Princess of Amathar – Chapter 9 Excerpt

Princess of AmatharI swam back outside and reported the mystery to Malagor. He did not seem pleased. We left the meat cooking, and wrapped up a burning ember, some kindling and a couple of large sticks in a piece of fur, and swam back into the hidden room. Once inside, we climbed out of the water and onto the dry ground. The room was lit only by a dim glow from the watery passage. Malagor and I started a small fire in the hidden chamber. I had my doubts about doing so, since there was a limited amount of oxygen in the room, and I had no great desire to die of asphyxiation. However once we had the little fire burning, we noticed a small flicker of flame leaping in the direction of the wall. From there it was only a small step to the realization that there was a secret door in the wall right by where we had chosen to build the fire. Even with this knowledge at our command, it took some time for us to figure out how to open the portal. In the end, Malagor and I had to press on the wall in two different places to force a perfectly disguised panel to slide back, revealing a darkened passage. I wondered that Norar Remontar had been able to do it by himself.

Malagor and I each took a burning stick form the fire, and entered the secret passage. It bears mentioning that you can’t make a really effective torch with nothing but a stick. Having watched several hundred adventure movies in my formative years, I have seen many matinee heroes create torches with nothing but a flaming stick. In reality, it just doesn’t work. One needs some oily rags or something. The two burning sticks that my friend and I carried offered little more light than one might expect from a small candle, and after what must have been only several minutes, mine went out completely. Malagor was able to nurse his flaming stick in a way that it stayed alive at least enough for us to see the ground where we were walking.

The passage in which we found ourselves was a rough-cut cave like hallway that could have been natural except for the relatively smooth and level floor. It took us straight back into the mountain. Our footsteps made loud clomping sounds that echoed all out of proportion to the way we were carefully treading. After we had gone several hundred feet, we noticed that the walls, ceiling, and floor became more and more smooth and uniform. After another four or five hundred feet, we stopped to examine the walls again, which by this point had become completely smooth, with nice square corners where they met the floor or the ceiling. At that moment Malagor’s fire went out too.

“What do we do now?” Malagor asked.

“Let’s just wait a moment and see if our eyes adjust to the darkness,” I replied.

I said this just to have something to say, because as anyone who has ever done any cave exploring can tell you, your eyes do not adjust to complete darkness. The complete absence of light precludes any vision what so ever. Nevertheless, when we had waited for a little while, Malagor and I were both able to discern the shape of the passage ahead. There was a faint and indistinct light coming from far away down the corridor. We continued on our way.

As the two of us walked along, Malagor had tended to follow the left side of the corridor and I the right. It wasn’t long before we realized that we had moved farther and farther apart, and that the hallway was gradually widening. About the same time that we made this discovery, the surface of the wall changed abruptly from the smooth stone we had grown used to, to a bumpy soft material. It must have had a great acoustical quality, for I could no longer hear our footsteps. I was just thinking that the hallway had widened form its original five feet or so to well over twenty, when the hallway ended by opening into a huge room.

The size of this room was impossible to measure from our present vantage point. It seemed to be endless in any direction, and we could not judge the height of the ceiling either. I was standing there thinking about what to do next, when Malagor tugged at my sleeve. I asked him what the matter was, and in answer, he grabbed my head with his hands and turned it to my right. In the distance I could see a light. It was like a swinging lantern in the distance that blinked on and off occasional.

“I have an idea what that is,” I said. “Let’s go.”

Even though Malagor and I were both inclined to move quickly toward the source of the distant light, we didn’t move as quickly as we might have. The pervasive darkness was somewhat disorienting, and we could never know when there might be some obstruction that we might run into in the darkness. We managed to make a slow trot across this room, which now appeared to at least a mile across and possibly much larger. It didn’t seem long before we got close enough to the moving light to tell that it was indeed just what I has suspected it was– the swinging sword of Norar Remontar battling some enemy. We managed to reach him just as he had finished striking down the only remaining foe. His sword began to fade into darkness.

“What is all this?” I asked.

