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6700Intrigue of Antares in Review (2014)

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  • Steve
    Jan 12, 2014
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      "Intrigue of Antares" is the 44th book in the Dray Prescot Saga and the first volume of the six book "Balintol Cycle." Thus far, only the first two books in this cycle have been published in English. These are in e-book format from Mushroom Publishing. I personally order my Dray Prescot e-books from Wowio.com and in the PDF format so I can print them out. Once I obtain the trade paperback and hardcover editions, I recycle all of the e-book except for the cover, title, copyright, contents and Notes on Dray Prescot pages.
      Heyne published this book in German in 1993 while Mushroom had the honor in English in 2008. It should be noted that Bulmer wrote all of his Dray Prescot (and Hook) books in English. These manuscripts were then translated into German. The Mushroom edition is derived from Ken's original manuscript and is not a translation into English from German. I do wonder if the connection between the British throne and the Hanoverians had anything to do with the Bulmer/Heyne publishing relationship? I'm not sure if I'm serious or not about this hypothesis...
      I used two maps of Balintol to accompany, this, my first re-read of "Intrigue of Antares." One is from the World of Kregen (WoK) site, from Germany. I believe I had attributed the Lohvian map from the previous cycle to Heyne Publishing. While they did put forth maps of Paz, they did not publish individual maps of the continent of Loh and sub-continent of Balintol. Note, Balintol occupies the southern-most portion of the continent of Segethes and really can be compared (roughly), to India's relation to Asia.
      The twin sons of Zim and Genodras are known as Mabal and Matol in Balintol, but not so on the Great Plains or in Zenicce. The sub-continent is truly cut off from the rest of Segethes!
      We know that Dray spent many a season with his Clansmen on the Plains of Segethes and in his enclave of Strombor within the city of Zenicce, but he never seemed to give Balintol any thought, as if it was totally cut off from the rest of Segethes. Politically, religiously and geographically, this is in fact the case. There is a mountain range across the northern portion of Balintol that could be compared to the Himalayas, location-wise though I have yet to discern their height and therefore don't know if they are a deterrent to invasion from the north. In later books, the few times that Dray mentioned Balintol it was in regard to their voller manufacturing sand zorca rearing. Both are important to the eventually re-unified Empire of Vallia!
      The River Nicce flows out of these mountains and empties into the sea through Zenicce. The island of Xuntal is due south while the Chulik Islands lie to the east. The major nations are Tolindrin (on the southern tip where all of "Intrigue of Antares" takes place), Caneldrin and Kildrin in the middle with Winlan and Enderli to the north. Both Chobishaw and Pershaw are to the northwest of Balintol, beyond the mountains but south of the River Nicce. Such are shown on the map sketched by author Ken Bulmer and re-drawn by Peter Smiith (Za-Peet).
      The WoK map erroneously (I believe), shows Persinia, Pershaw and Chobishaw to occupy the southern tip of Balintol, just below Tolindrin. Persinia is not shown on Ken's map. However, this (Ken's) map was perfect for me to follow Prescot as he starts off his adventures in Balintol on (almost on), the east coast and ends on the west coast in Oxonium. It took Dray several books in the Lohvian Cycle before he accomplished that feat but then again, Southern Loh is much vaster than southern Balintol.
      Once again, the Contents page shows twenty chapters but no titles. This is such a loss as I have always admired how Ken named his chapters. I know that with the little writing I have done, the naming of chapters was pure fun.
      In the "Dray Prescot" intro, (the term "Notes on Dray Prescot" is no longer used. Alan Burt Akers, to whom the saga is related to in cassettes, states that Delia is now a kregoinya and that Dray has been transported by the Star Lords to the town of Amintin in the nation of Tolindrin. This town lies ten miles inland from the eastern shore of southern Balintol. The Chulik Isles lie due east and not too far at that. It seems the Chuliks do not invade lands but serve as paktuns in them. Lucky for Balintol and further, the Chulik Isles act as a shield from Shank raids or invasions. The Fish-Heads are no fools and go after lesser nuts to crack.
