The very first thing that strikes me about "Savage Scorpio" is the cover art of Josh Kirby. Normally I'm no fan of his (especially interior work), but this particular cover has redeemed him. He portrays the scene on page 33 and does it well. It looks like Dray, Inch and perhaps Seg, see Zena who exhorts them and the brotherhood on, in their seemingly doomed battle with the Shanks. Obviously Josh read the book as he accurately shows the ruins (what ruins though) in the background, atop a hillock. I love the way the wind (caused by Zena's presence?) is whipping the hair of our awestruck comrades. Zena herself is magnificent (such a pretty face), but her zorca is much too colorful for my taste.
Going to the back cover, I am immediately hooked because the writing there focuses on Prescot's renewal of his oft put off search for Aphrasoe. And the reason for it? The Emperor is at death's door, laid low by conspirators. Then it's time to open the front cover and then I'm greeted with a page of some action within, entitled Secrets beyond Secrets." Again it deals with one of the most interesting aspects of the saga thus far, Dray debating on when to tell Delia and his comrades of his Earthly origin. So I know this favorite topic of mine will come up again during "Savage Scorpio."
Unfortunately the illustration opposite the title page is a typical one by Josh Kirby. The black lines in it just seem to run together creating a rather poor portrayal of Dray, a voller and a mounted flyer.
Lastly, before the story proper, I like the way that opposite the table of contents (20 chapters and 191 pages), it is stated that "SAVAGE SCORPIO is the16th novel in the Saga of Dray Prescot and the 2nd novel in the Vallian Cycle."
The book begins at the Fair of Arial on the island of Nikzm in the Czarin Sea off the coast of Vallia. Dray and friends are using the fair to mask their gathering to cement the new Brotherhood recently created. Or so it seems. Accompanying Prescot are: Seg, Inch, Turko, Balass, Oby, Tom Tomor ti Vulheim and Vangar ti Valkanium. As events progress at the fair it is seen that a couple of young hulus are causing a distraction among the adults. Of all those they accost, it seems that only one woman understands and staggers away in horror (page 11) and causing a tent to collapse. Confusion follows but not until the two rascals run near Dray and Turko and the true threat is understood. Katakis! Whip-Tails in force over at Briar's Cove. Dray instantly sees this as a job for the Brotherhood and he organizes their ride to confront the slavers. Arriving near the cove they find the raiders, all 175 of them, very dead ...
Among those gazing down on the dead Katakis is Tarek Dredd Pyvorr, the son of Dolan Pyvorr, the Chief Elder of the island and a Khibil paktun. But it is the Archbold of the fledgling Brotherhood that firsts realizes just what foe it was that had so decimated these mighty warriors, Seg Segutorio. Naturally it is through his study of the barbed shafts imbedded in the dead raiders that tell the story, Shanks! But why no dead Shanks? Particularly since Dray says the Katakis had fought hard. Did the Fish-heads retrieve their dead? Dray calls these reivers from the far hemisphere of Kregen (not yet called Schan), Shants or Shtarkins. I believe the last usage is erroneous as Shtarkins are distinctly shown to be allied Snake-heads, in "Tides of Kregen." The locals call them Shkanes.
As the young Tim plunders the dead and Dray looks on, he winces at the positioning of a dagger by the energetic lad. "I winced. He could do himself a permanent and most unfortunate injury if he were injudicious" (page 20). Yes, my lips curled at Dray's acute observation.
At Briar's Cove the Shanks emerge from the nearby forest and give battle. They outman the Brotherhood by a two to one margin and usually can win a battle when these odds are reversed. Thankfully this was not so today and latter at the Battle of the Burning Vosk in Hamal ("Allies of Antares.") This small but epic battle at Briar's Cove lasted from pages 24-36 and was a bloody and desperate affair indeed! The Brotherhood was mounted on Zorcas and took turns charging the Shkane infantry. But after each rush, there were fewer defenders of Nikzm. The Shants lost deeply as well but were numerically able to absorb such losses.
During the battle Dray notes that the Leem-Lovers had a variety of fish species (no specifics mentioned) and bled green (pages 25 & 35). The little ruin atop the hillock is seen on page 26. Of Savanti origin perhaps?
