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Authors: Will Murray Lester Dent Kenneth Robeson

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Doc Savage: Death's Dark Domain

BOOK: Doc Savage: Death's Dark Domain
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Death’s Dark Domain

A Doc Savage Adventure

by Will Murray & Lester Dent writing as Kenneth Robeson

cover by Joe DeVito

Altus Press • 2012

Death's Dark Domain copyright © 2012 by Will Murray and the Heirs of Norma Dent.

Doc Savage copyright © 2012 Advance Magazine Publishers Inc./Condé Nast. “Doc Savage”
is a registered trademark of Advance Magazine Publishers Inc., d/b/a/ Condé Nast.
Used with permission.

Front cover image copyright © 2012 Joe DeVito. All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic
or mechanical, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Designed by Matthew Moring/
Altus Press

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The Wild Adventures of Doc Savage

Special Thanks to James Bama, Jerry Birenz, Nicholas Cain, Condé Nast, Jeff Deischer,
Dafydd Neal Dyar, Rick Lai, Dave McDonnell, Matthew Moring, Ray Riethmeier, Art Sippo,
Howard Wright, The State Historical Society of Missouri, and last but not least, the
Heirs of Norma Dent—James Valbracht, Shirley Dungan and Doris Lime.

Cover illustration commissioned by Mark O. Lambert

ISBN-10: 1618270877

ISBN-13: 978-1-61827-087-0

For the incomparable Steve Holland—

Who personified the Man of Bronze as no other….

Chapter 1
The Utter Blackness

FIANA DROST WAS the first one to encounter the terrible black thing that could not
be seen, touched, felt or explained.

The thing was in fact not known to be black, but was only supposed to be black. Rather,
a smothering impenetrable darkness was the predominant sensation of those who came
into contact with the impossible darksome thing and lived to speak of it. Or perhaps
it was, after all, black. No one could say—not even those who stared directly into
the blackness and heard the beating of its leathery wings.

It was confusing to say the least.

The incredible affair began in a confusing fashion, too.

In the last moments before the nebulous shadow of terror fell upon the disputed piece
of Balkan real estate that was called Ultra-Stygia, Fiana Drost stood looking at the
evening sky on the balcony of an old fortified church that had been converted into
a drafty inn for the benefit of the swarm of newspaper reporters who had come to witness
the world’s latest war. There was no war. Not yet. One was expected momentarily, and
so the press had descended on the picturesque stone inn perched on the rocky bluff
overlooking Ultra-Stygia from the Tazan side. Tazan was a coastal country, presently
holding its collective breath. Its neighbor on the northern side of Ultra-Stygia,
Egallah, was massing tanks and soldiers in anticipation of a land grab. Ultra-Stygia
was the object of their hoggishness.

That, at least, was the viewpoint of the government of Tazan.

From the Egallah side, their diplomats pointed out that Ultra-Stygia had been theirs
for centuries, and was therefore rightfully the property of its hereditary people.
It was their perfect right to take it back—by force of arms, if necessary. In fact,
it was their solemn duty to do so.

The unnerving situation had been thus for nearly a month now.

The representatives of the fourth estate had arrived to find Fiana Drost already ensconced
in a modest suite. Since the war was late getting underway, they had taken to badgering
the mystery woman for comments to sprinkle in their cabled reports. Fiana Drost showed
good sense. She put off all interview requests.

It was after the dinner hour, and no war having materialized, the reporters were loitering
about the inn, seeking diversion. Fiana Drost being the most diverting thing around,
it was only natural that she began thinking of herself as a jar of honey that had
attracted too many bears.

Fiana had fled to the bell tower to get a breathing spell from all the unwanted attention.
She stood there looking at the rising moon over Cateral, which was the name of this
bleak frontier town.

The reporters had proven persistent, and it was suspected that a few of them had designs
beyond their stated intentions. One wanted Fiana to run away with him. Two were threatening
to shoot themselves if she didn’t accept their matrimonial proposals. She had that
effect upon susceptible men.

Fiana Drost was no frail flower of womanhood. She did not appear delicate. Nor did
she flutter her eyelids at men who chanced to enter her personal orbit. That was not
Fiana Drost.

She was on the tall side, her unblemished skin was on the pale side, and her intelligent
eyes and long hair were both of such an intense black that they shone. The combination
was quietly stunning, especially by moonlight.

None of this exactly explained her fascinating quality; rather it was probably a combination
of things that people noticed. She did not fit any preconceived notion of femininity.
Her features were sensitive, but there was an underlying strength to her every facial
expression, even in repose.

