Assur of Babylonia
voyages to an alien world in...
by Kirk Straughen
About the author
LEAPING BACK, ASSUR BARELY AVOIDED the grasping talons.
Swinging his sword in a whirling arc he struck at its thick wrists. The
blade rebounded with a resounding clang, jarring his arm. He swore
The Idol reared to its full height. It towered above him, dark and menacing, animated with unnatural life, its jointed limbs rasping, the sound a sinister echo in the dark confines of the temple, its single eye now pulsing with amber light.
Heart beating wildly, Assur backed hurriedly away as it stepped with ponderous tread from the dais and advanced upon him, powerful hands flexing, eager to crush and rend this rash intruder who dared violate the sanctity of its shrine.
Conflicting emotions surged through the Babylonian like a raging tide – to stand and fight, but how to fight a god, or to flee? But he knew he dared not turn his back upon the thing.
Then, as it bent forward and swung an iron hard hand to crush his body, Assur, more by instinct than reasoned, thought saw his only chance. He ducked low, the wicked claws passing within an inch of his head; then, sprinting forward, he hurled the sword with all his strength at its glowing optic, and dashed between its mighty legs.
The air was rent by a deafening explosion. A fountain of sparks erupted from its shattered eye, now a gaping hole where half its chest had been blown away. The Idol staggered drunkenly, and then fell upon its back with a thunderous crash that shook the very earth.
After a time Assur struggled to his feet, still partially stunned from the shattering report. He uttered a prayer of thanks to the gods when he saw the Idol was a smoking ruin -- as lifeless as any statue now the jewel containing its animating forces had been destroyed.
He cautiously approached the smoldering hulk, the acrid fumes stinging his eyes and nose. Looking within the shattered body, he puzzled over the many glass tubes and gears, now fused and blackened almost beyond recognition.
"What strange magic is this," he murmured, "that could bring such a thing to life?"
Assur's musings were cut short by a shower of dust, then an ominous rumble followed by larger detritus. The temple, weakened by explosive concussions, was beginning to collapse around him. Huge blocks of stone began to fall in a rain of death, kicking up dust and peppering him with flying shards.
Grabbing the amulet -- there was no time to look for the sword -- he sprinted for the door, dodging and leaping over fallen masonry with the agility of a gazelle. Despite the choking dust that obscured his vision, he made the exit. Leaping through it he ran into the jungle as the roof roared down like a waterfall of stone, its shuddering impact sending him tumbling to the dark earth.
There he lay, exhausted, his sweat mingling with the
blood from a dozen stinging gashes wrought by flying chips of stone.
“The gods must smile on fools,” he thought. “For who but a fool would get himself into such a mess?”
When his strength returned, Assur stood and hung the amulet about his neck. Leaning against a tree, he examined the thing and wondered why the sorcerer valued it so highly. The bronze disc, apart from the strange hieroglyphics etched into its surface, was quite ordinary in appearance. The jewel in its center was as clear as glass, and might be so for all he knew.
Shrugging his broad shoulders he began retracing his steps. Amnon-Nur was not a fool, the amulet was obviously no mere bauble, but, lacking the sorcerer’s arcane knowledge, Assur knew it would remain a mystery to him. And when he delivered it would Amnon-Nur keep his word? Ah, that too was a mystery …
Arriving at the beach he found the elemental hovering where he had left it. He eyed it distrustfully. True, it had saved his life, but only to serve its master’s ends. He fumed silently at being used, even though he realized the fault was mostly his.
Holding the amulet aloft, he called: "I have what Amnon-Nur desires, now take me home."
The being's tentacles snaked out like whips to snatch the amulet from Assur's grasp.
"I think not, my friend," he said as he leaped out of reach. "I'll be keeping this until I hand it to your master."
Waves of anger rippled out from the elemental, striking Assur like a fist. In its wordless way, it conveyed to him the idea it was to destroy him at the sorcerer's command, and then return with the amulet to Amnon-Nur.
One of its tentacles swung in Assur’s direction and stiffened. From its tip shot a glowing sphere of violet light that sped towards the Babylonian, who flung up his arm in a futile gesture of defense. Too late the sorcerer’s treachery was unmasked...
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5 :A Perilous Shore
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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.)