The casualties keep mounting and the first signs of wavering begin.
Despite Dray's pep talk, about how the populace of the island will be killed or enslaved,
the feeling of doom mounts. Seeing their indecision, the Shanks attack, mounted on the
sleeths they had taken from the Katakis (see the awful illustration on page 29). The end
seems near and certain. Dray calls on his
Dray and his friends turn to charge the advancing Shanks when Zena Iztar appears before all the Brotherhood (but not the Shants). From pages 33-35 she rallies the men on and more or less takes over the order of chivalry, declaring herself sacrosanct. But curiously, she orders the men to follow Dray and not Seg. Later ("Seg the Bowman") she appears very pleased with Seg as Archbold. Did she not know that he was head of the order? Actually this title is not mentioned until page 37 where the name of the Brotherhood is revealed as the Kroveres of Iztar. But what is the significance of the cogwheel device on her banner?
Motivated by Zena's words, it is Dredd Pyvorr (one of those who had been wavering), who responded first, and charges the Shanks in a suicidal manner. The others follow suit and descend on the Fish-heads in unbeatable fury, surely powered somehow by their new goddess. They are soon victorious and only a few Shkanes reach their fabled ships to escape back to shadowy Schan. Dredd was the original martyr of the Kroveres.
During the aftermath of the battle, Dray is not overly pleased to find the Elders of the island had changed the name from Nikzm to Drayzm (page 37). So a land was in fact named after Prescot. Deeper into this discussion, Dray dwells on Seg's situation in Falinur and starts thinking on how to relieve his friend of his kovnate and find him another. This issue is not resolved until the Witch War Cycle. Lastly, Prescot and Delia want to end all slavery in Paz. Only Paz, not Schan?
And what of Lela and Dayra (page 39). Neither one has called on their truant father. Has Delia really seen either one recently? Then it is back to Valkanium where Panshi the High Chamberlain greets Turko and Prescot. He also delivers the news (from Lord Farris) that the Emperor is dying. He and Turko take off for Vondium the Proud. En route, Dray ponders the situation between the Savanti and Everoinye, as regards the apim/diff question (page 40). So leaving Didi and Velia with Aunt Katri (just what does she think of her brother, the Emperor?), Turko and Dray arrive in Vallia and are joined by the other comrades and Naghan the Gnat. Tilly is with Delia. Seg enjoys talking of the good old days, when he saved Prescot from the Emperor's headman. Apparently the look on Dray's face was priceless. After all, he though Seg killed in the Hostile Territories of Eastern Turismond.
Joined by his trusted friends, Dray starts his journey through the Imperial Palace until he reaches the inner sanctum and dismisses his comrades at this point. The trip through the palace lasts from pages 44-50. After knocking out some Chuliks and then being captured by Lohvian Bowmen, Dray may have seen the leggy Tilly speed away from the scene. Prescot is upset to find out that Dag Dagutorio had been replaced by Rog Rogutorio. Rog is quite willing to kill Dray if need be, due to the proclamation of banishment by the Emperor. Thankfully, Delia intervenes and saves the day (page 50).
Then, it is on to the Emperor!
As Delia leads Dray past the pissed of Rog Rogutorio, Dray notices that Neg Negutorio (who he knew from the old days), was "one Bowman with a single enormous grin plastered all over the inside of his martially stiff and unmoving features." I can just imagine this scene and wish I could have seen more of this Bowman in later books.
There is a similarity between the symbols used by the Krozairs and Kroveres, the hubless spoked cog wheel. I see Zena's hand in this. There is so much to learn of this beautiful but mysterious entity. Perhaps a question put to Ken ...The term Krovere, once used by an old order of chivalry in Valka, is related to "verss" (pages 56 & 57) the very fine silk, as used by Nath the Needle to take a sample from the Emperor. Nice term, verss. It rings true.
Upon reaching the aptly named "sick room", Dray and Delia are joined by Tilly, Thelda, Seg (picking up his wife's wool as he trailed her), Katrin Rashumin and Nath the Needle. It looks like Turko and the rest are second-rate comrades at this juncture, due to their lack of title.
