Monday, January 31, 2011

We leave Thongor for the moment and return to his sidekick Karm Karvus, who you may recall had been captured by the Thurdans, who are all off to war. He doesn't know why he hasn't been killed, but guesses that he's going to be used as a hostage against Princess Sumia's cooperation when they try to invade her country. By no coincidence, they have now reached her city of Patanga (it only took a day) and have laid siege to it.

Karm Karvus doesn't care who wins this battle, but he doesn't like being a captive, so resolves to escape (duh). In the day or so since his capture, he's managed to steal a blunt eating knife and sharpen it to a "razor-keen tool of death"; with this he cuts a hole in his tent, and he's away.

The princess is heavily guarded, and it'll take quite a scheme to get her out. Rather than make a plan, however, he remembers the ways of Thongor:

Thongor despised cautious planners who paused to weigh in the balance every factor before taking action. It was his habit, when confronted with difficulties, to strike out blindly in the first direction that presented itself by hurling himself into the thick of things in a whirlwind of daredevil violence.

This manifests itself by KK easily killing a guard, cutting his way into her tent, and escaping with the princess before anyone notices. This also saves work for the author, as the escape takes less than a page.

KK asks the princess if she wants to return to her city, but she's too afraid of the Yellow Druids that control the city and want to burn her on their altars (well, you would be, wouldn't you?). Instead they resolve to go north to some family friends who can help them, but guess what? Yep, they run into a patrol of Yellow Druids. KK fights bravely but Sumia is inevitably captured...

Now, back to Thongor, who is having a rather better time. He and Ald Turmis are being kept in a prison full of silken couches and delicious food. Still, a prison is a prison, and this one is made of "nebium", a metal stronger and denser than any other.

They have a new companion called Narjan Zash Dromor, who informs them that this is the Lost City of Omm. He has this to say about their captivity:

"I am here in reparation for no crime, nor are you. It is my turn..."
"For what?"
Narjan shuddered a little, his eyes regaining their accustomed haunted look of dread. "To come before Xothun, the Master of Omm. He is the magician that rules us all. We exist but to serve his depraved hungers. He is a morgulac."

A morgulac, it appears, is a blood-drinker, and this is why a) the citizens of Omm are so pale and listless, and B) Thongor and Ald Turmis have been so well fed. For a thousand years, Xothun has been unstoppable, and Thongor can think of no way to escape him.

Luckily, a short while later, Thongor remembers the Armlet of Plot Device, presented to him by our old friend Sharadjsha the Wizard in case of unspecified emergencies, and not actually mentioned until this point in the book. But what does it do?

Across the room was a great full-length mirror framed in opal-hued jazite. He strode over to behold himself. Then he touched the armlet, probing at it. Almost by chance his fingers touched the huge chandral and it clicked, turning slightly within its socket.

Thunder of Gorm Almighty!

A strange electric thrill passed through his nerves. In the great mirror, Thongor watched with awe as a faint nimbus of green light outlined his form. Then the dim aura faded and with it his very body vanished from view like steam dissolving into thin air!

I think Thongor now has a cunning plan...

Friday, January 28, 2011

Well, the vandar isn't piloting the floater, but he might as well have been - it has conveniently slipped its moorings and drifted on the air currents to exactly the right place. Why didn't it just float off into the sky?, you may well be asking. Well, Mr Carter has a scientific explanation all ready for you.

Although totally weightless, the ship could not rise above a certain level unless propelled higher by its rotors. The mysterious urlium metal had a "negative" weight, and fell up - but the urlium was only a thin sheath over a strong frame of steel ribs, held together by en even heavier keel. The steel frame, then, had a "positive" weight, and pulled down at precisely the correct weight to balance the upward pull of the magic metal.

The floater still has the rope attached that Thongor had used to tie it down with, so he leaps from his saddle and climbs up to grab the controls; Ald Turmis follows him up. They begin to make their plans to rescue the princess, and laugh about what great heroes they are.

"you will soon become acustomed to hurtling through the sky like the hero Phondath astride his winged dragon in the myths," Thongor chuckled.

Ald Turmis grimaced. "I was thinking more along the likes of of the Nuld," he said, referring to the legended and mysterious Winged Men of Zand, beyond the Mountains of Mommur. "But your analogy is just as apt."

