Kathryn was sick to her stomach. She had failed at another escape just hours before, and William had done his worst to deter her. As she gently rocked her daughter in her arms, the baby's head made soft contact with the cup of Kathryn's eye. The pain was almost unbearable. Rather than crying out, she stifled her groan of discomfort, laid the baby back in the basinet, and made her way to the washroom adjacent to the room she had been kept in for months now. She peered into the looking glass and her stomach lurched at the sight of the bruised circle around her right eye, courtesy of her formerly betrothed's fist. Attempting to sooth her nerves, she poured some fresh water into the washbasin and splashed her face. It was then, as she patted her face dry, she heard the door to her room quickly open and shut. Every muscle in her body tightened. Her heart began to race. Who was in her room? The footsteps of the intruder were making their way slowly across the room. She felt her lungs quickly draw in air as she realized in horror what he was headed towards.
The pistol… she thought to herself. During her last escape attempt, she managed to steal the pistol off of the holster of one of Burckhardt's soldiers as he fought to contain her. She carefully leaned through the washroom doorway. Just as she had feared, one of Burckhardt's soldiers was standing next to the baby's cradle, and the pistol was only inches from him. A silent but deadly rage was pulsing through her veins as she watched the man touch her daughter's head with his filthy hand. She now cared not if he heard her. She swiftly moved to the table where the pistol sat, snatched it up and pointed at the man's head. She could see the muscles in his back tense as she pulled the hammer back with a click. Just as his hands lifted into the air to profess his innocence, she spoke to him.
"Slowly turn, I have a pistol aimed," she said in the most venomous voice she could muster. The man's hands then began to tremble slightly. She would have felt like smiling at his fear had she not been so furious. He did not turn. "I will repeat myself, sir… slowly turn and leave this room." She stared ferociously at the back of his head, determined to see the eyes of the man who dared think of touching her child. As he began to face her, she noticed a small scar just behind his ear. Her heart ached for a moment, reminded of the scar Corin had… just like that one. She shook it off. Then, his face slowly came into view in the darkness. No… her mind was just playing tricks on her. She was sure of it. It was dark. She couldn't possibly be seeing…
She remembered being held in place in front of the window by William. She trembled and cried as he pinned the back of her head to his chest so she would have no choice but to look. Two men were being led to the gallows to be hanged. As soon as she saw the saddened face of Morgan being cloaked by a burlap sac, she thought she had known instantly who the other man being hung was. As she watched the men fall and jerk with the ropes tight around their necks, she had fallen to the floor in grief, knowing that two of the people she loved most in this world were gone. Yet now, she was, staring at Corin… a man she believed to have been dead for nearly three months. Her heart sang with joy just as her world went dark.
William stormed out the front door, only to see three groups of his soldiers tied together in the grass – all unconscious.
"What in the HELL is going on here," he shouted.
"Sir, we've been infiltrated," his second in command nervously informed.
"Surely you jest," he spat in a facetious tone. "What ever lead you to that conclusion, you imbicile?" He walked over to one of the groups of unconscious men and gave one hard kick to the thickest one. "Get up you dogs… Untie them," he shouted as he walked further into the compound.
Men were lying incapacitated everywhere, and judging by his count, eighty percent of his entire force was being held to the ground by ropes.
"Admiral Burckhardt! What should we do," asked the officer behind him. With a scowl on his face and his jaw clenched, he turned to the shaking man.
"Ride to the next town, and get every officer you can find. Tell them we are being attacked, and to send their full force to this location." He cracked his knuckles and began walking back to the manor. "Ward is not going to get away with this."
Arthur quickly broke out one of the windows on the ground floor of the mansion, frightening a very pregnant house maid in the process. The only thought going through his head was that he hoped he did not scare her into the pains of labor. Then, he remembered why he was breaking in the manor in the first place. He had seen Burckhardt… that meant Captain Ward hadn't killed him… that meant something had gone wrong. He knew Ward was in the manor, and he had to find him. He saw Burckhardt send a rider to the next town for reinforcements, and despite the fact they conquered the entire fort within just an hour, he knew they wouldn't be able to fight much longer. The Everest's crew would have to make their retreat soon, quite possibly without completing their goal of the Admiral's death.
