King of Dreams (Lord Prestimon Trilogy #3)by Robert Silverberg
The nefarious Mandralisca has unleashed a devastating plague on Majipoor's citizensa power from the past that Prestimion believed was destroyeddriving them to
After years of unrest, Coronal Lord Prestimion has finally restored peace to Majipoor. But as he prepares for his ascension to the throne of Pontifex, the kingdom comes under attack once more.
The nefarious Mandralisca has unleashed a devastating plague on Majipoor's citizensa power from the past that Prestimion believed was destroyeddriving them to madness and monstrosity. And now, Prestimion and the able Prince Dekkeret must venture again onto the battlefield of nightmare as they wage war for the very soul of Majipoor.
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"That has to be what we're looking for," said the Skandar, Sudvik Gorn, standing at the edge of the cliff and pointing down the steep hillside with harsh jabbing motions of his lower left arm. They had reached the crest of the ridge. The underlying rock had crumbled badly here, so that the trail they had been following terminated in a rough patch covered with sharp greenish gravel, and just beyond lay a sudden drop into a thickly vegetated valley. "Vorthinar Keep, right there below us! What else could that building be, if not the rebel's keep? And easy enough for us to set it ablaze, this time of year."
"Let me see," young Thastain said. "My eyes are better than yours." Eagerly he reached for the spyglass that Sudvik Gorn held in his other lower arm.
It was a mistake. Sudvik Gorn enjoyed baiting the boy, and Thastain had given him yet another chance. The huge Skandar, better than two feet taller than he was, yanked the glass away, shifting it to an upper arm and waving it with ponderous playfulness high above Thastain's head. He grinned a malicious snaggletoothed grin. "Jump for it, why don't you?"
Thastain felt his face growing hot with rage. "Damn you! Just let me have the thing, you moronic four-armed bastard!"
"What was that? Bastard, am I? Bastard? Say it again?" The Skandar's shaggy face turned dark. He brandished the spyglass now as though the tube were a weapon, swinging it threateningly from side to side. "Yes. Say it again, and then I'll knock you from here to Ni-moya."
Thastain glared at him. "Bastard! Bastard!Go ahead and knock me, if you can." He was sixteen, a slender, fair-skinned boy who was swift enough afoot to outrace a bilantoon. This was his first important mission in the service of the Five Lords of Zimroel, and the Skandar had selected him, somehow, as his special enemy. Sudvik Gorn's constant maddening ridicule was driving him to fury. For the past three days, almost from the beginning of their journey from the domain of the Five Lords, many miles to the southeast, up here into the rebel-held territory, Thastain had held it in, but now he could contain it no longer. "You have to catch me first, though, and I can run circles around you, and you know it. Eh, Sudvik Gorn, you great heap of flea-bitten fur!"
The Skandar growled and came rumbling forward. But instead of fleeing, Thastain leaped agilely back just a few yards and, whirling quickly, scooped up a fat handful of jagged pebbles. He drew back his arm as though he meant to hurl them in Sudvik Gorn's face. Thastain gripped the stones so tightly that their sharp edges bit into the palm of his hand. You could blind a man with stones like that, he thought.
Sudvik Gorn evidently thought so too. He halted in mid-stride, looking baffled and angry, and the two stood facing each other. It was a stalemate.
"Come on," Thastain said, beckoning to the Skandar and offering him a mocking look. "One more step. Just one more." He swung his arm in experimental underhand circles, gathering momentum for the throw.
The Skandar's red-tinged eyes flamed with ire. From his vast chest came a low throbbing sound like that of a volcano readying itself for eruption. His four mighty arms quivered with barely contained menace. But he did not advance.
By this time the other members of the scouting party had noticed what was happening. Out of the corner of his eye Thastain saw them coming together to his right and left, forming a loose circle along the ridge, watching, chuckling. None of them liked the Skandar, but Thastain doubted that many of the men cared for him very much either. He was too young, too raw, too green, too pretty, In all probability they thought that he needed to be knocked around a little roughed up by life as they had been before him.
"Well, boy?" It was the hard-edged voice of Gambrund, the roundcheeked Piliplok man with the bright purple scar that cut a vivid track across the whole left side of his face. Some said that Count Mandralisca had done that to him for spoiling his aim during a gihorna hunt, others that it had been the Lord Gavinius in a drunken moment, as though the Lord Gavinius ever had any other kind. "Don't just stand there! Throw them! Throw them in his hairy face!"
"Right, throw them," someone else called. "Show the big ape a thing or two! Put his filthy eyes out!"
This was very stupid, Thastain thought. If he threw the stones he had better be sure to blind Sudvik Gorn with them on the first cast, or else the Skandar very likely would kill him. But if he blinded Sudvik Gorn the Count would punish him severely for it quite possibly would have him blinded himself. And if he simply tossed the stones away he'd have to run for it, and run very well, for if Sudvik Gorn caught him he would hammer him with those great fists of his until he was smashed to pulp; but if he fled then everyone would call him a coward for fleeing. It was impossible any way whichever. How had he contrived to get himself into this? And how was he going to get himself out?
He wished most profoundly that someone would rescue him. Which was what happened a moment later.
"All right, stop it, you two," said a new voice from a few feet behind Thastain. Criscantoi Vaz, it was. He was a wiry, broad-shouldered graybearded man, a Ni-moyan: the oldest of the group, a year or two past forty. He was one of the few here who had taken a liking of sorts to Thastain...
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Thanks to the weak rule of the previous Coronals and Pontifexes that went before him, Prestimion had many internal battles and a war to fight before his kingdom Marjipor found peace. For the next two decades as the Coronal, he kept things calm, but when the Pontifex dies, an old enemy surfaces challenging Prestimion¿s ascension as the new Pontifex. Count Mandralisca has aligned himself with the Five Lords of Zimrod in order to gain independence for his nation. He controls machines that invade the minds of people, which force them to go mad and do terrible things to themselves or others. He has managed to have Prestimion¿s brother kill himself and send dreams infecting the ruler¿s wife and daughter. When the Pontifex and his new Coronal learn what Mandralisca plans, they hope to stop him and his allies without costing the lives of thousands of innocent people. Book three of the Prestimion trilogy concludes the powerful epic fantasy where magic and the mundane peacefully co-exist side by side. Robert Silverberg provides his usual interesting novel that paints a make believe world so real readers will believe he visited the place. Marjipoor may be his greatest creation in an illustrious career and hopefully Mr. Silverberg will return his audience there sometime soon. Harriet Klausner