“Weal noo, look o’ wha’ we ‘ave ‘ere!” the man’s high-pitched voice came faceless through the night as he grabbed Silvering’s reins away from Leigha. “I’ll jist take ye over ta the fire where the boys kin see me prize!”
Holding the reins firmly, the ragged man walked his captive into the camp and called out his triumph to the others. Leigha sat limply in defeat as several men came running, their rugged features lit clearly by the blaze of the fire. She could scarce hold back the tears that welled in her eyes when she saw how mean and dirty they all looked, but fall they did when the man who had captured her, grabbed her leg and began stroking it roughly through her dress. Her fears mounted, and she turned her head away in shame as the others jeered at the man when he claimed to have her first, swearing they would have their turns when he was done with her. She felt her mind go blank and body freeze in terror, leaving her helpless as the man continued to run his free hand along her thigh, pinching its softness beneath his calloused hand. Bile rose in her throat as the men countered each other with their obscene plans for her, their vile words making her want to scream in her agony and run away. There could be no running, for the man still kept his hold firm on Silvering.
A large, burly man stepped forward to get a closer look at Silvering. Ignoring the others, he ran his heavy hand along the horse’s flanks, inspecting the disquieted stallion. Without a word, he wrenched the reins away from the man who had caught Leigha. The smaller man started to protest, but his words were silenced as the larger man backhanded him, sending him sprawling towards the fire.
“The horse be a good one und I’ll take him fer me own!” the big man bellowed a challenge to them all as some of the men began to protest. Everyone stepped back when he raised a huge fist and shook it threateningly at them all and growled, “I said tha’ the horse be mine! As ta the girl, ya noo tha’ I ha’ noo need fer a woman. Ya kin kill her fer all I kir!”
The men around him cheered and started to draw lots for Leigha, making her heart jump to her throat at their actions and words. Her pride awakened, turning her fear to anger that this group of men should think her little more than a sack of goods to be divided among each other in such a way.
“I have fought and killed better men than these at Clairemont’s Keep,” she thought to herself. “I’ll not let them take me as easily as they would a frightened rabbit!”
Taking advantage of the fact that everyone’s attentions were elsewhere for the moment, even the big man’s, who watched his comrades in amusement, Leigha let loose a scream and dug her heels into Silvering’s flanks, causing him to rear up in fright and pain. His sudden movement jerked the reins from the burly thief’s hand, and before the man could recover his hold on them, Silvering lunged forwards, knocking the man to the ground. Reins flying freely now, Silvering raced through the forest with Leigha clinging to his neck for dear life as the branches of the trees and bushes whipped at her, tearing her clothing and lashing her delicate flesh. Her heart raced with the sound of the horse’s hoofbeats as she tried to capture the tossing reins. Silvering charged on, heedless of her attempts, and they soon left the angry, running men far behind. Hearing no further sounds of pursuit, Leigha’s spirits soared high, and her tears flowed freely in relief. She began laughing out loud over their escape and had no more fear of their wild ride through the woods. She knew then at that moment that even if she were to die in their flight, she was free!