Chapter Fourteen- Battle for Antioch

I looked around. Everyone was hidden in some way. The archers and anyone swinging down were hidden at the top of the pass. There were warriors in every available pocket. The rest of us were gathered at the edges of the pass, out of sight. The barriers stopped about twenty feet from the entrance to the valley so that if the English broke through the last one, they were not right upon the valley. A group of twenty warriors were hidden near the back of the pass as well. They would enter the pass after all the English were inside and cut off their escape route. 

I heard the faint tramping of boots. Hundreds of boots, shaking the ground with their weight. They were close. 

Catania and Honah rode up behind us quietly, their faces taut with worry. 

“How many are there?” I whispered. I was on the top of the pass and had a good vantage point but I wouldn’t be able to tell how many soldiers there were until they were all inside the pass. 

“At least three hundred. They are well organized, but they have no guns. They have spears and bows and arrows as well as swords. They are going to try and beat us with our own weapons.” Honah replied, the last statement filled with contempt. I nodded thoughtfully.

“With guns, they would beat us instantly. There is nothing we can do against guns except use our shields, and then we can not get close enough to hurt them. They are trying to give us a chance, so that if they win, they can rub in Philippe’s face even more.” I managed a small smile. “If only they knew what they have coming.” I squinted up at the sun. About nine o’clock. Hopefully this would be over before any troops from the Capital could come and wreak havoc. If anyone from the Capital were to try to interfere, everything would be ruined. We might win, but too many people would die. 

I heard the cracking of the first barrier. They were going to try to break it. I smiled a little at their ignorance. I moved down the pass towards them, my footsteps falling unheard on the grass. I could see them trying to climb it, but it was sanded down so that it was slippery and the top was rounded so that they could not get a hold on it. Finally they all started pushing it and hacking at it with axes. It finally crumbled, and a cheer filled the air. Until they saw the next barrier, which- although they did not know this- was even thicker than the first. I crept back to Joeté, Cat, and Honah and told them what I had seen. From where we stood, we could see the second barrier and could see them trying to climb over once again. Suddenly one man was hoisted over and landed on the ground. He yelled back to the men on the other side and a cheer went up. Then suddenly, one of our warriors slipped out of his pocket, snuck up behind the man and pulled him back into the pocket by his neck. Another man was hoisted over and once again, the man in the pocket on the other side pulled him in. Unfortunately, that was all the men we could take until the men that grabbed them got back from the caves. A shout came from the other side of the barrier and when no one answered, they started battering it again. Once it crumbled they looked around confusedly when no one was there. 

When they had gotten through the fifth barrier, all the English were inside the pass.  They were packed together tightly with little room for movement. 

I ran swiftly to the hidden group and told them to quietly circle to the back. I hurried back to my position and held my hand up to the archers. 

I studied the pass, taking in all the soldiers. I narrowed my eyes. Something seemed strange. In the middle of the soldiers was a small chariot. Inside it was a man and a person sitting with a bag over their head. My breath caught in my throat. General Adam Jeekis. He could not stay away, could he? 

But who was the person under the hood? They did not appear to be struggling, but they were awake. I could see their hands moving as they pushed themself into a more upright position. I could tell Joeté had noticed the person as well, because his eyes were trained on them. 

  looked up and down the pass carefully and made sure that everything was ready. I dropped my hand and instantly thirty arrows flew through the air. At the same time, a commotion from the entrance to the pass caused their soldiers to look behind them, not even paying attention to the arrows that were about to hit them. Every arrow met its mark and thirty men fell to the ground, clutching legs, arms, and stomachs. The men that had not gotten hit looked around confusedly. 

A man moved in front of the General and shielded him with an enormous shield. 

The person with the bag on their head looked around wildly and squirmed to try and move around. 

I swung my arm in a full circle and the warriors on ropes backed up, ran forward, and jumped down the cliff. I peeked over the edge and watched as they swung down and slashed at the soldiers with their swords. They cut their ropes and landed on the ground ready to fight. 

They fought with a passion, determined to protect Antioch. A few warriors broke the barrier down with the special clubs that we had devised to destroy the barriers quickly. Fighting men quickly filled the space, leaving the perfect opportunity for the warriors in those pockets. I could faintly hear the general shouting orders to his men. 

I frowned. As long as they had some sort of order, they would win every time. We had to separate the general from his men. We had tied some extra rope in case anyone else needed to jump. I tied one to my waist and backed up. Joeté looked at me quizzically. 