They eat some food, then fly over to Thurdis, where the city seems strangely empty. Ald Turmis spots the huge column of soldiers in the distance - well, actually, he just spotted some smoke, and it took Thongor's keen barbarian eyesight to see what was actually going on. He can even make out the designs on the banners, and so works out that his princess is among the soldiers!

But just then another crisis occurs. For some reason, the floater begins to move of its own accord, away from the army, and there is nothing Thongor can do to stop it. It's now hurtling southwest, away from any known civilisation! Failing to make it stop, Thongor decides to go to sleep instead.

His keen barbarian senses wake him up as soon as the floater starts to slow down, and he finds it descending towards a lost city, deep within the uncharted jungles of the Chush. The city is mostly in ruins, but he spots the odd glimmer of light from one or two windows.

Suddenly a mysterious force grabs him and throws him against the wall, pinning him there! There he remains, until pale zombie-like people climb up to the floater, tie him up, then take off his harness (?) which releases him from the mysterious force. Now, this is the first time we've heard about his harness, I think; last time we saw Thongor's clothing, he just had a loincloth and a cloak on, but now his harness is off and he's apparently completely naked (apart from his boots). It looks like this force is supposed to be some kind of super magnet, as the harness remains stuck to the steel bars of the wall, as does Thongor's sword - oh yes, and the chapter is called The Magnetic Ray. Thongor figures this out and grins, cos even though they've been captured, he now knows that it was a giant magnet that pulled the floater across half the continent...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Previously in Thongor of Lemuria

(end of the last chapter)
It was in the doorway. He could see it faintly, a looming mass of shadow against the complete blackness beyond the portal... it hovered at the threshold, peering in.

Then it came at him-

Note - all the times I've used ellipses in these quotes, it's not to indicate that I've snipped bits; it's actually part of the text. The humble ellipsis is somewhat overused here.

(the start of this chapter)
"ALD TURMIS!" Thongor swore a mighty oath, as the shadow lurking in the dimness of the dungeon door resolved itself into the lithe figure of a grim young swordsman in the leather harness of the Thurdian Guards.

Ah, the old bait'n'switch. Not quite as shameless as the time the lion was lunging for Thongor's unconscious throat and then we found out it just decided to ignore him, but it's nice to see so much retconning in every single chapter.

Ald Turmis turns out to be an old drinking buddy of Thongor's, and the one who helped him escape with the floater last time. Not only does he free Thongor from his chains, but he also manages to give him back his sword, that someone conveniently picked up in the Beastman village. Also, there are rumblings of revolution among the guards, as they are getting sick of the Sark and his insane ways.

The two heroic warriors roam through the dark corridors looking for a way out. In the distance they spot Thalaba the Destroyer and a couple of slaves with torches and axes, who are obviously searching for this dread creature of the pit. This duly appears, and is a giant worm made of jelly, which eats one of the slaves. The other one runs away, as you would.

Thongor and Ald Turmis try to sneak round the worm by going a different route, but it follows them (of course). Eventually they get to a dead end with only a well at their backs, and the worm is upon them.

Thongor swung out, his keen blade biting into the spongy flesh with ease, slicing through a thick section of the worm's mammoth bulk. So terrible a blow would have crippled almost any other monster of Lemuria, but the worm seemed unaffected. Thongor could almost sense the blubber-like jelly closing over the wound, which leaked a stinking, sap-like blood.

They hack away for a while and have no more success; Thongor decides that they'd be better off trying to jump down the well than be sucked inside the worm, so jump they do.

Of course, you're probably wondering what's happened to Sumia and Karm Karvus in the meantime, but never fear, they've been well treated. Now something is about to happen.

With another dawn - about the time Thongor and Ald Turmis had plunged head-first into the unknown depths of the black pit below the dungeons of Thalaba the Destroyer* - her slaves roused the princess and assisted her to dress and break her fast.

*note - this happened on the previous page, so why we need to be reminded of it in such detail is unclear to me.

Sumia and KK are placed on the backs of giant zamphs, which Carter describes to us in great detail while still being entirely unsure of what kind of animal they are. Firstly we hear that it is a giant pig; it's half the size again as a modern rhinoceros; its snout is beaked (?) and a single horn, and piggy eyes; then he tells us that it's a reptile. All rather confusing if you ask me. If it's a dinosaur, why describe it as a giant pig?

