Chapter Twelve- Arresting Respato

We made good time and were in Antioch a few minutes before Spake rang the church bell signaling noon. Everyone was gathered outside waiting for me. Respato was at the forefront with Stella on his arm. I dismounted and grabbed some rope from my saddle bag. I whistled and Stella came to rest on my shoulder. I took her off and had her stand on my saddle horn. I turned to face Respato and came forward, the rope in my hands. 

He smiled and looked around nervously. 

“What’s going on Antepi? You’re so solemn.” I stared into his eyes, trying to tell him I didn’t want to do this, but this was his choice. I spoke loud enough for everyone to hear.

“Respato Anglen Sacha Antioch, you are hereby under arrest for your crimes against the country of France. By order of King Philippe The First you are sentenced to imprisonment at the Capital for the rest of your physical life. Your crimes include treason and conspiring with France’s enemies in many ways.” A gasp went throughout the crowd. 

Catania pushed forward through the crowd and put her hand in between the two of us which prevented me from putting the rope on his hands. She opened her mouth to speak, but I started before her and put my hand out, pushing her back. 

“Stay out of this Cat. This is government business.” I stared straight at Respato. I couldn’t look at her- it would hurt too badly. 

“Antepi, what are you talking about? You are not a government agent and he has done nothing wrong.” She was so confused and it was crushing me.

“As an Antioch, my job is to preserve the safety of France as I am doing now. And this man is guilty,” in a lower tone I pleaded with her, “Cat, please just stay out of this. I will explain everything later.” 

She stepped back but kept the same defiant look on her face. I tied the rope around his wrists. 

Catania looked at him incredulously. He wasn’t denying it. He knew he was guilty and he couldn’t lie anymore. 

“I’m sorry Respato.” I whispered. 

He nodded and looked in my eyes. He didn’t blame me and knew I had to do it. I pulled the ropes tight and asked one of the men standing there to hold him. 

“I know you all are wondering why I have arrested our chief. What you don’t know is why I went to the Capital. When I went to the Capital, I went there to give my ‘testimony’. I told King Philippe everything I remember from that day, as did Joeté. When questioned, we both remember Respato standing on that hill,” I pointed to the top of the hill, “smiling as Chief Carsho was killed. He told General Adam Jeekis exactly where to find us, the best time  to attack, and the best way to attack. For his traitorous acts against the country of France, he will face life imprisonment with no hope of removal.” I stepped back and took him from the man who was holding him. “We will depart for the Capital in an hour. Anyone who wishes to say their goodbyes may come to my hut in that time.”

 I grabbed Chaga’s reins and pulled her behind me as Respato walked next to me. I stared straight ahead, but I could see him looking at me out of the corner of my eye and I could feel Catania’s eyes boring into the back of my head. I tied Chaga to the post next to my hut and the two of us walked up the steps. I motioned for him to sit down as I prepared  some food. I was starving and the big breakfast that Wanepi served wasn’t enough. Now I wished I had eaten at least something when we had been at breakfast with Philippe.

“How’d you find out?” 

I didn’t turn around but kept working.

“I put two and two together. I’ve had that dream enough times to know what happens in it. I just ignored certain parts. We thought about who had the most to gain, and you were the best candidate. Except for one thing.” I paused. “Sophi. She wasn’t supposed to die, was she?” I heard him sigh.

“No, she wasn’t. I tried to get her to run away, go somewhere safe, protect Senepha, anything. But she said she was protecting Senepha by fighting for her. I didn’t have enough time to tell people not to hurt her. And then she died. After that, I questioned my decision.”

“And my parents? And Cat’s parents? And Carsho? Carsho makes some sense, but you would have become chief in another few years if you had waited. All those people had to die, just for you to become chief? I lost my fiance forever, just for you to become chief. Just for you to have the power. For you to get what you wanted. That isn’t like you, Respato. You were one of my best friends growing up. Why did you do it? How could you do it? A lot more people could have died if we hadn’t stopped them, but a lot of people did die.” 

I pulled the meat off of the small fire and put it on two plates. I untied Respato’s hands and gave him the plate. I knew he wouldn’t run away. He wouldn’t get far, and he knew he was guilty. 

“So why am I not on the way to the gallows?” He took a bite and nodded. “This is really good.”

“Because King Philippe knows you, and I know you are remorseful, and you can be useful in the future.” I stopped when I heard loud footsteps on the front steps. “And here we go.” I muttered. 

