Disclaimers ~ These characters belong to me. If they have a passing resemblance to you or share your name, it's purely coincidental.

Bad language ~ Nothing I deem bad, but...let's say yes, scattered here and there.

Love/sex ~ Ongoing relationships between women. Love scenes between m/f & f/f. If none of this is your cup of tea or it offends you, you're in the wrong place.

Violence ~ Loads! The warriors are at war so....

Copyright © June 2008

Chapter Eleven

Rayna listened to the Romans charging about outside the cell where she was being kept. Sounds like they're panicking. I wonder if our side launched a surprise attack? She smirked. I hope we did, it'll keep them on their toes. Looking around her surroundings, she again felt bad as she looked down on a sleeping Gia Cartman. The girl's face was black and blue from a beating she had taken. I should have shut her up, Rayna thought angrily. She has every right to be angry at them, but I know, we all know, what they are like. Now look at her!

"I think I should attempt to seduce the next guard to come in," Emmanuelle offered. "Then, once he hass fallen for my charms and let down his guard, I'll break his neck and snatch his keys."

Lane Inman and Rayna chuckled at the latest plan.

"It could work," Lane shrugged.

"Too right it could!" Emmanuelle replied.

They had been separated from Dagwood, Brock, Bentley and Harrington not long after their arrival at the Roman camp. The Romans had quickly put up two simple wooden huts to shelter them in. The girls were thrown into the dark, dirty cell, and were lucky if they were fed. What little food did come their way, they shared.

A couple of days after they had been moved, the Romans had a celebration and paid a nightly visit to the girls' cell. Those who got out alive regretted the visit and made sure never to return. Gia snapped the neck of one man without much effort at all. Lane had choked the other between her powerful thighs. They had at least been left alone after that.

"I miss...the early morning sounds of home," Emmanuelle said, starting a game they had created out of boredom.

"I miss the smell of the ocean," Lane said, a wistful look on her face. "What about you Rayna?"

"Arcadia. I miss Arcadia."

"You always say that!" Emmanuelle protested. "There must be something else."

Rayna sighed, hating the game because it made her depressed. "I miss my family, the farm, Keera and Bedilia. I miss...home."

They fell silent after the dark-haired warrior's reply, all feeling the same thing. Hearing a commotion outside, their heads turned to the solid wooden door, listening to the sound of charging feet and men yelling in Latin.

"I wonder what the other warriors and the villagers are up to?" Lane wondered. "Do you think they have advanced any?"

"No doubt," Emmanuelle said confidently. "There's no way we would have retreated."

"By now they are aware that we are missing," Rayna said. "What they don't know is if we are being held here or have already been transported to Rome. They have to wonder if it is worth attacking the Roman camp on the off chance we are here."

"We are here," Lane answered. "Its been three weeks, Rayna. Why haven't we been transported to Rome?"

Rayna had been wondering the same thing herself. The only thing she could think was that Quintus couldn't spare the men that it would take to get them to Rome. But she wasn't sure and wanted to find out. "I'm not sure, Lane. Perhaps I should talk to Quintus. Do you think if I ask him nicely he will tell me what's going on?"

"If you ask nicely, do you think he will let us go?" Emmanuelle chuckled, making the other two girls laugh. "While you're in his tent, see if the keys to this door are laying around. We could just walk right out of here. Now that would be daring!"

"Are you ever going to come up with an escape plan that could actually work?" Lane asked, an amused look on her face.

"I've come up with every one so far. Why don't you think up something, oh bright one!"

Knowing an argument was going to break out, Rayna walked over to the locked door and peered out as best she could. "Guard. Hey, guard."

The young guy looked her way, but didn't move towards her.

"Will you go and tell Quintus I would like to speak to him?" Rayna asked. She scowled when the guard continued to ignore her and finally moved away. "Idiot!" she snarled, returning to her place on the floor.

"Do you think the guys are still alive?" Emmanuelle asked quietly.

"Yes. I was told we're all being transported to Rome. They can make money out of selling us, there is no reason to kill anyone," Rayna replied.

"But what if one of them did something stupid like Gia did?"

"Then I'm sure they got a beating too."

"Do you think we have lost any more warriors?" Lane asked, thinking about their friends, girls they had grown up with over the years.

"I don't like to think about it," Rayna replied quietly. "It doesn't get us anywhere thinking about it anyway. We won't know the answer until we are free."

