Chapter Twenty-Four

That evening, in The Camp of Spirit, The Old Fox emerged from his tent, and summoned Gray Dove. "Get your fighting people ready," he said, "tomorrow this field will be red with blood. They will come with the first light, hoping to take us unaware while we sleep."
2 Gray Dove nodded. "We will be ready, Lord," and he hirriedly left to gather his people.
3 Come the dawn of the next day, the leader of the temple guard brought his forces to the peninsula where The Camp of Spirit was set up. "This is perfect," he boasted, "one group will form a line and stay back. They will make sure none escape. The rest of us will attack the camp, but do not be concerned. When the fight is over we will share in the spoils equally. The High Priest has said kill everyone, but that is foolish. The fair women, the young girls and boys are valuable. Take them captive. The old women and small babes are of no use. Kill them. At the end of this day we shall all be rich men! Make no noise, until we are well within arrow-range, then we will launch two or three flights of arrows into their tents and charge."
4 All agreeed, and silently, surely, the band of murderers approached the encampment. When they were well within arrow range, they let fly their first volley, and then it began. Suddenly, the sides of the first row of tents dropped away, revealing archers behind their shields. The air was suddenly full of arrows coming in the opposite direction! A trumpet sounded and the ground before the encampment exploded. Impaling spikes rose out of the ground as if by magic. And worse, yet, holes suddenly opened and the fighting people of Spirit poured out. They were on the attackers while they were still reeling from the flights of arrows.
5 In moments they had driven a wedge through their middle, breaking their ranks, splitting them into two separate groups. "Fight, you fools!" screamed the leader of the temple guard, "Fight! We still outnumber them."
6 The group left to prevent any escape were bewildered, and did not know what to do. Should they hold their ground or join their embattled comrades?
7 Suddenly the decision was made for them. Several men cried out as arrows pierced their hearts and others fell silent with shafts through their throats. The attackers turned in time for several of them to get throwing spears through the chest! The fighters of Spirit were behind them! They quickly fled to join their comrades. Few survived the short journey.
8 In the midst of the battle Gray Dove led his people. They were fighting well but the surprise was wearing off, and the attackers were regaining their courage, pressing on them from both sides, trying to regroup.
9 Gray Dove fell one attacker, then two. Several more withdrew, wounded, from his blows. Suddenly, two spearmen pressed him. He dispatched one to his gods, but as he turned to meet the other, he tripped over a dead attacker and fell backwards. The spearman, seeing his opportunity, lunged forward, but Loyal Dog appeared out of nowhere, deflecting the weapon with his club. The spear drove deep, into his own thigh. Seizing the weapon with his shield hand, he killed the attacker with his club.
10 As Gray Dove gained his feet, another attacker rushed Loyal Dog from the opposite side, but before he could reach his goal. a club took him between the eyes and he fell dead. Thorn Blossom Fox shielded her comrade from the other side.
11 "Withdraw!" cried Gray Dove, "Withdraw! Form ranks behind the defenses! Withdraw!" With perfect precision his people obeyed, the able-bodied holding ground while the wounded were pulled clear. But the attackers were in no mood to press. They fell back in the opposite direction, leaving their wounded behind.
12 Gray Dove quickly had his people in ranks, their spearmen forward and ready to receive the attack, as the enemy regrouped. He watched as Loyal Dog was carried off, the broken shaft of the spear still protruding from his body.
13 It was then that a new sound was heard....the high, shrill call of trumpets. From the direction of the city three groups of The King's soldiers appeared, led by The King's guard. The trumpets sounded again, and the soldiers quickly spread out. In a few minutes they were on three sides of the attackers with The Children of Spirit on the fourth side. The attackers had no place to go.
14 The King's guard, with The King at their lead, came forward. The fighters of Spirit brought up their shields and spears, but Gray Dove saw that The King's weapon was at his side, and his shield in the hand of a bearer. Gray Dove told his people to take the position of rest.
15 When The King was before them, he asked, "Who leads these people?"
16 Gray Dove stepped forward. "I do," he cried.
17 The King turned and looked at the body ladened battlefield. "And damn well," he praised, "damn well, indeed!" He took his shield from a bearer and lifted his weapon. "Bring your leaders," he ordered, "and follow me."
18 Gray Dove nodded to Thorn Blossom and another companion and they marched off, behind The King. When they were about half way to the attackers, The King stopped and nodded to the trumpeter. The man blew 'Stand and Parley.'
19 In a few moments three men approached from the attackers; a temple guard, one of The King's soldiers, and a man not in uniform. It was the temple guard who spoke. "Your pleasure, Your Majesty," he stammered.
20 "You're not the leader of the temple guard," shouted The King. "Where is he?"
21 "Dead, Your Majesty," the guardsman answered. "SHE killed him." He pointed to Thorn Blossom Fox.

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