Fulda swung her machete, hacking through a wall of vines blocking the path in front of her. Yet more vines were behind those, and she scythed through those with the backswing. The vegetation was thicker than she expected, but she came prepared for whatever the jungle could throw at her. A lesser person would have given up long ago, she told herself, but her powerful arms and endurance training had given her much more stamina than the average person. Even though she had to duck beneath thick branches and hop over streams she was still relatively fresh, thanks in part to her long, strong legs for traversing minor obstacles.
She had chosen her study abroad location specifically for this opportunity. The stories of vast legends in the jungle around here had been chalked up to legend for centuries, but they hadn’t done the research she had. Through correlating multiple accounts from primary sources, she had found the general area where there should be vast wealth just waiting to be found. In anticipation of this trip she had packed several blue tank tops and brown shorts with plenty of places to attach gear. Her black hiking boots were perfect for the environment, cushioning her feet while she walked over the rough terrain, and her skin glistened from exertion.
Several hacks through vines and underbrush later, Fulda emerged into a wide open area. The grass was still tall, coming up to her knees, but it was easy going compared to the jungle. In the middle of the clearing a great stone pyramid rose to the sky, its brown, carved stones terraced into levels. Fulda crouched so the grass obscured her advance, getting down on all fours. She crawled toward the pyramid, moving slowly and carefully so as not to disturb the grass too much and give away her position.
When she reached the pyramid’s base, Fulda sprung back up and pressed her back against the stone wall. She peeked around the corner and, with a glance, confirmed that she had made the right choice with caution. A pair of men stood guard at the entrance, their spears at the ready to repel any intruders. Their armor would protect them from most threats they could expect, but Fulda knew she was something no one would ever expect. Gradually she moved along the front face of the pyramid, pressing her back against the wall while she dragged herself toward the entrance one step at a time.
A couple meters from the entrance the closer guard turned toward her and his eyes went wide. Fulda sprung into action, and a swift, powerful strike from her fist knocked him down. His partner looked at her in shock and readied his spear, but Fulda was ready to deal with him. Under her withering gaze, he rapidly reduced in size until he was lost among the grass. Fulda remembered where he was though, and with a swift stomp she flattened him beneath her boot. With a glance she reduced the unconscious one to a manageable size, and a single step backward made sure that he wouldn’t be able to tell anyone about what he had seen.
Atun stood with the shaft of his spear on the ground, watching the tree line for any sort of movement. It was his sacred duty to keep watch over the pyramid, and he took it seriously even though nothing had happened for over five centuries. He had earned the right to this post by succeeding in his tribe’s trial of manhood, then being judged among the most puissant warriors of his generation. His skill with the spear was such that there was no doubt that, should he need to defend the entrance, the intruder wouldn’t stand a chance.
A loud crack to his left drew his attention, and he spun to see a tremendous woman knock his partner unconscious with a single strike. Atun lowered his spear toward her, but she merely smirked despite being unarmed. Her blue eyes were hypnotic, a glistening color he had never seen before, and her fiery red hair was mesmerizing. She stood a head and a half taller than any woman he knew, and had the framed, sculpted body of a warrior. A meter and a half of spear might not be enough to deal with her.
Atun blinked, and when he opened his eyes everything looked different. Now he was surrounded by the jungle line, with towering green chutes rising to the sky all around him. The ground shuddered, and the woman he had just spotted came into view over the highest tops of the trees. Her bronzed skin shone in the flickering torch light, and her red hair was unmistakable. Somehow she had become gigantic in an instant, and her eyes were still toward him.
She raised a leg until it was parallel to the ground, positioning the sole of her boot directly over him. He wanted to run, but he was entranced by this monolithic outsider. His spear would have been useless in this situation, its tip unable to even penetrate the rubber of her sole. Her shoe raced toward him, and despite its uselessness he braced the spear against the onrush of her titanic treads. The sole smashed into it, snapping the spear off at the tip, and continued onward. An instant later the enormous platform slammed into him, and after a brief explosion of pain he was flattened beneath it, reduced to jungle-nourishing mush under her powerful stomp.
With the guards dispatched, Fulda entered the pyramid. Her footsteps echoed through the empty corridor with each step on the limestone floor. There was little she could do about that since she was about twice the size of its expected inhabitants. Her shadow flickered in the torch light, cast long over the brown flagstones in the corridor. She had to be careful while stalking forward to avoid having one of the guards stop her with extreme prejudice.
Fulda saw a man leaning against the wall around a corner, paying attention only to the world immediately around him. She cautiously moved toward him, careful not to make enough noise to alert him. When she was within arm’s reach she reached out and seized him by the shoulder, yanking him into her grasp. She clamped her hand over his mouth so he couldn’t scream and began reducing his size until he slid perfectly into her palm. He shrank into her grip, ending up no more than an inch tall, and with a quick squeeze she reduced him to paste before slinging the remains against the wall.