“This is a band of Kartags,” said Norar Remontar, turning on his small flashlight and pointing it at several prone figures. “They burst out of a hidden door while I was in the chamber alone, and knocked me out with a well placed blow to the head. I was lucky to regain consciousness before they were able to do whatever it was that they were planning to do to me.”

I looked at the beings lying dead in the circle of artificial illumination on the floor. They would have been about five feet tall when standing and they reminded me of a large rat, at least as far as their faces were concerned. They had legs designed for upright locomotion, and two sets of arms on their upper torso. Their dirty, wrinkled skin was a dull grey color, and hairless, reminding me quite a bit of the way rodents look just after they are born. Though they wore no type of clothing, they did wear simple leather harnesses upon which they carried crude hand-made stone tools.

“The Kartags are well-known to my people,” said my Amatharian friend. “They live by scavenging from more civilized beings.”

“I kind of got that impression from looking at them,” I replied. “It is lucky that you were able to rescue yourself. If it hadn’t been for the soul in your sword, Malagor and I would never have found you.”

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Princess of Amathar – Chapter 9 Excerpt

Princess of Amathar“Soon I will bite you on your neck, and suck the delicious juices from your body.”
“I hope you get indigestion,” I replied.
“I won’t. I have eaten many Amatharians. You are delicious. Of course that furry one is not fit to eat,” the disgusting thing pointed one of its front legs at Malagor. “We will lay our eggs upon it.”
“You have killed us,” Norar Remontar repeated.
“I suppose that I have disgraced myself by my negligence.”
“No. It was merely an unfortunate mistake.”
“I don’t have to kill myself to atone for it?”
“My people do not believe in suicide. If an Amatharian must make reparation for a wrong, he does it by doing service for the one he has injured. Besides, I do not think that you would have the opportunity to kill yourself.”
The large ugly spider creature spoke again.
“You must remain alive. You must be alive when I suck your insides out.”
Now it is not so much that I mind someone, or in this case I guess it was something, talking about sucking my insides out, but I had the impression that this thing was baiting me and trying to scare me. I was determined to put a brave face on the situation, if only to give Norar Remontar a good impression of me. So I spit right in the spider’s face, or what I took to be its face. It screamed out in a high pitched whine that made my spine tingle, and actually made Malagor yelp out in pain. The spider jumped and danced around in a circle, whether in pain or in ecstasy I couldn’t say, but after that it seemed to keep farther away from my face for which I was grateful. If you would like to get a real idea of my predicament, simply go out to the back yard and move some wood or a flower pot until you find a large plump Black Widow spider. Put the spider in a jar, and look at it through a magnifying glass. Now imagine that face right up next to yours talking to you, and you will see almost exactly what I saw there in the forests of Ecos, for the Pell, as the Amatharians call these creatures, resemble nothing so much as a fifty pound Black Widow, without the red hour glass marking.
For the first time since being trussed up, I looked around to take a real stock of our enemies. There were about twenty of the disgusting creatures around, and they all looked about the same, with slight variations of size. Then without so much as another word or shrill squeal, the spiders started off through the forest. Four spiders grabbed my cocoon in their vertical mouths and began to drag me across the forest floor. Malagor and Norar Remontar were subjects of similar treatment. It was neither a comfortable nor a dignified way to travel. We were dragged about a mile into a very dark and silent portion of the forest.
The Pell had taken us to their home. This settlement, if one can so dignify the place with that name, was nothing more than an immense spider web covering several hundred square yards, and rising high into the upper branches of a number of trees. We were taken to the center of the spider web, then long strands of silk were tied to our feet, and we were hauled up to hang upside down some thirty feet above the ground. I then noticed that the Pell numbered in the hundreds, ranging in size from about as big as a tarantula, to one individual, possibly the village elder, who was about the size of a large pony. All of these beasts climbed around the webbing, but their main residence seemed to be a large hole in the ground below us and a little to my left.
I have always hated spiders, and the experience of hanging by my ankles in a giant web, and being examined by arachnids close to my own size did nothing to strengthen my opinion of them. I tried to think of some way to free my hands, but they were wrapped tightly at my sides. I couldn’t imagine things getting any worse than they were at that moment, but they really always can. Just then it started to rain.
I like rain. I suppose that it is because I grew up in the southwestern United States, where rainfall is relatively rare. However rain, when in conjunction with gravity, has an unfortunate effect upon an individual who is hanging upside down. It runs up his nose.
“You have killed me,” said Malagor, and he stretched out his head and began a long low howl.
This did nothing to improve my own state of mind. I looked around, blinded by the water running over my face, but desperate to find some means of escape. There seemed little hope.
“Can’t you call on the power of your sword?” I asked Norar Remontar.
“What?”
“Can’t you call upon the soul in your sword to rescue you?”
“I do not call upon the soul. It comes of its own accord. And it does not do so to cut bonds. It comes only for battle.”
“That seems inconvenient,” I replied. “I see no way of escape.”

