About wesleyallison

Author of twenty science-fiction and fantasy books, including the popular "His Robot Girlfriend."

Princess of Amathar – Chapter 19 Excerpt

As flame and ordinance shot through the air all around the ship, I gathered my company together on the deck of the vessel, as did the five other security companies on board. Our squadron and the one commanded by Ulla Yerrontis were flying high above the city drawing fire, and engaging the battleships. Vandan Lorrinos was moving his squadron in low and attacking the ground installations with shipboard weapons, as well as landing thousands of Amatharian troops. The final squadron under Reyno Hissendar waited in the rear as reserves.

A huge explosion on a lower deck indicated that the cruiser had been hit by one of the Zoasian missiles, and it brought my mind away from previous plans and into the present. The missile had been fired from one of the battleships, and it moved toward us. Amatharian light guns from the batteries above and below us opened fire on the approaching enemy and explosions ripped across her bow but she still kept coming. For a moment, it looked as though the Zoasian would plow its squared front end into our side, but at the last minute, it pulled up and crossed above us.

Several dozen bombs dropped from the open decks on the lower portion of the black death machine, and ignited all around us, sending flaming metal and Amatharian body parts across the deck. Then two score or more long ropes fell from above, and hundreds of heavily armed and armored Zoasians slid down onto our ship. My team began cutting them down with our light rifles, but for every one we shot from his rope, two more landed on the deck unharmed, and ready to engage us in hand to hand combat.

I yelled to my company to attack, and together we rushed forward to meet the Zoasians. I pulled my long sword from his sheath, and as I raised it high above my head, I saw it glow brightly with the power of the soul within. I brought it down upon the first enemy soldier and it left him two smoking halves of his former self.

These black reptilians were slower than we, but they were powerful. One picked up a large piece of jagged metal about ten feet long, which had torn loose in an explosion, and attempted to hit me with it, as though it had been a great bat. I ducked below it and jumped toward him, sword outstretched. For a moment, he looked down at the smoking hole I had left in his chest, and then he toppled over dead.

Another security team from the other side of the cruiser arrived to help us repel boarders, and we began pushing the Zoasians toward the rail. A black beam shot past my head, scorching my shoulder. A shot from one of my men blasted through the body of the attacker. I bounded forward to meet another enemy, but there were none left. This group of Zoasians had been repelled.

“Look over there,” said Tular Maximinos, suddenly at my shoulder. It was his company who had come to our aid.

I turned to see one of the black Zoasian battleships explode into a huge fireball and fall into the city below, setting off even more explosions. The battle seemed to be going well, and I could see three other enemy ships burning in the sky, as they spun out of control. All of the ships in our squadron were still in the air, though many had taken quite a bit of damage. I imagined that the squadron making the direct assault against the city was incurring even greater losses, but we had our reserves, and we knew what we were after.

Suddenly all the soldiers on deck were knocked from their feet, myself included. I jumped up to see another Zoasian ship grinding along our bow. The two ships had collided in mid-air, and the enemy was sliding down our side. As the black battleship moved closer to where we stood, it began to move away.

“Come on,” I shouted to my men, and taking a running leap into the air, I crossed the distance to the reptiles’ airship. This wasn’t really part of a plan. It just seemed like a good idea at the time to take the battle to the enemy.

Landing on the deck with a thud, I turned around to see how many of my company had made it across with me. About thirty others, including Tular Maximinos, had made it. One young warrior had not been able to make the jump, and was still falling the several thousand feet to the ground below. The remainder of our small battalion had remained behind, being unable to cross the distance before the two ships had moved too far away from each other.

“Where now?” I called to Tular Maximinos, as there seemed to be no Zoasians on deck.

“To the engine room!” he called back, and the two of us rushed toward the back of the ship, followed by thirty or so men and women.

