Swordships of Scorpio
A review by Steve "Seg" Servello

Spoiler Warning: Contains story details

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Swordships of Scorpio

I elected to go with the British edition of "Swordships of Scorpio" mainly because of the cover art. There is an incredible rendition of a Phokaym in full battle regalia. He is much more trim than Tim Kirk's view on page 44. The cover artist is Chris Achiellos and Tim does the usual interior illustrations, minus the one always across from the title page (there is none).

As I began this book it occurred to me that while the last chapter of "Warrior of Scorpio" was entitled "On my own two feet, then", those exact words are not uttered by Prescot until the first sentence of this book. This comes after a rather lengthy introduction by Alan Burt Akers.

In this introduction it is mentioned that Prescot thwarted a skyjacking and saved the passengers lives. Inquiries about this incident are met with silence (page 9). What's the significance in this to the Prescot Saga (if any)?

As Dray begins to cross the Owlarh Waste, this area is described as being in both Central and Eastern Turismond (pages 14 & 15). While I don't doubt that Dray was probably about half way down the continent, the term "Eastern" seems more accurate and is the one used on the map in "Prince of Scorpio."

Prescot meets up with Mangar na Arkasson, who is staked to the ground in the path of marauding army ants. Though able to free him, Dray cannot save him, as the wounds are too serious. Dray does promise to rescue Mangar's daughter Sosie from the savage tribesmen of Cherwantung. It is not made clear if they occupy an abandoned Lohvian outpost. Sosie is rescued and all her captors slain. Dray was angered at what they did to Mangar and what they were about to do to Sosie. No mercy whatsoever! Was this act of vengeance necessary or even called for? It seems to me that perhaps once Prescot had the primitives on the run, his job was over. Why take a chance on being shot by a lucky arrow or heaven forbid, meeting a superior warrior. It can happen! But, no, "the moment he hungered for" came and he took it (page 18). At least Dray had the good sense to wish that Seg were there (what would Seg make of his old dom's actions?).

Well, the people of the town of Arkasson are black, but are unlike those of Xuntal in Segesthes. Here they have Negroid features as opposed to the hawklike visages in Xuntal. I'm curious as to how a black race came to be, here in the Hostile Territories. Earth stock probably, courtesy of the Star Lords.

Sosie falls in love with Dray (naturally) and presents him with a quiver sewn with gems. It is like a proposal. Dray's solution is to point out that he would know no peace if he wandered Eastern Turismond with that fortune on his back. He'd be marked. He tells Sosie that she is kind and she retorts "but not kind enough". Great line! She had been reading from "Kyr Nath" (page 23) and Dray reads a passage that mentions "sunrise" (one S.) 

So Prescot leaves the town of Arkasson to continue across the Owlarh Waste and comes across a large swamp where he beholds a large herbivore dinosaur and 3 smaller carnivore (raptor-like). Dray disables one while the others continue on their attack on the brontosaurus like creature. The illustration on page 29 reminds me of Pellucidar and perhaps Lin Carter's Zanthodon.

Continuing on Dray enters the Klackadrin (great name) and shortly thereafter is captured by the 12-foot-tall Phokaym. They are reptilian-based diffs or half-beast and half-monster according to Prescot (page 39). There he is cared for by Oolo the Och crone. This incident changes his views on enmity toward this race of diffs.

Dray claims the Klackadrin is narrow but long in the north and south directions, perhaps continent-spanning. This seems unlikely and if so, do bands of Phokaym dwell in all parts of it? This is described as Prescot's first crossing of the Klackadrin. Will we ever witness the second?

Just as Dray appears about to die at the hands of the Phokaym via the voryasen, the tapes from Africa end. Dray says "and then I yelled" followed by a screeching noise. That noise is never explained and neither is the means of Prescot's escape.

Naturally more missing cassettes are alluded to (page 27) and Dray's views on drugs on Kregen. They aren't generally used or needed, as life here is much to exciting (page 38). Although the weak-willed will use kaf. And Dray eats Opossum (page 42). I don't recall there being Opossum's on Kregen but I'm glad they are spelled with the "o" in front! With the end of the tapes from Africa we have the tapes from Rio de Janeiro, beginning on page 42.

The tapes from Rio de Janeiro start off with Dray in Pa Mejab, a colony of Tomboram. It is Pandahem instead of the hoped for Vallian ports. While recuperating from the ghastly crossing of the Klackadrin at the "Red Leem", he falls in with Tilda the Beautiful and her 9-year-old imp from Sicce, Pando. It is due to missing cassettes that we miss out on this "first" crossing.

