The Siege of Patanga
Bit of a disappointing title, TBH, after all the cannnibal trees and whatnot, but I think, with a mere 30-odd pages to go, Mr Carter has decided to start tying up some plot threads, rather than introducing new monsters every chapter. This also means that we're in Sumia's POV, so will have to leave Thongor until the next arbitrary POV shift.
Despite all her previous adventures and supposed hard barbarian-wench upbringing, Sumia appears to have rather particular tastes:
Sumia spent a tense and miserable night imprisoned in a suite of palatial apartments in an upper level of the Archdruidical Palace.
After a refreshing wash and some breakfast, she is escorted by some soldiers to the main plaza, where Vaspas Ptol awaits, along with his entire bejewelled army and a procession of citizens waving colourful flags. Who knew that gassing a besieging army could be such fun? The Fart Gas of Madness is in the care of a priest called Himog Thoon, in case you were interested; could the names get any better?
Some of the citizens cheer at the sight of Sumia - as you may recall, she used to be princess of this city until she was ousted ("many weeks" ago, apparently. She does give up quickly.)
A few pages of description. We hear about the "great domes, as scarlet as the blood-bright cathgan, the viper of the Lemurian desert, gleam[ing] sanguine in the sun", and a view of the army outside the walls, including Phal Thurid, the Lord of Torture, Barand Thon and Hajash Tor. Vaspas Ptol is (evilly) pleased:
He too was gazing with intent eyes down on the panorama of the battlefield, a thin smile of cold satisfaction curling his thin lips as he gloated down on the enemy who, for all their vast numbers and glittering might, he could destroy utterly and in mere moments, at his whim.
Himog Thoon is preparing the gas to pour over the battlements (it's heavier than air, apparently). Sumia knows that whoever wins this battle, she will lose - and wishes that Thongor was here! He'd know what to do!
It had been five long days now since she had last seen the man to whom she had surrendered her heart... the man who, beyond doubt, lay dead in some far-off place. Would she never again gaze up into his strange golden eyes, or see his quiet smile, or feel the comforting strength of his mighty arms about her, sheltering her from the threat of danger? Almost she could wish for death, for perhaps, beyond the veil that stands between the world of light and the world of eternal shadow, she might again feel the power of those great arms about her...
It's all about the thews, even now.
The attack begins! And suddenly and with no warning we're in the POV of Hajash Tor. I think he's the Thurdian commander who is a decent sort and hates his eeeevil emperor. He is smart, and suspects a trap. Oh no, he's off to warn Phal Thurid, he can't be a good guy; he needs an ambitious Sark because he longs to conquer an empire. Barand Thon must be the nice one.
They're ramming the gates! Back in Sumia's POV, red-blood lust blazes up in the eyes of Vaspas Ptol, and he's just about to release the gas....................................
Then he struck with the sword - a smashing blow to sever the leaden stopper and release the Black Vapour of Madness-
Or, rather, he tried to strike! For the steel blade was torn from his grip by an unseen hand.
His sword floats out of his hand! Everyone stops and stares in astonishment! A shadow passes overhead!
And then - a shout - a hundred shouts - cries and shrieks from ten thousand throats!
It seemed that suddenly the whole world went mad.
Only one chapter (and an epilogue) left! Can you stand the suspense????