Anyway, Phal Thurid is leading this procession of zamphs, and he is dressed in chain mail made of gold. He is heading off on his mission of conquest, accompanied by Oolim Phon and Thalaba the Destroyer, as well as his army of kroter-riders. Soon he will conquer the world!

Beneath the ebon veils that masked his hideous, disease-eaten face, Thalaba laughed gloatingly.

Now we get a quick glimpse into the mind of Ald Turmis's guard captain Barand Thon (are you keeping notes? There will be a test later), who gave him a bit of help in freeing Thongor. He's not happy about this war, and blames his Supreme Commander for it rather than the barking mad Sark. Hajash Tor is the commander in question, and apparently he is rotten to the core. Don't you just love all these names?

Back to Thongor, who has an icy shock! The fall into the well has ended in an icy torrent of an underground river. Thongor gasps for air, then dives down to find Ald Turmis, who is probably unconscious and about to drown. Naturally, he finds both Ald Turmis and a tree trunk, and swims back to the surface clutching both of them. What a stroke of luck!

Next step is easy. He straps his unconscious friend to the tree trunk, and hangs onto it himself as they ride down the river. This soon breaks out into the open air and starts flowing through a forest. They spot some Thurdian frontier guards on the bank, so swim over and steal their kroters. And, at last, we find out what a kroter actually looks like.

Not a horse after all, it's some kind of two-legged reptile, like a "monstrous reptilian version of the kangaroo", and cousin to the terrible dwark. They run off down the beach(?) for hours and hours, until they see a strange thing in the sky. It's the floater!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

In the Prison of Torture

...and now we meet Thalaba the Destroyer. He is shorter than most men, and clad from head to foot in old rags. He leads Thongor along by his chained wrists, all the while cackling and boasting of how soon Thongor will be telling him all he needs to know. Finally, they arrive in a room where Thongor is chained spread-eagled to a wall. Let the torture commence?

But no. We get more insane babble from Thalaba, who admits that he regularly drugs the Sark and then pretends to be God, issuing all kinds of divine decrees. He is the real power behind the throne!

Thongor attempts to break the iron chains with his mighty thews, but to no avail. Thalaba thinks this is hilarious, and now he reveals the secret of his infallible torture methods. He lifts his rags to reveal some kind of hideous fungal infection covering his entire body; all he has to do is infect Thongor, and not even amputation would stop the spread of this nasty disease!

Strangely, though, rather than use this leverage to actually get some information out of Our Hero, he seems keen to do the infecting right now, which would render the threat rather useless. The knife is out, his eyes gleam evilly etc... but hark! He hears a noise!

Apparently it's some mysterious dark denizen of the pits that Thalaba has no control over (the pits are ancient and full of monsters or something), and he gets a bit scared and goes away.

Thongor has another go at breaking his iron bonds, when he sees a dark shape creeping into the chamber.

Again the sound. A shuffle, as of footsteps carefully and stealthily approaching. Thongor set his jaw grimly. He feared no creature that walked or swam of flew - all he asked was a place to set his back against, and a longsword in his hand. But how could one fight like this, bound to a wall, prey to whatever eyeless, mewling thing that came slithering from the deep?

How indeed?

Friday, January 21, 2011

So, the Guards of Thurdis have just unexpectedly turned up and killed all the Beastmen. But they haven't done it out of the goodness of their hearts, oh no. They've come to arrest Thongor for nicking the floater.

Still, they seem decent chaps; one of them gives Sumia his cloak (she's had her clothes ripped off, remember) and they treat their captives with respect. Thongor asks that his companions be set free, but no can do. They are tied up and put onto "kroters" (horses? possibly), which easily transverse the jungle until they get to a main road, and they arrive in Thurdis just after dawn. Thongor is dumped in a prison, and he takes this opportunity for a nap and a snack, which leave him feeling much better.

Eventually he is taken before the Dragon Throne of Thurdis by the guards; apparently he used to be in the guards and so looks out for one of his old mates, but no joy. Even so, he asks one of the guards to pass a message on to his old friend Ald Thurmis. Then, he is taken to the Sark (the leader of Thurdis), Phal Thurid. I see a pattern here in the naming.

Phal Thurid is not an impressive specimen of a man; he has "spindle shanks and hairless arms," not like Real Men like Thongor. Thongor is accordingly not impressed; his immediate impression is of "a man half-mad with the thirst to dominate, which drove him unresting to seek endlessly the acquisition of more power - more - more!"

