Fliers of Antares
I picked the Richard Hescox cover to read for this review. Never fear (or perhaps be very afraid), the interior illustrations are still Jack Gaughan's.
We start off with Vangar ti Valkanium piloting Dray's recently acquired voller (courtesy of the expanding and civilized Empire of Hamal), from Huringia to Migladrin. Most of his comrades are there (but not Nath & Zolta). Prescot still feels he is under interdiction to traveling by sea (page 10). I hope this is the last mention of something that simply never was. Get-Onker ! While striking a pensive pose on the rail of this fine voller, the stanchion breaks and Dray is catapulted into the Shrouded Sea. He briefly reflects on whether the Everoinye or Savanti were involved and just as quickly dismisses the thought. Wrongfully so ! Get-Onker ! I firmly believe the Star Lords instigated this incident and thereby greatly affected the future of Paz (see "Legions of Antares"). Being Prescot, he survives and washes up on the shore of the island of Shampo near the village of Podia. It is populated by the lightly furred but sensual (the women) Lamnias. There is mention of an "aephar" damsel from far Balintol. Not capitalized and not described (but apparently very fair indeed ! ) When one of the Lamnia women (Paesi) sees Dray's broad shoulders, she murmurs "Mmmm", in a way Prescot decidedly did not like. My old lips crinkled at this. While recovering from his ordeal he learns that this village (indeed, the whole island) was subject to raids from aragorn. Only the nearby Canops had held them in check (pages 14 & 15). Yet another angle to that old story ... It turns out the slavers are Katakis from the island of Sorah. There Dray is taken after being betrayed to their vile clutches by the helpless Lamnias. Their "Olympics" served a purpose, the weakest and ugliest were offered up to the Katakis as a means to avoid total enslavement. Curiously there were villages of Ochs and Rapas treated in a similar fashion. Naturally there was an Och (not a crone) with "shriveled " limbs.
His fate is to be sold to an agent of Hamal to work in the legendary Heavenly Mines. He sealed his fate by denying any skill with weapons, to avoid being returned to Queen Fahia's tender mercies in the arena of Huringia.
I was amused by Delia's description of Dray, not knowing he heard every word (page 38). She mentions his shoulders, aura, features, power, and temper. All true ! It was the Kataki Notor she spoke to, pretending to be a diseased old man. The crew should not have fallen for this, as a Kataki is, well, a Kataki, evil personified (except for maybe one, see "Krozair of Kregen"). Of course Prescot had some fun with old-fashioned tail-pulling, at Reterhan's expense (pages 35 & 36).
I am surprised, considering what he later helped do in Faol, that Prescot never returned with a fleet to wipe out the home base of the Kataki slavers. After all, he believes that ending slavery is one of the purposes he was originally brought to Kregen, by the Savanti. He realizes that in this, he was only partly right (page 30). Maybe after they ally themselves with the Shanks ...
Peet the Iarvin might be interested in Dray's comments on where Earth is in relation to Kregen (or rather, Sol). On page 28 he feels that Sol is the tip of the sword in the claw of the Zhantil's right paw (constellation of course). First he states that he is quite certain, then back tracks saying perhaps this is not so, but that he prefers to believe it to be true.
And the Katakis swear by Lem (page 31). A further reason for Dray and Pompino to direct a crusade on Sorah !
Considering the possibility of ransom, if his captors ever figured out his identity, he silently lists his areas of rule and influence (page 41). They are : Valka, Can-thirda, Zamra, Delphond, Blue Mountains, Strombor, Clans of Fleschraung & Longuelm, Falinur and the Black Mountains. He left out the Krozairs ...
A possible fate avoided in Sorah was being sold to the Pearl Fisheries of Tancrophor. There a group of Shaslins, otter-like diffs, were sold, to their horror.
Gaughan's illustration on page 47 of a tyryvol with rider is poor and ill defined. Gerawin, Ullar-like diffs guard the Heavenly mines for Hamal, very efficiently too ! In fact Dray calls his experiences in the black marble quarries of Zenicce, a walk in the park compared to this place (page 50). Strong words indeed !
Prescot talks of how The Shrouded Sea is said to be the cradle of civilization in Paz (page 34) and how there were tumbled ruins of long-forgotten empires, artificial features of the landscape (reminds me of the Grand Canal), and the admixtures of blood within the different species and races. And he thinks that Oby has a role to play with the Star Lords (pages 34 & 35). Passing strange, that. Why not Balass or Naghan the Gnat ?
While slaving in Hamal's Heavenly Mines, Prescot is known as # 8281. He is perplexed as to what is being mined and for what purpose. His only clue is the refined rock and the mysterious vein that smelled of squishes (and brought on memories of Inch). Voller related ?
Dray refers to his captors as both Hamalians and Hamalese. While he will continue to use both terms in the saga, the same cannot be said for Vallians and Vallianese. I believe the latter is used only once (much later).
