borne on the invisible wings of the wind.

Not sure that their superstitions are so unjustified. "Don't worry, it's just demon sorcery!"

The Scimitar sneaks out of the fogbank into the clear air beyond (phew!) and then zooms forward to the head of the fleet (using Barim's master seamanship) to catch up with Kashtar. The original plan (give me ramming speed!) has been demoted to Plan B, however, as Thongor has had a better idea - he plans to board the flagship and destroy the Lamp of Madness himself, and save the ramming idea for if he fails (cos that's totally likely).

Barim is not best pleased at this.

Growling at this, the pirate captain grudgingly agreed. To his simple way of thought, direct action was the only route to success, but the Lord of the West was his Lord as well, and he had no recourse but to submit. Far rather would he have preferred to send his brass-beaked prow crashing like a brazen ram deep into the timbers of the flagship's hull, and sweep aboard the decks of the enemy with a naked cutlass flashing in his hand. But he would yield to Thongor in this.

Thongor strips back down to his harness, and Charn Thovis does likewise (but not in a gay way), then they dive into the sea!

The stinging shock of the chilly waves struck new vigor into Thongor's mighty thews. Setting his heels against the waterline of the Scimitar, the Valkarthan kicked out and propelled himself away from the vessel. His great shoulders rose and fell, his long powerful arms clove through the waves, as he swam towards the dim hulk of the pirate flagship that towered up, a vague and fog-wreathed silhouette, across the dark waters.

The magic mist conveniently stops a few feet above the waterline, so he has a good view of where to go, and has no trouble getting to the flagship. The two climb up via a carved sea monster which adorns the prow, and spot the Mind Ray machine which is guarded by two guards (the mist machine is unguarded, and Thongor whispers a plan to Charn Thovis which presumably involves them taking out one machine each).

Then, silent as a phantom, his mighty figure all but invisible amidst the ghostly fog, the Valkarthan glided up and over the rail. His wet feet crept along the planking as he advanced upon the two unsuspecting guards. As he approached them, a ghostly and silent figure in the grey gloom, his strong fingers closed about the massy hilt of Sarkozan.

With but the faintest whisper of steel against leather, he drew the glistening length of the broadsword free from its scabbard. With naked steel glistening in his hand, he advanced with the soundless tread of a stalking vandar upon the two guards...

Does anyone else feel just slightly dirty after reading that?

We now cut away to a scene in Patanga, where air traffic control officer Changan Jal is sitting bored at his desk. Yes, that's right. Well, actually he's a guard captain of some kind, but his job involves sitting in the signal tower and collating reports from the floater fleet, and as usual, there's nothing to report. Once a night he likes to go up in his floater for a spin, and it's time for him to do so right now.

Seating himself in the snug little cabin, he held the controls steady while Anzan Varl loosed the mooring lines and took his place in the pilot's chair. Then, in the observer's position, the older officer watched as the Otar took the trim little craft up to the twenty-thousand-foot level and began a tour of the city.

Wait. What?? No wonder his floater fleet can't see any trouble brewing, if they are patrolling at twenty thousand feet. What with them passing out from oxygen deprivation and whatnot.

Anyway, he spots a mysterious fogbank approaching up the Gulf, which arouses his suspicions, but despite the "formless feeling" it gives him, he decides it's probably nothing to worry about... probably....

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Chapter 13 - Magic Mist

The fleet sails unhindered up the centre of the gulf, staying out of sight of land and intending to sink any merchantmen who were unlucky enough to espy them - however, these being the days of the stormy months that straddled the year halfway between late fall and the beginnings of winter, and few merchants dared risk craft, crew and cargo to the sudden squalls and unexpected lightning, so they sailed north all that day unseen.

Not sure how the jungly shores are affected by these dramatic seasonal changes. I suspect not at all.

Aedir the Sun-god declined slowly, hour by hour, in the West, until at length the azure sky darkened gradually with film on film of deepening gloom, while the horizon of the West became a glorious furnace of crimson and gold.

