With their adventures in White Cathay over and Malagigi having been rescued, it is time for the companions to head back to the court of King Carolus, but if they thought their journey would be hassle-free, they should have thought better. Once again they are attacked by some Tartars, the men who attacked White Cathay not having had enough it seems even with its disappearance and so Arak and company must do battle sooner than they would have liked. The skirmish is fierce and Adrian Gonzales with a little help from Tony DeZuniga makes it look as incredible as always and it sees the friends come out on top despite the Tartars having a sorcerer in their midst. So it is that with the fight over and done with, Haakon decides to leave and the companions are one less, not that they mind. Taking shelter in a cave for the night, it is here that author Roy Thomas gives Arak, Valda, Satyricus and Malagigi one of their biggest challenges to date when they face a giant salamander and not just any lizard, but one that can breathe fire and one that also feeds on its own flames, growing with every passing second. The latter half of this issue turns out to be a lot of fun, not to mention it being packed with both excitement, tension and horror as the threat of the salamander almost puts an end to the heroes. It is only with the death of Xadox, son of Xadox, the man who conjured the salamander that they are able to defeat it. This book also marks a turning point in the lives of Arak and his friends, the first being the relationship between Arak and Valda. While the two have always flirted around each other, it is here that they come to the realization and admittance of the feelings they share for each other. It is a tender moment in a book that has very few of them and it is nice to see something that readers were more than likely clamouring for over the course of the series. Secondly, this marks a finale of sorts and closes a chapter in the book as the companions go their separate ways – Valda and Malagigi heading back to Aix-La-Chapelle while Arak and Satyricus look to head over the waves to the former’s homeland so that he might search out his people. Altogether a great issue with it being the last to feature the artwork of Adrian Gonzales, another finale to be showcased one might say.
4 out of 5