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Chapter one —Metal
I, Dray Prescot, the Lord of Strombor and Krozair of Zy, whirled head over heels helplessly through a tempestuous void into the black boiling belly of hell.
"What the hell's going on?" I bellowed. It felt as though I yelled with a mouth full of feathers.
Around and around I went, up and down, and I sincerely believed I was being pulled apart, as those unpleasant Echenegs pull people apart with a variety of wild animals. I tried to curl up into a fetal ball.
This experience was entirely new. The Star Lords had sent their giant blue Scorpion down to snatch me up from Kregen. I expected to be taken through various chambers and possibly be transported in a marvelous chair that hissed, and so be able to speak to those distant, immortal and superhuman entities the Everoinye.
Instead I was being torn to pieces in a black whirling madhouse.
Just what, by the putrescent eyeballs and pustular nose of Makki Grodno, was going on?
I know I am a fallible clown. The years spent on Earth trying to make a career in Nelson's Navy had been blank for me. I'd had a few successes since being hauled up by the ears and dumped down into trouble on Kregen. Yes, I supposed I was some way on to the grand scheme of uniting the peoples of the lands of Paz.
This time, when I saw the Star Lords, I'd said to myself, this time I'll have a few very hard words for them.
So they dragged me up in the midst of a whirlwind, battered my ears with blasts of wind and horrendous noise, tumbled me upside down and inside out for all I knew.
My heels hit hard and jarred clear up the spine into my skull.
I staggered forward.The blackness like the ear cavity of a Lepecranch bat folded about me. I blinked.
Well, I still wore the brave old scarlet breechclout. I still had the Krozair longsword. Apart from those two items and the sailor knife scabbarded from its belt over my right hip, there was only me.
With a convulsive heave I stumbled up. I shook my fist at the impenetrable blackness.
"All right, you high and mighty Everoinye! Come on! Let's be having you!"
If anything, the wind screeched louder and more fiercely, and a cold cutting edge of ice crept into its teeth.
"Damn you, you indifferent—" I roared on, verbiage of almost meaningless bravado when set against the awful forces colliding about my insignificant form. The words were stoppered in my throat.
A single slashing streak of viridian green swiped all across that blackness and drove sparkles and spots of brilliance into my eyes.
That searing shaft of green lasted only a couple of heartbeats and was gone; I knew who —or what —it was.
That was the impetuous and icily contemptuous Star Lord the others called Ahrinye. I thought he would be no friend to me.
The whole world shifted and swung and I fell to my knees. I didn't know if I was on a world, any world, or drifted on a shard of rock between the stars, or was buried deep within some unguessable hell.
I knew the Star Lords to be fallible, as was I. I could not believe those superhuman entities of vast intellect and distant purposes to be fools. Again, as was I. Their powers were so great that the limited imagination of a mortal man might never encompass a fraction of a jot or tittle. As the universe swept up and down and around and around I tried with barbaric savagery to hold on to the central idea that the Star Lords needed me.
With my own puny willpower I had fought them in the old days when I imagined them indifferent and opposed to all my own wishes. In our more recent alliance I had glimpsed reasons why they had chosen me to do what I had to do for them. I had not fought them recently. But, now...
When all this nonsense settled down and the world became right way up again, I'd have a few words to say, by Zair, a few words!
A looseness in the air about me and a lightness in my limbs heralded another change. The universe steadied. I could smell nothing. The darkness shifted about me and I felt harsh rock beneath my feet; but I could smell nothing and that is always very strange, very strange.
When the pale yellow streak appeared horizontally and glimmered with spectral fires, for a few treacherous moments I imagined this to be Zena Iztar. But this yellow was not her glorious golden yellow, refulgent, bringing a reassurance and a promise. Zena Iztar and I had not met for too long a time and I guessed she was about some supernatural task in realms and dimensions unknowable to mere mortal humanity.
Against the yellow streak, which widened steadily, sharp black peaks stood out like saw edges. I confess it took me a little time to realize I was watching the dawn.
Copyright © 1988, Kenneth Bulmer.