Thongor's gold eyes burn with inscrutable fires when considering the speed of their passage - probably Belshathla is using some kind of magic to make the ships go faster, with the cunning skills of his demon-wrested arts. On board the ship, Barim's pirates are all preparing for battle. I hardly need to tell you how mighty Thongor is looking right now, but Carter has no such reticence, and gives us the full money-shot:

Erect, masculine, masterful in his black war wizard outfit, he looked as if he could be posing for a statue of who he was... Sorry, wrong book.

...Thongor towered over [Charn Thovis], aye, and over all the seamen that stood near; thewed like some savage gladiator of the Gods was Thongor, with the broad shoulders, the deep chest, the long and powerfully-muscled arms of a mighty champion. His coarse mane of thick hair was held back from his scowling brows by a band of unadorned leather. The massy hilt of Sarkozan lay near his strong hand. His great chest rose and fell with deep. quiet breathing. His face was dark and expressionless, but his eyes blazed with golden fire like the burning orbs of a lion in its kingly wrath.

Funnily enough, my eyes are also burning after reading that. Yowch!

The sun flares crimson in the West one last time (for now) and the crew waits silently for fall of night.

Barim was hoping for a dark and moonless night, but alas, he is disappointed.

...Illana the Moon Lady showed the full splendor of her shining face this night, and torrents of silver fell across the decks and glittered, flashing, on a thousand dancing waves. It was as if they sailed through a mirror of silver flame, and against the brilliantly illuminated waters of the moonlit Gulf the low black mass of the Scimitar would be all too distinclty visible.

Growling barbarous oaths, he chewed fiercely on his mustaches, eyeing the flashing waters about them. Mayhap, in an hour or two, the Moon would hide her golden face behind thick clouds, for the winds of this cold month of Zorah were at work far above the world, and their swift and viewless wings had built tall castles of dark clouds athwart the West.

Barim is not the only one snarling curses at the shining glory of the Moon; Kashtar is also less than impressed at the clear skies, and would much prefer some clouds to hide his fleet's approach from the vigilant eyes of the floater pilots. Luckily, he has on board one of the mightiest adepts of the Secret Science then alive upon the bosom of the Earth, Belshathla, the last of the Grey Magicians of God-cursed and demon-haunted Nianga, armed with the hellish lore of a lost age of sorcery and science.

After considering a few options involving giant magnets and extra (unavailable) wizards, B decides his best option is to summon Yathlabnazoor the Demon of the Mists and force him to enshroud the entire Tarakan fleet with the airy cloak of insubstantial vapor.

This magical Operation he set about performing... and thus, in his ignorance, he veiled behind the symbolic terminology of Elder Magic a simple scientific experiment which utilised an understanding of the forces of nature, and was not really built upon the Shadowy Lords of Chaos at all. But since Belshathla would get the result he wanted, it did not really matter whether he worked through science or sorcery; the result was the same.

Well that's OK then. It means we don't actually get to meet Yathlabnazoor though. :(

Basically he has a huge electrical generator, and even though he thinks the sparks are Elementals from Sithya the Dominion of the Fire Spirits, and the ozone smell is sulphur from the Ultimate Pit, he nonetheless manages to create a load of mist which envelops the fleet (with magical swiftness - in your face, science boy!)

Barim, of course, thinks this is hilarious.

Then his awe gave way to mirth, and Redbeard broke into peals of laughter. What a grim jest, if the very methods whereby Belshathla sought to protect them from discovery, were to prove an agent that permitted the Scimitar to fall upon the flagship unobserved, and take it by surprise!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Chapter 12 - When Comrades Meet

Can you guess what happens? I bet you can.

1. Thongor steps out of the jungle to confront his armed attacker.*
2. He realises it's KK
3. They do some back-slapping and "I'm glad you're alive!" and "How did you get here?"
4. But what do we do now? Oh no Patanga is doomed!
5. Oh no a pirate ship is approaching!
6. They realise it's Barim
7. Repeat steps 3 and 4

*this gives us the one quotable passage of the entire chapter:

Swift as a striking cobra his hand flew to the hilt of the great Valkarthan broadsword that lay against his thigh. In a blur of motion he whipped the long blade from its scabbard, in a hiss of steel rasping against leather, and blocked the darting point that strove for his naked flesh.