It is of interest that the old feud between the Blue and Black Mountain Boys is a thing of the past, due to the friendship of Inch and Korf Aighos (page 56).
Soon it is realized that Kov Layco Jhansi of Vennar is the power behind the throne, the Emperor's right hand man. Together with Ashti Melekhi, the Vadnicha of Venga, Nath the Iarvin (a bladesman of reknown) and Dr. Charbie, they formed a controlling force around the dying Emperor and his splintering Empire of Vallia.
Upon being thrown out by this group (excepting Delia), the Emperor implores Delia to seek Aphrasoe via the Todalpheme of Hamal (page 60). Dr. Charboi seems to know what that meant. So, the stage is set for the quest to find the Pool of Vanti!
So now the plans are being made to spirit away the Emperor to the Pool of Vanti. Among the conspirators are: Seg, Thelda, Dray (son of Seg & Thelda), Silda (also the name of Thelda's mother), Valin, Turko, Inch, Sasha (of whom much will be learned later), Nath, Zolta, Khe-Hi-Bjanching, Vomanus, Jaidur, Drak, Delia, Hap Loder, Gloag, Naghan, Balass, Tilly, Oby, Varden and Natema. This is obviously Ken's way of getting the bulk of Dray's comrades 1000 years of life (if not slain). The Prescot dynasty is being set up. Think about it. With most of these people surviving their full allotment, they will be able to mold Kregen into what they (themselves or the Star Lords or Savanti) desire. Zeg was in the Eye of the World and known as the Bane of Grodno. Korf Aighos was not mentioned but he may pop up later, along with certain others ...
Yet, at this time of plotting, only Delia, Dray and Khe-Hi know anything of substance of the land they seek (page 64). We know that Dray and Delia have resided in Aphrasoe but how does the San know of the Savanti? Much later Csitra comments on the Savanti and seems shocked that Dray did as well. Is this perhaps a secret that only the top Wizards or Witches of Walfarg are privy to? Or do all learn during their education in Loh? There is a great fear on Khe-Hi's part and tries to deter the others from following such a course. Methinks there is something key here but I just can't grasp it, yet ...
During the plotting in "The Rose of Valka" Khe-Hi tells Seg that the Todalpheme of Hamal are not evil but that a "secret" has fallen into their hands that they do not understand (page 63). It is then revealed (as was done in the Havilfar Cycle) that the Emperor had been put in contact with the Todalpheme of Hamal through a voller salesman. These savants knew of a fabled land where miracle cures might be effected. Delia had been flown to the Hamalese coast, blindfolded and whisked away, eventually to arrive in the environs of Aphrasoe (with those dead Scarlet-Roped Todalpheme).
On this page (64), there is a curious comment by Dray that someone else raised recently. He talks of the future and the land of Fragrant Azby: "ah, well, all that must wait its due turn." I recall no further mention of this topic.
And then Nath the Needle joins the conspirators and announces that the
Emperor is being poisoned. That settles things and action is put to words. Several
comrades are issued their parts to play as was Thelda who responds to Dray: "And I do
not wish to hear about vilmy flowers, and especially not about fallimy flowers! So
there!" I think this is the last time this humorous
Of course it is Vomanus who brings up the subject of Prescot ascending the throne (as Delia's husband) to which he hotly denies any such longing. But, perhaps a premonition? He thinks back to how events transpired that elevated him to the Faerling Throne. Then Drak storms in after fighting off stikitches and announces that Vondium has become a madhouse!
The plan is put into effect and the Emperor spirited away from his royal palace (after a fracas) and the race against time and death to Aphrasoe is on!
As Dray and company make way from the royal palace, they are set upon by stikitches and easily fight them off. While rummaging through the bodies for identification (they were sent by Ashti Melekhi), the masks worn by the assassins are discussed. Dray states (page 73) "The Masks of Kregen form a fascinating, beautiful and horrible story of their own -- I will have more to say later." Indeed, much later at the end of the Pandahem Cycle. Talk about long range plotting!
Tilly makes an interesting comment to Inch, saying (page 74) that "Fristle girls are not only trained in the arts of love, like your sylvies." I don't have my diff list handy, but aren't sylvies (not capitalized) diffs (and not to be confused with Sylbies)? Tilly makes it sound like they are chail sheom, apim sex slaves.
