The Yellow Pool of Turia
Here are relevant references from the Books where the Yellow Pool of Turia is mentioned.
I make no pronouncements on these matters, but report them as I find them.
Arrive at your own conclusions.
I wish you well,
"Would you like to fight for your life?" asked Saphrar of Turia.
"Of course," I said.
"Excellent," said Saphrar. "You may do so in the Yellow Pool of Turia."
At the edge of the Yellow Pool of Turia Harold and I stood, now freed of the slave bar, but with wrists tied behind our backs. I had not been given back my sword but the quiva I had carried was now thrust in my belt.
The pool is indoors in a spacious chamber in the House of Saphrar with a domed ceiling of some eighty feet in height. The pool itself, around which there is a marble walkway some seven or eight feet in width, is roughly circular in shape and has a diameter of perhaps sixty or seventy feet.
I was puzzled by the manner in which the heat and humidity were introduced to the room, for I saw no vents nor cauldrons of boiling water, or devices for releasing drops of water on heated plates or stones. I had been in the room for perhaps three or four minutes before I realized that the steam rose from the pool itself. I gathered that it was heated. It seemed calm. I wondered what I was expected to meet in the pool. I would have at least the quiva. I noted that the surface of the pool, shortly after we had entered, began to tremble slightly, and it was then once again calm. I supposed something, sensing our presence, had stirred in its depths, and was now waiting. Yet the motion had been odd for it was almost as if the pool had lifted itself, rippled, and then subsided.
Harold and I, though bound, were each held by two men-at-arms, and another four, with crossbows, had accompanied us.
"What is the nature of the beast in the pool?" I asked.
"You will learn," Saphrar laughed.
I studied the pool. It was beautiful, yellow, sparkling as though filled with gems. There seemed to be wound through its fluids ribbons and filaments and it was dotted here and there with small spheres of various colors. I then became aware that the steam that rose from the pool did so periodically, rather than continuously. There seemed to be a rhythm in the rising of the steam from the pool. I noted, too, that the surface of the pool licking at the marble basin in which it lay trapped seemed to rise slightly and then fall with the discharge of the steam.
"Nonsense," said Saphrar. "But do not be impatient for your turn will come."
Though it might have been my imagination it seemed that the pool's yellow had now become enriched and that the shifting fluid hues that confronted me had achieved new ranges of brilliance. Some of the filamentous streamers beneath the surface now seemed to roil beneath the surface and the colors of the spheres seemed to pulsate. The rhythm of the steam seemed to increase in tempo and I could now detect, or thought I could, more than simple moisture in that steam, perhaps some other subtle gas or fume, perhaps hitherto unnoticed but now increasing in its volume.
I now looked across the surface of the pool. Its appearance was now truly remarkable. It was almost as if it were lower in the center and the edges higher near the marble basin, inching as high as they could toward our sandals. I took it that this was an optical illusion of some sort. The pool was now, it seemed, literally coruscating, glistening with a brilliance of hues that was phenomenal, almost like hands lifting and spilling gems in sunlit water. The filamentous strands seemed to go mad with movement and the spheres of various colors were almost phosphorescent, pulsating beneath the surface. The steam rhythm was now swift, and the gases or fumes mixed with that moisture, noxious. It was almost as though the pool itself respired.
To my surprise the pool, at least near the edge, was not deep. I stood in the fluid only to my knees. I took a few more steps out into the pool. It became deeper toward the center. About a third of the way toward the center I was entered into the pool to my waist.
I looked about, searching for whatever it was that would attack me. It was difficult to look into the fluid because of the yellow, the glistening brilliance of the surface troubled by my passage.
I noted that the steam, and gas or fumes, no longer rose from the pool. It was quiet.
The filamentous threads did not approach me, but now seemed quiet, almost as if content. The spheres, too, seemed quiescent. Some of them, mostly whitish, luminescent ones, had seemed to float nearer, and hovered slightly beneath the surface, in a ring about me, some ten feet away. I took a step towards the ring and the spheres, doubtless moved by the fluids displaced in my step, seemed to slowly disperse and move away. The yellow of the pool's fluid, though rich, no longer seemed to leap and startle me with its vibrance.
I stood so, in the fluid to my waist, for perhaps two or three minutes.
Then, angrily, thinking perhaps the pool was empty, or I had been made fool of, I cried out to Saphrar. "When is it that I meet the monster?"
Over the surface I heard Saphrar, standing behind the wooden shield, laugh. "You have met it," he said.
"You lie!" I cried.
"No," he responded, amused, "you have met it."
"What is the monster?" I cried.
"The pool!" he shouted.
"The pool?" I asked.
"Yes," said Saphrar, gleefully. "It is alive!"