Lazy writing merits a lazy update. I guess it was a scene that had to be written, but as payoff for all THREE of those cliffhangers, it's extraordinarily lame. Carter is really phoning it in, at this point.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Chapter 11 - The Armada of Doom

Dawn rose over the edges of the world, lighting all the skies with a brilliance of gold and crimson flame.

All the pirates are awake bright and early, clearly unaffected by all that carousing of the night before. Badass. There are all sorts of pirates from all over the world, but they've all got the same thing on their minds.

And in the heart of every man that poured aboard the waiting corsair fleet burned the lust for gold and gems, for wine and women. Soon, they knew, and grinned happily at the knowledge, the fabulous wealth of rich and glorious Patanga would be theirs. When the heavy treasure chests of the City of the Flame opened to pour a glittering flood of golden riches at their feet, not a corsair of their number but would be wealthy for life, a landed lord, with gold enough to live his years in luxury and splendor. They laughed at the thought, and fingered the gemmy hilt of dirk and dagger and keen-bladed cutlass... soon the sea wolves would run amok through the broad avenues of mighty Patanga, and the golden wealth of Earth's most glorious Empire would flow at their feet...

I'm at a loss to understand the economics of Lemuria. We have mighty and wealthy cities rising out of impenetrable jungles, with no visible agriculture or industry; we have pirates plotting to overthrow an entire empire and then somehow become landed lords... it occurs to me that, just perhaps, Lin Carter has not thought through this world-building thing very carefully. Just a thought.

Belshathla is busy tending to his one remaining Lamp of Madness, an unholy lust burning in his cold eyes. Kashtar, resplendent in scarlet, has cold fires burning in his somber eyes. These descriptions are in consecutive paragraphs. For added amusement, Kashtar's lieutenant is apparently a swarthy and bewhiskered rogue called Duranga Thool.

The sea gates are opened, and the ships all begin to sail out of the harbour, the pirates all singing lusty pirate songs. Yo ho!

But! One ship is not singing! It has a lean black hull and scarlet sails, so we know which boat this is likely to be.

Pacing his quarterdeck, a moody scowl upon his frowning brows, Captain Barim Redbeard cudgeled his wits for some way out of this dilemma.

Their dilemma? They can't refuse to sail with the fleet, lest they be suspected of black treason and hanged from the yardarm. Even Blay is no longer jovial.

"How can we do it, mate?" Blay wheezed dispiritedly. "How can we hack and murther like the rest o' these wolves, in the rapine of the city of our friends? What will the little lad say when his old comrades come a-knockin' at the gates o' his father's royal city, with naked cutlasses in they hands, eh? O, 'twas a dark day for poor ol' Blay when he decided to turn pirate and seek his fortune on the high seas, that it were!"

Durgan, however, has confidence in his cap'n, and Blay hopes (by Shastadian's green beard) that he is be right.

A bit more crimson and golden flame in the sky as dawn finally leaves the skies of Tarakus, giving way to rose and lavender instead, as well as palest gold and purest gold, which sets off Barim's red-gold beard (and fierce blue eyes) to pleasing effect.

The shipmates shout a bit and call each other a variety of dogs, before Barim unveils his plan - as they have no way of outpacing the Armada to warn Patanga, he intends to sneak towards the head of the fleet in the next fog-bank they encounter, and attempt to ram the ship with the Lamp of Madness on, to give Patanga's floater-pilots a chance of repelling the invasion from the air... even if it means the death of all of them!

But suddenly Barim goes pale - he has spotted something upon the shore! Hm, I wonder what that could be. Charn Thovis, being a lubber, can't see anything, as it takes the keen eyes of an ol' sea hawk the likes o' Barim Redbeard who is used to squintin' against the sun. He orders signal flags to be set, telling the fleet that he's sprung a leak and needs to go ashore for a bit, and then the ship turns about and heads for a cove...