Also accompanying these rogues are Mellow the Supple and her son Kardo. Shara is off by Lela's side.
It is decided that they will head straight for the Baptismal Pool of Vanti instead of asking permission in Aphrasoe. Time is of the essence for the Emperor and so the quest begins.
First stop is the Hamalese coastal port of Denrette, at the mouth of the River Havilithytus, where the Todalpheme reside. Dray errs in calling Arnor an Island, instead of island. It is opposite the mouth of the river where Denrette is situated. Dray walks up to the Akhram or Todalpheme fortress, fortified with gifts. He ponders a bit on the voller salesman who had set up the Emperor with these savants (page 79). He may have been a defrocked Todalpheme. But from Hamal or Bet-Asqa? The Todalpheme know only that the Todalpheme of Bet-Asqa know the location of miracle cures. Not a name but only that there was a place for these cures. The Akhram talks of a tortuous route (page 80) and shortcuts. I don't know what that tortuous might be but he does supply Dray with a look at a map of the route to Bet-Asqa. Didn't the Emperor's men already know this from when Delia was sent to Aphrasoe or perhaps the Todalpheme of Hamal transported her to Bet-Asqa. If so, why not continue that arrangement now? And what exactly is the relationship between the two groups of Todalpheme?
From the map Prescot knows he must head south and west of Tambu the Forbidden Land. Both it and Bet-Asqa are called "islands" (page 81).
Preparing to leave Denrette for Bet-Asqa he thinks on the mysteries involved here. He theorizes that the current Akrham of Hamal was not aware of how his Todalpheme came into the secret or (my theory here) how long they have known the secret. Was it that voller salesman or from a far earlier date? He finally conjectures that Hamal as the most powerful nation on Havilfar (with apologies to Djanduin) would be a natural repository of such knowledge. Further, he thinks that possibly some nations of the Dawn Lands might know of the location of Bet-Asqa as well. I think this is indirectly referred to after Mefto's tailhand is severed by Dray, as a means to having it repaired or another attached.
Again, as the party leaves Denrette, Arnor is referred to as an "Island." Then it is off to the known edge of the world (Tambu and environs). Dray is hoping that when he does get directions to Aphrasoe in Bet-Asqa, that it is not in Schan, as he has always harbored an inkling to.
The Gdoinye looks in, leaves and the quest continues!
While en route to Bet-Asqa Dray has a brief but savage encounter with Flutsmen and I've always enjoyed his telling of it. Basically he spares the life of his brave Brokelsh adversary. As the diff prepares to flee Dray's small voller he tells Dray that he will surely remember him and this incident (pages 86-88). It is made to sound like a threat and bluster. Once aloft he shouts down "I thank you for my life. ... Remberee!" I was touched by that moment.
Stopping briefly in Djanguraj, Kytun Kholinn Dorn, Ortyg Fellin Coper, Sinkie and others (unnamed) of their families join the party. Also on board was Dray's old comrade from the Havilfar Cycle, Wersting Rogahan the varterist.
For the first time Dray and Drak talk of Drak becoming Emperor one day and not for the last time, he states he will not if his father still lives (page 91).
Then the huge voller flies out over the Ocean of Doubt and soon enough spot Bet-Asqa just south of Tambu. It is 180 dwaburs across at its widest point, making it smaller than Tambu to the north of it. Kytun is happy to know where sea people who harry his coasts come from. No Shanks raid here. I wish either he or Prescot had taken retribution at a later time, for these raids and the treatment received there, but we never hear of such an expedition.
Tambu is faintly visible to the north and Dray remembers the stories of horror concerning that land (island or Island?) He even wonders if Aphrasoe could be situated there and given rise to such horrific legends concerning it.
The party heads to the Western Akhram at the extreme edge of the known world, indeed, into the unknown by this point (page 96).
The Akhram seems surprised that Dray knows the name of the Savanti. I wonder how HE knows it? The same holds true for Aphrasoe. How does he know the name of the Swinging City?