Respato heard me and stifled a laugh. Funny how he could find the humor in this situation when it meant that he would never be able to come back here again. 

“Come in! The door is always open.” I called.

The door opened and Catania stood there with her arms crossed, prepared to see us arguing. Her mouth dropped open a little bit when she saw us sitting and eating. 

“The back room is open. Take your food Respato. When you two are done, we are leaving.” 

Catania glared at me and the two of them walked into the back room. I occasionally heard Catania raise her voice, no doubt trying to convince him to do something. I walked to the front steps and called to Honah, one of the men working nearby. “Honah, can you go to Respato’s hut and get all his things? Put them on Argo and bring him here.” Argo, Respato’s horse was a beautiful, huge stallion. He was all black and was bred to be swift and smooth. Chaga and Argo were twins and looked exactly alike, except Chaga has a white star on her chest. Argo was larger and faster, but Chaga was smaller and could fit through tighter spaces. 

I heard Catania’s stomping behind me. I turned around and she was right in front of me. 

“How could you do this? You know how much I care about him.”

“What have I done? I am just doing what Philippe and my sister told me to do.” She looked confused.

“Your sister?”

I nodded casually. “Wanepi.” 

“You can’t be serious. Wanepi is your sister?” Then she hardened again. “But that’s besides the point. I thought that you cared about what I thought.” I stared at her in disbelief.

“What you thought? This isn’t about what you thought, Cat. This isn’t even about what I thought. This is about protecting this country- our country. It wasn’t just me, it was Joeté too. We both remember. And he is not defending himself. He knows he is guilty, and he isn’t going to deny it. I don’t want to do this anymore than you don’t want me to. But it isn’t an option. This is an order that I don’t have a choice in. I have to do this.” I sighed and looked up at the sun. “I’m sorry Cat, but I have to go now.” I paused. “And just so you know, it wasn’t just me and Joeté that remember and know. An English spy slipped up and told us about Respato.” I brushed past her and went into the room. 

I grabbed the rope and Respato held out his hands. “This wasn’t what I wanted.” I told him quietly. 

“It wasn’t what I wanted either. If I could go back and do it all over again, I never would have made that decision.” He said as I tied his hands. “I thought that if I were chief, Sophi would actually care for me again. I thought she would leave Renaglo and come to me. When she died I was devastated. I put Renaglo in the caves because I thought if everyone thought it was him, no one would suspect me. I thought that if I could take everything from him, it would make the pain a little more bearable. I took care of Senepha for a while, but the guilt overwhelmed me, and I couldn’t do it anymore.” He hung his head dejectedly. “I am sorry. I never wanted this many people to die. I didn’t want your parents to die.” He reached into his fur cloak’s hidden pocket  with his hands tied together. He pulled out a key and pressed it into my hands. I stared at it and then looked up at him. He smiled slightly. “Renaglo’s key. I took it and when I was angry I would look at it and feel a little less sad and upset.” I smiled and nodded. “He didn’t deserve what I did to him. Let him free. Let him be the father I tried to be and couldn’t.”

I put my hands on either side of his face and looked up at him. “I hope that one day you may be able to find peace with God. We can never know why things happen. But we can pray that we can come to terms with them and learn from them.”

“You have given me more than I could hope for.” He searched my eyes. “I know this is hard for you. I am sorry. I wish that I had never made this decision.” 

I nodded, the tears welling in my eyes. Only one escaped, but it was enough to make him smile wider. He knew he had touched even my stony core, and it made him happy.  I jerked my head towards the door and he nodded. We both turned and I was surprised to see Catania still standing there. She had been listening the whole time and had a thoughtful, faraway look on her face. She shook herself out of it and looked up at us, her face blank. 

When neither were looking, I wiped the tears from my eyes. This was harder than I had expected it to be. But in a way, it made me feel a little better. I would never stop missing my parents but it made me feel better to arrest Respato. I could rest, knowing that they hadn’t died in vain. 

We walked past Catania and down to where Chaga and Argo were tethered. All Respato’s belongings were on Argo’s back, tied to his saddle. We both mounted up and I grabbed Argo’s reins. 

“Wait,” I said. I got down and called for Senepha. “Senie! Senepha come here! Cemeo hare!” She came running out of Matthias’ hut and ran towards me. I scooped her up in my arms and turned around. “Say goodbye to Tiano* Respato. He is leaving for a long time.” 

