“Just five more minutes, Aunt Jan.” Sarah said to the knock at the door.
Her response was followed by a light giggle coming from the woman to her left and her head quickly shot up from its home in the pillow. It took her a few seconds to take in her surroundings and remember where she was, but the cool blue eyes staring back at her were a welcome sight. One corner of her mouth perked up and she was about to issue her bedmate a soft good morning, but another knock on the door ensued and this time it was followed by a familiar male voice.
“Sarah, they're about to start serving breakfast. You need to hurry if you don't want to miss it.” Anthony called from the other side of the door.
“I'll meet you over there shortly, Anthony. Thanks for the heads up.” She yelled back and let her head fall into the soft pillow one last time.
She burrowed into it for a few seconds as she tried to ease the mild hangover she knew she deserved from her exploits last night.
“How's the head?” Khepri asked with a slight tinge of entertainment.
Sarah pulled her head back up and looked sleepily at the other woman. “I've had worse. Did you sleep ok?”
She was answered with another chuckle as before looking down to speak. “You snore.”
“Ah, so I've been told.” Sarah said as she turned over onto her back and wiped the sleep from her eyes. “I'm really sorry.” She looked back to Khepri. “Did you get any sleep at all?”
“I'll be just fine.” The warrior said as she smiled back at her. “How many times?” She asked
“Huh?” Sarah asked, confused.
“How many times have you been told that you snore?” Khepri elaborated then joked. “Do you often just allow strangers into your bed?”
“Oh!” Sarah sat up, a bit embarrassed. “Um, no. I've just had to bunk up with a lot of people. You know, because I travel and all. It's just a lot more economically efficient to get one room instead of two. I'm not like this huge slut bomb or anything.”
Khepri laughed at her hurried explanation and Sarah's eyes narrowed as she caught on.
“And you're giving me a hard time.” She said, before raising up to grab her pillow and softly smacked her with it.
A small pillow fight ensued before the two women decided that they'd better hurry if they wanted to make it in time for breakfast. They dressed quickly and moved toward the dining room. All Sarah could think about was the cup of coffee she so desperately needed and could not have. Khepri, however, had plenty on her mind.
She knows how to kill the vampires. How could she possibly know how to kill them? No one has figured it out yet, they keep coming after them with those ridiculous dryad bones, yet she knows. Where did she find out about the wood? And how much more does she know? Khepri thought as she took a quick look at the girl while they walked to breakfast. She seems so young and foolish. Surely she won't pose too much of a threat.
“You ok?” Sarah asked, noticing how quiet she was being.
“Yeah.” Khepri said, withdrawing from her reverie. “Just a little worried about those things from last night. When I walked up and saw you fighting them I noticed that they can't be killed by normal means. How did you know what to do?”
“It's a long story.” Sarah said, still not quite sure what kind of story she was going to make up. “I'm gonna hold a meeting later and explain everything.”
“Ok.” Khepri said, disappointment tinting her tone. It didn't go unnoticed by Sarah, who took it to be fear.
“Don't worry, I'll keep you safe.” She said, touching her back. “I'm a lot more resilient than I look.”
Khepri forced a smile. “I trust you.”
What was ironic was that she meant it. She did feel that she could trust Sarah, and she needed to make sure that the feeling was mutual.
“We'll watch each other's backs.” She told the girl before opening the door to the dining hall.
Once they'd secured a plate of lack luster food they moved toward the hail they were receiving from Zoe's group. Sarah took a seat on the bench next to Anthony, and Khepri sat across from her. The time traveler greeted everyone then immediately started to inhale her food just like most of the table's occupants. Rah and Khepri were the only ones not eating. The Amazon was staring at her plate trying to work up the courage to take a bite and not throw up. The newcomer was simply pushing her food around her plate.
“Not hungry, Rah?” Sarah asked, looking up from her plate.
Her only answer was tightly clenched jaw that shook from side to side.
“I'll take your food if you don't want it.” Anthony said with a mouthful.
Rah simply stared on at the plate and tried to keep her stomach in check, so Meg grabbed the it and passed it after taking the small slice of bread off of it. She handed the plate to Anthony and put the bread in front of Rah.
“Work on building up the courage for that.” She said. “It may be a little less intimidating.”
“Speaking of intimidating,” Zoe said. “What the hell are we gonna do about those things in the woods?”
Everyone's head whipped over to Sarah, whose mouth was stuffed. She looked up and chewed quickly before swallowing.
“Um…” She shifted her eyes from the plate to different people in the group. “Well, I need to talk to Varia about that first, but I guess a good starting point would be to start fashioning some wooden stakes. It's a sure fire way to kill them, and everyone should probably start carrying one around.”
Before the last word even exited her mouth the entire table, minus Khepri, brandished said stakes.
“Ooookaaay.” Sarah said, wide eyed. “Guess you guys have that covered. So now, I just need to talk to Varia about a possible plan of attack. I still can't believe all this ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer' bullshit.”
Khepri had to suppress a growl as Sarah spoke. The situation was even more dire than she'd thought, but she masked her concerns with a renewed interest in pushing her food around.
“Speaking of which, where are Varia and Eve?” Sarah asked.
Anthony chuckled then answered. “I'm pretty sure they decided to skip breakfast this morning.”