At the very instant that Saphrar had called out there was a great blast of steam and fumes that seemed to explode from the fluid about me as though the monster in which I found myself had now, its prey satisfactorily entrapped, dared to respire and, at the same time, I felt the yellow fluid about my body begin to thicken and gel. I cried out suddenly in alarm horrified at my predicament and struggled to turn back and wade to the edge of the marbled basin that was the cage of the thing in which I was, but the fluid, tightening about me, now seemed to have the consistency of a rich yellow, hot mud and then, by the time I had reached a level where it rose to a point midway between my knees and waist the fluid had become as resistant as wet, yellow cement and I could move no further. My legs began to tingle and sting, and I could feel the skin beginning to be etched and picked by the corrosive elements now attacking them.
I heard Saphrar remark, "It sometimes takes hours to be fully digested."
Wildly, with the useless quiva, I began to slash and pick at the damp, thick stuff about me. The blade would sink in fully, as though in a tub of wet cement, leaving a mark, but when it was withdrawn the mark would be erased by the material flowing in to fill the aperture.
"Some men," said Saphrar, "those who do not struggle have lived for as much as three hours long enough in some cases to see their own bones."
I stood as still as I could. My feet and legs felt cold and yet as if they were burning - presumably the acids of the pool were at work. As nearly as I could determine the pool was thick, rubbery, gelatinous, only in the area near to my body. I could see it rippling, and splashing a bit against the edge of the marbled basin. Indeed, it was even lower toward the edge now, and had humped itself in my vicinity, as though in time it might climb my body and, in some hours perhaps, engulf me. But doubtless by then I would have been half digested, much of me little more than a cream of fluids and proteins then mixing with and nourishing the substance of my devourer, the Yellow Pool of Turia.
I pushed now, with all my might, not toward the edge of the marbled basin, but rather toward the deepest part of the pool. To my satisfaction I found that I could move, though barely, in this direction. The pool was content that I should enter it more deeply, perhaps it even desired that I do so, that its meal might be even more readily obtained. "What is he doing?" cried the Paravaci. "He is mad," said Saphrar.
Each inch I moved toward the center of the pool my journey became easier. Then suddenly, the yellow, encircling cementlike substance had oozed from my limbs and I could take two or three free steps. The fluid was now, however, to my armpits. One of the luminescent, white spheres floated by, quite close to me. To my horror I saw it change its shade as it neared the surface, more closely approaching the light. As it had risen toward the surface, just beneath which it now rested, its pigmentation had changed from a luminescent white to a rather darkish gray. It was clearly photosensitive. I reached out and slashed at it with the quiva, cutting it, and it withdrew suddenly, rolling in the fluid, and the pool itself seemed suddenly to churn with steam and light. Then it was quiet again. Yet somehow I knew now the pool, like all forms of life, had some level of irritability. More of the luminescent, white orbs now floated about me, circling me; but none of them now approached closely enough to allow me to use the quiva.
I splashed across the center of the pool, literally swimming. As soon as I had crossed the center I felt the fluids of the pool once again begin to gel and tighten. By the time I had reached the level of my waist on the opposite side I could, once again, no longer move toward the edge of the pool. I tried this twice more, in different directions, with identically the same result. Always, the luminescent, photosensitive orbs seemed to float behind me and around me in the fluid. Then I was swimming freely in the yellow fluid at the center of the pool. Beneath me, vaguely, several feet under the surface, I could see a collection, almost like threads and granules in a transparent bag, of intertwined, writhing filaments and spheres, imbedded in a darkish yellow jelly, walled in by a translucent membrane.
Quiva in my teeth I dove toward the deepest part of the Yellow Pool of Turia, where glowed the quickness and substance of the living thing in which I swam.
Almost instantly as I submerged the fluid beneath me began to jell, walling me away from the glowing mass at the bottom of the pool but, hand over hand, pulling at it and thrusting my way, I forced my way deeper and deeper into it. Finally I was literally digging in it feet below the surface. My lungs began to scream for air. Still I dug in the yellow fluid, hands and fingernails bleeding, and then, when it seemed my lungs would burst and darkness was engulfing me and I would lose consciousness, I felt a globular, membranous tissue, wet and slimy, recoil spasmodically from my touch. Upside down, locked in the gelling fluid, I took the quiva from my mouth and, with both hands, pressed down with the blade against that twitching, jerking, withdrawing membrane. It seemed that the living, amorphous globe of matter which I struck began to move away, slithering away in the yellow fluids, but I pursued it, one hand in the torn membrane and continued to slash and tear at it. Crowded about my body now were entangling filaments and spheres trying, like hands and teeth, to tear me from my work, but I struck and tore again and again and then entered the secret world beneath the membrane slashing to the left and right and suddenly the fluid began to loosen and withdraw above me and within the membranous chamber it began to solidify against me and - push me out. I stayed as long as I could but, lungs wrenching, at last permitted myself to be thrust from the membranous chamber and hurled into the loose fluid above. Now below me the fluid began to gel swiftly almost like a rising floor and it loosened and withdrew on all sides and suddenly my head broke the surface and I breathed. I now stood on the hardened surface of the Yellow Pool of Turin and saw the fluids of the sides seeping into the mass beneath me and hardening almost instantly. I stood now on a warm, dry globular mass, almost like a huge, living shell. I could not have scratched the surface with the quiva.