While still groggy from the effects of that crossing, Dray is compelled to defend the virtue of Tilda in a tavern brawl. This will be the first of several sword fights where a drugged weakness puts Prescot on a more even par with his opponents. Despite defeating the loutish leem hunters, one still manages to cop a feel off Tilda (page 48).

Wlachoffs are beasts mentioned on page 53 but I have no idea what type. They must be fierce as they are spoken of in the same breath as leems. Lo and behold, Prescot laughs (page 54). I guess Pando can make any man laugh. And he is not all that impressed by what he thinks is a risslaca tooth. If he only knew, but Dray doesn't brag. Another diff (aside from the Phokaym) appear on page 61, Gons.

Welcome Inch of Ng'groga on pages 61, 67 & 68. Naturally he was performing a heroic deed (warning Dray's caravan) when he appears. As Prescot soon notes (page 72), Inch was becoming more of a comrade than companion. Oh, and those taboos! Pando has a field day with them.

Well, naturally Tilda goes berserk when Dray and Inch return with the stowaway Pando. The bloody raid from bandits was thwarted thanks to Inch, but Tilda is beside herself. "Nice class of friend you have Dray" was all Inch said. Even with Inch beside him, Dray still thinks of Seg and others from his past (page 72).

The swordships of the Sunset and Cyphren Seas are first spoken of on page 75. More on these reivers later! Another first (I think) is the word "kleesh" (page 59). Not as bad as a "rast" but still a term to make the blood boil (but not to Dray apparently).

We also discover that vollers from Havilfar are not sold to the nations of Loh and Pandahem (as well as Turismond). I believe this goes back to hard feelings about the Empire of Walfarg.

One of Ken's great facial expressions used in the saga is the "sucking in of the cheeks" as Pando illustrates on page 57. I think this image speaks volumes!

Another major first is the mention of "mysterious pirates" up out of the southern oceans. These are of course the Shanks. I still maintain that they must sail from the western seas (Far Schan) or the eastern waters (Near Schan). Ba-Domek is to the south.

On page 74 Prescot equates Vallia with England. I'll take that a step further and compare Hamal with Germany and Pandahem with France. Germany as the ultimate foe and France as the usual foe but one with which much is in common. Except of course for the Bloody Menaham. They just never seem to learn or change.

Tim Kirk draws a pretty nice Pandahem argenter on page 76. I caught the spirit it meant to convey.

When assassins try to kill Pando and Tilda (pages 80-82), we begin to understand that there is more to these two than meets the eye. Of course, Prescot defeats the assassins.

So consequently, after Dray foils the assassination plot, Tilda reveals her true identity (and that of Pando), asking Prescot to be their champion. His role, to bring them to his Kovnate of Bormark in the country of Tomboram. Simple, right?

As it turns out, Pando is the son of Marker Marsilus, disinherited son of the old Kov, who on his deathbed cried out his forgiveness and restoring his inheritance. However, the old Kov's brother takes over by power of being there when the kov's son was not (he was in Eastern Turismond in exile). As Tilda relates all this to Dray, her gown kept moving and slithering as she eyed him like a risslaca watching a bird, still and alert. I'll tell you, Ken sure does know how to write sensuous passages without being coarse. Bravo I say!

Prescot and Inch agree to act as champion. How could Prescot ignore all that slithering? Women! They do know how to get what they want, and are loaded with weapons to do just that.

On page 84 Tilda performs the song "Fatal Love of Vela na Valka". As I believe this is the first time Dray mentions Valka, I'm surprised his brain does not resonate with that name (like Strombor). Also, I wonder if this title is a portent of Velia's death in "Renegade of Kregen"?

Once again Prescot "makes the right noises" in response to Pando na Memis's views on Pandaheem expansion at Vallia's expense (page 85). On this same page Dray thinks that Inch would be happiest with a bottle of dopa. I disagree and found that an odd observation.

Concerning the streak of violence in Prescot, Dray admits he sinned when punching out a sailor who had cuffed Pando (page 88). He even called him a kleesh! Sometimes Dray is too cocky. It would be amusing if this sailor had asked just what Prescot planned to do about it and then punched his lights out. How would Prescot react to that, I wonder?

I guess Dray isn't too picky yet about who calls him Dray, as Pando na Memis is allowed that familiarity. Not that he was a bad fellow; he just wasn't a comrade. Then it's off for Tomboram!

For the first time, the possibility of uniting Pandahem, perhaps at the behest of the Everoinye, is mentioned (page 94). Naturally since is thought to be dead, perhaps Inch would make a good Emperor. At least he has some familiarity with one of its' nations. The thought just occurred to me. That was a hell of journey, by boat to Proconia for Seg. Surely he could have found service as a mercenary in some less Opaz forsaken country?

