Storian was now at the top of the hill and saw the commotion. He sprinted down the path they had cleared earlier that day, but his feet were not fast enough. The others were trying to keep up with him, but breathless they had to stop and rest. Panting, they resumed their race and soon caught up with their leader. “Stay here,” he said, and they nodded. “I’ll go in alone. Don’t come down until it’s safe,” he ended and resumed his race downhill.
“Leehun, don’t come close or I’ll shoot you,” he heard the old man shouting. The others were now backing up, terrified. Strachon was standing beside his father growling. He stepped in front of him in an attempt to protect him, but the older man pushed him aside, making him to lose his balance. The boy’s mother appeared from the tent and yelled at him to get away, but he didn’t listen. Instead, he started walking slowly toward the medic.
“Don’t come any closer or I will shoot you too,” Goran warned, but the boy didn’t stop. He continued slowly like an animal stalking his pray. The old man shot a warning at his feet and that made him stop for a second, but then he resumed his walk.
“Don’t do that, old man,” he heard. Without turning or letting his gaze down, he shouted back. “I will not let them kill an innocent man. Too much killing I have witnessed in my life and I would rather die than see any more.”
“It doesn’t have to end like this,” Storian shouted back and the old man turned his head slowly. Strachon took his chance and jumped the man, but Goran had expected that. A loud boom broke the silence and he saw the bewildered look in Strachon’s eyes.
The cry came from Sumarra, who pushed the slave girls aside and rushed to lift the lifeless body of her son off the ground.
“Why, why did you do that?” she sobbed and raised her fists at the sky. The man set the rifle down and looked at the dead boy. Taking a few steps toward Leehun, Goran stopped right in front of him and suddenly, with a quick move, snatched his dagger out of his sheath. With another quick move he grabbed the woman from behind, put the knife to her throat and started dragging her slowly away from him toward his tent.
“Don’t come any closer or she dies too,” he warned again.
Storian tried to catch his gaze, but the old man was not interested in negotiating. He continued dragging away the woman who didn’t show any resistance. With his free hand he pulled the flap to the side and entered the tent. From inside he shouted.
“You let the two strangers go and I will let her live. Don’t do anything stupid, Leehun. I have nothing to lose. Let them go and you can do whatever you want with me after.”
The shock had everybody motionless. The first to come to his senses was Storian. He grabbed Rhoston and almost dragged him to the tent where his sister was resting.
“I’m coming in. I’m bringing Rhoston,” he shouted. “He is here to get his sister. Let him come in and take her home.” He stopped, waiting for the other man to answer.
“He can come in, but you wait outside,” he heard the voice from within. The flap lifted a little and the bewildered man lowered his head to get in.
Storian stood guard at the entrance and soon he heard the man again.
“They’re coming out. Let them go, or Sumarra dies! Do you hear me Leehun? Let them go or she dies. I know how much she means to you. Don’t make me kill her. I have nothing to lose,” he said again. “These people have done nothing to us. Let them go!”
Leehun was still standing, shocked, motionless, but determined to let nothing happen to Sumarra.
“Let them go,” he growled, fists still clenched. He gestured to his men to move aside. “Storian, escort them out of the camp. Old man, let Sumarra go. I give you my word, nothing will happen to the strangers if you let her go now.”
“I don’t trust your word, Leehun. Not anymore! Your word means nothing to me. You let them go first and then I release your beloved. Not before.”
Storian could feel Leehun growing impatient – he was not used to giving in. He had never had to negotiate with anybody in his life and the fact that he had no choice and no control over this situation made him mad.
“Leehun, let me take them out of the camp. Nothing will happen to Sumarra. Goran will not harm her. Let me take them away and end this.”
Leehun looked at his slave now turned negotiator. He saw the determination in his eyes and knew he had to give in. For the first time in his life he felt powerless. This was madness. He didn’t care about Sumarra that much, but on the other hand he could not have her killed because of two strangers.
A plan quickly formed in his mind. He will have it his way after all: he’ll let them go, save Sumarra – then punish her for letting herself get into this – have Goran pay for what he did and then track down the two who brought all of this on him and make them pay.
“All right, Storian, get ‘em out of here. Now! Move!” He wanted to feel in control again, but he knew that his people saw that as a concession. It did not matter. He will have it his way, one way or another. For now he will have to give the impression he was being merciful. Later, they will all feel his wrath.
Storian called out to the man in the tent again. “I am coming in, don’t hurt Sumarra. I am coming in to take to two out of here.”
The flap of the tent opened slightly again and Storian slipped inside. He looked at the young woman and her brother. Tears were rolling down her face and she was holding her brother’s hand tightly. The young man was pale and tried a quick smile when he saw him.
“Come with me. We need to move quickly.” He grabbed her from underneath and lifted her slowly in his arms. Her brother followed quietly.
“I will be back, Goran. Don’t get out until you hear me outside.” He turned to Sumarra. “Stay in here and you will be safe. Don’t try to run. I will be back to set you free.”
“STAND YOUR GROUND, YOU COWARDS,” he bellowed again and the guards stopped their retreat, but didn’t move forward either. “TAKE COVER!” he yelled again and running, a handful of his men toppled the tables under the canopy and hid behind them. Leehun, still standing, kept the eyes on the attackers.
Storian realised what was happening and let go of Sumarra’s arm. He pushed her gently toward the hut and she did not resist. She started to slowly back away and was about to get back inside when one of the attackers shot his weapon. The arrow hit the door and she stopped in her tracks.
“Sumarra, don’t move!” she heard and she looked terrified at Storian. “Don’t move, they’ll kill you if you do!” Leaving her there, he struggled to walk farther away from the hut. He managed to take a few steps and bracing himself, raised his hands and called to the group.
“Let the woman go, she has done nothing to you. What do you want?” he asked.
He looked briefly at Leehun who was now standing between his men and his concubine’s tent. He was in charge, and wounded or not, that was his job. Some more men were taking cover behind the row of tables and some were moving slowly toward Storian. They saw him taking charge and now they knew what they had to do.
“Ve vant vimin. Ve vant food,” the leader shouted.
“You can take as much food as you want, but no women,” Storian shouted back. “These are our women and we will fight you if you try to take any of them,” he warned again.
Right then, one of the guards threw a rifle to him and Storian caught it in mid air. Handling it skilfully, took a shot without aiming. The leader of the attackers stopped and looked stupefied at his chest, grabbing it. Blood started flowing out of his wound and he fell to his knees. He looked at his men and with a gasp, fell dead to the ground. His men stood there frozen for a moment but suddenly they pulled themselves together and started shooting. They were loading and shooting with such speed the arrows started raining over them. Storian managed to throw himself to the ground, but Leehun got one in the shoulder. That did not stop him though and, grabbing a riffle from one of his fallen men, started shooting. He had to stop and reload and that cost him. Another arrow hit him in the thigh and he fell on his knees.
Encouraged by Storian’s bravery, the men let out a fury of bullets and some of the attackers fell down, groaning. A few were still left standing, but they realised they were losing the battle and started to retreat. Backing out of the camp, dragging the wounded, they headed for the trees and soon disappeared in the thicket.
 “We want the women. We want the food.”