He poked his head into nearly every room with no luck. The most he came across was servants and cooks trying to hide in their designated quarters. Finally, just as he was about to give up on finding his Captain, he walked in the one room with a shut door. Arthur stuck his readied pistol through the door at a man in the red-coat's garb kneeling by a bed, but exhaled and withdrew it once he realized it was Corin.
"Good Lord, Cap'ain. What 'appened to ye? I thought ye were gonna be off killin' that bastard! He' still out there… alive, I might add!" Captain Ward did not answer. "And what are you doin' kneelin' on the floor?" When the Captain still did not respond to him, he quickly shut the door and locked it behind him before making his way to the bed, where it was clear a woman lay sleeping. "Cap'ain, we have to leave!" He put his hand on Ward's shoulder to wake him from whatever trance he had been placed in by this woman, and he finally spoke.
"She's alive, Morgan," he said almost inaudibly.
"What?" Morgan turned to look at the woman. He could feel the color draining from his face. He could not react. Was that really Kathryn? The Kathryn who had died months ago on the sea? He looked around the room and saw a bassinette that held a now-sleeping baby. He had never been more bowled over in his life.
The sounds of men rushing through the hallway sent Arthur on alert once more.
"Sir, we're going to be killed if we don't leave now!" He wrapped his arms through Ward's and pulled him to his feet before proceeding to drag him to the door.
"I can't leave her," he insisted, pushing Arthur aside and returning to stand by the bed. "I can't lose her again…"
"Why isn't anyone watching this door," he heard Burckhardt shout from just beyond their wooden partitian.
"Nothing's goin' to 'appen to her while she's here, sir," he insisted in a whisper, grabbing ahold of him once more. "It's your hide I'm worried about!" The handle began to turn. When it didn't open, the men could hear Burckhardt's roar of frustration. Corin knew that Arthur was right – that she and the baby would be safer in the manor than running with them. He pulled himself closer to her, whispered in her ear, kissed her forehead, and turned to escape out of the window just as the door was kicked open.
Mary Cummings watched the two men at her mistress' bedside through the door that connected her room with Kathryn's. She knew the man kneeling by her side. She had seen him being taken into custody the day they found her on that God-forsaken ship, pregnant, near death and writhing in pain. His friend was tugging him towards the window, and she could see the door bowing as men pushed on it to try and force it to open. Though she had to listen for it carefully, she heard the words whispered to Kathryn as she slept.
"I'll come back for you…" he said. "Both of you…"
After witnessing a hoard of men finally break open the door that had been locked by the Captain's gangly friend, Mary turned her eyes to see that he and Kathryn's apparent lover had disappeared through the window. The sound of the smashing door caused Kathryn to stir on the bed, and the baby to wail in protest at the noise. Mary hurried through the door, quickly snatching the wash basin simply to look busy.
"Who locked this door," the Admiral demanded as he looked about the room. She could have told the truth: that the rebel Captain and one of his crewmen had locked it when they snuck in, but she found herself lying.
"I did, sir."
"Mistress and I heard the commotion outside," she stammered. "We both became frightened, and Lady Wellington fainted. I locked the door to keep any of the rebels from getting in."
"...rmmm… Corin…." Whimpered the sleeping Kathryn. Burckhardt looked curiously at his former fiancée and turned a critical glare to Mary.
"Are you lying to me," he asked slowly but threateningly.
"No, sir," she said quietly, looking to the ground.
"Mary," he prompted, lifting her chin with a grip that would break bones, "who was in this room aside from the two of you?"
"No one," she repeated with more confidence. "What benefit would come to me to allow a traitor anywhere within breath of the mistress I am supposed to care for?" He stared her down hard, but she did not let up from her story. Searching her face for any indication of lying, Burckhardt finally accepted her fib and released her jaw.