It was difficult to lay a finger on what kind of woman Fiana Drost was. She was entirely
unique.

Moreover, Fiana Drost was an enigmatic creature. She had been in this frontier region
some weeks, but little was known of her past. She might have been native to Tazan.
No one was certain. She had no noticeable accent. A few of the more imaginative scribes
ventured the opinion that Fiana Drost was a spy in the pay of Egallah. It was commonly
supposed after all, that some guests of the hotel were presumed to be clandestine
agents of Egallah.

In truth, Fiana Drost might have been anything—including what she appeared to be:
an exceedingly attractive young woman with both time on her hands and money enough
to allow her to lounge about a disguised military outpost while she waited for a war
to commence.

Fiana had been at the bell-tower window staring out into the excessively quiet night
when she started. Her slim hands, touching the cool wood of a balustrade rail set
before the open window, clenched. There was a very modern anti-aircraft gun emplacement
situated in the inn’s garden, concealed by sandbags heaped about. But that was not
where her dark, doe-like gaze was resting.

A strained sound emerged from between her pale, uncolored lips.

The sound was not loud, but it carried. And it brought a man stepping into the bell-tower,
which served as a kind of makeshift balcony, alarm on his handsome face.

The man was young, athletic and wore his worry like a hair shirt. When he had introduced
himself to Fiana Drost, he had called himself Simon Page, with the Associated Press.
He hadn’t been a pest like the others, so Fiana tolerated him in her strong, self-contained
way.

Naturally, Simon Page had promptly fallen in love with the mystery woman. She didn’t
seem to be in love with him, although Simon had told her he had hopes.

“What is it?” Simon blurted anxiously. “I heard you cry out.”

The girl did not move or reply. She simply stared out into the night, with her small
knuckles going white as her fingers gripped the rail.

“What’s wrong?” Simon Page asked.

Fiana Drost did not respond. But her hands came away from the rail. She folded her
slim arms, clutching her elbows, as if to still them.

Simon Page knew this girl—not as well as he would have liked, it was true—but close
observation led him to suspect that she would not frighten without a compelling reason.
He began to wonder what she could be looking at.

His eyes searched the area below the stone inn. It was an expanse of darkness, whose
flatness was broken only by a low depression, not far off. A few bats wheeled about
in animated flight.

After a tense period, not knowing what else to do, Simon decided to give her some
information she had asked him to get. He still didn’t understand why she had wanted
this particular information.

“You were asking yesterday about this fellow they call Doc Savage,” Simon said. “Remember?
To-day, I looked up some dope on him. To tell the truth, what I found out amazed me.
If this chap is half of what his reputation indicates, he’s remarkable!”

He paused, hoping Fiana Drost would say something. She didn’t.

Page reached out to touch her shoulder, hoping to break the eerie spell that the Tazan
moon—he supposed—had wrought on the strange young woman. “I learned quite a bit, if
you care to hear it.”

Fiana Drost shook his arm off, casually.

“I’m not interested in Doc Savage now!” she said suddenly. She turned abruptly, pale
fingers becoming fists. “Simon, will you do something for me?”

“Of course, darling!”

“I want you to come with me.”

“Eh?”

Fiana Drost’s eyes became great dark pools holding an imploring light. “Just accompany
me, please. No questions.”

Simon Page hesitated only a moment.

Minutes later, he was leading the way down the winding road that led from the old
inn to the great dusky expanse that was Ultra-Stygia.

A few nettles carpeted a low patch of ground before the inn. After Simon Page got
a flashlight out of his car, the two made their way down to the depressed area, as
if descending into the bottom of Ultra-Stygia. Simon Page seemed distinctly puzzled.
Darkness did not seem as intense as it had earlier. He had difficulty keeping up with
her.

During the descent, Simon continued his interrupted recital.

“Doc Savage seems to be what physical culture experts and learned men have dreamed
about—a man that was reared from the cradle by experts and developed into a physical
marvel and a mental genius. This man, I was told, is devoting his life to the career
for which he was trained. Believe it or not, this career seems to be traveling over
the world, righting wrongs and punishing evildoers.”

This discourse produced no response from the determined woman, so he gave it up.

When they reached the bottom, Simon Page evinced a surprised start.

Here was a no-man’s land of charred landscape. In both directions, barbed wire was
strung as far as the eye could perceive. There were trees—broken hulks with no leaves
clinging to them. The ground had been turned so that no grass or shrubs grew. Of course,
it was winter, so little could grow.

BOOK: Doc Savage: Death's Dark Domain
9.49Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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