Krozair of Kregen
The very first thing I notice is the cover art by our old friend Josh Kirby (from the Delian Cycle). Oidrictzhn the Abominable reaches out for Dray and the rescued sacrifice (page 110). I liked this cover and the way oranges and reds were utilized. The doma is pretty hot (aren't they all)?
I love the way the blurb begins on the back cover: "AVENGER OF SCORPIO: Never before in his fantastic career on Kregen, planet of the twin suns of Antares, had Dray Prescot been in such a desperate predicament." I mean, now the reader simply must read the book, to see what's up!
In the prologue Alan Burt Akers mentions that the next cycle (the Vallian) will begin with "Savage Scorpio." Wrong! It's "Secret Scorpio"; "Savage Scorpio" follows second in the cycle.
Dray begins this book being escorted by the Overlords of Magdag to the "Green Magodont", where he will become an oar slave, yet again. Despite his terrible loss of Velia, Prescot is not above having a little fun en route and causes a mini-riot with his dexterous use of chains. Dray recounts: " We rounded the corner of the warehouse in full cry, a crazy fugitive mob of men chained together."
The fun doesn't last long and soon enough Dray is chained. For oar comrades there are: Rukker a mercenary and noble-born Kataki and Fazhan ti Rozilloi of Zairia. There is almost immediate strife in the quest for supremacy (such as could exist).
After Prescot saves Rukker from a lashing, Rukker responds (and not for the last time) "It would be best if you did not mention it again."(page 22).
Dray is intrigued by this Kataki. He is not a slaver but a paktun out of Urntakkar, near the Sea of Onyx. He had never heard of Morcray (page 29). So, that den of evil is not a Pazzian headquarters of sorts. More regional I would guess.
And Duhrra returns (pages 30 & 31) in spectacular fashion, with young Vax, who simply foams at the mention of his father. Yep, Dray does it yet again! So now they all slave at the oars and eat together. Dray is minded of one Zorg and an onion or two once shared (page 34). Duhrra is filled in on the death of the Lady of the Stars but does not know the true turmoil suffered by Dray and the why of it. But he will later, as will Delia.
Duhrra of the Says fills Dray in on events since their separation. Of chief interest is the fact that Zena Iztar appeared and outfitted the Zairian amputee with a superb steel hand. Prescot wonders if this is done for himself or for Duhrra. I think Zena did it to make sure Dray was able to lead the oar-slave revolt on the "Green Magodont." For coupled with his enormous strength, the steel fingers prove useful indeed in snapping a chain link (page 42). This simple act results ultimately in the Red taking over the 3 Green ships in this squadron.
Both Prescot and Rukker vie for leadership in the aftermath. During the ensuing battle, both Duhrra and Vax talk of their fathers. Dray does not talk, but does reflect on his father's death. On page 57 he says specifically, "My father had died of a scorpion sting, back on Earth." This is important because that fact was not made clear as described originally in "Transit."
A pretty bad illustration appears on page 62. Josh Kirby shows Prescot smashing a glass enclosure to get at the Green Captain's Krozair longsword, kept as a trophy. The sword looks about as long as Dray is tall. How tall is that? Let's go with six feet.
The illo is very busy, but better busy than none at all (like in later books). And now the real battle for supremacy begins and the bonds between Vax, Duhrra, and Dray grow apace.
Dray does bring up an interesting fact: he is "working in collaboration with Katakis." Truly, who would have ever thought? As far as I recall, this is the first and last time this happens. But, even stranger, is Prescot's alliance with some Shanks, in "Shadows Over Kregen."
I would have thought that by page 67 when Vax expresses an interest to follow Dray and Duhrra to Magdag, in search of his sister, that Prescot would have figured it out. But no! Not until Vax is drunk on dopa and reveals his father's identity (and his) does Dray discover the truth (page 69). And Dayra too is soon understood to be Jaidur's twin. For Delia was pregnant again (the minx) with twins, when Dray was banished to Earth for 21 miserable years. The precise age of the first two sets of twins, at the time of the aforementioned exile, is as follows (page 73): Drak and Lela 14 - Segnik (now Zeg) and Velia 3.