Dray then tells the greedy and evil Akhram of the Scarlet-Roped Todalpheme (yes, finally - page 97) that they came across the secret by chance. He retorts that some of his men, in vollers from Havilfar, have gone to the land of the Savanti and never returned. This to justify his greed. I wonder how the arrangements for the sale of these vollers are made. I assume the location of Bet' Asqa is kept secret, but maybe not. Maybe this is how some in the Dawn Lands may know of the Scarlet-Roped Todalpheme and the secret they carry?
As the Akrham says "we are not as other Todalpheme." So what is the nature of Todalpheme and how (and when) do they get established? Are they in contact with one another (in Paz) or are these Scarlet-Roped renegades of some sort? Perhaps they organize the raids of the sea people on Havilfar.
He then states that he has been warned by the Savanti not to send others to their land for the miracle cure (page 98). I am curious as to how this warning was delivered and if the Todalpheme usually go to Aphrasoe for permission (explaining how they knew the names Savanti and Aphrasoe) or go directly to Vanti?
Finishing his talk with Akhram Dray reflects on the three yellow-robed, scarlet-roped Todalpheme who had been dead when their voller carrying Delia gently crashed in Ba-Domek. Still no rational reason for that and Ken is well aware of that fact, as he brings this same point up again. One time ("Transit"), a fluke perhaps, a mistake, but twice (at least) now? There must be a bone fide reason. I will ask Ken myself as this is driving me crazy!
Finally Dray tells Akhram that it is the Emperor of Vallia that needs saving. There is no mention by the Todalpheme leader that Delia, his daughter, had once come this way. At last, resorting to threats, Dray swears vengeance on Bet-Asqa if rebuffed. Akrham replies that there are "other places" he could retreat to, if his island were destroyed. I wonder where he had in mind? Tambu perhaps?
Then it seems the Akrham's guards are coming to take Dray away or kill him, when the door is kicked open (not shattered) and Kytun, holding two soldiers bellows out "Where d'you want these, my king!" How funny!
As Prescot and company fly off, with the directions to Aphrasoe, the Arkham screeches after them "In Aphrasoe you will find only death!" What makes him so sure or is it only a hunch--only a wishful hunch--on his part?
There are no further directions given (damn it!) as at the beginning of Chapter 11 the royal voller approaches the shore of "the large island on which Aphrasoe was situated." Finally Dray has returned to his point of first arrival (the same land mass at least) and he ponders on that, finally deciding that paradise for him was elsewhere than Aphrasoe (page 105). But does he truly believe this or is it his way of salving the wound of being booted out of what was then his paradise?
While flying inland Dray is struck by many things in the lands below. Virtually all species of animals he knows (and others he does not), roam all over, in the plains, valleys and jungles. He again contemplates the possibility of artificial genetic breeding, as concerns both the animals and diffs of Kregen. Because also below, were entire communities of various diffs (Shanks too?) This reminded me a bit of the Hostile Territories.
Mountains are spotted and looking at the map (courtesy of the Arkham of Bet-Asqa), Vangar sucks in his cheeks. He suggests the River Zelph rises there and it is agreed that the final run will begin. The journey was near at hand!
As these final preparations are made, Dray and Delia confront one another on his big secret (page 109), as prefaced in the beginning of the book. Again, he delays and Delia accepts that.
Shortly after that conversation with his beloved, Dray picks up the short-sword given as a gift from the Clan of Viktrik, one of the two clans who have given obi to Dray and Hap Loder. But the other clan's name?
And then the savage sting of the Star Lord's scorpion and Prescot is spirited away in a cloud of blue, and he thereby learns some interesting things...
For the first time there is evident discord among the Everoinye. There is one (unnamed for now) who wants to run Dray hard while the others are satisfied with the current pace. All agree he has done well (pages 114 & 114).
Among the interesting comments by the Star Lords: "Does he know--? Of course not! How could he? He is apim. Apim. Then perhaps I shall let him know a little-- He is still too soft. The knowledge might destroy him--" Well now! What have we here? The true purpose of the Everoinye? And Dray blows the chance to learn, by blowing up and calling the young Star Lord a rast. Pity.
He is then temporarily dispatched to a doomed burning city. It is besieged by "fierce bearded men with golden rings in their ears and tall golden-feathered helmets, their eyes alight with the joy of killing, their scale armor glittering" (page 115). Then he is whisked away (I wonder who those warriors were, as well as the sacked city)?
