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The Tides of Kregen

Dray Prescot #12

The Tides of Kregen by Alan Burt Akers
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Of all the honours that Dray Prescot, Earthman, had won during his fabulous adventures on Kregen, none were valued by him more than his membership in the Order of the Krozairs of Zy.

The Krozairs are the highest order of chivalry on that turbulent planet, dedicated men, warriors of stern convictions and unflinching hearts. And Prescot had been ordained a Krozair back at the dawn of his career.

Thus when the Krozairs in their hour of need called on all their far-flung members for aid, he should have gone. But he could not. His return from Earth was blocked by the anger of the mysterious Star Lords.

Before Dray Prescot could achieve redemption, he had two armies opposed to him, two warring kingdoms naming him outlaw, and only the tides of the seven moons as a weapon...

Mushroom Publishing; March 2006
ISBN 9781843194231
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Title: The Tides of Kregen
Author: Alan Burt Akers

A Note on the Krozair Cycle

With this volume of his saga, Dray Prescot is hurled afresh into brand-new adventures on the planet of Kregen, that grim and beautiful, marvelous and terrible world four hundred light-years away beneath the red and green fires of Antares, under the Suns of Scorpio.

Dray Prescot is a man of above medium height, with brown hair and brown eyes that are level and dominating. His shoulders are immensely wide and he carries himself with an abrasive honesty and a fearless courage. He moves like a great hunting cat, quiet and deadly. Born in 1775 and educated in the inhumanly harsh conditions of the late eighteenth century English navy, he presents a picture of himself that, the more we learn of him, grows no less enigmatic.

Through the machinations of the Savanti nal Aphrasöe, mortal but superhuman men dedicated to the aid of humanity, and of the Star Lords, the Everoinye, he has been taken to Kregen many times. On that savage and exotic world he rose to become Zorcander of the clansmen of Segesthes, and Lord of Strombor in Zenicce.

Against all odds Prescot won his highest desire and in that immortal battle at The Dragon’s Bones claimed his Delia, Delia of Delphond, Delia of the Blue Mountains. And Delia claimed him in the face of her father, the dread Emperor of Vallia. Amid the rolling thunder of the acclamations of "Hai Jikai!" Prescot became Prince Majister of Vallia and wed his Delia, the Princess Majestrix. One of their favorite homes is Esser Rarioch in Valkanium, capital of the island of Valka of which Prescot is Strom.

Far to the west of Turismond, the western continent of this grouping of continents and islands called Paz, lies the inner sea, the Eye of the World. There Prescot as a swifter captain became a member of the mystic and martial Order of Krozairs of Zy. He says he values his membership of the Krzy more highly than any other of his honors.

After a series of adventures on the continent of Havilfar, during which he fought in the arena of the Jikhorkdun and became King of Djanduin, idolized by his ferocious four-armed Djangs, Prescot managed to stay alive to thwart the plans of the Empress Thyllis of Hamal. In the Battle of Jholaix, Hamal was defeated and an uneasy peace ensued. Prescot and Delia and the children returned to Esser Rarioch in Valka looking forward to a happy and contented life.

Thus ends the Havilfar cycle. This volume, Tides of Kregen, opens the Krozair Cycle. Kregen is a world too rich in passion and action to allow a fighting man like Dray Prescot to rest for long. Once more, then, Prescot is launched into fresh adventures, but this time there is a hiatus which, I believe, might easily break a man of lesser fire and spirit than Dray Prescot, Krozair of Zy.

Alan Burt Akers



Chapter One

The Star Lords’ warning

When two wizards begin quarreling it is time for sensible men to take cover.

"You young fambly, Khe-Hi!" Evold Scavander spluttered and fumed, his bewhiskered peppery features fairly glowing with baffled fury. "You lord of mumbo jumbo!" I fancied he would explode at any moment. He sneezed, powerfully, and Khe-Hi-Bjanching took a smart step backward, waving a hand before his young and handsome face.