A wide path ran along the side of the vessel between the superstructure and the edge, gave us a metal avenue down the length of the ship. It was good that it was a broad space too, because there was no rail along the side, as there was on Amatharian ships. We had gone down about half the length of the mile long vessel when I heard weapons fire behind me. I turned to see over a hundred Zoasians at the bow of the vessel, where we had just been. They were firing at us, and had already shot two of our team.

I sheathed my sword, and whipped out my light pistol. The Amatharians with me did the same, and we soon had the hulking reptiles diving for cover.

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Princess of Amathar – Chapter 18 Excerpt

In many ways, life aboard the great Amatharian battlecruiser was much easier for me than it had been in the city. The ship operated on a fixed schedule based on its own version of the city-cycle, which was recalibrated each time the ship docked in Amathar. Each person on board was assigned a duty and worked three cycles, followed by six cycles off duty. I knew absolutely nothing about the ship or its procedures, so initially I was assigned to the security detail. Since I was a knight, I was given what was essentially an officer’s rank— command of ten swordsmen, who each commanded eight to ten warriors.

Amatharian ships didn’t have names, though they did sport numbers. The battlecruisers were essentially all of the same class, though they had minor differences, and some were newer than others. Their importance was based entirely upon who commanded them, and what mission they were on. This ship was Sun Battlecruiser 11, and it was the flagship of Norar Remontar’s twelve-ship squadron, one of four squadrons making the assault on Zonamis. Like the other ships, this one was painted navy blue with silver trim. Like the other three flagships of the fleet, this one had a great crest across the bow— in this case, a flaming sun with outstretched wings. And like all Amatharian ships, this one was arrayed with the banners of her knights. When I first saw my own banner, with a flaming sun embossed by the letter A, flying among the many others, I was filled with pride. There were more than ten thousand soldiers aboard this one ship, and about one in a hundred were knights.

The accommodations on the vessel were far more spacious than I had expected. Every soldier aboard had his own cabin, and though they were very small in comparison to their homes in Amathar, they were far larger than I had seen on any ocean going vessels of Earth. Each was large enough to have a bunk, which was mounted to the wall rather than sunk into the floor, as was the Amatharian fashion, a small table and two chairs and a closet. My own cabin had a large window looking out toward the landscape that rolled continuously past.

Now that we were finally on our way, I spent more and more time thinking of the woman I knew I was in love with, though I had seen her only one time— the Princess of Amathar. Sometimes these thoughts would lead to remembrances of her cousin, Vena Remontar, and the friendship she had shown me. Other times I just fretted over what might have happened to Noriandara Remontar since her abduction by the Zoasians. Even cruising at full speed, it would be a long time before we reached Zonamis, and I worried about all the things that she still might face. I figured our maximum speed to be between two and three hundred miles per hour, and so even accepting the more generous of the two figures, it would be the equivalent of four and a half months before the fleet arrived. It was a long time.

I tried to make good use of all the time I had available. I learned to pilot the Amatharian aircraft, both fighters and shuttles. It wasn’t as difficult as one might expect. I imagine that any child capable of playing those fast action video games could easily manage it. The controls consisted of a joystick in the left hand to control the steering and a lever for the right hand that controlled lift. There was an automated training simulator on board which I used at first, but after it became apparent to me and to the pilots that I would probably not crash the vehicle, I was allowed to participate in some of the flight drills, which were constantly leaving the battlecruiser and returning.

I improved upon my growing skill with the sword, which was in fact my primary duty aboard ship. As the leader of a security team, I did little but see to the watches around the vessel, and drill my troops with the sword and the light rifle. I must say that I had never seen men and women so devoted to duty as those one hundred or so Amatharians under my command. In that entire time, never once was a soldier absent from his duty because of sickness or anything else.

