The Suns of Scorpio
A review by Steve "Seg" Servello

Spoiler Warning: Contains story details

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The Suns of Scorpio

I again went with the Tim Kirk edition for my re-read of "The Suns of Scorpio", second book of the Delian Cycle (though she never appears in this book). I think Tim did another magnificent cover illustration: a leader (Prescot?) of the Magdag rebellion in the foreground (complete with Vosk skull helmet), with a scattering of fellow fighters in front of the megaliths of Magdag in the background. Orange is the main color and it is effective here. So is the rebel leader. Even the hair on his forearm is realistically drawn. The only other illustration I have encountered so far (I am up to page 40) is the one opposite the title page. Prescot stands before the fortress of Akhram. It is well drawn but Prescot looks like a medieval knight in armor. Perhaps he took that from the Chulik slain by the grundals.

Dray is spirited again to Kregen after roaming Earth and fighting Napoleon at Waterloo (where his earthly fortune is established). I am glad that Prescot had mixed feelings about Bonaparte as I have always felt him to be a positive force in European politics. I'd be happy to discuss this privately if anyone desires. I do know that Ken studied the French leader in depth. I wonder what HIS views are?

After journeying to India (whence the scorpion that killed his father came from), Prescot arrives again on Kregen to trample it's jeweled cities beneath his sandaled foot (oops, wrong series, I think that was Conan <G>). It is unknown which agency was responsible for this (his third) journey to the constellation Scorpio. Tantalizingly (to quote Prescot), there was no raptor or dove present to give him a hint. However, a scorpion is on his chest when he arrives and in a moment of panic Dray flicks it off to hide in a rocky crevice. This one is real (are they native to Kregen?) and Prescot then alludes to the "phantom scorpion" when he first materialized on the River Aph (page 16). Well, was it real or not? Maspero said it was real and why should he lie? Yet, when it fled the leaf boat into the river, it disappeared in a very phantom-like manner. Plus, we have never seen such a monster in any of Prescot's plethora of adventures. What do YOU think?

Alan Burt Akers remarks on the missing cassettes (page 9). I wonder what Ken's real reason for this plot device is. It has been said that this allows Prescot to advance in his tale without the necessity of extra books. I say, bring on those extra books! Later on in "Suns" there is a maddening lapse, which I will touch on. Even in this, the second book chronicling the saga of Dray Prescot, Ken emphasizes the maturing factor in his career on Kregen. Akers also mentions that there is an underlying reason for Prescot desiring to have his tale told (page 11). Could it be that the forces vying for dominance on Kregen might have their eyes on Earth as well?

It is on the continent of Turismond in general and the Eye of the World that Prescot finds himself. As he exclaimed, " I was home" (page 17). I do believe this subject has been discussed on the list. His first view (after the scorpion) is of the Grand Canal. What a graphic description of the ledges aside it. So awe inspiring. He later learns from the blue-roped (not scarlet) Todalpheme, that it (as well as the then unseen Dam of Days), were built by the People of the Sunrise (not Suns-rise). What the devil does this mean? Was there a time of only one sun (Antares is of course a binary star) shining down on Kregen (and Soothe)? These people (also known as the People of the Sunset, not Suns-set) are the progenitors of the Savanti in Aphrasoe. They are but a remnant of a hemisphere spanning (world spanning?) civilization. Back then they were more warlike. A history of their great retreat to Ba-Domek would be very interesting to read on.

After rescuing the nobles Valima (remember her on Gor?) and Gahan Gannius from grundals, Dray is ignored and left to his own devices. He is amazed but at least they did not attempt to enslave him (that comes later). The primitive frundals are similar to the Segesthan rock apes he has encountered (though not mentioned in "Transit to Scorpio". Only the grundals utilize weapons (cudgels). I wonder if they (and the rock apes) qualify as diffs? The saving of these two Grodno worshipping young nobles would come back to haunt Prescot in the Krozair Cycle. The Everoinye work in mysterious ways!

The seven moons of Kregen are talked about, and their effect on the tides of Kregen (say, that sounds like a good book title <G>). The largest is said to be twice the size of Earth's satellite. Could there be life there as well as on the nearby planet Soothe?

Also mentioned is Wloclef and its famous thick ponsho fleeces which are imported to the Eye of the World. This land is hardly (if ever) mentioned again. Checking my map of Paz I see that it is a large island off the west coast of Turismond. I wonder if it qualifies as one of the Islands of Kregen and I also wonder how far away it is from Far Schan?