Sun started to shine through the windows of the Queen's hut and landed first on the face of the naked Messenger who was half resting on the Amazon's dozing form. Eve's eyes fluttered open and as consciousness started to wash over her so did memories of the night before. She slowly propped herself up on her elbow, being careful not to wake the sleeping woman at her side.
As she took in the strong features on Varia's face she couldn't help but smile softly at the Queen's beauty. How many times had she wondered what it would be like to wake up exactly like this? And how would Varia feel when she awoke as well?
Last night was one of the most beautiful nights of my life. She thought, forcing herself not to lean down and kiss the object of her affection. I don't want to give this up. Eli, please just let me have this. I never knew I was capable of giving and receiving such love. I don't want to lose it.
She didn't even realize that her hand had made its way up to stroke a strong cheekbone until sleepy brown eyes were revealed to her, then softened with the smile that followed. Varia reached up to pull Eve's lips closer to her own. The messenger obliged eagerly and issued a soft, lazy series of kisses upon the Queen; who, in turn, buried both of her hands in dark locks and raised a knee against the legs that were already wrapped around it. Eve pulled away slightly and gasped before resting her forehead against that of her lover.
“Good morning.” Varia said sweetly as she nipped at the lips above her one more time.
“It certainly is.” Eve replied as she looked deeply into eyes she wanted to get lost in for days. “I can't believe I'm waking up in your arms.”
“I feel the same way.” Varia said, stroking her back. “Is that a good thing?” She said, referring to the arrangement.
Please say it's a good thing. She thought. Don't get spooked now, Eve. I don't want to lose this.
Eve softly stroked her face and let a smile take over her face. “I don't think I can care anymore about whether being with you is good or bad. I want it so badly that it just seems like there's no going back… For me at least.”
The last line gave away her insecurities, but they were quickly discarded and she was rolled on her back and covered by the object of her affection.
“I'm not going anywhere, Eve.” Varia said, as she mimicked Eve's actions and stroked the soft skin of her face. “I don't have any regrets at all about last night. I want to be with you for as long as you'll let me.”
Eve's heart was nearly bursting with happiness. She'd never felt anything so overwhelmingly wonderful in her life.
“I love you.” She said, before guiding Varia's lips back to her own.
As she raised her own leg it was the Queen's turn to gasp before establishing a rhythm she'd learned quite well the night before. She reached down to grasp at the outside of a silky thigh before dropping her lips to the woman's neck. Eve was more than willing to lean her head back to provide better access, but as she started to moan softly in pleasure, a knock at the door halted the Queen's actions.
“Who is it?” Varia asked with obvious annoyance coloring her tone.
“I've brought you and your guest breakfast, my Queen.” Said the Amazon on the other side of the door.
“Leave it.” Varia answered, looking back to Eve. “I don't know about you, but food is a little low on my ‘to do' list right now.”
“Oh yeah?” Eve said with a smile. “And what is taking priority right now?”
“Well there's this...” The Queen answered before leaning in to suckle and nip at an earlobe.
“And then there's this...” She said, moving down to lick the hollow of her throat.
“And we certainly can't forget about this…” She then made a torturous trek down to her breast as Eve's head slammed back into the pillow with a sharp intake of air.
She didn't know exactly how much Varia planned to get done before they ventured out of bed for breakfast, but she knew that the food would also have to wait till they'd finished with the Messenger's newly made list of things to do.
Once the meal was over in the dining hall the group split up to take on their tasks for the day. Anthony decided to go ahead with his research without Eve's help and the girls had a party to clean up after, which left Sarah and Khepri up to their own devices. They walked around the camp and talked to pass the time.
“So are you going to be staying here for a while, or do you have to get back to your home soon?” Sarah asked.
“Well, I was thinking that I would probably stay here if they allow me to.” Khepri answered. “The woods don't seem very safe right now, and I would be happy to help out the Amazon's with any kind of defense they decide to mount.”
“I'm sure they'd welcome the help.” Sarah said, partially excited that she wanted to stay. “But if you wanted to leave I could escort you. It'll be safe to travel in the day.”
So she does know more. Khepri thought.
“How can you be so sure?” She asked, trying to get more information.
“Well, if I'm right, the bad guys shouldn't be able to come out in the day time.” Sarah answered.
“What are they?” The warrior asked.
“In the stories I've heard they're called vampires.” The time traveler answered.
“What stories? Where did you hear them?” Khepri asked.
“I travel a lot.” Sarah said, trying to remain vague. “Somewhere along the way I heard some legends about what I thought were mythical creatures. I was obviously wrong about the mythical part.”
“What else do you know about them?”
How is it possible that she's heard stories about vampires? Khepri thought. They had been very careful to keep their pack small and secret.
“I'm not sure how much is true, but there should be at least three ways to kill them: Sunlight, beheading, and a wooden stake through the heart. We know the last method works, now we just have to figure out the truth behind the rest of the possibilities.”
“How can you be sure that there are more of them?” Khepri asked.
“I'm not.” Sarah said. “But I'd rather be safe than sorry. Otherwise the Amazons will always be confined to the camp at night, and that's not a good thing.”
“No, it's not.” Was the tense reply.