The young Patangan chanthar, Charn Thovis, was still mystified at this baffling maneuver. But as the lean black hull of Redbeard's ship entered the little cove and he got a good look at the curve of jungle-clad beach, he understood.

And a vast and thrilling joy went through him. His eyes, of a sudden, filled with tears, and deep in his heart he gave profound thanks to the Nineteen Gods Who Watch Over The World...

End of chapter! Gosh, I wonder what they have seen.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Chapter 10 - Yian of Cadorna

With the iron strength of my mighty snark, I thrust myself back into the crimson maw of this raging narrative, just in the nick of time for the onslaught of Book Three - Against the Storm...

Back with KK, grappling with the cloaked and veiled mystery figure. And guess what?

Suddenly, Karm Karvus stifled a gasp of astonishment. For his hands had encountered - not the hard muscles of a man - but the yielding softness of a woman!

She has a face of "astonishing beauty", and is clearly no painted and bedizened wineshop slut and no pirate chieftain's wanton, but a young woman of birth and breeding and dignity.

As any good woman should, she fetches him wine and food and dry clothes, and lets him sit beside the roaring fire, because she has heard all about his daring escape, and being also a prisoner, is full of admiration. KK now gets a chance to look her over:

She was young, surely no more than twenty, and slim and regal, with the clear golden skin of Cadorna, oblique dark eyes, almond-shaped, slightly tilted, sparkling like black jewels. Her hair was a torrent of heavy black silk that poured down her slim shoulders to her waist. She had a soft warm mouth, ripe for kissing, and beneath a complicated garment of thin clinging silken stuff, her body was lithe and supple and deliciously rounded.

She is Yian, princess of Cadorna, also held captive by Kashtar as part of one of his crappy and half-baked plans. In fact, she had been just about to escape through the window when KK arrived so abruptly, and is a lot more prepared than he is; with typical sidekick skills, he hadn't even bothered to consider how he would escape from the city.

Luckily she has managed to draw up a map based on what she could see out of the window, and knows which part of the city wall is least guarded; she has also already prepared a rope made out of knotted sheets and even has some spare clothes and boots for KK. He protests rather feebly about how dangerous it is out there for a woman, but in the end is forced to let her accompany him.

Karm Karvus made some further objections, but gradually they subsided. The Prince of Tsargol was not the first man to lose an argument with a woman, nor was he the first to discover the futility of pleading reason and common sense with a woman who has already made up her mind. So, in the end, he resolved to take her with him.

KK is still griping inwardly about having to look after an icky girl as he climbs out of the window, and then of course slips and nearly falls off the roof and has to be rescued by her. Oops! I am less and less surprised that he was the only one of Thongor's companions to get stupidly captured, it seems to be quite on form for him.

They make it to the wall unhindered, but then clumsy old KK slips again and lands... on a guard! Luckily, whatever KK may lack in smarts, he makes up for in fightin', and easily knocks the guard unconscious and nicks his sword (a slim rapier). Then, it's back to scrambling over the walls and down onto the rocks, and away towards the jungle.

Before them the jungle rose like a wall of black emerald. It was mysterious and gloomy, its impassive silence broken only by vagrant whispers and the rustling of small creatures padding through the matted underbrush.

Now they had left their human enemies behind;but new and more terrible foes lay deep within the hush of the jungle gloom - the savage predators whose hunting grounds they were about to enter. Their human foes they had eluded with cleverness and cunning, but Karm Karvus knew that only strength and courage and shining steel could defend them against the dripping jaws of the denizens of the Ptarthan jungles.

Gesturing to the girl to keep well behind him, he advanced to the margin of the jungle, drawing his sword. No sooner had he but taken the first few steps into the emerald gloom, however, than a black and towering shape loomed up directly in his path. It had materialised out of nowhere with the speed and silence of some grim phantom.

Without a moment's hesitation, Karm Karvus lunged. The naked blade in his fist sped glittering as he thrust at the heart of their unknown adversary -


Ah, come on! Does anyone here NOT know that this is Thongor? It's just like that incident with the length of firewood in the Beastmen's village. KK just shouldn't be allowed to play with dangerous objects.