Dark Embrace

Lightning scarred the sky for a moment followed by a peal of thunder that shook the ground.  Dozens of Amazon warriors slipped from the covering forest, bounding up the temple’s walls in moments and lining the ledge above like living gargoyles.  White eyes stared back at the trees looking for any threat.

Storm watched the amazons move, a grim smile curling the edges of her lips.  The coming tempest seemed a good omen: the gods smiled upon them this night.

When the last of the warriors had perched atop the ledge and the surrounding forest was once again silent Storm finally moved.  Her lithe figure leapt from one impossible purchase to the next, like some creature from myth, until she stood with her warriors.  Fat raindrops began to fall from a turbulent sky.

Storm’s fingers sought and found the hidden switch in the bas-relief lining the temple’s walls.  She glanced at Mei Ling, one sharp nod and they both pressed in at the same time.  A section of the wall slid soundlessly in and to the side.  Within moments the Amazons were once more within their sacred temple-home.

Warm bodies pressed together within the narrow passage, centuries-old dust kicked up by their feet tickled the warrior’s noses and stung their eyes.  Storm led the band through the narrow passages until she reached a dead-end.  She paused listening intently for several moments before her hands spread out and almost caressed the walls on either side of her.  A faint click presaged the wall sliding back with a dull grinding noise as of metal on stone.

A dim glow filled the space the wall had once occupied.  Storm’s hand arose and she signaled a quick message that was, again, repeated along the line until it reached even Mei Ling at the rear; “stay here, await my return.”  Without looking back the Amazon’s intrepid leader slipped past the heavy rug that lay over the passage.

A brief flash of torch-light and then the relative darkness of the hidden passage.  The warriors waited, each immersed in their own thoughts but each fully aware of everything happening around them.  Faint breathing stirred the still air, sweat dripped down tense bodies eager for battle.  Silence seemed to stretch on into an eternity.

A sound broke the oppressive air, a scrape of something hard against stone muffled by the fabric ‘door’.  The warriors tensed, readied themselves for battle, fear and expectancy tinged the sweat dripping from their bodies.  Every sense focused on the few sounds filtering past the wall-hanging, every heart beat a little faster.

A choked-off yell was followed by a hollow sounding thud, then something sharp, metallic, grinding against stone.  Then there was silence; even the faint sound of breathing had stopped.  There was only the sense of expectancy hanging in the heavy air of the passage.

The rug was pulled away, torch-light flooded the dark passage.  The warriors in front ducked down, coiling themselves to spring.  Outlined by the orange glow of the torches, splattered with crimson, stood Storm, knife clenched in her hand, her head held high, her eyes flashing with the dark joy of battle.

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