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Felipe

Another new author with a lot of African characters saying hello

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Early the next day the princess chose a ring from her jewelry box and instructed Angelica to secretly give it to Felipe without his mother seeing it. ‘We would not want for him to get in any more trouble with his mother.” Angelica giggled. She went to find Felipe.

Marianna and Carmen came in with some small white flowers and a bouquet of slightly larger ones of a soft yellow. They fussed over brushing the princess’s hair and helping her with her makeup.

Angelica found Felipe in his cabin with Andreas. He was wearing his finest clothes, clothes that he had not worn since arriving on the island. His hair was brushed and tied back and he was clean shaven. “My, are you not handsome this morning.” she said. She handed him the ring and said “Act like you bought this, you can purchase another one soon. It is bad luck for you to see the bride before the wedding. You must remain in your cabin until she is aboard the Vengeance.”

Felipe agreed and she went back to the princess’s cabin. When she walked in the princess had the small white flowers laced into her hair, she looked absolutely radiant. Batu and Shayla were there also dressed very nice. “Batu and Shayla are going to give me away and you will be my bridesmaid.” the princess said.

They all walked out together and got into the rowboat. Once aboard, Marianna got very busy planning where everyone would stand and instructing Batu and Shayla how to escort her and give her hand in marriage. The men and other wives started arriving in the rowboat as they made trip after trip to the shore. The women were very happy and were all very colorfully dressed.

Finally the rowboat approached with Felipe and Andreas and the princess was hurried down the stairwell to wait for him. Felipe and Andreas boarded and Marianna told them where to stand. Two lines were formed leading up to the stairwell while the rest of the people encircled them. When everyone was in place Marianna nodded at Carlos and he stepped forward nestling his violin under his ample chin. Marianna and Carmen hurried down the stairwell.

Carlos waited a few moments, then began to play the wedding song. Marianna and Carmen climbed up the steps smiling as they approached Felipe and Andreas, then stepped to either side. Next came the princess holding her flowers, smiling with Angelica right beside her. Batu and Shayla were standing on either side of them. They stopped and Andreas asked “Who gives this woman to be wed?”

Batu turned his only ear toward Andreas and wrinkled his brow, pretending to have difficulty hearing him. The princess elbowed him hard in the ribs and everyone laughed.

“Shayla and I give her hand in marriage.” he said with a smile and placed the princess’s hand in Felipe’s then he and Shayla stepped aside.

They turned to face Andreas. He began to speak. “We are gathered here today to witness the exchange of vows between Victoria and Felipe.” he began. He then opened a Bible and read. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”

He looked at Felipe and said “Repeat after me.” Andreas paused after each phrase letting Felipe say the words. “ I Felipe take you Victoria for my lawful wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.”

Felipe repeated the words as he smiled at her.

“Now you Victoria. I Victoria take you Felipe for my lawful wedded husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.”

Victoria recited the words as the women watching began to sniffle and wipe at their noses. Felipe was surprised to see Batu also wiping his eyes and smiled at him. Andreas continued asking them both to repeat the following words together.

“Entreat me not to leave you, or to return from following after you, For where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God. And where you die, I will die and there I will be buried. May the Lord do with me and more if anything but death parts you from me.”

Andreas looked at Felipe “Place the ring on her finger and repeat after me. I give you this ring as a symbol of my love and faithfulness. As I place it on your finger, I commit my heart and soul to you. I ask you to wear this ring as a reminder of the vows we have spoken today, our wedding day.”

Felipe repeated the words and Andreas continued. “By the powers vested in me by God, as your Uncle and the Captain of this ship, I now pronounce you man and wife. You may now kiss your bride.”

Felipe took her in his arms and kissed her, the crowd all clapped and cheered. She turned her head and threw the bouquet, it went straight to Angelica who caught it and looked at Jean Pierre. The crowd again cheered and the men all came to shake Felipe’s hand while the women hugged Victoria.

“Now we must feast and celebrate! Launch all of the lifeboats!” Andreas said. They made their way to the shore and a huge meal was prepared. They celebrated, drinking fine brandy and ate a big meal. The evening wore on and the fires were lit. The moon climbed into the sky and the drums played as the women danced and celebrated. Finally the night ended and one by one they all went to their cabins.

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Time passed and Victoria’s time was soon approaching. One day they were all sitting in the pavilion when Carmen walked up with a basket. She approached Andreas and said “I have prepared a meal of fried chicken, potatoes and fresh greens. I also have a bottle of fine wine that Jean Pierre gave me. Would you like to join me for a picnic at the waterfall?”

“Of course.” Andreas said smiling at her, that sounds wonderful.”

He rose, said goodbye to everyone and they walked toward the trail then into the jungle. Not a word was spoken until they went into the jungle. Marianna looked at Felipe and smiled. Felipe looked at Jean Pierre who said with a smile “It is a good match”

Andreas and Carmen began spending a lot of time together. Victoria’s time was drawing very near and they had plenty of gold. Their thirst for revenge had been quenched and they all agreed there was no need to roam the seas. Felipe anxiously awaited the birth of his child. The rainy season began and the skies darkened. Most of the men left for the safety of the stone buildings in the settlement on the other side of the island. Of them, only Carlos and Jean Pierre remained with the original group of the former slaves, Felipe, Andreas, Victoria, Angelica, Marianna and Carmen. One day the skies got much darker than usual and the lightning increased in intensity. The wind began to howl and even the sheltered cove began to whip into large waves.

“A tempest is approaching.” Andreas told them. “Quickly, gather some more food and water and we shall move to the safety of the cave.”

They quickly gathered up food, water, rum and brandy then went to the cave. Andreas led the horse while the princess carried Puco in his small cage. The men lit the lanterns and then built a large fire in the center so they could stand near it and dry their clothes. The thunder reverberated in a deafening sound inside of the cave as the wind began to howl and shriek outside. They were safe and happy to have the refuge of the cave. An evening meal was prepared and as they ate the princess grabbed at her belly and winced. Everyone stopped eating and looked at her.

A few minutes passed and a pain hit her again, this time she doubled over. Marianna and Carmen helped her into one of the private rooms that had been constructed and asked for more lanterns. Trees began to crash to the ground outside as the flashes of lightning illuminated the opening and floor of the cave in a bright blue light as the bolts flashed in rapid succession. The thunder and wind began to drown out Victoria’s cries of pain as Felipe paced with a worried look on his face. Little Neo sat close to his father clutching his leg with his eyes very large and frightened. Batu comforted him and let him know that everything was alright.

The tempest was at it’s peak when they heard a baby crying from behind the partition. Andreas looked at Felipe and smiled. After what seemed like a lifetime Marianna opened the partition and waved them back “Come and meet your son.” she said with a big smile.

Felipe ran into the room and saw his baby being cradled by Victoria. She was smiling at him and said “Here, hold your son.”

Felipe took the boy in his arms, he was much more comfortable holding a baby now that he had held Neo a lot. He knelt down and let Neo approach and look at the child. Neo had a big smile and stroked the baby’s head. Felipe unfolded the blanket and looked at his child. “What is this?” he asked as he examined a red mark that somewhat resembled a fish on the boy’s stomach.

“It is a birthmark. My father has one just like it in the same place. Such things are not unusual, my mother and I both have a mole on our inner thigh in the same place.” Victoria told him.

Felipe touched it lightly and seeing that it did not hurt the child was not concerned about it. He folded the soft blanket back around him and smiled at the child. He looked at Batu and then held the child in his palms, high over his head to meet God and to receive his blessing as Batu had done Neo. In a loud voice he said, “Behold, the only thing greater than thyself! I name you Juan Carlos!”

Marianna smiled at him and said “Well, are you going to let me hold my grandson?”

Felipe smiled and gently passed the child to her. She was smiling down at the baby and said “He is a very special child.”

“Indeed he is.” Victoria replied. “He is the heir to the throne of Spain.”

They all looked at each other as the weight of the words hit them. This boy was the King’s grandson and the heir to the throne. They were all lost in their thoughts about what the future might hold for the child. If the King found out that he had a grandson, he would devote all of his energy to finding the boy but there was no need to tell him, not now anyway.

Late in the next day the tempest had passed and it was now just a light rain and a few gusts of wind. The men told the women to stay in the cave while they surveyed the damage. They had to climb over the fallen trees back to the village. Most of the cabins had survived but all had lost their thatched roofs. Rain and leaves had blown in when the roofs were lost. Two of them were totally destroyed by trees that fell on them. The hog pen was also destroyed, a tree had fallen on the fence and the hogs had escaped. Somehow the chicken coop survived, the chickens must have taken shelter in the henhouse, they were now pecking in the mud.

