Read The suns of Scorpio Online

Authors: Alan Burt Akers

Tags: #Science fiction, #General, #Fiction, #Fantasy, #Life on other planets, #Science fiction; English

The suns of Scorpio

BOOK: The suns of Scorpio
10.07Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads
Copyright © 1973, Kenneth Bulmer

Alan Burt Akers has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, to be identified as the Author of this work.

First published by Daw Books, Inc. in 1973.

This Edition published in 2005 by Mushroom eBooks, an imprint of Mushroom Publishing, Bath, BA1

4EB, United Kingdom

www.mushroom-ebooks.com

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher.

ISBN 184319340X

The Suns of Scorpio

Book Two of the Dray Prescot series

Alan Burt Akers

Mushroom eBooks

A NOTE ON THE TAPES FROM AFRICA

Some of the strange and remarkable story of Dray Prescot, which I have by a fortunate chance been privileged to edit, has already seen publication (
Transit to Scorpio
). Yet still as I listen to my little cassette tape recorder the power of Prescot’s sure calm voice haunts me. There is much in the incredibly long life of this man yet to learn and we must be thankful that we have been given what we do have available to us.

The cassettes my friend Geoffrey Dean handed me that day in Washington, cassettes he had received in Africa from Dan Fraser who, alone of us, has actually seen and talked with Dray Prescot, are incalculably valuable. Yet some cassettes are missing. This is quite clear from the textual evidence. That this is a tragedy goes without saying and I have urgently contacted Geoffrey to discover if he can trace any way in which the loss might have occurred. So far he has been unable to offer any explanation. It is too much to imagine that by some miraculous stroke of good fortune someone might stumble upon these missing cassettes — say in the baggage room of an airline terminal or a lost property office. If, as I fear, they are lying abandoned in some pestiferous West African village, unrecognized and forgotten, someone may use them to record the latest ephemeral pop tunes. . .

Dray Prescot, as described by Dan Fraser, is a man a little above medium height, with straight brown hair and brown eyes that are level and oddly dominating. His shoulders made Dan’s eyes pop. Dan sensed an abrasive honesty, a fearless courage, about him. He moves, Dan says, like a great hunting cat, quiet and deadly.

Dray Prescot, born in 1775, insists on calling himself a plain sailor, yet already his story indicates that even during his time on this Earth when he was attempting with little success to make his way he was destined for some vast and almost unimaginable fate. I believe he always expected something great and mysterious to happen to him. When he was transplanted from Earth to Kregen beneath Antares by the Savanti, those semi-divine men of Aphrasöe, the Swinging City, he positively reveled in the experiences designed to test him. Something about his makeup, perhaps his mental independence, his quick resentment of unjust authority, and most particularly his defiant determination to cure in the pool of baptism the crippled leg sustained by his beloved Delia in a fall from a zorca, made the Savanti cast him out of his paradise.

Subsequently, after he had been transported back to Kregen beneath the Suns of Scorpio by the Star Lords, he fought his way up to be Zorcander of the Clan of Felschraung. Then, after his enslavement in the marble quarries of Zenicce, he graced himself — in that same enclave city of Zenicce — in the eyes of Great Aunt Shusha, who bestowed upon him the title of Lord of Strombor, giving him possession of all her family’s holdings. All these experiences seem, to judge by what he says himself in the following narrative, to have touched him lightly. I cannot believe that to be true. During these early periods on Kregen Dray Prescot was maturing in ways that perhaps we on this Earth do not understand. As to the editing of the tapes, I have abridged certain portions, and tried to bring some order out of the confusion of names and dates and places. For instance, Prescot is inconsistent in his usage of names. Sometimes he will spell out the word, and this makes transcription easy; at other times I have tried to spell the name phonetically, following what I hope are the guidelines he indicates. “Jikai,” for instance, which he spells out, he pronounces as “Jickeye.” He uses the word “na” between proper names, and I take it to mean the English “of” used rather in the French fashion of “
de
”. But he also uses “nal.” He says:

“Mangar na Arkasson” but: “The Savanti nal Aphrasöe.” I feel the usage bears no relation to the double vowel. Clearly there are grammatical rules on Kregen that diverge from those with which we are familiar on this Earth. Generally I have substituted “of” in these circumstances. Prescot speaks with the characteristic lack of calculated forethought to be expected from a man recollecting past events. He will wander from one point to another as various enticing memories recur to him; but I feel this lends a certain lightness and vigor to his narrative and, at some risk of displeasure from the purists of the language among us, I have in most cases merely amended the punctuation and left the train of thought as Prescot spoke it.