“As long as Jeekis is giving them orders, they are going to win. We need to separate the alpha from the pack.” He nodded. “I need you to tell the others to go into the pockets and help fight. We are putting everyone out now.  I can see men that are injured. We need the retrieval men to come and take them to the caves. And we have to do it quickly.” 

I backed up a few more feet and took a deep breath. I ran forward and jumped off the edge. I fell through the air for a moment, before the rope tightened. I swung down towards the general. I could see nothing but my target. 

 I slammed my sword into the general’s shield as hard as I could. The man behind it stumbled back a little, but stayed standing. Before I hit the ground, I cut my rope. I ran back to the chariot.

“Protect the prisoner.  I can handle her.” The general told the man guarding him. 

The man moved the shield around the bagged person. Whoever this prisoner was, they must be important. I wondered why they had not taken their hood off, but then I saw that although they were not tied together; their hands were tied to their waist, preventing them from reaching that far up. I could also see that they were the hands of a woman. I pushed it to the back of my head and focused on Jeekis. 

“And who might you be?” He advanced, a sword in his hand. 

“My name? My name doesn’t matter. All that matters now is that you learn some lessons. Lesson number one? Killing is never the answer. Lesson number two? Never cross an Antioch twice.” I hit his sword, throwing him off balance. 

I pushed forward, backing him against the edge of the chariot. I pushed harder. He was bending over backwards out of the chariot. A look of panic crossed his face, but it was soon replaced by a smile. I realized too late that there was someone behind me. I gasped as a sharp pain filled my right bicep. I whirled around to find an English soldier with a sword behind me. I felt the fire rising in me again. I glared at the man and sliced through his calf, almost cutting through his entire leg. He moaned in pain and fell to the ground. 

When I turned back around, Jeekis was no longer in front of me, but I could still see him guarded by several men. 

I looked down at my arm. Bright red blood spurted from a deep incision in my skin. I tried to examine it, but without a little cleaning, I couldn’t see it. I could tell he had not hit the bone, but he had gotten close. That one was definitely going to scar. I tried to lift my arm, but without some bandaging, it was of no use. 

I grimaced and ran to the nearest pocket, hoping one of the nurses was just returning from the caves. I pushed the button and slipped inside. Mica, one of our best nurses, was just entering from the other side. She looked up with alarm. 

“I just need a bandage, and quickly. I’m fine, it’s nothing, but I can’t lift my arm if I don’t get it bandaged.” I rushed to get the words out before she could protest. She nodded and pulled a bandage out of her bag. She wrapped my arm tightly and pressed a metal band into my hand. I looked down at it curiously. 

“It will protect the bandage, as well as the wound. Even after you take the bandage off, you should wear it for protection. I’m not sure how bad the wound is but if it’s as bad as the amount of blood is indicating, then you will need it protected at all times. If it gets reopened after it’s healed, you could lose your arm and possibly your life.” 

I nodded and put the band on. 

I grabbed the handle and pushed the door back open. I tested my grip on my right hand and lifted my arm again. Good as new. 

I slipped out and was about to shut the door when Mica put her hand out and stopped me. She nodded towards a soldier fighting Matthias who was edging closer to us. I reached out and pulled the soldier backwards. Mica grabbed him from me and pulled the door closed. Matthias nodded to me and turned to continue fighting. I heard yells as more of our warriors swung down from the sides of the pass. Our archers were shooting left and right, always hitting their targets perfectly. I ran to where I could see the general and started attacking one of his guards. 

“Haska, Joeté!” I yelled. They both turned to look and at me. “Taki thesma donse.*” 

“You heard her! Take them down!” Joeté yelled to Haska as the two of them charged at the tight circle of soldiers. I slashed at one man bringing him to the ground trying to hold both his injured arms at the same time. The circle tightened. Joeté and Haska each brought down another man. The circle got even tighter. We could have touched the general if we wanted to. Suddenly I felt myself being choked as I was dragged backwards. Joeté and Haska stopped fighting. 

“Go. Keep fighting.” I managed to gasp out. They both nodded and turned back to the circle around the general. But during their moment of hesitation, more men had come to the general’s aid. I had to get back and help them. 

