Prince of Scorpio
For the fifth and last book of the Delian Cycle, I decided to read my Jack Gaughan illustrated edition. On it I see Delia being set down in her litter of dinosaur bones. The man visible holding one end, I can't at this time identify (though this scene takes place on page 189 at the end of the immortal Battle of the Dragon Bones). Perhaps as I read on, his name will come to me. Dray is gawking at his princess and soon to be wife. Delia looks great with her bare midriff and long legs. Her hair and face match the rest of the package as well. Prescot (suspiciously holding what looks like a rapier as opposed to his longsword or Savanti blade) looks somewhat like Prince Valiant (which I read every Sunday in the funnies). Delia is correctly shown holding Old Superb in her left hand.
When last we left Prescot, he was being taken up again, by the Savanti (apparently) this time. To Valka goes Prescot. There he witnesses the death of Alex Hunter, the Savapim (though this term is not yet used). It would appear that Maspero (Hunter's tutor) knew Alex would ultimately fail, and sent in Prescot, he of the last resort! It is possible that the Star Lords could have arranged Prescot's presence, as sometimes their wants coincide with the Savants in Aphrasoe. It is to save the political prisoners of the Panval grouping that Prescot must do and does. The Racters were responsible for the attempted slaughter. How could the Emperor allow this? Well, these Panvals think Prescot's first name is Drak, and so Drak he becomes (and not for the last time either).
Upon leaving the politicals by the sea, he leaves to find proper succor for them and looks at the devastation around him. No palines even! "Not a country for me" he states. Ha, if he only knew...
The map at the end of "Prince of Scorpio" shows Valka to be relatively small (scale is hard to make out in Vallia). However, considering it has a central massif comprised of snow capped peaks, it must be fairly substantial.
I did not realize that the canal water of Valka would have the same deadly properties as its counterparts in Vallia. Just what is it that causes death to most, not of the canal? This water ultimately comes from the Mountains of the North in Vallia and the central massif (I love this term) in Valka. Well, so do most of the rivers and they are OK to swim in and drink (I assume).
For possibly the last time, Valka, former oar comrade of Dray, is mentioned. I suppose he is Viridia's right hand man now. The devastation and depopulation is the result of the Racters utilizing mercenary slavers (aragorn) to fill their coffers. Only inland is there still resistance. I've said this before and I'll say it again: how the hell could Delia's father allow one of Vallia's own stromnates to be razed like it had been? Valkans are Vallian citizens. Were other areas, remote like Valka, also slaved over?
Upon finding a village of aged Valkans who are allowed to live so that they can raise crops for the aragorn, Dray kills a group of these scum (after recovering from his dip in a canal). The accompanying slave girls are involved in a very funny scene. There are three of the not so pretty but could just so, girls. One had fainted when a severed aragorn landed near her. After the battle Dray lets the other two know that they will probably die. When the aforementioned fainted girl awakens, the other two immediately inform her of their fate and she promptly swoons again! You just have to really imagine this scene actually taking place. Naturally they are given a second chance.
Some important characters we meet for the first time are: Tom ti Vulheim and his wife (to be?) Bibi, Tharu ti Valkanium, and Erithor ti Valkanium, the famous bard. It is he who composes "The Fetching of Drak na Valka" based on Dray's liberating that province from the slavers (pages 48-50). Tom becomes the military leader of Valka in Prescot's absence while Tharu takes over the political reigns. Naturally, the palace of the strom is Esser Rarioch in Valkanium, overlooking the bay. It would appear that the Everoinye approve of Dray becoming Strom of Valka (legally as well as in fact), as they intercede when he tries to head for the Vallian mainland. In fact, the Gdoinye speaks to Dray for the first time (page 47), explaining that a time loop is in use here, so that Delia is not pining away for him.
As was alluded to recently, the aragorn (how Tolkienish) operated under patents issued from Vondium (page 50). Well, regardless of the legality, I wish Prescot had described the liberation of Valka in more detail. I think the 6 years is glossed over too quickly, like his tenure with the clansmen. Strangely, he states that neither the Star Lords nor the Savanti had envisioned the outcome of his presence in Valka. I would have thought that becoming Drak na Valka, its Strom, would be part of the Everoinye's plan for Prescot to loosely unite Paz against Schan.