"Now, old man, admit you have no powers to penetrate—"

"Powers! Powers! I’ve had more powers than you’ve had loloo’s eggs for breakfast!" Evold swiped away at his face with a huge square of silk, all bright orange and red and brown. "I tell you, you arrogant puffed-up wizard of Loh, I put no store by this tomfoolery of appearances—"

"I saw, Evold, you ninny! I saw!"

"You saw the remains of last night’s dopa, you young whippersnapper." He sneezed again, a veritable gusher of effort. The handkerchief swiped fretfully. "I’m the wizard to the Prince and don’t you forget it!"

"To the Prince you may be anything, old man, I do not doubt. But a wizard!" Here Khe-Hi-Bjanching, that young and superior Wizard of Loh, laughed most sardonically, cutting old San Evold to the quick. "I grant you do have a power, aye, a mighty fine power of drowning a man in your sneezes! But as a wizard you would do well sweeping out the zorcadrome."

"I’ll — I’ll—"

"What? Cast a spell and turn me into a toad? Well, go on. Try."

"That mumbo jumbo is for you young fools. I know what I know."

They were really going at each other now, there on the terrace of my high fortress of Esser Rarioch in Valkanium. Only by chance had I come on them, being troubled in mind and going to find old Evold Scavander. When two wizards quarrel it behooves a mere man to be circumspect about taking himself off, but I stood for a short space in the shadow of a pillar watching them, the pressure on my spirits a little relieved by their antics.

Khe-Hi-Bjanching waxed more vociferous, his white gown with the crimson rope around his waist a blaze of radiance in the streaming light of the suns. "And I know we have had a visitation. If you do not instantly let me pass to report to the Prince he’ll have your head off and have you hanging by the heels from the highest battlements of Esser Rarioch."

"The Prince would not condone such barbarities. He’d as lief trim your height by a head."

They went on like fighting cocks. With shrill squeals my younger twins, Segnik and Velia, scampered around the corner. They could run well now and were involved in some activity that made them oblivious to the quarrel. By the time they realized what was going on, a realization matched to their understanding of funny old San Evold and clever San Khe-Hi, Turko the Shield appeared, his face grim, to seize them up with two muscular heaves, one under each arm. He did not see me and he carried the twins off with a gentle concern that pleased me, despite all their squawking for Unca Turko to let them watch the fight.

Turko the Shield, a mighty Khamorro whose superb body and muscles could break men and destroy armed and armored foemen, felt that altogether sensible desire to place as much distance as he could between himself and a couple of wizards about to do each other mischief.

This quarrel appeared to me to be the outcome of the perfectly natural friction to be expected. Evold, who was the wisest of the wise men of my island Stromnate of Valka, shared the fears of the old when confronted by the eager zest of the young. But Evold had served me well and he ought to know he would never be cast off. Khe-Hi-Bjanching had yet to prove himself.

Turko’s rumble, carrying off the younger twins, faded, and I smiled. Oh, yes here in my wonderful island of Valka in my high fortress of Esser Rarioch I could smile because I was with my Delia and my children; I could smile even though I knew with a pang of misgiving just what the Wizard of Loh meant when he talked of an apparition, of an appearance. This, then, explained the trouble that lay on my spirit. Although I had not seen the apparition this time, I had felt it and its evil power, malefic and altogether horrible in that high palace of light and laughter.

The twin Suns of Scorpio flooded their jade and ruby lights onto the high terrace; the bees buzzed in the flowers; the whole scene in that clear limpid air was one to dizzy the senses with beauty. Young Yallan halted at the end of the terrace, the hefty jar of water on his shoulder shaking and slopping as he hesitated to dare to pass. Yallan worked in the kitchens — he was not a slave, for neither Delia nor I will allow slaves in our lands — and he was paid well. He was a man, an apim, for we did not consider the carrying of heavy jars of water up the flights of steps a girl’s work. He saw me and he slopped more water.

The time for fun had gone.

"Sans, Sans," I said, stepping forward. I used a gentle voice, but they both switched around smartly, knowing just who it was who spoke to them, and instantly started in hurling their sides of the argument at me. I held up a hand. They fell at once to silence.

"For the sake of Sweet Merrilissa, let young Yallan past. He spills the water, and it is a heavy task to carry it up."