So far he has said nothing of note about the seasons, and he uses that word as a rule, hardly ever “year.”

I suspect the seasonal cycles to be far more complicated astronomical, meteorological and agricultural affairs than we here are accustomed to.

Geoffrey Dean said to me: “Here are the tapes from Africa. I promised Dan Fraser I would honor what he had promised Dray Prescot, for I truly believe, Alan, there is a purpose behind Prescot’s desire to have his story read by people on Earth.”

I believe that, too.

Alan Burt Akers

CHAPTER ONE

Summons of the Scorpion

Once before I had been flung out of paradise.

Now as I tried to gather up the broken threads of my life on this Earth, I, Dray Prescot, realized how useless mere pretense was. Everything I held dear, all I wanted of hope or happiness, still existed on Kregen under the Suns of Scorpio. There, I knew, my Delia waited for me. Delia! My Delia of the Blue Mountains, my Delia of Delphond — for the Star Lords had contemptuously thrust me back to Earth before Delia could become Delia of Strombor. There on Kregen beneath Antares all I desired was denied to me here on Earth.

My return to this Earth brought me one unexpected experience.

Peace had broken out.

Since the age of eighteen I had known nothing but war, apart from that brief and abortive period of the Peace of Amiens, and even then I had not been completely free. What the new peace meant to me was simple and unpleasant.

The details of my wanderings after I managed to escape the inquiries after my arrival, naked, on that beach in Portugal are not important, for I confess I must have been living in shock. I had vanished overboard as far as the deck watch was concerned, that night seven years ago, disappearing forever from Roscommon’s quarterdeck the night after we had taken that French eighty-gun ship. Had I, as far as the navy was concerned, still been alive I would in the normal course of events have expected to be promoted to commander. Now, with the peace, with a seven-year lapse of life to explain, with ships being laid up and men cast adrift to rot on shore, what chance had I, plain Dray Prescot, of achieving the giddy heights of command?

Through chance I was in Brussels when the Corsican escaped from Elba and aroused France for the final dying glory of the Hundred Days.

I imagined I knew how Bonaparte felt.

He had had the world at his feet, and then he had nothing but a tiny island. He had been rejected, deposed, his friends had turned against him — he, too, in a way, had been kicked out of his paradise. It had been my duty to fight Bonaparte and his fleets; so it was without any sense of incongruity that I found myself at Waterloo on that fateful day of the eighteenth of June, 1815. The names are all familiar now — La Belle Alliance, La Haye Sainte, Hougoumont; the sunken road, the charges, the squares, the cavalry defeats, the onslaught of the Old Guard — all have been talked about and written about as no other battle in all this Earthly world. Somehow in the smashing avalanches of the British volleys as the Foot Guards hurled back the elite Old Guard, and I charged down with Colborne’s 52nd, and we saw the sway and the recoil of the Guard and then were haring after the ruined wreck of the French army, I found a powder-tasting, bitter, unpleasant anodyne for my hopeless longings. In the aftermath of battle I was able to render some assistance to an English gentleman who, being inopportunely pressed by a swearing group of moustached grenadiers of the Old Guard, was happy to allow me to drive them off. This meeting proved of no little importance; indeed, had my life been led as are ordinary people’s lives — that is, decently, on the planet of their birth until their death — it would have marked a most momentous day. Our friendship ripened during the days he was nursed back to full health and on our return to London he insisted I partake of his hospitality. You will notice I do not mention his name, and this I do for very good and sound reasons. Suffice it to say that through his friendship and influence I was able to place my little store of money into good hands, and I mark the beginning of my present Earthly fortune as originating on the field of Waterloo. But it is not of my days on Earth that I would tell you.

