***chapter five: within the Chamber
The man, a huge brute of a fellow, his loathsome countenance twisted into a leering grin, held within one meaty hand a bronze poker whose tip glowed with scarlet heat from the flaming brazier nearby.
The girl strained desperately away from the searing rod that almost, but not quite touched her naked breast, and Carson saw that her quivering muscles were on the verge of failing. In but a moment she would fall forward and be impaled upon the glowing spike.
She might be a criminal for all I know, thought Carson. But even so, no crime is deserving of torture, and my conscious will not let me pass on by.
Grasping the door’s actuating mechanism, he wrenched it open, leapt across the threshold and rushed with silent swiftness at the torturer’s broad back. Some slight sound must have alerted the fellow, or perhaps the girl’s startled expression as she briefly glimpsed Carson’s running form, for her tormentor swiftly spun about, and with an oath swung the poker in a vicious blow.
Carson ducked, the glowing rod stirring his hair with its swift passage. Quickly, he drove his fist into the man’s ample paunch, doubling him over; then sent him crashing to the ground with a vicious knee to the jaw, the blow startlingly loud in the gloomy silence. His foe lay upon the floor, neck bent at an odd angle, obviously dead.
The American looked about, seeking other enemies, breathing heavily, and trembling slightly. It was the first time he had killed a man, and he wasn’t so callous as to be unaffected by the deed. Satisfied that no other threat yet presented itself, his eyes were drawn once again to the broken thing upon the floor.
Come on man, he thought. This is no time to fall apart. What’s done is done. Best you give thought to the living.
Turning his attention to the girl, he was relieved to see there were no marks of abuse upon her body. He found it difficult to judge her age, for like most ancient Egyptian women she possessed a slender graceful figure with small but pert breasts, which made her look younger than she obviously was. He guessed her age to be eighteen at the very least, and as he gazed upon her he was seized by the strangest whimsy – the desire for a hundred eyes so he might capture every facet of her supernal loveliness.
The girl’s large dark eyes, set with an oval face of captivating beauty, regarded him with a mixture of wariness and curiosity. Was this some new tormentor? She didn’t know; wasn’t sure she had the strength of body or mind to face further ordeals. She observed his strange features and still stranger clothes, wondering who he was and where from. Suddenly, a thought came to her in startling realization.
“Are you from an age other than my own?” she said, enunciating each word carefully and slowly, hoping he would understand, all the while cautiously observing him as he severed her bonds with the torturer’s dagger.
“Why … why, yes,” was his startled response. “But how could you possibly know?”
“No time now, I’ll explain later,” she replied, leaning against him as the last rope was severed, still weak from her harrowing ordeal. “First we must flee this place. I glimpsed you enter through a hidden door, let us depart that way in all haste.”
Carson turned, cursed. The door had closed behind him and he knew not the hidden catch that would open it once more. At that very moment, as if callous fate had scribed the line, the Sorceress stepped within the chamber from another portal, flanked by burly guards armed with glinting spears.
For a brief moment a strange tableau ensued – Carson, the frightened girl clutching his brawny arm; the Sorceress, a strange presence looking out through human eyes upon them; her warriors, like hounds waiting to be unleashed.
“Kill them,” cried Nefret after a moment’s surprise, her whip-crack command echoing harshly within the room.
The guards, spears leveled, charged towards the pair. Carson thrust the dagger into his companion’s hand, seized the brazier by its tripod, and hurled its glowing coals upon the racing men. Several uttered sickening shrieks and fell writhing upon the floor as burning embers seared their naked chests, while the sole survivor fell upon him with a harsh battle cry.
Nefret cursed violently at the fallen men, saw the girl lean against the wall, hand pressed to full lips in tremulous apprehension; watched in eagerness the single warrior engage her defiant enemy.
Carson, using the brazier as a shield, deflected his foe’s thrusting spear, stepped in close and swung a head high blow that would have sent his opponent crashing to the floor, had the man not whipped up his spear and blocked the savage stroke.
Before Carson could press his attack, the guard swung his weapon like a staff, knocking the American’s legs out from under him. He crashed to the floor, stunned, unable to move as his adversary loomed above him, spear poised for the killing thrust.
Suddenly, as if by magic, a dagger pierced the warrior’s throat. The man gurgled, blood spurted from his mouth, and he collapsed upon the floor with a meaty thud. The girl’s well cast blade had found its mark.
Carson struggled to his feet, but before he could turn to his companion and offer heartfelt thanks, another tide of spears swept into the room at the Sorceress’s savage command.
This looks like the end for both of us, he thought, backing away from the unstoppable phalanx that rushed towards them.
This story is copyright by Kirk Straughen. It may not be copied without permission of the author except for purposes of reviews. (Though you can print it out to read it, natch.)