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Volume 6291
A Voyage to Horz
By Steve Warner
Copyright 2017
Part Two
(Read Part One at ERBzine 6290)

Continued from Part I
Kas Oran was a wealth of information.  Sailing directly to Du’Haa would prove a difficult course, due to the unfavorable winds and currents.

“Southern currents warm the northern lands.  The easy route is the long one – sail west along the coast from Exum and then follow the currents as they turn north past Manator and Manataj.  Do you know these lands?” he said.

I shook my head.  “Those lands are unfamiliar to me, and long journeys are often unprofitable ones. Your acknowledgement of the easy routes implies there is another.   Is there a harder but faster route?” I asked.

Kas Oran nodded.  “The more difficult route is to cut across the currents and the central part of Throxeus.  Your ability to tack will determine where you turn north, Trader.”

“The Blue Malagor handles a tack well,“ I indicated, gesturing with my left hand for him to continue.

“Heading west to Gathol and then setting a course north and east should be possible.  The currents do become unpredictable in the central ocean if you turn north earlier than that.”

Kas Oran continued “This will take you to the west of the Dusar islands.  There is a passage through them that will take you directly to Du’Haa, should you wish.  However, you wish to first go to Horz?

I nodded.

“Very well.  You will continue north at this point and will eventually reach the polar continent to the west of Horz.  It is then easy sailing along the coast east to Horz.  Du’Haa is then easy sailing from Horz. You will sail past Du’haa regardless on your way south again.”  Kas Oran concluded.

I nodded and stood up, gesturing to Sam Tar El and then the table.  Sam Tar El reached into his pouch and threw a generous amount of coins on the table, with a final rejoinder to the three to conclude their business in Exum as we would sail on the morrow’s morning tide.

As we walked out of the tavern I gave Sam Tar El his leave so that he could see to the re-provisioning of the Blue Malagor, and also to any needed minor maintenance of the sails and the rigging.

The following day dawned hot and humid, almost foggy over the marshes near the mouth of the Parnassis River.  I stepped from my cabin to the deck to find that Sam Tar El had already preceded me by some margin, and had the loading of provisions well in hand.  Our three new crew were already tasked in accelerating this endeavor – no doubt encouraged by Sam Tar El’s orders as they carried in a voice that was used to issuing commands over the din of the surf and wind.

Sam Tar El walked over to where I observed these activities, all the while continuing to direct and, as needed, curse the provisions to their destination.

“Trader, we will be ready to depart within the zode.  We only await sufficient tide to ensure we clear the sand bars,“ Sam Tar El said, as he pointed to a tide marker.  I looked over the side of the Blue Malagor at her waterline and nodded my agreement.  Not having offloaded any cargo we were riding lower in the water than was our wont when leaving Exum.

“Very well,“ I said.  “Call me when we are ready to sail.”

Our departure from Exum mirrored our arrival.  Once past the the estuarine sand bars Sam Tar El directed the sails to be unfurled.  The Blue Malagor briefly slid sideways, turned slightly, and the sails filled with a snap.  We had begun our journey west.

I beckoned to Thas Kai Lek, where he stood nearby on the weather deck without task for the moment.  He looked to Sam Tar El, who nodded, and then made his way to the quarterdeck where I waited.

“Trader,“ he nodded.

“I see that you are no stranger to the craft of the sailor,“ I noted.

“No,“ he said.  “This is my third voyage.”

“You are not originally from Horz?” I asked.

“No,“ he said again.  I raised an eyebrow and waited for him to continue, but no further elaboration was forthcoming from him.

After a short pause, I continued, “I wish to know more about Horz and the coast around it – the currents, shoals, aquatic life, where freshwater can be found, and how dangerous landfall away from Horz might be.”

“I can answer some of your questions, but we need Kas Oran to answer the others,“ he said.

I walked to the quarterdeck ladder, “Find him and come speak with me,“ I directed.

In a short while the two made their way to the quarterdeck.  Sam Tar El joined us.  They all waited in respectful silence while while I scanned the horizon.

I turned to them.  Kas Oran spoke first, “Trader, Thas Kai Lek has informed me of your questions, and I understand that you plan to turn north at Gathol to take advantage of the wind and current.  I do want to warn you that this faster route carries with it a greater risk of unfavorable weather.”  I nodded my understanding.

Kas Oran continued, “As we head north the winds will tend to blow from the Southwest.  You must keep the Blue Malagor on a Northerly course.  Once we are well north of the Northern point of the Dusar Islands you can then take advantage of the currents which will push us directly to Horz.  It’s better to reach the coast of the Northern continent west of Horz, and then follow the currents and winds that will take us directly there.”

Thas Kai Lek nodded his agreement and added, “The coastal passage is easy, with few obstacles and dangers for a ship.  It is also an easy task to go ashore for fresh water and game.”

