Outside the locked gates of Compiegne, Jeanne D’Arc stood alone on a hilltop, surrounded by the broken remnants of her French army, the many dead scattered, the living limping from the battlefield. Shivering, she watched a detachment of the enemy Burgundian cavalry riding across the valley toward her. She took no notice of the solitary figure who climbed the hill behind her.
“High-five!” shouted Todd Fedoruk, big-boned left-winger for the Philadelphia Flyers of the National Hockey League.
Jeanne D’Arc did not meet his eager gaze. Instead, her eyes followed the men who had once been under her command—her loyal men—as they ran from her, ripping the crosses from their tunics, trying desperately to distance themselves from the defeat and from her. So many men lost, and so little gained. Again she looked toward the Burgundian cavalry, now disappearing momentarily behind a stand of apple trees.
“Don’t leave me hanging!” Fedoruk insisted, his face suddenly in front of hers, his hand waving enthusiastically.
She had not mentioned it to her lieutenants, but God had not left her any messages in a month. This defeat, this final defeat, the decision to come to Compiegne was her choice. A tear rolled down her dirty cheek. She didn’t cry for herself; she was already lost. The tear was for her allies and enemies, the many lives ended.
“What are you crying about?” Todd Fedoruk asked, lowering his high-fiving hand. “Here, sit down for a second on this dead horse.”
Jeanne D’Arc instead chose a small, flat rock still wet from the morning dew.
“You have nothing to be ashamed of,” Fedoruk said, patting her on the shoulder. “You totally kicked ass. You left it all on the field. Look at you, you’re totally wiped. Nobody could ask any more of you. They asked you for 110 percent, you gave them 120, lady.”
The Burgundians reached the bottom of the hill, their horses circling and pawing at the air.
“Sure, you lost today. But you’ll get them next year,” Fedoruk, who had a poor grasp of history, added. Jeanne D’Arc stood up and roughly wiped the tear into nothingness. There were no regrets for her. She had done God’s work.
“Haut-cinq,” she sighed, raising her small, pale hand.
“OK!” yelped Fedoruk, slapping it lustily. “Now, way up high! Come on! This hand is not going to high-five itself!”
Finally, the Burgundians rode over the crest of the hill, their eyes cruel and grimly set.
Luckily for Jeanne D’Arc, the cavalry had arrived.