The large pavilion was a total wreck. The support poles remained but the entire structure of the roof was gone as it was constructed of poles gathered from the jungle. They walked to the cove and were relieved to see that the Vengeance had weathered the storm. She had been moved slightly but her large anchors had held. She was riding low as water had seeped into the hold through the hatches even though they had been battened down. The water would have to be bailed out and the hatches opened, she would dry quickly in the sun and wind. The Marianna was blown onto the shore and sand was piled along the sides of her hull. She also would have to be dried out and rolled on poles back into the water.

They agreed that the damage was not too bad considering the strength of the storm and were lucky that it had passed quickly. Had it stalled out over them, the Vengeance might have been put on the rocks. Slowly the men returned from the town to check on their cabins and they all began working together on repairs. The women gathered thatch for the new roofs and had the leaves drying in the sun as the men constructed the roof supports.

The Vengeance had it’s hold bailed out and the hatches opened so the heat and wind would dry it. The Marianna was cleaned and rolled back into the water. The last thing they worked on was the pavilion. The large roof was repaired and after a while the village was back to normal. Pigs were brought in from the town after the fence was repaired and life finally settled back down to normal. Neo was walking now and little Juan Carlos was crawling around the pavilion under the watchful eye of the women.

Andreas and Carmen were spending a lot of time together and everyone was pleased that they were happy together. Carmen had been a widow for many years and Andreas had never been married having spent ten years at sea from a young man. Time passed and everyone was happy on the island, they had everything that they needed here but there was much discussion about moving to a remote part of the mainland where it was uninhabited but gave better shelter from the tempests. The core group still kept the cave a secret from the rest of the men so they would always have a safe refuge. They could not shelter everyone there and it made a very good hiding place for their shares of the gold.

CHAPTER TWENTY ONE

BETRAYAL

Six years passed and Neo had grown very tall for his age. Juan Carlos and he were the best of friends and spent their days playing in the jungle, mainly near the waterfall. A favorite game was hide and seek. The island with the surrounding jungle and it’s waterfall was a magnificent place for the boys to explore. It was like a huge playground. They often played in the clear waters of the cove and especially enjoyed going fishing with Felipe and Andreas. The only place off limits to them was the settlement on the other side of the island but they did not care to go there. They preferred the jungle and would often stay gone all day, at times just returning for a quick bite to eat. The island was safe, the jaguars only roamed at night and they were always back well before dark.

One morning Batu woke up early and went to the side of the pavilion with a shovel. He dug a small trench and then a smaller trench crossing it in the center. He found a stout stick and placed it in the cross section. He then got a rock and put it in one end of the trench. He placed a board on the rock suspended by the stick going across the trench. It took a little more digging but soon everything was flush with the ground. He sprinkled dirt and leaves over the board concealing it.

Whistling, he walked with the shovel to the pig pen and scooped up a big pile of fresh pig shit. He scooped the stinking pile onto the end of the board and then took a gold coin out of his pocket and pressed it down into the pile. He then hid the shovel and sat at the pavilion waited for Felipe. When Felipe walked out of his cabin Batu got up and then pretended to have just found the pig shit.

“Hey Felipe! Come and look at this!” he shouted looking down.

When Felipe walked up Batu said “Look.” pointing with his finger. “It looks like a pig ate a reale and then shit it out.”

Felipe bent over and put his hands on his knees to study the pile and when he did, Batu stomped hard on the other end of the board sending the pile right into Felipe’s face. Batu howled with laughter as he ran toward the jungle. Felipe had to clean his eyes and face so Batu got a good lead on him.

Felipe gave chase, when he finally reached the waterfall Batu was in the middle of the pool smiling. “Do not be mad at me my friend. I only pick on you because I like you.”

Felipe washed his face and then saw Batu’s clothes on a rock. He began to dry his face on Batu’s shirt. “Oh I am not mad at you my friend, it was a good prank.”

“Hey! Do not dry your face on my shirt! That shirt is clean and dry!” Batu protested.

“Well then, I will go and hang it on your clothesline so it will dry.” Felipe took Batu’s clothes and ran toward the jungle.

“My clothes! Bring back my clothes!” Batu shouted.

Felipe opened Batu’s cabin door and threw his clothes inside. As he approached the pavilion he heard angry shouting and he quickened his pace. He saw Raphael holding his hand over his eye and shouting at Andreas. It appeared as if Andreas had hit him in the eye and he was doing a lot of finger pointing. He stepped into the pavilion and asked “What is going on here?”

Andreas and Raphael looked at him, Raphael was still holding his hand over his eye and was very angry. “Raphael was bathing at the waterfall and he laid his glass eye on his shirt. When he got out it was missing. Puco the monkey had taken it but I found it.”

“Look at it!” Raphael shouted “It is broken!”

Raphael was a handsome man and he was very vain. He prized the glass eye so that he did not have to wear a patch. The princess was sitting with the women and held Puco tightly in her arms.

“You have enough gold to buy a hundred glass eyes thanks to us. I will pay for the eye.” Felipe said.

“You cannot buy a glass eye anywhere in the new colonies or even Spain for that matter!” he said angrily. “This eye came from England and I can never return there, I am a wanted man with a death marker on my head there! That is the only place that they make them! I will now have to wear a patch on my face.” He looked at the monkey with hate.

“This is all your fault!” he pointed at the princess. “That little bastard has been stealing things ever since he came here and you do nothing about it! You seem to think that it is funny!” He took a step toward her and she held Puco closer.

Felipe drew his blade and said “If you take one more step toward her I will kill you here and now. You will also lower your voice and speak with respect to my bride.”

Raphael looked at Felipe angrily but he wanted none of him and that was obvious. He turned and stormed away toward his cabin. “Perhaps you should keep him close for a few days until Raphael calms down.” Felipe told the princess. She nodded her head and pet the monkey.

“Hey, look at this.” Andreas said as he pointed toward the jungle. Batu was naked, running as fast as he could with two banana leaves held in front and behind him. He made it to his cabin and darted inside slamming the door.

“I wonder what that was all about?” The princess asked.

“I have no idea.” Felipe said with a smile.

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Raphael went to his cabin and got a large amount of reales. He left the village and walked through the jungle to the settlement on the far side of the island. The sun was setting when he finally arrived tired and thirsty. He went to a tavern and began to drink heavily. He was still very angry but he was afraid of Felipe.

Several men were sitting at a nearby table looking at a document. It caught his eye and he went to the table to look at it. It was a wanted poster with a likeness of Felipe offering 50,000 reales. He began to think about the offer, he had plenty of gold but he wanted another glass eye and that could only come from England. He read the poster and saw the name of Felix Chavez in Veracruz asking for any information.

He got a room and went to sleep. In the morning when he was sober, he formulated a plan. Raphael was not a stupid man, he figured that Felix Chavez was probably a ruthless and treacherous man as he was hunting Felipe. He worked through it in his mind all day and in the evening he began to inquire about purchasing passage to Veracruz.

A small fishing boat was willing to take him for a price so they loaded provisions and sailed for Veracruz. Several days later they landed, Raphael paid the man and asked him to wait for him. He went to the Viceroy’s compound and asked to see Chavez. A soldier escorted him to a building and to an office. The soldier knocked on the door and opened it. Chavez was sitting at a desk writing a document and he looked up at Raphael.

“What do you want?” he asked.

“A man approached me with an offer. He was afraid to come directly to you so he asked me to be his messenger. He claims to know the location of the princess.” Raphael said.

Chavez got up quickly and walked toward him. “Where is this man now?”

“I do not know, as I said he is afraid to approach you himself, he said that you might torture him for the information in order not to pay the huge ransom. He was a stranger to me when I met him in Merida. He offered to split the reward with me if I acted as his messenger but that is not what I want. I want a glass eye so that I will no longer have to wear this patch. He also told me that Felipe was killed in a battle, he claims to have witnessed this himself.”

“Then why would you come here seeking the reward if Felipe is in fact dead?” Chavez asked.

“Because Felipe and the princess had a son, the heir to the throne that the King wants so badly. He says that the princess is very well guarded but he could get the boy and deliver him to you.”

Chavez looked at him while he thought about this. “How would I know that the boy was actually the Kings grandchild? He could simply deliver any child to me. Do you also take me for a fool?”

“He claims that the boy has a birthmark identical to the one that the King has. He says it looks somewhat like a red fish, it is on the boy’s stomach. He claims that the King would recognize it immediately and there would be no doubt in his mind.”

Chavez’s heart began to beat fast. He had seen the mark on the King’s stomach and very few people knew that it was there. He now believed Raphael. “You will take me to this man now!” he said stepping forward.

