Beneath the emerald and ruby glow of the double suns of Antares lies a marvelous and brilliant world of savagery and beauty. The planet Kregen, where Dray Prescot, Earthman agent of the superhuman Star Lords struggles to bring peace to the world which has become his home. But although his nemesis, the mad empress of Hamal, and her accomplice, the evil Wizard of Loh have been destroyed, Prescot finds that the strands of this enduring battle have not been tied off, for an old conspiracy has been given a new and darker impetus which leads him to the jungle continent of Pandahem, where beneath the dark and sweltering swamps lies the deadly labyrinth of the Coup Blag where Prescot clashes with a new and terrible foe in the mazes of Scorpio!
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
Chapter one —At The Ruby Winespout
At the beginning of rhododendron time two of my spies were fished out of the river with their throats cut from ear to ear.
The banked masses of leaves, black-green and shining, burst —it seemed in the course of a single morning —into explosions of color. The blossoms scattered flecks and rushes, swathes and coruscations of all the colors of the rainbow across the dark green leaves. Color rioted and scents perfumed the air. And two good men were dead.
Anger and self-contempt were useless. Anger at the waste of human life, contempt that I had asked Nogan the Artful and Lifren the Soft to spy for me; and now they were dead. I told my friends what I intended to do. Their reactions were predictable.
"It is impossible."
"You cannot go running headlong into danger!"
But Seg Segutorio, regarding me with his mocking gaze much modified by thought, said, "You probably need to let some of the bad humor out, Dray. Your blood is getting thick. We'll just toddle along to this infamous Ruby Winespout and exercise our muscles a trifle."
Good old Seg!
"And our brains."
"Oh, aye," said Seg. "Brains." His fey blue eyes regarded me with amusement, clearing both mockery and thought. "Between us, we've not used our quota all that well, have we?"
I was surprised.
In all the concerns pressing in on us as we sought to assist a shattered empire to regain its strength with one hand and with the other repel fishlike marauders from over the curve of the world, I had thought Seg secure. He had overcome his grief for his wife Thelda and was now, I was convinced, the mostbalanced of us all. Except and despite that he could become a wild and raving maniac if he got into a spot of hand-to-hand. As the best Bowman of Loh in all Kregen, in my view, Seg Segutorio could handle himself in any situation. He was a comrade, the greatest comrade any man could have, and I relied on him absolutely.
"I don't know what you're on about for yourself, Seg. But if you're referring to the bother I'm having with Drak over this emperor of Vallia nonsense—"
He interrupted with the ease of valued friendship.
"No troubles you can put a shaft into. I've managed to steer clear of half a dozen designing families with marriageable offspring. Since Thelda —well, Dray, I'll tell you. I feel like those flowers out there."
So that was it.
We were standing in the long room with the serried windows overlooking a panorama of gardens dropping away to the River Havilthytus. The imperial palace, the Hammabi el Lamma, rearing imposingly on its artificial island in the river, had now become a place I could tolerate. The profusion of flowers helped, for the place always struck cold and hard. Delia had with her usual skill contrived comfort from the rooms of the apartments in the Alshyss Tower given over to our use.
Here in Ruathytu, the capital city of the Empire of Hamal, we people of Vallia were never allowed to forget we were strangers. We had concluded a magnificent treaty with the Hamalese and their new emperor, Nedfar, and everything looked promising for the future. We had to patch the empire together again for the Hamalese, and resist with the last drop of blood in our bodies the devilish Shanks who raided us all.
Seg shifted his belt on his hips, settled it. He coughed. "The problem now is those rogues in The Ruby Winespout. They are a notorious gang—"
"So we'll stroll along, as you suggest, and take a look."
Copyright © 1982, Kenneth Bulmer.