"Everyone line up at the back wall," a male voice ordered, quivering slightly in fear. He had heard things about these girls, heard things about their strength.

The girls stood and moved back against the back wall, watching the door in curiosity.

"And her," the man said, looking in through the bars.

"She's unconscious," Rayna said. "Open the damn door, throw in our food and be done with it."

Looking unsure, the man unlocked the door anyway and opened it to step inside. "You," he said, pointing to Rayna. "You wanted to see Quintus?"

Rayna frowned. "That's right."

"He'll see you. Hands out so I can cuff them and don't try anything."

Rayna moved forward with her arms in front of her, hating the pinch of the heavy cuffs that were suddenly locked on her wrists. The soldier stepped backwards out of the cell, followed by Rayna. She waited as he shut and locked the cell door, watching which key he used from a bunch he held. He prodded her in the back once he was ready to move and followed her outside into the afternoon sun and over towards Quintus' tent.

Inside, Quintus was sitting behind his desk, finishing up some paperwork when Rayna walked in. He watched the soldier who had brought her over undo the cuffs and look to him for further instruction. "Thank you, Manius Caprenius. That will be all." Quintus waited until he was left alone with the attractive girl before speaking. "So, you wished to see me?"

"My name is Rayna," the warrior said, finally telling him her name. "Rayna Banks."

The officer smiled. "Quintus Valerius," he replied, offering her his large hand to shake. "A pleasure to meet you, Rayna."

Rayna smiled, amused by the officer, as well as confused by his niceness towards her. "I was wondering...." she stopped and looked him in the eye. "May I ask you a question?"

Quintus nodded, giving his permission.

"I was wondering why we are still here in Britannia? When we last spoke, you mentioned us going to Rome."

Quintus smiled and stood up, walking over to a small table which held a jug of fine wine. "Would you like a mug of wine, Rayna?" When she nodded, he poured out two mugs and handed one to her. "Why are you curious? Are you eager to leave this place?"

"I am eager to go home. You told me about...gladiators," she slowly said the strange name, a small frown furrowing her brow. "If I win, I can gain my freedom to return home."

"To...return to your betrothed," Quintus said slowly, watching her as he sipped his drink.


"How do you know if he lives? Why has he not come for you, Rayna? If I was betrothed to you, I would ride to Hades and back to find you."

Rayna scowled at him, realising he liked her more than she had thought. "Can I sit?" she asked, pointing to a beautifully carved rosewood chair.

"A long story, hmm? Go ahead."

The warrior sat down and studied the Roman carefully. I suppose I have to win him over. It is a start on the long path home. "Did you help Egbert Sheehan invade our island?"

"Yes," Quintus replied easily, watching the girl's jaw tense at his response. "He came to me with...an incredible story. A story of an island of all women. Easy pickings he said. Riches and young virgins to be married." The officer sighed. "I regret the day I let him talk me into it."

Rayna blinked in surprise. Perhaps if I tell him a little of Belleza, he will see why we live there not wanting to be disturbed and why I need to get back. "Belleza was founded by a group of women who escaped a hateful life. A world ruled by power hungry men, who treated them cruelly and like nothing more than breeding stock!" She sipped at her wine, trying to cool her temper. "On the island they set up a peaceful existence. We don't want great power or riches or more land. We just want a fair life, a peaceful life. My...my family has a farm," a soft smile came to her lips as she thought of her home. "We breed cattle. Though my mother, Nyx, did trade some of our stock for some sheep, planning on using the wool for clothes. My other mother, Mariah, looks after the house and her small vegetable patch."

Quintus smiled. "My mother has a herb garden. What does your mother grow?"

"Some green beans, some carrots, and beetroot. It's not a big patch as I said. We make our living with the cattle."

"Your mothers," Quintus mumbled. "Does it not bother you that you do not have a father? Or...any male in your life?"

"I love my mothers, I don't need a father. The whole point of making the island our home was to get away from dominating males. In the early days there were men, and boys of course, but they grew resentful of the Royal family having control over the island. They wanted the power for themselves. They were sent away, as were all boys of the age of ten."

"Boys are sent away?"

"Yes. They can return for family birthdays or special occasions though. They are not banned forever, it is their home as well after all. I don't need a constant male presence in my life, I have brothers and nephews."

Quintus finished his wine and refilled his mug before sitting behind his desk. "Your betrothed...it is a woman then?" Rayna smiled brightly, her face softening as she thought of Arcadia. Quintus was amazed at the change in the girl and realised how in love she was.

