Assur of Babylonia
voyages to an alien world in...
by Kirk Straughen
About the author
A Perilous Shore
THERE WAS AN EXPLOSION OF SOUND and light that dazzled
Assur’s eyes and made him reel. He staggered blindly and fell to his
knees, fighting to regain his senses. Slowly, his vision cleared and he
looked about, amazed that he was still alive.
The elemental lay upon the sand, a glowing heap of fused glass-like matter, as if the destructive energies had rebounded to consume it with malignant force. Rising unsteadily to his feet Assur grasped the amulet and looked at it, the truth slowly dawning upon him.
He knew Amnon-Nur would not surrender such a thing so easily. Indeed, at this very moment the sorcerer might be dispatching another of his minions to complete the task. He went cold at the thought, but what could he do to counter such plans? As he ruminated, his hand brushed against the bag of jewels at his hip, and they lent inspiration to his thoughts. Quickly, he ducked under the cover of some thick bushes and translated his idea into action.
A short time later he emerged once again from the jungle. Above him hung the ghostly orb of the Earth, and at its sight the reality of his situation crashed down upon him. Before he had been swept along by the sheer rapidity of events, but now he had time to think he began to realize how tired, filthy and alone he actually was, marooned on a strange and perilous shore.
His most immediate concern was his injuries; they were minor, true, but he had seen men die of infected wounds – it was neither quick nor pleasant. An old soldier had once told him that unclean cuts attracted disease-causing demons. He eyed the dark sea uncertainly; its waters might be deadly poison, but what other choice was there?
Assur walked towards the hissing waves. Kneeling, he gingerly allowed the black tide to surge about his hand; the liquid was very warm, almost hot. The waves retreated revealing extremely clean and strangely dry skin. Emboldened, he waded into the churning surf and washed the grime from his body and raiment.
The sea was invigorating -- the strange dense fluid from which it was composed made his skin tingle with vibrant life. It washed away his fatigue; but he dare not swallow any of its dark fluid -- that would be tempting fate too far. (It was much later that he learnt the liquid was only safe to drink from streams.)
Having completed his ablutions, Assur waded ashore. Without warning, something fastened upon his leg with a vice-like grip, and dragged him beneath the stygian waves. Kicking out in a wild panic, he felt his sandaled foot strike something soft. There was a momentary release of pressure about his leg, and with a desperate wrench he broke free, surging shoreward through the grasping waves, not daring to look back.
Staggering to the beach he spun about, confronting his unknown assailant. The thing, slightly taller than himself, emerged from the sea at his very heels. Beneath its black dome-shaped carapace were eight long jointed legs ending in powerful claws, and about the circumference of the dome were rods of equal number – its sensory organs; one of which dangled limply, oozing a sickly yellow fluid.
“By the gods,” he thought, fighting down his fear. “What monstrous beasts this dark world has spawned.”
Undaunted by the injury he had inflicted upon it, the leth lumbered towards him, several claws extended. Assur jumped aside, snatched up a length of stout driftwood, and managed to deliver a smashing blow that struck one armored leg without effect.
Again it came for him, this time more warily, circling and trying to drive him back into the ocean where the disadvantage would be his. Assur considered his situation. The creature was slow, but persistent, and he could feel the invigorating effects of the sea wearing off. He was rapidly tiring, and knew he must do something soon.
He sprinted for a steep bolder strewn slope not far
down the beach, wild hope lending wings to his feet, the leth in hot
pursuit. Mounting the acclivity, he struggled up the ascent until he
could go no further. Turning, he saw the thing climbing the slope.
Assur jammed the driftwood staff beneath a large rock and threw his
weight upon the lever. The rock moved a little, a little more, and then
The Babylonian’s heart sank as he watched the bolder tumble towards the creature, only to miss it by many feet. But its careening mass had dislodged other stones that, in turn, had loosened even more sending an avalanche of thundering rock hurtling down upon the leth, sweeping it away and grinding it to bloody ruin in a stony flood.
Assur awoke and stretched his cramped limbs. He had
taken to sleeping in the trees to avoid the savage denizens of the
jungle, binding his body into the forks of stout branches with lianas.
For his breakfast he picked a fruit from the tree -- one of the many palatable kinds he had found -- it was egg-shaped and dark brown in color, the firm white flesh tasting like cream. Others, full of sweet juices, quenched his thirst.
He was now many miles away from the temple, and had been traveling along the coast for a considerable length of time -- when he had to sleep five times during daylight hours Assur soon realized that the lunar day was many times longer than that of Earth.
Suddenly, just as he was about to cast away the core of the fruit, sounds of rapid movement through the underbrush came to his sensitive ears -- the noise coming from beneath the tree in which he was ensconced. Looking down he spied a party of what were plainly savages in pursuit of a girl.
Fascinated, he observed them closely, remembering the sorcerer’s words that there were other swords -- and therefore the makers of swords -- upon this world. Were they human? He thought so, despite their strange appearance.
The five had the forms of men, but their hairless skin was dark purple in color and covered in patterns of ugly ritual scars. They were armed with crude flint spears and knives, their only item of apparel being obscenely large genital-sheathes made from black gourds that were secured by bands passing between their legs and about their waists.
Assur’s eyes flicked to the girl. She, too, had dark purple skin, but was clothed in a brief white robe, now tattered and soiled, but still marking her as the child of a more cultured race than that of her rude pursuers.
Swiftly ran the girl, slipping agilely between the boles of huge trees, and leaping gracefully over fallen branches, sunlight intermittently flashing from the gold chain about her neck. She was far fleeter than the lumbering brutes that bulldozed a path in her wake. But then to Assur’s horror, disaster -- the girl’s foot unexpectedly caught in a hidden root that sent her crashing to the ground with stunning force!
Before she could climb to her feet the savages were upon her. Grabbing her roughly they quickly tied her spread-eagled to the ground using gnarled tree roots as anchor points. The girl struggled wildly in her cruel bonds, her screams shattering the stillness of the jungle as the leader of the pack ripped away her clothes. Drooling in anticipation of the feast to come, the brute seized one firm young breast in a crushing grip, and pressed his flint knife against the quivering flesh …
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6 :The Purple Girl
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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.)