Astrid sheathed her sword and slung her shield across her back. The tufts of near-white hair sticking out from under her helmet were splattered with black droplets of goblin blood.
“Do you smell any more of them?” She asked the Minotauren maid.
The large bullwoman shook her head.
“If not for your wonderful nose we’d be dead,” Astrid tapped a finger to her helmet in salute.
“A few times over,” Alena chimed in retrieving her spear. “Had I known this was to be a full engagement I would have asked after supplies.”
“This was just a little ambush,” Astrid laughed. “We will be to the oracle and back to the ship in no time.”
Alena took off her helmet and let her long auburn hair fall around her shoulders. She allowed herself this one vanity. Her mother had the same long hair and athletic build but unfortunately that was where the similarities ended. She had a long thin nose, gently dimpled chin, and deep brown eyes. Considering her mother had none of these features they had to have some from her father, for an Amazon that was not a mark of pride.
Every Amazon, once she was of proper age, would seek the Isle of the Sirens and provide and offering. In return the mystical creatures would entrap a nearby vessel and then the Amazons would seduce and sometimes execute the sailors, the leader of the boarding party made that call.
“Let’s go,” she replaced the helmet and adjusted the fit now that her hair was not tucked up into it.
Llaheeda took the lead and true to her word a little less than two leagues they found a lone hut in the middle of a clearing. Smoke lazily drifted out from the top of the hut and a smell of something roasting permeated the air. Whatever was being cooked was nothing the three could identify and did not smell appetizing in the least.
“Odin’s eye that is horrid,” Astrid raised her hands and used the leather gauntlets to block out the smell.
“Get to a safe distance,” Alena ordered the other two. “I don’t want to come out to another ambush.”
Llaheeda gratefully retreated out of the cloud of funk with the shieldmaiden at her heels.
Alena had slain a cyclops and rode a cerberus once but walking toward the little dirt hut made her insides quake. She was not one to seek prophecy but she obeyed her orders and trusted in her Queen. This was a quest only she could undertake. Speaking to the oracle was the first step in a long journey.
“Come, Amazon,” a frail, shaky voice called from within. “I am expecting you.”
Alena took a deep breath, immediately regretted it, and ducked into the hut. The single room interior was cramped and she hand to hunch over to fit. Shelves packed with bottles and little jars lined the walls. A small, well used cot was tucked in the corner, and the center of the hut was a cooking pit. On the opposite side of the pit was a tattered pile of rags with a small, wrinkles face poking out.
“What is that?” She coughed looking at the chunk of meat twirling about the fire.
“Is that really the question you’ve come to ask me?” The oracle smiled.
“No,” Alena cleared her throat. “I apologize, I’ve never spoken with an oracle before, I don’t know how this goes.”
“It is fine child,” a skeletal hand emerged from the rags and pointed to a small stool nearby. “Please, sit.”
She placed her spear and shield by the door and sat on the rickety stool, “I was told to come see you to start a quest.”
“Yes, I have much to tell you,” the face smiled broadly. “But first I wish for us to be alone.”
The amazon looked back toward the door but it was still closed. Inside the small hut there was only her and the oracle. Alena looked back to the pile of rags to see it had collapsed flat on the floor. She turned quickly, meaning to dive for her sword and found a rail thin the old woman standing in her path. The old woman lifted her boney hand and blew. A fine mist of powder covered Alena’s face and she started to cough, her vision was muddled, the shape of the oracle melted away followed by everything else.
“Do not worry child,” the shaky voice of the oracle floated around her coming from everywhere at once. “I mean you no harm.” Her voice began to take on a deeper register, pulsing between the frail voice and the rumble. “Long ago I found that words were not the best way to deliver my message. You must see as I do, feel it the same, to understand completely.”
The world pulsed back into view but it was not the inside of the hut she saw. She was flying across the ocean, mere inches from the surface with the sun at her feet.
“You must travel to the island where East and West touch,” an island appeared in the distance, growing large with every moment. “Here you will find your quest, you will face many dangers, but in the end you will be complete.” She floated above the island, in the center was a temple similar to the ones on her island but made with a stone she did not recognize. “Be wary, amazon, do not tread lightly.”
The vision stopped.
Alena opened her eyes and found herself lying on her back in a field. The hut was gone, her weapons were just out of reach and the world was spinning too fast. She could feel the heavy footsteps of her companions approaching and hear the clink of their armor.