"That's right."

"Tell me about her."

"She is just...amazing," Rayna sighed happily. "Her blonde hair, verging on gold. Light green eyes that capture you and seem to see into your soul. She is kind and caring, loving and so intelligent. She graduated top of her class. I have never been so proud."

Quintus smiled. "You're right, she sounds amazing."

Finishing her wine, Rayna set her mug down and looked seriously at the Roman officer. "I want to ask something of you, Quintus. I know you are likely to say no and think me crazy for even asking, but I must try. I would like for you to release me. I need you to release me so that I can stop Egbert and his damn family from killing my true love, my soul mate, and her family."

Dark green eyes blinked at her. "Egbert wants to get rid of the Royal family," he said slowly, a thought forming in his head. "You are betrothed to...a Royal?"

"The Princess. And she is not just my betrothed, she is a mother-to-be. She is carrying my child. If anything happens to them, Quintus, I will be destroyed. I will have nothing to live for. I will go after Egbert, I will go after his family, I will go after everyone who aided him in his foolish plan and I won't stop until I am either dead or everyone else is."

The brown-haired man sat back in his seat, thinking over her serious words, knowing she meant every one. "As I said earlier, I regret the day I let Egbert talk me into helping him. He returned on the boat I had lent him. Alone."

Rayna frowned. "No crew?"

Quintus shook his head. "All dead. Everyone was dead except Egbert. Food poisoning he said, apparently he got lucky and missed the particular meal that killed off my men."

"He killed them," the warrior stated.

"I believe he wanted the location of your home kept secret. With the attack going wrong, he returned here to Britannia knowing you fighters would follow, leaving the island vulnerable. He wants complete control for himself so he could have no one who travelled on that journey alive to tell of the course they took or of things they had seen."

"Release me and my people and we will get revenge. I will save my betrothed and our family and get revenge for the men he killed."

Quintus smiled sadly. "I would like nothing more, Rayna, but I cannot. You are a prisoner of Rome."

"Egbert could be a prisoner of Rome. I will capture him and his family and have them transported to you. Do with him whatever you like."

"I cannot. It would be a betrayal to Rome. I'm sorry, Rayna, I truly am."

Knowing it had been unlikely, Rayna still felt her shoulders drop. "Has he left yet?" she asked quietly.

Quintus shook his head. "Not yet. He didn't have a boat, I certainly wouldn't give him another, nor would I give him any men. Those going with him are people he has made promises to. He is gathering supplies, so I don't suspect it will be much longer before he sets off."

Shaking her head to stop from thinking the worse, Rayna looked back into Quintus' dark green eyes. "Well...why are we still here in Britannia? Why haven't we been taken to Rome?"

"I can't spare the men. Your people have stepped up their attacks. But I have written to my superiors requesting more troops. As soon as they arrive, your people will be dealt with and you will be taken to Rome."

Knowing she could accomplish nothing more, Rayna stood and offered the officer her hand. "Thank you for your time, Quintus."

Quintus nodded and called for the guard. "I will pray for her, Rayna," he said, before she was led from his tent. He felt horrible and wanted to do the right thing, but his loyalty lay with Rome and he wouldn't betray it.

Rayna walked back into the cell and looked down at the three warriors who sat looking back at her, curious looks on their faces. She heard the lock of the door and the soldier walking away and smiled. "Don't get comfortable, girls. I believe the others are coming for us."

"Really?" Lane asked in surprise. "How do you know?"

The dark-haired warrior grinned. "I asked Quintus why we are still here in Britannia and he told me he can't spare the men it would take to get us to Rome. Our people have stepped up their attacks," Rayna said as she sat down. "I think it's only a matter of time before we're out of here."

*  *  *  *  *

Brutus studied the Roman camp from his position hiding in the forest, Leonora on one side of him, Evander on the other. "They have two guards standing at each entrance?" he questioned quietly.

Bedilia nodded. "Always. Two will replace those just as night falls."

Brutus nodded, blue eyes on the move, studying everything he could see. "The structure is made of wood," he pointed out. "How about we start a number of small fires around the walls and while the guards see to putting them out, we launch our attack?"

Evander smiled. "Why make small fires? Why not burn the whole thing to the ground? While they are running around in a panic, we rush in and kill those we meet while trying to find our people."

