Home Coming

Wet leaves brushed against lightly oiled skin.  Night insects cried from the thick branches growing throughout the jungle.  Moonlight filtered through the thick canopy overhead dappling the world with spots of softly glowing phosphorescence.

Storm led the warriors on a silent run through the forest.  Their bodies diving and twirling through the heavy growth around them, their feet gently tapping the moist loam of the forest floor to propel themselves forward.  They were shadows passing through the forest, dark demons from the nether-realms summoned to slay the intruders.  They were unstoppable.

Through the trees Storm spotted the temple.  She rolled to a stop and, behind her, the legion of Amazon warriors slipped into cover one by one.  A hundred eyes peered from the dense foliage observing their erstwhile home.

Only two guards at the gate.  Two sleep-deprived men with barely enough courage to follow along on the raid, barely paid enough to keep them interested.  They would be an easy kill.

Storm signed to her warriors; a quick series of gestures with her right hand.  Mei Ling observed her friend carefully then repeated the gestures and was repeated and on down the line.  Without looking back Storm slipped around a patch of growth and disappeared.

She crept closer to the main entrance.  Rough stone slid beneath her practiced fingers.  Storm spread herself flat against the walls of the temple, flowing with the surface of the stone.

Sweat trickled down her neck, between the cleft of her chest, curving along the underside of one full breast and then dropping down to follow the taut curve of her belly.  Her fingers caressed the leather hilt of her throwing dagger, her body’s heat warming the cold steel until it felt almost alive beneath her eager grip.

One body-length away from the nearest guard and still undetected.  They leaned heavily against their pikes, eyes half-lidded with lack of sleep.  Storm crouched slightly, readied herself and leapt.

Storm’s dagger flashed through the air, the nearest guard was startled for the briefest moment seeing it fly past his nose.  Within that same moment Storm’s foot materialized where his neck wanted to be and a horrifying sound, of cracking bone beneath soft flesh, heralded the man’s death.  Storm slipped past the first guard and threw her fist at the throat of the next but he was already sinking to his knees, his eyes staring, disbelievingly at his chest where the simple hilt of a blade had materialized.

The man’s head popped forward in response to Storm’s fist on his throat.  Her palm slapped against the leather hilt and she pulled her blade from his chest in one smooth motion.  She stopped then, kneeling on one knee with her weapon next to her chest and her other arm held out from her body.

All time stopped for just that moment, nothing moved, there were no sounds to disturb the absolute purity of that brief second of time.  Then the forest erupted.

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Dischord’s Prayer

The tribe readied for battle

They prepared themselves for the coming dance.

Storm stared blindly at the spectacle in front of her.  Dozens of young girls, future Amazon warriors, danced wildly around a circle made by the tables on which the meal was served.  All the different members of the tribe sat eating and watching the mad frenzy.

Droplets of sweat flung off the bodies; lit from behind by the dancing flames of the giant bonfire they seemed to become momentary bursts of liquid fire flinging out over the watchers before disappearing into the cavern beyond.  Over and over the dancers swept, twirled and jumped around the flames until even their shadows seemed to materialize and dance with them.  The sweaty pounding of the drums beat almost randomly but their rampant flailing coalesced together seemingly in some bizarre pattern set into the thrumming of a thousand different drums.

Storm sat next to her faithful friend Mei Ling, the pair continued moving a strangely familiar set of twigs and stones around in the space between them and gesturing wildly.  Their words were drowned by the ever-present drums.  Numerous eyes flickered between them and the dancing some just stared outright.  They all knew the stakes of the women’s “game”.

Drums pounded louder and louder, until their cacophony filled the cavern with sound.  The conjoined beats were coming more frequently, filling the cavern with their paralyzing thunder.  Even the shadows seemed more real as the dancers appeared to be fighting them off.  Now all eyes were turned to the dancers, focused on the strange ballet being performed just feet from them.

A moment occurred then, just a single, amazing thing that happened to the world in the blink of an eye.  For one single moment carved out of the purest crystal imagine-able the dancers and their shadows seemed to switch places.  One moment the young girls were fending off shadow attacks and then only the shadows remained.

The goddess had arrived.

In that one moment the entire tribe was unified in mind and soul and that was the point at which they joined with their divinity.  A strange calm made of the deadliest steel a human had in them took over.  There was a vibration to the world, as though a string ran through everything and it had been plucked.

The world made a strange and terrible kind of sense.  They all knew that some of them would surely die but it didn’t matter, they would all die in the cause of their life.  Ultimately they would prevail, their children would live on, carry on the Amazon way.  They would surely triumph in the end.

Storm got up and joined the dancers.  Mei Ling joined her followed by Sarah and then several others.  The cavern was suddenly filled with trilling music as though an orchestra of flutes was awakening.

That was the last thing anyone remembered.

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Rising Storm

Her eyes were downcast

Her eyes were downcast, tears would not come

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.

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