"Jatin," she addresses him.
"Yes, sahiba," he bows to her.
"This fight will be dangerous," she warns him. "For everyone, even you and Ayed." He looks steadily at her.
"I fear for your safety," she reaches a hand out to him. He steps back and bows deeply.
"Pukka sahiba!" his gravelly voice gasps out. "We will serve you, and save our village." He leads his tusker to follow the fighters. Pratima watches him move away.
"Take care of him William," Pratima orders. "Him and Sunil too." William moves quickly to follow after Sunil who is bouncing up and down as he races to catch the fighting group moving up the hillside.
Sunil guides them up and around the small hilltop. William moves up to him.
"You know this way?" William doubts. "You have been this way before?"
"Yes," Sunil nods vigorously. "We kids always played here. It comes out at the back side of the big building." William nods back.
William and Sunil continue guiding the group in their travel around the hill and they scramble among the tumbled rocks at its north corner. About an hour later moving over rough ground, they come on what looks like a rough path going downward. Following this path moves them in the direction that seems to head toward the compound. Parts of the narrow track, are very faint, and parts wander over the low ridge and merges into an animal track.
As they move along it they slowly wend through the hills, till the hills open up and they move into a valley close to their goal. The valley is empty with small trees and a grass covered floor. The path they follow cannot be seen from below because of how it hugs and follows the lay of the hillsides. They reach the valley floor and proceed across it. As the sun begins to rise almost straight over the hill they rest for a few minutes among some brush.
They try to remain calm as they begin to move again. Quickly they prepare to proceed in sections with Sunil and William taking the lead. The heavier gear, with the elephant follows more slowly. William and Sunil carry hardly any extra weight. They spread out with meters between each section.
"I don't like this long approach to the target." William says to Abha when he comes up. "I just want to get there and begin."
"Yes, it is hard to keep focused and attentive, when you anticipate violence," Abha nods.
"It is just over this hill," Sunil points excitedly."
Finally they climb this last hill. Sunil goes ahead and explores the approach and shows William and the others the path that leads directly to the top. They wait for everybody, to make the final approach. They try to move quietly, and move slower and slower. The sounds are only natural, including birds, moving branches and the wind. They keep their mouths shut and use their hands to communicate.
As the sun moves slightly higher there is a gleam of red upon the settlement roof, as the light catches it. Then William and Sunil freeze and wait to make sure they have not been spotted. William moves slowly down another few feet and signals Sunil to him. He sends him back to alert the others so that they can come over the rise carefully. He points to a depression about a kilometer away from the buildings and suggests the entire group meet there.
As the group splits up they start moving in two separate columns forward toward the main building. The sun is almost straight up in the sky and all the animals are suspiciously quiet. As William moves about 100 meters further on, he hears a sharp crack to his left. There are shadows over there. An arrow whips past him tearing a small groove along his arm.
There is another crack and thud. A few seconds later Chizuko walks out of the grove swinging liquid off her sword. William realizes it must be blood and he continues moving toward the target. They all stay quiet as they trample through the low bushes and grasses. They are covered with dust and trying not to cough. Soon they come out into an opening a few meters from the building. They all crouch down and pause.
"We will wait until the other group begins to demonstrate at the main back entrance," Abha whispers.
As they gather breath they examine the approach. The key is to seize the main building. They drink water and prepare to make the final effort.
In a few minutes, they hear noises from the other side of the building and then shouting from the front of the building. Abha waves Jatin and Ayed to lead them toward the wall. William sees the outline of a huge doorway in the wall. It looks like it has not been opened in years. Jatin motions for the huge tusker to push in the door. The elephant leans against the wooden door and it starts to splinter open.
As the door is smashed open, two men come around the corner of the building shouting and waving spears. They lift their spears to throw at Ayed. Jatin cries out and runs to stand between the armed men and the tusker. One throws a spear that takes Jatin high in the chest. Ayed bellows with rage, the other man drops his spear and they run for the opening in the smashed doorway. Ayed trumpets again and charges for the damaged door. She smashes through it and keeps going into the building.
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