I lifted her up and set her in the saddle facing him. He lifted his hands over her head and put them around her. She put her little arms around his neck. His eyes started to glisten with unshed tears. I could hear small sobs coming from Senepha, shaking her body. He nodded his thanks to me and I nodded back. No matter what he had done, Senepha would always be like a daughter to him. 

“I love you Tiano. I hope that you are okay in the big dungeon. Don’t let the rats bite you.” She sucked in a big breath. “When I am big and strong like Tiana Tepi, I will come and visit you, and bring you flowers, and pretty things.” I smiled. 

She understood more about this ordeal than she let on. Respato lifted his arms from around her and smiled at her. 

“I would like that very much. Don’t worry, Aunt Antepi told me I can have a nice cell, without rats.” I hadn’t really told him that, but I had already planned on talking with Philippe about it. 

I reached up and took Senepha, setting her gently on the ground.

“Alright, Senie. We have to go now, but I will be back tonight. Stay with Aunt Hypoleta and stay away from Hannah. If I hear you have talked to Hannah, I am not going to be happy.” 

She nodded and I mounted Chaga again. We set off at a brisk pace up the side of the valley. It was already two o’clock and we needed to be at the castle by at least three. 

We didn’t talk the entire way there because I was pushing so hard. When we could see the palace I slowed us down a little so that we didn’t alarm anyone at the palace. 

“Antepi, I’m sorry, I should have told you this before, but I forgot in all the excitement.” I looked at him curiously. “I didn’t do it this time. This time it was an outside source.” Dread filled my body.

 I stopped the horses.

“What did you do, Respato? What happened?” 

“They sent me a message asking for information, but I told them no.”

“Respato, tell me now!” He hung his head.

“The English. They are coming back. They should be here tomorrow.” I shook my head a little- not again. This could not be happening again. 

 I pushed the horses again and we stormed into the courtyard. I dismounted and motioned for a servant to take Respato’s horse. I held my reins and called for Matthias and Joeté. They had been expecting our arrival and were waiting. 

“We need to go, now.” 

“What’s wrong?” Joeté asked.

“The English are coming back.” I said simply. “We need to get back to Antioch.” 

They both nodded seriously and signaled for some stable hands to get their horses. Joeté ran inside and grabbed what little luggage they had and we were ready. I grabbed the stablemaster’s arm who had heard our conversation.

“Tell Wanepi that all three of us had to leave swiftly, but don’t tell her why until tomorrow night. I can only hope that this all will be over by then.” He nodded and walked at a brisk pace towards the servant’s entrance. 

We all mounted up and rode out of the courtyard. I pulled ahead of them and turned down the wooded path I had taken before. I pushed Chaga to a brisk canter and bent low over her neck. If there were ever a time that she needed to be fast, it was now. The horses held out the whole way home and we traversed the usual two hour trip in half an hour. As the valley came into view I grabbed my horn from where it hung on my saddle and blew it three short times, signaling coming invaders. Joeté and Matthias followed suit and together the three of us sped down the hill into the valley, the people gathering to meet us. 

We all swung out of our saddles and walked to the watchtower. There was a small platform built there for public announcements. I stepped to the middle and raised my voice so that all could hear.

“It has recently come to our attention that the English are marching towards us. The fact that no one has informed us of this until now is beyond my understanding. They will arrive here tomorrow.” Gasps went throughout the crowd for the second time that day. “We need to prepare. You all know what to do.” 

I looked out over the crowd. It had been a long time since we had really banded together. Even with the last attack, not everyone was doing their part. I watched as the mothers herded all the children towards the caves. It was the safest place for them and hard to get to, not to mention hard to find. Men went to the weapon huts and grabbed all their weapons. This was war, and we were holding nothing but death back. No English soldiers would die today, not if we could help it, at least. We tried our best not to kill anyone. Part of me wondered if it would be okay to kill this time, to avenge the deaths of our fallen friends. But no- it still wouldn’t be right. We would turn the other cheek and spare their lives as best we could. 

I turned to Joeté and Matthias. “We need to guard the pass. That is the best way in and out of the valley, and the only way that they could get to us. Coming down the sides would be too risky with that many soldiers, and if they can take the pass, they can take everything.” 