“I do not know where he is, he is a very cautious man and frightened of you. He says for me to return to Merida if you and I can strike a bargain and he will find me.”

“Then we both shall go to Merida and you will point him out to me.” Chavez said. “I will give you the entire reward.”

“ He will never approach me if he see’s soldiers or a stranger in town. He knows everyone there and would spot a stranger immediately. As I said, he is a very cautious man and very shrewd. I do not want the reward, I want a glass eye. Can you obtain one?” Raphael asked.

“Yes, of course, I know several people who have a glass eye, I can get one.” he said with an evil smile.

“Blue, like this one?” Raphael asked pointing at his eye.

“Yes, I can get it quickly, the man will of course not want to part with it but he will. I have the full authority from the King to do whatever I want on this mission.” Chavez said.

“So, if I deliver the child to you will give me the eye?”

“Yes, it will be on my desk tomorrow. When can you get the child?” Chavez asked.

“It will take some time for the arrangements to be made. I must first travel to Merida and then he must take the boy. I will return within the month with him but this man will also want his reward.”

“Deliver the child, he shall have the reward and you will have your eye.” Chavez stuck his hand out and Raphael shook it, turned and walked out of the door.

He went back to the fishing boat where the man had laid on fresh supplies and they left for Tortuga. A week later they arrived on Tortuga, Raphael paid him and returned to the village. He found Felipe and the princess at the pavilion and approached them. “I am sorry that I got so angry with you.” He bowed to the princess. “And I apologize to you also Felipe for speaking angrily to your bride, please forgive me.”

Both the princess and Felipe accepted his apology, he had been with them for years. He went on “I tried living in the settlement but it is far too noisy there. And it is full of thieves, here, everyone respects each other’s property. No one would steal from another here, we all have all of the gold that we could ever want. In the settlement there are people who would slit your throat for the price of a drink. Can I please come back here and live among you?”

“We never told you that you could not.” Felipe said. “We just thought that you were angry and left of your own accord. Of course you can come back and live here.”

“Thank you and again, forgive me.” Raphael said. “Now I will go to my cabin and get some clean clothes so that I can bathe at the waterfall.” He looked around. “I missed this place, it is good to be home.” He smiled at them and walked to his cabin.

The princess looked at Felipe and said “I do not trust him.”

He let several days pass and saw that they were not watching him. He acted friendly but one morning he rose early and went to the pavilion. He saw Juan Carlos walk down the trail into the jungle. He waited a few minutes and then he followed, once on the trail he hurried up to catch the boy. After a few minutes he caught up with him and told him “Hey Juan Carlos, guess what I found in the jungle yesterday?”

“What did you find?” the boy asked.

“I found a huge skeleton of a crocodile! The head alone is this long!” He held his hands wide apart. “You should see the teeth!”

“I want to see it!” he said excitedly jumping up and down.

“Well, I do not know, it is a very long walk for your short little legs.” he said smiling.

“I can keep up with you, I am very fast. Please take me to see it!”

“Very well then, but as I said, it is a very long walk and then we will have to take a boat so we had better hurry along. Come with me.” He walked off and the boy followed behind him.

Later that evening Neo came walking to the pavilion. Marianna said “Where is Juan Carlos?”

“I do not know, I thought perhaps he was hiding from me. We do this a lot, it is our favorite game.” Neo answered.

“We thought that he was with you!” Marianna said. “You have not seen him all day?”

“No, I have not seen him, as I said, I thought that he was hiding from me.

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Marianna got up with a worried look and rushed off to Felipe’s cabin. Soon Felipe and the princess began calling his name. Batu and the rest of the village joined in. It was getting late in the evening and everyone was very worried because the jaguars would soon come out at night. They searched the shoreline and the women prepared torches so that they could continue to search at night if he did not return soon. Victoria was very worried about him as was everyone. When darkness fell the men got weapons and continued searching the jungle at night. The women could hear the men calling his name deep in the jungle.

One by one they returned, all except Felipe, Andreas, Jean Pierre, Batu, Tor and Ajamu. They returned at dawn to see if he had been found. After eating a quick meal they resumed the search, everyone feared the worst and could not imagine what had happened to the child. The jungle was not a place for a six year old boy to be lost in and they again searched all day and through the night. Again they returned at dawn exhausted and had to catch a few hours of sleep before they could go on.

The search lasted through the night again, the men were determined that they would find him. At dawn on the third day Felipe rang the bell at the pavilion to summon everyone to formulate a plan. When everyone was assembled the princess looked around “Where is Raphael?” she asked.

The men all looked and sure enough Raphael was gone. “That son of a bitch! He has taken him!” Felipe shouted.

“Quickly! We must sail to the settlement, perhaps he has not booked a passage yet!” Andreas said.

The men ran down to the shore and rowed out to the Vengeance. They weighed anchors and quickly got under way. It took three hours to get to the settlement and Felipe did not even wait for the anchors to drop. He dove into the water followed by the rest of his friends. A few men stayed aboard to anchor her. The men ran from tavern to tavern asking about Raphael.

Finally at the third tavern a man nodded his head when asked. “A man such as you describe with a young boy were here three days ago inquiring about booking passage to Veracruz.” he said. “I understand that a local fisherman got a very good price for the passage, as he seemed to be in a great hurry.”

“He has a three day lead on us, but at least now we know that Juan Carlos is alive and where he is headed.” Felipe said. “We must hurry and lay on provisions, we can do that here. I will send one man overland back to our village to tell the women and we will be on our way.”

They sent one man back to the village, hurriedly purchased provisions and sailed for Veracruz. After five days they saw the harbor of Veracruz and docked around the point to conceal the ship. “You must remain on board Felipe, you are a wanted man.” Andreas said.

“No! I do not care! This is my only son and I will go to look for him! Do not try to stop me!”

The men all tried reasoning with him, assuring him that they would search but he held fast and demanded that he go. They finally relented knowing that they would do the same thing. They entered the city of Veracruz and began searching the taverns and bawdy houses knowing Raphael’s habits. Finally in the fifth tavern they saw him through a window. Felipe agreed to wait outside in case he shouted an alarm.

Andreas and Jean Pierre approached him and his eyes went wide in fear. How could they have found him so soon? “You will come with us.” Jean Pierre said.

“Why? Why must I come with you? I am a free man and just decided to visit the women here.”

Jean Pierre looked at Raphael and said “If you do not get up right now and come with us, I promise you that I will skin you alive and bind you in rock salt. Now, get up!”

Raphael was shaking as he rose and walked out of the door. As soon as he walked out Felipe grabbed him and drug him into an alley. He shoved him against the wall and hit him in the mouth knocking out both of his front teeth. “Where is my son you son of a bitch?”

Raphael spit out the teeth and blood and looked at Felipe with fear in his eyes. “I do not know, I swear before God.” he said, Felipe hit him again.

“Please Felipe, I do not know where he is.” he said knowing that Felipe would kill him if he told him. His only chance was to lie.

Jean Pierre said “Save your fists, I will get the truth out of him.” He took off his belt and secured it around the man’s neck and yanked him roughly behind him. They led him back to the rowboat and pushed him in. Jean Pierre tied his hands behind his back, then cut all of his clothes off. They cast off and rowed out until Jean Pierre was satisfied with the depth of the water, then they stopped. Jean Pierre wrapped a length of chain around his ankles as Raphael began to beg him not to drown him.

Jean Pierre made him stand and then sliced the top of both of his feet with his razor as the man screamed. He then pushed him into the water. His feet sank quickly with the chains on them and he struggled to reach the surface. He was finally able to stand as his head rose barely above the water coughing and gasping for breath.

“Please, I beg you, I know nothing.” Raphael said.

“Shut up!” Jean Pierre said as he watched the water around Raphael. The trails of blood were carried along with the tide. Soon a large crab came walking sideways along the bottom. It pinched off a small piece of flesh from Raphael’s wound and began eating it. Raphael screamed in agony, the salt water entered the wound as the crab tore off another piece. He was screaming loudly as the blood began to make more of a large red trail that dissipated along the current.

Very soon more crabs began following the scent of the blood and his feet were surrounded with them. Still he screamed as more came and they began to climb up on top of each other, up his legs tearing at his flesh and eating him alive piece by small piece.

“Please! I will tell you! I sold him to the man who had the wanted posters! Felix Chavez, he has taken him back to Spain! Please free me!”