Even with all of the military activity in which I was involved, there was plenty of time for recreation and social activity. The swordsmen and warriors of my company enjoyed playing a kind of catch, in which they used an irregular shaped cloth bag filled with plastic-like beads. Another game involved the skewering of various thrown objects upon a stick as the individual ran through a maze of obstacles. I gathered that this traditional activity once involved the use of swords, but now it was considered a great dishonor to endanger one’s sword for a mere game. In addition, I spent a large amount of time in the ship’s prodigious library where I read biographies of interesting Amatharians, novels of several different types, and a book of rather dark and morbid poems penned by Mindana Remontar herself.

Princess of Amathar – Chapter 17 Excerpt

Looking up frequently at the flying marvel above us, Vena Remontar and I made our way back to the home of her cousin. The great battleship was not alone in the sky. Beyond it I could just make out two similar ships hovering above the city. I hoped that they were part of the fleet that Norar Remontar was preparing for his sister’s rescue. Vena Remontar stopped at the entrance of the building, and said her goodbye.

“Thank you for everything,” I said.

“It was my pleasure, knight,” she replied. “We will meet again soon.”

I made my way up the forty-five flights of escalators to Norar Remontar’s apartment. No sooner had I entered, than my Amatharian friend appeared from another room.

“You are finally here,” he observed.

“Yes.”

“You are to come with me,”

“What now?” I asked.

“My grandfather wants to see you.”

I nodded in understanding, and followed the tall Amatharian out the door and up three more flights of escalators. We stepped thorugh a large entryway and waited outside a large navy blue door. This was a type of waiting area that one might find outside any large office. Had I been in New York or Los Angeles, I would have expected a secretary or a receptionist at a desk, but in Amathar they don’t have receptionists and a secretary’s job is a bit different than on Earth—more like a librarian. Visitors to an Amatharian office observe strict rules of etiquette, just as they would when visiting an Amatharian home. And those Amatharians who work in an office, are pleased to receive visitors themselves.

The door was opened and we were admitted to the room. Inside we found a magnificent hall, the center point of which was a great long table of carved wood, lined on either side by forty heavy wooden chairs. One entire wall of the room was glass, and looked over the courtyard that was the most impressive feature of the building. The other wall was lined with banners, each carrying the crest of a knight of the Sun Clan.

Four Amatharians waited for us within the room. The man who opened the door was the tallest man that I had yet met, something over seven and a half feet. Just looking at him frightened me. I could imagine how an enemy facing him felt. He was middle-aged, with streaks of grey shooting through his straight black hair. His hawkish nose and a large scar across one cheek, gave him the look of a predator. He was clad in the garments of a knight, though his tabard was fringed with gold trim; his crest was an eye with a flaming sun as its pupil. He was Reyno Hissendar, Norar Remontar’s uncle, and the chief of the Hissendar Trading Group.

The second fellow was equally impressive, though not because of height. He was a formidably muscular man with a piercing gaze and a tightly set jaw. His tabard too was fringed with gold, and his crest showed a flaming sun within a circle. His bodysuit wasn’t black though. It was tan. I had seen Knights in other colors, Nicohl Messonar for instance, wearing the colors of a teacher. Tan was the traditional color of archaeologists. He was Vandan Lorrinos, a highly respected member of the Sun Clan, and a fleet commander.

The third person in the room was a woman. She was a breathtakingly beautiful older version of Vena Remontar, or for that matter, of the Princess. She was just over six feet tall, with long straight black hair framing her beautiful dark blue face. She had the same stern look about her that I had found in Nicohl Messonar, and the same ability to seemingly look into a person’s heart. She stared at me with what I thought was a look of more than simple appraisal. She was the mother of Vena Remontar and the aunt of Norar Remontar, and her name was Mindana Remontar. She wore a bodysuit and tabard, but without the crest, indicating she was not a knight. Her bodysuit was dark blue, marking her profession as biologist.

The final individual in the room was the man for whom I had been summoned— the Overlord of the Sun Clan, Nevin Lorrinos. There was no doubt that he was Norar Remontar’s grandfather, for he was tall and handsome, with the same prominent features and the same noble bearing. He wore a great black robe with a golden crest above the heart— crossed swords over a flaming sun, the same crest that Noriandara Remontar had worn. I bowed low to him.