"Fine," he snapped. "Get her tended to." He motioned to Kathryn with an uncaring wave and left the room with his men. Mary quickly returned to Kathryn's bedside with the water pitcher and tray before quickly dampening the cloth and placing it gently on her forehead.
"Corin?" Kathryn's eyes squinted and then opened lethargically to look at Mary. Her eyes went from confusion to urgency as she shot up in her bed and looked about frantically. "Where is he," she demanded, attempting stand up. Mary held her down firmly.
"Calm yourself, ma'am," she insisted, her hands hard on Kathryn's shoulders.
"He was here, Mary," she said, tears stinging her eyes and rolling down her cheeks. "I saw him… he was here! He's alive!"
"Take them to New Haven," Ward instructed Maggie's servant, who shakily held onto the reigns of a horse. "After the boat takes you across the canal, it is a three-day's journey along the coast."
Maggie looked blankly in Corin's direction, holding her bundled-up child in her lap. He had promised her a victory in one night, so no danger would come to them. He had been wrong. News of the attack on the manor had spread like wildfire through the colony, and already, Maggie was the subject of many conversations regarding treason. It had only been one day. He watched until the carriage disappeared over the horizon before turning to enter the house once more.
The men sat stone silent in a circle in the parlor. When they heard Ward's heavy-booted footsteps entering, their eyes slowly turned up. He breathed deeply, clenched his jaw, and answered the question he knew was on everyone's minds.
"We return in a fortnight."
"A fortnight," shouted Charles angrily. "That is too soon! We are nowhere near prepared to fight off the entire estate again! It took us twice that long to prepare last time! They will be ready for us this time. We have no chance with such little preparation!"
"I understand your concern," he said blankly.
"…Like hell you do," he interrupted, rising from his seat. "It's all because of you that we didn't succeed last night." Charles threw the book he was reading on the floor and kicked it with such strength several of the pages flew out. "All because you couldn't stop ogling one of Burckhardt's whores!"
A loud click from a pistol resonated through the room. Corin lifted his eyes to see Arthur pointing his readied weapon at the younger officer.
"Arthur, lower your weapon," he ordered slowly.
"You know not of whom you speak, you li'le twit," Arthur spat.
"You're right, I don't," Charles agreed viciously. "All we know is what we saw… and what we saw was you in the same room as the Captain. Have a little something for the whore as well then, Artie?"
"You will hol' your tongue…" he said as he pushed the barrel of the pistol to Charles' sternum.
"ARTHUR!" By this time, several men were pulling the two feuding ones apart, and Corin quickly snatched the pistol from his friend's hand.
"I am not going to stay here and let you have us all killed because of your lust for some glorified prostitute!" This time, Corin had to keep himself from launching across the room to strangle him. Charles broke away from Mister Spurlock's grip and marched toward the door. "I am using my better judgment for the first time in months, and I'm leaving. Anyone care to join me?" He waited for a reply from anyone willing to protest the second raid.
"Anyone who leaves now will not be thought ill of," Corin then said. Charles snapped his head to his left to look at the Captain. "I have spoiled a mission when I told you it would go according to plan. I will understand if you leave." The room was still for many minutes before the small body of Edward, the youngest officer among the group, rose to stand.
"Let's go, boy," Charles said snidely as he opened the door and left. Edward slowly trudged towards the door, face down so he wouldn't be forced to make eye contact with anyone. He paused just before he reached the opened door.
"We were lucky no one was killed," he said quietly.
"You are right," the Captain confirmed, nodding. "We were."
"Admiral Burckhardt will spare no sympathy for anyone captured," he continued.
"You are right," Corin repeated in agreement. "He won't." Edward finally looked up at the man he had admired for nearly a year. With a determined sigh, he slammed the door shut in front of him, leaving Charles out in the cold by himself.
"It's worth the threat of death to see the fall of the Admiral, I think."
