Chapter 18: To the Death!
A few paragraphs about the electrified corpse of Kashtar, and what a sorry sight it is - even Thongor has to bite his lip and turn away. The mist machine is not in great shape now either. Maybe they should try turning it off and on again?
White fire spat viciously from fused electrodes and oily black smoke whirled up from the red-hot coils. The whine of the force field ebbed. No longer did the crackling aura of blue flame sparkle about the copper pole. The primitive Valkarthan knew nothing of electricity - he could not know how or why the steel blade of Kashtar had created a short circuit that had wrecked the mechanism. He only knew that the mist machine was dead and ruined beyond repair.
And that the Red Wolf of Tarakus would rove the seas no more...
All the other pirate ships are now heading this way, to investigate the battle that is still raging with undiminished fury. Boat after boat comes gliding through the misty waters! Fortunately, Charn Thovis appears to have no particular sense of fair play or sportsmanship, and deals with this crisis by turning the Lamp of Madness on the approaching ships, like the burning eye of Avangra the Death God himself!
In no time, it seemed, half the fleet was thrown into a roiling chaos. Ships swung drunkenly in the hands of raving maniacs, to crash and ram into their neighbours. The orderly lines of the armada broke up in a twinkling, and the fleet lost wau and floundered in the choppy waters.
Charn Thovis watches impassively as men set themselves on fire and hurl themselves into the water, etc etc, bathing ship after ship in the ray. Do we get any condemnation of this behaviour? Nope.
Sometimes the Gods are just. The horror of death and madness the corsairs would have brought down upon the hapless citizens of the City of the Flame was now turned upon their own heads. He swung the beam back and forth, again and again, until eventually he sickened of the slaughter, and thrust the lever back. Then, even as the humming died and the eerie glow faded and dulled within the sparkling crystal tube, Charn Thovis bent and seized up a fragment of broken oar and battered the Lamp of Madness into a tangle of splintered glass and twisted metal.
The machine from hell should have perished with the fall of elder and God-whelmed Nianga. It should have remained forever hidden from the knowledge of men under the dead dry sands of the Grey Barrens.
But now, at any rate, no man would ever use this horrible invention in war against his fellow man again...
Now that the mist machine has been destroyed, the mist is starting to clear, and the faint red glimmer of dawn appears to the East. No more the mists of foul enchantment cloaked the invading fleet from watchful eyes! Thongor is pleased to realise that his city will be saved, which means it's time to go back to the air-traffic control officer, hovering impractically at 20,000 feet...
Changan Jal is coming to the end of his shift, but before he heads home for a cold bottle and a warm bed, he decides to take one last look at that mysterious fog-bank that's been approaching up the Gulf.
Just as the trim little floater arched over the harbor, and as Changan Jal peered down at the roiling mists that had by now moved very close to the sea wall... the gusting wind whipped aside the mantle of deception and he saw with a thrill of unearthly shock the black-hulled war galleys of the dread pirates of Tarakus!
His floater is armed with some kind of lightning gun, so he orders his pilot to fire at will while he digs out a device built by the wise Nephelos, Iothondus. (?) It's a sort of flare gun, only to be used in the direst of emergencies, which explodes in the air above Patanga in a blinding dazzle of blue-white fury. The rest of the floater fleet are on their way!
Like lean and deadly hawks they swooped down upon the confusion of tangled and blazing ships, and like hawks they struck to kill. Soon the darkness before full dawn was ablaze with flickering fingers of fire, and ship after ship exploded into a cloud of flaming wreckage as the stored energy of the sithurl crystals was expended in irresistable beams of electric fire.
Back on the ship, Thongor is so awesomed by his floater fleet that he forgets to fear for his own safety, until they start firing on the flagship. The battle is still raging on deck, but things are heating up unpleasantly:
The deck jumped and slapped the soles of his feet as the rear of the ship blew apart in a deafening explosion andan eye-searing flash of white and crimson flame.
Thundering a command to the others who fought with him to hold the foredeck, Thongor sprang lightly over the rail and wove through the staggering throng of battling seamen. The air was thick with oily black smoke now; the upper works were ablaze, and smoking cinders drifted down like some grim Pompeiian rain to bestrew the decks with smoking sparks.
Barim blows a horn, and they all swing across the gory decks, back onto the Scimitar, where they instantly hack themselves free. And just in time! Cos the Red Wolf is sinking fast...
To stave off attacks from above, fat old Blay is dispatched to run up a flag of surrender, and the boat heads to the harbour, where the city guards are astonished to see Thongor. In two more paragraphs the rest of the pirate fleet is destroyed... and Patanga is saved!
It's all over bar the knighthoods...