Chapter 9 - Swords against Patanga
Neither a Karm Karvus nor a Thongor chapter this one, as we find ourselves back in the presence of Thongor's pirate companions, hiding out in an inn in Tarakus. What might this inn be called? The Black Spot? The Jolly Roger? Close enough; it is the Inn of the Skull and Crossbones; even pirates from mythical continents before the dawn of time have certain conventions to uphold.
Barim Redbeard has been tramping the streets of Tarakus, trying to find news of Karm Karvus, but even though there was hardly a man in the city who would not betray a comrade for a bit of gold, he hasn't gathered much info.
This much they knew: Karm Karvus had indeed been held a prisoner by Kashtar the Red Wolf, Lord of Tarakus and king of the pirates. But Karm Karvus was missing. Many believed he had fallen to his death in the dark waters of that mighty subterranean cavern, for how could a man survive that fall into the cold black waves, where a mighty larth, goaded to madness by evil and age-old sorcery, roared and clamored for something to kill?
I had been wondering that myself; I think the answer is "deus ex machina".
Barim Redbeard is wracked with guilt about losing Thongor to the deeps, and thinks that Charn Thovis must blame him for the thewed one's death. Charn Thovis, of course, thinks no such thing, but it's quite sweet to see the Hollywood-standard "oh no you must hate me!" misunderstanding going on between two mighty pirates. No, Charn Thovis has other things on his mind.
Part of their trouble stemmed from the unfortunate fact that they did not know exactly what would have been Thongor's plan of action. What had the Valkarthan intended to do upon reaching the Pirate City? Failing to find Karm Karvus, what would he have done about the impending invasion? And, lacking their mighty leader, what could they do in his place? Doubtless the intrepid warrior-king would have launched into sone daring scheme whereby to bring the Red Wolf of Tarakus to his knees... perhaps, Thongor would have taken action to destroy the Niangan devil-weapons, thus rendering the Tarakan corsair navy ineffectial for any fleet action against the City of the Flame.
So it all came down to this: what, if anything, could they actually do that would help prevent the attack on Patanga?
This, I guess, is the trouble with having an army full of sidekicks; take away the hero and they just get emo and indecisive.
The door of the inn flies open with a loud crash, giving occasion for some fine piratical dialogue:
"Flay me, mate, you nearly had a yard of steel in your gizzard, sneaking up on us like that," [Barim] growled, shoving his blade back in its scabbard with a clang.
"Sorry, Cap'n," fat old Blay wheezed, stomping in and wringing the rainwater from the hem of his patched and worn old cloak. "Twas that devil-blasted wind, it was, fair snatched the door handle from my hands, it did. Ah, gods! Is they a drop o' wine in the shop to warm the guts of a fat old man what has been trampin' the streets of Tarakus from dawn to dark, till he has nigh wore down the leather of his soles?"
Blay quaffs some wine in jovial-fat-pirate fashion, while Barim waits impatiently for his news.
"Belay all this bilge, and get down to business, you fat Kovian bundle o' blubber!" Redbeard roared.
If either of them say "landlubber" or "scurvy seadog" in the next few pages, it will make my afternoon. :D
Anyway, some painful paragraphs of piraticism later, we find out that Blay ran into some old mateys called Yaruk the Hook and Thurgan the One-Eyed, and managed to get One-Eye so drunk that he gave away Kashtar's entire invasion plan!!
"Oh, aye, Cap'n! Look ye, the way One Eye Thurgan puts it: ol' Red Wolf has thrown over his plans o' carryin' off half the Sarks of the West, 'cause he's afeered Karm Karvus has escaped alive* and is going t' bring the word to the Black Hawk**, y'see... so the old plan is junked, an' the new plan is t' strike fast as lightnin' before Patangy can get word and spring t' arms***, so termorrow dawn we sail... shippin' orders will be brought to each Cap'n of th' coast tonight at midnight by messenger-"
*Probably Kashtar shouldn't have told KK his evil and not-very-well-thought-out plan, then
**Um, wasn't Thongor intending to use Black Hawk as his secret disguise name?
***...and doesn't Patanga already know there is an invasion planned? From like Chapter 2?
Yes! Barim swears at his shipmates and calls them all lubbers! Twice! No, three times! Close enough for me. They plan to sail in thirty minutes! Good job clocks have already been invented in the land before time.
They all run down to the harbour to board the Scimitar, but there is bad news - Kashtar has closed off the harbour entrance, and no-one can leave until the invasion begins at dawn!
Oh dear. Nothing else for it but to return to the pub. What hope does Patanga have now?