The red star of Antares is known as Zair while it's green counterpart is Grodno. Once again, it appears that Prescot will side with the red against the green. But who are the Savanti and Star Lords for ? From the scant evidence so far, it seems that the Savanti are for the red of Zair. Yet when Prescot thought to journey to Magdag (for vengeance), the Everoinye prevent him and even let him view himself through the eyes of it's raptor, the Gdoinye (page 33). Both it and the Savant dove are present in Akhram as these two forces contended for Prescot's services. We later learn that the red of Zair on the south shore are fairly intolerant of diffs while the green of the north are happy to enlist their services. More to follow on this topic.

For the first time the possability of a third powerful force that seeks to control the destiny of Kregen is mentioned (page 37). This plot thread is one of the most intriguing but slowest to develop.

Finally, Dray moves toward the cities of the Eye and within three days is picked up by slavers from Magdag. It is in this city of decadence that Prescot is truly tested and his future determined (in Turismond).

So Dray is picked up by slavers from Magdag, who prey even on those of the northern shore of the Eye of the World. Anyone outside of their city-state is fair game! Here, in the city of megaliths, Prescot is known by his occupation, Stylor (Lahal Rod). He plots with fellow workers (as opposed to actual slaves from the southern coast). Genal, Pugnarses, and Holly who has an incredible pair of legs, which she uses to seduce and enslave unwary soldiers of Magdag. Prescot meets Zorg for the first time, in the warrens. He is a slave and adherent of Zair. The workers are somewhat like the clums of Hamal, but even more slave like. They can be whipped and generally degraded. Their masters are the nobles of Magdag, called Overlords. Before any plans of rebellion can reach fruition, Prescot is treacherously made an oar slave on a Grodnim swifter, plying the Eye. His oar comrades are the afore-mentioned Zorg of Felteraz and a Krozair of Zy, Nath and Zolta of Zullia (both of the Red). We never learn all that much about these two rogues and Zolta may even have a special secret, which we have never learned. Perhaps if there is ever another Krozair Cycle...

One of the oft-remembered scenes (by Prescot) is the splitting of the onions (pages 59 & 60), For reasons I can't fathom; Zorg's health was failing. He had made it through the first week (a sign that he should survive thereafter) and was a Krozair. Pretty tough guy, yet he succumbed!

As with Strombor, the name (Holy) Sanurkazz resounds within Prescot (page 48). Speaking of Strombor, in the Eye of the Wotld , Zenicce is known as a "fabled city" (page 42). Truthfully, Magdag and Zenicce are almost as far apart as two cities of Paz can be. So I guess it is not that strange of a description.

As of the first 61 pages of "Suns", there are still only 5 types of diffs mentioned, in Prescot's tale: Rapas, Fristles, Ochs, Mehtzas, and Chuliks. At some point new ones will start cropping up at an alarming rate.

I realize that the largest moon is "The Maiden with the Many Smiles". It becomes very important to Prescot as his saga unfolds.

Lastly, the illustration on page 45 was so-so. Not enough background.

So Prescot escapes his chains, shortly after the gruesome death of his oar comrade Zorg. His disruption of the rowers (with the death of the whip and drum-deldars) allow the swifter captioned by Pur Zenkiren to overhaul and capture "The Grace of Grodno". He quickly befriends Prescott and remarkably, is somewhat familiar with Strombor (pgs. 70 & 73). There news and maps were over 150 years old, concerning Zenicce ! Mysteriously, it is a Savanti dove (page 75) that observes Prescot's escape from the green to the red of Zair.

Dray's first view of Sanurkazz (pgs. 83 & 84) give a view of what separates the red from the green. One would have to give the nod to the north shore of the Inner Sea, in terms of single mindedness and obsession. Whether that sustains them in the long run with those of Zair, remains to be seen.

En route to Sankukazz, the "Lilac Bird" encounters a rashoon and only the seamanship of Prescot saves the day, despite a brush with the spoiled young nobles Rophren & Hezron (pgs. 79-83). They make things interesting once safely in port.

Ah, to hear for the first time, the oath of the red in the Eye of the World: "Mother Zinzu the Blessed ! I needed that! " (page 87).

On two occassions, Prescot hints that his views on the merits of the evil inherent in the green of the north shore, change (pg. 76 & 84): "Then, I considered them depraved and evil" & "The conflict between the red and green was not a clear-cut contest between good and bad. Although at that time I was willing to credit all evil to Magdag..." Even after the Krozair Cycle, I see no substantial change in Prescot's views. Do you?

Finally, Dray journeys to Zorg's estates in nearby Felteraz with Nath and Zolta. They meet his young widow Mayfwy, along with their children Zorg and Fwmay. Dray will always fondly recall that journey by asscart. Just before the tape ends and a cassette is missing (page 96), it appears that Prescot and Mayfwy are headed for a passionate kiss. But do they??? Stylor has his theory...