The guard’s partner turned toward her, readying his spear toward her. Fulda simply smirked and grabbed the shaft, then jerked him toward her. They struggled for a moment but she easily seized the spear from him, then tossed it to the side. He tried to back away but a strong hand around his wrist kept him firmly in place, looking up at Fulda terrified. He also shrank quickly under her glare, sliding into her hand before he knew what was going on. She threw him into the nearest wall, splattering him against the stone before moving on.
In the next chamber there was no one left to challenge her, but Fulda still did not have the clear path she had hoped. The only way forward went down, and was physically separated from where she stood. Fulda lunged forward, and though her foot ended up over empty air she was safely above the next platform. She let herself drop unsupported onto the next platform, drawing her other leg up beneath herself. After a brief fall she landed on the small bit of floor jutting out from the wall, then stood back to her full height so she could consider her next step.
The next step was another undefended platform, and Fulda leapt toward it readily. Her boots slammed down onto the suspended limestone blocks after a short jump, crossing the void between her and the next step. Reflexively she jumped into the next step, leaping from one platform onto the next to land on the palms of her hands. Thanks to the impact of landing she coiled her arms, then sprung off from the floor. She launched herself from the platform, flipping herself over while she traversed the space. Her feet slammed down on the floor she aimed for, and Fulda landed in a crouch while she steadied herself upon landing.
There was nowhere further down to go, and only solid stone surrounded the pathway. Carefully Fulda knocked on the walls with her ear pressed up against them, hearing a solid thud from her knuckles with each strike. At last she heard something different, a hollow resonating within the walls, and she knocked along the rest of the bricks to figure out how wide it was. When she figured out where the center was she stood back and turned her side toward the wall. She dashed forward, slamming her shoulder into the wall, and the bricks scattered under the force of her weight. When the dust settled the way was clear.
A single hallway led away from the platform, and Fulda began dashing down it. One of the flagstones gave way beneath her boot, and a loud grinding came from the wall to her right. Reflexively she dove forward and rolled, narrowly avoiding a saw blade that would have sliced her in half. Moments later a second one came from the ceiling, cutting through the air vertically. She snaked her body around the spinning edge, just avoiding getting cut by virtue of her long, lithe body. Her momentum carried her forward, and she came to a stop by bracing her hands against the floor.
Fulda sprung back up to her full height, but the ceiling was much lower than she was used to. She was still hunched over with her knees bent when her head bashed into the stone, mussing her auburn hair. With a swear she raised a hand to her head, rubbing it in pain after recoiling from the impact. Her blue eyes narrowed in a wince and she slowly shuffled forward, leaving the low hallway behind. The South Americans who build this pyramid clearly hadn’t planned for an Amazonian-American to be traipsing around its halls.
The next chamber was much more to her liking. She was on the lowest level of a large, wide open chamber that was lit by torches held by sconces at ten-foot intervals lining a broad staircase against the outer wall. In the center of the cavernous chamber was a thick, massive pillar, with twenty feet of space between it and the stairs. It was shaped like an enormous cylinder itself, with perfectly round walls that went up until the ceiling was lost in darkness.
Fulda began ascending the staircase, taking it three steps at a time. Her long legs could have done more, but that was the limit without straining herself. It was going to be a long ascent, and she wanted to save her energy. She made quick, steady progress up the stairs, churning her quads to force her up with each step. Before long her tan skin as glistening with sweat again, and her regular grunts would be enough to act as a metronome. Each step of her boots echoed loudly in the tremendous, empty room, bouncing between the solid walls.
One of the steps gave way beneath her foot, pressing down until it clicked into place at a steep angle. Loudly the other steps clicked into alignment with that one, making rippling effect as it went from the top to the bottom of the stairs. Fulda dug her fingers into the space between bricks in the wall, holding herself in place while she adjusted to the incline. She leaned forward to keep her balance and kept a hand firmly placed against the wall while the other extended forward, making sure she would not go sliding down the ramp that had suddenly appeared beneath her feet.
The entire room began rumbling, and the floor shook violently. A large, round boulder began rolling down the ramp toward her, gaining speed as it drew closer. Jumping over the side was out of the question: it was a sixty-foot drop to the floor, and though she was built Fulda doubted her ability to endure that intact. The only realistic option was to stand her ground and watch the boulder roll closer, practically daring it to run her over. Fulda wasn’t worried about whatever traps had been laid out by ancient Amazonian tribesmen.
