Prologue

Stomp.

The rattle of chains and the tuning of worn guitars play in my ears.

Stomp.

I take another step, following behind a toothless old man as we make our way to our death ropes.

Rattle.

The chains are un-cuffed from a group of people before me who've just been cut from their lives. The line moves slowly, and silently. I hear a little boy behind me humming a familiar tune.

"Ain't no grave," he sings softly. We take another step, the ringing of the chains creating a beat, making this tune the boy sings become more clear. "can hold my body down." I turn my head to look at him, and I see a few people ahead of me turn to look at him. He's tracing the metal on the cuffs of the chains surrounding his wrists.

"There ain't no grave," another starts. The people stop moving in the line, and turn to look at each other. He stares back at them with rotten teeth. "can hold my body down."

"When I hear that trumpet sound," the boy sings, louder. The men in the lines ahead and behind me start stomping with a beat. The jingle of the chains ring in my ears, and stops with a stomp of feet on asphalt. "I'm gonna rise right out of the ground." He finishes.

Then, as if all know the next words, they sing, "Ain't no grave, can hold my body down." The man who has the job of pulling the lever to hang us pauses, and gives the people a blank stare. I must say they have some high spirits to sing when it is their death jingle.

"Well, look way down the river, what do you think I see? I see a band of angels and they're coming after me." Another sings. Now all of the boys and grown men are smiling maliciously at each other, singing the chorus of the song again.

"What are you doing?" A guard asks, poking some of them with the tip of his sword. A wonderful idea pops into my head. I start singing the loudest, making sure I catch everyone's attention.

"Well, look down yonder Gabriel, put your feet on the land and see

But Gabriel don't you blow your trumpet 'til you hear it from me

There ain't no grave can hold my body down"

The guard freezes and looks at me. I give him a cold stare as he walks over to me. "Did you say something?" he snaps, pointing the sword at the tip of my neck. Everyone's gone quiet now as they watch the guard glare at me. I feel warm blood tickle down my neck, but I manage to keep my posture firm.

In a swift movement I flip my manacles over so the sword the guard is holding slices right through them, splitting them in half. The guard staggers and before he can aim the sword at me, I've snatched it from his hands, hitting the top of his head with the hilt, and knocking him out. I slash through as much manacles I can before I free majority of people, and they start yelling in cheer and helping others. I sprint to the doors of the prisoned field. I stop abruptly, with a crowd of criminals behind me, as the head captain of the prison steps right in front of me. He seems unarmed, except for a small dagger in his belt, under his long trench coat. He looks completely calm on the outside, as I'm sure I do.

My breaths are deep and heavy while the captain's are calm and normal. "Ain't no grave," I say with a cold stare. "will hold our bodies down."

"Very well." The captain says in a shaky breath. He backs up and unlocks the prison gates with his key. Overpowered, he knows. There are about three dozen of us here. We may not all have a weapon, but we have powerful fists.

He steps aside as I walk proudly past him, and the other men cheer me on, including the little boy.

"You've made the biggest mistake of your life. If you prick us do we not bleed? If you tickle us do we not laugh? If you poison us do we not die? And if you wrong us shall we not revenge?" The captain and I stare at each other as the crowd of men rush past us. "You will remember my face as you watch the one you love the most die."

"Too late." I say with a shrug. "They're all dead, my family." And with that, I disappear in the crowd and lose sight of the captain as we empty into the big, open Wild West.

1

"Hey! Stop that man!" I hear fancy and durable boots pound against the stone path I'm running on. I have worn out boots, but they still work. I clutch the net opening closer together in my palm. Food is sure to stay with my incredible grip.

I zip past the people in the markets; most of them selling fruits and vegetables that I would die for-not literally. In this town, I'd have to watch what I say, because everything is taken literally. I'm starving-no, you're hungry. I'm depressed-no, you're sad. The town is so incredibly annoying. I can't wait until I get enough money to leave here.

I turn down a narrow alley-big mistake. The guards may have lost me, but I face a bigger problem. Three boys stand at the mouth of the alley-my only escape route-and turn when I see them. They have knives-actual sharp-tipped knives. They grin, all except one, who couldn't possibly be much older than me. His arms were crossed, his biceps looking a whole lot bigger than the other two, who were probably twice his age.

"Well, well, well." The oldest one starts. He has a scar along the bottom of his left cheekbone. His gray hair looks dirty and it's easy to assume he hasn't showered in days, possibly weeks.

I clutch my net full of fruits and vegetables-the only thing that I have to survive-as the other old one approaches me. "Couldn't possibly be more than sixteen." He says. He takes out the knife from his belt and twirls it in his hands. "Maito, how much longer do you think we could survive out here with all of this food he has?" my breaths have quickly become fast, as I think they may be my last.

"Give us the food." The old man replies. He comes up next to Maito.

"No." I say firmly. Maito reaches his wrinkled hand out to grab at my face, but I jerk away, and the brown colonial tricorn hat that covers my locks of wavy hair falls off my head. I will myself not to move.

"Woah!" Maito says, observing me over again. "Who knew girls could disguise themselves as men?" Maito asks. I spit at the ground in front of him, and he just laughs. I'm used to having to act this brave; many times that foolish hat always falls off.

"Let her go," the young one says, now leaning against the brick wall. He's looking at me, his dark brown hair short and spiked, and, well, beautiful. The old man and Maito laugh. "Let her through, Sirra. She's got no purpose with us."

"Now why would I pass up the opportunity to get some more food? I'm sure you know I need it." Sirra says to the boy, with a malicious grin. "And we can also get ourselves a new toy." He strokes my hair and I grab his hand, flipping it over in a twist I learned once by my father, so that in one easy second I can break his wrist. Sirra screams out, trying to yank away but the pain only gets worse for him. Maito pulls out the knife and aims it at my throat.

"Help!" I yell, making my voice high-pitched and young. I give a glare to Maito. "Now you have about two minutes to put that knife down or we all go to jail." The sound of the guard siren goes off a little distance away from the alley.

"Dammit!" Maito exclaims. He glances at Sirra.

"Let her go, man." Sirra pleas. I tighten my grip and he winces. "Let her go!" Maito lets the knife down, and I find the strength to drag Sirra into Maito, making them stumble against the wall. They try to grab me, but I yell out another call to the guards.

"Help! In the alley!" I flip the net of food over my shoulder and take a few steps of a running start. I jump sideways, stretching my foot out so I push off sideways and do a wall jump. I land past the two old men, and to grab my balance I do a summersault.

"C'mon," the boy says, yanking me up by my shoulder. "Follow me." The guards reached the end of the alley on the side I just came out of, quickly going to grab on to the two men. A few try to run and catch up to me and the boy, but we're both too fast for any of them. He leads me up latters and makes me jump from one small building to the next.

Quote of the day: Instead of a man of peace and love, I have become a man of violence and revenge.