The compound bows of the Valkans are discussed and consequently, the reason why "The Bowmen of Loh" is not sung in Valka: competition with Lohvian bowmen in regards to the Emperor's guard. Personally, if I was lucky enough to gain a position in his guard and I was a Valkan, I shoot the bastard, for allowing the ravaging of Valka. There I go again, I've got to let it go!
Tharu confirms that Valka has many descendants of the outcast from Strombor, 200 years (or so) earlier (page 55). Shortly after this revelation, Dray is whisked back to Earth (circa 1830) and I wonder if there is a rhyme or reason (besides punishment), for these trips back to Terra?
Well, Prescot returns, to Vallia proper, to the Mountains of the North to be exact. It is again stressed that the Stratemsk are not the loftiest mountain range on Kregen. What is then? It is to rescue Naghan Furtway, the Kov of Falinur and his nephew Jenbar, that Prescot is here for. But why? Furtway does comment on how those of Havilfar sell Vallia vollers that break down. No specific mention of Hamal or Hyrklana is made. Also, it would appear that Balintol is not known to manufacture vollers at this time. Again, mention of those swaying lines of worshippers, with their chants of "Oolie Opaz" is made. Pretty weird!
So Dray has rescued Naghan Furtway and his nephew Jenbar, in the Mountains of the North in Vallia. While awaiting transportation to the nearest town, they hole up for 3 days in the home of an ice merchant. There, Prescot starts to lose on purpose in Jikaida (to the Kov of Falinur, and I don't mean Seg or Turko either!) This becomes a habit and it is not until in he plays for high stakes in Jikaida City that his real skills in this game are demonstrated.
Also, the two Lords question Dray on his views concerning the proposed betrothal of Vektor the Kov of Advimbrev to Delia. They first expressed their position before inquiring of Prescot. I believe they know who he is and are playing with him at this point, though they seemed sincere in their views on the matter. The three also indulge on some wine from Procul (page 69). The glossary in the back of this book describes Procul as a red wine. It is but I think that also means the country or area the wine is from. I don't know where Procul is, but I'm sure there are harems there. So, perhaps Loh?
I'm not sure why, but I've always liked the illustration on page 70, showing the Relt, quoffa, and cart. It's such a serene picture. Dray uses the term "airport" on page 71. While I don't deny the accuracy of the term in this case, it just sounds strange to my ears and I don't think it is ever used again. Prescot mentions that his "seal-ring", designating him as Strom of Valka was given to him by the Emperor. How could Delia's father have that in his possession unless perhaps the aragorn took it off the Old Strom's hand upon his death in battle?
The first town the three come to is Therminsax. How important this town (city later) becomes to Vallia's liberation from it's foes, becomes apparent in "Golden Scorpio". After once again falling in a canal, Prescot is taken in by Yelker and Sosi, parents of 8 and of the canal people. The image of a "Talu" is mentioned again (last spoken of in "Transit to Scorpio", I think). Once more Prescot hints that the 8 armed diff (my word) is not mythical. But we never meet one! Their daughter Zyna has her eyes on Dray and seems not adverse to being spanked or having her bottom tanned. She has man-killing eyes to boot.
Another humorous moment occurs when Dray disrupts a line of barges so the "Dancing Talu" can cut through. Funny yes, but perhaps the act of a bully?
There are levels of rank among canalmen. Among them are: Ven, Kutven, Lord High Strom, and Lord High Kov. Just what these ranks denote, I don't know. Power? Perhaps, but not when the headless zorcamen are aprowl!
Well, Dray makes his way to Delphond and thinks that these lazy sun-loving people could never fight for Vallia and even at this point, Ken knows that Dray does them an injustice with this thought (page 96). From Delphond Dray wends his way to the Blue Mountains where he meets Korf Aighos, leader of those rogues, the Blue Mountain Boys. He has just ambushed Kov Vector's party en route to the fortress town of High Zorcardy, where Delia and the Emperor are holed up. There is a nice picture of the fortress on page 101. Did you know that while Kovs rule Kovnates, Stroms/Stromnates, Trylons/trylonates, Vads rule Vadvars (pages 96 & 97)?
Prescot exhibits some of his sense of humor on page 107 when he states that he should " rise to the occasion. Show some fire, spirit, act the part of a great man". This was after Korf Aighos deducted Dray's true identity and was plotting their next move.
Speaking of the Blue Mountain Boys, I realize they are doughty fighters but not so as to totally cower one Womox and make another jump to his death, rather than face them. I mean, they used rocks and cudgels (admittedly in a very effective manner) and killed few if any of Kov Vector's train.