She focused on the boulder barreling toward her, confident she would be able to deal with it. Despite her lack of sleeves, Fulda had an ace up one that whoever had installed these traps would never have counted on. The boulder began reducing in size as it got closer to her, shrinking under her gaze. As it drew closer it became even smaller, and by the time it was on its final approach toward her even the weakest child would have been able to pick it up. When it finally collided with her it was no larger than a pebble and harmlessly stopped at the toe of her boot. With a grin Fulda flicked it off the side, and the sound of it bouncing off the floor was like music to her ears.
Fulda trudged up the steep slope for the rest of the staircase, leaning against the wall for additional support. It wasn’t terribly pleasant, but she made it all the same. Her calves and thighs burned when she reached the top, but she felt a distinct sense of triumph when she stood atop the enormous staircase. No one else had reported making it this far in over five centuries, and whatever was at the end would be ripe for her taking.
Before it could get to her head, a spear thrust at Fulda’s chest from the shadows. She stepped back so the point passed just in front if her, then seized the shaft with both hands. Fulda planted her feet and thrust her hips to the side while tossing her assailant overhead. The tribesman was short, barely over five feet tall, and felt like a feather in her arms. When he was stunned on the ground she began making him dwindle too, until his spear was like a toothpick in her fist. Reflexively she whipped her arm toward the wall, throwing him out of her hand so he splattered against the wall.
Beyond the guard, Fulda encountered a solid wooden door that blocked the entire way in front of her. A small brass keyhole was inlaid into the middle, right where the doors met, but she hadn’t picked up any keys yet. They had probably all been shrunken along with the guards. Fulda didn’t have time to go back and search their puny corpses for the keys and reared up in front of the doors. Her foot shot forward, slamming into the door right above the keyhole, and her powerful leg followed through. After some slight resistance it swung inward, giving way against her power.
Cautiously Fulda advanced into the room atop the stairs, expecting another ambush in the dark hallway. Nothing came out to meet her, however, and she was unchallenged as she walked into the room beyond. Her research told her that her goal should be somewhere in this room, and she carefully looked the chamber over as she entered. No more threats laid in wait for her, but what her eyes took in was much more rewarding than simply not being attacked.
The treasure was here, all right, and it was much more than Fulda had ever anticipated. A thick layer of gold lined the walls, and precious gemstones ranging from jade to diamonds were worked into the intricate relief carvings that spanned the whole surface. In the middle, atop an onyx pedestal, was a statue of a boar made out of gold, silver, and platinum, with diamonds for its eyes. It was massive, probably worth millions of dollars in precious metals alone, and there was no way she’d leave even a single flake of it behind. She had not expected it to be integrated into the structure itself, however, and there was no way she’d be able to carry it out by herself, much less if she had any help.
However, Fulda was just as resourceful as she was strong. She could get it all out at once without any issue, she just had to think outside the box. With a smirk she went back to the ramp and slid down it, crossing her arms over her chest as she raced down it. Her feet touched down on the landing at the bottom, then she sprung up and started running back the way she came, juking around the saw blades still in place in the corridor.
Fulda coiled herself into a ball then sprung up, releasing the energy in her legs to make a powerful leap. She launched herself into the air, clearing the platform above her, and transitioned into another broad jump to the next one. For the third jump she nearly fell short, but her long, strong arms were able to grasp the ledge. With minimal effort she pulled herself up and swung a leg onto the platform, using it as leverage to scramble onto the artificial stone ledge.
Having crushed all opposition on the way in, Fulda exited the pyramid with her chin held high. She turned around once she was outside and focused her efforts onto the structure. The veins in her forehead bulged, and with a great release of energy the building began rapidly reducing in size in front of her. It dwindled as though it were nothing, making way in the clearing for the rest of the jungle. When she was satisfied, it was no taller than her ankle, with its very small foundation protruding into the ground. There was a large section of dead grass and dirt where it had previously occupied space, leaving a gap in the earth where it had been built.
Fulda smirked and strode toward the pyramid, satisfied she had reached her goal. It was almost a quarter of a mile until she reached the shrunken pyramid, but when she did she stood astride it, gazing down at what most people would consider a small stone now. She leaned over and dug her fingers into the soft earth around it, gripping the tiny stone structure in her hands. With a light jerk she extracted it from the ground, wrapping her hand around it. If there was any opposition left, it would only be a matter of grinding it beneath her thumb.
Having claimed her prize, Fulda began walking back the way she came. Casually she tossed the pyramid up and down, catching it in her hand as she walked. She was not sure exactly how she’d sell her gains, since that would require growing it back to its full size in the city. If there was a way to do it, however, she would figure it out, and this miniscule temple would make her ridiculous rich one way or another.