      After thrashing the combined Pazian armies of the Shanks in Loh, Prescot must do the will of the Everoinye in Balintol and as usual, is woefully ill informed of precisely what these duties are. It is apparent that Dray and Delia had returned to Valka after events described in "Scorpio Triumph." How long they got to relax is unknown but at least Prescot is not naked and is armed, however poorly. He later discovers that the iron in Tolindrin used to make weapons is very suspect and breakages happen at the worst possible times. Even later, Prescot learns that Tolindrin desperately wants to sign a treaty with Vallia that will insure proper weapons. I do not know if this iron deficiency extends throughout the sub-continent, yet. The cycle is still very young!
      Some of the diffs that Dray meets in this book, possibly for the first time are the Polsim, Quavens and Yunivils.
      Upon "landing" in Amintin, Dray joins forces with another Kregoinye, Fweygo, a magnificent Kildoi. Along with Ranaj, a Numin who may or may not be a Kregoinye, they are charged with protecting Princess Nandisha. This is in regard to the matter of succession in Tolindrin, with a bloody civil war impending if not resolved.
      Naturally, there is a danger and hence the need for Everoinye interference. Pirates invade Amintin and actually rape and pillage, seemingly at will. Along the way, Prescot saves the lives of Amak Dagert of Paylen and his three companions, including the colorful attendant Palfrey the Pfiffer. More on these hard to hate villains later!
      All escape the sack of the town, barely and Prescot contemplates the Star Lords thinking "The Everoinye had once been mortal human beings, so I believed." A bit of waffling here as at other times, even in this book, Dray is definite on this. I think I recall that in Precott's dim past, the Star Lords had actually said that they had once been human. I'm not 100% sure on this though.
      After the escape, Dray soon finds himself abandoned by the good Amak and knowing the Princess is in good hands with Fweygo, he sets off alone for the town of Bharang, which is along the route to the capital, Oxonium. He knows the Nandisha was taken this way by his fellow Kregoinye and Numin comrade.
      En route, Dray meets up with San Padria and Young Nath. They are in desperate need so Prescot gives up his shoes and food. This act speaks volumes on the nature of the so-called Emperor of Paz.
      Further along the same road, Prescot arrives in time to kill a bunch of assassins and only barely has time to hear the dying request of Strom Korden. Dray is asked to deliver his (the Strom's) sword to Hyr Kov Brannomar in the capital. This man is second only to the king in power and the sword, it turns out, carries the recently dead king's will that includes his choice for succession. There are several factions and all will abide by the terms of the will. But if the will is never delivered and read to the parties concerned, well, it is every man or woman for themselves with a bloody civil war to follow. And why would Vallia sign a trade treaty with Tolindrin if it is in the throes of turmoil. They would turn to Caneldrin or another nation of Balintol for their flier needs. In Balintol, the term lifter is used just as voller is used in Havilfar.
      Dray gives his word and takes the sword in question plus the strom's zorca. Why not? We'll see why not after but first, there is a survivor. She is Tirivenswatha, or Tiri for short. She is a temple dancer with the requisite nice legs, as Dray observes on more than one occasion. They join forces and continue to Bharang where Dray espies the Gdoinye looking on, briefly.
      Upon entry, Prescot heads to the Fluted Hen for a wet and information. He is promptly, if politely, arrested for stealing the strom's zorca and of course for his murder and that of his party. Dray sees this coming and hands the sword off to Tiri, telling her to rent a room above the tavern and to wait for him. Prescot escapes by utilizing the face-changing techniques taught him by Deb-Lu.
      Not sure of the exact room that Tiri is in, Dray explores one and is horrified by Little Mimi who is not little and wants Prescot in the most carnal manner imaginable. Still, Dray is a gentleman and hides his horror as he tactfully withdrew. Eventually, he does locate Tiri and they are then joined by Nandisha, Ramaj and Fweygo. A lifter is procured and they are off for Oxonium.
      Things go OK they don't. The lifter crashes  and it turns out due to the perfidy of our erstwhile Amak Dagert. The site is marked on Ken's map and all survive, though Dray is compelled to defeat, but not kill, a monster obachnin.