The large crabs were up to his genitals now and were tearing at the tender flesh there. The men looked at him with contempt. Jean Pierre took the oars and rowed away as Raphael screamed and begged them to return. By dawn there was only a white skeleton left of Raphael ,waving back and forth in the waves. A skull with one empty socket and one blue glass eye stared out to sea. The Vengeance sailed back toward Tortuga.

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CHAPTER TWENTY TWO

ENTER THE LION’S DEN

The Vengeance sailed back to Tortuga and anchored. The women waited anxiously on the shore as the men rowed back. When Felipe told them that Juan Carlos had been kidnapped and brought to the King they all began to cry.

“At least we know that he is alive and now we can go and get him.” Felipe said.

“We cannot just storm the castle.” Marianna said.

“We can get into the castle undetected. Angelica and I found a secret passageway when we were children. It leads from the outside wall near the forest to the closet in my old bedroom.” Victoria said.

“The problem will be locating him within the castle and then getting him out.” Added Angelica. “We cannot just wander around inside looking for him.”

“We learned a good lesson on the road in Panama about attacking a much larger opposing force, we can get a lot further using stealth than we can by using force. We killed over six hundred men without one single loss of our own.” Felipe said.

“Yes, we need a plan, or a plant inside of the castle. Someone who could move about without drawing attention to themselves.” Jean Pierre said. “You two are familiar with the inner workings of the castle, is there any one of us that you think could just blend in and be able to act as a member of the staff there?”

The two women looked at the group and their eyes both locked on Marianna. They looked at each other and smiled. “Yes! Marianna looks like she could pass as a chambermaid, one who cleans the castle. There are many chambermaids and new ones are hired all of the time. No one ever pays attention to them, they can roam about the castle freely.” Victoria said.

“We could make her a uniform and no one would give her a second look.” Angelica added. “Once she finds the boy and discovers in which room he is sleeping, it will be just a matter of slipping in late at night and taking him back.” Angelica looked at her. “Are you willing to do this Marianna?”

“But of course! He is my grandson. I can do this.” she said, looking from Felipe to Andreas.

“Very well then, we will begin laying provisions on the Vengeance tomorrow and sail as soon as possible.” Andreas said. “Are you certain that you can make this uniform? We do not want to compromise the safety of Marianna.”

“Yes, we have the fabric that we need now, we will have plenty of time to make it on the voyage. It is a simple black dress with a white collar, not difficult at all.” Angelica said.

“I will begin gathering the things we will need for the voyage.“ Andreas said, he rose and walked away. The rest of the men followed him and the women hurried off to their cabins to pack.

By midday the following day the Vengeance was fully loaded for the long voyage. The men kissed the women goodbye but this time the princess, Angelica, Marianna and Carmen went aboard. The mighty ship weighed anchors and slipped out of the cove then deployed all of her sails. They surged across the Atlantic toward Spain.

The trip was long but they had a burning purpose to which they were all committed. Carlos kept them well fed and entertained often playing his violin on the deck at night. The princess and Angelica described the interior of the castle in great detail to Marianna so she could seem to be familiar with it. After two and one half months they finally spotted land. They sailed past the harbor of Madrid and made shore when they were out of sight. Tents and provisions were loaded onto the lifeboat then they made the trek through the forest toward the castle.

The forest here was not thick like the jungle of the Yucatan and the new colonies. There were hardwood trees but not as much ground cover. Still, it was sufficient to conceal them. They found a place near the castle and pitched a camp forming the tents into a circle to conceal the firelight that they would make at night.

Early the next morning Felipe and Andreas were watching the castle through their spyglasses. The massive gate was open as it always was when the castle was not under siege and many people including the commoners went freely in and out of the castle grounds. Only at night was the gate closed. The princess explained that much commerce went on in the castle grounds as goods were brought in and sold like a general market.

Marianna put on her chambermaid uniform and said “How do I look?”

“You look wonderful, even as a maid.” Andreas said.

“Please be careful mother.” Felipe said and hugged her.

“You need not worry about me, I will be just fine. I will locate my grandson and we will get him back.” she smiled at him and kissed him. They escorted her to the road and she walked toward the castle. They ran back to watch the road with their spyglasses and after a while they saw her walking toward the gate. When she got to the gate she paused and looked at the forest. She smiled and then walked through the gate.

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The courtyard of the castle was a busy place. There were many booths set up and shops lined the walkways. She passed a bakery and smelled the fresh bread cooking. She passed a blacksmith shop and many booths selling leather goods and baskets. Fresh vegetables, fruit, nuts and live chickens in cages lined the road. People were bartering over items and no one gave her a second look.

Up ahead, she saw a younger woman wearing the same uniform that she was wearing and she followed her. The castle had a wall within it’s walls separating the castle itself from the courtyard. She continued to follow the young woman toward the open gate. Two guards stood at the gate but the young woman did not break her stride as she approached. The guards nodded at her as she passed. Marianna’s heart was beating wildly in her chest but she smiled as she approached the guards. They both smiled back and nodded at her as she went inside.

Passing through the gate she crossed the smaller yard and entered the door of the castle itself. A large foyer had an arched doorway leading into a huge room. She walked through the door and saw a stairway leading up that was wide enough for six men to walk abreast each other. Large paintings and tapestries hung on the walls and there was a plush red carpet leading toward the stairway and three other doors. The furniture was heavy, dark wood with fine carvings in it. A stone fireplace as long as a horse carriage was laid into one wall and a fire burned in it.

The young woman walked on through the center door and Marianna followed her. She entered a hall, walked to a door, opened it and entered. Marianna pretended to be straightening a picture when a few moments later the young woman came out with a bucket, a mop and some towels folded over her arm. She smiled as she passed Marianna and Marianna smiled back. She then went into the door that the other woman had went into and found a large supply room. It was filled with cleaning supplies, buckets, brooms, mops and dusters.

She took a duster, walked out and began to explore the castle. She followed the hallway to another large room, it appeared to be a receiving area. Several more halls and doorways led away from this room. It too was lavishly appointed with plush furniture and gold gilding, very large paintings and tapestries covered the walls. A large bowl of fresh fruit and a fine silver flask of wine sat on a table with silver challises. The King lived very well on the backs of the working class.

She opened the center door and saw a very large room with a long table in the center. The chair at the head of the table was tall and plush. A huge fireplace was behind the head chair and a fire burned there. Suits of armor lined the walls as well as swords and weapons of every kind. The room was unoccupied so she explored it, she had heard the princess describe the castle, this was obviously the Grand Hall where the King received visitors and had feasts with visiting dignitaries. At this early hour he was obviously still bathing or being dressed.

She left the Grand Hall and explored the ground floor. The rooms were large and servants scurried about cleaning and preparing for the day. She found the large kitchen bustling with activity and a smaller dining room to the side where the servants were eating. She walked down a long hall and two men turned the corner, one was very tall. She immediately recognized Felix Chavez and turned her back dusting a small table. Her heart pounded in her chest, he did not give her a second glance as he passed talking to the other man.

When they passed she quickly went the other way to the stairs going up. The second floor consisted of a hall with large rooms on either side. One of the rooms had two guards stationed outside of the door, the guards did not even look at her as she passed. From the princess’s description she also knew that this was the King’s bedchamber. She was headed for the old bedroom of the princess hoping that the boy would be sleeping there. This would make it very easy as the secret passage was right there in the closet.

She climbed the stairs up the spire, found the door and knocked lightly then waited. She knocked again, louder this time. Still receiving no answer she opened the door and entered. The room was unoccupied so she closed the door behind her and quickly looked around the room. She went to the closet and saw men’s clothes, most of the shirts were black or shades of dark. There was a desk with a sheet of paper on it. She read the paper, it was a dispatch to the Viceroy of the new colonies instructing him to expand the search for Felipe to all of the outlying islands. It was signed Felix Chaves and a cold chill spread down her back. She quickly exited the room.

More people were beginning to move about the castle now. She was on the second floor again when the King himself stepped out of the room as she approached. He was dressed in resplendent purple with white stockings and a long, flowing cape. She bowed deeply as he passed but he gave her no notice. Trailing behind him was little Juan Carlos and a surprised look came over his face. He smiled and opened his mouth to shout a greeting. Marianna shook her head urgently and held her finger to her lips pointing at the King walking on down the hall.

Juan Carlos nodded his head still smiling at her and followed the King. He kept looking back at her as she followed a short distance behind them to the Grand Hall where they entered and closed the door behind them. She remained outside near the Grand Hall for several hours, pretending to be dusting when anyone approached. Breakfast was brought in, then later lunch. The day wore on and many people entered the room as the evening approached. Many of them were officers of the Navy and Army until in the evening a large dinner was brought in on many trays.