I turned and jumped off the platform. I strode to one of the supply huts and grabbed multiple coils of rope. One of our best defense mechanisms was jumping down the sides of the pass tied to ropes. We could shoot arrows, slash with swords and knock men off their feet if aiming correctly. It was risky, and if we didn’t cut the ropes at the correct time, it could cause immense pain, but we needed to use it. Joeté and Matthias nodded and grabbed some anchors and more rope. We all mounted our horses that were still tied to the platform and rode up the side of the valley to the top of the pass. 

There were a variety of trees lining the edge of the pass that were strong and sturdy. We could attach the ropes and anchors to them and then have less liability of falling. The trees also provided cover so that we could shoot at them, but they couldn’t shoot at us. Once we had secured at least a dozen ropes, I ran down the side of the valley into the gorge. We needed more defense lines. I started running through things in my head. We should start with the archers. They would be up at the top. Before anyone was in the valley, they could all take aim and shoot someone, making it so that they couldn’t fight. Then we would have the spearmen and women come in and fight. Then swordsmen and women could swing down from the top of the pass and do their work, cutting their ropes and continue fighting from the ground. Then the horsemen and women would come in on our biggest horses. 

Now I regretted not bringing Argo back with us. He was the type of horse we needed. The people on horses could be carrying various weapons. Swords, bows and arrows, spears. We would need big horses to carry those weapons, and Argo would have been perfect. But it was too late to change that now. 

We would need some people to stay in the passages leading to the caves for back up so that they could come and get the injured English and put them in cells down in the caves. 

We needed them to think that we were still weak, so the less people in the pass at a time, the better. Most of all, we needed a miracle. 

All the children would spend the night in the caves, waiting until all the English had either retreated, or had been put in cells. The young men and women would take turns on watch. 

I looked out over the valley and took a deep breath. I could hear shouts coming from the huts and different store houses as men yelled back and forth. I saw the women coming out of the caves on the far side of the valley. I searched the women for Cat but didn’t see her anywhere. I sighed and whistled. Chaga came down the side of the valley into the pass.  I mounted and rode toward the house that Cat and Joeté shared. I dismounted and walked quietly up the steps. I knocked in the closed door and looked around, waiting. 

“Come in!” Her voice was muffled. She must have been in the back room. I opened the door quietly and slipped inside.She came out of the back room smiling, then caught sight of me and it quickly turned into a frown. “What do you want?” 

“I guess no one told you then,” I sighed, “the English are coming back. We are preparing right now.” This was the last thing I wanted to do right now. “As your current commanding officer, as the highest ranking in this establishment- only succeeded by Joeté- I order you to go prepare for war.” She looked at me with raised eyebrows and then rolled her eyes.

“Alright then. I see I don’t have a choice.” She set down the bowl she had been carrying and we walked out together. I pointed to the top of the pass. 

“Go up there with Matthias and Joeté and help them prepare.” I grabbed her arm. “I mean this Cat. I will not let this happen a second time. Whatever. It. Takes.” 

I didn’t entirely mean it. I wouldn’t kill, but I wanted to get my point across to her. I was serious, and nothing that was going on in my personal life was going to distract me. I was not about to let Cat and Joeté get in my way. Whatever Joeté felt about fighting his future father-in-law, he could keep it to himself. He would give his all to this fight, and I would make sure of it.

It worked; Catania’s face took on a new look. Not of respect- not yet at least- but one of submission. I mounted my horse and she ran to get her horse, Warmi. 

Warmi had been her horse since we were little and was a fast, reliable horse. I nodded my head and steered Chaga toward the stables. “Sorry girl. I don’t want you to get hurt.” I dismounted outside the stables. They were rarely used except to house the horses we didn’t use as often. My second horse, Amor, was housed there. I had missed him so much. I hadn’t been able to take him with me when I left. Matthias had told me that he had taken care of Amor, but I hadn’t had the time to check on him until now. Amor was a huge stallion, built for war. He was sturdy and strong. He was a chestnut and had no white marks on him. He had sired many foals that would turn out just like him. 

I put Chaga in her stall- usually unoccupied- and took off her saddle and put it on one of the barrels. I brushed her down and gave her some more food. I didn’t know the next time I would be able to make it back here. It could be days, hours… never. I took a deep breath in and let it out. I didn’t know if I would make it out of this battle. I would protect Antioch, no matter what happened, and I would make sure that the English never, ever came back. I just wasn’t sure if I would survive this battle. The thought kept running through my mind, over and over again. I shook my head and walked out of her stall. I closed the door and went to Amor’s stall. He snorted softly and nudged me.

