Chapter 6: Dark Wisdom from Earth's Dawn!
Still with Karm Karvus, in his dreadful imprisonment. He's apparently just woken up in an unfamiliar lavish apartment filled with silken drapes and other treasures, after drinking some evidently drugged wine. Sucks to be him?
Hangings adorned the wall and they pictured forth incredible visions, subtly pornographic. On a long low table of hewn and polished marble stood a statue of wrought gold which depicted a young girl copulating with three satyrs.
Um. They "pictured forth"? And if that's what Lin considers subtle pornography, I dread to think what his hardcore stuff is like.
Turns out that KK was drugged by the wizard Belshathla, who (of course) has some kind of Evil Plan.
"The drug in your wine? Twas nothing - a pinch of Rose-of-Dreams, no more. More would have plunged you in a sleep so deep that death itself would not awaken you... and I wanted you alive!"
What sort of voice does Belshathla have, you might be wondering? Well, Mr Carter has that well covered. In the space of a page, we have the following:
"...a harsh, grating voice"
"...the other grated"
"...the rasping tones of [Belshathla's] voice"
"in his harsh, metallic voice"
"..., Belshathla harshed" (he harshed?)
B is a little pissed off with KK, because sometime in years gone by (around the time Thongor was fighting Black Zaar, in case you were interested, or even if you weren't), he had come to KK's palace to show off his new magic and been given short shrift. KK at first does not remember, but then it all comes back to him.
"...As I recall, I said you were mad to wish to bring to light again the devil-magic of Nianga... that the Gods in their infinite wisdom had crushed all of that accursed realm into ruin, so that the contagion of that evil science might not spread like some terrrible and deadly plague across Lemuria. I also said it was better for Mankind that the devil-machines of darkling Nianga lie forever beneath the dust of the ages and never be brought to the light of day again... yes, I remember that incident well!"
Oh, THAT Belshathla!
Belshathla is unabashed, and in fact his thin lips writhe in a vulpine leer of gloating triumph. Oh, gods, this prose is so overblown! Anyway, he laboured alone amidst the deathly wastes of that drear and accursed land, and basically uncovered all the evil Niangan magic machines, and he cackles insanely as he describes this, whitish foam bedrabbling the corners of his mouth.
KK, being cunning of mind, decides to humour the madman in the hope of drawing out some more information. Belshathla falls for this in less than a paragraph, and starts explaining about all his infernal machines. Apparently the Mind Distorting Lamp is but the least and littlest of all the terrible weapons in the mighty arsenals of God-whelmed and age-forgot Nianga, and the prize weapon is essentially an atomic bomb. Lin Carter gives his readers leave to picture KK's horror for themselves (no, he literally does this).
Belshathla is now, after half a page, so convinced by KK's show of enthusiasm that he decides to show him the arsenal, because nothing delighted him more than to flaunt his science before the humble admiration of one who had once spurned it. Tsk, scientists, eh?
Belshathla's secret lab is, appropriately, down a cavernous staircase in the bowels of the city etc etc, and is full of stalactites, with a gaping chasm down to the roaring waves beneath. Doesn't seem like the ideal scientific environment, but it does contain three things of relevance to the plot - 1) another Mind Ray of Madness contraption, 2) some cages full of mad prisoners and 3) a deadly larth! (who usually gets fed with prisoners when B is done with them).
KK, still in full flattery mode, suggests that B show off his genius by using the Mind Ray on the larth. See what he's trying to do there? B, however, is happy to show off. This will not end well.
The humming sound rose to a maddening whine. Now, from the central globe, a throbbing beam of completely colourless light shone. The cold finger of pallid luminance glowed faintly through the echoing gloom. It stretched from the rocky prominence whereon they stood, probing down into the watery abyss - to bathe the lifted head of the monster reptile full in its flickering beam!
Predictably, larth goes mad, destroys the shit out of everything, including the Mind Ray contraption. Yay! But! The ledge that KK was standing on was also destroyed, and he falls into the thundering maelstrom of battering waves and shattering spray!
I am swamped by lurid adjectives and faux-archaic constructions. The larth gives voice to a thunderous bellow of maniacal frenzy, as its burning eyes flare crimson! The pirates now only have one other such weapon wherewith to imperil the Empire! I dare not even imagine what kind of soundtrack this shit would have, were anyone ever fool enough to make it into a film...