I could feel all the oxygen leaving my lungs. I couldn’t hold out much longer. I leaned forward but the man leaned back preventing me from flipping him over my shoulder. I leaned back and jumped, supporting myself on his arms. I slammed back down to the ground and threw him over my shoulder as hard as I could. He landed on the ground with a groan. I grabbed my sword from where it had fallen and cut a deep incision in his leg. He screamed and writhed a little, then passed out from the pain. I bent down and checked his pulse. Strong. He was still alive. I looked around to find someone to take him to the caves, but none of the nurses were around. Suddenly I felt a hand on my shoulder. I whirled around, ready to fight, but was surprised to see a familiar face. 

“Titro? What are you doing here?” I gasped.  

“Save it for later Antepi. I will take him to the caves.” He winked and I nodded. 

He picked the man up and opened a pocket. 

Gracia and Pasha slipped out and then he slipped in. Gracia smiled at me and pulled out her whips. Before Hypoleta came, Gracia had been the best with whips. This would be an interesting meeting. 

Pasha pulled a bow and arrows off his back and pulled an arrow taut against his bow string. Though he had been young when they left, he had started training early and knew what he was supposed to do in a battle. Gracia swung her whip and caught a man across the stomach, wrapping her whip around him. She pulled hard and he spun in towards her. When he was close she lifted her leg and kicked him in the stomach. He grabbed it and groaned. Pasha shot an arrow and it went into his leg. I nodded and smiled at him. 

Shasha had always felt on the outside when he was younger because he was adopted. He was fifteen and almost my age, so he was more like a cousin than a nephew. Titro and Gracia had adopted him shortly after they were married because his parents had both died when he was eight. They had adopted him about three months after his parents died and he had always felt like he didn’t belong because he did not have parents. His mother was a regular french woman and his father an Antioch. His mother had named him Pasha before talking to his father, and did not know that we also called our fathers Pasha. When we were younger, we always called him Shasha to avoid confusion.

Mica came out of another pocket nearby and picked the man up, slinging his arm over her shoulder. She smiled at Gracia and nodded at Shasha. 

I heard a yell and turned to see Hypoleta backed against the wall with no escape. She couldn’t draw her sword and her whips were of no use at this point. I grabbed an arrow from Pasha’s quiver and flung it into the man’s arm. I pulled another out and threw it into his leg. He gasped, groaned, and fell to the ground. Another one of our nurses ran and pulled him into a pocket. Hypoleta nodded her thanks to me and went back to fighting after throwing a curious glance at Gracia and Pasha. I had forgotten that she had never met them and did not know who they were. Pasha looked at me admiringly.  

“How did you do that? I’ve never seen someone throw an arrow like that.” 

I laughed. “I will have to show you later. After we stop these soldiers.” He nodded and pulled out another arrow. 

Then my leg exploded in pain as a spear drove into it. I screamed- an unusual occurrence for me- and dropped to my knees, which only made it hurt worse. Pasha looked down at me, a shocked expression on his face. Gracia came down beside me and took a bandage out of a small pouch tied around her waist. She started wrapping my calf tightly, leaving the spear in place. Once it was almost completely wrapped, she yanked the spear out and wrapped the rest even tighter.

I clenched my jaw and grimaced.

“You need to go to the caves Tepi. You have to get help.” I shook my head and looked down at it. 

“It is not that deep. I can manage until the end of this.” I looked into her eyes pleadingly. “I have to.” She helped me up, a worried expression on her face, but handed me my sword and let me go. I limped for a few steps before walking normally again. I could see Joeté and Haska still fighting the General’s guards. 

I ran over and faced one of the men. He had a ‘you again’ look on his face and it only fueled my determination. I bent low and tried to cut one of his legs but he jumped and landed in a crouched position. I stepped on his bent leg and pulled myself up onto his shoulders. He spun around trying to get me off until we were facing the general, rather than having our backs to him. I leaned backwards and stretched my hands toward the ground, pulling my legs towards my head. I back handspringed over, bringing him around with me and slamming him into the ground. I took the rope that was still tied around my waist and tied his hands behind his back. 

Titro ran up and pulled him to his feet. He slipped inside a pocket and was gone. 

I turned back to the general. He looked scared as his number of soldiers diminished. I saw his lips move as he told the few men left guarding him something, but he spoke so quietly, even I could not hear. I watched as they slowly inched back to the chariot, where a soldier was still guarding the prisoner. If they were trying to leave, then so be it, as long as they never came back. I almost turned, ready to walk away. But they didn’t try to ride away through the fight. Instead, they held up the prisoner, about to take her hood off. A horse brushed right by me as Joeté rode directly towards the chariot, ready to grab the general and sweep him off his feet.