Both women turned their heads to see Zoe calling them over.
“Eve and the Queen have come out of hiding for a bit.” She said once they arrived. “I think we should probably let them in on what's going on.”
“Right.” Sarah said as they headed to Queen's hut.
They totally did it last night. Sarah thought to herself as soon as she entered the hut.
Though Varia's bed was made and both women looked to have bathed before the meeting, the smell of sex still lingered in the air. Even if it didn't, both of their faces were damn near glowing. Sarah had never seen Eve smile that much. She tried to keep a straight face so that they could at least discuss the dangerous situation brewing just outside the village gates, but that was going to be easier said than done. Luckily Varia went into leader mode once they were all inside and the mood became more serious.
“Anthony tells me that there was some trouble in the woods last night, and that we probably aren't dealing with simple thieves out there. Would somebody like to give me an explanation as to exactly why any of you were outside the gates last night?”
All of the Amazons immediately started speaking at the same time, trying to cover for themselves and each other. Zoe seemed to come up with a sleepwalking story, Meg insisted there was a bug problem, Anthony asserted that they'd heard noises, and Rah settled on bodily functions.
A sharp whistle came from behind them and they all looked to Sarah who stepped in front.
“The events that led us outside the gates last night really aren't as important as what we found.” She said to the Queen.
“Really?” Varia said with a head tilt. “You must forgive me, I was under the impression that I was the queen of this tribe, and that my questions concerning their welfare were all very important.”
Fucking Amazons. Sarah thought as she gritted her teeth. When she glanced over at Eve the woman's eyes were very obviously pleading with her to be more respectful. She then swallowed hard and proceeded.
“Please forgive my arrogance, your highness.” She said with a slight bow. “You are absolutely right; I simply got ahead of myself.”
Varia nodded in acceptance then signaled for her to continue.
“You see it was my fault that your subjects were out last night.” She said and noticed a small intake of breath coming from one of the Amazons behind her. “I had a little too much liquid courage and decided to head out to the woods to see if I could put an end to your problem myself. If it weren't for Khepri and your subjects, I can't even begin to think what would have happened.”
“Speaking of which, who is this woman and what is she doing here?” Varia asked and Khepri stepped forward.
“I'm sorry, Queen Varia.” She said. “It was not my intention to trespass on your land, I was simply travelling through and I came upon the fight in the woods.”
“It's not exactly safe to travel at night.” Eve said. “What were you doing out there so late?”
Sarah shot her a look that had daggers in it. Eve obviously still didn't trust Khepri.
“It's embarrassing to say this,” The warrior started. “But I got a little lost out there, and I had to double back several times. Luckily I was able to find Sarah and her friends in time to help out a little.”
“Yeah, she killed one of them.” Sarah said pointedly in Eve's direction and the sentiment didn't go unnoticed by Khepri.
“That's very convenient.” Eve countered, still not buying it.
The little non-violent one is going to be difficult. Khepri thought to herself.
“Listen, if my being here is a problem I can leave right away. I only wanted to stay to help you all.” She said as sincerely as possible.
Both Varia and Sarah looked to Eve for approval. The Messenger knew that if she went against Sarah on this it would make things tense between them, but there was just something about the outsider that she didn't trust. Every time Khepri was around Eve had this awful feeling rise up her spine.
“Eve?” Varia finally asked. “Do you have any objections?”
“No!” Eve said quickly, embarrassed that she'd paused long enough to be noticed. “No, I'm sorry, I think I'm just tired from the journey and I guess it's making me a little paranoid.”
“Then it's settled.” Sarah said. “Khepri stays.”
Sarah was going to leave it at that, but immaturity got the better of her and she opted for a low blow and a smirk to embarrass Eve. “And since you've obviously already secured other accommodations she can continue to bunk up with me.”
Eve's eyes went wide and Meg didn't manage to get her hand to her mouth quick enough to catch the first hiccup of a belly laugh that was threatening to erupt. Khepri allowed a mischievous grin to cover her face as she looked at Sarah with greater interest. The girl was feisty and fearless; these were traits she found incredibly desirable in women. Varia glared at the young time traveler for a moment, but could not muster a retort as her claims were accurate. Instead she chose to chastise her and change the subject.
“Let's move along and work out the details of the outside threat before your mouth gets you into anymore trouble, foreigner.” She said, standing and resting her hands on her desk. “You may not be an Amazon, but you are still on my land and must obey my will.”
Sarah stared on stone faced at Varia and nodded her head. She moved to the side so she could look between both groups.
“In my travels I've heard stories about very powerful, soulless creatures who feed on the blood of humans; they're called vampires and they are obviously very dangerous. Now, I don't know the exact history of the vampire, but I think I know enough to help us kill them.” She started to pace between the two groups as she spoke. “The most important thing we can do right now is make sure they shrink in number instead of grow, and the way we do that is to not get bitten. I've seen a lot of different mov… myths about how a person is turned into one of them. Sometimes it just takes a bite, sometimes you have to drink their blood, but whatever the method really is I think we can all agree that getting bitten should be the number one thing we guard against.”
As Khepri listened the hair on the back of her neck started to stand up and she grew more and more uneasy. This girl knew plenty of information about her minions and she still had more to go.