She stood off a distance at the intersection of a hallway until finally the King walked out followed by Juan Carlos. As he followed the King he looked down all of the hallways and then finally behind him and saw Marianna. He smiled and again Marianna held her finger to her lips and winked at him. He also held his finger to his lips smiling as they walked up the stairs. Both went into the King’s bedchamber and the door was closed. The boy was sleeping in the King’s own room.

She left the castle while Felipe and Andreas watched her through their spyglasses. “Well, she made it through the first day. I wonder if she has located him?” Felipe said.

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They went to the edge of the forest and met her as she approached. She excitedly told them that yes, she had seen Juan Carlos and he remained quiet but smiled at her and knew that she was there looking for him. “He has always been a very smart child.” the princess said. It was bad news that he was not occupying the princess’s old bedroom but instead Felix Chavez was. Felipe was excited to hear this news.

“At least I know that I can get in there and kill him for what he did to you.” he told his mother.

“No, the sound of a swordfight or shouting might bring guards.” Marianna said.

“My old bedroom was on the third floor in a separate spire. The noise would not carry as long as the door was closed, even if they did hear they might even think that he was just practicing with someone. The sound of swords is common in the castle, as long as the castle is not under siege no one would pay attention to it as long as he does not scream out for help.” the princess said.

“Felix Chavez will not scream out for help.” Andreas said with a serious look on his face.

“You know this man?” Marianna asked Andreas. “Why did you not tell me before?”

“I did not want to worry you, he is the King’s personal assassin, I trained him myself.” Andreas said looking at the group.

“No Felipe! He is a trained assassin! This is too dangerous!” Marianna said with a very worried look at Felipe.

“And just who trained him? Uncle Andreas did and I am certain that he did not do it from the age of five as I did. I am not worried about this man. Besides that, the secret passage comes in at his room and it is the only way that we can enter the castle undetected.” Felipe replied.

“We could simply all enter.” Batu said. “We could dispatch him quickly and get your son. Retrieving Juan Carlos is our first priority, not your personal vengeance for the harm that he did to your mother.” he said, looking Felipe in the eye.

Everyone agreed with what Batu said except Felipe. Felipe thought about this and then said “I agree that getting our son back is the most important thing, but it would be cowardly for all of us to attack him at once.”

“And what he did to me was not cowardly? He hit me and put me in thumbscrews, he told me that all of the men of the garrison would take turns raping Carmen and myself after he had his way with us. Was this not also cowardly? He deserves no chance and we must retrieve Juan Carlos quickly and escape, that is what is the most important and what we came here to do.” Marianna looked into her son’s eyes.

“I want to kill him myself!” Felipe said angrily.

The princess spoke up. “I know that you do, but what if the entire plan to save our son goes bad just because you want revenge? He is our son, my only son. Would you risk all of that for personal revenge? Please Felipe, Marianna read the dispatch that he wrote. He still seeks you and your paths will probably cross again but for the Love of God and our only child, let us now do what we came here to do and save our child. Put your hatred aside for another day.”

Felipe looked at her and then at the group, they all nodded their heads in agreement. “I agree, we must put saving Juan Carlos and making our escape as our first priority. We shall enter through the secret passage and kill him quickly and quietly. But still, the boy sleeps in the King’s own bedchamber. There are two guards posted outside of his door at all times, how will we kill them without their raising an alarm?”

They all thought about it and Jean Pierre spoke up “Arrows?” he asked.

“No, that too is too risky, they could still shout out a warning.” Andreas replied. “We need to get very close and slit their throats. A man cannot cry out with his throat slit. Does the secret passageway open into any other rooms?” Andreas asked.

“Well we never actually looked. The stones were hewn so perfectly that it was only by an accident that we found the one in our closet. There very well may be another opening into another room. I would imagine that if they were going to make such a passage that there would be an escape route from each floor. It travels along a flat hallway before it leads to the outside. Perhaps there is also an opening leading from the ground floor to the escape route.” the princess said.

“That makes good sense, as you say if they went to all of the trouble to make such a passage it should have more than one entry. We need to do some reconnaissance tonight and explore the passageway. If in fact, there is another opening on the ground floor, we could approach the guards from the ground floor as if we were going to Chavez’s room. If they have stood there all day and not seen us pass on the way up they would be alerted by men coming down that had not passed earlier.” Felipe said.

“Agreed, we will wait until dark and explore the passageway. We will need torches and we must wait until it is very late and everyone is asleep. Then we will make our reconnaissance.” Andreas said.

“And I will be with you.” the princess added.

“No! It is too dangerous! You will wait here.” Felipe told her.

The princess looked at him. “We do not even know if there are other doors, but if there are we cannot just swing them wide open. We just need to open them a small crack and I alone can tell which room it opens into. Even Angelica has never seen the inside of the King’s bedchamber. No, I must go so that we know which room the doors open into and make our plans, do not try to stop me, I am going.” the princess said with a determined look. “It is not as if I am going to roam about the halls, we will just look for the doors and I will peek inside each room if the doors exist. My father may very well have his own secret passage, it stands to reason that he would, but perhaps this one passage also has an opening in his bedchamber.”

“Agreed.” Felipe said. “Are there any other rooms close to your father’s room? We will need a place to hide the bodies of the guards once we overcome them.”

The princess thought for a moment and said “Yes, there are three other rooms nearby. One large bedchamber right across the hall and two more for when he entertains royalty overnight.”

Andreas looked at Marianna and said “You did well today and I do not want to risk you again. But if you could go into the castle one more time and just verify that at least one of those rooms are unoccupied at least we would know that we have a place to hide the bodies. Then you must leave quickly.”

“Of course, I can and will do this.” she said.

“Batu and Tor have the strength to kill a man with their bare hands. We can act as if we are delivering them upstairs to Chavez for questioning. As we pass the guards they can snap their necks like a chicken. We can then hide the bodies, enter the royal bedchamber and free the boy.” Felipe added.

“He usually locks the door from the inside.” the princess said.

“Andreas could pick the lock, he is good at that.” Felipe said.

Andreas thought about this and said “Yes, but then we would still have to secret the boy upstairs, and if the King is a light sleeper, he could still call out. It would be much safer if the passageway also leads into his room.”

“Then we will go back to the entrance on the first floor, assuming that there is one and make our entrance by way of the secret passage into his room.” Felipe said.

“We are assuming a lot, what if there are no other entrances from the passageway?” Andreas said.

“Then I will break the door down to the King’s room and we will have to fight our way out.” Batu said.

“Let us hope that there are more secret doors.” Andreas said with a grave look.

“We will need torches for the passage, I can run very fast so as soon as it gets dark I will run to the Vengeance and retrieve what we need to make them. I will return far before it gets late.” Batu said and everyone agreed.

They thought about and discussed the plan, fine tuning it as the sun set and darkness fell. Batu left to get the torches and returned three hours later. He sat by the small fire catching his breath. The moon climbed higher in the sky and then started it’s trip toward the other horizon. It was now late and time to go. Angelica, Marianna and Carmen hugged them

all goodbye telling them to be careful and they slipped through the forest toward the castle.

Coming to the edge of the forest and the castle grounds, the princess pointed out the corner where the opening to the secret passage was. One by one they ran through the night until they were all gathered at the edge of the castle wall. The princess felt the seam of the large stones of the wall and gave a push. The large stone pivoted inward easily as the other edge swung out. They slipped inside and lit the torches illuminating a long, dark hallway that stretched out in front of them.

They spread out and each person took one stone pushing against one side and then the other. They worked their way down the hallway until they were almost to the stairway when suddenly the stone that Batu pushed crept inward. He waved his torch and they all gathered. He motioned for the princess to come over and stood to the side. She pushed the large stone very slowly peeking at it’s edge. Finally a crack of light appeared and she looked into the room. All that she saw was a deep purple color from the top of the door to the bottom. She pushed it open more and saw folds and then swung it more open and slipped through.

Felipe tried to grab her hand, this was not in the plan, she was just supposed to peek into the room, he looked through the door. He too saw only purple with the folds running the length of the doorway and after a few seconds the princess came back and slipped through the narrow opening. They pushed the stone back in place and Felipe whispered to her “You were not supposed to go into the room! You were just to look!”

“I could not see! The long drapes hid the room! This doorway opens into the Grand Hall next to the fireplace. I could not see unless I walked to the end of the drapes.”

“We need to mark this door.” Batu said and he rubbed the torch on it leaving a black soot mark against the light tan stone.

They proceeded up the stairs, pushing against each stone as they went. A little past halfway up the stone in the princess’s hand moved. Everyone watched, they moved the torches away so that the light would not shine into the room. The princess held her breath as she quietly pushed the door inward. She saw a wall and then a bed. On the bed was little Juan Carlos sleeping with the large figure of the King sleeping beside him. The Queen was sleeping next to him.

