Witch of the Dark Star [Cosmic Reckoning Book 3]
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by Hal Annas
Category: Science Fiction/Romance
Description: "Will Inevitably Remind Readers of the Hyperion Series!" Says SF Sagas. In the final installment of this classic, and some say first-ever, science fictional bodice-ripper, it is up to Evela, witch of the Dark Star, and Moxol the Murderer, son of Aleta, heroine of Book I, The Woman from Eternity, to fulfill Aleta's vow and purge the galaxy of "the madness of war" forever! Why are there wars? Why have the followed humankind thousands of years into the future? What seemed to be a war of revenge between the humans of Earth and the humans of Novakka, which has pulled all the other settled worlds into one camp or the other--and indeed all wars since the dawn of human history--is now revealed to be a plot by an alien lifeform from the farthest future. Metal life, created by humans and almost destroyed by them, has reached back through to a time just after its creation to wipe out biological life. But, neither metal life, or the two warring armies have counted on the witch of the Dark Star, or the effect of the magical spell she is about to cast over the galaxy's mightiest warrior, Moxol the Murder, the man who is humanity's last hope! Stunning conclusion of the 1950s pulp magazine saga of romance and intrigue, never before in book form.
eBook Publisher: Renaissance E Books/PageTurner, 2005
eBookwise Release Date: September 2005
2 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [119 KB]
Reading time: 77-108 min.
"The yellow star is a woman, tall, stately, fair, a queen. Men have died because of her, and because of her the galaxy will be divided. At the head of an armada stretching from star to star Moxol the Murderer will prevail. (See Woman from Eternity.)
"The red star is a girl, slender, sensitive, auburn of hair, blue of eyes. From another era she will coax life and weapons of unlimited power. She will cast her lot with that of a man accepted as a god, whose power is greater than an armada. She will bring peace, but it is only a lull ... for there is yet the dark star. (See Daughter of Doom.)
"The dark star is the spirit of life and mystery in a dark sultry girl, soon to become a woman of bewitching charm and power to move men. Her net is spread over Moxol the Murderer, and the spell that she will cost will unleash the furies of hell. It will be she who opens the gate to another era and all the terrors of mortal and immortal creation from infinity to infinity. (See Witch of the Dark Star.) * * * * CHAPTER ONE
THE stain on his blade was an annoyance. It would not come off. In the shape of a crescent near the point it was growing darker.
He stepped over the dead body, flung aside the curtain and entered the sanctum of the witch.
A tremor ran through him, a tremor such as he had experienced only once before, and that when he had cut his way through the defenders about the entrance to the golden room aboard the Mallikan pleasure cruiser, and had seen standing just inside a child of a girl whose hair and eyes were as black as empty space. There had been no tears on her face, no fear in her eyes, but the knife at her breast had warned that if he came another step she would take her own life.
She would rather have died than to fall into the hands of Novakkans. And something in her eyes had told him that if she lived she would kill him.
In the attitude of the creature before him now was that same defiance. She was aged, twisted, bent. She steadied herself with a cane, and he had no doubt that within its length was a lethal ray or a poisoned blade.
A black robe hung over her skeleton-like body and accentuated the pallor of her wrinkled features. From an urn in the center of the shadowy room wreaths of smoke rose, broke and curled, giving off a pungent odor.
Her voice was cracked, rasping. "You are Moxol the Murderer."
He didn't deny it, nor was he astonished. Hot Novakkan blood flowed in his veins. At fifteen he had been three years in space with Rahn Buskner. They had pillaged whole planets, raped the spaceways, carried off treasure and slaves beyond reckoning. Word of their coming preceded them.
"You killed a man outside this place," the witch added.
"In a fair fight," he said. "The man crossed blades with me. But I have not come to banter. I have come to learn my destiny."
"Your destiny is dark."
Moxol advanced. "In another moment, witch, I will carve my name on your heart. Or, far-off Xnor I heard that you could forecast a nova. On nearer Singuel I was told that you could say to the moment when a man would die. On still nearer Nocto it came to my ears that you could chart a human life to the last jot. Now tell me my destiny, and true or I will deliver yours on the point of my blade."
"You should not have killed the man."
"He should not have tried to stop my entering here."
"He did that at my orders to spare your mind. Your destiny is dark. Blood flows where you walk. To watch your life unfold can but bring madness."
"Tell me, witch."
"It will take time and cost you much treasure. What have you brought from Xnor and Singuel?"
"It will cost me nothing and I will not wait. Tell me now or join the man who guarded your entrance."
"You would kill me, a Magian?"
"I would kill a witch, a man, a woman, a devil, a spirit, a god. A Novakkan fears neither the now nor the thereafter, nor any curse you can cast. You have the space of a single long breath."
"Then sit down and observe. But in the end, spare me. It may be that with foreknowledge you can avert much of that which is written concerning Moxol the Murderer."
"No other has called me that and lived. I have never killed in cold blood."
"True. But within a span, by your reckoning, of seven hundred days, the name will crackle across the galaxy. It will be written in blood. The hand of civilized man will be your scourge. It will drive you on to deeds more desperate, to spill blood as water. On planets unnumbered you will be hated, feared, and the price on your head will be so great it will give courage to the faintest of heart. Everywhere you turn your life shall be sought. Babes in cradles shall know of Moxol the Murderer and grow up with bitterness in their hearts."
"By what sign?"
"By the sign of the three stars, one of which is dark and deadly.
"The yellow star is a woman, tall, stately, fair, a queen. Men have died because of her, and because of her the galaxy will be divided. Planets will burn. Mighty warships will spread death and destruction. At the head of an armada stretching from star to star Moxol the Murderer will prevail for a time. But greater things are to come.
