The cords binding my wrists were severed. The Lamayan soldiers, as well as the Nephite prisoners, were backing away from me as if I had the plague. There was just Moroni standing to my left, and the former Hummingbird Captain about six paces in front of me, poised to rush at me with his obsidian sword.
“My gladius!” I yelled. “I demand the return of my Roman gladius! Who has it? Where is it?”
I searched faces in the crowd for the man who’d stripped away my sword atop the ridge, trying to keep one eye on First Deer. I was sure that I’d spotted the thief, but he wasn’t stepping forward.
“Apollus,” said Moroni, his tone almost gentle, pitying.
“Back away,” I told him sternly. Then to Lamanai, “You promised me a weapon!” I turned my rage onto the thief. “Give me back my gladius, you miserable cur!”
He didn’t move. Just gaped defiantly. No one was responding. No one was offering me anything with which to defend myself.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw First Deer flick his wrist. Something landed in the grass at my feet. I studied it. The man with the black-spotted nose had tossed me a knife off his belt. It wasn’t even as long as my forearm. Not obsidian. Not sure it was even flint. I couldn’t have said what kind of stone. It had a reasonably sharp point, but did it have a blade? The thing looked more like an eating utensil.
“What in Jupiter’s name is this?” I asked First Deer. “Your grandmother’s toothpick?”
He’d reassumed his battle-stance, ready to charge. “Arm yourself, Roman demon!”
Foolish, I conceded, to believe they had any intention of making this a fair fight. As I scooped up the knife, First Deer was already shrieking and lunging forward....