On the following page, High Zorcady is described thusly: "There was a ring about that, a fineness, a sense of high yearning. The grim rearing pile spearing up into the clouds, its towers ringed with mist, the crested-korfs wheeling pastits battlemented walls, all made a reality out of a fantasy imagination. I knew I was sorry not to have visited High Zorcady". It seems to me that this was a fortress with many possible stories to tell. For instance, what kind of resistance did it offer to Hamal after the fall of Vondium? How was the re-taking of it by Korf Aighos and company accomplished? That sort of thing. And of course, who built it? As shown in the Jack Gaughan illustration opposite the title page, Prescot fights a shorgortz, which is curiously described as a reptile but not a risslaca (page 111). I guess this distinction is likened on Earth to all dinosaurs are reptiles, but not vice versa. But the shorgortz sure looks like a risslaca. Naturally it type is never seen again. So then Dray is captured and (with Korf and some other Blue Mountain Boys), haul the royal barges back to Vondium. This ordeal (along with the effects of the shorgortz's poison), is worse than being an oar-slave in the Eye of the World. The Vallian guards were cruel in the extreme, before he was finally flung in chains at the feet of the Emperor (and Delia). The infamous " take off his head, now" words are uttered and only the sacrifice of Seg (yes, Seg) save him from that fate. He slays his fellow Lohvian guards and nurses Prescot back to health and fills him in on how he and Thelda escaped death in the Hostile Territories. Seg rather naturally, refers to Dray as "my old dom". Those are such comforting words and Dray will one day return that affection. When Prescot hears that Delia made Lord Farris and company turn around to find him, they discovered Seg and Thelda instead. Dray utters "thank God", not Zair or Opaz (page 123). Hmm ... Well, that bully Prescot makes Thelda (who means well), cry, by reminding her of the fallimy flower incident. Oh yes, she and Seg are married with a son, Drayseg (page 125). Shortly after, Korf and company are rescued and Dr. Nath the Needle puts in his first appearance. End part 5.
As the Strom of Valka, Dray visits the Emperor and Delia. It seems to me that this sort of scene was also done in the Amtor and Green Star series. The beloved woman or girl knows the man's identity, but the father does not. No matter, the great scenes are worthy of being done over again!
While en route to the palace, Prescot hears of the mysterious Third Party (after the Racters and Panvals). Delia's father also comments that the Racters will have to look elsewhere for slaves, since the cleansing of Valka. Well, this is a step in the right direction.
I was interested in the two nods the Emperor gives Dray during their audience. One to give the OK to converse with Delia in relative privacy and the other as if understanding why Dray broke out in hearty laughter. These little actions help me gain insight into the man known as the Emperor.
The unknown fate of Tharu the Kov of Vindelka is mentioned by the Emperor to Dray. He disappeared in Magdag when Dray was kidnapped. I hope he is not slaving at the oar, as he was in the service of Delia. And Vomanus is mentioned as the Third Party's husband to be for Delia. Don't they know of the blood relationship between Delia and her half brother, even if we technically don't know, yet? It can't be a secret, can it? Trylon Nath Larghos seemed genuinely surprised when Dray suggests that Vomanus was ineligible (for reasons yet unknown to Prescot), for marriage to Vomanus.
Paline Panifer, who helped nurse Dray back to health is likened to an Earth girl named Cherry. I don't think so (despite the paline/cherry analogy). To me Cherry is an X-rated comic book sex maniac! (I do have one issue).
When Prescot approaches the docks of Vondium, he ponders on the fact that the Everoinye have forbidden him to journey on the bosom of the seas of Kregen. Is this really so, or did they only prevent him from trying to leave the Eye of the World and Valka too soon? Methinks he dost read too much into this situation. The land of Askinard is once again mentioned (page 128), but not its whereabouts. The noble title of Trylon is used. It can now be added to Kov, Strom, and Vad. Not to mention Lord (in Farris' case). Also, we find that the Black Mountains are an extension northward of the Black Mountains and that there is a large plateau within the Blue Mountains which is where most people of that province dwell. And who are the elders who govern this area. Why not a Kov or Vad? I guess Korf Aighos gets to run it later, but with what title?
