It was with great anticipation that I used my Savanti Press paperback from November of 2000. There are only three copies in existence. So who would have the other two? Thank you Bill Ross for giving me first crack at this copy, the one you outbid me on at Draycon I.
The cover art is by Trent Copp and it is not available on the Savanti Press limited e-book publication. A scantily clad maiden is about to ring the gong, complete with a golden-feathered xichun, in the City That Sleeps.
The back cover proclaims:
"The City That Sleeps...
After soundly defeating the Shanks in Tarankar, Prescot discovers there may be something worse in Loh than the Fishheads. Join Dray Prescot and his comrades in another headlong adventure through the Lost Cities of Chem."
I assume that Mike Sutton (Tele Karkis) was the lucky dom to provide this blurb.
Ken Bulmer wrote "Scorpio Drums" back in 1997, published by Heyne in Germany. It has since been published as an e-book and in Trade and Hardcover omnibus editions by Martyn at Mushroom Publishing.
The story begins where "Scorpio Ablaze" left off. Dray is galloping after a group of retreating Katakis that have absconded with Delia. As Prescot closes in, he is whisked away by the Everoinye, much to Dray's ire. The Star Lords promise to return him to this exact moment once he has done their task.
Of special interest to me was on page 10 of the first chapter (in my book), the Star Lords repeat something said years earlier to Prescot that "There will be more invaders." Surely a reference to the Snakeheads that have been invading the Shank homeland in Schan.
Dray then asks "Do you play games with whoever rules in Schan?" To paraphrase, the response is that they do not consider this a game but that there are, inevitably, gaming elements.
The task is to save Mul-lu-Manting who wants the revival of the Empire of Walfarg, without the wizards. She is a spunky maiden, reminding me of Mevancy, though Dray thinks of Sosiena Arkasson of the Hostile Territories.
While escorting Mul-lu to her nearby home town of Shamfrin, they meet up with Noring the Ovoinach, a Kanzai Brother. Dray gets a hair across his ass and initiates a battle and a lively one it is! When it's over, both Dray and Mu-lu have obtained some clothing, having been stark naked since the Star Lords deposit Dray in the rescue of the drowning Mu-lu.
True to their word, Dray returns to Taranjin and slays all of the Whiptails but one. This one he allows to escape if he releases Delia. To show his thanks, the Kataki takes a Parthian Shot at Dray and misses. Prescot does not.
Soon after the victory, the defeated Shanks retreat out of Tarankar and Loh, via their air fleet. It turns out that they flee to mysterious Tambu which is not one of Kregen's Nine Islands. Dray does contemplate that beyond the Forbidden Land lay the islands of Bet-Asqa and Ba-Domek. Ah the memories!
While an invasion force is being put together, Dray goes off adventuring in Murn=Chem with a party of bonny adventuring comrades. Among them are Se, Milsi., Inch, Sasha, Vangar ti Valkanium, Nath na Koyhwold, Nath Karidge, Volodu the Lungs, Nath Javed (Old Hack 'n' Slay), Mevany, Rollo, Llodi, Deb-lu and of course, the incomparable Delia of Delphond!
A bit of humor: Nath Javed wants to join Dray and Seg on their next adventure and will have to hand over control of his well-trained brigade to his second in command. "Dray says "If anything turns up, Nath, you're in." Nath replies "my thanks, Bogandur" and Dray finishes with "Now-- who's for a wet?"
Dray and company head to Murn-Chem in pursuit of Na-Si-Fantong who himself is collecting nine rubies that once comprised the powerful Skantiklar necklace. The purpose of Fantong obtaining this necklace is vague but a hint is given that this mage and Phu-Si-Yantong share the same middle name. Could Fantong be related and wants to resurrect Yantong?
The balance of the book takes place City of Eternal Twilight which sits astride the underground Realm of the Drums. Adventures similar to those of the Moder in the Humped Land of Havilfar and in Csitra's lair in South Pandahem ensue. Dray is both a leader and a slave as he and his party become separated.
A type of stasis has gripped the Realm of the Drums and those that awaken still think that the Empire of Walfarg is at its' height.
A new diff (to me at least), is made known, the Quanims.
After Mevancy and Delia engage in a vicious cat-fight, all are reunited in time for them to witness Fantong escaping with the desired ruby. He gloats and Dray is dismayed.
Over all, a fast-paced and insightful look into the world of Dray Prescot. This novel upholds the high standards of the previous four books in the cycle. and prepares us for the hemispheric climax in thwarting the latest and most serious Shank invasion from over the curve of the world.
To be continued in "Scorpio Triumph," the grand conclusion of the Lohvian Cycle!
Seg the Horgandur (to Old Hack 'n' Slay)