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

Swords Across the Void
A 10-Chapter Planetary Romance!

by Kirk Straughen
About the author

What Has Gone Before: Double crossed by Amnon-Nur, Assur finds himself marooned on the Moon with no way to return to Earth. Barely surviving a battle with a crab-like "leth", he sights a beautiful girl being chased by a band of savage primitives of less than noble intent!

******

Episode 6:
  The Purple Girl


A BLOW THAT SHATTERED HIS THICK SKULL ended the savage leader’s thoughts. Armed with his staff, Assur fell upon the cannibals with the fury of a raging lion. It was if a jungle devil had descended upon them, and such slaughter did he wreak amongst that barbarous band that only one escaped to flee howling into the thick underbrush, his terrified screams fading into the distance.

Assur turned to the girl. Her large dark eyes regarded him with a mixture of fear and curiosity as he examined her carefully. She possessed a certain strange beauty, subtly different from the daughters of Earth, but difficult to precisely define. Her hair, black and glossy as a raven’s wing, was woven into a single waist length braid, her skin, dark purple, was hairless, smooth and unblemished

“She may,” he thought, “be a few years older than me, perhaps twenty.”

Despite her strangeness, he was aroused by her femininity. Their eyes locked for an instant, and strong desire, like an invisible current, passed between them. The girl’s eyes dropped, breaking the union. More practical matters were at hand.

The lingering effects of the experience still upon him (was it love or lust?), Assur bent and reached for the dead savage’s knife. The girl tensed. He spoke to her reassuringly, realizing that although his language was probably meaningless, the tone of his voice would convey benevolent intentions.

She smiled weakly as he cut the thongs that cruelly bound her wrists and ankles, replying to his speech in an unknown tongue of soft melodious tones as he helped her to her feet. The girl glanced at the blood-splattered corpses, and shuddered as she wrapped her ripped garments hastily about her shapely figure.

Averting her eyes from the scene of slaughter, she motioned Assur to follow her. Picking up an extra spear he complied, enjoying the sight of her body in fluid motion. When they were many yards away, she turned and regarded the Babylonian intently. Never had she seen such a man – so strangely colored and with unusual but not unhandsome features. Her curiosity was aroused and, too, perhaps other things she did not dare admit.

Slowly, she moved towards him and placed her hands on either side of his head, drawing him to her. He thought for a moment she wished to kiss him but, to his disappointment, that idea was soon dispelled when her forehead touched his, and a flood of strange scenes, ideas and concepts swept into his mind. It was as if all his thoughts were being transformed by a racing torrent of psychic force. He grew faint, dropped the looted weapons and clung to the girl. Her full breasts pressed against him as the world eddied towards darkness, and then he knew no more.

Assur regained consciousness slowly. He found himself lying on the soft earth, his head pillowed in the girl’s lap.

“Can you understand my speech now, oh stranger?”

“Why, why yes. But how is this possible?” was his surprised reply, and he was even more amazed when he realized that her own language came easily to his lips, as if he had learnt it from earliest childhood.

The girl smiled as he rose to a sitting position.

“My people have mental powers that enable us under certain conditions to transfer thoughts from one mind to another. All thoughts are electrical impulses; they can be focused and directed at will to impinge directly upon the mind of another. It requires much training but, as you see, it is possible.

“But I should really begin by thanking you for saving my life, and by introducing myself. I am Lunala of Rin, a large island in the Sea of Shadows. I was visiting the mainland in search of rare blooms – a hobby of mine – when my sky-boat mysteriously lost power and crashed. Before I could repair the craft those beasts found me and I was forced to flee. But enough of me …”

At Lunala’s subtle suggestion, Assur quickly outlined his origin and adventures since his arrival on the Moon, wondering if such a fantastic tale would be believed, but deciding that complete honesty, no matter how strange it seemed, would serve him better than any falsehood.

She listened carefully, not seeming at all surprised by his account, and when he had finished, replied:

“Our savants have known for many years that your world, Theru, as we call it, harbors life. That some forms have developed minds and bodies similar to our own upon Selen, this world of ours, is merely the unfolding of Nature’s laws. But enough philosophy, we should leave here ere the savages return.”

As Lunala was about to rise she felt something brush against her arm. It was a blue star-shaped flower six inches across that had fallen from a nearby tree. Its heady perfume, sickly sweet, filled the air.

The girl recoiled from its touch as if it were a deadly serpent. “It’s a yasan,” she gasped. “The slightest touch brings violent madness …”

Before she could say more Lunala’s eyes rolled back in their sockets and her body arched in violent spasms. Assur sought to still her thrashing form. Suddenly, she went limp and, as he relaxed his grip upon her arms, her eyes snapped open, the look of madness in them.

Her knee drove at his groin and her teeth sought his throat. The blow caught Assur in the thigh. He grunted in pain as he grabbed Lunala’s hair and pulled her snapping jaws from his neck. Her robe fell open, exposing her pear-shaped breasts, distracting him further.

He was hampered by not wanting to hurt the girl, even though he realized she probably meant to kill him.

“Gods,” he thought as he struggled with her. “I hope her insanity is only temporary.”

They rolled in a tangle of limbs, Assur trying to subdue the girl who bit, scratched and screamed like a wild inhuman thing, the bloody marks upon his flesh testimony to her blind unreasoning savagery.

A slight breeze loosened more of the deadly flowers, and they began to drift and fall about them in a slow but unrelenting rain. Seeing there was no choice, Assur straddled Lunala and struck her on the chin, rendering her senseless. Then, slinging her across his shoulder, he fought his way through the clutching verdure, using his spear to knock aside the falling blossoms directly in his path.

Several times his foot caught on roots and he nearly fell, at others the poisonous flowers came within inches of his naked skin. Fear for Lunala’s safety and his own spurred him on.

At what he judged a safe distance, he gently placed Lunala on the ground and bound her limbs with strips of cloth torn from the hem of her robe. Then he sat down to wait.  It was an anxious half hour before Lunala regained consciousness. She moaned softly and opened her eyes. They were lucid, as was her speech.

“I’m all right now,” she said weakly. “Best we depart this savage land in all haste. I think I can find my sky-boat and repair it. Why don’t you come with me?”

“Gladly,” he replied, relief evident in his voice.

***


After an extensive search lasting three sleep-periods, during which they were forced to hide from several bands of savages, Lunala had at last begun to recognize familiar landmarks, one of which was a gently flowing stream of ebon fluid by whose banks they had stopped to rest.

According to the girl her sky-boat was just behind a small hill on the opposite bank, and, as she had expressed the desire to bathe before continuing, Assur wandered off a short distance to grant her privacy.

It seemed their journey was coming to an end. Would he see Lunala again when she was once more among her people? She was a fascinating girl. Although, highly cultured, he suspected that beneath her calm exterior smoldered passions under tight restraint. She was obviously from a well to do family. Merchants perhaps? He wasn’t sure. His attempts to elicit information on her private life had been artfully diverted into different paths of enquiry, as if she did not wish him to know who she really was.

Deep in thought, he did not notice the strange plant as he passed it by – it was goblet shaped and twice as tall as a man. Ropy tendrils radiated from the base of its thick stem, which was partly concealed by large oval leaves of silver-green.

Unknowingly, Assur trod upon one of the tendrils, triggering the plant into violent motion. He gave a yell of surprise as the thick fibrous cables that had been lying placidly whipped about his body with alarming speed and strength, hauling him aloft. The top of the weird growth opened like a giant clam, disclosing an interior that was filled with a green fuming liquid, and towards this his struggling form was carried...



On to Episode 7 :Creatures of the Air

Back to Episode 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.)