I smiled. I loved Chaga, but I did miss Amor sometimes. Chaga was feisty and full of energy, filled with speed. Amor was affectionate and loyal to the people he trusted. He would let anyone ride him, but he was very picky about how to be controlled. Not many people realized that when they first started riding him, and by the time they did, they didn’t want to ride him ever again. 

On the battlefield he was a strong and sturdy horse. He had stamina that exceeded that of all our horses. He was not afraid of anything, whereas Chaga would get spooked and throw me during a battle. I brushed him down a bit and gave him some special food that would give him extra strength. It also happened to be his favorite food. I rubbed his nose and put my forehead against his head. It was strange, but Amor didn’t appear resentful. I had been gone so long, and many horses would become agitated or less friendly under these kinds of circumstances. I had no doubt it would develop with time, but as this was the first time seeing him again, it had not pushed through. I sighed and stepped back. There was too much to do to be standing alone in a stable with my horse. I slipped out of his stall and closed the door firmly. He had a tendency to push his door open and wander the valley when the door wasn’t shut properly. I went out of the stables and headed towards the pass.

Dusk was starting to fall and I could barely make out the three forms at the top of the hill. I walked up and looked down into the pass. The men and women had set up barriers every few feet. It would take the English a bit to get through them. They were too tall for a horse to jump over and too strong to be pushed over without at least twenty men. The women all were working hard, but they had worried expressions on their faces. I could understand that. They all had children that needed them, and though Senepha wasn’t actually my child, she still needed a mother. If I wasn’t there, who would take care of her? There were many women in the village, but they all had their own children and as much as they loved Senepha, they could not take on another girl. 

Joeté’s voice broke through my thoughts as he called me over to him. I shook myself out of my reverie and looked up at him. He motioned me over with his hand. I walked over to him and looked down in the pass again.

 All the barriers had been set up, but we needed more. Other than the barriers and ourselves, the hidden pockets were our surprise weapon. Someone could hide inside one, open the door, reach out, grab someone, and bring them down a tunnel into the caves. If no one was looking, people could just disappear and no one would know what happened. The doors had been hollowed out so that they were light and we oiled the hinges continually so that they did not creak and were not rusty. They had been there when we first moved to the valley and we only found them because one of the warriors searched the tunnels leading to the caves. That had been over seventy years ago, and since then, we had continued to improve them. They were hidden perfectly and they provided cover for any injured warriors. They only opened from the inside with the handles, but from the outside, you had to push a hidden button. When you pushed the button, a catch on the inside released, and the door opened. They had little holes in them that you could look through and see what was going on outside.They were complicated and sometimes hard to use, but if we could use them well enough, those doors could be the difference between winning and losing. Joeté looked toward the back of the pass thoughtfully. 

“We need to find something to block them off. If they can retreat through the entrance to the pass, then they will win every time, because they have a way to retreat.” I nodded. 

“We need them to think we are weak.” I thought for a moment. “What if while the horsemen and women are coming through, our extra men and women that aren’t already fighting will circle to the back and attack from there? The English would have no idea and they couldn’t retreat. But we would have to wait until everyone is inside the pass.” I called to Honah, who was down in the pass, as well as Catania. They came up to the top and stood solemnly before us.

“What do you need?” Honah asked. 

“We are going to need scouts to make sure that the English don’t have more soldiers that can back them up. The two of you will set out before dawn tomorrow and scout for the English. When you see them, Catania, you come back and alert us. Honah you stay there and watch them. Cat, you will then return to Honah and help him.” 

I looked at the sky. The sun had gone away completely  and it was becoming too dark to see. “But for now, go tell everyone to head to the huts. We will have our usual men up in the watchtower and  treat it just like a normal night. “ I searched the pass and then looked up at Joeté. “Where is Hannah?” Before he could answer, Cat cut in.

“She is down in the caves. She said she would entertain the children, although many of them are already asleep,” she glanced at Joeté before continuing. “For once, I actually appreciate her. I think that she is trying to protect them. If the English find the caves, she can stand at the entrance and no one will harm her, thus protecting the kids.” 

I nodded and gave her a small smile. She  smiled ever so slightly, but it was enough. It was going to be a long road to restoring our friendship, but we were taking steps.