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Delia and I were married.
Delia of Delphond, Delia of the Blue Mountains, Princess Majestrix of Vallia, and I, Dray Prescot, were married.
If that sounds to you like the end of the story, then you are as deceived as I was. Many and many foolish young lovers have imagined, on Kregen no less than on Earth, that in the merry ringing of wedding bells lies the happy end of their adventures.
Oh, I knew the shadowy presence of the Star Lords might again manifest itself in the scarlet and golden shape of a mighty raptor, the Gdoinye, or the Savanti might decide out of their mortal but superhuman wisdom to make use of my services again.
But that was of the future, the might-be. Who reckons of the future when he is in love and newly wedded and all of Kregen glows and beckons before him?
But, just before we could be married, there was one other item of unfinished business. All the way back to the capital I felt strongly that I was moving into a new era of my life. That this was so, although not in the way I expected, you shall hear.
After we had returned from that immortal battle at The Dragon's Bones and life took its new turn, I felt I might be able to relax. The idea that Dray Prescot could ever relax may strike you as strange. But sometimes I can, and occasionally I have been able to throw off the cares of the world for a short time and follow my own inclinations. My relationship with the Emperor would remain on a strange footing, and I know that for all his own intemperate hauteur and pride, he feared me a little, even with armed men of his own choosing about him.
We flew down to land in the square before theEmperor's palace. So impatient had he been to return that he had driven his airboat ahead of those following. I jumped down onto the hot stones of the square and looked about, surprised at the absence of people where normally one could see chattering citizens, Koters about their business, strings of calsanys, zorca chariots with their tall wheels flickering, all the brilliant hurly-burly of everyday life in Vondium.
A group of men rushed from the open gateways leading into the outer palace courtyards.
They wore garish green and purple rosettes pinned to their buff leather tunics, and flaunting green and purple feathers in their wide-brimmed Vallian hats.
With a curse I ripped out my rapier and dagger and thrust myself forward to stand before Delia.
She pushed me aside in the shoulder, and stepped up to stand boldly alongside me.
"Third party!" she said. "So there are more of them."
"Aye, my love," I said. "And you get back aboard the flier and take off —you and your father."
"If you think just because we are to be married I will meekly take orders from you, Dray Prescot, you hairy great graint, and fly away and leave you in peril—"
"Come away, daughter! Let the warriors fight—"
"Yes, my father. Here is one warrior who will never run away, and I will never run from his side."
Well, that is my Delia. I had no time to argue with her. The men of the third party who had in secret infiltrated the other political parties of Vallia and sought to overthrow the Emperor rushed down upon me.
With a breath-wasting shout —for I wished to draw all their attention to me —I leaped forward, brandishing my weapons. You who have listened to my story this far will know I ordinarily never shout in action, and as for brandishing weapons, that is a waste of energy. But as I ran headlong at these oncoming killers I knew I must meet them and keep them in play well away from Delia until the remainder of our fliers arrived bringing with them my men of Felschraung and Longuelm, of Strombor, and Delia's Blue Mountain Boys.
Copyright © 1974, Kenneth Bulmer.