Rider skillfully and quickly got their horses off the road. They had to get out of the village quickly. They had to find another way still. Diamant and Grandpa made it out of the carriage and to the horses in an instant, Grandpa joined Rider on one and Diamant on the other. They disconnected the carriage quickly, their luggages will slowed them down and they had to make it out of this alive.
As their horses galloped in the opposite direction, they could hear the war drums booming in the air, people shouting, animals busting through the fire that was rapidly taking over the village and swords clashing against one another. The smell of blood and dread filled the air.
This was one bloody night.
They were about to arrive at the small river which the horses would gallop across to the other side, when arrows were shot at them.
"Look out!" Diamant called to her Grandpa, her scream deafening.
Now they had to find another way. If they still decide to go across the river, it wouldn't be save, it wasn't a risk that felt worth taking. Rider took the next available turn, he wasn't trained for war and his mind was all over the place. Another set of arrows came their way, they haven't lost them yet. They rode faster only to be met by a dead end. Disappointment washed over Gloss' face, one could tell that he was already surrendering to death.
They turned to be met by another arrow of fire shot in front of them, it almost looked like they were intentionally missing them, like it was all just fun to them. Their horses jumped over the fire and headed towards another direction and this time was shot at terribly. The horses fell, throwing the trio off their backs. Diamant ran to her Grandpa who seem to have broken his leg, his stick no where to be found.
"Rider, help me here." She hushed at him. He helped to pull him up and Gloss groaned in pain. They both had to help him walk. Diamant quickly scanned their environment. It looked like they had lost them.
"Through the cave to the other side, quickly." Diamant said as they struggled to hasten their steps.
"Maybe you should leave me alone. I am old anyway." Gloss whispered.
"Don't say such, Grandpa. We will all make it out of this alive. Rider, do you think we will make it to the cave before they get us?" Diamant asked
"Aiye! looking for us, they will, Milady." Of all the times to have a communication problem, Diamant really wished Rider was more fluent. His answer didn't really even answer the question. But before long, she didn't need his answer anymore because there were warriors pouring from the cave right towards their direction.
"Fall back." Diamant ordered quickly while they staggered back hoping that they would blend in with the trees in the darkness but she was painfully wrong.
They were surrounded within a second and then Rider was seriously wishing that he had taken the sword lessons from his father. Even if he had, one against maybe 40 didn't look like a fair share. Diamant's fear held her immobile and Gloss looked like he was long gone before his death.
One of the warriors came down from his horse and made his way towards her. They all reeked of blood, it was so disgusting.
"Not bad for a lady." He said loudly, as he scanned Diamant with lustful eyes, the others laughed. Some warriors had already grabbed each of them tightly, rendering all their plans of escaping futile.
Then someone came into their midst and knelt to the one whose eyes were still on Diamant. He must be a messenger.
"Major General, the war is over. The lieutenant General says the loot shall be taken." He delivered and by the signal of the Major General's hand he left.
"You heard that, lads?! Take loots and this," he pointed at Diamant, " is mine!"
They all shouted, a shout of celebration. They began to drag her along to follow him.
"Let her go, please, let her go!" She could hear her Grandpa cry out while she struggled violently against their grip.
"Let Milady go, please!" That was Rider. They sounded like they were being hit to shut up.
"I won't leave them. I won't leave my Grandpa, let me go!"
Irritation and ager took over the Major General's facel then gave a wicked laugh bubbled from his throat.
"The lady loves her Grandpa, why don't we take care of him." He said to his soldiers, they all agreed, their laughter formed a terrible chorus.
He walked to where Gloss was lying helplessly on the ground, face to the sky. Then he bent and spoke to him but everyone could still hear.
"I have a little problem with your existence. I would have just ignored it but I am a man of honour. What good will it be, if I displease the lady?" With that, he stood up, smiled at Diamant then struck Gloss in his stomach with his sword.
Gloss cried out in pain and horror, blood gushed out of the large cut. Rider went limp and Diamant struggled as she freed herself and ran to her Grandpa screaming.
"No! No! How dare you?!" She held his head on her laps "No! Please, stay with me. You promised, remember? You will never leave me. We still have to set the flowers for my parents and my birthday, my present. Don't leave me, please." She cried, uncontrollably.
"I... I... I had no choice. I promise...I later .... I ...I...later....loved you." He said with all the strength he could gather while blood dripped from the corners of his mouth. He raised his shaky hand to wipe off a stray tear that ran down her cheek and smiled, "forgive me, my little gem."
Then his head went flying in the air and she was left staring at a bloody neck. Blood splashed on her dress, the smell of it rushed down her lungs. She looked up slowly to meet the bored look of the Major General. He had just beheaded her Grandpa.
Realization hit her like a hard slap. Then suddenly, she felt light-headed. Her head buzzed with different sounds and her eyelids were heavy.
"Take her to my tent. She just fainted." He ordered some warriors and they hurriedly got to action.