“Now, these motherfuckers are tough.” Sarah continued. “We saw last night that they have incredible strength, speed and not to mention a vicious immunity to being stabbed. But there are ways to kill them. Any kind of wooden object through the heart will do it; we know that for sure. But there are also rumors about sunlight and beheading working against them too. We can make stakes, shoot arrows, and swing swords in an effort to fight them manually. Now the hand held weapons will be great for self defense, but where I come from we have a saying: the best defense is a good offense. Our greatest weapon is the one we can't control: the sun. And even though we don't have the power to control it, I think we can manipulate it.”
Khepri's eyes were growing wide as Sarah continued. This was much worse than she thought. If this girl found a way to manipulate sunlight she could destroy everything she and her brother had worked so hard to create. Her strategy would have to change, and now she would have to find a way to leave camp and warn the others. The only thing she was grateful for was the fact that at least now she would have a head start on mobilization now that she was being told the plan.
“Xena and Gabrielle once used mirrors to flash sunlight into the eyes of a giant so that he would remove his helmet and reveal his weakness. And barring any rain in the near future, we can use the same tactics. All we have to do is find their nest, round up the mirrors and set them up to shoot the sunlight into their hole. Then poof! No more vampires, no more dead Amazons.”
“How long do you think it will take to scout out their location?” Varia asked.
“A few days, maybe a week tops.” Sarah said. “We could probably just start out where we were attacked last night and try to follow their tracks from there. One of the vamps was fairly large; he should have left some nice boot prints on the ground.”
“How do you know they won't try to attack us in the mean time?” Eve asked.
“Well they haven't tried it so far, which makes me believe another rumor about their species: for some reason they can't go into someone else's home without being invited. Because your village is enclosed by a gate, those rules may apply.”
“So at least we'll be safe if we stay inside during the night.” Zoe asserted.
“Exactly.” Sarah said.
“Good, that'll give us time to send some sisters to town to buy some mirrors.” Varia said.
“You don't have any mirrors in the village?” Sara asked incredulously.
“We're Amazons not priestesses of Aphrodite's temple.” Varia said matter of factly. “Vanity is not looked upon highly in our culture.”
“Right.” Sarah said, sarcastically. Because it sure isn't vain to walk around in leather miniskirts and tube tops all day. She thought. “So, anyway, we should have everything we need to do this within a week.”
“That sounds about right.” Varia said, standing up straight. “In an effort to keep any possible panic from breaking out in the village I want to keep things as quiet as possible, so I'd appreciate it if this conversation did not leave this room until we're prepared to attack.”
Everyone nodded in agreement.
“I want you all to start searching as soon as possible.” The Queen ordered. “Take whatever weapons or supplies you need. This mission is going to be our top priority; I'll have a meeting with the elders to discuss it. Sarah, I'm putting you in charge since you seem to know the most about these creatures.”
Sarah nodded with confidence. Keeping everyone safe for this mission should be simple and she was more than willing to take command of the group when she didn't really expect any casualties.
“I'll want a full report at the end of each day to monitor your progress.” The Queen said.
“Not a problem.” She said.
“Good, then you're all dismissed. Get started.” Varia said, and they all headed out the door.
“Sarah.” Eve called and Sarah turned. “Can I speak with you for a moment?”
The time traveler nodded her head and followed Eve out of the hut to take a walk. They were both quiet at first, but Eve finally worked up the courage to start the dialogue.
“Look, Sarah, I know you like Khepri, but you have got to be careful. You can't just trust every single pretty face that comes along.” She said.
Sarah was fuming. She couldn't believe Eve was still pushing this point with no more proof than her ‘feelings'. Her tone suggested her distaste for the conversation.
“You really need to drop this Eve. Last I checked, you were sleeping with someone who has tried her damndest to kill you, and I shared a bunk with someone who tried to save my life. Which one of us is being more irrational here?” She asked venomously.
“Oh, don't give me that…that…” She searched for one of Sarah's words. “… That cock shit. You don't think Varia is a threat, you're just trying to embarrass me so I'll shut up.”
“Ok, first of all it's bullshit, not cock shit.” Sarah said, stopping to explain. “And second of all, you're right; I don't have a problem with you and Varia. What I have a problem with is you not trusting my judgment. This is my life, Eve. You can't stop me from living it just because you have a strange feeling.”
“It's not just your life we're talking about here, Sarah.” Eve said forcefully. “You are making friends here and they don't have your little gift of immortality. They can still get hurt.”
“They're trained fighters, Eve!” Sarah argued. “Most of them are better than me. Plus they almost always travel in groups. I don't think one little warrior, that hasn't shown any interest in harming anyone, is going to pose that much of a threat.”
Eve sighed. She was having trouble winning the argument and she was starting to realize that it was because Sarah was right. She had no proof that Khepri was dangerous; in fact, all signs pointed in the opposite direction. Sarah noticed that Eve was retreating and decided to give her a break instead of going in for the kill.
“Look, Eve,” She said, placing her hands on the Messenger's shoulders. “I just met the girl. I honestly don't even know how much I trust her, but she's given me no reason to believe that she's bad news. I just…there's something about her. I'm drawn to her for some reason that I can't explain.” She sighed and dropped her arms. “But since I know that you are worried about it, I'll make sure to keep an eye on her and see that she doesn't go off alone with any of the Amazons.”