To prevent Jaidur from venturing to Magdag, Dray joins Rukker with the rencers of the Inner Sea. Naturally, at times his thoughts turn to Viridia (page 74). Prescot does not reveal his identity to Jaidur for many reasons and one is the possibility that his son might be a better swordsman and slay him. He then states that: "I share nothing of this silly desire to call oneself the greatest swordsman of the world-- or, in my case, of two worlds. That way lies not only paranoia, but a mere killing machine without interest or suspense. Each fight is a new roll of the dice with death, a gamble of life and death." (page 72).
What Dray does do is tell Jaidur that the Lady of the Stars was Velia and Jaidur knowing she was dead (from Duhrra) is shattered but recovers in time. A bold and canny move by Prescot and still keeps his identity intact (page 73). As Jaidur weeps and runs off at news of his sister's death, Dray thinks to himself (and I can't explain but I found this funny): "This was not my idea of family life." (page 73).
Curiously, at the end of chapter 6, Jaidur sees the Gdoinye and Duhrra does not. The curious part is that Dray once again denies it is there. Why does he do this? Does he think no one else is capable of handling the sighting of the Star Lords messenger?
Dray sort of jumps ahead to when he is recording his adventures on tape and states "The truth is that I have done a great deal on Kregen to lessen the incidence of skull-bashing and blood thirsty fighting in these latter days." (page 79). One wonders just what exactly is the situation on Kregen like, as Prescot records in the 1970's. Naturally I think in particular of the Paz/Schan conflict.
The first inkling of the future plot that many people think Dray a manufactured hero and in reality a phoney, appears on page 79 when Jaidur refers to his father's exploits against the Bloody Menahem as actually done by his friends. I would have thought that Delia, Inch, Turko, and Seg would have made sure that Dray's children were aware that his reputation as a warrior/hero was well earned.
On still the same page, Dray talks of Pugnarses the oar-master of his ship the "Crimson Magodont." I would think this would cause him to think of his slave comrade in Magdag, from "Suns." But no, Pugnarses, Genal, and long-legged Holly are never mentioned again.
As his crew prepares to board a Menaham argenter, Jaidur is set on being among the first, with the prijikers. When Dray shouts "No!" he is shocked by it but couldn't stop himself. His son turns back from running off to the fray and glowers at Dray saying "No? I am a fighting-man. I am--I was nearly-- What do you mean, Dak; no?" Prescot backs off thinking: " Can any father thus shield his son from reality and expect to produce a man?"
A few pages later Duhrra warns Jaidur to show more caution or he will get himself spitted. Vax replies "Should I care, Duhrra?" Dray reflects "When my son said those words I felt the hand of ice clench around my heart."
Then it is off for Zandikar, for Jaidur wants to see a certain lady. Rukker is happy to go along for aways, on his route back to the Sea of Onyx, where "with his treasure he can alter certain events at home." Hmm. I would have like to learn of his efforts in this regard.
While voyaging to Zandikar, Dray talks of the area they pass through and these two sentences are very image evoking: "So we sailed past those mist-swathed coasts of mystery. The Eye of the World contains many areas that remain unknown, shores of faerie and romance, as well as shores of danger and horror."(page 86). It seems the Sunset People had dwelt in Vallia and Havilfar (at least), but that the Eye of the World seems to have been their primary area of concentration. More ruins and of course the Dam of Days. On page 89 Dray states" Once upon a time--or, as Kregans say, under a certain moon--this land had been lush and fertile, filled with the busy agriculture and commerce of the People of the Sunset. Now they had gone, and the land gleamed sere and empty under the moons."
In one of the more comical scenes of the Krozair Cycle (indeed any cycle), Rukker attempts to flee with all the treasure, by a ruse. He ends up with a becalmed swifter caught on the fangs of rocks. Poor seamanship, that! Naturally he will not speak of it ever and a good sense of humor saves the factions from coming to blows over the incident. In fact Dray comments "We were after all, a bunch of daredevil renders, comrades in arms, for the time being. Tricks like this must be expected in such company." (pages 89 & 90).