Dray calls the scarlet-feathered (not roped) raptor, the Gdoinye (I think for the first time), on page 94. The Savanti's dove is present as well and Pando sees the Star Lord's emissary (hmm ...) I believe in my posts concerning "The Suns of Scorpio" I had said that Prescot's claim to be Kov of Delphond was a hollow one, not based on law. It appears I may be wrong. On page 95 he states that Delia had confirmed that title but also admits that her father, the dread Emperor of Vallia, probably had not.

Another diff is introduced, Hobolings, on page 91. Is it significant that some races are considered half-monster, by Dray (Rapas, sorzarts, Chuliks, Fristles, Ochs, Phokaym, Ullars and Harfnars) while others (Relts, Mehtzas and Hobolings) are not? These are most of the diffs mentioned so far. Later on, there are several diffs who are essentially human but for added limbs or a tail. These are not considered monsters either. I guess there are diffs and then there are diffs. Do the Savanti distinguish?

Like Seg, Inch gets seasick easily (page 93) and the memory of the bowman becomes more poignant as the vessel carrying Dray, Inch, Tilda, and Pando to Pandahem stops briefly in Erthrydrin. Prescot states he could have found his way to Seg's home, but time did not permit then. Does it ever?

I think Opaz is first talked of on page 97 and I never thought of the significance of the "Paz" in there. Is it meant to be the unifying force of this hemisphere? Will it ever be?

I think that when Dray sees the mettle of the argenter crew as the swordships strike, and says "Very well, we would fight" (page 99), speaks so much of his character. In fact, when it is time to cut and run, Dray is reluctant. He'll learn!

During the fight with the swordships, Dray slays a varterist and declares his death not significant. He then states that perhaps he did that man an injustice (page 102). Oh, I get it now (I never did before). Prescot himself becomes the chief varterist of a swordship squadron. Duh! It only took 27 readings to see that!

By the end of chapter 10 Dray and company finally reach Pomdermam, the capital and chief port of Tomboram. Job over, right? Well, when Prescot voices just that, Tilda explodes with, "You ingrate, Dray Prescot!" Of course her hand was clutched to her heaving bosom all the while.

She then explains that he must actually put Pando in power and only by kidnapping the usurper, Murlock and presenting a fait accompli to the King. But first the old friend of the family, Pallan (Minister) Nicomeyn, is engaged to help formulate a strategy. He hesitates when asked to aid Tilda and Prescot fidgets. But then the Pallan states it is not a question of but how. As Prescot puts it "he spoke his salvation" (page 110). He then tells Dray not to prattle when he thinks to leave, his job done. Then he disarmingly ignores Prescot, causing that worthy to laugh. I guess the look on Pando's face, staring at Dray as if he had grown another head, had something to do with it. Humor, when Tilda informs Dray they must continue to Bormark, he looks at Inch for guidance and he refused to meet Prescot's eyes. This was "a mean and despicable act in a comrade." Inch shows himself to be worthy, in my mind.

En route to Bormark, a sea-barynth is seen and well illustrated by Tim Kirk (page 115). Another Pellucidar/Zanthodon type scene. Some comments on the Kregish (or is it Pazish) language occurs on page 116. In particular the word for drinking water is obscene. When wounded warriors call for water (insert your favorite vulgarity) after a battle, it is surreal. I bet!

Tilda's parents are visited (page 117) and I don't believe ever mentioned again. I guess I don't remember reading that before. Hmm ...

Murlock is kidnapped by Inch and Dray but not before a nubile maiden flees his bed, all naked (page 119). I had to look up the term, despite the numerous times I've read it. "A person of marriageable age or condition." I always imagined it meant a young wench capable of incredible contortions. Shows what I know. On to the king!

Pando is presented to the visiting King Nemo (he arrived via submarine). Faced with the aforementioned fait accompli, he recognizes Pando as Kov of Bormark (possession, you know) and his mother becomes the Kovena. I'd say this is due to harboring the wife of the exiled Kov and not because Tilda is Pando's mother. In that case she'd be the Kov-Mother. Right?

As the usurper Murlock is banished by Nemo, Dray expects further trouble in the future from him (page 122). I don't recall any.

At a sort of getting to know each other dinner, Tilda succumbed to emotion (page 123) and cried tears of joy and astonishment quietly. Nice touch, that! Well when Prescot refuses King Nemo's offer of employment (royal guardsman), he goes to bed and awakens as an oar slave on one of the king's swifters. His oar comrade is a Vallian named Valka (probably not from that specific island though). Not long after, female renders seduce (how hard can that be?) the crew of the swifter and slay them. After carrying the whip-deldar's severed head (I'm glad that's all that was severed), and seductively displaying it to the slaves, the offer is made and readily accepted. Dray, Valka, and the rest become renders in Viridia's band. In fact Dray had spotted her during the attack on the way to Pandahem (page 129).