Oolim Phon, the alchemist responsible for the amazing weightless urlium, is also present. Thongor likes the look of him even less than the Sark:

Thongor eyed him back with insolent distaste, the cavernous cheeks, the fleshless claw-like fingers, the musty stench of the terrible and supernaturally-prolonged age that hovered about him like a cloud of incense, almost palpable.

We now hear the charges against Thongor, interspersed by random outbursts of meglomania from the Sark. Aside from eleven counts of drunkeness, Thongor also killed his guard captain in a duel, then escaped from prison and stole the floater. The floater, it seems, is a prototype for a projected floater-fleet that the Sark plans to use to conquer all of Lemuria. Aha, I see. The Sark promises to release Thongor & pals if only they will tell him where the floater is. There are also some half-baked plans about using Sumia's claim to a throne as a pretext to invade her country.

Thongor stands in stony silence. He must be... persuaded. They order him to be taken to "Thalaba the Destroyer", master torturer who dwells in the bowels of the city. If you fancy going there, here are the directions:

They descended to the lower levels by means of winding staircases of stone that led down into the deep caverns of the earth. As they went deeper and deeper the air became cold and damp. A wind blew up at them from the pits below.. a biting wind, rank with the stench of dead, rotten, long unburied things... a wind such as that which blows from the gates of Hell.

All the guards are nervous... until they finally reach the door and hand Thongor over to Thalaba the Destroyer!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

We temporarily leave Sumia to her almost-fate, and skip back a few hours to see Thongor crouching in a tree. He has to wait until nightfall, and is pretty hungry, so he chows down on the (raw) bird he killed earlier. Apparently this isn't the first time he's had to eat raw meat; he was in the same situation some years before when hunting the mighty ulph on the Osterfell Glacier, and he got trapped by snow apes.

After a while, it gets dark and the beastmen start to gather for their feast cannibal repast. He climbs along a branch and jumps over the village wall, then heads down dark alleys to find his friends; luckily the Beastmen are making too much noise with their tankards of beer to notice him.

He hears Sumia scream!

Like a thunderbolt from the cloudy hand of Dyrm the Storm God he hurtled towards her hut.

He smashes Kogur in the face and knocks him out, then unties Sumia and rubs her limbs "to restore circulation". At which point, someone creeps up behind him and knocks him unconscious with a length of firewood!

Back again to Karm Karvus, tied up in the other hut. He's embarrassed that he let Thongor's bird get captured when he was supposed to protect her. Luckily one of his buckles has a rough edge, so he cuts through his bonds in the time-honoured manner of rubbing the ropes against the buckle for several hours until they break. He frees himself just as he hears Sumia scream, and dashes out with - yes - a piece of firewood to defend her, and clunks her "attacker" on the head. Oops!

It's too late. The Beastmen burst into the hut, and now they've captured all three! It's going to be a mighty cannibal feast all right.

Thongor regains consciousness to find himself tied to a stake, in between his two companions similarly trussed. You'd think this wasn't the best way to cook your dinner, and perhaps some kind of spit might have been more practical (even the ewoks know that), but these Beastmen evidently prefer drama to decent cookery.

Karm Karvus, seeing that Thongor is awake, quickly explains to him their situation, which seems rather unnecessary. Thongor is implacable, and smiles grimly, because apparently it's a good way to die if you are with your friends (??). Always the optimist.

Gorchak the Shaman approaches, in standard shaman-gear; he starts anointing the three with some kind of scarlet pigment. His assistants are carrying jugs full of the fire-flowers that were previously used to defeat the cannibal trees. Thongor starts trying to burst free from his ropes; apparently he'd have found it easier to break out of iron chains, cos iron is brittle, but these grass ropes are a bit stretchy. He applies "every atom of strength" to the task.

Then the fire-flowers are brought out; they look sort of metallic and have little flames in the middle. Thongor is amazed.

Check this out, science-fans:

Had he belonged to a later, more scientifically sophisticated age he might have speculated as to the nature of these most curious of all Nature's experiments. Since the essence of life is the digestion of food, and since digestion is a slow, chemical combustion - food is consumed as "fuel" - the imagination, confronted with these strange plants, might conjure up a picture of plants which extracted oxygen and perhaps hydrogen from the soil, in a chemical combination which created actual heat. Such a plant would burn anything it touched. And as Thongor watched, the ropy, vine-like tendrils of the monstrous plants stirred with a serpent-like groping motion. All along their tendrils the flaming blosoms turned, blindly seeking flesh to char and wither.