Following this unfortunate incident the renders throw a sort of party and much singing is done. Prescot is aware of how well the assorted apims and diffs are getting along, which is not usually the case in Zairia. There are very few diffs on the south shore of the Inner Sea and the Red were "contemptuous and intolerant of diffs." Perhaps it is here, in the Eye of the World, that the conflict between the Everoinye and Savanti must be resolved. During the festivities, a Gon starts to sing "Of the Abominations of Oidrictzhn." And then all hell breaks loose!
Imagine the horror Dray must have felt when Jaidur engaged in his duel or Jikardur with Athgar the Neemu, a Kataki. But Vax prevails, possibly due to the teachings of Planath-Pe-Na, the Pachak standard bearer of Prescot. The tail is severed and sizzles in the campfire before a throat stroke ends all for the worshipper of Targ.
It was King Genod that initiated the Ghittawrer Brotherhood (page 98), copying much of the Krozairs. Therefore I am a little surprised at the reaction Dray received from the Grodnim mercenaries in Magdag when they saw his Ghittawrer longsword. I would not think the mystique to have such a hold, so soon.
Two references to the parting of ways between Grodno and Zair are made (pages 98 & 102): "These were rooted in a time before Zair and Grodno parted into enmity." and "It (Oidrictzhn) is old, older than anyone knows. Long before Zair and Grodno, whose name be cursed, separated out of--." I find it interesting that the current population of the Inner Sea are aware of the one-time unity of both shores. I think the story of the schism need be told one day ...
Then there is the Beast Out of Time. He originally ruled as a god before "the true light of Zair had risen in the land." (page 102). That sounds pretty long ago! I wonder at the origins of a creature such as Oidrictzhn the Abominable. Do his supernatural powers make him a god or demon? Just exactly how had he been driven away and to what fate? How did the simple peasants of this tiny island resurrect him and further, how did they know where to find him? If not deprived of his ritual sacrifice (young virgin maiden of course), would he have protected the natives from the advancing Grodnim? Why did he abandon his return to "life", despite the virgin being snatched? He'd "waited" eons for resurrection and should have been eager to explore this strange new world and perhaps reestablish his hegemony of the area and avenge himself on both Grodno and Zair. The cover art by Josh Kirby accurately describes the scene from page 107. I can't imagine a shishi like this maid still being a virgin. And how does she know that a touch from Ozzie's talon-like fingers will cause death?
At least Zena supplied some indirect aid (page 109) to help Dray overcome his paralysis, via her color (colors are important) of yellow. At any rate, Ozzie declares he will return to his "Abominations from whence he came." Hmmm...And Rukker was the only man that stayed behind for Dray. No lack of courage for sure (page 111). On the morrow, the voyage down the Shadow Coast, towards Zandikar continues.
Rukker is in turn tricked when he finally parts from Dray's crew. He has only his due portion of the treasure, the balance having been replaced with stone for ballast. One wishes to have been a fly on the wall when the whiptail discovers the ruse. Surely he would not want to discuss it any further! Rukker uttered words to that effect nine times throughout his tenure with Prescot.
Continuing onto Zandikar they fall in with another swifter of the Red and learn that Prince Glycas and his armies have leap-frogged past Zy and other cities to lay siege to Zandikar. Were that city to fall, Zimuzz and Holy Sanurkazz itself would be sure to follow. There is no hope for relief, but Dray fights his way into the harbor of Zandikar and discovers that a paktun and his 300 troops have murdered King Zinna and set up shop. They oversee a reign of terror within the city and plan to open the gates to Glycas when the opportunity presents itself (pages 114 & 115).
There are Todalpheme within Zandikar's harbor (page 125) and this makes me wonder what type of place needs such men. How plentiful are they and what gods do they worship, if not Zair or Grodno?
It turns out that the lady Jaidur wanted to see was the girlfriend of his brother Pur Zeg, Lady Miam (page 138). Together, with their respective cohorts, plans are made to depose the rast King Zenno. The plan works so easily that Dray suspects Zena could have smoothed the way. Could the fact that Soothe hung brightly in the night (page 140) have anything to do with this exalted and powerful being? Soon enough Lady Miam is proclaimed Queen. She was the great-granddaughter of the deposed King Zinna.