We came together to the brink of the Yellow Pool of Turia. At its marbled edge, hissing and quivering with rage, throwing their heads now and again upward and howling in frustrated fury were the two, tawny hunting sleen, their maddened round eyes blazing on the pathetic figure of Saphrar of Turia, blubbering and whimpering, sobbing, reaching out, his fingers scratching the air as though he would climb it, for the graceful, decorative vines that hung above the pool, more than twenty feet above his head.
He struggled to move in the glistening, respiring, sparkling substance of the Yellow Pool, but could not change his place. The fat hands with the scarlet fingernails seemed suddenly to be drawn and thin, clutching. The merchant was covered with sweat. He was surrounded by the luminous, white spheres that floated under the surface about him, perhaps watching, perhaps somehow recording his position in virtue of pressure waves in the medium. The golden droplets which Saphrar wore in place of eyebrows fell unnoticed into the fluid that humped itself thickening itself about him. Beneath the surface we could see places where his robes had been eaten away and the skin was turning white beneath the surface, the juices of the pool etching their way into his body, taking its protein and nutriment into its own, digesting it.
Saphrar took a step deeper into the pool and the pool permitted this, and he now stood with the fluids level with his chest.
"Lower the vines!" begged Saphrar.
No one moved.
Saphrar threw back his head like a dog and howled in pain. He began to scratch and tear at his body, as if mad. Then, tears bursting from his eyes, he held out his hands to Kamchak of the Tuchuks.
"Please!" he cried.
"Remember Kutaituchik" said Kamchak.
Saphrar screamed in agony and moving beneath the yellow glistening surface of the pool I saw several of the filamentous fibers encircle his legs and begin to draw him deeper into the pool and beneath the surface.
Then Saphrar, merchant of Turia, struggled, pounding against the caked material near to him, to prevent his being drawn under. The eyes were bulging perhaps a quarter of an inch from the little round head and the mouth, with its two golden teeth, now emptied of ost venom, seemed to be screaming but there was no sound.
"The egg," Kamchak informed him, "was the egg of a tharlarion it was worthless."
The fluid now had reached Saphrar's chin and his head was back to try and keep his nose and mouth over the surface. His head shook with horror.
"Please!" he cried once more, the syllable lost in the bubbling yellow mass that reached into his mouth.
"Remember Kutaituchik," said Kamchak, and the filamentous fibers about the merchant's legs and ankles drew him slowly downward. Some bubbles broke the surface. Then the merchant's hands, still extended as though to grasp the vines overhead, with their scarlet fingernails, the robes eaten away from the flesh, disappeared beneath the sparkling, glistening surface.
We stood silently there for a time, until Kamchak saw small, white bones, like bleached driftwood, rocking on the sparkling, now watery surface, being moved bit by bit, almost as if by tides, to the edge of the pool, where I gathered attendants would normally collect and discard them.
"Bring a torch," said Kamchak.
He looked down into the sparkling, glistening living fluid of the Yellow Pool of Turia.
"It was Saphrar of Turia," said Kamchak to me, "who first introduced Kutaituchik to the strings of kanda." He added, "It was twice he killed my father."
The torch was brought, and the pool seemed to discharge its vapor more rapidly, and the fluids began to churn, and draw away from our edge of the pool. The yellows of the pool began to flicker and the filamentous fibers began to writhe, and the spheres of different colors beneath the surface began to turn and oscillate, and dart in one direction and then the other.
Kamchak took the torch and with his right hand, in a long arc, flung it to the center of the pool.
Suddenly like an explosion and conflagration the pool erupted into flames and Kamchak and I and Harold and the others shielded our faces and eyes and withdrew before the fury of the fire. The pool began to roar and hiss and bubble and scatter parts of itself, flaming, into the air and again to the walls. Even the vines caught fire. The pool then attempted to desiccate itself and retreat into its hardened shell-like condition but the fire within the closing shell burst it apart and open and then it was again like a lake of burning oil, with portions of the shell tossed like flaming chips upon it.
For better than an hour it burned and then the basin of the pool, now black, in places the marble fused and melted, was empty, save for smears of carbon and grease, and some cracked, blackened bones, and some drops of melted gold, what had been left perhaps of the golden drops which Saphrar of Turia had worn over his eyes, and the two golden teeth, which had once held the venom of an ost.
"Kutaituchik is avenged," said Kamchak, and turned from the room.