“Joeté! No!” I screamed, but he didn’t pay any attention. 

I could see an English soldier with a bow and arrow aimed directly at Joeté. Joeté was so focused on the general that he didn’t see the man.

 I ran and jumped off a small stump on the ground in front of Joeté and his horse right as the man released the arrow. It grazed my side, cutting through my leather over shirt, but not my undershirt. I landed hard on my side and grunted. I pulled myself to my feet and rubbed my side. I had managed to land on my side and lower arm and had not on the bandage. I pressed a little and winced- my side was going to ache for weeks. I saw the glint of a sword in the sun out of the corner of my eye and turned right as a soldier came at me. I lifted my sword and it clashed with his but I was lower and he had the upper hand, quite literally. He  pushed down on the sword with all his strength, pushing me down to my knees. I tried to push back, but I was not as strong as him. I looked around quickly, trying to see if there was any other defense. Seeing none, I swung my right leg and swept him off his feet, his sword coming within inches of my ear but not touching me. 

I leapt to his side and kicked his stomach as hard as I could. He groaned and rolled onto his back, trying to get up and fight more.

“I am leaving you with your life. Be grateful and stay down.” I put a hand on his shoulder. “God still has plans for your life.” 

He groaned and flopped back onto his back. I pulled him to his feet and dragged him to a pocket slowly. He was limp and made it hard. Something told me that he did not want to be here. 

“What is your name?” I asked once inside the pocket. He was slumped against the wall as I leaned over him.

“Marcus.” He replied faintly. 

“Marcus, wait here until someone walks in and then go with them to our caves. Tell them that Antepi put you here.” He nodded and closed his eyes. I yelled down the passageway. “Somebody come help this guy! He is giving up, and without help, he is not going to make it much longer.” I heard footsteps running towards us. 

I pushed the door open and ran back out into the fighting. Jeekis was surveying the pass, and seemed to be counting how many men he had left. There were at least thirty soldiers. 

Haska grabbed another man and dragged him into a pocket.  I ran up to a soldier that was looking around, as if trying to find someone to fight. He had no weapon, but as soon as he saw me, he came flying at me with his fists. Before I could react, he hit my cheek with his clenched fist. My head snapped back as I staggered backwards. I shook it off and punched him in the nose. His nose started bleeding, but he kept standing and didn’t back down. He came at me again, but this time, I ducked and he swung for the air. I spun around as I came back up and kicked his side. He stepped to the side a bit and grabbed his side, but still did not give up.

I glared at him. He was starting to be a nuisance. After Marcus, I had hoped that more would be like him; unwilling to be here, unwilling to keep fighting, ready to surrender. I lifted my hand to rub one of my injuries and then stopped myself. I did not want to show weakness. My cheek felt as if it were falling off and my arm was starting to feel numb. My leg burned like fire and I was tired. I shook my head slightly. No, I was not tired and my injuries did not hurt. I grit my teeth. I would make it through this fight, no matter the physical cost. I moved forward slightly and punched his eye. He put his hand over it and gasped. I stepped back and kicked his stomach again. He groaned and fell backward. His face was distorted with the pain. He put his hands up in a defensive position. I got down on my knees next to him and helped him sit up. 

“You would be a good Antioch. After you are all healed, I will come and talk to you. If you insist on staying English, there is not much I can do for you, but if you take the oath, then I can be of great help to you. And you can be of great help to France.” He nodded.

“Thank you for sparing my life.” My eyes widened. This man was French. He laughed a little. “Yes, I am French. My mother was French, but my father was English. We moved to England when I was twelve.” I nodded. Something about this man was familiar. I would have to figure it out later. I helped him stand up and walked to another pocket. 

“Stay here.” Then Titro came out of the passageway. “Take him. Make sure he gets some medical attention quickly.” Titro nodded and put the man’s arm over his shoulder as I snuck back out. 

I strode to the middle of the pass and looked around. As I turned, my eyes met Jeekis’s eyes. He pushed the prisoner forward and lifted his hand to pull the hood off. I braced myself as he pulled it off. 

He smiled maliciously as a collective gasp echoed through the pass. 