Then Dray sets out to arrange the defenses of Zandikar to his satisfaction just prior to the first of many assaults.
And so the Siege of Zandikar continues. Dray claims it was not one of note, because the people did not starve. Yet he admits to the overwhelming odds arrayed against the Red, by Prince Glycas. In addition, if Zandikar were to fall, the Grodnim juggernaut would roll on down the southern shore until all traces of the Red were obliterated or enslaved. It is very emotional to imagine the fate of a major city like Zandikar, in the event of a sack. I suppose that the White of Proconia (Pattelonia?) would eventually follow, if the Green triumphed totally over Zairia.
The Savanti become involved when the Savapim, Irwin W. Emerson Jr. (late of Earth), saves the day. There is no sign of the dove so I don't think those of Aphrasoe are aware that Prescot is present in Zandikar. Speaking definitively, Dray states " I decided then that the Savanti were definitely fighting on the side of Zairia against Grodnim." (page 148). On this same page, Soothe appears as a "lampent blue spark."
Josh Kirby does his usual messy illustration on page 155. It portrays the Overlords (though they actually look like Chulik mercenaries), smashing their way into a deadly trap. The picture just looks too busy for my taste. I do believe there is a reason for this, as explained by Kirby. Perhaps it was Korf Aighos (Phil Burger) who originally brought this up?
One highlight of note was that one of Dray's lieutenants earned the coveted z by becoming pur Nazhan (was Naghan). It was his efforts with a small squadron of swifters in the harbor that helped this Krozair attain the z (page 156).
Two pages later Dray eyes a newly arrived Krozair, Pur Trazhan, and note "the coruscating device on his white surcoat, that hubless spoked wheel within the circle." Could this be similar to or related to that cogwheel jeweled device sported by Zena Iztar? At any rate, Trazhan brings news that an aerial fleet from Vallia will soon arrive to relieve Zandikar, after first doing so at Zimuzz. It was in this manner that (with permission), Drak answered the Azhurad. This makes me believe that Dray had to have just missed the Call, when he returned after 21 miserable years of banishment. I further think that Zena allowed this on purpose, as part of her plans for Prescot. If so, she is a kleesh and indirectly responsible for the tragic death of Velia!
The scene shown by Kirby opposite the title page is from page 162. This time Glycas uses turiloths in his assault on Zandikar's gates, to no avail. But the beasts do allow Dray to ponder their similarity to the boloths of Havilfar and in particular to the one that tried to kill the nude Delia in Huringia ("Arena of Antares"). Again, to no avail ... (pages 162 & 165). And then it happens. The King and his latest armada of Hamalese vollers arrive (page 167) and the doom of Zandikar seems certain!
Just as Dray had made his thoughts on the Savanti supporting the Red known, he does likewise with the Everoinye. On page 168 he states " in this internecine war of the Inner Sea they backed the Greens." And then, on pages 168 & 169 the identity of Pakkad (as I described from the glossary) is given. Further, the tormentor of this legendary man, Mitronoton the Destroyer of Cities, is remarked on. Dray says he will "meet a latter-day incarnation, as we shall hear, during the Time of Troubles." I'm not sure which of the plethora of villains Dray is referring to. Also, I'm still unclear why Pakkad's name is among the first audible words Dray utters in his new batch of tapes.
Devising a new plan Prescot flees Zandikar and runs into his son Pur Zeg while doing so (page 174). When he brandishes his sword, Dray thinks that he "knew more tricks than even the Krozairs teach." This is curious. Is it a reference to what he has learned as a bladesman in Zenicce and Hamal, as well as what he learned from the Savanti, Clansmen, and Djangs? I do understand that he takes his sword skills to an even higher level in the Balintol Cycle.
A humorous scene appears on page 176 when Dray refers to Zeg's crew as a "bunch of chattering Krozairs." As that was not enough, on the following page Prescot questions Zeg on whether he was referring to losing his tongue or head or both. "Did you not receive proper tuition in Kregish?" He sure knows how to push Zeg's buttons!
On a more serious note he remembers Zeg's swifter, the "Golden Chavonth" when he had sailed with Gafard and how well he had attacked the Green squadron. And he wants to know, how did his son win the coveted z ? Too, he knows that Zeg is more steeped in the Krozair mystique than Drak, having been molded by them far longer.