Princess of Amathar – Chapter 7 Excerpt

Princess of AmatharFor the first time since being trussed up, I looked around to take a real stock of our enemies. There were about twenty of the disgusting creatures around, and they all looked about the same, with slight variations of size. Then without so much as another word or shrill squeal, the spiders started off through the forest. Four spiders grabbed my cocoon in their vertical mouths and began to drag me across the forest floor. Malagor and Norar Remontar were subjects of similar treatment. It was neither a comfortable nor a dignified way to travel. We were dragged about a mile into a very dark and silent portion of the forest.

The Pell had taken us to their home. This settlement, if one can so dignify the place with that name, was nothing more than an immense spider web covering several hundred square yards, and rising high into the upper branches of a number of trees. We were taken to the center of the spider web, then long strands of silk were tied to our feet, and we were hauled up to hang upside down some thirty feet above the ground. I then noticed that the Pell numbered in the hundreds, ranging in size from about as big as a tarantula, to one individual, possibly the village elder, who was about the size of a large pony. All of these beasts climbed around the webbing, but their main residence seemed to be a large hole in the ground below us and a little to my left.

I have always hated spiders, and the experience of hanging by my ankles in a giant web, and being examined by arachnids close to my own size did nothing to strengthen my opinion of them. I tried to think of some way to free my hands, but they were wrapped tightly at my sides. I couldn’t imagine things getting any worse than they were at that moment, but they really always can. Just then it started to rain.

I like rain. I suppose that it is because I grew up in the southwestern United States, where rainfall is relatively rare. However rain, when in conjunction with gravity, has an unfortunate effect upon an individual who is hanging upside down. It runs up his nose.

“You have killed me,” said Malagor, and he stretched out his head and began a long low howl.

This did nothing to improve my own state of mind. I looked around, blinded by the water running over my face, but desperate to find some means of escape. There seemed little hope.

“Can’t you call on the power of your sword?” I asked Norar Remontar.

“What?”

“Can’t you call upon the soul in your sword to rescue you?”

“I do not call upon the soul. It comes of its own accord. And it does not do so to cut bonds. It comes only for battle.”

“That seems inconvenient,” I replied. “I see no way of escape.”

“There is no way of escape.” Came a high-pitched voice. “You are doomed to die, as am I.”

I twisted my body around to look upon a Pell sitting nearby. It was about the size of a big dog, but otherwise seemed identical to all the other spider creatures.

“You are doomed to die?” Malagor asked. “Why?”

“I have angered the web-leader. I feasted upon food that was not mine.”

“Could you get us out of this web and these cocoons?” I inquired.

“Why would I want to do that?”

“Why not? You are going to die anyway.”

“My death will not be as horrible as it would be should I release you.”

“We are going to Amathar. If you were to come with us, you would escape death, and be welcome there.” I was attempting to weave a web of my own as I talked. “He’d be welcome. Wouldn’t he, Norar Remontar?”

“No,” he said.

“Work with me here!” I pleaded.

“The Amatharian speaks truly. I have no place else to go. Amathar would not welcome me.” Whined the arachnid.