“Greetings knight,” he said.

“Yes,” said Mindana Remontar. “You have certainly wasted no time integrating yourself into our culture.”

“I was drawn to Garden of Souls when I came near,” I said. “Of course I still have much to learn about Amathar, but I already know that I want to make a place for myself here.”

Vandan Lorrinos grunted approvingly.

“That is one of the things I wish to speak to you about,” said Nevin Lorrinos. “You are without a family, which is a great handicap for you. But my heir tells me that he thinks you are worthy and a good friend and I trust his judgment. For that reason, I would like to offer you a place in the Sun Clan.”

Princess of Amathar – Chapter 16 Excerpt

After we had eaten, we walked across the great plaza to the stepped pyramid, which was the Temple of Amath. Vena Remontar told me that an invitation from the High Templar was something to be acted upon promptly. The great structure was most impressive. It was more than a mile wide, and was over two thousand feet tall. It looked as though a giant boy had built it, playing with his blocks, placing successively smaller blocks one atop another until he had built a pyramid of steps. Each of the steps was over one hundred feet tall, and there were twenty-one of them. The entire surface was carved in intricate designs, so finely detailed that not a single inch of blank wall could be found on the outside. Running up the front of the temple was a set of broad steps that led to the tenth level, where there was a large, dark entrance.

My friend and I walked up the many steps to the doorway. Waiting here was a small crowd of templars, each with his bald head. Some were writing in their pads, others were about other business. It may seem odd that the templars were engaged in so much writing, until one considers the extent to which Amatharians in general were fond of the written word. Amatharians had no telephone, but wrote letters every day, even to friends they were likely to see often. To a certain extent, the spoken language of these people was divorced from the written, and the written form allowed them much more freedom of expression.

One of the shaven fellows took charge, or had been left in charge, and guided us from the open greeting area, into a large chamber. It was much like one would expect a very large church or cathedral to look like, not that I’m an expert, but it had no rows of pews or any other seating. The walls were colorfully decorated and large bright banners hung from the ceiling. Of course huge numbers of templars buzzed here and there, taking notes, examining the scenes depicted on the walls, and staring at the shrine in the center of the hall.

The shrine took my breath away. Not because it was big, though it was that. Not because it was carefully inlaid with precious stones and highly polished gold and silver, though it was. It quite knocked the breath from my lungs because the symbol on the great shrine was an A. I don’t mean it was an Amatharian A. It was an honest to god, Greco-Roman, American English, Times font type A!

“That’s an A!” I shouted.

The entire population of the hall turned and looked at us.

“That’s an A,” I said.

“Show some respect, knight,” growled Vena Remontar. “Keep your voice down.”

“That’s an A,” I whispered.

“You are correct, knight.” A voice came from behind us.

We turned to see an older Amatharian man dressed in the brown robes of the templars, and wearing a large silver medallion with the letter A on it. Vena Remontar bowed low and I followed suit.

“I am Kurar Ka Remiant Oldon Domintus,” said the man, identifying himself as an overlord. “I am the High Templar.”

“It is an honor to meet you, I’m sure,” I said. “That is an A?”

“Yes, you are quite correct. That is an A.”

“Well. How did it get here?”

“Before we answer any of your questions,” the Overlord said, “you have a great many things to do for us.”

Oldon Domintus turned and led the two of us across the great hall to a doorway opposite that through which we had come. Beyond the chamber was a great long corridor. This hallway was lined with pictures painted in the bright colors: pictures of Amatharian knights engaged in battles, pictures of templars performing rituals in the great plaza, pictures of great buildings being constructed in Amathar. The High Templar maintained the image of a man showing friends around his home.

“Has Vena Remontar told you about our temple?”