Bidding a tense remberee, Dray makes his way to the main Grodnim encampment and is promptly welcomed by Grogor, who accepts his hasty excuse of remittance. Then it is on to Gafard and the King. Prescot is a renegade of Kregen once more!
Again Dray relates to the swods. In this case, Grodnim. He states "I would joy to go into action with them against the hated Shanks." (page 181). Prince Glycas (prince of what I wonder) appears for the first time since "Suns." (page 182). He and Gafard vie for the King's attention and when both try to accompany Genod into his voller, they say, "Prince cramph" and "gernu, you rast." (page 185). Ah, the Great Ones of the world...
Finally Prescot ends their spat by hijacking the voller, with both Gafard and Genod aboard. Glycas lives to fight another day, and indeed does just that!
On page 188, Prescot's real identity is figured out and both Grodnim freak out, each according to their own lights. After Dray gains the upper hand in short sword fighting with the King, he tells the Sea Zhentil of how Genod murdered Velia. During this exchange the Gdoinye attacks the Savanti's dove. Things are getting very serious now! Another poor Kirby illustration on page 192 shows the scene when Gafard and Genod battle aboard the voller. Ultimately they both tumble overboard, in a death embrace, to splash down in Zandikar's central square, with Genod getting the worst of it (physically). Landing shortly afterwards, Dray bids Jaidur and Zeg to view Gafard's body, for obvious (though not then to them) reasons.
For this Hai Jikai, Queen Miam gives Prescot the z and is now known as Zadak. At one time he was called Zadray but never used that name much.
Despite the deaths of Genod and Gafard, Prince Glycas forges ahead and commences a final overwhelming attack against Zandikar (page 196).
The rast Prince Glycas throws his force of vollers at Zandikar and only the arrival of Prince Drak (page 196) prevents the fall of the city. Still, the odds are almost two to one or 90 vollers to 50.
Finally the Grodnim smash their way through a gate and regroup for the vaunted phalanx to overpower all. As they awaited the final assault Dray reflects "So, for a tiny space, we stood there, Drak, Zeg, and Jaidur--for that was Vax's name. We stood there, three sons who did not know their hated father stood with them in the final hour, and I, that same father who had so failed his sons." (page 200).
So, they brace for the final throw of the dice from the cramph Glycas, as needs he must, for his army is starving. It is now or never as the phalanx moved forward. And then, then, salvation! As shown on page 201, Dray's comrades arrive in huge vollers to save the day. One lands smack dab in the carnage racked gate that was smashed to pieces and in turn the Valkan Archers cut the phalanx to ribbons while other fliers and flyers finished the job (pages 202and 203.) Seeing this, Dray observes "My three sons were gabbling away together, and Miam clasped Zeg, and I turned away, for even Duhrra stood by Vax. I heard what was said, Drak dominating all." Drak exclaims "We have been saved by warriors from my own country. See the flags, the Vallian, the Valkan. And yet, Old Superb--our father's flag. That has not been flown for many years."
Soon Dray's comrades disembark. "They were all there. It seemed to me they were all there. I swallowed down, hard. By God! In that moment--in that glorious moment--I relished as seldom I relished the mingled sunshine of Kregen, the heady intoxicating air, and the deep sure knowledge of friendship I do not deserve, but which has blessed me on the planet four hundred light-years from the world of my birth."
"So the crowd around Queen Miam waited and the three princes of Vallia stepped forth proudly in this moment of victory. I stood a little to one side of them, in the random shadow of a tower, and I, too, savored the moment of victory. But more than that I savored, I luxuriated in, I stared devouringly at she who walked at the head of all my friends. Slender, lissome, superb, clad in russet hunting leathers, with the brave old scarlet sash about her. Her long brown hair free about her shoulders with the suns casting gorgeous auburn highlights in that lush profusion of beauty, she walked in light, glorious, glorious..."
"Drak and Zeg and Vax who was Jaidur took another step forward. They held out their arms in welcome. I stood to the side and watched. Her three sons welcomed her, and they called "Mother!" Drak, and Zeg and Jaidur, happy, laughing, calling "Mother!"