"Yes, my Prince," they said, together, looking at Yallan as though he had sprouted horns. Yallan swallowed, walked past and turned and said, "My thanks, my Prince. Shall I call the palace guard? When two wizards . . ." He looked troubled.

"They merely riddle a puzzle, good Yallan. I thank you for your thought."

"Well, my Prince," he said, looking doubtfully at the two wizards, still standing on tiptoe and glowering at each other.

San Khe-Hi half turned his head, stared at Yallan and said with very much of a snake’s hiss in his voice: "Be off, or I shall turn you into one of the little insects that crawl upon the floor!"

Yallan let out a screech and fled. He spilled drops of water as he went, but he did not drop the jar.

I said, "That was unkind, San. Unkind even if funny."

"There are important affairs of state, my Prince, that you must know—"

San Evold choked and sneezed. "Important! He wakes with a sore head from dopa and sees visions!"

"Not so, Evold. I know whereof Khe-Hi speaks. I have had visitations before, apparitions."

The Wizard of Loh nodded his head, the suns-light catching that blazing red hair and sheening brilliantly. "I told you so, you old dodderer! Go back to your chemicals and your cayferm and your silver boxes!"

But San Evold Scavander was not the wisest wise man in all Valka, just to be foisted off by a youngster, even if that young man was one of the famed and feared Wizards of Loh. He looked at me closely and he no longer sneezed.

"You speak sooth, my Prince. I know that. Then I would like to know more — all there is to tell. For there must be danger here." Then, unable to resist a last dig at Bjanching, he added: "For if danger threatens in Valka, I would not like to repose much confidence in this young fambly, for all he claims to be a Wizard of Loh."

"I’ll show you!" began Bjanching.

I silenced them.

"Tell me what you have seen, San. All of it. And quickly."

He knew that tone of voice. As you know I had picked up this Wizard of Loh in the island of Ogra-gemush, when Delia and Merle and Bjanching and I had been put to the test of the two doors by that unhappy King Wazur of Ogra-gemush. He had heard me and he had seen me in very different circumstances from these wonderful surroundings of Esser Rarioch, so he answered up quickly and succinctly.

"I awoke with the sure knowledge that a Wizard of Loh in lupu had appeared here. I could sense the locus. I saw him, not a strong manifestation; but I know he was evil."

"Aye," I said. "Aye. Unless I am mistaken that is the manifestation of the Wizard of Loh called Phu-si-Yantong."

Bjanching drew in his breath with a hiss. I had spoken to him of Yantong, enough to acquaint him with that devil’s evil intentions toward not only me and my family here in Valka, but also of his insane ambition to rule the whole continent of Havilfar and the island Empire of Vallia also, of which my Delia’s father was Emperor.

"The malefic force was great," said Bjanching. He was a young man, the only young Wizard of Loh I had seen up to then. Sometimes his spells did not work. He was eager and willing to learn, and highly contemptuous of those who put no store by his powers. "He was in lupu at a great distance."

"The greater the distance the better," I said. Lupu is that trancelike state into which the Wizards of Loh can place themselves and so see and observe over distances. Phu-si-Yantong had given orders that I was not to be assassinated, for he planned to use me in his evil schemes. From time to time he kept an observation on me. Now that I had my own Wizard of Loh I wondered if I might use Bjanching in more practical ways.

I looked at him. He was well aware of his enormous good fortune in being still alive and, into the bargain, of having a standing at my court in Esser Rarioch.

"Tell me, San. Is it possible to counter these intrusions in some way?"

"Yes, Prince," he said quickly. Too quickly, for his face clouded and he thought, then said: "It depends on the strength of the wizard."

"He is very powerful. With no disrespect to you, I hazard the guess he is the most powerful Wizard of Loh outside Loh itself, at least as far as I can judge."

"Then I can set up a defense which will slow him down. I can fool him, for a space. After that . . ."

"He has purely physical ambitions. He wishes, quite insanely, to assume powers of overlordship in as many countries and nations as he can contrive. I think that weakens him."