Ver Dray is plopped down on the plains and it is all Zena can do to keep him on this island. She tells him to go north ... Which he does and runs into Naghan Mennelo ti Sakersmot ( a Numim) and his fiance Fimi Shemillifey (a Fristle). It is they who inform Prescot that the name of the island of the Savanti is Ba-Domek (page 119) and that Aphrasoe was situated in the center surrounded by mountains. It causes terror to hear that name for the local inhabitants, outside the city and environs.
From further conversation with the fleeing couple, it seems that apims are few in Ba-Domek. This is curious considering the Savanti's preference for apim domination of Paz. And why do the Star Lords (or Zena Itzar) want this couple saved? And they will need saving!
After dissuading the pursuing family members from continuing their chase, Dray thinks about the why of things on Ba-Domek (pages 124 & 125). Why was the island seemingly set up as a mirror image of Paz? Why allow the evil of slavery (the Katakis carry on their trade here)? And what of the Khirrs that Naghan always prates on about and are finally seen on page 128? What are the Gengulas, that supposedly have Medusa-like powers, mentioned a page earlier?
As if saving the feline couple from a chavonth was not enough, there will soon be a leem to fight and they will be witness to the Khirrs horror.
While continuing his journey north on Ba-Domek, with Fimi and Naghan, Dray thinks of the "general absence of vollers" over the island (page 129). Does Prescot mean that there are none aside from those of the Savanti, Bet-Asqa and the current flier from Vallia or are their others? Also, we know that the inhabitants of Ba-Domek generally don't look up, so as to not espy the occasional voller from Aphrasoe. Yet they are aware of aerial foes and danger. Hmmm...
As I have stated before, there are many kinds of Rapas and I wish Dray would delve more into this during his narratives. But he doesn't. He does say "There are many kinds of Rapas on Kregen. ... it would be wearisome to detail all the different kinds, by name and color variation and shape of beak and crest, as by nation or belief" (page 130). Can we assume that this holds true with those "gentler cousins of the Rapas," the Relts? It is only natural that Rapechak is remembered then (the three travelers are looking upon a small part of Rapas from concealment). Dray still insists that his former blade comrade (Turko's too) must still be alive. Yes, another question for Ken!
These Rapas are waylaid by a band of Khirrs and they soon settle down to sucking the fluids from their stiffening bodies.. Sickened but curious, Dray wonders if the Khirrs are diffs (page 131). He does refer to them as menagerie men (Spitballs of Antares). On the following page he raises doubts of their intelligence and I didn't detect a language.
The "leem incident" soon follows (pages 132-139) and it ranks as perhaps the best fight scene Ken has written, certainly involving an animal. Before the battle begins Dray contemplates his options and wants to pick palines off a nearby branch and pop them in his mouth. This he soon does. For 3 pages he contends that this was no business of his and the smart thing to do would be to leave Fimi and Nagahan (all unknowing) to their ghastly fate at the claws and jaw of the crouching leem. Prescot instead does the right thing and gives battle, just in time! As he and the leem charge each other, Dray observes the two feline diffs cling, separate and cling again, before effecting their escape. This has always struck me as humorous.
Somehow, Prescot finds the time to think about other great cats of Kregen (chavonths and strigicaws) and declares they don't compare to leems. I wonder what earthly comparisons Ken had in mind with these savage cats. Would he compare leems to Leopards or tigers, and would lions or jaguars figure in?
Finally, as the fight is winding down, Dray manages to pierce the leems heart with the kutcherer, as the metal tooth impediment had been snapped off during the battle. How fortunate for Dray. Then Ken describes in grisly detail the state of dray's skeletal left arm (page 140). It is ghastly. Dray faints, revives and starts again to travel north. Curiously, he gives no jikai to his valiant and game foe, leaving the leem to rot as the flies had already descended. I surmise Dray was too hurt and upset thinking of what Delia will say, to offer the jikai.
While traveling northward on his gnutrix, Dray confounds a party of Katakis and leaves them riding away on one of their zorcas. This was a fortunate acquisition as he would surely have not survived the Khirr attack, but for its presence (pages 144-147). The Josh Kirby illustration on page 145 is a pretty good depiction of this scene.