“What if Norar Remontar promised to protect you. You know Amatharians always keep their word. He could promise to find you a new home.” The Pell’s forelegs began to twitch.

“You’ll protect him and find him a new home. Won’t you, Norar Remontar?”

“No,” he said.

“Do you want to live to see Amathar? Do you want to be able to rescue your sister?” I hissed. “Tell the damn spider you’ll protect him if he’ll let us go.”

“No,” he said.

“I cannot go far away,” whined the Pell.

“Why are you up here anyway?” I asked him. “Why would you be sentenced to death for eating something that wasn’t yours?”

“We eat any live flesh,” he explained. “but thinking, speaking creatures are reserved for the leader and the hive elder.”

“That hardly seems fair. Why, a fellow like you… what was your name?”

“Vvvv.”

“Why,” I continued. “I would much rather be eaten by a fine fellow like you than almost anyone else. What about you, Malagor?”

“Indeed,” said my companion. “It would be an honor to be eaten by Vvvv.”

“You must surely be the finest of the Pell,” I said. “In fact, now that I think about it, why aren’t you the leader?”

“I should be!” Squealed the spider, puffing himself up larger. “I have always known that I should be leader! Even the lower forms can see it!”

Princess of Amathar – Chapter 6 Excerpt

Princess of AmatharMany times on our journey I pressed the knight to tell me about his city. On these occasions he would simply smile, and say that I would have to see it for myself. Of course my personal interests were constantly being drawn to the subject of his sister. I didn’t want to arouse Norar Remontar’s ire by accidentally disgracing her somehow, and truth be told, I was somewhat embarrassed by my single-minded desire to see this woman again. Of course being no fool, he saw through my efforts to artificially generalize the subject, but played along with me anyway. It seemed that in Amatharian society, both the men and the women were able to become knights and pursue careers in any field. The culture was a matrilineal one. The Amatharians passed on their family name from mother to daughter, but even more important than the family name, were the family crests, and these were passed from elder family members, to those children, grandchildren, and even nephews and nieces, who managed to achieve knighthood. Norar Remontar and a cousin had received their crests from an uncle who was a war hero. His sister inherited her crest from her grandfather.

We crossed planes and hills and valleys and an occasional mountain range, and must have been some thousands of miles from the sight of the airship battle when we reached the edge of an immense forest. It stretched to the left and right as far as the eye could see. Of course as with all things of this scale, when we came up close to the edge of the woodland, we found that it was not one great forest, but a vast area of connected forests with small glens and meadows scattered here and there. We plunged into this new terrain and continued on our way.

The first several hundred miles of the forest land was lightly wooded. There were a great many open areas and we found many fruits and vegetables along the way to supplement our hunting. As the miles went on by though, we left the lightly wooded areas behind us, and entered an increasingly dark and forbidding landscape. It was the kind of forest that one might find in an old black and white horror movie, or one of those fantasy novels with pointed-eared goblins peaking out from behind large oak trees. In this densely wooded country, hunting became more difficult, but because of the urgency of our quest, we could not take any more time than was absolutely necessary in any one location. So it was that when once more we had to make camp, for the first time, we sat looking at one another over an empty spot on the ground where our food might normally be found roasting on a spit above a small camp fire.

“This is most discouraging to me,” said Malagor. “It is not right for a Malagor to go without food.”

“At least we have water,” said Norar Remontar. “I am surprised that we have been able to stay as well fed as we have. Before this trip I had been hunting only three or four times with my uncle, and I mean no disrespect when I say that Alexander seems to be as unskilled as I am in this arena.”

“He has led a soft life,” explained Malagor. “I am guessing that even though you have done little hunting, your life has not been soft. You are a warrior.”

“You are mistaken my friend,” the Amatharian replied. “My life has not been a hard one. We in Amathar live well, and I as the son of a Kurar Ka have lived too well. I have never wanted. All my life I was provided for, was given everything that I desired, and was tutored by masters in every subject.