So, did Prescot and Mayfwy have a sexual relationship, even if just for that one time? We don't know for a fact, but there are some tantalizing hints. On page 102 when she greets the triumphant returning Prescot, her eyes are dancing and cheeks flushed. This after a kiss to his cheek (in public don't forget). Eleven pages later we learn that Mayfwy had made a new coat of mail for Prescot while he had his eye on a gown of gold and silver thread, lined in silk (page 100) for her. While none of the above is conclusive, these could be construed as those of two people deeply in love. Let us not forget that the missing cassette came up just as it seemed they would kiss...

Some of what Dray does is out of respect for and in the memory of Mayfwy's deceased husband, Zorg. Prescot knew him briefly in Magdag and then as an oar comrade with Nath and Zolta. Not to mitigate what this kind of relationship can mean to those so horrifically enslaved, but maybe, just maybe, Prescot went overboard by naming all ships under his command "Zorg". Also, bringing the bulk of his booty to Mayfwy and Felteraz seems like overkill. There was more than enough wealth in that town as is, without what Prescot brought to it. Do I seem harsh? The top of page 108 has Prescot conversing with Zenkiren about the presence of Zorg in the hallowed halls of the Fortress of Zy. Start the violins. I don't recall Dray having those same feelings for other oar comrades in "The Tides of Kregen" and "Krozair of Kregen".

Oh yea, Nath and Zolta. Do they seem like Krozair material to you? Aside from being superb seamen, passable swordsmen, drunks and an easy lay, what else do they have to offer the Krozair order of chivalry? They were "fortunate" to have been Prescot's oar comrades and are gladly riding his coat tails. Perhaps by the time of the Krozair Cycle (15 or so years later), they have matured in both fighting skills and hedonistic habits. I believe this to be so ... And why do they call Prescot Stylor? Because of the brief time Zorg knew him in Magdag ? Seems unlikely but most probable.

And what of Zolta? He hails from Zullia to the south of the Inner Sea but offers no real information on his history. Strange, that. Nath is the son of an illiterate ponsho farmer. He ran to sea to escape that life. I imagine Dray empathizes! Yet he grows corpulent (page 110). Not really the stuff warriors are made of...

King Zo lords it in Holy Sanurkazz while Purr Zazz, the Grand Archbold of the Krozairs, holds court in Zy. Prescot is in the service of both men and does very good at what that is: pirating against the Grodnim. So good in fact that he becomes the most notorious corsair in the Eye of the World. This legacy evolves into legendary status by the time of the Krozair Cycle. And Dray is told he must answer the "summons" whenever it ("The call") goes out (page 105). But what if you’re on Earth when that happens....

And so dray goes a raiding in the Inner Sea. The seasons pass swiftly, but what of Delia? There is virtually no mention of his beloved until Kov Tharu of Vindelka and Vomanus(the half brother of Delia, we later learn) put in an appearance in Sanurkazz and thereby saves his neck : "they don't like it through the eye". It would seem that the Princess has marshaled the might of Vallia in a hemispheric search for her hairy graint of a betrothed. Of the puissant Island Empire, it is said to be the only of it's size under one government. But what do we know of Schan? Nothing yet and next to nothing as late as the Lohvian Cycle.

The usual assortment of luscious women fall for Prescot: Holly (she of the seductive legs) in the workers warrens of Magdag and Princess Susheeng in the Emerald Palace in the same city. But why the title princess. She is not the daughter of the (unnamed) King og Magdag. Related perhaps, but not close enough to warrant that royal title. The same can be said of her brother Prince Glycas (not that ever tried to seduce Prescot).

Delia's search for Dray began with his disappearance in Zenicce, just prior to their betrothal and her officially becoming Lady of Strombor. On page 116 Dray first contemplates on when he will tell Delia of his Earthly origin and the role he plays for the Everoinye. For reasons beyond my ken, he waits until after the fall of Vondium in "Golden Scorpio". Tharu refers to Dray as the Prince of Delphond (page 120). Not to be confused with the make-up title of Kov of Delphond, to deceive the Grodnim who captured their vessel. A Prince would have to be of Vallia as an empire, not of a province (Delphond).

The sharks of the Inner Sea are called chanks. How very shank-like ... And Purr Zenkiren is known to be the heir apparent to Purr Zazz, as Archbold in Zy. How that title slips away and then is grasped again, is related in the Krozair Cycle.

The illustration on page 101 shows the archers from Prescot's "Zorg" making mincemeat of their foe. It is not very well drawn. The picture of Princess (so-called) Susheeng is much better (page 133). Then again, I'm a sucker for full lips and a bare midriff! Like Princess (likewise so-called) Natema, she too throws herself at Prescot, like a slave in heat. Even before this, Prescot has a Tarl Cabot-like thought that Susheeng could benefit in many ways, with some time spent as a slave (page 129). I guess that some of Suns is a rehash of Transit (temptation wise).

