It would have been a painful way to die. It wasn’t a straight drop to the bottom. Tony and I would have hit every rock, boulder and tree stump on the way down. Then we would have lingered alive for a couple of hours before finally succumbing to blood loss. It really wasn’t the way I wanted to die and I am positive it wasn’t the way Tony wanted to die.
I backed off the edge of the cliff and fell into Tony’s arms. There was clapping and whistling from the soldiers. I didn’t realize they were all standing there. I apologized to Tony for everything I had said a few moments before. Tony kissed me on the head and thanked me for not jumping.
Tony and the four soldiers that had survived the ambush led us around the woods for more than an hour trying to find the graves of Yates and the other soldiers they were able to bury. I wanted to say goodbye. We had almost given up looking for the graves when one of the soldiers that had been enslaved with me accidentally stumbled upon the grave site during a moment of rest. We held a small goodbye ceremony in the woods for Yates and the other fallen soldiers. Each of the graves had been marked with a cross made out of twigs. The name tag from the soldier’s uniform was pushed into the bark. I found Yates and said my goodbyes. I apologized for getting him into this trouble. Tony knelt down beside me and whispered in my ear that none of this was my fault. I didn’t put General Yates into this grave. I wish I could believe that. Because of me and my selfish needs there is a small boy at Ft Shasta who is now without a father.
I couldn’t take another step. I was thirsty and weak from hunger. After a moments rest and drinking practically all of the water in Tony’s canteen I asked about Yates and the other soldiers. Tony looked at me and shook his head from side to side. He said Yates struggled to survive for a couple of days but that he died yesterday. He had been hit by too many darts and couldn’t recover. Most of the other soldiers died from injuries they had received the day of the ambush. I refused to accept what Tony was saying. I started making plans to find Yates and the others. Tony grabbed me by the shoulders and gave me a shake. He said there weren’t any others. I said there had to be others. We were in a convoy of 4 trucks with at least 30 people. We had guns. General Yates would not have gone down without a fight.
I pulled away from Tony. I called him a liar and said a few awful things I now regret. I knew Tony had to be lying. He was jealous I chose Yates over him and I told him so. I stomped off into the woods. I don’t know where I was going but Tony followed. I stopped at the edge of a cliff. For a moment I considered jumping. Tony asked me not to jump. He said he had something important to say to me. If I still wanted to jump after he had finished he would jump with me. Tony said he loved me and that he only let me go with Yates because he wanted me to have a happy and safe life. The morning the convoy left Bear Country Tony realized he had made a mistake in allowing me to leave.
Tony borrowed a horse from Joshua of the Spurs Tribe. He caught up to the convoy shortly after the attack. Yates and several of the severely wounded soldiers had been left for dead. I was nowhere to be found.
He had to straddle my entire body to keep me from struggling free. I continued to struggle until I saw his face. At first, I thought my mind was playing tricks on me. I closed my eyes real tight and counted to three. When I opened my eyes again, he was still there hovering over me with his hand over my mouth. Without saying a word Tony mouthed for me to be quiet. I hugged his neck and did as I was told. Tony was accompanied by four of Yates’ soldiers. The soldiers enslaved with me were wakened one at a time. The other slaves sleeping in the area were also given the chance to escape. Only a handful chose to do so. The others were unable to comprehend what was happening. They just turned over and went back to sleep. The guards that had watched over us had been tranquilized by the same darts used to capture me and the others. They would be asleep well into the morning hours. I kicked them both in the side as I stepped over them. It was the least I could do for the hellish way they treated us. I am hoping this security breach gets them into a heap of trouble. With any luck they will end up as slaves themselves. The escape out of the camp was fairly easy. There was only one moment when I thought we weren’t going to escape. We almost stumbled into a guard patrol but luckily, they weren’t paying much attention to their surroundings. They seemed more interested in the slave they were teasing. No one said a word until we were clearly away from the camp.