Daemon’s Touch

Her eyes held the black fire of hatred, they were almost too intense to look at directly.  She held up her hand and signaled ‘come’ then stepped back from the entrance.  The warriors slipped into the room taking in the scene with a sweeping glance.

A naked man lay in the center of the large room.  He’d been cut from groin to gullet, his guts spilling onto the bloody stone floor in a mass of carnage and gore.  Another man, dressed as the two guards outside had been in a rough tunic, lay crumpled near the entrance his head at an impossible angle with his body.

In the corner another form rested upon a heavy, wooden table.  It lay curled up into itself, its skin mottled with dark bruises and scrapes.  Willow, the healer’s young student, cautiously investigated the body.

The others watched as her gentle hands probed the form.  She suddenly gasped, covering her mouth with her hands and stepping back.  She turned and her eyes sought out Cloud, the pain evident in her expression.  Willow shook her head slowly, her jaw working up and down unable to think of any words, unable to speak.

Scowling, Cloud stepped toward the body, roughly shoving Willow out of the way until she stood next to the form.  She stood there for a moment and then dropped to her knees, her strong arms pulling the still form to her breast.  Hot tears dripped upon the abused form.  Questioning eyes sought out Willow and she mouthed the word “sister”.

An oppressive silence filled the room.  The warriors turned their eyes away, giving Cloud what little privacy they could to mourn her loss.  Only her tears and her labored breathing broke the quiet until a soft whisper came from the pair.  It seemed impossible but Cloud’s sister yet lived.

Cloud cradled her dying sister in her arms, stared into her face while the tears streamed from her eyes.  Storm stood over the pair listening, a scowl etching its lines deep within her brow.  The dying woman’s words were almost too faint to hear.

“Our… magic,” she said straining hard to get the words out, “They… want… magic.”  One eye opened, half red from a beating that had swollen the other shut, and gazed up at her sister for a moment.  A single tear formed and rolled down her bruised cheek.

“Stop… them.”  Each word was an agony to produce but the strength of the Amazon warriors was strong within her battered frame.  Her breathing grew more faint, the effort to speak was sapping the last of her strength.  She tried to form more words but no sound would come.  Finally her eye lost focus and turned up.  Her body shuddered and she lay still.

Cloud clutched her dead sister to her body, her grieving sobs all but silent.  She rocked back and forth as Storm turned away.

Storm stepped to the center of the room and looked at each of her warriors in turn.  Her expression was neutral but her eyes betrayed the burning fury within her.

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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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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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