Two men appeared out of nowhere, a few yards apart in the narrow, moonlit lane and I felt my heart stop in my chest. They were here for a reason…the small package that was presently occupying my left hip.
They wanted her.
I crouched low in the underbrush and said a prayer to every god I knew that the small child would not stir. Our lives depended on it for surely if the two ‘men’ would discover us, everything would be lost. They would think nothing of rendering me to ash instantly. The fate of the babe, however, would be far worse.
Danella stayed quiet; she knew what was at stake. Her knowledgeable eyes focused on our enemies. Her small chubby hands firmly grasping my hair. Together, we waited.
The men turned our way and I feared they sensed us, as if my screaming mind had given us away. I willed every muscle in my body to still and slowly reached for my only weapon, my long sword. I would never win this battle, but I would certainly leave my mark.
Danella snuggled closer as the men strode towards us. I felt her wild heartbeat and tried to slow my own as a small measure of reassurance to her. I spared her a quick glance and a half smile. Her brilliant blue eyes sparkled at me and I nearly sighed out loud. No wonder all the universe was looking for her; she was simply perfect.
“Sister Mine. I know you are nearby. There is no need for further games.”
I stopped myself from rolling my eyes. My older brother, Gabriel, had a flair for drama and the more inappropriate the circumstance; the more he poured it on. Gabriel turned in a circle scanning the woods, knowing full well he had the upper hand. He could simply out wait me. Surely Danella would reveal us with a cry or whimper. He knew it was just a matter of time.
I clutched the hilt of my long sword and weighed my options. My thighs were burning from inactivity, Danella couldn’t possibly remain still much longer and I was frankly outnumbered and out-muscled. I was no match for my brother alone and yet he saw it necessary to bring backup. Another near eye roll. He was the ultimate showboat.
With a blink of an eye my brother and his henchmen were rendered to ash. Nothing remained, not even their gold armbands or weapons. Just two piles of smoldering ash where Gabriel and the other man stood. A third man, astride a huge white warhorse picked his way out of the tree line and into the moonlit lane. Dumbfounded, I nearly rose from the brushes where I’d let my muscles atrophy for so long; stopping myself just as my muscles began to grudgingly move. That slight movement was enough and his eyes locked onto mine. His words, heard only by Danella and myself resounded through my entire being.
“You are safe. I have come.”