Thursday, November 20, 2008

Princess of Amathar: Chapter 2 Excerpt


As if on cue, we were suddenly darkened by the shade of a large cloud above us. Moments later it began to hail. We held our furs above our heads to shield us, and quickly scrambled around looking for a cave or an overhang in which to hide ourselves. I found a large overhanging cliff and called Malagor over. We sat down under it and built a fire from some scrub brush.

"I will cook the meat of our last kill," said Malagor. "You can unpack our furs and tools. This little overhang will make a good place for our base camp. When the hail stops, I will hunt for more meat, and you may pick some berries."

"You won't need any help hunting?" I asked.

"I have watched you, and have decided that you are not a very good hunter,” he said. "Perhaps it is because your nose is too small."

"What does my nose have to do with hunting?"

"You cannot smell when an animal is ready to become dinner."

I laughed. "I must admit that before I met you I'd never hunted at all, and certainly not with a spear or a bow. I don't have the benefit of having hunted all my life as you have."

"I have not hunted all my life,” he said. "When I had a home, I traded for my food."

"Tell me about your home,” I said, but he only mumbled that he had to go hunting, and picking up his weapons, he left, even though he had not yet cooked our meal, and the hail had not completely stopped.

I watched him head across the plain toward the roaming, grazing herds that wandered there. He was a strange and lonely figure. I sat down to unpack the rolls of furs that were our bedding, and tossed a few damp twigs on the fire. Then I began to look around the small overhang that was to be our home for who knew how long.

The area beneath the cliff was about forty feet wide and fifteen feet deep. The ground was bare of the tall golden grass that reached from the plain, right up to the edge of the sheltered overhang. The area was completely clear of fallen debris, with the exception of a pile of small boulders at one end. I walked over, knelt down, and examined the stones. There seemed to be no place above from which they could have fallen. It looked as if someone had piled them there. I looked between them and saw only darkness. Using my newfound strength, I began moving the stones away from their resting place, setting them to the front of the overhang to serve as a wind break. In no time I had moved them all, building a suitable wind break as well as exposing a small tunnel leading back into the hillside.

I knelt down to look into the tunnel. Then I heard a noise behind me and turned to see that Malagor had returned, with the carcass of a small antelope-type animal slung over his ever-crouching shoulders.

"What have you found here, my friend?" He asked, setting down his burden.

"It is some kind of tunnel. It looks like it was dug by intelligent beings. At least it was hidden by intelligent beings with those boulders. They seem to have been placed here deliberately."

He laughed, and for a moment I did not understand why. Then he said. "You moved those boulders all by yourself?"

"With powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men,” I smiled. "Shall we go inside?"

"It is your hole,” he said.

I retrieved a burning twig from the fire, and kneeling down, began to crawl into the tiny tunnel. It was a tight fit. When I had made my way completely inside, Malagor followed. The tunnel remained the same for the first fifteen or twenty feet, then it opened into a chamber large enough for me to stand up in. Raising the small torch above my head, I looked around. Even with the light, it took a while for my eyes to adjust to the darkness. It had been a long time since I had been in darkness of any kind. At last though, I began to be able to see around me.

The chamber was roughly round and carved out of the solid rock. I realized now that not only was the tunnel man-made, or shall I say life-form made, but the cave was artificial as well, for there was no evidence of water or any other natural mechanism for creating subterranean caverns. Placed around the room, apparently with great care, were a number of interesting artifacts. There were two rifles the likes of which I have never seen before. They seemed like some kind of laser gun from a science fiction movie. The metal parts were bright silver or chrome, and the stocks were made of some unknown wood and carved into beautiful but unearthly designs. There were several small square devices next to them which might have been batteries or rechargers. Sitting in a small stack, were a half a dozen cans with no labels. They were the only things made of metal in the chamber which showed any sign of rust whatsoever, even though the thick covering of dust made it plain that we were the first to enter here in a long, long time.

Also in the chamber were a number of interesting tools. There was a beautiful hunting knife. It looked similar to one that might be sold in a sporting goods store on earth, but the blade was carved in bizarre, alien designs of unequaled craftsmanship. There was a hammer, saw, screwdriver, and a shovel, all obviously designed to fit into a backpack or utility belt now long returned to the dust of the ages. Sitting in the back of the room were two swords.

The swords were the most incredibly beautiful blades that I had ever seen in my life. For you to appreciate this completely, I must explain that I take a great interest in swords. While I was in the military, I was given cursory training in fighting with a saber. I have always thought it unfortunate that in the twentieth century, such a civilized weapon should be discarded in favor of the assault rifle. I enjoyed sabers and joined a club of military officers and enlisted men who practiced their use and studied them. It was great fun. We went to many museums to see beautiful old swords, and I must say that in our matches staged purely for our own enjoyment, I became quite a good swordsman. So when I say that these were swords more beautiful than any that I have ever seen, you may see that I do not speak without some experience in the subject. There was a long sword and a short sword. They were somewhat similar to the Japanese samurai swords known as the katana and the wahizashi, with gentle sloping blade and two-handed hilt, but unlike the Japanese weapons, these blades had sharp pointed tips. They too, were beautifully carved with unearthly designs, and the hilts were set with large gems, which sparkled in the light of the now fading ember. The sheaths, if ever there existed any, were long rotted away.

"Amatharian swords,” said Malagor, looking over my shoulder. "An Amatharian warrior placed these here, and the other items, planning to return later. An Amatharian warrior would never leave his sword without good reason." "These have been here a long, long time,” I said, dropping the now short ember.

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