Chapter 2 - Black Hawk's Ring (yes yes, settle down back there)
Another ship, another city - yes, we're in Patanga, the seat of Thongor the Mighty, and a lean black galley is sailing into port. Just in case we were in any doubt about the colour or shape of this boat, within 3 paragraphs we get mention of a "lean black hull", a "lean black galley", a "slim black length" and a "slim dark galley". Nothing so far has been described as crimson, though the sails are scarlet. This ship has the look of a pirate about her.
Patanga's defenders are waiting, and the first line of dialogue is "Ahoy the black galley!" - well, at least we know which boat they're referring to. The boat's occupants show typical piratical codes of dress, being accoutred in weapons, scars and items of outlandish jewelry. Here's their leader, straight from Central Casting:
Then a big hand shoved them aside and cleared space for a towering redbeard with a bright crimson kerchief about his brows, breeches of bottle-green, enormous black boots and a massive, gem-encrusted girdle. His bare bronze chest bristled with fleeche of curly gold and frosty gray eyes blazed under tufted brows. He was a bull of a man with deep chest, broad shoulders, and arms that bulged with knotted thews like the branches of a gnarled oak.
"This be the Scimitar out of Tarakus port," he growled, "and I be Barim Redbeard, her master."
Crimson! Thews! Piratey accent! All the boxes ticked so far.
Barim Redbeard apparently has some super-rare ring that will allow him to speak to Thongor urgently, so he's allowed to land. And now we have Barim's POV! Via a footnote, he lets us know that he became acquainted with various of Thongor's princes in an adventure called Thongor at the End of Time, published in 1968, though evidently not reprinted with the rest of the Thongor books.
Prince Thar laughed with delight. "Of course I've grown, Captain Barim - it's been three years, you know, since we sailed together that time Charn Thovis bore me away form the usurper, Dalendus Vool, and you helped us get away."
They all reminisce a bit about mutual acquaintances whose names shall, alas, ever remain but nonsense syllables to those of us who were born too late. However, this does bode slightly well for this book, being evidently one of the few Thongor novels that was worth reprinting. Blah, blah, anyway, they lead the way to Thongor!
Thongor sits on the Flame Throne. It's very flamy, as you can see:
The Flame Throne of Patanga was sheathed in beaten gold the colour of flame. Flame-like, too, was the ornamentation of that throne, whose high back rose to wavy, flamy points. Atop a nine-tiered dais of black marble stood the Flame Throne, and thereupon sate Thongor.
What's Thongor looking like these days? Has he aged well? Well, apparently he's as lion-y as his throne is flame-y:
He was a magnificent lion of a man, with the broad shoulders and mighty chest and splendid thews of some savage gladiator. His grim dark face was impassive, expressionless, but under his black scowling brows his strange gold eyes blazed lion-like.
Now we get a list of Thongor's attendant princes (yawn); all of the nobles are present except Sumia, who's become a stay-at-home mum. And again we are reminded of exactly how Thongor knows Barim - sailing on the Scimitar, escaping Dalendus Vool, etc etc, and they tell Barim about what happened to Karm Karvus. Enough catch-up, can we get to the fighting please?
No, there's more background. Barim has some information about this Gray Death, and the history of pirates in general. It turns out that once upon a time, Thongor was one of the pirates, and sailed the ship Black Hawk (ah, hence the chapter title, I see). Eighteen years later, the pirates now have a new leader: Kashtar, Red Wolf of Tarakus, who wants to build a Pirate Empire! He has a secret weapon from some wizard, and now he's heading for... Patanga!
Grizzled Thom Pervis is sceptical, as no-one can stand against Patanga's air fleet, as had been proven some 12 years previously when they defeated Yelim Pelorvis and won a throne for Karm Karvus... twelve years ago? Did I miss something? (flips back) Ah yes, apparently this is the twelfth year of Thongor's reign; not sure why I thought it was only 3 years later. Thongor asks to know more about this weapon... and the chapter ends!
I must say, I'm disappointed by the lack of monster battles so far. By the end of Chapter 2 in the previous book, they'd already crashed a floater, fought a sea-monster and been almost eaten by cannibal trees, vandars, phondles , beastmen etc, and here we are still in a boring council chamber. Bah.