“When I reached manhood I set out to explore the distant lands of Ecos by signing on to my uncle’s trading group. As a warrior and then a swordsman, I was required to fight pirates and monsters, and I did so without fear. I proved myself in battle, at least my soul thought that I had. I went to the Garden of Souls and I found my soul. Then on my first mission as a knight, in my first confrontation with the enemy of my people, I lose my ship and my sister.”

“That wasn’t your fault,” I interjected quickly. “It was a tremendous battle and you fought bravely.”

“It was my duty to protect my sister,” said the knight. “She was conveying an important diplomatic mission for our grandfather. Beside, she is my sister.” He lay down and then rolled over so that his back was facing Malagor and myself.

Malagor looked at me, nodded, and lay down. There was a chill in the air, and the sky was becoming overcast, so much so that I almost imagined that the sun was going down. Of course it remained directly above, as always, but it did grow rather dark. I began to wish that we had built a fire, despite the fact that we had nothing to cook over it. I leaned back and prepared for my turn at watch. I was very tired though, and after a moments reflection, as I have just recounted, that the thick green canopy above, in combination with the storm clouds rolling in provided almost enough darkness to remind one of night time, I fell into a state of half sleep.
The first thing that aroused me from my slumber was a low growl coming from Malagor. I rolled over and looked at him. He was trussed up tightly in some kind of white netting, and he obviously didn’t like it. Suddenly I was knocked back onto my back by something large and black and hairy. I stared, horror-struck at a big black spider, fully fifty pounds, and with a body fully three feet across, sitting astride my chest. With the strength of my earth-born muscles combined with a great rush of adrenaline, I thrust the creature away from me. It was quite an impressive push, for it flew a about twenty feet and crashed with a splat into the bole of a large tree. I stood up, but before I could draw my sword or do anything else, I found myself being wrapped by strands of sticky white netting, and I looked to find a dozen more of the spiders encircling me and coating me with webbing silk. Scant seconds later I fell down onto my side, completely incased, with the exception of my head, in a silk cocoon.

My position on the ground put me face to face with Norar Remontar, and he looked at me and shook his head.

“You fell asleep.”

“Yes,” I replied.

“You were supposed to be on guard.”

“Yes.”

“Now you have killed us. These are Pell.”

“We’re not dead yet,” I offered.

“You will be soon.” A grotesque, high-pitched, squeaking voice said.

Princess of Amathar – Chapter 5 Excerpt

Princess of AmatharSlowly the victorious warrior scanned the battlefield around him, and as he did so, his eyes alighted upon Malagor and myself. He started slowly toward us. I did nothing but stand and stare at the alien knight. He came toward us slowly at first, but as he got nearer, he seemed more and more menacing, and when he was only several yards away, he began to raise his wondrous sword.
“Stop!” Called Malagor, backing up his command by brandishing his light rifle. The blue-skinned man stopped and stared at us, and particularly at me for a moment.
“You carry a dead sword.” he said to me.
“I carry this sword that I found. It is not as marvelous as your own….”
“Just where did you find this sword?”
“It was in a cave, along with these light rifles.” I replied.
“You took these weapons from the dead!” he accused.
“There was no body.” I said. “Only the weapons and some food items.”
“You lie!” He stepped forward.
“He tells the truth,” said Malagor. “Do not take another step, or I shall have to kill you.”
The Amatharian looked carefully at my friend as if for the first time. “You are a Malagor?”
“Yes.”
“My clan, long ago, dealt with the Malagor. They were a people of honor.”
Malagor nodded his head slightly in acknowledgment of the compliment, but didn’t lower his weapon.
“You affirm that this pale one did not desecrate the bodies of my people?”
“I swear it.”
The Amatharian looked back at me, the fury of battle now fading from his eyes. He straightened his back, and then carefully sheathed his sword, which now appeared to be nothing more than a metal blade of the non-glowing variety. This fellow was a magnificent specimen. He was almost a head taller than I, at least six foot seven. He was muscular and handsome, and wore the typical Amatharian fighting clothing, the black body suit and white tabard. His own tabard was surrounded by gold braid and bore his insignia, a flaming sun with outstretched wings.
“May I see your weapon?” He asked.
I handed him the sword, hilt first. He carefully examined the blade and its edge. Then with something akin to reverence, he carefully removed the jeweled hilt and opened a here-to-fore hidden compartment in the base. He sighed. Then he carefully replaced the hilt, and handed the weapon back to me.
“I offer you my apology,” he said. “A sword this fine was designed for a remiant, and yet this sword has never lived.”
“I accept your apology,” I replied.
I could feel Malagor breathe a sigh of relief. It was obvious that he didn’t want to have to kill a brave man, especially over a misunderstanding. I certainly didn’t want to force him to have to do so. The knight bowed his head.
“I am Homianne Kurar Ka Remiant Norar Remontar of the Sun Clan,” he said. I later learned that he had given me his name as Norar Remontar, his rank as Remiant or knight, and his social status or nobility as Homianne Kurar Ka which literally means child of the overlord, and implies that one is a prince or princess. In Amatharian society the head of each clan is called Kurar Ka or Overlord and his direct heirs are his Homianne. Just below them in rank are the Kurar or lords, and below them the Kur or lesser nobles.
Malagor replied with his own name, which as I have previously explained, defies all attempts at transcription. It is a kind of a growl and a cough and he seemed to throw in something else, perhaps a title, though I didn’t press as to what it might have been. I must confess that at that moment I felt somewhat inadequate in the name department, as I had neither a particularly long or eloquent name nor an impressive title.
“Alexander Ashton” I said.

