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 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 11 Excerpt

Malagor, Norar Remontar, and I stepped out of the elevator and into a room lit just like the one from which we had left.   This room had no geometric video controller in it however, and it was triangular in shape, with the elevator opening in the middle of one of three equal sides, and an open doorway on the wall to our left.

“This is peculiar,” said Norar Remontar.

I nodded my head at the understatement.

“I would be willing to bet that this elevator, these rooms, the lighting, and the controls for the video images, are all artifacts of the Elder Gods, or whomever it was that created Ecos.”

“I am inclined to agree,” said Norar Remontar.

We looked around this new room for several moments, but found nothing of interest. Finally Malagor voiced the opinion that we really had no other alternative but to head down the hallway and see where it led us. I was toying with the idea of suggesting that we try our luck one more time in the mysterious elevator, but I decided that Malagor was probably right. It was time to continue on our way. That is just what we did.

The dark hallway beckoned us like a gaping maw, but I tried not to think of it that way. It really doesn’t take too long to adjust to continual daylight. I think it would be much harder to adjust to continual darkness. Norar Remontar turned on his small flashlight; I unsheathed my sword, and the three of us with a quiet look between us, started down the long hallway. This time it continued straight for what must have been five miles before opening into any type of room what so ever. At last it did though, and as soon as we stepped into the room, I knew we were in for trouble.

A sudden wave of stench assaulted my nostrils. It was the smell of several dozen bodies that had not seen a bath in a long time, mixed with the smell of bodily waste accumulated over a period of several generations. I wasn’t the only one to smell it. Malagor immediately began coughing and gagging, to the extent that I feared he would pass out. A look of disgust crossed Norar Remontar’s face, but otherwise he remained characteristically stoic.

Malagor had just regained his composure, when a horde of creatures burst screaming toward us from the dark. There were a score or more of the short, bipedal, four armed rat-like creatures, and they attacked using stone axes and razor sharp teeth. Screaming like banshees, the Kartags literally fell upon us.

I skewered the first creature to reach me on the end of my sword, turned, and threw my shoulder into the next one, sending it flying backwards into its fellows. At that moment the entire room was lit up by the incredible brightness of the Amatharian sword unsheathed. It sizzled and sparked as Norar Remontar used it to cut through the bodies of three of the Kartags. At almost the same moment, Malagor let loose with a burst of light rifle fire which cut a nice round smoking hole in the chest of another rat. This display of destruction was all that was necessary to convince most of the beasts to retreat. I quickly lopped off the head of one who apparently was having difficulty making that decision.

The screaming inhabitants of the tunnels ran away into the darkness and it became once again like a tomb. The light from Norar Remontar’s sword dimmed until it gave no light at all. I sheathed my own weapon, and followed the pale circle of artificial light as the Amatharian continued on his, and our, way. I felt Malagor take up a position behind me.

The stench was just as bad now that the Kartags had gone, as it had been when they had been present, and we soon found out why. Continuing on through the room, the size of which, like the previous giant room, was indeterminable, we stumbled upon the camp of the filthy creatures. It consisted of nothing but a pile of filthy furs, most with pieces of reeking meat hanging upon them. Scattered between the filthy animal skins were chips of stone, obviously flaked from hand made tools, and here and there, piles of feces. I had been willing to give the Kartags the benefit of the doubt up until that point, thinking perhaps they were only attacking us because we were invading their territory—that perhaps they were simply misunderstood. I could not imagine any intelligent creature though, fouling its own campsite, when there were uncounted stretches of tunnels from which to choose a suitable spot for a commode.

The room turned out to be relatively small, at least in Orlonian terms. When we had gone about a hundred feet past the Kartags’ home, and about two hundred feet beyond the scene of the short battle with them, we found another passageway continuing on into the darkness. Being more interested than ever to get out of the infernal underground, we trudged on.

Princess of Amathar – Chapter 10 Excerpt

The room was large, though obviously not as large as the huge chamber we had visited before. The far wall was about one hundred fifty feet away, and the room was equally as wide. We had entered through a doorway in the middle of the wall, and there were no other entryways or exits visible. The room was well lit, though I could not determine the source of the light. Indeed, it seemed that the light came from everywhere, as though light were a thing that could flow around solid objects like the air. The walls, floor, and ceiling were smooth and dull grey, as were the fixtures in the room’s center—four large geometric shapes.