All this time San Evold had been spluttering and sneezing away in a minor key. Now he burst out: "Well, by Vox! Why do you not take a great armada and crush him, my Prince?"

I smiled. "The question is, San, where is he? What are his powers? I do not forget he is in alliance with two evil men I know: Vad Garnath of Hamal, a man who would benefit the whole of Kregen by dying, and the Kataki Strom, the personification of devilment."

"Katakis." Khe-Hi-Bjanching pursed his lips. "They are bad business, by Hlo-Hli!"

"Then begin at once, San. Call on my chamberlain Panshi for whatever you require. I would have my house cleansed of these visitations. One day Phu-si-Yantong may appear with a greater desire than mere observation." I turned to Evold. "And, San Evold, you would greatly oblige me by rendering assistance to San Khe-Hi."

Evold’s old stained smock quivered. He sneezed. But he got out, "Right gladly, my Prince," well enough. I knew I could trust him, and he would provide a useful check on Bjanching until I was fully satisfied as to that young Wizard of Loh’s credentials.

As they went off, to go by way of the long hall of the images to that lofty room given over to San Evold as a laboratory, I was pleased to see they had forgotten their quarrel. Already they were talking as wizard to wizard, in their two very different disciplines, anxious to hatch out a likely scheme to foil this Opaz-forsaken Wizard of Loh who was trying to play dirty tricks on their ruler.

I sighed. Truly, I had to be thankful to Zair for the quality of my friends and companions.

That made me itch for Seg — for Seg Segutorio had taken his wife Thelda and their children and gone flying off to pay a call on his homeland of Erthyrdrin. That was a visit long overdue. As for Inch, he was up in his Black Mountains of Vallia working like a beaver on a new dam that would bring prosperity to one of his valleys and its people.

There was nothing I could do about Seg and Inch, for I never forgot they had their own lives to lead, both being Kovs of Vallia, and for the moment there was nothing more I could do about foiling that rast of a Phu-si-Yantong. So, throwing off these cares that were, after all, only dreamlike in quality, I went off to find Balass the Hawk and my eldest son Drak and see how they fared. I was most interested in Drak’s education. He was growing up now, he and his twin sister Lela, and while my Delia had indicated very firmly that she fully intended to take care of Lela’s education herself, it was my responsibility to see about that rapscallion Drak. I had not smothered him with titles and honors, as so many powerful men of the Empire suffocated their sons. Delia and I had created the rank and title of Amak in Valka. This was, in Hamal, the lowest rank of nobility. We possessed a tiny island just off the north coast of Valka, a place no more than a dwabur across and three dwaburs long. It was called Vellendur. So with a small and deliberately low-key ceremony we had created our son Drak the Amak of Vellendur. The people there were apims, a simple fisher and weaving folk, who had sent as many stalwart sons — aye, and daughters — as they could when we had freed Valka from the evil grip of the slave-masters and the aragorn.

An ample gift had seen to many of their wants and they were grateful for what had been done for them, for they had suffered when the aragorn had ridden in, powerful and haughty, to drag away their people into slavery. So now Drak was the Amak of Vellendur. I fancied he was pleased. But I’d told him in no uncertain terms that he wasn’t to begin to get puffed-up ideas of his own importance, and his allowance was kept very low. Delia handled that; I felt it was perhaps a trifle too low and so from time to time I would slip him a handful of valens, or buy him a zorca colt or a stavrer pup. When Delia found out she was angry, but I thought that Drak was learning the lessons he must learn for life not only on Kregen but on any world where men traffic together and there are lords and those who are not lords.

Balass the Hawk, that fierce hyr-kaidur, was giving Drak all the benefits of the higher arts of swordsmanship as it affected Balass. He’d been a hyr-kaidur in the arena of Hyrklana with me and was a supreme secutor. This meant he understood the ways of sword and shield. For others of the arts of war we went to others of my friends and companions.

So, going down the stairs that led to the walled-in sandy enclosure where Balass sweated away, I paused, looking out under the steaming rays of the twin suns.

I felt shock.

It was quick — far too quick, by Zim-Zair!

