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Author Topic: Dancing in the night  

Topic Original "No modification"
Title  "Dancing in the night"

Rating PG-13 for a not so gory murder and a fade-to-black sex scene towards the end

Classification Short Story

Summary Two mercenaries working together for a mission - to kill a baron at a gala. One of them intends also to seduce the not-so-grieving widow...

Genre Historical fiction/ Adventure/Romance

Notes: Micah Silva (the Songbird) has been played by Sabelline up to the ball and Chago Moreno is played by Elena, who assumed, with Sabelline's permission, the task of re-writing the story (which had been initially started in RPG format) and finishing it alone as agreed with her beforehand. Therefore, Micah's lines in the first 2 chapters are credited to Sabelline.

Starring:
and


1. A new mark

The evening was warm and a sweet breeze whispered through the trees as Micah sat in his perch watching the sun go down and waiting. He was waiting on someone to show up to be exact. His sandaled feet dangled from the branch of the massive tree he had chosen to wait in. It gave him a perfect view of the square garden just outside Maracaibo, towards Cabo San Roman, where he was to meet a woman named Lydia. She was a handmaiden to a noblewoman, and carried the woman's letter. As well as a locket containing the picture of the mark he was to take out.

The woman was doña Mariana Velasquez, and she was married to a Spanish Baron who had come to the New World to cash in on a promise of land from the Spanish government. Cash in he had, as well as apparently have his way with every native woman, criolla and upper class whore he could chase the skirts of. She was intent to put up with it no longer and had hatched a plot to kill the man she loathed with all her being.

Thus she had gone to Juan, the tavern keeper everyone sought when needing a hired hitman. Juan, was a retired veteran of the trade, one of the best, and Micah's mentor. All swords-for-hire looking for work knew that the one place that all of their kind went was the little establishment over in the Dos Caminos' District, not too far from the main harbour, named <The Armory of San Juan>.

Micah's hair was pulled back, the braids twisted into a loose tie at the base of his neck, and a few ivory beads could be seen amongst the mass of raven strands. He was still clad in his usual fare of loose fitting cotton clothing. It would not do to have his more specific attire out until later. He was going to enjoy the comfort while he could. The seashell anklet made the occasional tinkling noise when he shook his ankle just right and it amused him for a time. He was supposed to be meeting another mercenary here as well, but as to who would show up first, he was not sure.

Maracaibo Bay was quiet, and the serene sky gave a nice view to the seaward of the bay, where the islands of Onega and Monges guarded the entrance.

His canvas bag sat at the base of the tree, along with the crossbow he favored as a weapon. He was in plain view so none would take it. This city was a place of mercenaries. Weapons were sacred things to those in such a trade. It also let his companion know what tree he was perched up in. Rarely did Juan have him work with another, but there was a good chance this mark had bodyguards. He was an assassin, not a fighter. There was a considerable difference.

The first stars were beginning to shine in the splash of purple chasing the glowing reds and oranges of the last vestiges of sunlight. Micah was slowly put away and the Songbird took his place.

Chago was hurrying to the meeting. He knew the perspective of a new action was in the air, and this was always something meant to rejoice him. The days had been too quiet lately for his taste… Besides, this time he was beyond curious and intrigued about his new partner’s skills... but more about his maturity in thinking, as he seemed to be a sixteen years boy – much too young for a mercenary…

He knew Micah from the tavern where the younger boy worked, as Chago liked spending some of his evenings there. They had talked a few times, he noticed the young man’s passion for music and when he brought his guitar – thing which Chago didn’t do often to “The Armory of San Juan”, preferring other taverns for this entertainment purpose – they succeeded to find common favourite songs. But now it was unusual that Juan considered launching his apprentice in the trade choosing exactly Chago to accompany and help the young Spaniard with a strange name.

“This means he has graduated to journeyman already!” Chago had joked with the older tavern owner when hearing it.

“He is a talented boy, you’d see! But he needs you by his side in this particular mission!” Juan had answered his questioning gaze. “I have taught him almost everything I knew… however, he can find now things he is less prepared for... than a former soldier like you!”

He would have accepted anyway – any mission, as short as it was, helped fighting boredom – however he had the feeling this one, in this particular company, will be interesting and enjoyable. He spent his time on the road trying to guess what might it be about.

He had all his weapons with him, as he didn’t know if the mission was supposed to start later and the meeting had only planning purposes, or if the plans were to be followed by the actual deeds.

He saw the crossbow at the base of a tree and looked above with a smile.

Hola, Micah! If no weapons in sight, I would have thought there was a puma lying in ambush on this branch”, he laughed.

He had looked down at the sound of approaching feet, hazel eyes alert and then he relaxed as a familiar face came into view. Chago. He had wondered who Juan would choose to send and he was impressed. At least it was someone he knew. That had been a concern for him. At the man's cheerful greeting, he smiled, moving to slip down from the branch.

"A puma? Now I doubt that very much, Chago. Your eyes are better than that. I might have believed it had you said monkey...”

He trailed off with a laugh and climbed down a bit before hopping from the tree. Landing on his feet like a housecat, he gave a stretch.

