The brightest star in the Constellation Scorpio is the brilliant double sun Antares, around which orbits the inhabited planet called Kregen. Kregen is an Earthlike world, but strange, far stranger, than ours. For it is the scene of a conflict between galactic powers who utilize its many human nations and its astonishing variety of humanoid peoples as their battleground. Dray Prescot of Earth had been a tool of those powers, but courage and ingenuity had won him a high role in the Vallian Empire and a certain independence of his own. Thus when a mysterious monster cult began to undermine the empire and when his own beloved princess became a victim of those secret schemers, Prescot had to go into action.
Secret Scorpio launches a new cycle in the magnificent history of Kregen and brings Prescot at long last into direct confrontation with the forces that had once dared make him their pawn.
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
One —Black Feathers of the Great Chyyan
A foot scraped in the shadows. Instantly we seven came to a dead halt in the blackness of the alley. Ahead the darkness lowered down as mufflingly as in the alleyway, for massy clouds covered the night sky of Kregen, concealing the glitter of the stars and the radiance of the moons.
My left hand gripped Roybin's shoulder and I could feel the fine tremble as he waited, poised like a wild leem, savage, suspicious, ready to leap out in perfect and deadly silence if that scraping foot heralded a murderous enemy.
In single file we seven stood, half-crouched, stock-still, invisible. The foot scuffed the slimy cobbles again and then the disappearing patter of feet told us that the wayfarer of the night was about his business. Seg's left hand on my shoulder pressed, but in the same instant Roybin moved ahead again. We followed, silently. Behind Seg, Turko the Shield fretted, I knew, that he did not stand at my back, a place he considered his by right. Inch, stooped to bring his great height beneath the evil-smelling brick overhang, prowled after Turko, and our rear was brought up by Young Oby, young and a boy no more, who perforce clasped Inch's belt, and by Balass the Hawk whose dark skin blended perfectly with the shadows.
In single file we stole out from the mouth of the alley, aware of the vanishment of the pressing walls and the feeling of greater space about us. The tiny square lay shrouded about us. Yes, I suppose on reflection, we were a pretty ferocious bunch. I know I would not like to stumble upon such a crew as that on a pitchy night when all manner of deviltries are afoot.
Roybin led. We wereexperienced enough to know when to follow a man who had knowledge of the terrain. This alley led around the back of the fish market in the town of Autonne, on the island of Veliadrin that had lately been Can-Thirda, and our objective lay across the fish-scaled cobbles of the square.
No one spoke. Here, in the pressing darkness before the first of Kregen's seven moons made an appearance, there was no need for words to know what we were about.
Soundlessly we emerged from the mouth of the alleyway, feeling that cloying pressure of pent-up air give way to the freer sense of the square, small though it might be. Water ran between the cobbles and there would be fish scales and heads and tails aplenty strewn about. A scattered rain could not decide whether to cease altogether or to drench down in the long shafting downpour of a Kregan storm.
We inched ahead and cleared a brick buttress, our right hands trailing along the crumbling mortar. A spark of light jumped into life ahead.
We froze instantly.
The light shone from a small lantern set outside an arched gateway closed by a moldering lenken door. That wooden door blended with the decay and dissolution of this tumbledown section of the fish market. In the crazily leaning brick walls stained with the patina of time, in the powdery and splintered timbering, in the gap-tiled roofs queasily lurching at incongruous angles, the archway and door betrayed nothing unusual.
Yet Roybin had certain information so we were here, prowling like wild leem, and the night ahead of us might soon explode with fury and action.
A long running roll of thunder boomed distantly away to the east in the interior of the island.
On the tail of the rumbling echoes Roybin whispered, "Lookouts."
We had expected a sentry. Peering across the darkened square into the isolated pool of radiance shed by the lantern, we made out the forms of three men. An edged weapon caught the light and glittered. They were quiet over there, probably talking desultorily together, resentful at their watch. But they would keep a lookout. All Roybin had told us convinced me that whoever these people were that we intended to spy on this night, they were ruthless and efficient.
For we knew why we were here, creeping like villains along vile, fish-stinking alleyways in Autonne, a city of the western coast of the island of Veliadrin. Veliadrin, of which I was still High Kov, that large island between Vallia and my own wonderful island of Valka, had once been called Can-Thirda. The name had been changed for certain reasons. The island had at one time, in the long ago, been a kingdom, before the Empire of Vallia had obtained the supreme power over all the islands fringing the coasts of the main island of Vallia. Veliadrin was still split into distinct regions. Over on the west coast the people were mostly fisherfolk, given to wild boasting of the old days, not overly rich or well-endowed, but sturdy and resourceful and also, as we had discovered, too prone to superstition.
Oh, yes, we knew why we were here, stalking the shadows like leems.
Rumors and suspicions, malicious gossip and ugly conjectures had at last come together to make a picture that displeased me greatly. That picture spelled evil days ahead if we did not act at once. There are many and varied religions on Kregen, and some are fine and worthy of the utmost effort in a man or woman. And some there are dark and secretive and baleful in their influence.
From the main island of Vallia a new creed was attempting to make a lodgment in Veliadrin. The west coast, a port, a poor and credulous people —the new creed found fertile ground.
Mind you, I knew who must take the full blame.
We had known for some time there were deep stirrings from Vallia, long ground swells of troubles to come, and the emperor was once more a worried man. Many forces, many ambitious men and women, many fanatics, sought to topple him. I had been told that there were far more potential insurrectionists these days than there had been when I had last spoken to the emperor in any privacy and confidence, before my absence on Earth and my adventurings in the inner sea, the Eye of the World.
Copyright © 1977, Kenneth Bulmer.