Fliers of Antares

Fliers of Antares by Alan Burt Akers Read Free Book Online Page A

Book: Fliers of Antares by Alan Burt Akers Read Free Book Online
Authors: Alan Burt Akers
Tags: Fiction, Science-Fiction, Fantasy
and aragorn! Truly, I was either growing old and stupid or old and wise. It is my experience that being a father is a wonderfully sobering device.
    I most certainly did not bother to observe the fantamyrrh as I stepped aboard the Hamalian slave flier. I fancied I’d let the rasts take whatever sorrow their pantheon of gods and devils might care to hand out.
    The flier was a simple, practical, no-nonsense vessel with ample capacity below decks for slaves and with enough armament above decks to repel any expected normal attack by volroks or laccapins or volleem, or any combination of flying mount and rider. I understood that the free-flying brethren of the air, the flutsmen, might well be operating in the vicinity, for there had been unrest around the Shrouded Sea; the flutsmen, the mercenaries of the skies, had been called in by more than one worried ruler.
    The slaves slumped down on the low tween-decks, a thoroughly subdued lot. Their terror remained, for they had heard lurid stories of the Heavenly Mines of Hamal, although when I asked more probing questions it soon turned out all the information anyone had was mere hearsay, mere rumor circulating and magnified. There was one very good reason why information of this monstrous kind should be by hearsay only; and this will become all too apparent as I speak to you. So the slaves lay moaning and groaning and nursing their bruises and bumped heads as we flew on north-northeast over the Shrouded Sea.
    The flier carried a fair-sized crew of slavers, men of a number of different races. We were given water to drink, chunks of bread — which the first mouthful told me had been baked from dilse, that almost useless yet common cereal — and thin, stringy strips of vosk. Again there were no palines, although there was a small supply of overripe malsidges, those melon-sized, somewhat tart fruits that, at the very least, keep the scurvy off a man. We were thrown sections of the malsidges and we scrabbled for them as they flew among us, and I, at least, sank my teeth into the sharp pulpy flesh with its flushed green color, eating right down to the brown and wrinkled skin.
    The journey from the island of Sorah to the Heavenly Mines of Hamal is about three hundred and fifty dwaburs. I calculated roughly that the speed of the voller could not be above ten db — that is, ten dwaburs per bur. So we could expect to reach our destination in something like twenty-four or so Terrestrial hours. I settled down to a patient negation of everything outside me, willing to start more trouble when we reached these notorious mines.
    The only incident of any interest occurred after we had crossed the coast up toward Methydria and could see in the far distance on our larboard side the hazy snowglint of a giant range of mountains. Two rofers appeared above us, beating through the air with massive strokes of their enormous wings, their necks outstretched. The flying animals, sailing past, looked calm and majestic, and we could see that each carried seating for a family of Fristles, six or so, with the little ones perched high at junction of neck and body craning over to look at us.
    Although the root syllable
flut
does not appear in its name, the rofer is a kind of bird. Not so the tyryvols which, with their riders brandishing welcoming tridents, surrounded us as we settled into a gigantic basin in the foothills. These tyryvols are large flying animals, with whip tails, wicked, intelligent eyes, and bodies clad in flexible scales that evolution has not yet changed into feathers; although their wings — given another few million years or so — will sprout true feathers, I shouldn’t wonder. They come in different colorations, although the most favored color chosen by the aerial riders of Hamal is a lustrous mottle of black and ocher, with scarlet claws and bands of multicolored scales around their necks. They impressed me, these tyryvols, who had seen impiters and corths of the Hostile Territories, not to

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