Amazingly, Prescot appears complacent in his captivity. It appears no one has ever escaped the efficient methods of the Hamalese in preventing such escapes. Finally Dray is resolved and as he is about to implement his bold escape by voller, the reddish-brown scorpion appears (much like the one Zheem just sent me ), and informs Prescot that he is needed elsewhere (page 58). He mockingly tells Dray that he would remain on Prescot even in the Heavenly Minds. I believe that this is often used as leverage with this oft-times stubborn onker ! Utilizing another time-loop, he is whisked to Djanduin, but would he have escaped on his own ? I wish the Star Lords had let him do so before effecting his removal in a blue haze. Perhaps this is another topic for fanfiction ? Upon his arrival, Prescot sees no need for his presence and thereby senses "the dangers and difficulties here" (page 61). The Everoinye had goofed and perhaps allowed some fallibility to be seen. Dray will remember this ... He wonders where on Kregen he is and briefly thinks of Schan (calls it the 3 remaining continents). Says he had no "reliable information of value" and that "this continental grouping was foreign and strange beyond the understanding of ordinary men and women" (of Paz). I wonder what info at all was available, if not reliable ?
After dispelling the notion of "the treacherous whisper" that he could be dreaming and still in the mines, the Star Lords correct their mistake and thereby hangs a tale. That of Dray Prescot ascending the faerling throne of the Djangs (or Dwadjangs) and Obdjangs. I like when Dray "perks up", such as when he spots a blackened and crow assaulted corpse hanging in the breeze of an otherwise calm scene (the Everoinye had goofed yet again, before getting it right).
Finally he sees "diffs" attacking an inn (page 63). I believe this is the first time the term "diffs" is used. Odd that it would be utilized for Djangs, one the most apim-like of the lot. "Apim" is used on page 65.
Prescot rescues Pallan Ortyg Fellin Coper (a gerbil-faced Obdjang) and his wife Sinkie from a marauding band of Djangs under the leadership of Kov Nath Jagdur of Hyr Khor. In fact their initial battle (pages 66-70) is a superb one and oft forgotten due to Mafto the Kazzur ! It is a draw and doesn't that say a lot of this Kov ? Plus, he wants to slay every Obdjang and apim in Djanduin ! I wonder what the state of affairs in Nath's Kovnate was during his rebellion ? The country is situated in the extreme southwest of Havilfat. The Yawfi Suth and Wendwath (boggy, foggy, and treacherous), separate Djanduin from their hereditary enemies, the Gorgrens and their empire. Further in the country, the Mountains of Mirth act as a boundary to invaders. The very name of Djanduin, strikes a "responsive chord" in Prescot (pages 67 & 68). Really ? When pressed for a name, he thinks and says, The Lord of Strombor.
At least Dray has learned not to be boorish and with-holds such remarks as "believe it" and "I thought you witnessed that" (a reference to his recent battle with Kov Nath). And dear friend Rapechak is remembered, as his island home is not too distant (page 76). Then Dray goes into an in depth description of southwest Havilfar. This turns out to be my favorite of continents. It is so huge with so much going on !
Sinkie is a delight. I think Ken had a smile on his face when he created this remarkable lady. Witness her tearful outbursts on pages 78 & 80. The second of these made Dray's lips rick up and thought that "these two were likely to make him laugh before he realized". Sinkie is prone to shrieking in horror and waving a perfumed handkerchief when Coper swore or Dray looked stern. But when things looked grim, this was one brave lady !
Shortly thereafter, Prescot learns he has ten years to wait for his reunion with Delia and company. What to do ? How about wrestling nude with a beautiful and oiled female Djang and not get an erection ! see the illustration on page 90. The Lady Lara despite setting her sites on Dray, does not take advantage of these bouts. Dray seems totally at ease here. Then the revolutions start (chapter 8) and the utter ruination of Djanduin ensues ! Eventually Dray decides to take the faerling throne (what an incredible name), for himself (pages 102, 108, & 118). He is aided by Kytun Kholin Dorn, Kov of Utter Djombey, who is calling Prescot "Dray" by page 120.
The difference between flier (voller)and flyer (one who rides a winged creature), is discussed (page 94) and Prescot's views on justice and revenge (page 100). These were to be tested often ! Justice, of a suitable kind, usually satisfies him ... Dopa is a drink (page 104) and the difference between rasts, hulus and onkers is made (pages 105 & 105). A hulu is more evil than an onker but not nearly as bad as a rast (another great term ! ) And Prescot actually chuckles (page 105), when Lara calls him a hairy graint.
So, are the Gorgrens diff or apim ? We don't know, but they are called "nasty brutes" (page 110). Nothing conclusive, but ...
A secondary character but one I like, Chan of the Wings makes his initial appearance (pages 116 & 117). He is respected by Prescot and features in his ascension to the faerling throne.
On page 122 Dray cracked me up. Coper has contacted him and told of starvation and disaster in the capital of Djanguraj. Prescot realizes he has to make up his mind. He prevaricated ! But then, that naughty Nath takes the throne and "the apim with the yrium" is forced to march.
During these campaigns, there is much misery in Djanduin. One graphic example is the incident involving the gang-rape and murder of a farmer's wife and 3 daughters (page 124). My mind cannot conceive of such barbarity and the emotions felt by that man. Thankfully Prescot does not dwell on this and remarks how Wil the Bellow (not Naghan the Gnat) has helped him create a pseudo Krozair longsword out of Kov Nath's own (dropped in the battle by the inn).