"That's a good soldier," chuckled Mr. Spurlock as he walked over and embraced Edward in a fatherly hug. Just as Edward took his seat once again, a faint tapping sound reached Corin's ears. As the men talked of plans for the next raid, Corin followed the noise into the kitchen area. A young girl, perhaps very early to mid twenties, wrapped in a shawl, stood outside the window. Once her eyes met Corins, she eagerly motioned for him to meet her outside of the house. He took the back door out into the garden and curiously watched as the girl approached.
"Who are you," he demanded, arms crossed over his chest.
"If you want Kathryn and the baby back, you need to get them now," she said simply. Startled by her bluntness and her knowledge of Kathryn, his brow furrowed and he walked closer to her.
"You did not answer my question, girl. Who are you?"
"My name is Mary Cummings, sir," she said shakily, not from fear, but only from the cold. "I am servant and friend to Lady Kathryn." Corin lost any suspicion he had at that moment.
"Is she alright?"
"Yes," she replied.
"And the baby?"
"Your daughter is well." Corin exhaled a deep breath and lowered his head in relief.
"Why are you telling me this? Do your loyalties lie not with William Burckhardt," he asked quietly, but thankful she had come to talk with him.
"My loyalties lie with Miss Kathryn," she stated plainly.
"How do I know you are not telling me lies," he then asked, his suspicions building up again. "How can I be so sure you have not led Burckhardt's entire force to this very house?"
"First off," she began irritably, "If I had brought Burckhardt's soldiers with me, you would have been dead the instant you stepped out of this house… so would the man who left here just a moment ago." Corin gulped, knowing the fierce girl was right. "Second off, four months ago when I first lay eyes on Miss Wellington in her state of near death, I had every mindset to bring you to your knees in pain." His jaw clenched, waiting to see what her third point was. "However," she continued, "it wasn't long after that I saw how much of her died inside when she thought you had been hanged. It became apparent the only thing that kept her alive the day she delivered the baby was the thought of you coming back for the two of them." Mary saw the intimidating Captain staring at her harder than stone. Assuming he was still in disbelief, she exhaled loudly in frustration and pulled out a crumpled sheet of paper from her pocket on her apron. "She told me you would be hard to convince," she grumbled. Corin couldn't help but inwardly smile to himself.
"What is that," he questioned.
"A list of things that would convince you to listen to me," she snapped before speaking again. "You have a circular scar," she said, "It is on your chest. She said she gave it to you by accident when you had pneumonia."
"Mary," he tried saying, but she cut him off.
"You came down with pneumonia because when she was thrown off the ship in a storm, you jumped in after her," she said quickly.
"…She read Richard Lovelace to you when you were ill…"
"Mary!" Her green eyes shot up to his, almost furious for interrupting her. He shook his head and placed his hands on her shoulders. "I believed you before you brought out that silly paper."
"Then pray tell, why are you still here? Why aren't we on our way back to Burckhardt's estate to get them?"
"Mary, things like this take a certain amount of planning," he tried explaining. "We lost a great deal of supplies on our last raid. We cannot afford to make another strike until two weeks from now."
"They'll be gone by then," she nearly shouted. His brow furrowed into a line above his head.
"What do you mean, gone?"
"Burckhardt is preparing to sail Kathryn and the baby back to England tomorrow morning!"
"No he isn't," he said, almost laughing out loud. "He is nowhere near ready!"
"You are wrong," she insisted. "I have heard him speaking of his plans to his men with my own ears!"
"Have you not learned that Burckhardt lies through his teeth to everyone," he asked her. "And besides, the Margareta still has three weeks to a month of preparation before she is ready to make a voyage to England."
Mary's eyes squinted at his statement and widened in horrified realization.
"Are you completely daft?" Corin looked at her, confused. "He is not taking the Margareta!"
"Of course he is, woman," he snapped. "William Burckhardt has sailed on no other ship in nearly five years!"
"Well he has made quite the exception," she scoffed.
"And what exception has he made?"
"He's taking YOUR ship, The Everest."