It was Jarika, Joeté and Catania’s mother. I saw Joeté staring at her, but couldn’t find Cat anywhere. Jeekis held a sword to her back, ready to kill her. His voice rose above the din of the battle. 

“If the Antiochs do not surrender immediately, we will kill Jarika, one of your own.” I looked straight into Jarika’s eyes and she stared right back into mine. I could feel her telling me to fight. To give it all I had and fight. Something she had told Catania and I once long ago came back to my mind. 

You do not ever surrender. There is always another way. When they say to back down, you stand your ground and you fight. You refuse, and if it gets you killed, then you died for something you believed in. When someone says move, you give them all you’ve got and you move, but you move forward. You move towards them and back them into the corner. You make them surrender. Sneak up on them if you have to, but you make them move just like they told you to.

Then I knew where Cat was. I nodded and walked slowly towards the chariot until I stood directly in front of it. I could feel Jeekis’s eyes follow me the entire way, but I kept looking straight at Jarika. 

Suddenly the hairs on the back of my neck lifted and I could feel someone’s breath on my hair. I didn’t turn around

but waited until the man was right behind me. I lifted my elbow and hit him on his chin, knocking him out. Jeekis’s eyes opened a little wider, but he didn’t move his hand, or release the sword. 

“We will never surrender. We will never give in nor give up. We will fight, even if it means you slaughter us. Even if it means you destroy every trace of Antioch, we won’t back down. You can threaten, and you can kill, but you cannot have France. Go ahead and destroy us, but we will never really die. There will always be more of us, and we will just keep coming back. You came here today thinking this would be easy, that we would be afraid of you. You are so wrong.” I could see Catania creeping up behind him and his guards. I had to keep them occupied. The other soldiers behind me, though facing the same way, were further back and couldn’t see her. “As you look around, what do you notice? Not a single soldier under your command is dead. Is this because we are afraid, or are not capable of killing? No, we aren’t afraid, but we won’t kill to win this battle. And we won’t let you kill either.” 

Catania jumped and grabbed Jeekis by his stomach. She wrapped her arms around him and leaned backwards, pulling him down with her. He dropped the sword as he fell, and Catania turned so that she landed on top of him. I ran and vaulted over the chariot’s front. I grabbed Jarika and we both dove back over the front of the chariot. I grabbed a shield that had been laying on the ground and pulled it in front of us. 

“You had to come back with a commotion, didn’t you? You couldn’t just ride in and say, ‘I’m home, I’m not dead, let’s get things back to normal’? You always did like the big and dramatic.” We both laughed as I cut the rope off her waist.

“What can I say, I couldn’t have just walked in like a normal person. I had to cause an uproar.” We both stood up and saw all the soldiers headed towards us. I looked at her. 

“Throw me?” I raised an eyebrow and smiled. 

She nodded and ran down in front of me. She crouched, the shield covering her head and back. I ran towards her and put my foot on the shield. “Now!” I shouted, and she pushed up on the shield. I flew through the air feet first and kicked one of the men in the stomach. The rest of the men stepped back with shocked expressions. The man I had hit grunted and fell backwards. Jarika threw the shield and it hit another man in the neck, knocking him out. The shield came to rest next to me.

 I swung my sword around and sliced two of the soldier’s legs. They both fell to the ground and the soldiers took yet another step back. 

“Surrender, now.” I glared at all of them, daring them to defy me. One of them started to put his sword down, but the man next to him grabbed his arm. 

“Are you crazy, Seton? Jeekis will kill you.” The soldier- Seton- shook the other man off. 

“Something tells me this girl will beat him to it if we don’t surrender.” Seton looked into my eyes. “Am I wrong?” 

“I won’t kill any of you, I will just make sure that you never come out of a dark prison cell. Ever.” 

The man’s forehead wrinkled for a moment. I glanced at the rest of the men. They should be reacting more. They would rather kill Seton than let him surrender. 

I tensed and bent down slowly to pick up the shield. 

Out of the corner of my eye I could see Jarika start creeping slowly towards Cat and Jeekis, who were still struggling on the ground. I was on my own.

 “Do I look like a fool? Do you really believe that I would trust you?” 

I threw the shield at an angle, hitting three of the soldiers as it flew through the air. It landed once again at my feet. Shields were better at richoeting than I had thought.

Seton and the three remaining men stepped closer together and held their swords out in front of them defensively.  As I stepped towards them, they stepped back. For every one step I took, they would take two or three. 