We meet this infamous brigand on page 129. She is feared and somewhat sexless in appearance (due to the clothes hanging off her armor). Boy does that change later!

Diff alert! Womoxes on page 130. It appears they originate on an island near Valka and are reluctant Vallians (also they are a clue to Viridia's origin). After seeing the Womoxes Dray goes into a discourse on when he will mention the various races of diffs (as they figure specifically into his saga) and the role of the Everoinye in their dispersal on Kregen. The role of the Savanti is hinted at as well.

Ken expresses his view on birth control (pro) and explains why (page 133). He was smart enough to avoid the subject of abortion! On page 135 Dray is told by Viridia's second in command, Strom Erclan, that he has grown too big for his boots. Prescot (the wise guy) simply looks down to his naked feet and actually me smile by doing so! It was Dray who instigated the policy of ransoming the captives instead of slaying them. I guess this provides some solace to Prescot for taking up a career in thievery (little choice though he had). He also tells himself that most of the victims are foes of Vallia (which he has never trod, but his princess has). I suppose if he tells himself these things enough times, he'll eventually really believe them. I think Ken must be thinking of how English pirates (like Sir Francis Drake) were somewhat legitimate as they were in the pay of the Crown. Whatever!

Prescot and the render (page 138) fight the Shanks, but little detail is given, simply that they come up from the southern oceans. And then Dray contemplates his charisma but the term "yrium" is yet to be used. This makes me think ahead to when he tried to utilize this force while on the Volgendrin ("Armada of Antares"), to less than desired results. However, in this instance, Dray is building his own force, loyal to him personally. And too, he is a fine varterist, if somewhat strict.

Not to belabor a point, but, getting back to that varterist slain by Prescot from the "dram Constant". It was his death that opened the door for Dray to step in and take his place. Fate, I guess...

A ship from Zenicce (House of Ponthieu) is seized. I now know what Prescot would have done had it been from Strombor or one of the allied houses. I see this when he prevents a ship from Bormark being attacked. By defeating Viridia's Womoxes and Brokelsh (new diff, I think), he effectively takes control of the renders. Of course killing Strom Erclan and the Chulik Captain (Chekumte) on the Isle of Careless Repose (great name) solidified his power.

The illustration on page 145 shows off that Chulik and hovering Womox pretty well, but Viridia looks skanky! We find out later on when she (what else?) attempts to seduce Prescot with heaving bosom, ruffled silk, and shimmering this and that. When all else fail (as they all do, except maybe Mayfwy), they pound on his chest (page 151).

That string bean Inch returns on page 169. He too was finally made an oar-slave by King Nemo. Of course the render maidens did their usual thing. Pity we don't see them beyond the times they are needed. I think Viridia shields them from the rogues in her crew. Maybe they don't want to be shielded though.

I now know that Prescot is a "man of peace", because he tells Viridia just that on pages 160 & 161. She plain out doesn't buy it. Neither do I. And what's this, Prescot's right hand man, Valka, calls him "my old dom" (page 163). Too bad though, I don't think Valka is heard from again. Pity, he was a worthy comrade!

Some final thoughts on "Swordships"…

Inch reports that Pando is out of control, defeated by the Bloody Menahem, and Tilda drinking. It's such a shame what happens later (Pandahem Cycle), to this beautiful, vibrant and alluring lady. So sad ...

A Vallian galleon is finally sighted by Prescot and it is almost mystical in appearance. Of course the Shanks will take away that cockiness in due time! To bail Pando out, Prescot leads his renders to the rescue. First they defeat a fleet and then the army out of Menahem. The Gdoinye observes all. The battles take place on the bay of Panderk (pages 183 & 184) and in Pomderman (pages 187 & 188).

I answer my previous question about the future whereabouts of Murlock. It was he who sided with Menaham and orchestrated the assault. Of course he dies ...

During the final assault on the palace it is Viridia who coins the phrase "Superb" in regards to Prescot's newly created flag (page 188). I'm not sure when "Old" is added to it. I love it when women vie for Prescot's affection (remember Thelda and Lilah?). In this case it is Tilda and Viridia on page 190. Good lord, I wish I had his yrium! Naturally the Gdoinye appears at the victory party and Dray is taken up. He says he will come back, for Delia. Does he?

One last thing, I mentioned in an earlier post that the illustration opposite the title page is not present in this British edition. It occurs to me that it was another unflattering picture of Viridia waving Old Superb.

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