She wanted to just run and snatch him away, she could make out his face in the soft light of the oil lamps that lit the room. She got a lump in her throat and her eyes filled with tears. She stepped back and pushed the door closed. She whispered urgently “This is it! This opens into my father’s bedchamber! I can see Juan Carlos sleeping with him and my mother in the bed!”

All of them were filled with emotion, they all loved the boy and an overwhelming urge to just rush the King was considered and discussed in whispered tones. But logic prevailed, one sound out of the King and the entire operation would be lost. They let the princess lead the way, she knew where the opening was into her room. She cautiously pushed the stone open just a crack and saw that the closet door was closed, but she could hear loud snoring from inside of the bedroom so she pushed the stone back in. Together they made their way quietly down the stairs and once again darted across the grounds and back into the forest. They made their way back to their camp, Marianna and Carmen were excited to hear about the other two doors and they discussed their plans more, then agreed that they all needed to go to sleep.

Early the next morning Marianna once again put on her chambermaid uniform. Felipe walked her to the road and kissed her goodbye. They watched her walk straight into the castle followed by several of the King’s soldiers. This time she did not look as she entered the gate. She went to the supply room and found fresh sheets and linens and draped them over her arm. She climbed the stairs to the second floor and approached the two guards standing at the King’s door. She smiled at them and they smiled in return. She stopped right in front of them and lightly knocked on the door opposite from the King’s chambers and turned the knob giving it a slight push, it opened slightly.

“It is unoccupied.” one of the men said. She thanked him and went to the next door and knocked lightly again turning the knob pushing it open a bit. “They are all unoccupied.” the guard said again.

“Good, then the sheets are clean and there is less work for me.” she said with a smile. She was a beautiful, charming woman and they both smiled back at her and admired her as she walked back down the hall and down the stairs. She made her way through the hallway and back out of the front gate of the castle.

“And just where do you think that you are going?” a voice said from behind. Her heart leaped in her chest. She turned to see an older, stern looking woman wearing a maids outfit staring at her. “The day’s work has just begun and you are leaving? Who are you? I have never seen you before.”

Marianna looked her right in the eye and said “I am new, today was to be my first day but I was fired for slapping the shit out of a woman who got rude with me. Would you like to be next?”

The woman was taken aback, she had a shocked look on her face but said nothing.

Marianna continued, “You would be well advised to mind your own business and not question strangers in that tone.”

The woman just bowed her head, turned and walked away but glanced back over her shoulder with a worried look. Marianna walked quickly on down the road and met Felipe just inside of the forest. “The rooms are all unoccupied and the two that I tried are unlocked as well.”

“This is good news, all that we have to do now is to wait until late tonight and we will get our son back.” Felipe said smiling at the princess. They waited as the night fell and once again tracked the moon across the night sky. When it was very late they made their preparations to go.

Batu looked around the circle of the faces of his friends illuminated in the flickering firelight. “I have something that I want to say. What we are about to attempt is very dangerous. Some, or all of us may die tonight, but if I die I do not want to go to my grave without first having said this. I will gladly give my life for your son, but first I want to make sure that I thank you for freeing me.” He looked from Felipe to Andreas. “I would never have known the joy of freedom or of having my son if not for the two of you.”

Andreas and Felipe just nodded at him. They all thought about what he said as they looked around the circle of faces in the firelight from one to the other. Indeed some or all of them may die tonight and it may be the last time that they sat together. But this is what they came here for and they were determined to get the boy back.

Felipe looked at Batu and said ”I have always considered it an honor to fight by your side and to also have you as a friend.”

Jean Pierre looked from one man to another and then said “We all made a pact long ago that we would stand together and fight to the death if it came to that. I have not forgotten this oath.”

He drew his sword and held it up, all of the men drew their swords and clicked the blades together.

“It is time.” Felipe said.

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Marianna was the first to stand. “I am going also.”

“No! There is no need for you to go, it is far too dangerous.” Felipe said.

“And what of Victoria? Is there a need for her to go? She goes because it is her son. You are my son and that child is my only grandson. I will not wait here wondering what is happening. I will simply follow after you if I must, but I am going. This is my entire family and I will not just sit here. Carmen can wait and if we do not return before dawn, at least she can go back and tell what has become of us. I am going, do not try to stop me.”

“She is right, we are family and she deserves to go also.“ Andreas said. They hugged and kissed Carmen goodbye then walked quietly through the forest toward the castle.

Again they quickly darted across the open ground to the corner of the castle and entered the passageway. Once inside the torches were lit and they proceeded to the first door. Batu and Tor’s hands were placed behind them and one piece of rope was circled around them as if they were tied. They nodded at their friends in the light of the fire and slowly pushed the door inward.

Andreas went first and looked around the edge of the tall drapes. The large room was empty at this late hour as it should be. He motioned to Batu and he slipped quietly out of the door followed by Tor and Jean Pierre. They all knew the plan so there was no need to speak. Batu and Tor walked in front of them as if they were prisoners as they walked to the door of the Grand Hall.

They opened the door, stepped into the receiving room and saw the stairs. Batu and Tor climbed the stairs with Andres and Jean Pierre following them. The guards in front of the kings chambers saw the very tall black men first and drew their swords stepping away from the door blocking the hallway. They then saw Andreas and Jean Pierre walking behind them and it did appear to them that the black men’s hands were tied.

As they approached closer one of the guards said “What is the meaning of this?”

“We have two prisoners that were members of the crew of the pirate Felipe Montoya. They were captured and Felix Chavez wishes to question them.” Andreas replied.

“The hour is very late, Chavez has been sleeping for hours now.” the guard replied.

“Never the less, he gave implicit instructions that they were to be brought before him as soon as we arrived. Do you want to interfere with his orders? I will tell him in the morning that you refused us passage and caused this delay.” Andreas said.

The man got a frightened look and then sheathed his sword as did the other. “Very well then, I certainly would not want to be the man who wakes Chavez at this hour.” he stepped aside as did the other guard.

They took their positions on either side of the King’s door. Batu and Tor started walking forward again. When they came even with the guards they both struck with lightning speed. They each grabbed one of the guards head in their large hands and with a quick, strong twist broke their necks. In the quiet of the hallway the bones breaking sounded very loud.

The guards bodies began to twitch as urine ran down their pants legs. Andreas quickly opened the door across from the King’s bedchamber. The bodies were drug inside and laid on the floor. Jean Pierre spotted a towel on the bedrail, he threw it onto the urine in the hall wiping it with his boot then kicking it back into the room. They closed the door and then Andreas very slowly and quietly tried the King’s door. The knob turned but the door refused to budge, he had locked it from the inside just as the princess had said that he would.

They quickly ran back to the stairs and into the Grand Hall. Slipping behind the curtains they pushed the secret door open and joined their friends in the dark passageway. As soon as the door was closed in whispered tones they told the others that the guards were dead. Ajamu got a big smile on his face but the princess just nodded and hurried up the stairs toward the king’s bedchamber. They all followed her.

When they arrived at the marked door they all looked at each other and then leaned the torches against the wall. Batu silently pushed the door open and then slipped into the room followed by Tor and the others. The king was snoring lightly, sleeping on his back. Little Juan Carlos was sleeping on his belly with his butt sticking up in the air. They spread out around the bed and then a very strong, large hand slapped down on the King’s mouth. Strong hands grabbed his hands and feet pinning them down. Jen Pierre gently but firmly placed his hand over the Queen’s mouth.

They both woke suddenly and tried to cry out and struggle, it was useless. The princess also placed her hand gently over Juan Carlos’s mouth and his eyes sprang open and went wide as he recognized his mother. “Shhh” she said smiling at him. “Be very quiet, do not make a sound.” he nodded his head and she removed her hand and picked him up hugging him.

The King’s arms were quickly tied to the bedposts as well as his ankles and a gag was tied in his mouth. Jean Pierre and Ajamu tied the Queen’s arms and legs and gagged her also. The wicks on the oil lamps were trimmed up and light filled the room. They stared at their daughter blinking unbelievably and then looked at the men in the room. The princess walked over to him and said. “Yes father, it is me. I came to get my son which you kidnapped. His father wants to kill you for this, meet Felipe Montoya.”

Felipe leaned over and looked into his eyes. “You son of a bitch, you dare to steal my son?”

The king cowered his head back into his pillow and fear was showing in his eyes. He was totally helpless. Felipe pulled out his dagger and held it to the King’s throat. The king just shook his head and pleaded with his eyes. “I should kill you, but I will not. Even though you are guilty of many crimes against the people and deserve it. My father was innocent when your men killed him.”

