Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Princess of Amathar - Chapter 4 Excerpt

The Amatharians were, as Malagor had said, much like me, or for that matter much like any humans. They were human, and but for a few racial characteristics, they could have seemed at home anywhere on earth. Those racial characteristics however, were a bit unearthly. They were tall, ranging in the six foot to seven foot range. Their hair was universally straight and black. The men wore it cut straight across the forehead and straight at the back of the neck. The women wore theirs in a variety of lengths, though in each case it was straight and evenly cut, whether at the shoulders or across the middle of the back. Facial hair was not in evidence, and I was later to learn is completely unknown among them. Their skin was blue in color, with a wide variation of shades. Some were as dark as the inside of a Teflon frying pan, while others were almost a baby blue. The clothing they wore was an interesting contradiction of utilitarianism and style. They wore a black body suit from their necks to their ankles, which was tighter, and of thinner material than the spandex biking pants that had been popular shortly before I left my home planet. Through the material, every muscle was visible as it strained to heft the swords which almost every Amatharian used in his defense. Over their body suit the knights of Amathar wore a tabard-- nothing more than a long strip of cloth eighteen inches wide, with a hole so that it fit over the head. It reached down to below the knees in front and in back, but was completely open on the sides. On both the front and back panels was emblazoned a great symbol, that was the coat of arms for that knight, and which was different from one to the other.

I waded into the closest skirmish where four Amatharians, two men and two women, were holding off a score of the Zoasians. One humanoid had drawn his sword and was cutting up the nearest foe. The others used their light rifles. The snake-men were using rifle and pistol versions of their ugly death ray. They didn't carry swords, apparently being too slow to use them effectively. With a great leap of my earthly power, I closed the gap between myself and the nearest Zoasian. I swung my sword but it was deflected by the beings body-armor, a feature I heretofore hadn't noticed. It covered his body from neck to tail, and appeared to be made of some type of synthetic plasticized leather material. It was studded with horns and crests of bright metal, but was otherwise as black as the snake-man himself.

The Zoasian was evidently not hurt by my blow, the armor having absorbed the shock, but he was surprised. He opened his mouth wide and hissed at me with a great forked tongue. Then he brought forth his powerful hand with the ray-weapon in its grasp. I was too quick for him though, and with a mighty sweep of my sword arm, I removed his hand between the wrist and the elbow. He didn't cry out, but reeled backwards in pain. I should have finished him off quickly, but I didn't. Something instead caught my eye.

Just over the shoulder of my opponent, I spied one of the Amatharians fighting against great odds. It was one of the females. She was breathtakingly beautiful. Her straight black hair was slightly longer than the other women that I had observed. Her skin was flawless and of a deep metallic blue color, like the steel beams of a building under construction. She was about six foot two and powerfully built, though not by any means unfeminine. Her black body-suit covered her from the top of her neck to the top of her shining black boots. Her white tabard was surrounded by gold braid and was emblazoned with the most beautiful crest-- two crossed swords over a flaming sun-- and the back of it trailed behind her in the wind like the cape of some fantastic comic book heroine. She had abandoned her light weapon and was using her sword, carving up several Zoasians at once like a butcher with a row of fresh steaks. With each stroke the sword blade seemed to glow with the pride and the glory of battle. I had decided to rush to the aid of this beautiful vision, when out of the corner of my eye I saw a looming form. It was the Zoasian with whom I had been previously engaged. Before I could turn toward him he slammed his remaining fist into the side of my head. I was tossed twenty feet by the force of the blow. I fell to the ground and everything went black.

I opened my eyes to look into the face of my friend Malagor. He opened his mouth and snarled at me.

"You are not smart," he growled. "I teach you all that I know, and still you know nothing."

I pulled myself to my feet and looked around. Nearby was the Zoasian who had hit me, easily recognizable by his missing hand. Malagor had shot him with his light rifle before the reptile had the chance to finish me off. That I had been out for a while was evidenced by the fact that there no longer remained any living warriors of either race within a good hundred yards or so. Bodies, both human and reptilian though, were strewn everywhere. In the distance I could see the Zoasian armies being hauled by cable up onto the deck of their disabled battle-cruiser. Suddenly remembering the woman that I had seen just before being knocked senseless, I began examining all of the Amatharian bodies nearby. I could find none that matched the vision that I had previously beheld. I turned to ask Malagor if he had seen what had become of her, but something beyond him caught my eye. Malagor turned to see what I was looking at, and we both became witnesses to a fantastic scene.

Standing in the blood of friend and enemy alike, was a single Amatharian knight. He was exceptionally tall and muscular-- the perfect specimen of the timeless warrior. He held high above his head that weapon that so epitomizes the Amatharian-- his sword. It was almost as highly crafted and ornate as the ancient swords that I had found, but it had something that mine did not. The blade of the weapon glowed. It more than glowed. It was actually lit up like a fluorescent light bulb. This was all the more fascinating for the fact that the metal of the blade seemed to be the same type as the unknown, but mundane metal, of which I found my own new blades to be composed.

He held his sword as if waiting for an enemy, and indeed he was. Bearing down upon him from the sky, at a speed equaling any terrestrial fighter jet, was one of the Zoasian fighter aircraft. It swooped down lower and lower, until it became apparent that the pilot was planning to fly right into the man on the ground, and splatter him on the front of the plane like a bug on the front of a Buick. It covered a mile in less than a second as it headed toward its intended target, yet the warrior on the ground did not turn or run away. It was the most heroically stupid and futile thing that I had ever witnessed, and it my heart filled with admiration for brave man. Then when the jet was no more than fifty feet from him, the knight dropped to one knee, still holding the sword high above him. The fighter continued on into the sword, but the sword was not ripped away from the man's hand, and it was not destroyed by the force of impact. Instead the sword sliced through the aircraft, through metal, plastic, fuel tanks, and pilot. The craft blew apart and a huge fireball replaced it on the battlefield. Both Malagor and I dropped to the ground to avoid flying debris. Moments later I was back on my feet, looking for the remains of the brave Amatharian.

To my surprise I saw him rise to his feet, burned but not gravely injured. He looked at the remains of his dead foe, and raising his face to the eternal Ecosian sun, he cried out in victory and challenge.

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