Lastly, Azby is mention again by Dray (page 148). It appears to be one of Dray's lands or holdings. A part of the paradise he had built on Kregen.
Surviving (thus far at least) his frightful wounds from the leem, the battle with the Khirrs and outwitting the band of whip-tails, Prescot finally approaches the headwaters of the River Zelph and the trail leading to its very source, the Baptismal Pool of Vanti. As before, he battles the beetle and spider-like guardians until at last he enters the cave and comes within sight of his salvation (page 150). Because he now realizes that, baptism or not, he would not survive his horrible wounds to his arm and side. I am amazed he had not bled to death.
But before he could throw himself into the pool as he longed to do, he hears voices and sinks to the floor to hide. Dray then witnesses the baptism of four Savapim applicants, with Maspero as one of the four tutors. Listening (as he is prone to do), Prescot hears of the fate of the rest of his party. After they had successfully healed the Emperor and bathed themselves in the milky white liquid, Vanti had arisen from the depths and banished each to "from whence they came." (As an aside here, I have described this scene from Gloag's viewpoint in my "Gloag's Tale.")
Further, one applicant expresses shock that a Wizard of Walfarg (he said Loh) was among the party who had gone straight to the pool without even asking permission. What was Kregen coming to! The applicant states "Yet the Wizards, you teach us, fear the Savanti--" "They have cause" Maspero smiled, gesturing. I reiterate, what is the relationship between the Savanti and the Witches and Wizards of Walfarg? If not a specific relationship, there is a mutual awareness at least.
Maspero then speaks of Prescot, knowing full well that Dray was hidden nearby and listening. He confirms his continuing affection for Dray and talks of Dray's overpowering temptation by Delia. Maspero speaks as if the tale of Prescot's stay in Aphrasoe is now a part of Savapim training. Curiously the tutor reveals that he and his fellow Savanti are in possession of the party's voller and belongings and from these they will find out from whence the interlopers came and a plan could then be formulated to thwart such an attempt again. Curious for two reasons: Maspero states that he had thought Prescot would be with that party and Delia makes further trips to the pool to have other of her children baptized. So Maspero already knows the identity (in general at any rate) and those plans (if any were indeed implemented) were futile.
Maspero says that he "often wonders, far more than he should, just what became of him on Kregen." Again, this is a strange statement. Dray knows that the Savanti Dove has kept in touch with his rise to prominence in Paz and further, believes that each tutor has his (or her) own dove. Apparently Maspero does not want the others in the leadership of Aphrasoe to know the depths of his fixation with Prescot.
And before the applicants leave, Dray theorizes that one was not of Earth...
Then it is time for the healing, if he can drag his battered body over those agonizing last few yards to the edge of the pool. Prescot commences to crawl, or least he tries to. His body refuses to respond to his desperate commands. The mind is willing but the flesh is weak!
As Dray describes " Only by a last enormous effort of will could I
drag myself over the harsh stones to the water's edge." And so he did and readies
himself for the final plunge and salvation. But he hesitates at the last moment because he
suddenly realizes that Vanti will banish him to Earth, or "whence he came."
Finally he resolves the dilemna by simply submerging the mangled arm into the pool which
is soon restored to form. He then dips his head in and lastly takes a swig. But nothing
for his torn side and crushed ribs (pages 155 & 156). Naturally Vanti makes his
appearance and starts wailing "O, unfortunate is the city--" Dray interrupts and
declares that Vanti has no powers over him and even seems to taunt the creature
"Return to your hole, hide away from me--for I warned you I would return." But
can Vanti hurl Prescot to Earth if he hasn't totally submerged in the pool? Dray says on
page 156 that Vanti could and has done so. Yet, he then takes the swig, declaring "By
Mother Zinzu the Blessed, I needed that!"
Ken works the title of the book in a few times, utilizing both "Savage Scorpio" and "Savage Kregen" (pages 157, 160 & 162). As usual, it seems a bit forced.
