Hiero's Journey by Sterling E. Lanier book dust jacket

Hiero's Journey by Sterling E. Lanier book dust jacket — English dust jacket (virtual)
Hiero's Journey by Sterling E. Lanier book dust jacket — English dust jacket (virtual)
Hiero's Journey by Sterling E. Lanier book dust jacket — English dust jacket (virtual)

Well, now the cover of an unnamed artist, perhaps the best in the series. To be honest, the author of the images is known to us. Currently, he is the art editor of one of the largest Russian publishers. But since he is not listed in the output data in the publication and so far he himself has not let slip about his authorship, let this magnificent design remain unsigned for the time being.

This edition included only one novel by Sterling Lanier, “Hiero's Journey”. Bright, convex, like the work of a real sculptor, which was Lanier. Magnificent in its Tolkien-like moralizing sense. And Tolkien-like, eco-friendly. And almost more subtle, more skilful than in the past, Frank Herbert and George Lucas use the narrative strategies of “The Hero With A Thousand Faces” by Joseph Kembell. And at the same time simple and exciting.

Again, the illustrations are as much as possible plots, reflecting two vivid scenes. And the second image shows us the key, climactic scene of the novel.

Front cover illustration

Hiero's Journey: 9. THE SEA ROVERS
The following is an excerpt from the novel Hiero's Journey from chapter Hiero's Journey: 9. THE SEA ROVERS (between chapter titles: 9. THE SEA ROVERS and 10. THE FORESTS OF THE SOUTH).

In a moment all was ready. The ship fell silent, save for the creak of timbers and straining cordage as her anchor line sawed the hawsehole. The two rogues who had rowed Roke and the Glith over clung to shrouds above the rail by their boat’s painter, eyes glittering with excitement. A sea bird called, far off, a faint, piercing cry.

From his place to Hiero’s right, Gimp shouted, “Go!” and marched forward. The four, two and two, one to each bulwark, advanced cautiously toward one another. This care alone would have told anyone of experience that trained warriors were meeting. There would be no headlong rushes and novice blunderings here. All four of them knew their business.

Hiero faced the Glith, and the two captains, tall and short, each other. They met on either side of the little cabin, almost exactly amidships. A vagrant gleam of sunshine momentarily pierced the racing clouds and illumined the foul creature’s axehead as it advanced, but aside from that, it was a thing of dead hues, gray-scaled skin, gray garment, and lustreless eyes. Yet it was alert, and every rippling muscle revealed power and agility. Nevertheless, it advanced slowly, very slowly. As it came cautiously on, Hiero heard the clash of metal to his left, where the other two had commenced. As any trained swordsman does, he watched fixedly his foe’s eyes for a sign of its intentions.

Those eyes! Great, somber, empty pools, seeming to have no bottom. Even as he watched, they grew larger. Larger! The Glith was no more than a few yards away, its axe poised on its shoulder, shield lowered. And all Hiero could see were the eyes, the round, lightless caverns of emptiness, which seemed to swell and grow until all else faded. Far off, he heard a woman scream. Luchare! The eyes vanished, shrunk to normal size, and the consciousness of where he was returned. Almost too late!

Reflex and training saved Hiero. The old, retired Ranger Sergeant who had first trained him had always stressed one point in the Abbey school of arms. Close in! “Look,” the old veteran had insisted, “always try to close in quick, particularly if your opponent looks better than you. There’s no monkey tricks with sword or spear at someone’s throat from two inches away, boys. Give luck and plain meanness a chance!”

Hiero felt the wind of the heavy axe as he dived under it, not trying a blow, but simply shoving with his shield’s boss at the Glith’s body. Until he was ready and again unshaken, he wanted no more of those eyes!

Hypnotism! No mind shield guarded against that! Roke, or perhaps the creature itself, had been very clever. Almost, Hiero had been lured into the axe, like a calf to the slaughter, helpless to avert the death stroke. Had not Luchare screamed, he would now be dead.

He wrestled now with the scaled thing, his shield arm holding off its axe above him, its own shield keeping his sword arm locked in turn. It gave off a mephitic foulness, and its skin seemed to radiate a chill. Its hissing breath was a charnel stench, but he kept his head lowered to avoid the eyes. God, but it was strong!

Hiero summoned all his own strength and simply shoved, at the same time springing backward. The axe fell again, but he was beyond its reach. For a second, he faced his enemy, panting slightly, watching the pointed chin and the shoulders, but never seeking the eyes. He crossed his shield over so that it hid his body and lowered his short sword so that it hung at the end of his arm. Dimly, he was conscious of the clash of arms continuing on the other side of the cabin, but he kept his attention riveted on his foe. He heard Klootz bellow hideously, knowing his master was in peril, but he paid no heed.

