Water dripped from the ceiling of the cave, running through Raven’s hair. She led her children into the back of the caverns with the rest of the Zeil. Touching their heads gently, she spoke softly to them. “My children, stay hidden here and listen to your elders. I will return soon.”
“Be careful,” Tonna cried, “I don’t want to lose you too.”
“You won’t,” she fought back tears as they formed in her eyes. Kissing her children on their foreheads, she turned and rushed out of the caves.
Soldiers were heading toward them. That nasty woman had sent word to Murdock’s army about the thievery of the tribe. Most likely, things were exaggerated into murders and pillaging. Her heart sped as she moved quickly toward the camp of the Zeil soldiers.
Once she neared them, she watched Kane as he stood ahead of them. His strong stature reflected in the men watching him. “We are not here to defeat them but to keep them from our family,” he said. “There is no possibility we can win against them…But so long as our people survive, I am fine with that.”
“I will do whatever it takes,” one of the men replied.
Kane nodded as the men departed. He looked over, finding Raven in heavy, leather armor with bits of shining metal and a sword slung to her hip. One of his brows lowered as he said, “You are fighting?”
She rolled her eyes. It was unnecessary to answer. “Kane,” she paused, unsure of how to go about what she was hoping to say.
“I know,” he breathed deeply, “This entire thing is because of me. I caused this woman so much pain that she has to target all of you.”
“No,” she cut in, but he continued…
“If there was a way I could fix this…I would even give my own life,” he said.
“Kane, listen to me,” she chirped. “I do not blame you for this woman’s foolishness. I was actually going to tell you not to feel guilt. You are one of us, and we do not see any wrong in what you’ve done to her.”
He rested a massive hand on her shoulder as he said, “Thank you, woman.”
"Raven, is your sword sharp?" Harl asked as he passed by.
"Always," she smiled. She looked back to Kane, saying, "Whatever happens today. Know this: You are a brave man. And no matter the outcome, I know you've done everything in your power to protect us."
A very weak smile touched him as he gripped her shoulder. Then, they both turned to lead the warriors.
Hours irked by as the small Zeil army hid on the high hills. They held bows, watching for the unwanted soldiers in the lower fields. Kane sat atop his horse, brightly colored feathers in his hair to signify his importance. He, Raven, and a few other swordsmen waited in the fields for the confrontation.
Soon, they were near, the soldiers wearing blue and gold. His grip tightened on his reigns as he watched. A messenger ran to him, speaking loudly. “This tribe is wanted for pillaging, murder, and thievery.”
“They are false accusations,” Kane replied sternly. “I ask you to reconsider.”
The boy ran back and spoke with the general for a moment. Finally rushing back, he replied, “They will not reconsider. You are to be imprisoned or executed. The choice is yours.”
“I was afraid of that,” he sighed. He looked to the hills where the archers waited.
That was their cue.
Arrows fell upon the men, bouncing off armor, piercing through flesh. A few horses fell, dead, their riders pinned. Once the arrows stopped, Kane and his soldiers charged. It was a suicide mission…but he forced himself to move forward.
After only one brutal hour of battle, the Zeil were pinned down, tied up, and tossed into the king’s army’s camp. The tribesmen were broken up, individually interrogated to find the rest of the tribe.
The general, Tron, walked through the camp, passing the little fires where groups of soldiers had gathered. He’d watch as some of the Zeil were beaten nearly to death. Finally, he came to a stop as he saw a beautiful woman. She sat, wearing her armor, her face beaten and tufts of hair lying at her side. Her back was erect and her expression was blank, pose for some tears in her eyes.
“Why are you ripping hair from her head?” he barked at the soldier in charge of her.
“She is doing it to herself,” he responded.
He stared her down as she glared at him. Without flinching, she slowly reached up, took a small handful of hair and pulled it from her head. Dots of blood surfaced on her scalp beneath the rest of her hair.
“Every time I ask her, she does that,” he growled.
“Leave,” Tron demanded. The man stood and left. Tron took the prior man’s seat, an upturned log. “I am sure you have children, no?” he said. She remained unmoved. “If they were to be found…without anyone’s help…I am sure they would be killed along with the others.”
She was still unmoved and he stood. “However…if you help me…I will help you. Give me the location of your tribe and I will keep your children. My wife is barren and would raise them in a good home….A much better chance than them dying.”
Raven stared at him as he walked away. Her heart shattered and her body gave way. Her children was all she had anymore. Chances were…She knew the chances of their tribe surviving was, well, nonexistent.
Standing, she said, “I will tell you, only if you do not kill them. Any of them.” He faced her once more. “Imprison them if you must, for you’ll see the truth behind the fables this woman fed you.”
The man seemed to smile at her response, though his lips did not curl. Sitting back down, he said with a much more pleasant tone, “Please, do tell.”