Assur of Babylonia
voyages to an alien world in...

Swords Across the Void
A 10-Chapter Planetary Romance!

by Kirk Straughen
About the author


Episode 10 (conclusion):
Arena of the Beast

THE BABYLONIAN GAZED IN HORROR at the drama unfolding on the arena’s sands. A naked woman stood under the blazing sun, her features obscured by a mask and gag, her hands shackled behind her back. Stalking her was a thing of nightmare – its feline body and hawk-like head covered in dark purple spines.

“Lunala,” cried Assur as he snatched up a spear and vaulted to the ground fifteen feet below, the soft sand and his strong legs absorbing the jarring impact of his fall. Springing erect he ran towards the laar, shouting and waving his weapon in a desperate attempt to distract the beast from its prey.

The laar swung about, annoyed that this puny thing should dare interrupt its hunt. Blood lust burned brightly in its tiny brain as its dark eyes fastened upon the running man. The creature’s beak gaped disclosing rows of serrated triangular teeth. It charged, a thunderous roar exploding from its throat.

Time seemed to slow as Assur watched the laar bear down upon him. Motion became dreamlike -- the spray of sand kicked up by its claws fell as if it were drifting dust, the crowd, like sleepwalkers, rose lethargically to their feet, their shouted exclamations strangely muffled.
“I must time this right,” he thought, feeling that never before had so much depended on the single cast of a spear. All his senses focused on the looming beast, now dangerously close, the glittering eyes clearly visible. Assur launched his weapon, hurled his body to one side.
An ear splitting roar erupted as the spear slammed into the laar’s eye and impaled its brain. The beast collapsed in a writhing heap, its failing claws narrowly missing Assur as he rolled away.
The crowd, absorbed by the unexpected turn of events, failed to notice the strange form that floated in the sky above. Then, without warning, spheres of violet light exploded in their midst.
Meren gazed in disbelief as the arena erupted into screaming chaos – men and women, like demented beasts tore at one another, pushing, shoving and trampling in a frenzy of unbridled fear as they fought to escape the rain of death. Seeing there was nothing he could do except save himself and his men, the Prince ushered them within the safety of the secret passage and closed the door.
Looking up from where he lay, Assur saw the cone-shaped thing descending, its tentacles entwined about a robed figure it carried beneath its body. Assur went cold at the sight; it could only be but one man -- the sorcerer, Amnon-Nur.
Amnon-Nur looked down upon the destruction he had wrought, a satisfied smile upon his cruel lips. No one would interfere with his plans, for the arena was empty now, except for the dead and dying, and they didn’t count.
Using his viewing sphere, he had managed to locate Assur after losing sight of him for a time, and was eager for an accounting for the trouble he had caused. Indeed, only the shedding of blood could quench the fires of the sorcerer’s anger at the invasion of his home, the death of his guardian, the destruction of his elemental, and having to undertake this hazardous journey to retrieve the amulet.
Assur ran towards Lunala as the sorcerer descended, but was too late. Having cunningly discerned the Babylonian’s feelings towards the girl, Amnon-Nur swooped down upon her as she turned to flee, seizing her as a hostage, and played his violet ray upon her naked loins to still her desperate struggles. The gag stifled her scream of agony as she collapsed to the ground.
“Stay where you are, boy! You have the amulet, now hand it over. You know what this ray can do.”
“Don’t harm the girl,” cried Assur, frantically. “You can have the amulet, but free her first.”
Amnon-Nur laughed darkly, pointing his crystal rod at Lunala, who had risen to her knees.
“You’re not in a position to bargain. Give me the amulet or she dies here and now.”
Assur tore the disc from about his neck and tossed it to the sorcerer. Amnon-Nur reached for the amulet as it flew towards him, eyes glittering in triumph, and in that moment of distraction Lunala slammed her foot into his groin. The sorcerer fell heavily, howling in pain as the girl sprinted for Assur and threw herself into his strong arms.
Amnon-Nur struggled to his feet, speechless with anger, unreasoning rage written upon his features. To suffer such indignity at the hands of what to him were lesser beings was the final goad that had driven him to the edge of madness. Raising his Rod of Power, he unleashed its terrible ray.
But as the searing bolt leapt from the crystal rod, there sprung into existence about Assur and Lunala a nimbus of silvery light from which the destructive energies were reflected, as if from a mirror, to bathe Amnon-Nur and his elemental with consuming force. There was a terrific thunderclap, then silence.
Assur rolled off Lunala, whose body he had shielded with his own. Helping the girl to her feet he quickly removed her mask and gag, and released the catch that locked the shackles about her wrists.
“How … how is it that we still live,” she gasped, looking at the charred corpse of the sorcerer and the fused remains of his elemental.
The Babylonian smiled as he removed the gem that had been concealed in his belt’s hidden pocket, and showed it to her.
“This is the true jewel from the amulet, and the real source of its protective power. I foresaw the possibility that Amnon-Nur would seek me out, and so I substituted the original with a similar gem from the temple of the Dark Idol.”
“You’re as cleaver as you are brave,” was all she could think to say, and then expressed her true feelings in wordless eloquence by kissing him with passion.
“You are Queen once more,” he said somewhat breathlessly as he gently pushed her away, and then recounted his escape with Meren’s help and how Azmonaz was slain.
“I renounce the throne. Let Meren rule instead. I have found something more precious than crowns.”
“And what is that?”
“Why you, of course. Now kiss me.”
And he did for quite some time.

The End.

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Swords Across the Void and the character of Assur are 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.)