      As the silver boxes of the lifter are still intact, Dray is able to fashion a primitive lifter from the wreckage and not too long after, they reach the capital. Soon thereafter, they are ambushed and the strom's sword is taken by a very capable Fristle. Fonnell the Fractious,  who unfortunately was in over his head, plotting-wise. He is killed after turning said sword over to a bravo fighter of Zenicce, in the employ of Hyr Kov Konstanton, one of the major players in the succession issue.
      After the fracas, who shows up but Dagert and Palfrey. Neither is yet known to be foresworn though Prescot does become aware of their interest in the sword. The seeds of suspicion are planted. . Then, as so often happens to Dray in Tolindrin, he is semi-arrested and brought before Hry Kov Brannomar and tasked with regaining the sword, or else! Assistance is provided. As Dray exits from his audience with the kov, who does he run into but Naghan Raerdu, the Barrel. He is Prescot's spymaster and helps fill in Dray with the religious and political subterfuge in Tolindrin and how he is in Oxonium at the behest of Emperor Drak in particular regard to the signing of the trade treaty between the two countries. But first, stability must be maintained.
      Prescot begins his quest for the sword and is promptly captured by the City Watch of the Lower City, led by Katakis. He is brought before Kov Konstanton and grilled on the whereabouts of the sword. A well beaten Dagert is dragged and implicates Prescot. Again, he escapes, with Dagert, and is then called by the Star Lords for an audience. This does not go well as the Everoinye refer derisively to Prescot as the Emperor of Emperors of Onkers. Once Dray and the Star Lords calm down, a new task is given. protect the Numin twins, Rofi and Rolan. It seems they no longer care who will succeed to the throne of Tolindrin and Nandisha is no longer of any importance. Fweygo is tasked as well.
      The two Kregoinye discuss their past with the Star Lords and Dray recalls bitterly that he once saved a young man and girl at the command of the Star Lords. This was recounted in "Suns of Scorpio," the second book of the "Delian Cycle" and of the "Dray Prescot Saga."  Dray continues with the fact that they married, had a son who became king and murdered Prescot's daughter Velia. When asked by Fweygo if Dray revenged himself for the murder, he replied no that her husband did. All this was told by Prescot in "Tides of Kregen" and "Krozair of Kregen," the second and third books of the "Krozair Cycle" and the 13th and 14th book of the saga.
      Dray learns there are volgendrins in Caneldrin but not in Tolindrin. This may play a part in "Shadows Over Kren," the 50th Prescot volume.
      Dray recovers and delivers Strom Korden's sword to a conclave of the various conspirators but the will had been removed by Dray when he had not known its' significance. After the Hyr Kovs, Princess, etc. try to kill Prescot for knowing too much, he is identified as Dray Prescot by Vallia's ambassador to Tolindrin, Elten Larghos. This changes things though it was considered that both Prescot and Larghos could be killed. Thankfully this idea is quickly discarded and instead, Dray is mystically transported by Lady Besti, Brannomar's sorceress sister to Bharang, where Dray retrieves the will he had hidden. He is then accosted by Daegert who demands, ever so politely, the document. And so they fight with Prescot getting the better of it. Realizing the situation, the amak flees with Dray's blessing and each wondering when they would meet again.
      The will is read in front of all the factions and surprisingly, one of the lesser known applicants gets the nod, the worthy Tomendishta. The kovs curse their luck (or lack of), while the princess faints. Neither one of her stalwart sons will be king.
      With the issue of the Tolindrin decided, the Numin twins still need to be protected and presumably the way of this will be revealed in "Gangs of Antares,: Prescot # 45. Dray figures that Amak Deagert will put in another appearance but this volume of the "Saga of Dray Prescot" closes, as others so often do, with Dray longing for Delia and a return to Esser Rarioch. But until then, a wet was called for. "By Mother Zinzu the Blessed -- yes!"
      Happy Swinging my fellow doms and domas!
      Seg (not in Balintol with his Old Dom)