Pulp and Dagger Fiction Webzine
A Planet-Hopping Science Fiction Adventure in 6 Chapters!

The Jewel of Besminur

"Swashbuckling" Kirk Straughen

about the author


Though we are prisoners of Earth, let us storm heaven’s vault with our thoughts, and dream of wonders that may lie in realms unknown.

In the beginning there was non-being, becoming. A wine dark radiance emerged from this foaming chaos, its dim light the cool purple void.

The void gave birth to glowing nuclei – golden helices imbedded in lucid spheres of force - that threw off spinning ethereal loops of pearly light. These expanded in concentric rings, condensed, gave birth to worlds impaled upon their ghostly bands, rotating slowly like beads upon a string.

The central nuclei blazed with golden light, casting their limpid rays upon the infant worlds. The worlds gave birth to life, life to a diversity of forms. Intelligence emerged, and thus a universe, not ours, was born.

Chapter 1:  Corsair of the Void

The ether-ship, Nemsu, traversed the gulf between the worlds – a thing of beauty, a huge pentagonal dodecahedron whose faceted sides, like a carmine jewel, reflected the central nucleus’ aureate rays.

Once more her drive-crystal was attuned to the emanations of Yaxkan, one of the quartet worlds of the second ring in the system of Youwon, and drew the merchantman homeward bound like iron to a loadstone where, upon arrival, the charge would slowly be reversed as she orbited the globe, thus lowering her gently to the soil of this emerald sphere.

To Taxa, her navigator, this was nothing new. Many a time he had voyaged between his home planet of Yaxkan and Besminur, chief of the sextet worlds in the third band of this ring of orbs.

What was new was the turmoil in his heart. Could one find more than earthy love in the arms of a whore of Etra? He wasn’t sure. Her ornate mask had hidden all but her eyes (in accordance with the customs of that strange land) but in them he seemed to see the play of emotions that were other than base desire.

By the nine thousand gods, he thought. I must be a fool to think such thoughts. I neither saw her face nor know her name, yet her presence lingers about me like the scent of fine perfume.

He gazed in solitude upon the purple void's expanse, separated from its vast immensity by the vitreous cupola of the observation turret. The dusky emptiness stretched out before him in illimitable depths and distant nuclei, like phosphorescent gems, seemed to beckon him with the siren call of unknown worlds.

The chronometer chimed, breaking his train of thought. It was time to check the ship’s position relative to the celestial spheres.

Looking down, Taxa gazed upon the orrery – a model of the planetary system set beneath the glassy floor. Its intricate mechanisms mimicked the course of the twelve worlds in their orbits, and traced out the ship’s path – a glowing crimson dot – upon a graduated silver wire. According to the apparatus, they had traveled only a fraction of the distance home. Their speed was still slow, only a few times that of a running man, but would slowly increase to stupendous velocity over the coming months.

The world-finder – a device more resembling an abstract sculpture of prisms, mirrors and lenses than an instrument of science – automatically swung upon its pivot, bringing itself to bear upon the quadrant of the heavens where Yaxkan should be at this appointed hour.

The emerald world loomed before Taxa’s eyes as he focused the instrument upon the distant orb, saw it slowly rotating about its faintly glowing band like a wheel upon its axis.

His heart gladdened at the sight of her crimson seas kissing the emerald continents. Clouds, stained golden by the light of the central nucleus, obscured much of Vez, the empire of his people.

On course as usual, he thought.

Grabbing the communication cord, he was about to ring the True Course signal through, when something in the void drew his eye - a swiftly moving shimmer against the backdrop of its purple vastness. Using the manual override, he swung the device upon the anomaly, his deft hands tuning the mechanism until the object stood sharply in his vision.

Taxa gasped. The thing was a corsair of the void – long and lean with predatory grace, the camouflage of her tapering cylindrical body rendering her almost invisible in the purple expanse. From her stern projected slender tubes that shot forth pastel light – her propulsion rays – that lanced the abyss of worlds with their glowing shafts.

The corsair swooped down upon the Nemsu like a falcon upon a dove. Taxa grasped the cord, but too late. There was a tremendous impact as the pirate’s ram punctured the metallic glass of the hull, the force of the collision throwing him heavily to the floor.

His senses swam as a dark tide of unconsciousness threatened to engulf him. Fighting off the seductive blackness, Taxa struggled to his feet. Already, he could hear the sound of fighting. The corsair’s hollow ram, lodged deep in the heart of the merchantman, would have opened like the beak of some monstrous bird, disgorging hordes of rampant buccaneers more lethal than demons from the lowest hell.

Quickly, he descended the turret’s spiral staircase, and emerged upon a scene of unmitigated brutality. The open space of the command deck was alive with men locked in uninhibited violence. Pirates and crew exchanged blow for blow. Men fell, gaping wounds spewing blood, washing the deck with amber gore.

Terror sank its ice-cold talons into his heart when he saw the sight before him, and it was only by an utmost act of self-control that he fought off its debilitating grip.

Courage, he thought. My crewmates need my aid as we teeter on this precipice, and I can’t help them if overcome by fear.

Taxa saw one pirate, a huge brute of a man, charging towards him, his black armor giving him the demeanor of a malevolent beetle, his axe glittering with diamond hardness.

Whipping up his two handed mace, Taxa barely blocked the vicious blow, was driven to one knee by its terrible impact. Desperately, he jabbed upwards into his opponent’s groin, the vertical spike on the mace’s head ramming through a chink in his foe’s amour.

The man fell back, howling in pain and rage, yellow blood spurting from the deep wound. Taxa advanced, the battle swirling round him, brought his mace down with all his might upon the pirate’s helmet at the same time his foe launched a swinging stroke. The casque cracked under the mighty blow as if it were a wooden bowl.

The man fell. The flat of his descending axe caught Taxa a glancing blow upon his unprotected head as it slipped from nerveless fingers. The Yaxkanite reeled, collapsed, was dragged by darkness into unconsciousness’ ebon realm.

next -  Chapter 2 - A Choice of Gruesome Deaths

Table of Contents

Pulp and Dagger icon

This story is copyright by Kirk Straughen. It may not be copied without permission of the author except for purposes of reviews. (Though you can print it out to read it, natch.)