“I’m afraid she has not yet had time.”

“This temple was built three hundred generations ago. Construction was begun under the direction of Amath himself. He envisioned a monument to his people where they could look for guidance. It was built here beside the Garden of Souls, so that those feeling the draw of their souls could reflect.

“You felt no need to reflect before entering the garden?” he asked me.

“I’ve always been a pretty spontaneous fellow,” I replied.

Princess of Amathar – Chapter 15 Excerpt

The sky train sped above the seemingly endless city. Several times it stopped at stations, but we remained aboard. I continued to watch in fascination, the buildings passing by. Abruptly the color, style, and size of the structures changed. We were now crossing a region of huge, dark buildings, many of which were larger than the giant warehouses and sports stadiums that I had seen before. These were far less ornate and far more utilitarian than the other buildings as well.

“This is one of the industrial regions. It is a circle one hundred kentads (about fifty miles) in diameter containing nothing but factories and warehouses. This is where the majority of our manufactured goods come from— this or one of the nine other regions just like it.”

I acknowledged Vena Remontar’s commentary, and then turned away from the window. Several food servers in the traditional white bodysuits were delivering tall glasses of ice water and trays of small appetizer cakes. The young knight, and I as her companion, were served first.

“There certainly seems to be a great deal of respect and privilege associated with being a knight,” I observed.

“That is very true,” Vena Remontar replied, with a slight smile, “but it is more than that in my case. The Remontar family name is well known, as are all who carry that name. In addition, my cousins are the heirs of the Sun Overlord. Norar Remontar and his sister are beloved of the entire city.”

We busied ourselves eating the delicious cakes, which were filled with ground meat and a variety of vegetables. In certain parts of the land of my birth, they might have been called pasties, though they were seasoned unlike anything found on Earth. The water was delicious. It seemed that water was the beverage of choice among the Amatharians, and they went to great lengths to see that any water found within the city was not only crystal clear and healthful, but tasty as well. With the exception of mirrah, and a few other fermented drinks, water was all that was available to drink in most city places.

We had just finished eating when the sky train made one more stop in the industrial center. After it began on its way again, we crossed out of the region of factories and complexes and began crossing a vast open cultivated land. I watched out the window as we continued on, and the buildings of the city grew distant behind us. Roaming the ground like huge grazing animals, were monstrous machines, planting, thinning, and harvesting a tremendous variety of vegetables and fruits.

“Have we left the city?” I asked.

“This is one of the five cultivation areas within the city,” explained the knight. “Each is a circle two hundred fifty kentads (about two hundred miles) in diameter. Four are in operation growing our food, while a fifth lies fallow.”

As we cruised along, our conversation did not lag. I had a thousand, no ten thousand questions for this lovely young woman from a very alien culture. She explained much about the hopes and aspirations of the Amatharian people, the day-to-day functioning of the clans and family businesses, and the many obligations and requirements. Even though I know that I learned much during the course of that lengthy ride, it is hard to remember the exact order of the conversation now.

We passed the far edge of the cultivation area and once again entered into the urban mass. This portion of the city was obviously of far greater age than the majority of the buildings I had seen until now, though these old edifices maintained the same style and ornamentation as the newer ones. I had come to think of Amathar as one would think of a city one Earth, a great urban realm, but this city was on an entirely different scale. Within the walls of the Amatharians’ home were not only vast areas of cultivated fields, but mountains, lakes, and rivers as well. This older portion of the city, though still urban, was built upon a low mountain range.

The train stopped at a station upon a platform high in the air, and this time we stood up and stepped off the sky train. Vena Remontar led me down a great escalator so steep that it seemed I was walking straight down. Once at the bottom I looked around at a plaza some two miles across. Great statues of stone, some as high as forty feet were interspersed with surging fountains, tall green hedgerows, and monstrous tile pictures. Two sides of the plaza were lined with large buildings resembling hotels. The third side faced a large park or wilderness area. Facing the fourth side was a fantastic stepped pyramid, more than a mile wide and more than two thousand feet high.