As he leaves the area of the pool and decides to forego a side trip to Aphrasoe, he thinks that maybe some other time would be more appropriate for that. Contemplating his recent brush with death he hints that there will be another time when he comes closer yet (page 161).
Travelling on to the coast of Ba-Domek he eventually encounters a downed voller with a party of Djangs besieged by a host of Katakis.. A typical Kirby illustration shows this scene on page 163. It is Khytun on his way back from Djanduin, where Vanti had sent him and the other Djangs and Obdjangs. Since they were closest, they came back first. But their king must save them, as he always seems to do
Utilizing a handy nearby herd of chunkrah, Dray stampedes them (with a
little help from a leem) and the threat from the Katakis is soon erased. As his Djangs
polish off the few survivors, Prescot thinks of the great warrior races he has thus far
met in Paz: Katakis, Djangs and Clansmen are mentioned. He hints that there is tale to
tell of a conflict between Djangs and
Our own Turko recently brought up the fact that Prescot (perhaps) just flat out had no respect for leems. This in response to my comments concerning the aftermath of Dray's feat with a leem. While I disagreed privately with that assessment (I mean, how could he not respect its killing prowess, courage and savagery?) A comment by Prescot on page 166 seems to back Turko on this: "I never liked leems. After my ordeal, I liked them even less." Of course "like" and "respect" mean two very different things ...
One of the few references to the subcontinent of Balintol is made on
page 167: "like the long running drumming of Balintolian droomboons." This was
the sound of the stampeding chunkras.
The journey to Djanguraj is made and Dray leaves there shortly in a small voller and heads for Vondium the Proud. The Gdoinye and white dove follow his progress and Prescot finally reaches the Vallian capital and almost has to fight his way to see the Emperor. When he does spot Prescot, he booms out "There stands the notorious Dray Prescot." They bandy words a bit and Dray soon realizes that the Emperor thinks he was cured by the very people who had been poisoning him! Dismissed from the palace Dray ruminates on the state of things. It seems that Naghan Vanki, the Emperor's spymaster had been recently made the Vad of Nav-Sorfall for his recent efforts on behalf of Delia and Vallia. And Queen Lushfymi of Lome is due back soon...
While trudging the streets of Vondium that night, Dray gazes up at the Maiden of the Many Smiles (page 180) and thinks on the continents, islands, seas and atmosphere that were visible from Kregen. Oh the plot possibilities ...
Realizing that the traitors must soon make their move, to kill the Emperor, Dray arrives in his bedroom by nefarious means and tries to tell the Emperor the true way of things. Finally he does recall asking Delia to seek aid from the Todalpheme of Hamal and then admits he could have been poisoned, but not by Ashti. He soon discovers the error of his thinking when she, Nath the Iarvin and 6 paid off Chulik guards, enter his bedchamber to assassinate him. Naturally Prescot steps forward and after a brisk set-to, kills all 6 Chuliks and right messily too! So now the bladesman Nath steps forward and is confident, when facing Prescot. The fool! Didn't he just see him defeat 6 Chuliks? Well, he was good but not nearly good enough and is soon skewered through his belly. And then Kov Layco Jhansi enters the room and seeing the way of things, slays Melekhi Ashti (it took two stabs to do so) and as the Emperor soon states, she is no longer available for interrogation to find out who her employer was. I would think that Jhansi would be a prime suspect at this time, but oh no, the dense Prescot is here now. This Kov (Jhansi) would bedevil Prescot and Vallia until near the end of the Witch War Cycle.
So as Dray stands there amidst the dead bodies and is in turn covered with blood, he thinks that the Emperor will rule Vallia for a thousand years and outlast all his enemies (a foolish thought when death can still be had). But not thinking of that he thinks things look just grand right now, and when the Emperor comments on how difficult it is to be an Emperor, slowly a laugh builds up in him (page 191). Both Jhansi and the Emperor stare at Prescot, who can no longer hold it in and lets out with a full blown laugh that goes on and on...
Thus ends "Savage Scorpio" and I think that this point would have made a grand ending to the saga, were it ever called for at this time (thankfully it was not). I do truly believe that this is the very best book in the entire Saga of Dray Prescot. Hai Rikai Ken! Thanks for an absolutely incredible read.
Remberee and happy swinging!
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