Conquerors

Ngita watched carefully. The air in the jungle had turned sour, halting her hunt. Something stirred the trees into discomfort, the animals in their branches retreating to higher ground. Ngita waited, beads of sweat blooming like salted pearls across her forehead.

There. Movement down the runningpath. Ngita’s eyes widened. Silently, she slipped away from the intruders, running back to the village with all of her speed.

“Lung’aro!” she called, running to the headwoman’s hut. Lung’aro looked up from her herbs, calmly dismissing the apprentice healers from their lesson. Ngita waited for them to clear away. “There are strangers coming down the eastern runningpath.”

“How many?”

“At least thirty. They come riding beasts and are bathed in sunlight.”

Lung’aro looked suspicious. “Gather the village.”

Ngita ran to each of the fifty huts that occupied their patch of jungle. When she returned to Lung’aro, the village center was filled with women. Lung’aro prowled at the center, her eyes furious with determination.

“You have heard of the false gods that tried to subjugate our sisters west of here, yes?”

A murmur of consensus ran through the women.

“They tried to conquer them, tried to ground the women of the Falcon Tribe. Now, these imposters try the same with us Tigresses. Will we show them our stomachs?”

“No!”

“Will we bow our heads for them to cut off?”

“No!”

“Will we fight with tooth and claw, will we rend our enemies to pieces with our ferocity?”

Joyously, the women shouted: “Yes!”

“Then ready yourselves.”

The village women prepared for battle effortlessly, familiar with the ways of war. They greeted their weapons as comrades, and painted their bodies for camouflage. Everyone prepared; the elderly were still strong and used to such labor; the young were charged to a caretaker who clutched daggers in both hands with a newborn strapped to her back. The children followed her quietly, eager to see their first battle.

The trees hid them well, allowing them space within their flesh. The wind blew in the faces of the intruders, flinging leaves and bugs into their eyes. The ground turned to muck beneath the strangers’ beasts, causing the momentary panic perfect for the Tigresses to strike. They leapt out from their cover, diving for the beasts, cutting them out from underneath the false gods.

The strangers panicked, chaos surging around them. Some ran, only to be chased down by more Tigresses. Others fumbled for handheld thunder, but the Tigresses stopped them with their spears, aiming for faces and necks, where their bodies were unprotected by shining stone. More still pled for their lives. The Tigresses spat in their faces and slit their throats. They left none alive and returned to their village for celebrations, letting the jungle dispose of the men who dared to think they could sell an Amazon into slavery.

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Conquerors

Bandits!

Goldteeth’s lover faced the firing squad. Even with her face covered by a hood—in case any of the men were to be swayed by her beauty—her magnificence could not be contained. She was more radiant than the sun, and the executioners burned in her presence.

“Ready,” called the captain, itching to finish this business. He could feel his heart beginning to waver. “Aim…”

“Wait!” cried Goldteeth’s lover, (and the executioners were secretly relieved) her sweet, clear voice ringing out across the execution yard, flying up the steps of the amphitheater to the man who had ordered her death.

The Governor leaned out from his shaded pavilion so as to see the amphitheater floor better. “There is no waiting, milady. He is not coming to save you. You should thank me, really—elsewise you would have spent your life bound to a coward.”

Goldteeth’s lover turned her hooded face toward the Governor’s voice. “He is not a coward,” she declared as the ropes fell free from her hands. She threw the hood from her face as she aimed the gun previously hidden behind her back at the Governor. “And I do not need him to save me.” She fired. The executioners were too stunned by her beauty to move. The Governor lay dying, his breath gurgling through the hole in his throat. He grabbed desperately for anyone, anything that would help him. His servants stepped back, emotionless as they watched his eyes roll back into his head.

On the floor of the amphitheater, one guard stepped towards the captive. She took him into her arms, kissing him forcefully. “Darling, nice of you to come to my execution.

The man smiled, revealing teeth as white and perfect as pears. “How could I miss it?”

The caption of the executioners gasped. “Y-your teeth!”

The man’s grin widened. “Expecting someone else?”

The woman laughed, turning to address her would-be murderers. They gasped at the rows of flawless golden teeth in her mouth. “Gentlemen, I know you to be excellent marksmen. Now that your governor is dead, would you like to join me?” She gestured to the Governor’s shaded pavilion. “Would you like freedom? To steal from those who build their empires on the backs of common folk, to kill the corrupt and answer to no one?” Goldteeth’s magnificence and the events of the amphitheater left no doubt in any heart. She rode from her supposed death with a contingent of new bandits, her gold teeth shining in the sun as she smiled in her triumph.

Bandits!