The lack of ammunition, planning and time had changed the entire focus of the mission. Their objectives were few: Escape with Kathryn and the baby, ensure the servant girl's safety, and do not be seen. Burckhardt could die another day. Corin had never improvised a mission before, but if he had to move fast if he was ever to see Kathryn and his child again. Because of the need to remain unseen, only Ward and two of his most experienced men slithered past the walls of the estate at nightfall.
Kathryn slept restlessly in her bed, hair tussled from yet another stressful dream about the ghost who visited her the day before. Her body leapt from sleep and her eyes shot open as a large hand was pressed firmly over her mouth. Her lungs prepared for a scream, but her throat stopped them when she realized whom the hand over her mouth belonged to. Tears were immediately building in her eyes. She knew he would come back. He lifted his finger to his mouth and motioned for her to be quiet. Once he lifted his hand from her lips, her arms flew around his neck and she clung to him for precious life. He slowly rested himself to sit on the bed and constricted his arms around her body, his nose burying itself in the crook of her neck. Oh, how he'd missed this. He missed holding her. He missed her smell. He missed everything about her.
Remembering what he was there for, he detangled himself from her and made her look at him.
"Find a heavy blanket for the baby. We're leaving." She nodded quickly and rose to her feet, attempting to step as delicately as she could. At that time, Arthur tiptoed into the room with Mr. Spurlock right behind him. He was carrying a red uniform that matched the ones they were all wearing, including boots and an extra rifle.
"Am I to wear that," Kathryn asked in a hushed whisper as she pulled a woolen blanket from her bureau.
"Yes," Corin whispered, gently picking up the baby from her bassinet and laying her down on Kathryn's bed. He thanked any higher power in existence that his daughter didn't cry at the thought of being carried by a stranger. Kathryn stood next to him and quickly wrapped her up in the blanket she had found before retrieving the uniform. "Watch the door," he instructed Mr. Spurlock. "And Arthur, go fetch Mary, the servant girl."
"She's in the room to the left," Kathryn said as she worked to slip on the breeches. Though they were small, they still managed to dangle far further down her legs than intended.
"It is fine," Corin assured her. "The boots will cover it." He grabbed the bottom of her gown and pulled it up over her head so he could help her put the coat on. Her chemise hung perfectly over her body, touching just enough skin to give Corin a more than pleasant visual. He had to bite his tongue to keep his thoughts and memories from distracting him.
Kathryn looked up at him worriedly as he buttoned up the red coat around her body.
"Is William alive still?" His jaw clenched as he reached the bottom button and tugged at the bottom of the jacket.
"My main concern is getting you and the baby out of here and somewhere safe," he explained, turning her around by her shoulders and quickly pulling her long hair back in a braid. "No one knows we are here."
"He will follow us," she replied, turning in his arms. "He will track us, and he will kill you…"
"…He won't find us," he said quickly. "William taught me everything he knows. He will not be able to track us, and furthermore," he added, "once he realizes you are gone, we will no longer be on this island."
"Captain, Miss Mary is readied," said Arthur from the doorway. Curious eyes of Kathryn's friend peeked in from the hallway. Kathryn smiled softly at her, but couldn't help the worry showing from behind her all too expressive face.
"Do you have the ammunition satchel?"
"Yes, sir," he replied, walking into the room and handing a grey bag to Corin. Kathryn watched as he made his way to the bed and set the bag down by the baby. He picked her up gently in his arms and paused to look lovingly down at her. Her stormy eyes widened to focus on his face in the dark, yet she made no sound of fright toward him. Kathryn slowly approached and watched her daughter's reaction towards her father.
"Her name is Elizabeth," she said softly as the baby squirmed in his hands. A small smile tugged at the corner of his mouth, his eyes never leaving his child.
"My mother's name," he pointed out quietly. Kathryn lowered her lashes and nodded in response. With all the care in the world, he tightened the blanket around Elizabeth and gently cradled her body within the ammunitions satchel. He held tight onto her and draped the strap around Kathryn's shoulders. "Carry her tightly to you," he instructed. "Do not let her be seen." Kathryn looked down at the baby and gently draped the flap over the lower half of Elizabeth's body.
