Chapter 13 - Magic Mist
The fleet sails unhindered up the centre of the gulf, staying out of sight of land and intending to sink any merchantmen who were unlucky enough to espy them - however, these being the days of the stormy months that straddled the year halfway between late fall and the beginnings of winter, and few merchants dared risk craft, crew and cargo to the sudden squalls and unexpected lightning, so they sailed north all that day unseen.
Not sure how the jungly shores are affected by these dramatic seasonal changes. I suspect not at all.
Aedir the Sun-god declined slowly, hour by hour, in the West, until at length the azure sky darkened gradually with film on film of deepening gloom, while the horizon of the West became a glorious furnace of crimson and gold.
Thongor's gold eyes burn with inscrutable fires when considering the speed of their passage - probably Belshathla is using some kind of magic to make the ships go faster, with the cunning skills of his demon-wrested arts. On board the ship, Barim's pirates are all preparing for battle. I hardly need to tell you how mighty Thongor is looking right now, but Carter has no such reticence, and gives us the full money-shot:
Erect, masculine, masterful in his black war wizard outfit, he looked as if he could be posing for a statue of who he was... Sorry, wrong book.
...Thongor towered over [Charn Thovis], aye, and over all the seamen that stood near; thewed like some savage gladiator of the Gods was Thongor, with the broad shoulders, the deep chest, the long and powerfully-muscled arms of a mighty champion. His coarse mane of thick hair was held back from his scowling brows by a band of unadorned leather. The massy hilt of Sarkozan lay near his strong hand. His great chest rose and fell with deep. quiet breathing. His face was dark and expressionless, but his eyes blazed with golden fire like the burning orbs of a lion in its kingly wrath.
Funnily enough, my eyes are also burning after reading that. Yowch!
The sun flares crimson in the West one last time (for now) and the crew waits silently for fall of night.
Barim was hoping for a dark and moonless night, but alas, he is disappointed.
...Illana the Moon Lady showed the full splendor of her shining face this night, and torrents of silver fell across the decks and glittered, flashing, on a thousand dancing waves. It was as if they sailed through a mirror of silver flame, and against the brilliantly illuminated waters of the moonlit Gulf the low black mass of the Scimitar would be all too distinclty visible.
Growling barbarous oaths, he chewed fiercely on his mustaches, eyeing the flashing waters about them. Mayhap, in an hour or two, the Moon would hide her golden face behind thick clouds, for the winds of this cold month of Zorah were at work far above the world, and their swift and viewless wings had built tall castles of dark clouds athwart the West.
Barim is not the only one snarling curses at the shining glory of the Moon; Kashtar is also less than impressed at the clear skies, and would much prefer some clouds to hide his fleet's approach from the vigilant eyes of the floater pilots. Luckily, he has on board one of the mightiest adepts of the Secret Science then alive upon the bosom of the Earth, Belshathla, the last of the Grey Magicians of God-cursed and demon-haunted Nianga, armed with the hellish lore of a lost age of sorcery and science.
After considering a few options involving giant magnets and extra (unavailable) wizards, B decides his best option is to summon Yathlabnazoor the Demon of the Mists and force him to enshroud the entire Tarakan fleet with the airy cloak of insubstantial vapor.
This magical Operation he set about performing... and thus, in his ignorance, he veiled behind the symbolic terminology of Elder Magic a simple scientific experiment which utilised an understanding of the forces of nature, and was not really built upon the Shadowy Lords of Chaos at all. But since Belshathla would get the result he wanted, it did not really matter whether he worked through science or sorcery; the result was the same.
Well that's OK then. It means we don't actually get to meet Yathlabnazoor though. :(
Basically he has a huge electrical generator, and even though he thinks the sparks are Elementals from Sithya the Dominion of the Fire Spirits, and the ozone smell is sulphur from the Ultimate Pit, he nonetheless manages to create a load of mist which envelops the fleet (with magical swiftness - in your face, science boy!)
Barim, of course, thinks this is hilarious.
Then his awe gave way to mirth, and Redbeard broke into peals of laughter. What a grim jest, if the very methods whereby Belshathla sought to protect them from discovery, were to prove an agent that permitted the Scimitar to fall upon the flagship unobserved, and take it by surprise!