Some new characters we meet and remain as integral parts of the Prescot Saga are: Vangar ti Valkanium (will run the fledgling Valkan Air Force), Kovena Katrin Rashumin of Rahartdrin (will get naked and then become a steadfast friend of Dray and Delia), and Young Bargom, owner of the Rose of Valka in Vondium (where many a night of singing, planning, and celebrating will take place). Rahartdrin is a large island (but not an Island), that has populations of Womoxes. As the Blue Mts. rise from the sea near here, this explains some of the animosity between the two groups.
The plan calls for Dray, Delia, Seg, Thelda, and Drayseg to flee Vallia for Strombor. But Prescot does not want a reenactment of Greece against Troy. What to do? The answer is removed from his hands as Delia and her father summon him to the interior of Vallia, where all hell breaks loose!
But first, joyfully, Inch is rescued from hauling and fills Dray in on Pando and Tilda. It is then determined that the Emperor is holed up in the Dragon Bones (maybe Delia as well) and in desperate need of rescue. This upon discovering the treachery of the Third Party. So Dray shouts to Inch "We go to the Dragon's Bones"! "Aye Drak" he replies. "Where may that be, then"? Dray stares at him like a loon. He had no idea! Funny or what! (page 160).
Another race of diffs (after the Qua'voils) enters the tale, Undurkers from the Undurker Islands. They are a dog-faced race of archers. They attempt to shoot Dray as he races through the Dragon or risslaca Bones (see eerie illustration on page 172). One shouts "I'll marmelize you". Classic! But Dray ignores such drivel (page 174). Finally Prescot makes his way to the ruins where the Emperor is holed up (Seg among them).
When last I left Dray, he had joined up with the Emperor, a few of his loyal nobles, the remnant of his guard (Bowmen of Loh, with Seg), and a smattering of mercenaries (Chuliks, Rapas and Fristles), in the tower at the center of Dragon's Bones. He reports that it is Kov Furtnay, Jenbar, and Trylon Larghos who head the conspiracy. Vomanus is present as well and aside from Seg, the only man inside to know Dray's true identity. They (Seg & Vomanus) bristle at first but that passes quickly. When Prescot laments to Seg that he may have sent Inch to his death in the Blue Mountains, the bowmen says that from what he knows of that string bean, Inch will prevail. The Ng'grogan had recently said the same of Seg. Naturally they become (were already) Dray's closest comrades, along with Turko by the next book.
Another rank of noble is mentioned, High (Hyr) Kov. The definition of what comprises such a kovnate comes later in the saga (a province having two or more distinct races, dwelling within). Can-thirda comes to mind, containing communities of Relts, Qua'voils, and Apims.
After repulsing numerous assaults and running out of arrows, the remaining 2 dozen loyalists escape out the top window in the back of the tower. I find it kind of hard to believe that the building was not totally surrounded, to prevent just such an escape (especially after a Fristle fell and screamed en route to becoming a red puddle). Well, escape they do, to the sanctuary of the bones themselves, while the heroic trio of Seg, Vomanus, and Dray take up a last stand to make this possible. This would have been it for our heroes, except for the timely arrival of two armadas, to save the day. Here is the list of comrades to the rescue: Hap Loder, Rov Kovno, Ark Atvar, other clansmen, Nath the Thief, Gloag, Varden, retainers of Strombor, Eward, Reinman, and Wicken, Inch, Korf Aighos and other Blue Mountain Boys. The plot leaders escape and probably flee overseas. We know that Furtway ends up in Hamal ("Armada of Antares") and this could be precisely why the Everoinye wanted Dray to save him earlier--so that the ex-kov could prevent his torture and death in Hamal, by identifying him as the Prince Majister of Vallia. Naturally, as portrayed on the cover, Delia arrives to properly thank her man. I had not realized before, that she is wearing those white ling furs across her shoulders and bosom. She tells Dray how the rescue came to be and that she (as the Lady of Strombor) has visited Zenicce annually. She comments on the absence of Nath and Zolta; they stayed in Turismond.
The Emperor says that Vallia is the greatest power on Kregen (page 190), but Dray has doubts. What of Havilfar (Hamal) and the mysterious raiders out of the southern oceans (Shanks)? Both are valid points. Oh yes, it seems (strange to say), that the relationship between Delia and Vomanus was a secret (page 194). Thus ends the Delian Cycle, with the Emperor publicly blessing the proposed union between his daughter and Dray. This after Prescot inquires how he now feels about the infamous "off with his head, now" statement.
There is a map of Paz exclusive of Havilfar, in the back, along with a glossary of the first four books. The usual foreword by Akers is at the back this time and is included with comments on the map.
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