"The red star is a girl, slender, sensitive, auburn of hair, blue of eyes. In her nature are the elements that excite men. From another era she will coax life and weapons of unlimited power. She will cast her lot with that of a man accepted as a god, whose power is greater than an armada. She will bring peace, but it is only a lull. What has gone before will seem but a breath beside the flood of death that is to follow. For there is yet the dark star.
"Go now before I unveil the three stars and show you how they are entwined with your life."
Moxol was impressed, moved. No other had spoken like this. And in it was the ring of truth. He was not certain he wanted to bear the meaning of the dark star. Memory of a girl child brought the tremor coursing his spine. But he couldn't be sure it wasn't the witch casting a spell. His Novakkan blood grew hotter.
"The dark star?" he said. "Tell me."
"The dark star," the witch cackled, "is the spirit of life and mystery in a dark and sultry girl, soon to become a woman of bewitching charm and power to move men. Her net is spread over Moxol the Murderer, and the spell that she will cast will unleash all the furies of hell. It will be she who opens the gate to another era and all the terrors of mortal and immortal creation from infinity to infinity."
A single clear note from the ship's audio reached him. He knew what it meant. Back at Xnor, Rahn Buskner had decided to rid the galaxy of the slave cultures in the Dexbo System. The rulers had grown too fat and wealthy. The plunder would be enormous and they had come in force, a score of slow cargo ships in their midst.
It had been a tedious journey, an uninspiring task. The slavers were backward, crude, craven. Their lordly strutting, their cruel tyranny over their subjects, and property, their boasting of their deeds of prowess, had turned to water when they faced Novakkan steel.
There was no sense of satisfaction in shackling their bodies to the hulls of ships and carrying them into space. But it had to be done. Novakkan honor was at stake.
It was a peculiar thing, understood only by the true Novakkan who had descended front persecuted forebears whose code was as rigid as their lives were dedicated. A Novakkan might mistreat his captives, but when he sold them as slaves they must become workers, concubines, artisans, scientists, an integral part of the culture, forever under the protection of the law of Novakkan vengeance.
It was not cruelty that had established this law. It was the demands of survival.
Near the center of the galaxy a vigorous, dynamic, progressive race of Earthmen lived and probed outward. Probed forward, too, into the realms of science. To match their progress in weapons, the Novakkans had to keep the races on the outlying planets healthy and forward looking. They had to compel the development of science. And they had found that unregenerate idlers, who practiced cruelty and grew fat on their slaves, stultified progress.
They purged the planets periodically, relieved them of their burdens of wealth, and often made the slave the master.
This was such a mission.
The ringing note informed Moxol that the ships were leaving for the last inhabited planet in this system. The task was nearly done.
But he was not done with the witch. He wanted all the knowledge she could give him of the dark star, of the sultry girl.
"The three stars," her rasping voice told him, "hold your destiny. If you can avoid them you may live to a ripe old age.
"The dark star, the dark girl!" he said.
"She has already cast her mantle over you. Burn it with your gun. Avoid her as you would avoid falling into the hands of Earthmen."
The ringing note came again, urgently. It meant that he had exactly nine minutes to reach the ship. His features grew darker. It would not be this way in the future. Rahn Buskner had promised that when his education was complete, with this mission, he would have a ship of his own. And a Novakkan's word, given in honor, was as certain as his vengeance.
"Witch," he said, "I cannot wait for your feeble mind to clarify the things you've told me. But someday I shall return. Be sure you have them in order."
Whirling, he parted the curtains, leaped over the body and raced for the ship.
The task on the last planet was dull. He killed two men and one woman he found torturing slaves. He left the shackling to hulls entirely to others. He was preoccupied. Memory of the words of the witch came back. In every instance they brought thoughts of the dark girl child aboard the Mallikan cruiser.
As leader of the boarding party he hadn't allowed the green-tinged giants at his back to enter the golden room. He'd been young then, fourteen, but with more than two years of raiding behind him. Those years had been filled with training, endless training. Never a day passed in space that he didn't cross swords with a Novakkan fighting man. Never a day that he didn't try his muscles against the bulk of men twice his size.
He learned every trick and his quick mind thought up new ones. At fifteen he could master any man aboard his ship and had crossed blades with some of the most skillful of Rahn Buskner's men.
He had learned to plot the trajectory and spread of a heavy photonic charge. His hand ray-weapon was as familiar as the wide Novakkan belt he wore. He had seen and learned to defend himself against scores of weapons, such as Earthmen and Golgons under their domination employed. He had even fought the carnivore found toward Andromeda, and killed them with his long knife.
In his memory were the locations of hundreds of energy fields and gravity standouts. The latter would deflect the course of a ship unless corrections were made. They could be used to advantage in battle if the enemy were unaware of them.
Knowledge of energy fields enabled the raiders to drop through a segment of space into another many light years away. It made possible explorations to the very fringes of the galaxy.
His training had been rigid. Now it was nearing completion. On the journey back to Unor he would command a ship, and later a squadron. He had no way of knowing that they would encounter the SYZ Patrol and lose many ships before they cut the patrol in two and scattered its survivors.
He didn't know that they would stop on Andam for repairs, and again at Arcadia, and part with much of their plunder.
He hadn't even a glimmer that his own ship would take a direct hit in the mid-section and break in two as they approached Unor and home.
He couldn't know. His thoughts were filled with a girl child whose eyes and hair were as black as all emptiness.
His mind was on her when the heavy photonic charge jolted him off his feet. And because he was a micro-second slow about making the decision to launch the life-ships he nearly lost his life.
And as the life-ship dropped toward the planet, and he thought of his ship and the men who died as it broke up, he knew that he would have to get that girl off his mind.
The mantle had indeed been cast over him. The spell had begun. But he meant to shake himself free.