I paused – deep in thought for the moment.  I then asked, “And what if we experience bad weather?”

Kas Oran responded, “It will make your course more difficult.  Likely we will be pushed east toward the Dusar Islands.  They are sparsely populated, with vast forests filled with dangerous game and even more dangerous men.  These men worship and sacrifice to the Sky Mountain God of the North Island.  They are best avoided.  It is possible to sail north directly along the west coast of these islands to reach Horz, if that is our lot.

A following wind saw us raise Gathol on the morning of our third day at sea. Sam Tar El stood at the tiller, guiding the Blue Malagor as she sailed fleetly before the wind.  He called out to me, “North, Trader?”

“North,“ I affirmed, with a nod.

With my affirmation, Sam Tar El turned and began to shout orders to the crew as he made ready to turn us due north.

Thus began several days of careful observation of the currents, wind direction and strength, position of the Sun and the stars as we sailed north, and the various denizens of the central ocean.  Sam Tar El and I spent much time debating and recording these necessary items to ensure we would be able to sail this course again in the future, consulting the experience of Kas Oran as appropriate.

The morning of the eighth day dawned red and overcast.  The sea, which up until now had presented us with long, oily swells, grew steadily rougher as the wind picked up force from the west.  Soon, these rougher waves became capped with a white froth.  I called Sam Tar El and Kas Oran to the quarterdeck.

I nodded at the seas and looked at them.

“I require your counsel.  Do we continue as we are, or…?” I asked.

“Dusar, Trader, would be best,“ firmly stated Kas Oran.  “We are not far and, if the skies sufficiently clear, should be able to see their Sky Mountain God on the eastern horizon soon.  Continuing otherwise runs the risk of running us into the full force of the storm.  The islands will temper that force.

I nodded again.  Kas Oran and Thas Kai Lek had both entertained us with the tales of their previous adventures.  Both Taxor and Hel Tam Lo had hung on to every word from them, wide-eyed in fascination.  Several of these tales had mentioned the Sky Mountain God of Dusar, and how it was actually an enormous mountain in the North Island’s center.  The peak of the mountain was unassailable, although the ability to climb high on it was considered evidence of the god’s degree of favor for the climber.  Many temples covered the mountain’s slopes, and the highest temples were considered the most sacred.

“Very well,” I said. “Sam Tar El, turn us east.  Kas Oran, you will let us know when we see the Sky Mountain?”

“Trader, I assure you.  You will know it when you see it.”

Unfortunately, escaping the brunt of the storm would not prove to be so simple.  Both the winds and seas continued to rise, and rain soon began.  This rain soon became torrential.

Thus began a miserable set of days.  We had reduced our sails shortly after the rain began.  It was all we could do to keep the Blue Malagor pointed into the waves as the rain pounded down on us and the high winds whipped the mounting waves into a froth.  Watches consisted of two sailors lashed to the great steering wheel to ensure sufficient strength for steering was available in the event it were necessary.  The rest of us remained below decks.  Fortunately, our only casualty was a mast, snapped halfway up its height near the end of the storm, although the mounting stench from the bilge due to the sea sickness of many demanded our attentions also.

The fourth day dawned clear.  Kas Oran had told the truth.  As I mounted the quarterdeck I beheld a line of land on the horizon, capped by an astonishing mountain.

Sam Tar El and Kas Oran shortly joined me.  I looked at Kas Oran.  “You spoke the truth,“ I said.

Sam Tar El also spoke, “indeed,” his eyes fixed on the mountain.

Kas Oran nodded.

Looking at him, I spoke, “we need a mast, and our fresh water could do with replenishing.  What do you recommend?”

Kas Oran thought for a moment, his eyes on the mountain.  He then turned to me, “make for shore.  Come ashore armed with most of your guards, but go no farther.  Bring gifts from your cargo and lay them out on the beach.  The Dusarians will come.  They respect strength.  The gifts will be for honoring the Sky Mountain God.  If the Dusarians accept the gifts all will be well and you can fulfill your needs.  If not, you may need to fight.”

Even under reduced sail we soon raised the shore.  We anchored a short distance from the island, lowered a longboat to the water, and soon made our way to the beach accompanied and loaded as Kas Oran had recommended.

We beached, and together pulled the longboat sufficiently out of the water to hold it fast.  Our wares were soon laid out on tarpaulins.

Kas Oran looked at me and spoke, “Trader, I can speak their language, which is a form of the Orovar tongue although hard to recognize. Some who have had contact with traders speak a more common form of our language.   I also know their customs, and this beach is familiar to me.  I suggest we stand in front of the gifts, with me in front and you slightly behind and to my left.  The guards should array behind us with weapons at hand but down.  The Dusarians are learning to watch for trading ships so I don’t think our wait will be long.”

“Very well,“ I said.  “Your advice has shown merit so far and I expect it will continue to do so.”

