- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
When you're down there's no place to go but up. That's the way the brave think and if there is anyone on two worlds braver than Dray Prescot, he has yet to appear. Prescot, who had been a seaman and soldier on distant Earth, and now, on Golden Scorpio's fabulous planet, was claiment to the fallen throne of a conquered empire, would never give up. Single-handedly, if need be, he would be a deadly threat to the enemies of Vallia. But as he set out on a liberation mission incomparable in the history of two worlds he...
When you're down there's no place to go but up. That's the way the brave think and if there is anyone on two worlds braver than Dray Prescot, he has yet to appear. Prescot, who had been a seaman and soldier on distant Earth, and now, on Golden Scorpio's fabulous planet, was claiment to the fallen throne of a conquered empire, would never give up. Single-handedly, if need be, he would be a deadly threat to the enemies of Vallia. But as he set out on a liberation mission incomparable in the history of two worlds he knew he would never be alone...
We flew from burning Vondium.
Sulphurous masses of smoke rolling from the doomed city cast dark palls between the streaming mingled radiances of the fading suns. The spreading fans of jade and crimson light cupped the city below. Vondium burned. Along the wide avenues rivers of fire, across the canal-bordered islands lakes of fire, upon the terraced hills volcanoes of fire —incandescent, lambent, roaring with unchecked power, spurting yellow and orange flames, shooting myriads of sparks like discharges from Hell's furnaces, the fire burned.
Our airboat shook in the windrush.
"This was not planned," said Delia, guiding the airboat out of the last swathing bands of smoke. The suns shafted light behind us and swiftly the emerald and ruby spears drained down across the sky, dwindling and shrinking as the pit of fire that was Vondium blazed up. She shivered. "Not planned—"
"The factions fight it out down there. They all struggle for the supreme power and," I said, looking up, my fist closing on the hilt of the sword, "here come those who would dispute our passage."
Two fliers spun out of the shadows ahead, the light glittering along their sides, glancing from their brazen embellishments. In the weirdly coruscating lights the two airboats looked dark and magical dragons, glinting with fire-jewels.
"Hamalese," said the Lord Farris. He moved forward from the shelter deck aft, and his face lay shrunken in shadow.
At his side Lykon Crimahan spoke in words still slurred by witnessed horror. "They have destroyed all of value in life —I will have my due of them."
"The queen?" saidDelia, not glancing back, but guiding our airboat skillfully upwards so that the cramphs of Hamal might not have the advantage of us. The airboats flitted up into the night sky and the smoke dropped away and the clouds were tinged in orange and gold about us.
"The queen sleeps." Farris had already drawn his sword. In the encroaching darkness the bulky firmness of his body as he moved up struck me as mightily comforting. "She is exhausted."
We were all exhausted. But only a fierce continuing, a savage determination to go on, an unyielding struggle against all odds would get us through now and save our necks.
In this airboat I had taken from the Hamalese were ready racked a dozen crossbows. I took one up and spanned it and said to Farris: "Put up your sword. Delia will outfly these rasts."
"Yes," said Farris. "The Princess —I mean, the Empress —has consummate skill."
The three airboats whirled about the night sky, leaves tossed in the maelstrom of the fire and the high winds of the night, darting and swooping, climbing to secure the height advantage. Delia swung us up superbly. I leaned over the wooden coaming and let fly. The bolt skewered into the dark mass of the Hamalian airboat below. In the wind bluster I could not hear a shriek of anguish, I did not know if I had hit; but I respanned the bow and let fly again as we circled in.
Farris and Crimahan joined in. They were unused to crossbows; but every bolt that hit the Hamalians would count.
And then in the way of these wild skirling affrays as fliers spin and grapple at night, one of the Hamalians flew awkwardly across and fell athwart our bows. Delia made a last frantic effort to avoid the onrushing mass. The two airboats came together with a great crushing of wood and ripping of canvas. But the craft I had selected was stoutly built, as one would expect from the damned Hamalese who made the things and denied us Vallians the right to make our own, and she was stouter than the other. Amid a shrieking splintering of wood the foeman's airboat tumbled full into our own.
Men spilled out to stagger and stumble across our deck.
Over our heads through a rent in the clouds the fat blue shine of the first star of the evening suddenly caught me up with a swift and entirely unexpected sense of the beauty of the night. That first star that Kregans call Soothe was not as large or as fat now, as the conjunctions of orbits opened out, for Soothe is a planet of Antares as is Kregen, but that blue lambent luminosity reminded me of the fabled Goddesses of Love of Kregen. And as no Goddess of Love of two worlds has ever been or can ever be as precious as my Delia, my Delia of Delphond, my Delia of the Blue Mountains, I hurled the crossbow down and leaped yelling into action.
Delia was ready for the Hamalese from the wreck of their airboat. Together, we hit them. Like two perfectly-machined parts, we meshed, she taking her man with her rapier, I chunking the Krozair longsword around into his comrade's ribs. Armor crumpled.
"Hanitch! Hanitch!" The Hamalese kept up their battle yells, fierce, predatory and yet highly disciplined fighting men.
"Vallia!" yelled Farris and hurled himself forward along the deck, his sword a glinting blur. "Vallia and Vomansoir!"
Copyright © 1978, Kenneth Bulmer.