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For too long the iron legions of the evil empress of Hamal had devastated the neighboring lands and islands of Kregen. Under the twin suns of Antares, that planet of marvels had been made a scene of carnage, rapine, and death. Dray Prescot, Earthman transported to Kregen, had battled Empress Thyliss all the way, and at long last found himself nearing the showdown of his long campaign for his new homeland. Gathering about himself old allies and former enemies, Dray prepared to challenge the empress at the very ...
For too long the iron legions of the evil empress of Hamal had devastated the neighboring lands and islands of Kregen. Under the twin suns of Antares, that planet of marvels had been made a scene of carnage, rapine, and death. Dray Prescot, Earthman transported to Kregen, had battled Empress Thyliss all the way, and at long last found himself nearing the showdown of his long campaign for his new homeland. Gathering about himself old allies and former enemies, Dray prepared to challenge the empress at the very doors of her capital city, until he discovered that she was about to spring her secret weapon -- the super-science of the mad wizard of Loh.
You don't argue with the Star Lords. At least, if you make the attempt you'll regret it and that may exclude your chance of living to regret it. All the same, I've hurled some hard words at the Star Lords from time to time, and as for their messenger and spy, the scarlet- and golden-feathered bird of prey, he and I, the Gdoinye and I, have indulged in a few scathing slanging matches.
There can't be a winner from the ranks of mortal men, as I then believed, in any contest with the Star Lords, and I had learned caution.
The spangled stars of Kregen sparkled still in the night sky and the quietness of waiting in those moments before dawn cast an expectant hush over all the rolling world. Delia half-rose in the bed, leaning on an elbow. The sheets slipped down to her waist as she regarded me. Her hair lay in shadow from the bedpost and her face looked upon me woefully.
"When the twin suns rise, my heart," I said.
"I hate the Star Lords!"
"As well hate the storms bursting around your head, or the thunder and lightning. They are not affected by our feelings or what we do. Although," I said, bending to pick up the scarlet breechclout, "although I fancy what we do may have some small effect on the Star Lords. Their man in Hamal has failed and they need me urgently, yet they gave us this night together."
"And I am supposed to love them for that?"
Determination in Delia is a live force. What she knows she knows, what she holds she holds.
"No, you cannot be expected to love the Everoinye. I believe they are beyond love or hate, although once they weremortal human beings like us." I threw down the scarlet breechclout. "I shall not need that."
"I think, my heart —there is light. There... On the window frame..."
The windows of this sumptuous bedchamber high in the fortress of the Hakal in the city of Huringa in Hyrklana were deeply set into the masonry. Rich damask clothed the harsh stone. I looked. A strigicaw embroidered in bright silks shone more clearly than he had before, his snarling muzzle lifted, his ears pricked. Yes, there was light. The red sun and the green sun, Far and Havil, were lifting into the dawn skies over Kregen and it was the time appointed.
Useless to try to stumble out words to say what I felt: Delia saw all that in me as I looked upon her, standing drinking her in, feeling, feeling... She smiled. She made herself smile for me and she stretched out her arms.
I leaped for the bed and clasped her, warm and soft and firm and glorious, glorious. Then, with the feeling of the tormentors in their black hoods at work on me, I released her and stepped back.
All naked, staring forlornly upon Delia, I waited for the Summons of the Scorpion.
"Remberee, Dray, my heart—"
"Remberee, Delia, my love. Remember always, I love you and only you—"
Blue radiance dropped about me, blotting out the world and all I loved, and the bloated shining form of the Scorpion beckoned and whirled me up in the maelstrom of supernatural forces.
As I swirled up in the all-encompassing blueness I realized that, at the least, this time I had not lived with the doomed sense of insecurity, of unsettling expectancy that at any moment, at any damned inconvenient moment, I would be called on by the Star Lords to be flung miles away and dumped down into some barbaric spot on Kregen and hurled headlong into downright unhealthy action. That was like living on one of those half-forgotten islands of the Shrouded Sea, plagued with volcanoes and earthquakes, there one minute and blown up the next, and reappearing somewhere else a few years later.
"Delia!" I bellowed as I went up head over heels. She would not hear me. She would see —what would she have seen? I'd ask her when I got out of this little lot. If I did. If, this time, I managed to scrape through and once more win my way back to my Delia, my Delia of Delphond, my Delia of the Blue Mountains.
The blueness roared about me. I felt the supernal chill. Somewhere in Hamal, the Everoinye had said they needed my help. Well that suited our plans. This time, I vowed, the parting from Delia would not be long. This time I'd do what the Everoinye required in double-quick time, and then I'd take the foul empire of Hamal to pieces and deal with mad Empress Thyllis as we had dealt with fat Queen Fahia. Those were the plans, simple and straightforward. Ha!
Copyright © 1981, Kenneth Bulmer.