“That is the Temple of Amath,” my blue-skinned companion said. “At the other end is the Garden of Souls.”

Princess of Amathar – Chapter 14 Excerpt

I had literally just closed the door after Nicohl Messonar had left, when the disembodied voice announced that Vena Remontar had arrived. I am sure that the two must have passed in the hall, though I was not fortunate enough to witness it.

“Are you ready?” asked Vena Remontar. “Wear your swords.”

I strapped my weapons belt on below my tabard and carefully sheathed my swords in their new holders. In spite of the fact that the swords were uncounted years older than the sheaths, they fit perfectly. We started out the door, and down the hallway. It was the first time I had been out of Norar Remontar’s apartment since I had arrived, and it felt good.

“We need to stop here first,” said Vena Remontar, as we stepped off the escalator onto the fifth floor.

The lower floors had much higher ceilings and seemed more spacious than those of the upper floors. Here were located restaurants, shops, and other facilities used by the people in the building. We entered through an open doorway to find a large gymnasium. There were two young girls; I would have thought them about ten years of age, practicing their swordsmanship in a haphazard manner, at the far end of the room. As they noticed us, they stopped to stare at me and giggle.

“I wish to see if the title of swordsman that Norar Remontar laid upon you is warranted,” the female knight said.

She drew her long sword and I followed suit. We nodded respectfully to one another. Then with a skill and speed born of battle, Vena Remontar charged at me, bringing her blade down directly toward my face. I raised my own to block the stroke, and just as quickly she swung two more blows. The only thing I could do was take the offensive, so as I blocked the third blow, I swung my weapon on around in a great arc toward her side. The woman was off balance from her attack, so the only way she could block the arc of weapon, was to turn her back on me, and swing her blade outward to meet mine. I expected that this would offer me a chance to attack her back, but it didn’t. As soon as she had done so, she tucked and rolled forward, spinning as she rose to face me. This was a brilliant maneuver and would have put several yards between us, but I wasn’t ready to let up. Using my gravity-enhanced strength, I jumped forward, almost landing on top of her. Vena Remontar thrust quickly several times. I blocked those attacks and countered.

“Not bad, thus far,” she said.

“Thank you.”

As I said this, I swung down. I knew that were we really engaged in battle, her sword would have glowed with power, and sliced through the mundane metal of my own, but for now, the soul was asleep, and we were on equal terms. Actually, I had an advantage of superior strength. She blocked my swing, but was unprepared for the added power, and it knocked her from her feet. Without hesitation, she swung toward my knees. I jumped up, and the blade passed harmlessly below me. The young knight rolled to her feet.

I could see by the half smile on her lips that she was enjoying herself. With a flick of her left wrist so quick that I almost didn’t see it, she whipped her short sword from its sheath and grasped it like a dagger. I chopped down with my blade in an attempt to catch her off balance, but she wasn’t off balance. She blocked my blow with the shorter blade and began to attack with the longer. Then she attacked with both swords, forcing me to defend, and I am sure, hoping to wear me down. Unable to attack for the moment, I began to leap quickly to either side, and then to the back, forcing her to chase me. I knew that it was I who would be able to wear her down first, and after several dozen parries, I could see in her eyes that she was coming to the same realization.

Here was the advantage I needed. I rained a series of blows at her head, and then swung with power at her side. Like she had before, Vena Remontar spun around with her back to me and swung her sword, tip down, outward to meet mine. I expected to have a quick shot at her exposed back and left side, but even as she blocked my attack, she drove her short sword, in her left hand, straight back under her arm, and into my stomach.

“Umph!” I grunted in surprise. I expected that I had been cut through, but the tip of her sword merely pricked my skin.

Vena Remontar wiped the tiny drop of blood from her sword tip onto her tabard, and then sheathed her sword. With the drawing of first blood, the contest was over.