"It's time to leave, sir," Mr. Spurlock informed them. Quick nods of acknowledgement were shared between the men before the women were guided through the mansion.
Kathryn's heart began to race as she remembered the two guards towards the back of the house. They would be approaching them soon. As soon as her breath began to form the words of warning, she noticed two familiar soldiers unconscious on the floor. Gingerly, she stepped over them in time with Corin, his men, and Mary without a moment's loss.
The lock to the servant's entrance to the kitchen had been pried apart, and it took only a nudge by Arthur to lead the door slowly swinging open. Mr. Spurlock poked his head through into the darkness, took a quick look about, and then led the group outside.
The air was bitterly cold, and Kathryn quickly covered up Elizabeth's face with the satchel flap to keep her from breathing in the freezing air. Corin, watching her, gently rubbed the squirming bundle attached to her chest before continuing to walk with determination towards the woods.
Kathryn could hear Mary's breath catch in her chest as a group of British soldiers walked towards the barracks, just fifty meters away from them.
"Can they see us," she quickly whispered to her.
"Just our uniforms," Kathryn whispered back to her. "They suspect nothing, I think. Just keep walking."
The muscles in everyone's backs stiffened when one of the passing soldiers addressed them.
"Where are the lot of you headed this time of night," one called out, squinting his eyes in the dark. Mary immediately began shaking and closed her eyes in fear while Kathryn looked with wild eyes towards Arthur and Corin.
"Shift change," Arthur called out with confidence and without hesitation.
"Taking over perimiter patrol," Corin added.
"Well stay warm," one of the other soldiers called, causing Kathryn to relax a small amount. "It's frightfully cold this night!"
"We will do our best," Ward called out with a tip of his hat. "Keep moving," he then whispered to everyone.
Their feet moved so fast, Kathryn was almost surprised no one had tripped and fallen over the lengthening grass. They finally reached the large fence that surrounded the property. With a grace that only the most delicate of birds possessed, Arthur leaped over and brushed off his coat.
"Hand me the babe," he whispered, holding his hands through the bars to Kathryn. Corin helped undrape the satchel from her body as she carefully held out the bundle to Arthur's hands. He gently pulled Elizabeth through the fence and held her close to his chest as Ward helped Kathryn over the fence. It took quite a bit more effort than her friend appeared to have taken, but she quickly fell to her knees on the other side of the fence. Arthur helped her to her feet and handed the baby back to her. A small cry turned their attention to the top of the fence. Mary's coat caught on one of the spikes protruding from the top, and she could not move.
"What do I do," she pleaded desperately.
"Hold still," Corin commanded. He began to climb the fence and reached over quickly to detangle her from the iron. They soon realized not only was the snag keeping Mary from moving, but it was the only thing keeping her up. As soon as she was free, she began to slip. Arthur's quick actions saved Mary from injury when he caught her with his body just as she fell to the ground.
Before Kathryn could think to comment on the curious look Arthur and Mary gave each other as she lay against his body, she heard a loud whistle from Corin, who still straddled the fence. He waved his arm widely in the air before grabbing the iron and vaulting himself away from the massive structure. Kathryn looked to see whom he had been signaling, and a young officer quickly appeared out of the woods, guiding two well-built horses behind him.
"Where are we going," Kathryn asked Corin as he approached her.
"Somewhere safe," he answered simply. He took the reins of one of the horses from the young Edward and brought it near Kathryn. "Can you hoist yourself up," he asked, guiding her to the horse.
"I think so," she said breathlessly. With one hand, she anchored Elizabeth to her body and grabbed the side of the saddle. Mounting the horse was nearly effortless, considering her many escape attempts involved scaling walls with her baby in her arms. After ensuring she was secure, Corin looked to the other horse, and saw Mary was also safely mounted.
"Let's move," he whispered before quietly stepping into the lengthening grasses that led to the woods. Arthur walked backwards behind everyone, rifle in hand, to guarantee if they were spotted, he could silence the culprit before he could get a word out.