I smirked. “Not so brave now, are you? I have seen right through your trickery, and you have nothing to hide behind now.” Their faces clouded with fear briefly, but were quickly replaced by determined looks. 

“Well, you French are smarter than I gave you credit for. I thought you would have believed me and put down your sword.” Seton replied snidely.

I rolled my eyes. “You picked the wrong people to attack. We have been attacked and they almost destroyed us. They came so close to vanquishing us.” I looked at the four of them, staring each in the eye before continuing. “We aren’t going to let it happen again.” I backed up and started running towards them. At the same time they started running towards me, all of us running head on toward each other. They all jumped to get the advantage of higher ground, but I ducked and slid. I caught myself and stood up, turning as I went. Before they could react and turn back to face me, I grabbed the back of Seton’s shirt and pulled him to me. 

I pulled my dagger from where it was strapped to my shoe and held it against his throat. 

“Put down your weapons. Now.” I waited as they threw their weapons down, obviously forgetting what I had said before. I stepped forward and kicked their weapons behind me. I pushed Seton and he stumbled back to them. I started to advance when suddenly a scream filled the air. It wasn’t a scream of terror, but a scream of anger.I looked around wildly, trying to find the person who had emitted the sound. 

Hannah stood in the middle of the pass, her face clouded with anger. I followed her gaze- or more glare- to where Jeekis and Catania where still struggling. They rolled on the ground, each trying to get on top of the other and gain the upper hand. Jarika stood next to them, her face clouded with concern. She couldn’t do anything for fear that she would hit Cat, but I could tell it was hard for her to stand by. Hannah started walking towards the two, her fury clouding her judgement. 

I ran in front of Hannah and tried to stop her.

“Hannah- you can not go near them. Your father will do anything to win this war- even if it means harming you. He will stop at nothing.” She tried to push around me but I planted my feet and grabbed her shoulders. “If you go in there now, you will die. If you walk into this fight- if you start fighting- you will not walk out of this. Not because I don’t believe that you can’t fight- I know you can- but because you are fighting to get revenge on your father.” She stopped trying to resist me and looked at me, a crestfallen look on her face. “I know that is why you are doing this. It is because your father forced Joeté to propose to you even when he did not care for you. But getting revenge is never worth it! It is never going to be worth the pain that it causes. It will never satisfy you. You will end up with a larger hole in your heart than the one you started with. Nothing is going to change the past- that has been proven to me a thousand times over- but you can decide the future. Your future.”

“He’ll kill Cat if someone doesn’t intefere.” 

“Nothing is going to happen to Cat- I’m going to make sure of it.” 

 She nodded hesitantly and put her hand on my shoulder before turning and running back into a pocket. 

“Be careful Antepi.” I heard her call back the tumult.  

I turned back to face Seton and the other men, who stood transfixed, watching Jeekis and Catania struggling on the ground. 

I threw my dagger and it sliced the side of Seton’s arm before it stuck into the chariot directly in front of them. I ran forward to where their weapons were still on the ground and picked up a sword.  I cut a man’s leg and he fell to the ground gasping in pain. Seton fell next to him, the shock of what had happened finally registering. 

“Two more Antepi. Two more.” Two more rang through my head, filling my thoughts and mind. The two men still stood staring at their general, not even noticing their fallen comrades. This was going to be easier than I had anticipated.  I jumped on one of the  men’s back and wrapped my arms and legs around his arms. I pulled them back until they stretched out straight and were imobile. He turned in circles trying to get me off but to no avail. The other man finally woke from his reverie and tried to punch what little of me he could see. I jerked and he punched the man I was holding onto in the neck. 

“Oh, I am so sorry! I thought that I would hit her! Just hold still.” He came at us again and again I jerked and this time he hit the man in the cheek. “I am really sorry. Just stop moving!” 

“I am not trying to! It is the girl. She keeps jerking my arms around and moving me.” 

I tightened my hold around his arms, and pulled myself together until I was as small as I could be. He gasped in pain as his arms were pulled even further backwards. They extended to their full length and I could feel his muscles straining from the weight and pressure on them. When I could feel his muscles finally starting to weaken as he could no longer hold my weight, I let go of him. I dropped to the ground and pushed against his legs, causing him to trip backwards over me. He tried to push himself up but fell back onto his back as his arms gave way from lack of strength. The other man advanced cautiously towards me, his fists up in a defensive position. 