“I want you to watch your own back too.” Eve persisted.
“As physically impossible as that is, I'll put forth my best effort.” Sarah conceded. “Are we cool now?”
Eve thought for a moment then nodded her head.
“Good, then I'll see you at dinner. I've got some vampire slaying to start planning out.” She said and started to walk away.
She then thought of something and stopped abruptly to turn towards Eve.
“Oh, and you can thank me later for hooking you up with Varia.” She said quickly, and then proceeded in her previous direction.
“What is that supposed to mean?” Eve asked, but was met with silence. “Did you tell her to come talk to me?” Still no answer.
Eve smiled to herself. “I think I have a wingman.” She said softly before heading back to Varia's hut.
Sarah decided to hold their vampire meetings in Zoe's hut after the Amazon kindly offered it up. It was somewhat cramped with all six of them in there, but they did have a table and enough privacy to suit their current needs. The first thing they would need to do would be to secure swords and stakes for everyone. They would then split up into three groups of two to cover more ground: Zoe and Meg, Rah and Anthony, and Sarah and Khepri. Then it was off to the woods for an initial inspection. Once all plans were presented they headed out to get their weapons.
Upon entering the armory they were all greeted by the weapon's master.
“Hey, here come the party monsters.” She said jokingly to the woman to her right. “What's going on, guys? Who are your friends?”
“Sarah and Khepri, meet Andromeda the weapon's master…” Anthony said, gesturing toward the woman who'd greeted them. “…and Andromeda the tailor.” He then pointed to the other Amazon in the room.
“You can call me Andy for short.” The weapon's master said as she offered up a hand to both Sarah and Khepri.
“Yeah, it get's confusing otherwise.” The tailor said, taking their hands as well. “Plus it helps out in the bedroom. Calling out your own name can seem a little narcissistic.”
Andy's eyes shot daggers at the tailor and Sarah laughed.
Andy spoke with a calming tone that, in her own time, would have led Sarah to believe she was either a surfer or a musician. Andromeda was the polar opposite. She gave off a feisty and fun vibe that was something the time traveler looked for in her friends.
“Are you always this blunt or are you just trying to make sure to claim your territory?” The time traveler joked as she took Andromeda's hand.
“She's just always this blunt.” Andy said with a smile. “I'm surprised she hasn't started in on your clothing preferences yet.”
“I was gonna wait till after the introductions, but before any weapon requests were approved.” Andromeda said. “Thanks for setting me up with a segue, baby.”
“Sarah, I offer you my condolences.” Andy said with a smile.
Sarah chuckled at the interaction between the two, and then spoke. “Looking around the camp, I'm sure you could do wonders for my wardrobe, but I think I'll stick with the digs I've got for now.”
“We'll see how long that lasts.” Was the reply.
“So, what can I help you all with today?” Andy asked, changing the subject.
“We get to play with the swords!” Rah said with a huge smile on her face.
“The Queen should have given you permission to suit us up with a few weapons.” Anthony explained.
“She did.” Andy replied, moving toward her stores of both swords and sheaths. “Said you guys were on some kind of super secret mission. Must be exciting.”
“It looks to be.” Sarah replied as she was handed both sword and sheath.
It was a typical Amazonian sword with the crescent like guard and short blade, but it was heavier than it looked. As she secured the belt around her waist she noticed a small problem with keeping her cargo pants up. She knew she'd lost a few pounds since she'd been away from fried food for so long, but her belts had been helping with the sag before. She didn't think they would do much good against the weight of the sword.
“Looks like you're having a little trouble there.” Andromeda said, moving closer to Sarah. “You know a pair of pants that fit might stay up better.”
“They're fine.” Sarah said, as she started to demonstrate her point by walking around.
As if my some ironic kind of magic the pants started to slip and she was barely able to catch them before they fell to her knees. Andromeda simply stared at her in victory.
“Ok, one pair of pants.” Sarah said, divesting herself of the sword. “But you come near me with any of those short skirts we're gonna have a problem.”
Andromeda smiled and put an arm around Sarah as she led her into the other room. “Oh don't worry, I think I've got a pair of pants that will fit you perfectly, and the leather top that goes with them will really show off those breasts you're trying to hide under that hideous thing you call a shirt.”
“Hey, I didn't say anything about a top.” Sarah's voice could barely be heard by the group as she moved further into the room.
“Sarah, it's best to just let her do her thing.” Andy yelled toward them. “Arguing only makes the process take longer.”
The rest of the group chuckled as they checked out their swords and waited for their team leader to re-emerge. It was Khepri who caught a glimpse of her first. She nearly dropped her sword as she looked the girl up and down.
“See, it's not so bad now is it?” Andromeda asked facetiously.
Sarah looked at her new attire and was actually somewhat impressed. The leather pants were low rise and snug enough in the waist and butt to keep from falling down, and then frayed at the bottom. The top was more like a leather vest that hugged her curves and dipped low in the chest. It was a bit of a compromise, seeing as how Andromeda had preferred a much more revealing option and Sarah wanted even more fabric, but in the end they worked it out.
