“Luca, be careful,” Valentina whispered.

Luca spat at the knights. His muscled arm tightened around Sir Roland’s throat. His blade glinted in the dying embers of the firelight as he raised it. “Stand back or I will kill this worthless bastard masquerading as a knight. Romany men do not share.”

“Bloody hell, who are you?” Sir Geoffrey moved closer and lifted his sword.

“You will not live long enough to find out,” Luca said.

“Nor will you.” Sir Roland struck a heavy blow to Luca’s stomach. Sir Geoffrey seized his knife. He crushed Luca’s wrists in a viselike grip before sending him spinning to the ground with a sickening thud.

“Stupid gypsy.” Sir Roland regarded Luca with a disdained laugh. The knight turned, scanned the tall pine trees, and caught Valentina’s gaze. “You wenches will come with us.”

“Nay!” Yolanda and Valentina abandoned their cover and careened toward a deserted footpath.

Sir Geoffrey scuttled after them and caught Yolanda first, as Valentina veered off into the forest. He carried Yolanda through the brush, untethered his large horse, and tossed her onto it. Mounting behind her, they sped from the camp, her wails piercing the darkness.

Yolanda---where could the man be taking her? Daj--her soul would never be at peace without a proper burial ritual. Dear spirits, Valentina could not abandon either of them. Which way to go?She took to her heels, angled away from the edge of the campsite, and reversed her steps back to her mother’s body. The insistent clip of a horse’s hooves bore down on her, stronger and louder.