Read Time: 5 mins | Historical Fiction | Romance | Drama | Part 4
I was certainly not dressed appropriately for the company I was in. I curtsied clumsily, the mannerisms of a lady eluding me, as I suddenly became quite nervous. The other man came over, a little too eager to kiss my hand.
“Senora Laura.” He bowed and then stood upright. No doubt, he was in the military.
“This is Diego Ruiz, the commander of the guards here in Cadiz.” my uncle continued.
The other two men waved casual greetings, I knew who they were, and they didn’t seem too impressed by my unexpected intrusion.
“I have come at an inconvenient time. Perhaps I should return tomorrow?” I offered my apologies.
“Not at all my darling. These very distinguished gentlemen were just leaving. Besides, you and I have a lot to discuss.”
My uncle directed the men to the wall on the opposite side of the room, where a certain section parted, revealing another secret passageway. It was all so clandestine.
“Just follow the corridor all the way to the end. Vanesa, if you will?” My uncle allowed me to enter first and lead the men in single file to this unknown destination. I could hear the clamor of the theatre in full uproar on one side of the wall, and on the other, I could barely make out the unique sounds of the dock. A narrow staircase awaited at the end of the corridor, which I suspected would lead up toward the street. I hesitated briefly, the sound of Senior Giron’s cane and dragging leg was the only noise in the corridor. But I had heard a slight thud, as though someone had bumped into the wall ahead of us.
“What is the matter, Vanesa?” my uncle asked from behind me.
“I thought I heard something.” I hiked the edge of my skirt up a little and began my way up the stairs, when suddenly the door at the top flung open.
A surge of noise from outside filled the narrow landing. Tanned leather boots stepped into the doorway, and I felt as though I had been punched in the stomach. I saw the figure, the low brimmed hat, with the matching dark cloak, and as he reached for the blade wedge into his boot, I was shoved to one side. Arms that were more assured grabbed me backward, off my feet and into the arms of Diego Ruiz. The armor underneath his cloak bruised my slender shoulder as I clattered into him. It was all happening too quickly. I heard metal against metal, as my uncle confronted the man who had stormed into the narrow passageway. He too was shoved back down the stairs and landed on top of me. I rolled away, and I suddenly felt the throbbing pain from my abdomen. Pressing my hand against the spot, I could feel the warm trickle of blood spilling into my hands.
The assailant lunged down the stairs, eyes narrowed in on his prey. Me. I dodged as best as I could, and pivoted behind Senor Ruiz, who parried the lunging attacker and propelled him into the wall. I was being crushed as the other two men scrambled over me to engage the attacker. Crushed was an understatement. The attacker, now clearly outnumbered, and obviously unprepared for such a large force he encountered, began to swing his blade, in several mad stabbing attempts to get to the Marquis of Sofraga. Fernando Giron, aged, tired, and obviously ill, had already stumbled backward and succeeded in only slapping me across the face with the edge of his cane.
I felt the tip of the blade enter me twice more, much lower than the first wound. It was as though my mind could visualize it, tearing sinew and scraping against my hip bone. The pain was excruciating. I grabbed his arm in one final desperate attempt to stop his next lunge, and heard him scream in agony, as Diego finally subdued him, stabbing him between the shoulder blades.
“Heidense zwijnen!” He croaked and went limp in my arm, just as the figures in the corridor began to blur and fade into darkness.
“The Dutch bastards are emboldened.” Diego Ruiz gasped, while he kicked the prone and unconscious would be assassin.
I felt weak, and my legs gave way. I slumped over and into the arms of Senor Giron, just as the voices in the hallway disappeared into my dreams. ‘Why would anyone wish to kill me?’
My head was swaying. Blurred visions and muffled voices flooded into my consciousness. The room was unknown, and the nauseating feeling was overwhelming me. I was in a small room, surrounded by barrels and sacks of varying sizes, a storehouse of some sort. But my world was so unstable that I felt violently ill, just trying to discern my surroundings. Small, cold hands startled me. I was too weak to resist.
“She is awake.” The voice was Vasco’s.
Other, much firmer but gentler touches began assessing me. First my forehead, then my arms. The searing pain as they touched my abdomen brought me back to the full reality of my situation. It was Tahiris.
“Welcome back. We thought we had lost you for a moment.” Her intense voice whispered in my ear.
She hurried Vasco out the room, like someone would shoo chickens. Then I could feel the heavy blanket sliding across my thighs and my stomach.
“You were stabbed three times. It’s a miracle that you are still breathing.”
I could not speak. The pain triggered just inhaling, or flinching was unbearable.
“There will be some scars, but only your lover will ever lay eyes on them. It’s the damage that may have been wrought on the inside that concerns me.” There was a sadness to her tone.
She held my hands again, reassuring me, and confirming that my resolve was still alive. I squeezed hers as hard as I could.
“I can never miss, that which I’ve never had.” I managed a slow response.
When she moved away from my makeshift bed, I finally realized where I was. It was the cargo hold of a ship.
“Is my uncle …?” I started.
“Yes. Senor Carlos and the others are alive and well.”
“Where are we?”
She replaced the blankets over my body and tucked them neatly at my sides.
“I will have to ask the captain. But we have been at sea for nearly two weeks now.”
“Vasco and I have been tasked with taking you to the new world. This is most likely, a one-way voyage.”
To be continued tomorrow…
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