As the three of us slowly walked into the room, we were drawn toward the four geometric shapes in the center of the floor. They were each about the same size, perhaps twelve feet across. Closest to us was a sphere. The others were a cube, a pyramid, and a dodecahedron.

“What are these for, do you suppose?” I wondered aloud.

“Perhaps they are not for anything,” growled Malagor.

“Why are you so grumpy?” I asked. “Still hungry?”

He growled again in confirmation.

“This is unlike anything I have ever seen relating to the Orlons,” said Norar Remontar. “The lighting has an interesting quality.”

He reached up and laid a hand upon the surface of the sphere, and a large portion of the wall to our left suddenly became a huge picture screen. A forty-foot image of a great plain appeared, with tall grass billowing in the wind like waves on the surface of the ocean. Here and there, grazing herbivores roamed in search of a particularly interesting bit of flora. To the far right of the image, two stummada sat looking around lazily. At their feet were the remains of a large animal.

“Wow,” I said.

“This is most definitely not an Orlon site,” reiterated the Amatharian. “Their technology never reached anywhere near this level.”

“I wonder what else these shapes do.” I stepped around him to the cube.

I placed my hand on the surface, which felt warm to the touch, and marveled as another giant image appeared opposite the first. This image was of a beautiful green field, obviously cultivated. In the distance, to the right was the edge of a great forest of extremely tall coniferous evergreen trees. At about the same distance but to the left, one could see the edge of a strange and marvelous city. It was made up of ivory colored buildings with reddish roofs— each roof topped by a carved animal figure. In the foreground, as well as around the city, were the inhabitants.

The people living in the strange city, playing around it, and working in the fields looked remarkably like a child’s teddy bear. They were covered with light brown fur, had very large round ears on the top of their heads, and large expressive eyes above their small snouts. They came in a variety of sizes, probably males, females, and children. Some of the small ones seemed to be playing tag just outside the city. Larger ones were working in the field, pulling up green vegetables of some kind. Still others, of several sizes, were busy within the confines of the city, though just what they were doing was impossible to tell at the present magnification on the image. They were probably doing the same things that humans on Earth did in their own cities.

“I do not know that race of people,” said Malagor. “I wonder who they are, and where in Ecos that place is.”

“Or when,” I offered. “For all we know, that may be a stored image of the ancient Orlons, or even their ancestors.”

Norar Remontar and I were both fascinated by the images, and we began moving around the shapes, placing our hands here and there and watching the scenes produced on the three blank walls of the room. Most were of wild places with nothing but plant life and an occasional animal, though the locale of each was noticeably different. There were scenes of deserts, of forests, and of jungles. Finally I placed a hand upon the sphere at a point as yet untouched and a picture of a hillside replaced an earlier scene on the wall opposite the door. Standing on the hillside were two Amatharian men.

“Bentar Hissendar!” shouted Norar Remontar.

“You know him?” I asked the obvious.

“He is a friend and kinsman of mine,” the Amatharian replied. “He works within my uncle’s trading group.”

Writing Again

As I write this, it’s the next to last day of school for the students, which means not only do I get to start my summer in two more days.  I’ve only got students for half a day today and tomorrow, which means I can get my work done all at school and write afterwards.  I’m particularly jazzed right now, because today I’ve done the first significant work on Patience Under Fire that I’ve managed in weeks.

Now, I’m going back to try and get some more done.

 

Two Weeks In/Two Weeks Out

As I write this, I still have almost two weeks to go before the end of school.  As you read it, I will have been done with school for almost two weeks.  With any luck, Nova Dancer will be ready to go, and I’ll have made substantial progress on Patience Under Fire.

Watch this space for more information over the coming days.

Updated Astrid Maxxim Books

Astrid Maxxim and her Amazing Hoverbike and Astrid Maxxim and her Undersea Dome have been updated with minor format fixes and proofreading.  Find either of these books wherever fine ebooks are sold.  If you previously purchased either of these books, you should be able to re-download the newer version.