Against that opaline radiance floated a dark shadow. I saw the widespread wings, the squat head, the raked-forward talons. This bird of prey was not large enough, or shaped correctly, to be a flutduin, the superb saddle bird we in Valka were adopting slowly. This was a bird I had seen many and many a time during my life on Kregen, this planet four hundred light-years from the world of my birth, this glorious world of Kregen under Antares which held all of life I held dear.

This marvelous world of Kregen held also the Gdoinye, the messenger and spy for the Everoinye, the Star Lords.

I stared up at the silhouette of the bird and the Gdoinye flicked his wings and so dived directly for me.

My hand jerked spasmodically to the rapier scabbarded at my side. But, even then, I wondered of what use mortal steel would be against this gorgeous scarlet and gold raptor. The bird wheeled before me with a harsh and raucous cry. I knew that if anyone looked on this scene they would not see the bird, for the Star Lords, who had brought me across the interstellar gulfs, protected their servants, although they took scant heed for my hide.

"Dray Prescot! Idiot! Fool! Onker!"

"Aye!" I shouted back. "I am all of those things, for I do spit you through!"

The bird screeched again, windblown laughter or a mere bird’s cry I knew not. "You are a high and mighty man, these latter days. You are a noble, a prince, a Prince Majister, no less."

"These things have come to me through no seeking of mine." I hurled the words at the Gdoinye but I know now that I spoke of my humility with pride, with foolish pride.

"Nonetheless you hold high position here in Valka, and in Vallia, no less than in Strombor or with your clansmen of Segesthes. And, Dray Prescot, are you not also the King of Djanduin?"

"You know it, you cramph of a bird."

"You are the cramph, onker, for you forget why you were brought to Kregen at all."

"I never knew, you get-onker!"

The bird screeched again, and this time, I swear, the mocking amusement at my own stupidity sounded clearly in the cry.

"You were never meant to know. And you think you may defy the Star Lords, you puny human mortal?"

I made no reply. The Star Lords, who could hurl me away from Kregen and all I loved back to Earth four hundred light-years off through space, had never bothered themselves about my welfare, only calling on me to perform tasks for them. But they had not troubled me for a very long time now. Although it would be foolish to say I had forgotten them, their eternal menace had drifted into the back of my mind. Now I was being reminded of my true position.

"Have I failed you yet?" I spoke quickly as the Gdoinye swerved, all a shimmer of scarlet and gold beneath that streaming opaline radiance from the twin suns.

"You fail at your peril! There is work to your hand!"

"And if I refuse?"

"You may not refuse, Dray Prescot. You are not a pawn nor yet are you the master of your fate. Think on it, Dray Prescot, think on these things."

The Gdoinye said swod and not pawn, but I knew damn well what he meant. But I did not know what he meant by saying I was not a pawn. I had struggled against the Star Lords in the past and felt I had gained some advantage over them; I fancied there was a great deal more to learn before I could banish them from my scheme of things.

"You are a great man, Dray Prescot, with your string of titles and your lands and money and power. The Star Lords exact strict obedience from those they select to serve their ends."

"You nurdling great onker!" I bellowed. "What are these ends and what are the Star Lords trying to do here on Kregen?"

This time I was certain the damned bird laughed at me in a great cackling cry and a ruffling of feathers. He bore up and his pinions beat widely and he soared up and away. As I stared up after him his departing cry wafted down, hoarse and mocking.

"The Star Lords are most considerate of you, Dray Prescot. They send me to warn you, to give you time. Think how puissant are the Star Lords, and how generous!"

Then he was a mere dot against the radiance and then he was gone.

Feeling in a foul mood I went down to the sandy arena. Drak was thwacking away at Balass, making his shield gong. Every now and then Balass would reach out and touch Drak with his wooden sword, just to remind him and make him jump about a bit.

"Father!" said Drak, leaping back most agilely and turning to me. "Father! I saw a monstrous great bird, all red and gold, in the sky, making a most terrible noise."

I just stared at him.

"There was no bird, Drak," said Balass. "I saw nothing."

"No," I said, most heavily. "No, Drak. I saw nothing."