“So what do you guys think?” She asked, nervously.
Meg whistled, Rah offered up a smile and thumbs up and Zoe just giggled about how uncomfortable Sarah looked.
“Well, it definitely helps the sword stay up better.” Anthony said before mumbling to the group. “Among other things.”
Sarah smirked and nodded her head, knowing she'd only allow the jokes to go on for a few more minutes. She then looked to Khepri who had not said anything, yet her opinion mattered more to Sarah. She walked up closer to her and held her hands out a bit.
“C'mon. Take a shot.” She said. “Any latter infractions are gonna be met with a mild slap to the wrist.”
Something was happening inside Khepri that she hadn't felt in years. She was nervous. Not to mention at a loss for words. Sarah had been cute before, and mildly interesting. Now she was down-right sexy; and the confidence that she was having to build up made her even more so.
“You…Uh…” She struggled and noticed that everyone was staring at her.
Noticing the tension, Andy decided to pipe in.
“Well I think she looks great.” She pulled Andromeda closer to her. “Nice job, babe.”
Sarah continued to stare at Khepri for a few seconds and then shrugged her need to know what the other woman was thinking and returned her attention to the rest of the group.
“Ok, it looks like we've got everything we need and probably about three more hours of daylight left. I say we start off into the woods for a little recon.”
Everyone voiced their approval and then thanked both Andromedas for their help.
“So how long you think it'll take those two to work up the courage and get it over with?” Andy asked Andromeda once the group was out of earshot.
“Depends on how much ceremonial wine Zoe has left from the party last night.” Was the casual response.
Once the group had made it to the scene of all of last night's action they became a little disheartened. The ground was not as soft as they'd hoped and the tracks were either not visible, or easily confused with those of the Amazons.
“God I hate tracking.” Zoe said.
“Yep.” Meg answered.
They were all standing around scratching their heads and trying to make heads or tails of what was going on. Sarah crouched down to move some of the leaves away in hopes that a solid trail might magically appear. When it didn't she sighed and stood up.
“Well it looks like we're gonna have to do this the ‘even harder' way and simply go off in different directions hoping to find something.” She saw the rest of the group nodding their heads and then continued. “Just keep your eyes open for anything that might be helpful and remember that we're not going into any caves or crevices today. Everybody good?”
She was met with affirmative responses.
“Ok then. I guess just pick a direction and go.” She said.
After they left, Sarah turned around to face Khepri.
“You ready?” She asked, looking at a severely rudimentary map Anthony had given her.
“When you are.” Khepri said with a smile.
“Great.” Sarah said, putting the map away. “I guess we're off.”
As they made their way through the woods there was an odd silence permeating the air. Sarah couldn't stand silence when someone else was around; it was uncomfortable. So she simply threw out the first thing she could think of.
“So do you often just offer your services to villages in need?” She asked.
“I help out where I can.” Khepri answered. If eating a few highway thugs is what you would call 'helping out.' She thought. “What about you. I mean I know you get around a lot with all of your travels, but do you travel just so you can help people?”
“Not originally.” Sarah answered. “But lately it just kinda seems like those are the situations I keep getting myself into.”
She stopped check out a piece of cloth on the ground, giving Khepri a perfect view of her back. It was then that she noticed the scratch marks peeking out on the skin of Sarah's shoulder. They were fairly new; healed, but not completely. She gasped thinking about the pain that would have accompanied them. The time traveler heard this and stood back up to see what was going on.
“What's up?” She asked, moving closer to Khepri and looking around. “You ok?”
“Yeah, I just saw those scars on your back and…What happened?” She asked, not knowing how much her prying would be appreciated.
“Oh, that's what I came out of the tiger fight with.” She said casually before ushering them to continue on their way. “I know it's pretty bad looking, but it doesn't hurt anymore.”
“Wait, you mean that whole story was true?” Khepri asked.
Sarah looked over and smiled at her. “Of course. Did you think I was making it all up to impress you or something?”
“Well… yeah.” Khepri answered.
“Did it work?” Sarah asked.
“Not till now.” Khepri answered honestly. “You must be incredibly brave.”
This time Sarah looked down at the ground and answered. “No, I'm really not. And if you've figured anything out about me at this point it should be that I'm not humble either, so you know I'm telling the truth. I just did what I had to do in order to save Eve.”
“Hmm.” Khepri replied with disdain. The mere mention of the Messenger's name was now making her irritated.
“Guess you're not her biggest fan right now, huh?” Sarah asked, picking up on her tone.
“She has every right to be suspicious of me.” Khepri said. Really has every right.
“She's just had a lot of experiences in her life. Sometimes they start creeping back up on her and make her paranoid. It's nothing personal, I promise.”
It will be when my fangs are ripping through her throat. Khepri thought.
“I'm choosing not to take it that way.” She said. “What about you? Do you think I'm this evil beast that's out to get you?”
Sarah chuckled. “No, not at all. I know it's weird, but for some reason I actually feel really safe with you.”
Khepri felt a sense of shame clutch at her heart. You won't even see it coming, will you Sarah? So trusting. I'll make it quick with you; make sure the others don't get to you first. A rustling in the bushes brought her out of her string of thoughts.
“I hope it stays that way because I think someone's out there.” She said.
