Chapter 8 - River of Terror
A sodden bundle lies face-down in the wet sand. Yes, Thongor has washed up on a jungly shore! We knew those thews could not be kept down for long. Turns out that, um, he was caught by some swift undersea currents while battling the larth, and by the time he got to the surface, the pirate ship was out of sight. Riiiight. So, the best he could do was swim eastwards into the sunrise, where he knew there was land. Hold on... *flips back* ...the larth fight took place at sunset... why am I even surprised at Carter's lack of continuity? Besides, I bet Thongor could easily tread water for an entire night without getting tired, what was I thinking?
We know what to expect from the Lemurian jungles from the last book, what with all the phoths and ophs and deodaths and whatnot, but this time Carter has even bothered to give us descriptions of these beasts and not just a string of random syllables. What, then, does Our Hero have to look out for?
Those branches far above his head might conceal the sliding coils of the dread oph, the great horned serpent of the Lemurian jungles, whose blade-ridged spine could slash manflesh to ribbons and whose pallid and glistening length could lash about a warrior and crush his limbs to pulp in instants.
Here, too, dwelt the photh, the scarlet vampire bat who was one of the terrors of the jungle. But the denizens of Ptartha most to be feared were the titanic predators, the colossal jungle dragon whose insatiable hunger made its entire life one unceasing hunt for red meat; or the kingly vandar, the jungle lion, many times larger and much more ferocious than his modern-day descendants. As well, the fierce zulphar, the massive wild Lemurian boar, might well be hidden behind any bush. And the shadows of that thicket ahead could well be the haunt of the dread deodath, the terrible dragon-cat whose mad ferocity and savage strength made its name a legend of fear...
Luckily, Thongor managed to hang onto his broadsword and his dagger while being swept along by undersea currents, so immediately manages to bag himself a plump phondle at a waterhole with his awesome knife-throwing skillz.
The swift, hurtling glitter of the thrown blade flashed momently in the dim green twilight of the jungle clearing, and its bright flash was quenched in the hot scarlet of the phondle's blood.
Finishing his meal, he hears the sound of a hunting vandar in the distance, so resolves to sleep up in a tree. Or at least that is what I hope he does, based on the following sentence:
He spent the night in the crotch of a towering jungle monarch.
His first task, after waking and breakfasting on jungle berries (the vandar nicked what was left of his phondle), is to make himself some weapons, as obviously a sword and dagger are not quite enough. Then, with a few makeshift javelins strapped to his back, he heads to the river and starts building a raft.
With the keen blade of his broadsword, Sarkozan, and the strength of his mighty thews, he felled the young trees and wove them together with springy, tough lianas.
And he's off down the river, which should lead him straight to Tarakus! Which is kind of odd, since he was just on the beach a minute ago. Geography, schmography.
Toward twilight - terror struck!
He is attacked by a flock of phoths. Now this is more like it! Beats the previous chapter, "Karm Karvus Climbs Through a Window". Manly action! Muscles glide under his bronzed hide! ??? He knocks bats from the air with a meaty thunk! Then he escapes by hiding underwater until they go away! Well, I guess he's already had a lot of practice at holding his breath for a reeeally long time, his lungs must be just as mighty as his thews.
The thews are back in play at the next nightfall (or possibly the same one, it seems to go from twilight to the next nightfall without any day in between), when Thongor decides to catch himself a zulphar. Only the coiled strength of Thongor's mighty thews could have hurled his flimsy missile with such force as to penetrate the thick flesh! He has a tasty feast of boar meat, then settles down in another crotch for the night.
Towards noon the next day, Thongor again found himself battling for his life.
It's the poa! ??? ...which is apparently some kind of river-dwelling snaky sea monster, attracted by the delicious zulphar steaks that T has stashed on his raft. Is Thongor fazed by this? Of course not!
But years of city-dwelling had not sapped or weakened Thongor's fighting instincts. He reacted with that hair-trigger speed centuries of life in the savage Northlands wilderness had bred into his ancestors, and which was stamped deep in Thongor, blood and brain and bone.
Basically, he hits it with his pole*, but this doesn't do much good, so out comes the sword... but then he has to drop the sword in the river because the poa is lunging at his face! The snake constricts round him and drags him into the water! Luckily his mighty lungs allow him to strive manfully against the snake, ripping it open with his dagger... then he finds his sword at the bottom of the river and swings it around just in time for the poa to impale itself, Shelob-style, on the pointy end!
*it's a special pole.
Driven by the surging strength of his mighty thews, with all the steely strength of broad shoulders, deep chest, massive back and sinewy arms, the pole was a terrible and deadly weapon in the hands of such as Thongor.
Now, though, he has to continue on foot, cos the trees are all too big for him to cut down (even with his mighty thews) so he can't build a new raft. Some more paragraphs about what a mighty man he is and how awesome he is at surviving stuff... and then he's out of the jungle, Tarakus lies before him... and the lithe figure of a fighting man with naked steel flashing in one hand steps out to confront him...........
Call that a cliffhanger? Bah. Thongor has just dispatched a poa, a zulphar and a flock of phoths, one lithe fighting man is not likely to be a threat, and it's probably one of his mates anyway.