It advanced again, axe held high. Was it inviting a low thrust? he wondered. He had trouble breaking the habit of years and never looking at the enemy’s eyes, but somehow he managed it.

Then the Glith charged. As it came, the axe came down in a sweeping stroke and Hiero sprang back, ready to spring in again as the axe struck the deck. He had fought few axemen, and it was almost the death of him for the second time. The Glith’s powerful arms straightened and the blade of the axe swung, cutting a sideways arc with all its speed undiminished, straight at Hiero’s knees.

Back cover illustration

Hiero's Journey: 12. AN END AND A BEGINNING
The following is an excerpt from the novel Hiero's Journey from chapter 12. AN END AND A BEGINNING (last chapter).

Almost before he had time to realize it, a surge of filthy liquid overflowed the near edge of the buried, underground pool and sent a wave of fluid corruption racing over the floor in his direction, and the bulging, gelatinous horror of the House began to emerge out of the water. As it grew in size, it sent one bolt after another of mental force at the lone man.

It was well that Hiero had armored himself against this very time. In odd, waking moments, ever since his first encounter with the monster, he had carefully analyzed its Medusa-like power of paralysis, and he had deduced that its true strength lay in an attack on the psyche, rather than on the actual brain. The emotional centers of the body were its targets, not the reasoning process, and in the subconscious alone could it establish its unearthly stranglehold.

One remote corner of his mind registered mild surprise at the relatively modest size of the alien monstrosity. Its brownish, slimy bulk was not too much higher than his own head and scarcely more than five or six yards in total width. It still preserved the odd, four-cornered shape which had made Vilah-ree name it, but the lines moved and shook, the angles continually re-formed in peculiar abhorrent and sickening ways. Hiero saw also that it could move on its blobby base, just as the horrible candle-things did, and that it could move fast. Also now, long, glistening tendrils or pseudopods sprouted from its upper parts and waved hungrily as it slid rapidly in his direction over the floor. And all the while its ravening hatred and power beat upon his mind. His own rapport with the alien growth had become so strong that he understood why it laired so deep here and what actually he had done when he had attacked the fungoid spires. The pool was the center of not so much a garden but more (though not entirely) a harem! The seal which he had painstakingly set upon his inner being held. Even so, he prayed for strength as he backed away from the water and into the aisle in the machinery from which he had first come. After him flowed the monster, and behind it, in turn, came the remaining spires.

No more did the House use its vile blandishments to make him an ally and thus attempt to lure him within its reach. For it recognized him. Its hatred of the one being who had ever broken its power and had helped destroy much of its awful kingdom overcame it, until its strange composite mind could think of nothing else but to obliterate the impudent minikin before it. What—did the very inner parts of its buried realm, its hidden mates’ playground, hold no safety from this feared and dreaded enemy? On, on, and slay! Its speed increased, and its groping, vibrissal pseudo-pods flailed the dead air as it sought to rend him.

Carefully, judging his speed to a nicety, Hiero fled from the thing and its pack of followers. The assaults on his mind he repelled, content merely to ward off the House’s attack and not to try to retaliate. Any such trial on his part might serve instead to open new corners of his own brain to fresh and unknown assaults. Who knew of what else the monster was capable if allowed, even for an instant, to forget its mad rage?

Down the silent, dust-laden corridors, under the dim illumination of the glowing bars of millennia-old light, the strange chase continued. The human fled; the living lord of the slime sought to overtake him and extinguish its bitterest foe from the earth. Save for the light footfalls and breathing of the man and the sucking, slithering noise of the fungoid pack’s progress, there was utter quiet. The deadly race, to an observer, would have appeared some strange and voiceless charade or shadow show. The squat House and the tall, dozen remaining mold pillars sped on; the man ran; the shrouded, ancient machines were backdrop.

Always, the priest led his pursuers south, shifting a little back and forth so that it would not be too obvious and straight a road, but never going very far from the line he had chosen. And now, at length, there fell upon his ear a sound for which he had yearned. It was the distant vibration of a legion of people moving, the faint but distinct echo of many feet! The Unclean host was upon them and must even now be debouching into the great cavern!

“Путешествие Иеро. Романс будущего” on the original dust jacket. “Стерлинг ЛАНЬЕ” on the spine.

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