“I know that you had no choice in this mother, you were always kind to me.“ the princess said stroking her mothers chin and then bent to kiss her.

She turned back to the King and said. “There is someone else that I would like you to meet.” the princess said. “These are my good friends, Batu, Ajamu and Tor.” She looked at them and said “Please take off your shirts and show him your backs.”

They removed their shirts and turned around. The King saw the many cruel scars that crisscrossed the men’s backs. Many very deep scars that had long since raised up into long lines of mounded flesh that ran all of the way across their backs.

“They are people father, just like you and I, not the animals that you taught me that they were. They were bullwhipped often just for amusement. They are my best friends and they would willingly die for me, I love them”

Batu spoke to him in perfect Spanish. “It is particularly painful when the wounds have not healed and they whip you again. If time and conditions permitted, I would love to give you a taste of how this feels.” The look of hatred in his eyes terrified the King.

Marianna took Juan Carlos in her arms and spoke to the Queen. “I know that of all people, you understand. This is my grandchild, as he is yours. I love him as you do but I will not see this family torn apart. He needs to be with his parents”

The queen nodded and Marianna knew that she understood.

“We would love to stay and talk, but we must leave now.” Andreas said looking at the King. “Yes, it is me, Andreas. Felipe’s father was my brother.”

“If you ever try to steal our son again, I swear that I will kill you.” Felipe said. He turned to walk away but then stopped and faced the King again. “And by the way, thank you for all of the gold from the forts at Panuco and New Granada. Your grandson will never want for anything.

The kings eyes bulged, his face turned red, a vein began to throb on his temple.

They all walked through the door into the passage, closed it and then hurried down the stairwell as the King struggled at his bonds trying to get the gag out of his mouth. They again quickly crossed the dark grounds, then ran to their camp.

“We must make haste, there is no time to spare.” Felipe said to Carmen. They ran through the forest back to the lifeboat and rowed out to the Vengeance. It was still hours before the dawn but they wasted no time weighing the anchors and unfurling all of the sails. By dawn they were over the horizon sailing toward Tortuga.

The King’s aid thought it strange that there were no guards standing at his door. He put his key in the lock and turned it and then opened the door. He was shocked to see the King tied and Queen tied and gagged, he quickly rushed to him and took his gag out. “Quickly! Call in the guards!” the King shouted. The young boy ran out of the room and soon the room was full of soldiers who untied their hands and feet.

“Mount a full brigade and go to the harbor! My grandson was taken by the pirate Felipe Montoya and they probably headed for his ship. Sail all available ships in every direction and find them!” he sat up in bed rubbing his feet and wrists with a very angry look. “Get Chavez down here immediately!”

A soldier ran up the stairs and pounded on Chavez’s door. He opened the door with an angry look having been awakened. “What is the meaning of this!?” he demanded.

“The King wants you in his chambers immediately! The boy was kidnapped last night by pirates. He and the Queen were bound and gagged when they found him” the soldier said.

As Chavez quickly dressed he wondered how they had infiltrated the castle. He ran to the King’s bedchambers and entered the room. The King had a very angry look on his face and told him “While my personal assassin snored last night right upstairs, the pirate Felipe Montoya and my own daughter entered my private bedchambers and took my grandson right out from under your nose!” He shouted.

“How did they get past all of the guards and how is this my fault?” Chavez asked.

Not wanting to reveal the location of the secret passage he shouted “ I do not care how they passed the guards! You were ordered to kill him many months ago! Had you done your job none of this would have happened and my grandson would still be here! I will give you just one more chance. You will leave this morning, kill Felipe Montoya and bring my daughter and grandson back here or I will make the fate of the former Viceroy look kind.”

Chavez bowed his head and went back up to his room. He went to the window and stared out to the sea. His anger and hatred boiled inside of him, this was twice that this man had infiltrated and taken something from him right from under his nose. First his mother and now his son. He felt like a fool and now his life was also threatened by this man. Angrily, he swore to himself that he would find and kill this man.

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I thank you for the privilege of allowing me to share this story with you. It is a condensed version, but you get the idea. The tale continues in the sequel, "The Tribe" and then again in "The New World" and coming soon "Octopus" which are available at my website on the bottom of my posts. I won't bore you any longer but will give you a peek at "The Tribe", an even deeper bond is growing between Felipe and Batu...

The morning sun broke over a clear sky and blue waters as the Vengeance surged on toward Tortuga. Gulls wheeled overhead and followed the huge ship perching on her yardarms catching a ride and looking for scraps. A pod of dolphins raced along the wake of the bow as it cleaved the water leaving a white, foamy trail.

As Felipe approached the galley he could smell coffee and heard the soothing sound of Carlos lovingly playing his violin. Marianna was sitting with Juan Carlos on her lap wiping his chin and blowing on a fork full of food as he ate a pile of steaming scrambled eggs. Andreas was sitting beside Carmen enjoying the music while Jean Pierre whittled a top out of soft wood to keep the child occupied on his long voyage.

“Good morning Felipe.” Jean Pierre said. “It is good to be alive this morning.”

“Indeed it is.” he said smiling. “Who is at the helm?”

“Batu, he lost a roll of the dice with Ajamu.” Jean Pierre smiled.

“That is indeed unfortunate.” Felipe said feigning a disturbed look.

“Yes, he was unfortunate enough to go up against my loaded dice.” Jean Pierre said with a small smile.

Felipe laughed and said “Well then, let me go and torment him.”

Felipe grabbed a banana and a fresh steaming cup of coffee then went up on the deck. Ajamu was leaning up against the stern rail criticizing Batu’s seamanship while Batu steered the ship with a stern look on his face trying to ignore him. As Felipe walked toward Batu with the banana and coffee Batu smiled.

“Hey Ajamu, I thought that you might be hungry.” Felipe said walking around Batu.

“Yes, thank you Felipe.” he said taking the banana with a smile.

“Would you like a cup of coffee?”

“That is too kind of you, I am keeping an eye on the big buffoon to make sure that he does not get us lost at sea.”

“That is very good of you and the entire crew appreciates it, I think I will go back to the galley for some ham and eggs, would you like to join us? Carlos is also playing some fine music.” Felipe said winking at him.

“I think that I would like that, perhaps he can muddle his way through without my directions.” Ajamu rose and he and Felipe walked around Batu back to the stairwell. Felipe paused and scratched his ass when he got in front of Batu, then walked on.

They entered the Galley just as Neo came running in very excited. “Juan Carlos! There are dolphins racing the ship! Come see!”

Juan Carlos jumped off of Marianna’s lap and the two ran for the door. “You boys be careful, do not fall off of the ship.” she said as they bolted out of the door.

When Felipe and Ajamu sat down Marianna looked at them. “I have been thinking about the dispatch that I saw in Chavez’s room. He is going to expand the search to all of the islands, I fear that we will not be safe on Tortuga much longer.”

“We still have time, there are hundreds of islands. It is not as if we must get in a great hurry, but yes, we must start considering it.” Felipe said.

“I agree, we need to start seeking a new home, we have plenty of gold and could settle anywhere.” Andreas replied.

“If we are going to discuss this, I would like Batu and Tor here as well.” Felipe said. “Excuse me, I will go and get them.”

Felipe went up on deck and had a man relieve Batu, found Tor and they returned to the galley. “We were discussing the fact that Chavez has ordered the search for us to expand to all of the outer islands. We will not be safe there much longer, we need to find a new location for our village.” Felipe told them.

“Yes, and the fact that we were able to retrieve Juan Carlos probably enrages him even more, he will double his efforts.” Andreas said as he looked around the table.

“Well, as has been said, we have enough gold to settle anywhere, even Europe or the great continent to the north, the French control a very large portion of it and we would be safe from the Spaniards there.” Felipe replied.

“Other than the fact that you are Spaniards, that would indeed be a good place to go.” Jean Pierre said. “Besides, I am a wanted man with a death marker on my head in France.”

“You never told us why you hate the French so much.” Batu said

“My mother was a widow, we were extremely poor. She finally got a job cleaning a home for one of the wealthy Lords there. We were overjoyed that we could now eat and have clothes. He raped her so I killed him.” he looked around the table, “They arrested me, I spent five years in a French Prison eating slop that a pig would not eat before I managed to escape while being forced to work on a road crew. When I got home, my mother had died.”

Angelica bowed her head, she alone knew this story. There was silence at the table for a moment until Carlos said “I am sorry for your loss.”

“As we all are.” Andreas replied.