Princess of Amathar – Chapter 3 Excerpt

Princess of AmatharAs we circumnavigated the hill, Malagor explained the rifle to me. For all its unearthly beauty, it was quite terrestrial in method of operation. The stock and the barrel were designed much like those of an AK-47, with a trigger and trigger guard in the usual location, but instead of a clip of ammunition projecting just in front of them, there was a slot where the power source plugged in. The sights were placed along the barrel, if such a term applies, just as with any rifle of earth. Malagor handed one of the weapons to me, and together we practiced plugging in the power source replacements. Then we slung the rifles over our shoulders and continued on our way.

When we had reached the other side of the hill, I had to stop and laugh. As far as berry picking was concerned, we had certainly chosen the poorer side of the hill. From where I now stood, the hills beyond were completely covered with the berry bushes. We were both in the mood for breakfast after having slept a long time, so we began wading through the thicket, picking the ripe berries and transferring them to our mouths. The little fruits were juicy and tart, and I am sure would not have been all that good if tasted at home with dinner, but here in the wilderness, picking them straight off the vine, they were delicious.

Malagor and I had moved apart as we picked. He was about thirty feet or so away, but there was nothing to be concerned about. We were two grown men, or in any case, two grown beings, in sight of one another. I must admit that I was not being all that watchful, and I suppose that Malagor wasn’t either. Suddenly I heard a noise from him that I had never heard before. It was a lot like the startled yelp that a big dog makes when his tail is accidentally stepped on. Then a tremendous roar reverberated through the hills. I turned to a scene that made my pulse quicken.

There, standing above the berry bushes, a full fifteen feet tall, was the most frightening apparition that I have ever beheld. It was a huge beast. It might have seemed like a bear or a large ape at first, because it stood on its hind legs and had a shaggy but almost humanoid form, but it was neither bear nor ape nor any combination of the two. It was covered with long black fur, and it had a large head. Its eyes were large, round, multifaceted, insectoid orbs. It was obviously an omnivorous beast, having like humans a variety of tooth types, but at the moment I was concerned with only one type– the great long fangs with which it was attempting to impale Malagor. The creature held him in a tight grip and was attempting to reach his throat with those great ivory tusks. For his part, Malagor was struggling to hold back the giant head and at the same time find a spot in which to employ his own considerable canines.