What was the role of the Star Lords in preventing Prescot from meeting up with a Vallian ship on the Inner Sea (page 130)? The Wizards of Loh are first mentioned on page 123. The game of Jikaida is first discussed on page 130.

Lastly, Dray's swordplay improves vastly with his training at the island of Zy (page 100). I wonder just how good he was before this training. I imagine Mefto would have destroyed him. And how were the hordes of Magdag stopped at the very gates of Zy thirty years ago (page 106)? Sounds like a great story there.

Those darn missing cassettes! We have missed out on the bulk of Prescot's reiving in the Eye of the World, the abortive revolt among his oar-slaves, and much of his relationship with Mayfway. It would appear that there is much less slavery on the south sore as opposed to the north. Mainly for oar slaves. The Overlords of Magdag are truly evil. Not just for their war on the red, but for their arrogance with there own populace (non nonle). They will enslave even those of Grodno and hunt workers for sport. I see little of redeeming nature in Magdag. Well, at least Dray gets revenge on the Fristle Follon, who had betrayed him to the galleys. A broken back did for him, as he tried to rape a Fristle lass. Nice snap as his back broke. Very barbaric of Dray...

Piles of vosk skulls are strewn about the warrens (pages 136 & 144). They could come in handy <G>. What did Prescot mean by saying "I know now that scene saved my life" (page 130)? He had sort of blown Susheeng off in a market place, in front of her toadies. If anything I thought that would have hurt him. Shortly thereafter he was kidnapped, imprisoned, and sham rescued. No sign of Tharu who was with Dray at the time of attack. Is he dead? Vomanus doesn't know, as well as Prescot. He does (in his mysterious way) tell Prescot that " Kovs are Kovs and Kovs to me" (page 154). Dray then accuses Vomanus of vying for Delia's affections. He is shocked, and for good reason! But Dray never apologizes...

Dopa is indeed in a bottle (page 139), but probably has a drug in its fluids. The land of Pattelonia at the far end of the Inner Sea is revealed (page 112). It is in this country that Dray is met with straw and dung by Seg.

And the time of "the Great Death" approaches (page 135)...

I've just finished "The Suns of Scorpio" and should wrap things up with this post. Sometimes Prescot is amazingly dense. Later on when he adventures with Jaidur and Lela he does not recognize them (or Velia, sadly). In "Suns", he is not aware of Holly's infatuation of him or the jealousy of Genal and Pugnarses. This, despite that they often conferred and stopped when Prescot approached. (pages 165 & 166). Dense, dense, dense!

So the Great Death comes upon Magdag. The green star Genodras is eclipsed by the red star Zim (page 167). That is when the Overlords retreat to their vast buildings, don red, and play their sick games. Prescot is again sold out, this time by Genal and Pugnarses. Condemned to the "games" he is rescued by Princess Susheeng, who really does seem to love Prescot. Dray admits that she has touched a chord in him and and is awe struck by the sway of her hips as she leads him to freedom. Of course when Rophren puts in an appearance and she realizes he is Purr Dray, the Lord of Strombor, Susheeng vomits (page 182). Another humorous scene concerning the Princess was when Dray tells her brother Glycas that he had done nothing to Susheeng and that was the problem (page 171). The Prince reacted with violence. He must know his sister well.

The fourth moon is "She of the Veils" (page 169). This becomes Prescot's favorite (right Dayra?). The illustration on page 173 showing Prescot running a gauntlet with a half grown leem is about as bad as it gets. Very distorted.

With the help of the love struck Princess, Dray escapes and rescues Holly (who was awaiting Glycas's pleasure) and the pair of jealous fools, Genal and Pugnarses. Then it's on to the rebellion!

The Overlords attack the warrens and push on slowly, taking terrible losses. The slaves and workers start to push back and thereby gain confidence. Unfortunately, Pugnarses during a parley. Then the phalanx created by Prescot advances on the Overlords (pages 188-191). Victory seems assured. The Savanti dove and Everoinye Gdoinye observe until only the raptor is left to witness the end. That end is one that has always infuriated me! Just at the moment of victory, Dray is snatched away by the Star Lords and sent to Proconia. We later find out that the rebellion collapses soon thereafter. Why? So Gannius could use that same phalanx 16 years or so later? Why did the Star Lords prevent the defeat of Magdag? Imagine if that had happened ? The whole northern shore would have eventually fallen as well. I guess the Everoinye wanted stability in the Eye of the World, but at what cost? They of Magdag are surely among the most vile in Paz! The world could only improve with there downfall. What if an invasion came to Turismond from Far Schan? Wouldn't a united Eye form a better deterrent than one divided between green and red?

By the time of the Krozair Cycle we do see Susheeng and Glycas again, but not Bolan, Genal, the Prophet, or Holly. I for one would want to know their fate. Probably death.

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