“Well, that counts out the new French territories, the rest of the continent is occupied by the Spaniards along the coast and far into the interior. What about Africa? The land of my ancestors?” Tor asked.

They discussed this for a few moments, then all agreed that since slaves were still being captured there it would not be safe for them there either.

“I do not like the idea of anywhere in Europe, we need to be somewhere that we are all familiar with, somewhere near the sea, I do not intend to give up the Vengeance, we may still need her.” Felipe said.

“Well that leaves the great continent to the south where the Inca dwell but that too is ruled by the Spaniards. We would have to sail far to the south or go deep into the interior.” Andreas said.

“Wait, when we were slaves we always discussed where we would go if we ever escaped.” Ajamu said. “The land below Mexico and north of Honduras is called Belize. The Spaniards tried to settle there but the Maya drove them out, I heard our former master discuss it with his friends. The jungle is very dense and two mighty rivers flow through it. There are mountains, fruit, nuts and all manner of game abound there. It also has a coastline with the sea. This is where a lot of the slaves that we freed probably have fled and are living now.”

“Yes, I have sailed the coast of Belize before, there are several sheltered coves in which we could hide the Vengeance, the fishing there is very good also.” Andreas said with a smile.

“That sounds like a very good choice, Chavez will be busy searching the islands and there are many of them. The Bahamas alone could take him years unless he devotes hundreds of men to the search. Does anyone have any objections to Belize?” Felipe asked as he looked around the table.

“I will miss the waterfall.” the princess said with a smile, “But it is a small price to pay to keep Juan Carlos safe.”

“We are in agreement then. When we arrive back on Tortuga the men will go and look at Belize. The women can stay but we need to post lookouts on all four sides of the island. If a Spanish ship approaches the women can hide in the cave, they would never find them there.” Andreas said.

“I am looking forward to it, I wonder if we can link up with the slaves that were freed and are now living there?” Batu asked.

“I am sure that we will make contact with them.” Andreas replied.

They sailed on until they finally came to Tortuga. Once they landed they rested for two days and then began to pack things onto the ship for their trip. Most of the hired men had already decided to return to the settlement and continue with their pirating ways. After several days everything was loaded so they went to the cave and got some of their gold. There were still many stout wooden boxes filled with gold ingots as well as coins, precious stones and pearls.

Victoria took Felipe’s hand and walked one last time to the waterfall. They stood together watching the white water cascade down and thunder onto the rocks. “I will really miss this place.” she said.

“As will I, I will miss this entire island. We have many good memories here.” Felipe said.

They held each other for a long while and said nothing then walked back to the village. Most of the cabins were empty now, Everyone else was aboard the vengeance ready to sail. Felipe kissed Victoria and his mother goodbye, got into the boat and rowed out to the huge ship. The smaller fishing ship the Marianna was pulling up her anchor while Andreas took the wheel. She pulled slowly out of the harbor as the Vengeance’s anchors began to rise. The rowboat was pulled up and the Vengeance set sail following the Marianna out to sea.

After six days the shoreline appeared on the horizon. Felipe followed the Marianna as she skirted the shoreline. The Marianna slowed and they came alongside of her. Andreas shouted to Felipe that they were approaching Belize, for him to wait while the smaller Marianna searched the inlets for a deepwater cove where the Vengeance could be hidden. Felipe nodded an agreement and the Marianna slowly surged ahead.

The Marianna slipped into a cove and after a short while reappeared and sailed on along the coast. This was repeated three more times until finally after she went into the fourth cove she sailed to the opening and stopped. Felipe wheeled the ship toward the narrow opening and slipped through. Batu sounded the depth of the water with a weight tied onto a rope as they slowed down, then they laid anchor near the shore. The jungle was very dense here, much thicker than the island of Tortuga and mountains could be seen in the distance.

Felipe spotted a man sitting on the shore playing a guitar with a fishing pole in front of him. The sounds of the music carried across the water. They prepared a landing party to explore the interior. Felipe, Andreas, Jean Pierre, Batu, Ajamu and Tor got into a lifeboat and paddled toward the man. As they got near the man he stopped playing and peered at them, then took a long swig from a bottle.

He resumed playing as they made land and approached him. He was a stocky man with thick shoulders and a shaved head. He was well tanned, he had strong arms and a friendly face. He sat his guitar gently on the rocks, then stood up to meet them. They all introduced themselves and he said “My name is Jose Lopez, welcome to Belize.”

He cocked his head, smiled and said “You are a strange looking group, I have never seen Spaniards, blacks and a Frenchman together before except in jail”

“It is a long story.” Jean Pierre said.

“I have all day.” he said and sat back down. He picked up his guitar and began to strum softly as he looked at them.

“Have you caught any fish?” Batu asked.

“There is no bait on the hook.” Jose said as he took another drink then held the bottle out. “Would you care for some tequila?”

Batu had never tasted tequila so he took the bottle and took a sip. He coughed and choked. “For the love of God! What is that? Liquid fire?” as he handed the bottle back.

“Si.” Jose said nodding his head with a laugh.

“How do you know there is no bait on the hook?” Batu asked.

“Because I did not put any on it, I fish to relax.” he said.

“How can you fish with no bait?” Batu continued.

“I told you, I fish to relax. If you use bait you worry about losing it and have to be ready to set the hook. I cannot play my guitar if I am worried about such things. I fish to relax.” he said and took another long drink of the gold liquid and pointed the bottle around the group. Everyone shook their heads.

Batu looked at his friends and said “This man is either drunk or crazy.”

“Both.” Jose said with a grin. “What are you people doing here?”

“We intend to live here.” Felipe replied.

“In the jungle?” Jose asked.

“Yes, deep in the jungle preferably.” Felipe replied.

“Well, if you intend to live in that jungle you are going to need a guide.” As he pointed with his right hand they saw a large tattoo of our Lady of Guadalupe on his inner arm.

“We do not intend to pay you to be our guide, we do not need a guide.” Batu said.

Jose stopped strumming his guitar and looked at them. “You are wrong on both counts. I do not want you to pay me and yes, you do need a guide. Those who were once slaves live here, hundreds of them and they do not like strangers, especially white strangers. They have set man traps everywhere in the jungle.”

“Man traps? What kind of traps?” Andreas asked.

“Many kinds, many devious kinds and most deadly. I will be glad to lead you through the traps, it would be good to have some company. My wife and I live here and we do not get visitors. As I said, the former slaves are not friendly.”

“Where do you live?” Felipe asked him.

“Just inside of the tree line, there are two rivers here and I live alongside one of them. Would you like to come to my house?”

“Yes, please.” Andreas said.

Jose got up, slung his guitar over his back hanging with the neck down and walked away, they followed him. They walked the shoreline until they came to a river flowing into the cove. He took a trail along the river and soon a large cabin built out of logs appeared. There was a long, low porch and a beautiful, dark skinned woman sat on a swing suspended from the porch roof. She rose as they approached and smiled.

“This is my wife Gabriella.” Jose said. The men all introduced themselves. It was apparent that she was of Aztec blood. She had high, wide cheekbones and very deep brown eyes with long, flowing dark brown hair.

“Would you gentlemen care for something to drink?” she asked.

“Do you have anything besides tequila?” Batu asked looking at Jose.

“Yes, I see that you have already been bitten by my husband’s homemade tequila, he is very proud of it.” Gabriella said with a smile. “Please, come this way.”

“Have a seat.” Jose said pointing at the porch. “I am sorry that I do not have chairs, as I said , we do not get company out here.”

The men sat on the porch and soon Gabriella came out with a tray and a pitcher of water and cups. She poured them all water and they sat in the shade talking. “Why do you live out here by yourself?” Andreas asked.

“Well, let us just say that the Viceroy would really like to meet me.” Jose said with a smile.

“As he would us.” Felipe laughed.

“Well then it appears that we have something in common already.” Jose smiled. “How deep into the jungle do you intend to live?”

“Not very deep, we need to be able to keep an eye on our ship and we never know when we may have to leave in a hurry.”

“Well then I would suggest that we get an early start tomorrow, it will be dark soon and the jaguars will be prowling about. The traps are very hard to spot in broad daylight, let alone in the evening. Would you like to stay the night here?”

“That is kind of you, but we do not intend to impose on you and your wife. We will sleep on the ship and return early in the morning.” Felipe said.

“It is no imposition, but if you wish to sleep on your ship then we will meet again in the morning.”

With that they all rose, said goodbye and walked back to their boat. “It will be good to have a guide if there are indeed man traps as he says.” Felipe said.

“I can read people.” Jean Pierre said. “We can trust this man, I saw no guile or deception in him.”

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