Striving to save his strife torn empire of Vallia from the Nine Unspeakable Curses, Dray Prescot has faced a plague of murderous werewolves and attack by the witch hordes.
Now he must conquer the bloodthirsty forces of the would be king of North Vallia, while at the same time protecting the realm from the evil witch Csitra and her sorcerous son. Journeying to the witch's dark Maze of Coup Blag, Dray and his comrades must meet the challenge of this realm of traps and treasures, where death waits around every turn, and a wizardly battle of destruction is the price of winning free...
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 —Concerning the crime
of old Hack 'n' Slay
Old Hack 'n' Slay, caught with his fingers in the regimental funds, went on the rampage.
He hurled the first three fellows out through the windows of the tavern. The clientele huddled away into corners, including even soldiers from various regiments who knew old Hack 'n' Slay and like the ordinary citizens wanted nothing to do with this fracas.
In a furious melee six of his fellows poured all over poor old Hack 'n' Slay. They heaved up and down like men clinging to a boat in a gale.
Scarlet of face, ferocious of eye, old Hack 'n' Slay roared his refusal to be taken into custody.
"Calm down, Jik!" yelped the Deldar who hung onto one arm and was flapped up and down like a bird's wing. "You're nabbed."
Flagons of wine went every which way, strewing the floor with their pungent brews. The fumes coiled into the nostrils of the combatants. Yet no one drew a pointed or edged weapon. This was a strictly regimental matter. The lads of the 11th Churgurs would settle this among themselves. Old Hack 'n' Slay might have dipped his sticky finger into the regimental funds, he remained Jiktar Nath Javed, the regimental commander, commanding also the 32nd Brigade, of which the 11th Churgurs formed a part, and he was well known and liked.
"I'll have the Opaz-forsaken money tomorrow!" bellowed Jiktar Nath Javed, throwing a bulky soldier over his shoulder. "Lemme up!"
"No good, Jik! Grab that foot, Ompey. His arm, Cwonley, his left arm, you great onker!"
Crash went a table, and jugs and bottles smashed into vinous ruin.
"Get his feet from under him."
"I'lltwist all your ears off, you horrible—"
Up and down the length of the tavern, The Cockerell Winged, the struggle blistered on. Hack 'n' Slay was no man to be dragged down even by six of his own hefty lads.
"Listen to me, you pack of famblys. I'll—"
"Yowp!" gobbled a churgur as an elbow nudged his ribs. The rest piled on. In the end they coiled a cunning loop of rope around his ankles and he crashed over to hit his nose on the edge of the upturned table. He let rip a rafter-shattering roar. Then they were on him like ants on a honey pot, holding him down, lapping him in rope, trussing him up like a chicken for the pot.
He kept on roaring his head off so they stuffed a kerchief into his horrendous maw and then wrapped that up in a scarf. Seeing there was nothing else for it, old Hack 'n' Slay quieted down and they lifted him up like a rolled carpet and took him off.
Through the pleasant evening they went, with three of Kregen's moons high in the sky casting down their refulgent pinkish light and the scent of Moonblooms filling the air with fragrance.
People out to enjoy themselves turned to stare. The soldiers just marched grimly on, their commander slung over their shoulders, conscious of the indignity of these proceedings yet not giving a damn what the passersby might think.
This was serious. Jiktar Nath Javed, old Hack 'n' Slay, just given the command of the 32nd Brigade, had pilfered the funds of his own regiment. Only because the division inspectorate had called and found the discrepancy —hell, they'd dumped the empty cash box out onto the parade ground for all to see —had Jiktar Javed been caught out.
Dumped down in the cells he gave up all resistance. They removed his gag and bonds, they took away all his belts and harness, all his weaponry. Sitting slumped into a corner, head on hands on knees, he gave no more trouble that night.
In the morning, after he'd washed and dressed punctiliously, they gave him slursh with red honey stirred in, three fried eggs with a huge hunk of bread, and a pottery dish of palines, whereat he swore they were trying to starve him.
Initially he was run up before the divisional commander, Chuktar Enar Thandon, a neat and dapper man, a Strom, with a clipped moustache, a mouth like a wound and eyes that could, so the swods in the ranks said, bore straight through the toughest armor around. Chuktar Thandon was flanked, in a matter of this seriousness, by the other two brigade commanders. They stared narrowly at Jiktar Nath Javed. For his part, Nath had little time for Lords.
The hearing was fully recorded by an almost silent Xaffer, who scribbled down his notes in his own particular method from which later he would write up a full report. Guards stood at the doors and windows of the commander's room, a place half office, half duty room, fully armed and armored after the churgur way.
The proceedings began with various witnesses establishing that the strongbox had been full of gold and silver coins, and was now empty. Other witnesses swore they'd seen old Hack 'n' Slay in such and such a place at such and such a time. The evidence bore in remorselessly.
Eventually, Nath Javed bellowed out: "I don't deny I borrowed the cash—"
Copyright © 1985, Kenneth Bulmer.