The Comet | Part 2
Slowly the shore receded, and the ships sailed into the calm waters under a favourable wind. The soldiers, too, slowly came out of the gloom of separation from their kith and kin and the spirit of adventure began to possess them strongly.
The commander-in-chief, however, was not in full spirits. He sat in the corner of his ship, gazing at the comet in the southeast. Seen against the sea background, it looked much bigger and more menacing. The warning of the royal astrologer was still ringing in his ears. Between the “ill-omen” and its victims, there were only the deep—Dark waters of the ocean.
Even as Samarsen was looking at the comet, dark clouds appeared on the horizon and began to cover it. The sky became darker every minute, and the ocean grumbled and growled. The high spirits of the soldiers disappeared fast, yielding place to vague fears. They knew that the armada started at an inauspicious moment. Their hearts began to fill with anger upon those responsible for it.
The whole venture appeared to them now as ill-conceived, ill-advised and ill-fated. Goddess Kundalini lifted Her hand in the sky, warning them not to start, but the foolish Samarsen ignored the warning. Now they were all going to die miserably, drowned in the sea. It was neither a death fit for a soldier nor a coward. So many lives were going to be wasted for nothing.
The men began to scowl darkly, look at each other and grow angrily. Some of them began to whisper to each other, looking around cautiously. It was clear that their minds were full of dark thoughts.
The Commander of the ships approached Samarsen and warned him about mutinous trends among the soldiers. But Samarsen said. “Tell the men that, as long as Mother Kundalini looks after them and Samarsen lead them, they need fear nothing.”
This message appeared to have some effect on the men for a short time, but when a strong gale was added to the rough sea and a stormy sky, their courage soon left them. Gradually the storm gathered strength, and it became a terrible job to keep all the ships going together. They began to sway dangerously and run against each other. The smaller ones capsized, and the larger ones flung against one another and got smashed up. There was a great commotion among the men who began to seek safety as best they could.
The storm raged, and the sea lashed the entire day. One night slipped into another without a glimpse of daylight. The men were in a panic, physically fighting the fury of the elements. They clung to anything that came to hand to survive, to escape drowning in the waters. Some swam desperately to reach the nearest boat or floating wreckage. Some dashed against the same ships they were seeking, lost consciousness and sank.
Samarsen did not know and could not find exactly what was happening to his expedition. His ship was sturdy, and it suffered very little from the storm. Only the coming of daylight would reveal the extent of the loss of ships and men. Until then, Samarsen could only wait and pray to the Goddess Kundalini.
By dawn, the storm was spent, the sky cleared and the waters. Calmed. In the quiet of the morning, Samarsen went up to the deck of his ship and looked around. He saw the storm destroy approximately half the ships and half the men. The surviving ships were scattered over a vast area across the waters.
Samarsen ordered his sailors to drop anchor and sent signals to the surviving ships to approach his ship. When all the ships gathered together, the surviving soldiers presented themselves before their Commander and saluted. There was not one among them who did not fight bravely against death. They were not sure they had stepped out of the danger zone.
Samarsen could see that the men had a rough time on the sea and would not consider themselves out of danger until they set foot on land. He ordered a sailor to climb up the mast and look for land. The sailor reached the top of the mast, appeared all around, and shouted, “I see no land. But I see birds flying in the eastern sky.”
Hearing this, Samarsen cried, Hail to Mother Kundalini.” The men took up the cry. Hope and courage returned to their hearts, and they anxiously awaited the sight of land.
Guided by the sailor on top of the must, the ships steered a straight course in the direction in which birds were seen. Hour after hour passed, but there was no land in sight. It was evening. The sun was about to set. The soldiers began to fear that they would spend one more night on the sea when, suddenly, the man up the mast shouted, “Land ahoy!”
The men were wild with joy. They strained their eyes for a precious glimpse and presented their fulfilled wish. By the time the ships approached within reach of the shore, the sun had already set, and there was very little daylight left.
Samarsen guessed that the land before him was an island. From the little he could see, he found it to be an unknown type of island. Steep hills were jutting out into the sea, forming narrow creaks. There were unfamiliar trees on the mountain, and strange creatures appeared to be stalking under these trees.
The men were for landing on the island at once, but Samarson ordered that no soul leave the ships until the following day.
Even when morning came, Samarsen would not permit anyone to step on land before he made a good survey of the island first. For this purpose, he selected six brave and able men to follow him, for none could tell what dangers might be awaiting them on this mysterious island,
Samarsen and his six followers got into a small canoe and rowed ashore. The entire coast appeared to be deserted. However, this did not mean that somebody else was not hiding behind some tree, ready to pounce upon the intruders. So Samarsen drew his sword and led the way while the others followed behind him.
After they walked some distance into the hills, they heard a frightening roar which chilled them—Their blood.
The men said to Samarsen, “Commander, even a lion cannot roar so fearfully. Which animal could have produced this sound we have never heard?”
Samarsen agreed with them but did not say so. He walked further to investigate the sound, and the others followed him very close. Presently they emerged out of closely growing trees and came upon a scene which no mortal man had ever witnessed.
In front of them, down below, lay a vast swamp. In it and around it, odd trees were growing up. Several monstrous creatures of unheard-of and nightmarish shapes were scattered all around the swamp. In a vast clearing, giant beasts were fighting and making incredible sounds.
Witnessing the fight, several man-like apes were on the trees. Some of them had very primitive stone hammers and clubs in their hands.
Samarsen told his followers, “We are in the presence of some prehistoric monsters which somehow manage to live on here still. Look at those apes in the trees. They are real human beings of the Stone Age. Such creatures existed in other parts of the earth millions and millions of years ago.”
It was apparent to each of them that money was not likely to be obtained on such a primitive island. It was ironic fate that these people who came in search of wealth should arrive at a place where wealth was only a gift of nature. Wealth, as civilized man understood, had no place here. At any rate, that was how Samarsen and his men felt, looking upon their strange surroundings.
While they were watching the fight below, there was a terrific stamping on their side. They saw a vast mammoth running in their direction while two lions chased it.