Alex drove the big black towards the village. The big horse felt its master’s sense of urgency. His stride lengthened to its utmost. His head was held high. His nostrils flared mightily to suck in that oxygen to fuel his muscles. His hoofs appeared to barely touch the ground before they lifted him to his next stride. Stride by stride, the mighty stallion ate up the ground.
In his brain, the tumultuous moment caused the fiery aria “Di Quella Pira” from Giuseppe Verdi’s opera, “Il Trovatore” to play. The blaring trumpets, the frantic call to arms, “Alarmi, Alarmi” kept repeating in his head. He was now on the warpath. He was going to finish what he started all those oh so many days ago that seemed like such an eternity away. If ISIS harmed just one hair on Kassie’s head, his demise would be a most horrid one. No one was going to hurt Kassie!
Alex guided the big black thru the narrow path in the woods that led to the village. Even though the path was very narrow, Alex spared no effort in navigating it at breakneck speed. He had confidence that his horse could negotiate the tight curves without crashing into the trees going at that speed. Finally, they break free of the woods, and Alex drives his horse towards the gully entrance to the village valley.
A quick cursory glance told Alex that ISIS was so arrogant and comfortable with his newfound power that he did not even post guards at the entrance to the narrow defile. The stallion blazed thru the defile without breaking stride. As he broke into the valley floor, his eyes scanned forward to determine where to go next. Dead ahead, at the corral fence where he first met El Jefe, he saw Kassie, still astride her horse, surrounded by several men, with ISIS holding on to the reins of her horse.
Alex drove the big black directly in that direction. ISIS saw him coming. He let go of the reins to Kassie’s horse and drew his scimitar. He knew what was to come next. Alex pulled the big black short just a few feet away from the crowd centered around ISIS and Kassie. He leapt off his horse, his trusty wooden sword in hand. He faced ISIS. The circle around them widened. No one wanted to get in the way.
The many villagers who had come to despise ISIS for his actions now cheered for Alex in the hope that he would rid them of this horrid tyrant. The few miscreants that actually supported ISIS, jeered Alex, but were reluctant to get into the fray. If the outcome did not go his way, they would definitely be outcasts if they now showed him active support, and the others revolted in favor of Alex.
ISIS sneered at Alex. “What are you going to do with that wooden sword against my scimitar?”
Without answering, Alex pulled out one of his sturdy 12 inch survival knives which he always kept strapped on to his belt. Wooden sword in his right hand, mighty steel knife in his left, Alex faced ISIS. Each man circled the other looking for an opening. Alex knew ISIS had the deadly reach with his sharp, long steel blade, not to mention the reach of his longer arm.
Each man thrusted at the other without scoring a hit. When ISIS tried to charge at his opponent with swinging scimitar, Alex deftly maneuvered out of the way. ISIS did not leave Alex any openings that he could exploit, however. Everyone eyes were intent on the 2 combatants. No one was actually watching Kassie any longer. She no longer seemed to be a person of interest. Apparently, one way or the other, her fate would be decided by the outcome of this confrontation.
Suddenly, ISIS lunged again, Alex ducks beneath the swing and backs up. As he does so, the back of his foot snags on a stone that was buried barely beneath the surface. He unexpectedly loses his balance and falls backward. His body smashes onto the ground with a thud, causing him to drop his wooden sword, yet miraculously hanging on to his knife in his left hand.
But this is the only opening that Isis needed. He rushed over to the fallen Alex, and stepped on his left arm, thereby pinning it to the ground. He brings his sword to Alex’s throat. With an evil smirk he says, “And now, I get to keep the girl, and you die.”
ISIS raises his sword with both hands, and as he is about to plunge it down into Alex, his body shudders, his eyes snap wide open in amazement, and blood spews forth from his mouth. The next instant. A dart penetrates the front of his throat causing an unstoppable torrent of blood. The body of ISIS then collapses over Alex as he drops his sword. A moan of bewilderment escapes from the collective crowd.
Alex pushes ISIS’s limp body from himself realizing he has escaped certain death. He looks around. Where did that dart come from? And there was Kassie standing there with cross bow in hand and another dart loaded and ready to go if needed.
While no one was watching her, Kassie accessed one of the mini cross bows she had stored across her horse’s withers, as Alex had always instructed her to do. She placed a dart into the notch, and at the opportune moment, fired a bolt at ISIS, piercing him behind his neck.
“Good heavens Kassie, you saved my life. All that training and practicing finally paid off” exclaimed Alex as he moved towards Kassie. She drops the cross bow and rushes towards him, tears streaming down her sparkling green eyes. When she reaches him, she starts to pound his chest in utter frustration.
“You creep. You almost died. I thought you were invincible. He was about to kill you. It’s a good thing you taught me to always be ready.”
“Thank you Kassie. You don’t know how good that makes me feel that you did this. This is good at so many levels.”
“I know I said I don’t want to be in this world, and I truly don’t. And I know I said I don’t care for you the way you say you care for me. But, If I have to live in this world, I don’t want to live in it with out you. So, please don’t die on me”, as tears continued to stream down her lovely, angelic face.
She stopped pounding his chest and buried herself in it. His arms embraced her. The sound of the romantic “Una Furtiva Lacrima” (a Furtive Tear) from Gaetano Donizetti’s opera “L’Elisir d’Amore” (the Elixir of Love) started running thru his mind. The part that resounds mostly in his mind is the phrase “M’ama, lo vedo” (She loves me, I can see it).
Could she really be warming up to him? Is her hard shell finally softening? He wasn’t sure, but he certainly liked holding her. He kissed the top of her head. She did not turn her face up offering her lips to him. So, it seems that he was going to be satisfied with this hug, at least for the moment.
Alex turned to face the crowd. “Who among you will now take the place of El Jefe?”
When no one stepped forward, Anciana offered, “Whenever we find ourselves leaderless, we typically hold a village council of all the elders. We then select the one we deem the most worthy.”
“Very well, that seems like a very good strategy.” Alex then turns to Kassie. “It’s time for us to get back to the homestead.”
“Wait a minute Alex. I want to speak with Anciana.” Then, to Anciana, “I want to speak to you in private if you don’t mind?”
The 2 of them walk off to Anciana’s hut. Kassie came out after five minutes.
Alex and Kassie mounted their steeds and trotted off towards the homestead.
“What did you need to talk to Anciana about?”
“Oh, just stuff.”
“You mean like girlie stuff?”
“Hmmm. Maybe, yes”, she replied with a sly smile on her face.
Both The Venerable and Farmer Sal were ecstatic to see both of them return apparently safe and sound. Once in the compound, the four of them wound up in a heartfelt warm group hug.
“So Kassie”, The Venerable started, “Alex has rescued you again it seems.”
“Well actually Venerable, it was Kassie that saved my life.”
“Really?” exclaimed Farmer Sal.
“Yes, all that arduous training I put her thru finally paid off with dividends”. offered Alex. “I’m sure she will be more than happy to tell us all about it, won’t you Kassie?”
“Very well”, said The Venerable. “This calls for a libation, and we may as well enjoy a hearty supper feast with that.”
They sat Kassie down and poured her a goblet of wine. Then they all toasted Kassie’s safe return, and her archery achievement that saved Alex from final obliteration.