Now the shaman decides to rip Sumia's clothes off before daubing her with the red pigment. This is the last straw for Thongor. He bursts free from his ropes, grabs the shaman and throws him to the fire-flowers. Then he single-handedly defeats all the Beastmen in about half a page, leaving him face-to-face with Kogur!

Mano a mano. Man against beast. Fists cracking into jaws etc. Sumia is rather enjoying watching this testosterone-fest, with Thongor's savage black mane flying about his shoulders and so on.

Then suddenly Mugchuk grabs Thongor from behind, so tht Kogur can strangle him. Thongor's about to die, and thinks "ah well, it was a good fight anyway" when suddenly some arrows are shot into the village and kill all the remaining Beastmen! Thongor quicky frees his companions, just as soldiers enter the village - it's the Guards of Thurdis!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Prisoners of the Beastmen

Right, we're back where we left off with Thongor, with the lion about to eat him. This is surprisingly written from the lion's viewpoint. The lion is looking forward to eating the mysterious naked man that dares to stand in front of him, when a club strikes the man and knocks him unconscious. Suddenly (as in two paragraphs later) we're in the POV of the beastman who threw the club (Mugchuk). He is pleased that the lion will soon eat this stranger, and he heads off evilly back into the jungle without staying to watch.

Two paragraphs later, and we're back in Thongor's head, who "woke with a shattering headache." Luckily, his thick black mane of hair had cushioned the blow, so he wasn't too badly hurt. With manful self-control, he plays dead while the lion prods at him. Luckily the lion is partial to phondles, so eventually it leaves Thongor's stringy man-flesh and instead drags off the plump and juicy phondle that Thongor had just killed.

Thongor waits till it's gone, then has a drink, at which point his headache gets better. But he still has a job to do.

Another man, of lesser intensity of purpose, might probably have seized upon this opportunity to return to the floater, but Thongor had the singleness of will of the true barbarian. He came to hunt meat and would not return without it. And somewhere here was an enemy.

He wanders around a bit, seeing no more phondles but managing to catch a fat bird of some kind. 'Any normal man might have got lost, but Thongor had the "savage's unerring sense of direction", and makes it back to the floater unharmed.

Now we're back with Mugchuk. He has met some of his fellows carrying a "strange, yet succulent burden". Yep, it's the Sidekick and the Chick, captured by the beastmen! They are squat and hairy, and have a nice line in dialogue:

"Me Mugchuk. Mighty warrior!" he growled. "Me kill many men. Men fear Mugchuk!"

The leader of the party raised the spear over his head and shook it threateningly.

"Me Onguth - brave fighter! Mighty hunter!" He snarled, baring his discoloured fangs in challenge. "All in jungle fear Onguth! Onguth kill many vandar. Kill any man!"

"Mugchuk kill Onguth" the first beastman observed.

"Onguth kill Mugchuk!" was the reply.

Do they fight? Nope. Apparently this is the signal for them to start being friends. They discuss how they caught Karm Karvus and the princess, by setting fire to the trees (with some kind of flower), and now they're going to eat them.

But what's this? They have a hidden observer! Thongor, by some luck, had spotted them and is even now eavesdropping on their conversation. He knows that even his iron strength will be useless against such a large party of Beastmen, so he considers rescue plans.

The captives are taken back to the village, which is tastefully decorated with human skulls on poles. Karm Karvus coolly and fearlessly taunts the chief, Kogur. Kogur soon tires of beating him up, then sets eyes on the princess. You can guess what's coming, right?

His small red eyes narrowed as his glance moved down her slim body, scarcely covred with the rags that were all that remained of her garments. His eyes gleamed as they rested on her long bare limbs, and the firm small breasts that rose and fell with her quick breath.

Never in all his days had the chief seen so beautiful a woman. The females of his tribe were short and squat, as hairy as the males. He felt a quick surge of lust, but masked it with indifference, turning away.

Kogur announces his plan - at the full moon tonight, they will feast on the captives! They are escorted to separate cabins and guarded.

Sumia, true to form, manages to fall asleep. However, she is soon woken by the big chief, who has come to "comfort" her... she screamed!