Casting south from that exotic port they call Absalom, the Maiden Circe and its crew were at first pleased to be away from that foreign city with all its strange customs and curved blades that are renowned for their ability to behead a man with ease.
Yet as we rounded the cape and the looming walls of the jungle presented itself to us, a great many of the men made utterance that they would rather return to the sandstone walls of Absalom than face the jungle and its multitude of dark places.
Although thick forests grow in the land of my birth, the jungle was an altogether different thing to behold. Ne’er have I seen trees and plants grow in such abundance, crowding amongst and atop one another in a desperate clamour for sunlight. Such was the number of trees that no land could be seen, so it was impossible to tell what manner of beasts dwelt beneath the broad canopies of the trees.
The mouth of the river at once humbled our own great Char, appearing at once less like a river and more like a great inland sea. A good dozen of the Queen’s ships would have had little trouble docking at the sea port of Elangin, though the moorings there are rotted and unsteady in places so I would not recommend it.
The deep blue of the ocean merged with the thick brown outpouring of water from the river’s mouth, but this was not the alchemical affluent that we are used to, but dust stirred up from the bottom of the river. The water was so discoloured by the stuff that it was impossible to tell if anything dwelt in the waters below the ship and it gave me cause to wonder if everything in this place was designed to obfuscate some truth about itself.
I wished to obtain a sample of the jungle water, renowned by some for its regenerative properties and I lowered a bucket from the side of the ship. When the bucket was a matter of inches away from the water a great churning began beneath it and several shapes began to bob up and down in the water, showing a myriad of teeth.
At first the deckhand was so perturbed by this frightening vision that he almost let the rope go, but I ordered him to hold steady and he dropped the bucket into the water, whereupon I promptly ordered him to haul it back up again with great haste. A sample of the brown river water was one thing, but if I could capture one of those toothed horrors in the bucket than I would be happier still.
Beneath the water the bucket was pulled violently this way and that and I was forced to grab the rope and help the deckhand retrieve. Attached to the side of the bucket, locked into the wood by their teeth, were no less than five of the sharp-toothed fish, each one about the size of sailor’s closed fist.
When we hauled the bucket onto the deck the deckhand stumbled away and several others did likewise, terrified of the fearsome creatures, but as with most fish there was little to fear from these fanged snappers once they had been removed from their natural habitat; I watched as they flopped grotesquely and drowned on the air and I made myself the note of never to fall into the river Yolan.