He turned to Rider,"You! Any last wish?" He asked.
Rider wished for a lot of things, he wished he had stayed with his family. He wished he hadn't had that fight with his wife. He wished he had never decided to leave his family and come to Lobina. He never even told them goodbye. He missed his kids and his wife's encouraging words. If only he had stayed, if only he had been a little patient.
Then he took a long breath and accepted death,"I wish I had kissed my family goodbye." With that, his head went flying.
"That was such a flimsy last wish."
The Major General said, wiping the blood off the scar on his face.
Diamant who was still being carried off some distance away saw it all, although the image was all blurry to her. She watched the beheaded body of Rider fall forward to the floor. Immediately darkness took over, she could feel herself falling back into a memory of four years ago.
Diamant stared at her neck in the mirror with dissatisfaction. The tattoo was there again, a blue Phoenix with large wings. She groaned to herself.
"Oh, I am tired of this. Wasn't it supposed to last for some years? Is it some years already?" She chuckled to herself. She hurriedly took a bottle from the table and applied its content on the tattoo. She watched it slowly disappear without a trace. A broad satisfying smile took over her, her eyes gleamed with happiness.
"There!" She clapped.
Then she ran to the window and looked out into the opened field. The afternoon was quiet and it smelt like dust. She loved the harmattan for this, although there were a couple of things she hated about it too, like the way it made her lips so dry that they cracked. She had to always apply oil to prevent that. The sun that seeped in through the window made her brown skin glow.
Then she heard a knock on the door, her eyes lit up.
"Grandpa Gloss!" She ran to the front door, knocking some of her books down along the way. "Grandpa Gloss!"
Before she got to the door, it flung opened and there stood her grandpa with a merry smile. She watched his stance as she raced closer to him but something seemed off and her smile fell.
She stopped immediately in her tracks.
"You have no gift, grandpa Gloss. It is my birthday." She creased her forehead in confusion.
He stepped into the room, he sat on the nearest chair with a smile plastered on his face revealing the broken state of one of his front teeth.
"Is it now?"
"Of course," she closed the door. "I am 14 today!" She ran to fetch him a glass of water.
"But that is okay, at least you are back from your business trip and those jealous traders always chasing us has stopped that for a while. Your presence is more than enough present to me." She smiled and handed him the glass of water. He gulped it down and patted his stomach, then stretch his legs.
"So you love me this much?" He asked with a playful smile.
"Of course, I do." She returned the glass.
"And my bald head? Are you sure you really love your leaping grandpa?"
She giggled and he could hear her from the kitchen.
"Then go and get dressed. Someone will be going to the market square to pick whatsoever she fancies."
She returned from the kitchen, her eyes huge with surprise.
"You did remember!" She ran to him who was now on his feet and hugged him tightly.
He ran his hand across her wavy black hair with affection.
"I can never forget, my little gem."
The scene slowly turn black before her eyes. She could hear strange noises, smell burning wood and could feel herself waking up.
Diamant came around slowly and just in time to see the fire in the tent burn brightly as there was enough wood, the tent was warm.
Her mind was blank as she tried to take in her environment, she felt so confused and strange. Then she realized that she was naked under the cloth spread across her body. She looked around again and saw a man sitting close to the fire, she stared at him for sometime internally cursing her blurred sight before realizing that it was the Major General. At that knowledge, different emotions ran through her but anger and vengeance topped it all.
I must kill this man! She thought.
"You came around just in time for the wonders. I was starting to get worried and impatient. Worried for my pleasure and impatient for you, Lady. I won't want your first memory of me to be a forced intimate moment, not that I mind anyway. If you impress me enough tonight, I will protect you. We will have so many wonderful nights together, blame it all on your alluring body." He laughed as he swept his eyes lustfully across her body.
Diamant recoiled with disgust as she pulled the cover closer to her. Her anger rouse and her eyes darkened with anger, remembering that he had killed Rider too. She hated him and made a silent promise to herself that she would kill him.
Oh, she wouldn't allow this despicable excuse of a man touch her! She vowed in her.
He came up to her and grabbed her away from the mat, letting the cover fall off her body from the sudden movement. She recoiled from his touch as he pulled her closer forcefully. She began to struggle violently, screaming and biting him anywhere she could. His anger rouse dangerously as he pulled away from her and hit her hard across the face. She felt dazed and fell to the floor as a result of the force, her head was spinning and she was slowly losing control of her focus as her sight blurred.
Unfortunately for her, she hadn't fell unconscious. She wished she had as his hands went over her body and she could do nothing but cry silent tears that weakly escaped her lips.
She closed her eyes and tried to focus on something else. She remembered her Grandpa, she remembered baking for him, their afternoons on business trips, her conversations with Rider about things in the market and she smiled still trying hard to ignore the hand touching her bare back.
Not the hands, not the hands. She said repeatedly to herself.