Torchlight flickered in the deep gloom of the cave casting a crazy dance of shadows against the rough stone walls. Dozens of men, women and children labored in the near-darkness, quiet as ghosts, their misery worn clearly on their exhausted, embattled faces. Some gathered moss from the walls and crevices, others fished in the wide lake of mineral laden water or hunted the blind scavengers that lived in the perpetual night.
The steady sound of waves lapping softly against the smooth, stone shore echoed throughout the giant cavern. The gentle cacophony of drips striking the water’s surface joined to become an ever-present orchestra of fairy bells that seemed to shift and move.
A lone woman sat atop a large boulder at the lake’s edge which overlooked the largest section of the cave. Her dark gaze bore into the stone beneath her not seeing the shadow dance of light that flickered there but rather the battle they had so recently survived. She had watched her mother, the queen, pierced by a dozen arrows and cut down by the giant blade of the Demon’s followers.
Her chest heaved up in a deep sigh straining the few scraps of leather that served to keep her full breasts constrained. The few bangles she wore around her arms, to signify her rank, clattered one against the other sounding a dull clank in the oppressive air of the cave. Muscles, taut from long hours of practice with a blade and even longer hours spent on the hunt, tightened under her bronze skin as she imagined a thousand different ways the battle might have ended differently.
If only she’d been closer to the queen, somehow been able to shield her against the arrows. If only she’d stopped the swinging blade that had cut almost all the way through her mother’s neck. If only she’d… If only. A soft sigh of defeat blew from Storm’s lips and her body slumped. It was too late now anyway, her mother was dead.
Long strands of jet black hair fell over her face not quite covering up the fat teardrop that slid smoothly down her cheek. Sparkles of light played within her half-lidded eyes as a scowl furrowed her brow. We must defeat them, she thought to herself again. The phrase had become both a reprimand and a vow.
Raw memories of her friends’ slaughter at the hands of the Demon’s soldier-priests were still too fresh, too painful for her to deal with; their blood was only just now drying on the floor of their stolen home. She pushed down thoughts of them again and again, the pain they evoked giving power to the phrase that had become her mantra. She clenched her jaw tight and scowled.
They will be avenged, she thought and her expression turned to fury. The black hatred she felt for the demon’s followers turned her heart to cold stone within her chest, she felt it weighing her down, sucking the emotions from her body.
A terrible calm settled over her then, her muscles stopped warring with themselves and she leaned back, a predator awaiting its prey. They had to strike at the invaders now despite their suffering and misery. The usurpers must be kept from exploring the temple’s defenses or the Amazons would be unable to reclaim their home. They had only been driven out by the sheer numbers of the invaders, each warrior had taken at least five of the enemy with them before they had been overrun but their sacrifice had allowed dozens to escape the onslaught.
A stray heart-string pulled taut at the quick flash of memory but her growing rage pushed it back down almost as quickly. No, they couldn’t lay around bemoaning the fate of their families, their friends, they owed it to them to fight! They will be avenged! She thought and the phrase was a balm to her tortured soul.
Storm struck her palm with her fist, the sound echoing far into the depths of the wide cavern. They would strike at the horde’s leaders, if it had any, and it must be tonight! Plans, ideas for the assault came, unbidden, to her mind. Dark reveries of the blood that would be spilt while taking back their most sacred temple. The Amazon’s blood lust was known far and wide, soon the horde would discover why.
Her people felt her resolve, it struck a chord of bloody vengeance in them all. As their newly appointed leader plotted and planned they began preparing a feast.