“Shit, how far away?” Sarah said looking around and bracing herself.
“I don't know, but he's coming up fast.” Khepri drew her sword as did Sarah.
“Get behind that tree and stay there.” Sarah said, pointing to the side and moving behind one of her own across from Khepri. “Don't move unless I tell you to run.”
“I'm not going to let you fight him on your own.” She said sternly.
“We don't have time to argue about this, now just do as I say!”
Both women shut up and listened for the approach. It was a man on horseback and he was slowing down. His horse came to a full stop just a few feet away from the trees.
“Too late to hide, Amazons. I already saw you and I don't plan on this taking too long.” The man said as he dismounted and drew his sword. He wasn't very large, but he did look strong; and his words led Sarah to believe that he was either very good in a fight, or extremely arrogant.
“Now, one of you is coming with me. You can decide amongst yourselves who it's gonna be, or you can make it difficult and fight me and possibly both end up dead.” He said calmly.
Sarah emerged from the tree and twirled her sword. Though their attacker's words were threatening, his tone was more matter of fact; as if to say ‘nothing personal.' It would have been charming had he not been planning to kidnap them.
“I think I'll go for door number three.” She said taking a defensive stance. “That's the one where you get neither of us, and I decide at the end of the fight if I'm pissed off enough to kill you or leave you tied to a tree to face the demons of the night.”
He answered her with a laugh. “I love Amazons. You're kind puts up a fight the entire time. There's just something about that fact that really drives up your prices in the body slave market.”
“Khepri run.” Sarah said, cursing her when she stayed put.
“I'll try not to mess up your face too much.” He said as he gripped his sword with both hands.
“It's always smart to protect your investments.” Sarah said as she moved in and swung hard.
Khepri moved from behind the tree, but did not run away as she'd been told. Instead she watched intent on jumping in the second she thought Sarah couldn't defend herself. What caught her off guard was the fact that the young time traveler really wasn't all that good to begin with. She left openings all over the place then somehow avoided falling victim to them at the last moment. The only advantage she really had was the fact that the man wished to take her un-harmed. Should he choose to switch tactics, Sarah would be in trouble. It was ironic that just as this thought crossed her mind the attacker chose a more lethal approach.
“You know I may very well have sold you over to the slavers, and then helped you escape just to stick it to the bastards, but now you've pissed me off.” He said, slightly out of breath, when Sarah had divested him of his sword. “So I figure I'm just gonna have to kill you and take the pretty, tall girl.” He drew a knife.
“Well it is the thought that counts.” Sarah said, dodging his strikes.
The knife swished and whizzed through the air as the fight grew more intense. Sarah was breaking a sweat and the man's eyes shown with laughter.
“Khepri, do not interfere!” Sarah yelled as she dodged yet another lethal strike. “I told you to run; go get help!”
“I can't just leave you here.” She yelled back.
“Fuckin women; they never listen.” The man joked.
Sarah would have laughed, but she finally saw an opening and took advantage of it. He was just about to swing hard at her head and if she timed it just right she could parry around him and swing low enough to catch his calf. The problem was she closed her eyes when attempting this move and, though it did work, her attacker acted as if he felt nothing and recovered quickly enough to stab straight into her stomach.
Though she was surprised, she'd grown so accustom to these moments that she too recovered quickly and used his shock against him. She used both hands to bring the hilt of her sword down on his head then quickly grabbed him by the hair and rammed him into a tree for good measure. The man fell with a thud on the ground and Sarah tried to come up with a witty one liner to feed to Khepri. Before it would leave her mouth she saw the look of horror on the other woman's face and notice that her eyes were focused solely on the knife that was still embedded in her gut.
“Shit.” She said, looking down at the foreign object then back up at Khepri. “Ok, I know this looks bad.”
“Sarah, don't move.” Khepri said, moving toward her. “Maybe we still have time to get you help. If you take the knife out now you could bleed to death.”
There is just no getting around this one. Sarah thought to herself.
“Look, I didn't want to tell you this before…” She said with a sigh.
“Shh, don't talk.” Khepri said solemnly as if Sarah was going to delve into some kind of romantic confession. “You need to save your strength. I can carry you back to the village and we can get the doctor.”
Wait, what am I doing? Why am I trying to save her? She's a threat to my people. Khepri's thoughts were interrupted by Sarah.
“That really won't be necessary.” Sarah said as she held out one hand to stop Khepri from picking her up, and used the other to extract the knife.
Khepri gasped and looked on in wonder. The blood that she had expected to come gushing out was nowhere to be seen. She then lifted the shirt to examine the wound, but only found smooth skin. She even touched it just to be sure her eyes were not deceiving her. There was a soft intake of breath from the face above, but no other reaction. Sarah had just been stabbed, yet there was no wound to be found. She looked up into the girl's eyes and saw some form of remorse.
“I told you I wasn't brave.” Sarah said, sadly. “It's easy to sacrifice yourself in order to save others when you know you've got nothing to lose.”
“But you're back; you have scars from the tiger...” Khepri said, trying to understand.
“I'm only impervious to mortal wounds.” Sarah explained. “I can be hurt, I just can't die.”
“What are you?” Khepri asked before she could stop herself.