"She lifted her own arms. She was smiling and I felt myself trembling, felt the choke, the ache in my throat."
"Mother called the three brothers and held out there arms."
"She held out her own and began to run because she could not hold back any longer. ... She was a woman and her heart, like mine, was bursting. Straight toward her three sons she ran. I stood to the rear of them and to the side, in the shadows, and I felt all the crushing weight of twenty-one years pressing down on me. Directly toward the outstretched arms of those three stalwart young men ran their mother and they broke toward her in filial love."
"Straight past them she ran. Past their outstretched arms, past the welcoming smiling faces, past the three of them, and so I stood forth. And she threw herself in my arms and I held her close, close, and I could not see anything in the whole world of Kregen but my Delia."
I kid you not when I say that my eyes welled when I read these passages and also when I transcribed them. I shed tears of joy that were sorely needed after the teats of sorrow when Velia died. Ken Bulmer did this to me. I believe that pages 204 and 205 are perhaps the best in the entire saga. In particular "And so I stood forth" is the greatest phrase in the series. And so Dray Prescot performs his Hai Jikai and heads to Zy for his showdown with Archbold Kazz. But it is to Ken Bulmer that I give the Hai Rikai. For writing as great a book as I have ever had the honor of reading! Hai Rikai! Hai Rikai!
The last chapter (# 21 of "Krozair") is almost anti-climatic, but there are instances worthy of notice and comment in these last seven pages. And so I will do so.
The very first paragraph is funny as all hell. "My father! That insolent rast my father! The hyr Jikai Zadak my father!" The boys were dumfounded.
I guess I didn't catch on when the scene took place in "Tides", but apparently when Delia visited Dray in his stinking cell, it was a conjugal one. Hence the birth of Velia, who was not a replacement for the Lady of the Stars. Or so Prescot maintains. I believe she was a replacement.
Delia views the visage of Gafard as well as her three sons. Later his portrait will hang in Vallia as a family member, which indeed he was.
The troop of comrades head to Zy where Dray is to be judged again by his peers. Before Archbold Kazz begins, Dray talks with a rejuvenated Pur Zenkiren. Dray is shocked to learn that Zena Iztar has paid the Krozair a visit and somehow convinced him of Dray's innocence in not answering the Azhurad. She told him she works for Zair (page 208).
And then comes judgement time. I was less than pleased to see Prescot goading the Archbold into madness and ultimately death by a stroke. The man deserved better and had only pronounced a doom on Prescot that any Archbold, including Zenkiren, would have been forced to do. Albeit, probably with a more zest and hatred than was necessary.
So Pur Kazz dies at the side of the Ombor Throne, a Krozair to the last. Very conveniently Zenkiren replaces him and Jaidur is sworn in as well. All nice and tidy I suppose.
Dray grouses that Jaidur was not named for Inch, as Zeg had been for Seg. But Inch is only a use-name. Jaidur is also a use-name. This is all well and good but I don't recall any special closeness later of the two, no Uncle Inch or such term of devotion.
Dray tells Zenkiren that he will be the second person on Kregen to know his true origin, after Delia of course. Actually it turns out (rightfully) to be Seg who garners that offer, much later in "Fires of Scorpio." In fact Dray does not Tell Delia, until events related in "Golden Scorpio", despite the fact that Dray promised her he would when they returned to Valka, in safety (page 211).
Delia fills Dray in on Lela and Dayra (SoR business) and Grogor, who was captured (of course) will be made to lead Dray and Delia to Magdag, where Didi unknowingly awaits succor. I bet that was a tale in itself!
Word of Seg and Inch and of their rush to the Eye of the World, ensue and then Dray thinks he sees a hint of blue. I do believe that nothing comes of this and that Dray had the wrong of it, thankfully.
A ten page glossary ends the book and there I see that King Genod did indeed found the Ghittawrers of Genod. The earlier reference to a long dead brethren must have been included by mistake. And what of Prince Glycas?
The map of the Eye of the World is the last to appear in a DAW edition and it is a good one, showing most everything.
HTML formatting and very mild editing by: Jaidur and firstname.lastname@example.org
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