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Mystery of the Deserted Castle, The

Volkov, Alexander
Vladimirski, Leonid
Soviet Russia Publishers

Volkov’s last book, [THE MYSTERY OF THE DESERTED CASTLE] was published posthumously with an afterword by Leonid Vladimirsky. A spaceship, Diavona, from the planet Rameria arrives on earth after a seventeen-year journey. There are two races of people on Rameria: the talented, inventive, and creative Arzaks, and the muscular, warlike and dominant Menvits. The Menvits, under the leadership of Guan-Lo (who has hypnotic powers and has taught these powers to the other Menvits), have enslaved the Arzaks. The spaceship is under the command of Baan-Nu, and most of the crew are in suspended animation. Their mission is to conquer Earth, which they call Belliora, and enslave its inhabitants. One of the Menvits, the navigator Kau-Ruk, is secretly sympathetic to the Arzaks. The most important Arzak is Ilsor, who is Baan-Nu’s personal servant. He is free from the Menvits’ spell, but he conceals that fact, as he hopes to free his people. Baan-Nu, after discovering that much of Belliora is heavily armed, decides to land Diavona in an obscure part of Magic Land, which has no apparent armaments. They land near the deserted castle of the long-departed giant, Hurricap. The Arzaks are dispatched to set up camp and reconnoiter; Menvits do not do any of the physical work -- they are warriors. The activities of the Ramirians are observed by the birds, who bring a message to Strasheela, who in turn sends Tilly-Wally to bring a large number of Gnomes secretly to the area where the invaders are working and become an army of observers (the very small Gnomes are masters of concealment). Also, Strasheela has a magic television (given him by Stella) by which he is able to see and hear what is happening in the Menvit camp. Meanwhile Ilsor is secretly trying to find allies among the inhabitants of Belliora -- but is stymied by a total lack of communication because of language. In an attempt to find out about the inhabitants, the Menvits kidnap two Bellorians: Mentaho (once one of the kings of the Underground Kingdom but now a happy simple weaver) and his wife Elvina. Baan-Nu has a machine that can analyze words spoken into it and eventually produce a spoken translation of the language into Menvit or from the Menvit language into the language of the Belliorans. Of course, the person most proficient at learning Bellioran is Ilsor, who is able to let Mentaho meet with some of the Gnomes who are watching the encampment, and they, in turn, are able to send messages by birds to Strasheela. Thus the leaders of Magic Land have a close knowledge of what is happening to the Menvits’ camp and a way of providing disinformation to the Menvits. The Menvits have helicopters which they use to set up a ring of radar sites, defended by ray guns, around Magic Land. When one of these installations is attacked and destroyed by the giant eagle Goriek, son of Carfax, the Menvits attempt to relocate them on the circle of Black Rocks in the desert beyond the Encircling Mountains that surround Goodwinia. They don’t know that these rocks were created by Gingema (the Wicked Witch of the East) and have super-strong magnetic attraction that prevents anything that comes near them from escaping. One of the helicopters that tries to place a radar unit on one of these rocks is caught, and it is great difficulty that the Menvits in it are rescued. Strasheela, realizing that not only Goodwinia but all earth is in danger from the extra-terrestrial invaders, sends a messenger with the dragon Oyho to Annie Smith, requesting that she, Tim O’Kelly and Charlie Black come to the Emerald City to help drive out the invaders. Charlie Black is away on a voyage, but Fred Canning, now a scientist -- it was he who had made the solar-powered mules -- is available, and he joins Annie and Tim on their dragon-back trip to Magic Land. While Strasheela and his associates are planning how to resist and drive out the Ramerians, Baan-Nu, who spends most of his time writing a specious account of the Conquest of Belliora for publication on his return to Ramiria and amassing wealth for himself, has discovered mines near the encampment which contain diamonds and emeralds. Unknown to him, the Arzaks discover that emeralds counteract the hypnotic power of the Menvits over them -- but they conceal this knowledge. Not being completely satisfied with the information he has gotten from Mentaho, Baan-Nu orders the capture of another Bellioran -- and it is Annie Smith who is kidnapped. She has the magic whistle her sister Ellie got from the Queen of the Field Mice. She summons Ramina, whose mouse army devastates the Menvits’ camp, destroying among other things Baan-Nu’s memoirs --strangely, the Arzaks’ property is undamaged. Strasheela and company plan a many-pronged attack on the Menvits. Tim, wearing a diadem of invisibility, will get into the Menvit camp and rescue Annie; an army of the Deadwood Oaks, armed with mirrored shields to defend against the ray guns, will make a preemptive attack on the Menvits; Fred Canning will create a powerful explosive that will destroy the spaceship if all else fails; and soporific water will be piped into the Menvit camp, where the Arzaks will use it to put all the Menvits, except Kau-Ruk, to sleep. Tilly-Willy will assist in these plans, as he is able to traverse large spaces quickly. He is also used to make the Menvits think that there are many giants in Goodwinia by appearing in various places with varied paint jobs. Before rescuing Annie, the invisible Tim plays havoc in the Menvit camp, for example spraying Baan-Nu with a hose that seems to move by itself. Mentaho tells Baan-Nu that these are annual "crazy days" during which inanimate objects move by themselves and attack people. While the Menvits are confused, Tim approaches Annie, and she, too, becomes invisible when in contact with Tim, so they are able to escape. In desperation, Baan-Nu decides on "Operation Terror," a blitzkrieg attack by helicopters on the Emerald City. Before this can happen, the Army of Deadwood Oaks has met a force of Menvits with ray guns. The mirrored shields protected the Deadwood Oaks, caused injuries to some of the Menvits, and exploded barrels of helicopter fuel. However, the Menvits had a powerful cannon that caused the Deadwood Oaks to flee. The Menvit victory was a hollow one, because all they found were some painted splinters. "Operation Terror" is launched against the Emerald City, but is defeated by a flock of giant eagles led by Carfax, which attack and destroy most of the helicopters. Meanwhile, the pipeline of soporific water is being secretly laid to the Menvit encampment. A group of mice by the Menvits’ well constitute a way of determining if the soporific water has reached the well: when it does, the mice will fall asleep and the message will be sent throughout Goodwinia. When the message arrives, the Arzaks use the water to put all the Menvits (except Kau-Ruk) to sleep. Fred Canning’s explosive is never needed. Kau-Ruk sends a message to Guan-Lo on Rameria that Belliora is uninhabitable, that all the rest of the Menvits on the expedition have fallen into a strange sleep, and that he is bringing the ship back. After rejoicing in the Emerald City, Annie, Tim and Fred return home on the dragon Oyho. (above information courtesy of Stephen J. Teller)

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