The eighth book of the Dray Prescot series.
Dray Prescot, the Earthman who had been brought across interstellar space as the tool of the mysterious Star Lords, confronted his most baffling task while he was a hunted and harried wanderer of the continent of Havilfar. That task was to discover the means by which the aircraft of that continent's most advanced civilization operated. Prescot is no scientist, but fulfill his task he must or he would never return to the princess and homeland he had won. So, for Dray Prescot there was but one course -- with a whole continent against him, with time itself conspiring to balk him, the secrets of an unknown science must be made his...
About the Author
Alan Burt Akers is a pen name of the prolific British author Kenneth Bulmer, who died in December 2005 aged eighty-four. Bulmer wrote over 160 novels and countless short stories, predominantly science fiction, both under his real name and numerous pseudonyms, including Alan Burt Akers, Frank Brandon, Rupert Clinton, Ernest Corley, Peter Green, Adam Hardy, Philip Kent, Bruno Krauss, Karl Maras, Manning Norvil, Dray Prescot, Chesman Scot, Nelson Sherwood, Richard Silver, H. Philip Stratford, and Tully Zetford. Kenneth Johns was a collective pseudonym used for a collaboration with author John Newman. Some of Bulmer's works were published along with the works of other authors under "house names" (collective pseudonyms) such as Ken Blake (for a series of tie-ins with the 1970s television programme The Professionals), Arthur Frazier, Neil Langholm, Charles R. Pike, and Andrew Quiller. Bulmer was also active in science fiction fandom, and in the 1970s he edited nine issues of the New Writings in Science Fiction anthology series in succession to John Carnell, who originated the series.
Read an Excerpt
"By Vox!" yelled Vangar ti Valkanium above the clamor of the gale. "This would be no time for this flier to break down."
From the forward starboard varter position I clung to a stanchion with my left hand and peered out and down. The sudden onset of the gale had cast a darkness over the bright day, and the twin Suns of Scorpio were dimmed. Through the drenching lash of rain and the erratic lightning-shot darkness I could see the lacerated surface of the Shrouded Sea. The wind slashed off the tops of the running waves, and the white roar below bellowed and flung wind-tossed spume flat and sheeting.
"This voller was built in Hamal, Vangar," I yelled back at him. He could barely hear me. "She won't break down like the rubbish they sell us in Vallia."
We were both drenched with rain. The decks ran with water which spouted out, foaming, through the scuppers. I had full confidence in the flier, for my men had taken her from a crew of foolish raiders from Hamal, so that they could come to my rescue in the arena of the city of Huringa in Hyrklana; it was now very clear to me that the shipwrights of Hamal applied double standards to their work.
"She flies well, my prince," shouted Vangar. He felt a particular concern for Delia and me, I well knew, for his appointment as captain of my flier brought him grave responsibilities as well as great joys.
The sea below raged and roared. We were lower than I liked, for we had tried to outrun the gale on our way back to Migladrin to finalize the new arrangements in religious and political matters of that country, and this confounded gale had seized usin its grip as we sped across the Shrouded Sea.
For a moment I lingered. The sea down there aroused strange emotions in me. The Star Lords had prohibited me from shipping in either swifter or swordship; but I admit that, despite the anger of that sea and the fierce and deadly power of wind and water, I stared a little hungrily at the element on which I had lived for so large a part of my life on the planet of my birth, four hundred light-years away.
"Get back to the helm-deldar, Vangar, and lift us. We will have to take our chances with the wind and storm higher up."
Vangar did not argue but went at once.
To this day I cannot in truth say how it happened. I know the black thought of treachery crossed my mind, for until the conspiracy against the Emperor of Vallia, who was my father-in-law, had been completely crushed, we walked in perilous paths. And his peril also menaced his daughter, who was my wife, the Princess Majestrix Delia, my Delia of Delphond, of the Blue Mountains.
The most probable explanation is that during that brave rescue of me from the arena when the flier was being shot at from all directions, a chunk of rock thrown by a varter had crunched into the stanchion, weakening it.
Now with my weight and the wind and the violent motions of the flier, the stanchion parted.
Instantly I was tumbled headlong into thin air, spinning head over heels, gasping as the wind and rain struck and sent me plunging into that fearsome sea.
I surfaced and dragged in a huge lungful of air; then the waves smashed me over and down and so I began a protracted period of intense struggle to survive. As you know, I am a strong swimmer, and may dive deeply and long, and believe me when I say I needed every ounce of skill and endurance. The flier vanished, whisked away as a clump of thistledown is brushed by the breeze.
I, Dray Prescot, of Earth and of Kregen, battled for my life with the sea —alone.
There are techniques for keeping afloat and I used all my knowledge to remain near the surface and not allow the vicious violence of the sea to weaken and overwhelm me. That I survived is clear in that I am speaking to you on these tapes; but it was a near thing. When I felt myself at last at the end of my strength and saw there low against a level break in the clouds the long line of rocks marking a shore, I knew I had to make a supreme effort. I am not a man who will give in easily. I had been learning caution, and tried to contain that intemperate recklessness that had many times brought me kicks and cuffs, and, may Zair forgive me, so many times failed. But against the insensate violence of the sea I would exert everything of me that is me, that makes me Dray Prescot, and no other in two worlds.
Gradually, with immense effort, I maneuvered myself toward the shore. For a moment or two I thought I would be flung end-over-end onto the black rocks that showed through the gouting spray like decayed teeth; but Zair aided me —for the damned Star Lords would not, and neither would the Savanti —and I felt myself picked up and flung between two jagged rocks and so hurled onto a tiered beach of coarse gray sand. I had to summon up all the reserves of strength I had left to prevent myself from just lying there, prey to the waves, and to force myself to crawl on hands and knees up above the high water mark. Then, between two crumbling rocks, I put my head onto that sand and passed out.
The next thing I recall is being turned over gently and feeling soft hands examining my ribs and arms and legs. I lay still.
A girl's voice, light and clear, said: "He has no broken bones, for which he may praise Mother Shoshash of the Seaweed Hair, when he awakes. Father Shoshash the Stormbrow has not been gentle with him. His ib is knocked fair out of him."
Another girl's voice, a little more giggly, answered. "Come away, Paesi. He looks monstrous ugly. And look at his shoulders!"
"Mmm," said Paesi, in a way I decidedly did not like.
Copyright © 1975 by Kenneth Bulmer.