The relationship between Dwadjang and Objang can be comical at times. On page 128 the Djang Nath ti Jondaria hauls Ortyg Coper by the scruff of the neck and informs Prescot "Here, Notor, is the Pallan as you ordered" !
It takes Prescot 7 years to claim the throne of Djanduin and it all comes down to a rematch with Kov Nath, in the sacred court. The prize ? The faerling throne ! Both wear scarlet breechlouts and the battle is joined (pages 131-141). The Gaughan illustration on page 134 is pretty effective in showing the two combatants and the gods looking down. It is a savage fight and one that Prescot ranks up with 3 previous : shorgortz (Prince), boloth (Arena), and ullgishoa (Warrior). Up until this point, Nath has been his toughest opponent (human, anyways). But prevail he does and picks up the Kov's Kovnate to boot. He is then killed by one of his own men. A pity as I too saw something of value in him.
After becoming King, Dray reflects on freeing Herreldrin from the Gorgren yoke (but never does more than that), visits the Kharroi Stones (pages 142 & 143), and fends off the Lady Lara. It looks like Kyton Dorn could get hitched to a certain Felder Midner. we'll see. And the symbol of the Omber is seen all over Djanduin.
When the ten years are up and the country is back on its feet, Dray appoints Ortyg Coper as regant anf Kytun Dorn to run the army. After, it's time to return to Delia, isn't it ?
The Star Lords want Prescot for one more year. During his talk with the Gdoinye, Dray remembers Xoltemb of Xuntal (page 148) and how he saw the Gdoinye (Transit). Curious that. How does that caravan master fit into the Star Lords plans ? Anyways, the Everoinye want Dray to discover the secrets of Hamal's voller production. Since this dovetails with Prescot's own desires, he is not too unhappy. To this end he is sent to the town of Orlosh in the Kingdom of Pwenta, within the Empire of Hamal (chapter 14). There he helps divert the course of the lava flows from the erupting volcano of Muruaaa. While doing so, he befriends Avev Brand and Ilter Monicep, an uncle and nephew team. Great rogues ! Avec even gets away with calling Prescot Dray on page 164. Is he lowering his standards ? A rather boring illustration on page 164, portrays the escape of Prescot from Orlosh via mirvol, with his two newfound friends.
An Elton is revealed to be 2 positions below a Strom (page 155). I think most (but not all) ranks of nobility have been covered by now.
Following their escape, Dray dwells on the geography of Hamal's empire (page 166). And very well done it is. All areas eventually come into play.
Those horse-like Amith even pit in an appearance. As stated before, they could be the original inhabitants of Hamal. Then there was the incident of Dray and the shonages (page 174). After finding out that Avec builds vollers, Prescot falls face first into the fruit. He has a habit of doing this and I smile every time ! So, he labors in the voller factory of Sumbakir and learns some things. It appears that he is ignorant of Balintol's voller capabilities at this time, as he lumps the sub-continent with Vallia and Zenicce as the major customers of Hamal and Hyrklana, for vollers.
Then comes another gap in the tapes, but not a large one it seems. This is mentioned in a foot note on page 176 but actually occurs between chapters 15 & 16.
While trying to pry Sumbakir's secrets, the Lady Esme attempts to seduce Prescot and after being chained by Dray, is slain by a mistreated slave girl with a heaving bosom (the best kind). It is Floy and she may have gotten off sexually with her act. He reflects on the many women who have likewise attempted the same (page 187), but noticeably leaves Mayfwy out ! Esme is the wife of Ornol ham Feoste, Kov of Apulad. He believes that Chaadur (Dray's use-name) is the murderer of his wife. He is quite talented in the swearing of vengeance and dire predictions of punishment. Thankfully, Ken remembers this trait when the Kov reappears in "Armada". We are also told of the classes in Hamal that make up the bulk of its workforce : guls and clums. More on them later as they become more important (see Legions).
Prescot's views on glasses are revealed on page 185. While recognizing (begrudgingly methinks), that various drinks need different glasses, he despises stemmed types. Boy, he's (Ken), got a view on many things !
A rather kinky thought is when Dray spots a pornographic rug featuring naughtiness between a chunkrah and a Fristle (page 188). Is nothing sacred ?
The ivory of both Chem and northern Havilfar is discussed (page 191), with the whiter and coarser coming from the latter. Chail Sheom are mentioned for the first time (page 192) and the unique qualities of Ifilion and its independence discussed next.
Previous run-ins with Hamal are noted as among the most recent of missing tapes and Prescot's escape from Sumbakir via voller is shown on the illustration opposite the title page. So-so. With him are some of the silver boxes ...
The last few pages deal with Prescot closing the time gap and ultimately returning to Delia and friends in their voller over the Shrouded Sea. It is particularly well written ! This leads to a very happy ending for "Fliers of Antares", but Dray's attempts to unravel Hamal's secrets have just begun ! The Havilfar Cycle will continue ...
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