Richard Sharpe stood with one foot on the stone wall, telescope held to his eye, surveying the plateau that spread out before him. From his vantage point at the highest point of the hilltop village, he could see for miles. There was no sign of movement below, and he was about to turn to the man beside him, when something caught his eye.
A cloaked figure astride a midnight black horse was galloping over the plateau towards the base of the hill. As Sharpe watched, three more figures on horseback appeared behind the first; they wore the blue of the French, and brandished swords. Suddenly the rider on the black horse turned in the saddle and shot at the French, one of which took the bullet straight to the chest, and fell from his horse. He fired two more shots, and the remaining French soldiers fell to the ground.
"Harper!" Sharpe turned to the man next to him, "There is a civilian riding in from the east, wait for him at the gates and bring him to me. He's dangerous, so keep your gun on him." "Yes Sir," The Sergeant nodded, setting off down the path.
The cloaked figure stepped through the gate leading their horse. They looked around the courtyard cautiously, and when they saw no one, took a tentative step forward. But at the click of a gun being loaded behind them the figure froze. "Show yourself." A voice commanded. The figure turned to a tall, robust man pointing a seven barrelled volley gun at them.
Harper stared as the figure undid the clasp of their cloak, and let it slip to the ground. A young girl with brown eyes and dark blonde hair stepped forward. She seemed quite familiar, although Harper was sure he'd never seen her before in his life.
"Is that a seven barrelled Nock gun?" The girl's eyes widened as she stared at it. She spoke in a thick Spanish accent, although she did not look Spanish at all. "Yes it is Miss, now what are you doin' here?" Harper didn't lower his gun. "I don't have to answer to you." She frowned. Harper grabbed her arm and pulled her, "Come along, I'm taking you to Major Sharpe, he'll deal with ya." The girls eyes lit up, "Sharpe? Richard Sharpe?" "Aye, that's the one."
Sharpe was getting worried, Harper had been gone for a while now and that man was extremely dangerous. But his fears were banished as he looked up and saw Harper coming towards him. "Did you get him Sergeant?" "Well sir that's just it, turns out it wasn't actually a 'him'." Sergeant Harper said, pushing forward a girl who was leading the black horse he'd seen galloping away from the French just minutes before. "You can't be serious, she's only a child!" He protested. "Aye Sir, she'd be not much older than my young Patrick, but she's the only one who's come to the village gates, and she carries a gun." Harper explained. Sharpe considered the girl for a minute, before sitting down. "Come here lass." The girl handed her horse's reins to Harper, and stepped forward. "You're exactly what I expected." She said with a faint smile. Sharpe gave her a strange look, wondering what on earth she was talking about. "On your way here, were you followed by three French soldiers?" Sharpe questioned. "They could barely be called soldiers, it was too easy to deal with them." She shook her head, "but that's the French for you."
Sharpe was surprised that this young girl had killed three French soldiers so easily, and managed to stay on her galloping horse while firing at them.
"Why have you come here lass?" Sharpe asked. "I came to find you." He stared at her, "Who are you?" He asked. "I didn't expect you to remember, it has been almost thirteen years since you saw me last. Although I must admit I thought you might have some idea." She said, looking up at him.
Richard Sharpe thought for a minute. Standing in front of him was a girl who looked English, but she spoke like she had been raised in Spain. She was young, probably about thirteen, which meant that if he really had seen her before, she would have been just a baby. As he looked into the brown eyes that mirrored his own he put it all together. "Antonia." He said, so softly that only she could hear. The girl nodded, tears glistening in her eyes. Richard picked her up and swung her into the air and around in a big circle, all in one fluid movement. "Antonia!" He said again, almost shouting, and pulled her down into a hug.
As Harper watched, realisation flickered across his face. The young girl was Antonia Sharpe, the daughter of Richard and the partisan Teresa Moreno, but Sharpe had left her with Teresa's family after his wife's death when Antonia had been just a baby.
"Sergeant Harper, find my daughter something to eat." Sharpe said with a grin. "Yes Sir." Harper nodded at his Major and turned back to the camp.