The walk through the woods was more than uncomfortable. Branches caught in the women's hair, and the cold of the air was beginning to cause Elizabeth to become agitated. Kathryn did her best to warm her by unbuttoning the wool jacket and placing the baby closer to her body. Much to their relief, the baby's whimpers began to quiet down as she started to fall asleep. They walked for nearly an hour before they reached a clearing in which a small campsite was crudely set up, complete with seven horses secured to various trees around the area. Men in the false red uniforms were rubbing their hands together, bunching up their scarves around their neck, and loading weapons left and right. They all looked up as the five newcomers approached.
"Break up the campsite and mount, gentlemen," Corin called out in his loud, commanding voice Kathryn remembered from her time on The Everest. "We are leaving."
Kathryn had not even dismounted to relieve her bladder in the woods before the entire campsite disappeared without any sign it had been there in the first place. Once everyone had mounted, Arthur hoisted himself on the horse Mary rode, sitting in front of her and taking the reigns in his hands.
"We will ride in our compass formation," Corin informed the men. "Mr. Spurlock, you will lead us in front," he instructed. "Douglas, you are the right flank. Andrew, left flank. Thomas, Michael, Samuel and Edward, you all will rotate the North West, South West, North East and South East faces. Arthur, you lock up the rear. Is that understood?"
"Yes, Captain," said everyone sternly with a nod.
"Good." Corin nodded back to his men and approached the horse Kathryn had re-saddled. With barely a flinch to his face, he hoisted himself up behind her and tightened his hands around the reigns. "We are going to run," he whispered to Kathryn. "Lean forward and hold tight to the saddle."
"Let's move, men," shouted the man Corin addressed as Mr. Spurlock before he took off in a gallop into the back woods. The formation they rode in was impeccable. Not one horse was out of position as they flew through the trees. Despite the number of broken logs on the ground, Kathryn could hear no wood cracking – only the sound of hooves on soft earth. The horse she and Corin rode was so fluid in his movements, the baby resting against her chest did not stir. It did not need to be said she was in complete awe of the way they fled.
It was not long before the sound of hooves was drowned out by the sound of rushing water. She could begin to feel the freezing air turn moist as the water from the river was picked up by the wind and carried into the woods in their direction. A shiver ran down her spine in anticipation of having to cross the river. When the horses Corin and Arthur were steering finally made it out of the woods to the muddy riverbank, several of the men had already dismounted and were preparing a small dinghy for the trip across the river. The youngest officers, Samuel, Michael and Edward were climbing in. Corin jumped off of the back of the horse and held up his arms for Kathryn. She held onto his shoulders with one arm and secured her grip on Elizabeth in the ammunitions satchel. Being squeezed between her parents, the baby woke up and began to let out a strangled cry of irritation.
"Shhh, child," Kathryn hushed as she bounced the baby gently in her arms once her feet were on the ground.
"Let's get to the boat," he urged her, leading her down the rocky shore to where the dinghy tossed back and forth in the waves. Mary climbed in before her, sitting next to Edward, and holding out her arms for the baby. Kathryn handed the crying Elizabeth to her just before climbing in herself. She turned around to face Corin and he immediately cupped her cheeks and pulled her face towards his. Her breath was stolen away by the first kiss they had shared since they found each other, and she almost neglected to realize the boat was already full. She pulled away from his lips and looked at his expression. It was hard, cold, and apologetic all at the same time.
"No," she whispered to herself. His jaw clenched and his hands dropped from her face.
"No," she repeated, louder this time. His foot made contact with the wood of the boat and forcefully pushed it into the river.
"NO!" She tried standing up, but Edward pulled her back down to her seat as the other two officers paddled away with their oars, trying their best to drift against the current and get to the other side of the canal. "Corin!" The tears escaping her eyes could have frozen with the cold wind that assaulted her face. He stood at the shore, his face still stone cold, his hands clenched at his sides. He waited until the boat was gone, and he could no longer hear her cries until he turned back around to prepare for combat.