Kas Oran’s advice continued to be sound.  We did not wait long before we were treated to a spectacle of a group of wild looking men approaching us from the forest.  Their long oiled hair was studded with brightly colored feathers, their tanned bodies covered with animal hides from waist to knee.  Armed mostly with long spears with fire-hardened points, one who I took to be their leader also carried a bow similar to Kas Oran’s.

As their leader confidently strode closer Kas Oran turned to me and whispered, “I know him.  I gave him that bow as a gift when first I came to Dusar.”  He turned to the leader, who I could see had a stylized image of the great mountain tattooed on his forehead, and crossed his arms.  In a loud voice, Kas Oran stated, “I see Klutai, who speaks for the god who lives in the Sky Mountain.”

Klutai, the leader who I correctly assumed was named such, responded, “I see Kas Oran, who has traded well with me in the past.  How will you honor the Sky Mountain God?”

Kas Oran looked at me.  I whispered, “Will a few thoat hides and some Jaharian wine suffice?”

Kas Oran nodded, and turned to Klutai, “Mighty Klutai, we will provide you with hides from creatures unknown in this land, and also the finest wine from the south.  It is my hope that you will find this well, and will also be able to honor us with our meager request for skeel timber to repair our mast and fresh water.”

Klutai’s previously stern visage broke into a smile.  He was clearly getting the better part of this trade!

Thus went our first trade in the north.  Our repairs were quickly made, the bilges flushed, and we turned the Blue Malagor north once again.

“Land!” shouted Thas Kai Lek from his position on the main mast.  I climbed the mast up to his perch.  Indeed, there was a dark line on the northern horizon.  A few hours sailing brought us a few haads offshore.

Thas Kai Lek was now our guide, and joined Sam Tar El and I on the quarterdeck.  “Trader, I recognize this headland and these cliffs.  Horz is not far to the east.  As the day is late I recommend you anchor here for the evening.  Sailing at daybreak should bring us to Horz before the day’s end.

I looked at Sam Tar El, who quickly agreed with Thas Kai Lek’s recommendation.  With my approval Sam Tar El then went about the business of securing the Blue Malagor for our evening anchorage.

The cries of the malagors roosting on the cliff greeted the dawn, and we promptly set sail to the east.  I bid Taxor and Hel Tam Lo join me on the quarterdeck.  As promised by Thas Kai Lek, several hours’ easy sail soon brought us around a final headland into the Bay of Horz itself.

The rationale of the city’s founders was immediately obvious.  Horz lay on the foothills that marched back to a plateau above the banks of a large river that over the ages had cut a broad valley through imposing cliffs.  As we closed on the city its quays stood out behind a massive breakwater, obviously still under construction given the visible activity at its terminus.  A few large marble palaces stood alongside large wooden warehouses near the quays, and other wooden and marble structures marched up the hills behind the port.  As we sailed closer we could see evidence of much construction on these wooden and marble structures.

“Trader,” Sam Tar El pointed to a cluster of ships tied up to one of the quays.  I looked to where he pointed and, to my surprise, saw a familiar pennant!  My father and his ship, the Red Malagor, were here!
Sam Tar El saw to the mooring of the Blue Malagor near to my father’s ship.  A few moments more saw me at the bottom of the Red Malagor’s gangplank, where I quickly received permission to board from none other than Gur, my old teacher and now Padwar of my father’s ship’s guards.

Father met me on the weather deck.  I bowed low and greeted him “Master Trader.”  Father bowed also, not as low, and responded “Trader.”  He then quickly straightened, reached forward, and pulled me into a hug, which I returned.

“Bax Tam Lo, this is a surprise, or maybe not?” father took a half step back, cocked his head and looked at me.

“Father, we have much to discuss,“ I said.

“Then let us go below,” he replied.

“Bax Tam Lo, you made a wise decision,“ my father said, after he heard my story.  “I followed a similar path to Horz and for similar reasons. I am actually considering moving our ships and home to Horz, as there is much opportunity in these northern lands.  I will soon commission a small marble palace for this very reason.”

“And the A’ O’ Kaa?” I asked.

“They are part of this opportunity – the best part in many ways.  Even with the rise of an U’uul over them there is still much warfare in their arid lands, which means needs we can meet and also passengers desiring to leave their land for safer environs,” he stated.  “We can find many markets for their gems and metals.”

He continued, “I have only made one voyage there to see for myself whether these trading opportunities were real.  They are!”  He concluded by recommending that I not tarry in Horz and make haste to Du’haa with my cargo, pausing in Horz only long enough to off-load the bronze weapons we carried and re-provision ourselves.  Father would accompany us with the Red Malagor. We would sail in two days.

To Be Continued in "A Voyage to Du’Haa"

The Fall of Ancient Barsoom
(and Some Thoughts on How This Shaped Barsoomian Race and Culture)
by Steven A. Warner and Oberon Zell

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