“I’m satisfied,” she said. “I thought that perhaps Norar Remontar was being overly generous. But you are quite skilled.”

Princess of Amathar – Chapter 13 Excerpt

I opened my eyes to find myself looking at the ceiling. For a moment I though that I was back in my bedroom at home on Earth, and that all of my adventures in Ecos were just a fantastic dream. Then Malagor leaned over to look into my face.

“I have slept, gotten up, explored the city, eaten, and slept again. You are just now waking.”

“How very nice for you,” I replied.

I sat up, and then climbed out of bed, noticing a distinct disadvantage to the Amatharian beds. Yet I felt so refreshed that my gravity enhanced muscles sent me bounding up onto the floor. I started toward the washbasin, but noticed the doorway just to the left. Passing through it, I found the bathroom. It was a huge room. The bathtub was a small pool, designed to look like a thermal spa, with water constantly flowing from a waterfall into the pool, and then out at the other end. The room also had the other features that one might expect, and they were similarly fashioned to resemble natural features.

I hopped up into the bath and floated in the hot water. The little pool was large enough for me to swim around in, and when I stood up, the water still reached the middle of my chest. Beside the inlet waterfall was a small shelf with a variety of brushes and cleaning agents. I found something that seemed close to shampoo and washed myself from head to toe. I hopped out just long enough to retrieve my knife from beside the bed, then hopped back in and relaxed in the water as I shaved my ragged beard. When I exited the bath a second time, I felt presentable enough for polite Amatharian society. Malagor was waiting for me with some new clothes— a black Amatharian body suit, a plain white tabard, and a pair of boots.

“At Norar Remontar’s direction, I got these from the clothier on the first floor,” he said. “I had to have my own clothing specially ordered.”

I was interested to see how the bodysuit was put on. I found that it had an open waist in the back. Still it took me several moments to discover how to get my lower portion in, and still be able to insert my upper half. Fortunately the material used by the Amatharians was extremely flexible. Once I had it on, it seemed not so much to stretch to fit, as to shrink to fit. It covered every inch of my body in a cool embrace. It was extremely comfortable. The tabard which I put on over it was, as one would expect, slightly encumbering, though no more so than a light jacket or sweater. It reached just below my knees in front and in back, but was open on the sides. Finally I put on the boots, and found them to be the most comfortable footwear that I have ever tried on. All that remained was for me to strap on the weapons belt beneath my tabard. Malagor had also seen to it that I had the appropriate sheaths for my swords. I looked like an Amatharian that had somehow been deprived of his beautiful blue skin.

“Where is Norar Remontar?” I asked.

“He left to see members of his family,” replied Malagor.

Just then an ethereal voice spoke seemingly out of nowhere. “Nicohl Messonar is waiting at the door.” The two of us looked around the room expectantly for a moment, and then at each other.

“Must be a kind of doorbell,” I offered. Malagor shrugged.

I walked out of the bedroom, followed by my alien friend, and opened the front door. Outside, stood an Amatharian woman. She looked to be in her early fifties, and possessed a more mature form of the beauty that was apparently common to all Amatharian women. Her silky black hair cut straight across her forehead, and reaching the middle of her back, was touched with grey, but her dark blue skin remained flawless. She wore a white tabard with a crest— a flaming sun supported by a pedestal— indicating that she was a knight. But instead of the black bodysuit of a soldier, hers was light lavender. She carried no swords; just a satchel slung over one shoulder.

Stepping confidently into the apartment, the woman looked me over, coldly, for a moment before speaking.

“I am Nicohl Messonar,” she said.

“So I understand,” I replied. “Nicole is a common name among my people.”

“The name is Nicohl.”

“Nicohl.”

“Yes, and my name is Nicohl Messonar.” She arched an eyebrow. “It is impolite not to use both names. That is only for husbands and wives, sharing an intimate moment.”