Feeling the need once more of wide horizons and the heel of a ship beneath my feet I shipped out — as a passenger — and traveled slowly in the general direction of India, where I hoped to find something, anything, I knew not what, to dull the ever-present ache that made of all I did on this Earth pointless and plodding and mere routine existence.

There seemed to me then little rhyme or reason for the malicious pranks played on me by the Star Lords. I had no clear conception of who or what they were — I didn’t give a damn then, either, just so long as they returned me to Kregen beneath Antares. I had seen that gorgeous scarlet and golden-feathered hunting bird, greater than either hawk or eagle, the Gdoinye, circling above me during moments of crisis. And, too, I had seen the white dove that had up to then ignored the scarlet and golden raptor. There were forces in play I did not and didn’t want to understand as the Star Lords battled for what they desired in their mysterious unhuman ways with whatever forces opposed them; and the Savanti

— mere human men after all — looked on appalled and attempted to move the pieces of destiny in ways that would benefit mere mortal humanity.

The forces that moved destiny chose to transport me to Kregen under the Suns of Scorpio during my first night ashore in Bombay.

The heat, stifling and intense, the smells, the flies, the cacophony of noise, all these things meant nothing to me. I had experienced far worse. And on that night, so long ago now, the stars above my head flung down a sheening light that coalesced and fused into a burning patina mocking me and closing me in. I had reached that point of despair in which I believed that never again would I tread the fields of Kregen, never again look out from the walls of my palace of Strombor in Zenicce, never again hold in my arms Delia of Delphond.

From the balcony, I looked up at the stars, with the night breeze susurrating great jagged leaves and the insects buzzing in their millions, and picked out, not without some difficulty, that familiar red fire of Antares, the arrogant upflung tail of the constellation of Scorpio. I stared longingly, sick with that inner crumbling of spirit that recognized with loathing that I did, indeed, despair. In my agony and my desperation I had thought that India might provide a scorpion — as it had bred the one that killed my father.

Clearly, that long-ago night, I was light-headed. When I looked up at the stars, at the red fire of Antares, and the familiar blue lambency grew, swelling and bloating into the blue-limned outlines of a giant scorpion, I was drained of all the exultation that had uplifted me the last time this had happened. I simply lifted up my arms and let myself be carried wherever the Star Lords willed, happy only that I should once again tread the earth of Kregen, under the Suns of Scorpio.

* * * *

Without opening my eyes I knew I was on Kregen.

The stinking heat of a sweltering Bombay night was gone. I felt a cooling breeze on my forehead. Also, I felt a peculiar scrabbling tickling sensation on my chest. Slowly, almost languorously, I opened my eyes. As I had half expected to be, I was naked.

But, sitting on my chest and waving its tail at me, a large, reddish, armor-glinting scorpion poised on its squat legs.

Without being able to help myself, moving with a violence entirely beyond my control, I leaped to my feet with a single bound. I yelled. The scorpion, dislodged, was flung out and away. It fell among a rocky outcrop and, regaining its legs with an ungraceful waddle, vanished into a crack among the rocks. I took a deep breath. I remembered the scorpion that had killed my father. I remembered the phantom scorpion who had crewed for me aboard the leaf boat on that original journey down the sacred River Aph. I remembered too the scorpion that had appeared as my friends laughed and I had sat with Delia, my Delia of the Blue Mountains, with the red sunshine of Zim flooding the chamber and the greenish light of Genodras just creeping into the corner of the window, as we made the bokkertu for our betrothal, just before I had been flung out of Kregen. I remembered these times of terror and despair when I had previously seen a scorpion — and I laughed.

BOOK: The suns of Scorpio
10.07Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

The Summer I Died: A Thriller by Ryan C. Thomas, Cody Goodfellow
Niagara Motel by Ashley Little
Daysider (Nightsiders) by Krinard, Susan
Submersed by Vaughn, Rachelle
The Best American Essays 2016 by Jonathan Franzen