"And if we don't find them before the fire gets out of control?" Bedilia growled. "Then they die and it was all for nothing."

"How do we even know they are in there?" Evander questioned the warrior.

"Because I put someone on watch and yesterday Mallory saw Rayna," the dark-haired warrior replied. She looked to Brutus. "She looks well, she has perhaps dropped a size or two in weight, but other than that." Bedilia shrugged. "It could be worse."

"That's it?" Evander questioned. "Your girl saw only Rayna and now you want to launch an attack on the Roman camp! For one girl!"

Brutus grabbed the man by his collar. "That girl is my sister," he growled fiercely. "If she is there and alive, I will go and free her."

"And you will have the full support of the warriors," Bedilia backed him up.

Brutus released Evander and straightened the man's shirt. "Let's get back to our camp. I have to convince the others that this is a brilliant plan."

Brutus and Bedilia stood at the head of one of the dining tables, everyone of importance seated on the benches. It was raining out, a horrible day that was a delay to their plan, but at least it gave them time to talk everyone into their idea and get things ready.

"Bedilia had the camp watched," Brutus told everyone. "Mallory Waterman saw Rayna."

The men and women around the table looked from him to Bedilia and back, all muttering suddenly.

"She is...alive," Zamira asked in disbelief.

"Yes. A little underfed, but walking by herself," Bedilia replied, offering her teacher a warm smile.

"Were there any signs of the others?" Leland asked. "My brother? Dagwood?"

"Or the other warriors?" Leonora asked.

Bedilia shook her head. "No. Just Rayna. She was led from a building across the camp to a tent, then awhile later she was led back. She was in cuffs each trip."

"Could she be selling us out?" Abbott asked from the seat next to his sister, Delicia.

"No!" Everyone who knew Rayna said at once.

"My guess is the Romans want information out of them and will probably be questioning them," Brutus said. "We've all heard the stories," he said to his people. "But Rayna won't talk. This I stake my life on."

"I don't think any of them have talked," Delicia said. "If they had we would have been in trouble by now. It has been three weeks since the last known sighting of any of them. If they had talked, the Romans would have acted on the info by now, right?" Her question got nods of agreement.

"So, I take it you want to go and save your sister?" Leland said to Brutus.

"The bloody idiot wants us to charge in there on the off chance he can save her one life!" Evander yelled, unable to remain silent any longer. He stood up, looking up and down the table. "I tell you now, I want no part in this attack. If Brutus wants to risk his life, then so be it. But I have better battles to fight than this foolish mission." He looked to his siblings for backing.

Delicia shook her head sadly at her older brother. "She is one of us, Evander. She has fought by our sides, saved some of our lives. Doesn't she deserve our effort to save hers?"

"We could lose many, sister! And for what? Her one life!"

Delicia looked to Brutus and Bedilia. "I'm in. I like her, she's got balls and has all the good ideas. We need her back, especially now that she has inside information on the Romans."

Trenton, Delicia's husband nodded. "Where Delicia goes, I go. I'm in."

"As I am," Leland said. "It is possible that they are all alive and I want to help. Maybe smack Brock when I see him for making us worry!" His comment got a laugh.

The warriors and the teachers stood as one. "We're in," they said, grinning.

The only one who didn't want in on the plan in the end was Evander. With his grey-green eyes flashing in anger at everyone, the man left the tent in a huff.

"So, what's the plan?" Kendall asked.

"I was thinking that perhaps we could just burn them out," Brutus said, shrugging his shoulders.

Delicia laughed. "I like it! To the point and simple."

"The wall that surrounds the camp is wood," Bedilia explained. "If we set that on fire Brutus thinks they'll panic and that's when we go in. The trick is going to be locating Rayna and perhaps the others before we all go up in flames."

"Surely if we find Rayna she can tell us if there are others?" Kornel Atwell said. "If there is no one else, we sound a signal and retreat. If there are others she might be able to tell us where they are and our raid will be quick."

"What if she doesn't know?" Clarance Church asked, a frown on her brow. "If she doesn't know, we'll have to spend more time in there and we could get caught up in the fire."

"Some of us are going to get caught up in fighting the Romans," Bedilia said. "It's their camp and there are sure to be many of them around. This plan needs every one of our people. This is the time to take the fight to the Romans, to take out as many of them as we can. Some of us aren't going to make it back. Unlike Evander said, it isn't just for Rayna's life. This attack is about getting us an advantage. They won't be expecting a direct attack on their camp, we've never done anything so bold."