If I had thought about it, I am sure that I would not have bothered trying to use the light rifle; because I was fairly sure that there was no way that the power source could still be viable. But the fact is that I did not think, I just did. I put the weapon to my shoulder, took quick aim, and fired. The gun spit a thin stream of energy from its barrel. It was not like a laser or a beam. It was like molten sunshine that bubbled and churned as it flew through the air. It went past Malagor’s shoulder and into the eye of the giant beast. Then with a big explosion, it blew a large hole out of the back of the thing’s skull. The beast’s head collapsed in a most disgusting way, and then it fell to the ground.

I ran over to where the monster had fallen. Malagor jumped up to his feet, as if to prove to me and to himself that he was all right. He looked at me with a blank expression.

“Finally, an animal I know.” He said. “This is a stummada. It is not good to eat.”

“I don’t think he had the same opinion of you,” I replied.

“No it did not. But it is not a he. It is a female. The mate of this one may come along at any moment. Let us return to our side of the hill.”

We started on our way home. I would like to if I might, interject a small commentary at this point. As I tell this story it must seem that I was well versed in the language of the Amatharians. I must confess that at the time I was not, although I count myself now, to be quite fluent in that beautiful language. For example, in the previous conversation between myself and Malagor, we had a great deal of trouble at first with the Amatharian terminology for the animal’s mate, but after examining the context of the word, and a little impromptu tutelage by Malagor, I was able to piece together the meaning. So it was with a great deal of the language that I learned during my time with my alien friend. If I do not fully detail every element of my conversational education, please believe me when I say that it is not an intentional effort to make myself seem more intelligent. Rather it is just that in looking back I remember the content of our conversations rather than the exact wording.

Malagor and I made our way back around the mountain to our cliff camp. There we slept and then went out once again to fill our water skins from a small mountain brook, and to hunt for our dinner. This time Malagor let me stalk and hunt the game. He guided me, carefully giving me helpful instruction. I eventually managed to bring down a small rodent-like grazer which proved to be quite tasty.

During what seemed to me to be a few weeks, Malagor and I went hunting frequently and he seemed to take great pleasure in teaching me how to track and kill animals of all types. After a while I became relatively adept. I began to notice that when we hunted, we did not follow a random pattern. Each time, Malagor would choose a direction just to the left of the direction which we had taken upon the last hunt. While we hunted, he was surveying the land around us in a very systematic way, dividing it up like a giant pie, with us in the very center of the search pattern. On one occasion I asked him what we were searching for, but he seemed to clam up, and become positively morose for the rest of the trip, so I didn’t ask him again. He had been very good to me, and indeed we had become close friends, so if there was something that bothered him too much to talk about, I wasn’t going to pester him about it. After all, I had nothing else to do in the world of Ecos. So if Malagor wanted to conduct a search while we hunted for our game, what difference did it make to me?

One time when we out were hunting, we began tracking a particularly large bird-like animal about the size of a cow. Neither Malagor nor I had any idea whether it was edible, but we were beginning to tire of our usual catches, so we decided to experiment upon the unfortunate creature. We were still outside bow range of the beast, crouched in the tall grass, when the hair on the nape of my neck began to stand on end. I glanced at my arm and found that the small hairs there were acting in a similar fashion. Then I looked at my friend and almost laughed. He looked like he had just been blow-dried, every hair sticking straight out.

Malagor was looking at neither me nor our prey however. Then I noticed a distant hum and followed Malagor’s gaze to discover its origin. Sailing along above the countryside at an altitude of about a thousand feet was the most remarkable vehicle that I have ever seen. It was many times the size of the largest modern aircraft carrier or battleship of earth, fully a mile long and nearly half that wide. It was only a few hundred feet tall over most of its span, but there was a tower rising a hundred or more stories from the top middle of the thing. The entire vehicle was painted black, and was bristling with weapons or instruments of some kind, and the closer it got, the more obvious it was that this was the source of the strange magnetism in the air. This was some kind of great cruiser riding through the air on a field of electrical energy.

“What is that thing?” I asked.

“It is a Zoasian Battleship,” replied Malagor.

“You never mentioned the Zoasians.” I pointed out.

His voice became low.

“The Zoasians destroyed my people,” he said.

Princess of Amathar – Chapter 2 Excerpt

Princess of AmatharAs 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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