“You haven’t learned a bit.” I shook my head. “Just surrender. It will make things much easier for both of us.” This time he shook his head.

“Do you even understand loyalty?” He swung a punch at me, but I ducked. “You do not surrender because it makes things easier for your opponent. You wish to make things harder, not easier.” 

“I understand loyalty. I could surrender right now to make things easier for you and me.  But I also understand that sometimes there are things that are worth surrendering for.” I tried to kick his legs out from under him but he jumped. “Like life.” He swung at my face and I leaned out of the way. “Love.” We swung at each other, neither of us getting the upper hand. I stepped forward and kicked his stomach as hard as I could. He fell over and I stood next to him, looking down at him. “And freedom.” I grabbed a rope that was lying on the ground and tied his hands up. I turned to see Pasha picking up the other man and tying his arms gently, trying not to hurt his arms. Pasha always was considerate and kind to others. “Pasha!” He turned to look at me, his blonde hair shimmering in the sun. It looked out of place among this war. I had always admired his hair when we were young. It was such a bright and golden blonde that everywhere he went, it shone like the sun. 

I shook my head. It was a strange thing to think about in a battle field, but it gave me some hope. If the sun could still shine, even on such a day, then we could keep living after this, no matter the outcome. 

“Take this man with you?” He nodded and came over to grab the man’s wrists. 

“Keep hoping Antepi. It is the only thing that will get us through this.” I looked at him curiously. Had he read my thoughts from my face? Was I really that readable? He grinned and turned away. I shook my head again and surveyed the pass yet again. Everyone was engaged in combat.

I ran to where Catania and Jeekis were fighting. They had struggled to their feet and both had their swords drawn. I stepped up beside Catania with a sword I had found on the ground. 

“Lesson number three? We never stop coming.” 

His eyes narrowed, pinning first Catania and then me with his glare. 

Catania and I stepped forward simultaneously but Jeekis held his ground. He knew from experience that we didn’t kill and knew that we wouldn’t seriously harm him. He knew that we needed him and the information too much to give him any injuries that he could die from. He already had a cut over his eye from his struggle with Cat but other than that, he looked unharmed. We stepped forward, both of us stepping to one side trying to get on either side of him but still trying to make sure that he didn’t run forward. He raised his blade to slice at me but I lifted my sword and our blades clashed. I pushed towards him, throwing him off balance and almost on top of Catania. She kicked his back and he stumbled back towards me. He stood directly in front of me, his face reflecting the shock of being beaten and thrown around by two young girls. 

“Learned anything yet?” 

He shook his head and seemed to regain his senses. “You French think I do not understand. You think I have not learned. But I have learned. I’ve learned that you all are weak. You are driven by your righteousness and your ‘freedom’ but you never achieve that freedom because you won’t kill. You can drive us out time and time again, but you will never be rid of us because you refuse to kill us. War is a dangerous, bloody time and sometimes you will kill.” He tried to catch Cat off guard by spinning around quickly, but she was ready and countered it. “I have focused all my attention on the French for years. I have sent spies, had newspapers sent back to me. I know what your people think, and I know how you work. I know every little detail about your people.”

“Good. Then you will know that you killed or took away everyone we loved the most. You took my fiance, you killed my parents, you forced me to flee, thinking that my brothers had all been killed. You killed my sister-in-law, had my brother put in prison by your little helper. But here I am,” The words came out bitterly, “and I will never let you do that again. Though you will leave this battle with your life, you will never be considered a free man again.” Our blades crashed together again as I lifted mine and hit it against his, pushing him back yet again. I twisted my sword and his flew out of his hand onto the ground a few feet away. “On your knees, now.” He knelt down, his hands up as if to ward off any blows. I kept my sword pointed at him as Catania tied his hands. She pulled him roughly to his feet. 

“I will take him to the caves.” I nodded and she turned, dragging him behind her, to one of the doors. As men and women caught sight of Jeekis being pulled into a pocket, cheers went up throughout the pass. I looked around the pass as one by one, the soldiers started surrendering. They had no leader now that Jeekis had been captured. As they were led willingly to the caves, the pass slowly emptied. Suddenly I was alone in the pass. My vision started to blur. I looked down at my arm.  The blood had soaked through the bandage and stood out against the metal of the band. 

“Antepi!” I looked behind me and saw Joeté. I could feel myself weakening. Through my haze I saw him running towards me as I dropped to the ground. Then everything went black.