"Now's the time!" Zamira said. "Now is the time to get them on the back foot."

Everyone nodded their agreement.

"When do we do this?" Sedgwick asked. "I hate to ruin the moment, but it's raining out. There's no way we can light a fire."

Brutus scowled. "I know. While this is a nuisance, it gives us time to prepare and get our people ready. We have to move everyone up closer so that when the time is right, we can attack."

*  *  *  *  *

It rained for two days, making everyone miserable. When the grey sky finally disappeared and the sun broke through, the villagers and warriors waited an extra day to give the wood surrounding the Roman camp a chance to dry. The dryer it was the better it would burn.

Brutus had spoken to every one of the villagers, telling them his plan and reasons for it. He told them they didn't have to come, but that this was their moment. This was the moment the Romans would cower under their attack. Everyone wanted in on the attack. They were tired of these invaders ransacking their lands, of killing or taking prisoner their friends and family. This one attack alone might not make the Romans flee Britannia, but it would show them that they weren't giving up their home without a hell of a fight.

Now was the time. The sun had just poked up from the horizon, the sky a purplish-dark blue in colour. The archers were up high in the tree-tops watching the four gateways. It had been decided that six of the eight guards would be taken out silently by the archers. The two men on the gateway that faced the forest where the villagers were hiding would be the ones to be distracted by the fire, hopefully leaving their post so Brutus could lead his people in.

At exactly the same time, Destiny, Bedilia, Leonora, Zamira, Sedgwick and Darin released an arrow, watching it pierce their soldier's chest, killing them instantly and silently. Clarance and Colt then fired their lit arrows at two different parts of the wooden barricade, watching to make sure the fire spread.

As the two remaining guards panicked and left their post to go and battle the spreading flames, Brutus waved his people forward, smiling as Delicia and Trenton took care of the last two guards.

Because of the early hour, not many were up yet. They were usually woken at a certain time for their breakfast, then when a trumpet sounded they would prepare for battle. Those who were awake were easy to take care of, but as men shouted in alarm and alerted others, more Romans appeared and the real battle started.

Abbott couldn't help but smile at the panic around him as he fought fiercely with a number of Roman soldiers. This had been a brilliant plan, he couldn't believe they hadn't thought of it sooner. Perhaps we just didn't have a reason sooner. Maybe if Rayna hadn't been caught she would have thought of it, the blonde thought. That doesn't matter now. We are here. The fourth born child, third son, to Eros and Agnes, fought next to his baby sister Delicia. After Cornelius losing an eye and Cobden being killed, he didn't want to lose anyone else, especially since he had to face his older sister again some time soon. He chuckled as he thought of Aaronia, she had never liked playing in the dirt or sword fighting like the rest of them. She was happy to sit and watch over them while reading a book. Even when their father had insisted she should learn how to protect herself, she had told him she didn't have to worry, someone would surely come to her rescue.

"Whatever are you laughing at, Abbott?" Delicia growled, her sword plunging deep into the stomach of her opponent.

"Aaronia," he replied, spinning to his left and kicking the feet out from under his opponent. "I was thinking about how when we were children we used to run about sword fighting and playing in the dirt, while she used to just sit and watch."

Delicia smiled. "She never did like getting dirty."

"Do you remember the time she told father she didn't have to learn how to sword fight?" Abbott asked, ducking a high swipe from a half dressed Roman.

Delicia laughed. "I don't have to learn daddy, someone will surely rescue me!" the strawberry-blonde recited. "I've never seen him look so bemused!"

*  *  *  *  *

Bedilia swung her battleaxe with ease, not caring about those around her, her focus solely on finding Rayna. Being one of those up in a tree-top, she had been late to the battle, but was making up for it now. It was madness in the camp, the two sides clashing fiercely in one huge mass. The fight didn't concern her. The dark-haired warrior made her way to the edges of the fight and approached the buildings on the left, where Mallory had told her where Rayna had come from.

A door swung open and two guards charged out with their swords drawn. The tall, muscular girl grinned at the challenge and set her feet waiting for the attack. Both men charged and attempted to overpower her, but Bedilia knew they were going to try that and kicked the first to reach her, before spinning around and elbowing the other in the nose. He howled in pain and crumpled to his knees as his nose shattered. That just left the one doubled over, trying to catch his breath. Without thought, Bedilia took his head off with a clean slice and moved towards the building where the two had come from.