Apparently I'm a freak. Sarah thought when she saw the nervousness in Khepri's eyes.
“I'm complicated.” Sarah said. “And I know you've got every right to tell the other's about me, but I'd really rather you didn't. I promise I'll tell them at some point, but bringing it up right now might lead them to think I'm some kind of beefed up vampire.”
I'm pretty sure neither of us want that label hanging over our heads. Khepri thought.
“I promise I'll keep your secret.” Khepri asked, caressing the skin her hand had been resting on. “Does it hurt?”
“Definitely not right now.” Sarah said, swallowing hard as the butterflies in her stomach started to flutter in full gear.
Khepri looked into her eyes and moved her free hand up to Sarah's face. Her thumb stroked her cheek gently as she held her eyes.
“I'm glad you're ok.” She said, moving her face closer to the girl's. She truly meant it.
“Me too.” Sarah said, her eyes moving from cool, blue orbs to moist, soft lips.
Khepri was so close now; Sarah could feel her breath on her lips. She was torturing her with her pace, and just before the time traveler was about to take the reins, a painful moan could be heard coming from behind her. Both women stopped their movements. Khepri looked toward the man behind Sarah, and Sarah looked up to the sky.
“You have got to be fucking kidding me!” She cursed her luck and made her way over to the man's horse. “I'm starting to think this immortality thing comes with some kind of kissing inhibitor.” She said softly to herself as she rummaged through his things looking for some rope.
Once she found it she made her way over to him and tied his hands behind his back. He grimaced in pain as she tightened them, and then began to speak.
“Shit, woman, what did you do to me?” He asked.
“Obviously a lot less than I should have done.” She said through gritted teeth before lifting him to his feet.
“Didn't I stab you?” He asked.
“His head injury must be causing delusions.” Khepri said, with a wink to Sarah.
“Probably so.” Sarah said with a knowing smile as she started to push her attacker along. “Of course I would have preferred it caused him to be knocked out for a few more minutes.”
“Me too.” The warrior said softly, leaning in to Sarah's ear then moving back to grab the horse's lead.
“No! I'm sure of it.” He said. “I stabbed you right after you sliced my fuckin calf. Which, now that I mention it, is hurting like a bitch.”
“Are you seriously complaining right now?” Sarah asked. “You just tried to kill and kidnap us!”
“Well sure, but that still doesn't change the fact that I'm limping and you are, for some reason, trying to keep me alive and take me back to camp.” He said.
“You know he makes a good point.” Khepri said as they continued to walk. “Why are we taking him back to camp? He deserves to die for what he tried to do to you.”
Sarah sighed and moved over to rip some of the fabric off the prisoner's shirt.
“Because I don't kill people.” She said as she tied the cloth around the wound to try to stop the bleeding. “If the Amazons decide to execute him then that's their affair, but I'm just not ready to take a life.”
This made the man laugh out loud.
“See that's why yours is the weaker sex.” He said. Again with that simple, non-threatening tone. “You bitches just think too much about these things. And don't think I've forgotten about that fucking knife going into your gut and not doing what it was supposed to. I can see the rip in your shirt.”
“Do you realize that you've got a lot more important things to worry about?” Sarah said. “Like the fact that you're about to be at the mercy of a bunch of man hating women who now have every right to kill you.”
“And I'll cross that bridge when I get to it; right now I want you to tell me about that cast iron stomach you got there.” He said.
Khepri pulled her aside and whispered to her.
“He's going to be a problem, Sarah.” She said. “If you want to keep your secret, he's gonna have to die. Let me take care of it.”
Sarah looked in her eyes and knew she was absolutely serious. She then looked to the object of their conversation and moved closer to him.
“Have you ever done this before?” She asked, seriously.
“What, been beat up by Amazons?” He asked, confused. “Hell, no! I try to stay away from you crazy females.”
“Ok, number one, I'm not an Amazon.” Sarah said, annoyed. “And number two, I meant have you ever captured people and sold them to slavers?”
“What the hell does that matter?” He asked as if she'd just inquired about the price of eggs in China .
“Jesus Christ, you're driving me crazy.” She said, running a hand through her hair. “Just answer the God damn question: have you ever done this before?”
He rolled his eyes then did as he was told.
“No. Some slavers came by my house a couple of weeks ago and they threatened to kill me and burn the place down if I didn't start collecting for them. Being that I like myself and my house, I decided to do what they said. And that's why we're now having this lovely conversation while my boot fills up with blood.” He explained with a smile.
“Well it's gonna fill up a whole hell of a lot more unless we get one thing straight right now.” She said soberly. “So far you don't have the fact that you stuck a knife in my gut going against you. Keeping that to yourself may end up saving your life in the end; it sure as hell will save it now.”
“Well why didn't you just say so?” He replied. “I know how to keep a secret. Now come on, let's go and get me some stitches.”
As he limped ahead Sarah looked on in awe then followed him.
“I know this is gonna sound crazy.” She said to Khepri. “But for some reason, I actually hope they don't end up killing him.”
Khepri looked at her as if she'd grown a third eye.
“Are you sure you didn't hit your head back there?” She said, investigating Sarah's skull for herself as they headed back to add yet another complication to a situation that was already out of control.
To be continued…
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