It was dimly lit inside and smelled foul. Covering her mouth and nose as best she could, Bedilia waited a moment to allow her eyes to adjust to the little light. Moving slowly, not sure if there were other guards waiting to ambush her. Bedilia quickly found it was a small building, rounding the one corner she came to another door. She grinned as she looked in the cell through the bars. "Typical, just sitting here relaxing while the rest of us earn our meal."

Rayna grinned as she stood up. "Well, I can't be the hero all the time, can I?"

Bedilia laughed and told them to stand back from the door. She set her feet and swung her battleaxe, easily shattering the wooden door. A couple more blows and a powerful kick, the door collapsed. "Careful out there, Romans are everywhere!"

Gia, Lane and Emmanuelle headed off cautiously while Rayna hung back with Bedilia. Once they were alone, the two friends hugged.

"Damn, Rayna! Don't ever do that again!" Bedilia scolded. "I thought....well, it doesn't matter what I thought, it wasn't true."

"I'm glad you are still with us, my friend. Where's Keera? Outside giving them Hades?"

Bedilia's smile slipped and she cleared her throat. "No, she's uhm...she got hurt, Rayna."

Happiness from a moment ago disappeared. "Hurt? Is she...how badly? She will be all right?" Oh, Gods! I promised Leslie I would get her home safe!

Bedilia sighed. "The healers aren't sure. She got a nasty couple of bumps to the head and was unconscious when Leonora took her back to the field hospice. When she left for Belleza she still hadn't woken. They're not sure if...they don't know if she will wake again."

Rayna scowled. "That is ridiculous! Keera has everything to live for. A beautiful wife, a child on the way. She will wake up, you wait, I'll go and tell her I'm going to steal Leslie away and...." Blue eyes widened. "Damn! Quick, Bedilia, we have to get out of here."

Bedilia frowned even as she chuckled at her dearest friend. "No kidding, Rayna. But first we have to save the guys, do you know where they are?"

"We have to get home! To Belleza! It's the Sheehans!"

"What? Wait, calm down, my friend. What are you talking about?"

"When we were brought here, Egbert Sheehan boldly told us his plans for Belleza. He wants control, Bedilia. He is going to kill the Royal family or take them prisoner and he's going to make Cadie marry Lexie! I have to go back, I have to save them, everyone," Rayna's voice got louder as she started to panic. "I can't lose Arcadia! Not now, not ever!"

Bedilia placed a hand on the dark-haired girl's shoulder. "We won't let anything happen, Rayna. After we're finished here we'll make a plan on getting home as quickly as possible."

Looking into understanding grey eyes, Rayna nodded and took a steadying breath. "All right, let's go save the others and get out of here." She let Bedilia lead, until she had a weapon of her own she had to trust her friend to keep them alive.

Outside, Rayna took the sword from the soldier Bedilia had killed on her way in. "Come on, they're across the camp," she said, starting to run. "I'm not sure what condition they're in, we were separated a couple of days after arriving."

The camp was awash with panicked Romans and exhilarated villagers and warriors. The clang of metal in the early morning sounded odd, this time sacred to many, usually the only time of day they actually relaxed. Now battle raged, the morning peace broken and filled with the sounds of violence.

Seeing her brother standing over someone who looked very familiar, Rayna raced towards him. "Brutus! Brutus!" she called out, not knowing if he could hear her or not. Without thinking, she swiped and jabbed at any enemy soldiers who got too close to her, kicking or pushing aside others. Finally pushing through the crowd, she skidded to a stop next to the big man and gave him a one-armed hug. "That's Quintus, brother. Let him be would you."

Brutus frowned down at his sibling, wondering if she had been hit in the head or something. "Let him be! He is a Roman, baby sister. Are you well?"

"I am fine and mainly because of Quintus. Stand up, Quintus," she directed at the officer, who was sitting back on his butt watching the exchange between the siblings. "You can take him prisoner, Brutus. He is an officer. A fine bargaining chip if I do say so myself."

Brutus lost his frown as he turned a curious look down on the Roman officer. "He didn't...he wasn't inappropriate to you, was he?"

"No, brother. He was a perfect gentleman, saved my life in fact. I'll tell you about that later," Rayna hurriedly said, not stopping for breath. "Right now I have to go rescue the others if they haven't been freed already, then we have to get back to our camp. I have to get home, brother. As soon as possible."

"Rayna?" Brutus watched his sister hurry away with Bedilia close behind. "What on earth has gotten into her?" he asked aloud.

"I believe it has something to do with Egbert," Quintus offered helpfully.

Brutus growled and grabbed the man's shoulder. "Come on you."

*  *  *  *  *

The Roman camp had been burned to the ground, all of their supplies lost as well as many lives. They had taken Roman prisoners, some villagers not keen on the idea, wishing to kill them or make them suffer as they had done to many of their people. Rayna had told them she understood, but ultimately the prisoners would be great for bargaining. Though not entirely happy, the villagers reluctantly saw things her way and agreed to go along with her thinking.

It had been a good morning for the villagers and warriors. They had lost a couple of fighters and many had come back injured, but the win was theirs to celebrate. Their early morning attack had been a complete surprise and now a whole legion had been wiped out. They weren't daft, they knew there were more Romans and that the fighting would continue once they arrived, but for today glory was theirs.

Rayna stood at the head of one of the tables, palms flat on the rough wood. "Brutus, I am so very proud of you," she smiled at her brother. "I know Benedict will be as well. You have kept spirits up and led this brave attack. You have proven yourself in my eyes as a very capable leader. I will inform Cornelius. I'm sure he could use a good right hand man."

Ducking his head, Brutus couldn't fight the blush that burned his newly clean shaven cheeks. "Thank you, Rayna. Your words...mean a lot to me. To know you are proud..." he nodded his head, unable to put anything more into words.

"Sadly there is a more pressing issue," Rayna said, looking at everyone seated around the table. "Egbert Sheehan was behind the attack on Belleza." She waited as people gasped and started muttering and cursing.

"But...why?" Kornel Atwell asked. "Why would he attack the island? He has family there."

"Power," Leland answered, looking to Rayna. "He wants to rule over our people, doesn't he?"

Rayna nodded, her jaw clenching tightly. "He...wants to destroy the Royal family," she paused as people shouted out in disbelief and anger. "Having them taken prisoner or...or...killed. Then his family will be put in place to rule how they see fit. My...my betrothed Arcadia, the Princess to all of us, the niece or cousin to others," she looked to the extended Royal family. "He wants her to marry Lexie, his sister. I...I got the feeling she won't have much choice."

"We won't allow it!" Mallory Waterman shouted out.

Rayna looked to the warrior. "Not while there is breath left in my body will I let anything happen to Cadie. I...I wasn't going to mention this, I wasn't sure if I should, but in case something happens to me I need...I need to know that Arcadia comes to no harm.

"We're all with you, Rayna," Delicia said.

"Thank you, Delicia," Rayna nodded her head. "I am betrothed to the Princess, this you know. We wanted to marry..."

"You'll marry soon, Rayna," Brock grinned. "We'll get you home."

Rayna smiled at the dark blonde-haired man. "I hope so, Brock. Your cousin is with child. My child."

Silence fell in the tent as everyone, except those who already knew, gaped at her.

"What...uhm...we need...you have to go," Leland stammered. "What do you need from us?"

Rayna let out a breath she hadn't realised she had been holding. "Sadly I can't take you all with me. This fight with the Romans isn't over and you need to stay to protect your people and land. I need a ship big enough to transport me and the warriors home as quickly as possible. I spoke with Quintus, the Roman officer, earlier. He informed me Egbert has left and is a couple of days ahead of us."

"Damn the rain!" Brutus growled. "We had to put off our attack until it stopped," he said apologetically to his sister.

"It can't be helped, brother. Nothing that has happened matters, all that concerns me now is that we're quick in leaving. We need a ship and supplies to last us the two and a half weeks it takes to get home. Obviously I can't pay, we'll have to..."

"Don't be ridiculous, Rayna," Leland broke in. "We don't need payment. You saving the Royal family and the islanders is payment enough," he said, looking around the table for support.

"I'll get onto finding a ship," Dagwood offered. "What about the captain and crew though? Surely they can't know of Belleza's existence?"

"We can work as the crew," Destiny said. "We learned the basics on our way here. We really just need a captain."

"I'll see to it," Dagwood nodded.

"I'll see to supplies," Colt said. "I'll get the villagers to help me out."

Rayna nodded. "I....Thank you, all of you. I want you to know..." she trailed off, having never been one for these sort of talks. "Well...let's get to it."

To be continued...

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