“Well, taking into account that all your movements remind me more of a wild cat’s than a monkey’s… my eyes are still in their place and functioning!” he grinned.

He picked up his bag and pulled out the set of clothes he would change into after filling Chago in.

"We have a bit more waiting to do. We are to meet a woman named Lydia just over there. I don't know when she will show yet. She has our instructions and the location of our mark. I'm not sure how much Juan told you, but I'll give you the quick version just to be sure. She has a letter from doña Mariana Velasquez for us. Our mark is her husband, the Baron Velasquez. I'm sure you're somewhat familiar with him? Juan suggested I work in tandem with a partner this time as the Baron could have guards."

Chago gave Micah a crooked smile. How not to know the powerful Velasquez family? After all, he was a man of this land, unlike this young Spaniard and many other mercenaries around! This place gathered indeed men and women from anywhere in the world, ready to make their fortune in the service of who was paying better, but his home town was only 340 miles away from here.

“It is no secret I was born here, in Nueva Granada, so the land and its rulers have to be familiar to me! And I agree with you that he definitely has good guards, as there are plenty of men having sworn vengeance against him!” he chuckled. “This seems like a mission I’ll be going to enjoy!”

Micah seemed to see the woman he was waiting for, and told him more:

"Doña Mariana has everything set up so she will inherit everything should her husband die prematurely. He has chased one too many skirts for a proud Spanish woman to endure. That's as much as I know until we get the letter from Lydia."

Chago’s smile grew even wider, and his words, almost whispered, had a strangely amused tone:

“So, a cheating husband? This sounds even funnier! I hardly wait to …help you!”

Actually his smile was trying to say something else too, besides the action fever he couldn’t help having: “How strange and unpredictable are God’s ways! Out of so many evil deeds he has done during the years he has been in charge here… exactly his marital indiscretions are the ones to come against him!”

Nobody could guess how much he liked the idea of being involved in killing this damn noble son of a …whatever! “After all, my mother’s tribe would be finally revenged… and the Guajiros as well!”

He abhorred that his troops had been sent then, many years ago, to that “pacifying” operation which changed his view about the role of the Spanish army in these lands… and which made him ask, as soon as the opportunity arose, to be sent to Spain for a while, hoping to find there a better place for soldiers and a better kind of war than the one against the defenseless ones who had been here forever, and whose blood was running through his veins equally like his father’s. And he couldn’t have liked either what this encomendado* had done with the Indians on the vast lands granted to him…

Micah gently shifted his crossbow aside, along with the bandoleer of bolts. He would hold off a moment longer as he glanced towards the garden to see a shy figure finally standing there.

 "Thank God. I had hoped she would be expeditious in getting here. I hate waiting all night."

Stepping out into Lydia's sight he motioned to her. She seemed very nervous, like a mouse that had skirted one too many cats on her way there.

"You are the Songbird, yes? The one Juan sent?"

 He nodded to encourage her. She seemed relieved and handed over her small burden.

"My Mistress bade me give this to you. She is worried, sir. The Baron is at a gala and heavily guarded. He will be there for the next three nights. She is most sorry. There is an invitation in there to the Gala and a locket containing a painting of the Baron."

A Gala? This changed a little bit what he had expected… but had it ever been a time for Chago to refuse a challenge? His eyes sparkled. All this affair was going to be interesting… a reward for the last month of blissful silence!

The girl spoke so rapidly it was obvious she was nervous, he placed a hand on her shoulder to calm her and accepted the small package with a thoughtful frown.

The girl’s nervous voice and the way she was looking only at Micah, avoiding him as if he was the scariest and the most dangerous predator ever, made Chago smile again. He wouldn’t have appreciated such scared little mousies anyway, as pretty as this girl was.

He had just noticed Micah’s nickname – he had heard something about the Songbird before, but he hadn’t made the connection between that name and Micah, the one he knew helping in the tavern. It was a good name for this boy so fond of music…

"We'll take it from here, Lydia. Thank your Mistress and tell her we will be in touch soon."

He couldn’t avoid noticing the soothing effect Micah seemed to have on her nervousness. Certainly this boy, as young as he was, knew well his ways around women!

Micah had definitely implied only that they would be going to report her on the accomplished mission and to take her money, but Chago’s thoughts wandered farther, with a mischievous smile. Pushed by these mere words, he envisaged ways to comfort later the appealing and rather young widow. He liked challenges… not only in his professional activity. As long as his heart seemed to be immune to love, then daring and passion had to fill this void…

The girl seemed intensely relieved and was off into the growing shadows of evening without another word. He opened the letter and held out the locket and invitation to the gala to Chago.

“This is unexpected. We should go investigate fist, you think? See if it would be possible to perhaps…Perhaps what I don’t know.” He read over the letter, it said the same thing Lydia had told them.


*In the Spanish colonies, an encomienda was a grant to a Spanish settler or soldier (“encomendado”) of a certain number of Indian subjects, who would pay him tribute in goods and labor, together with a large piece of land they were inhabiting, for his use and administration in the name of the Spanish crown.

Elena

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  • Date: 30/12/12
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Re: Dancing in the night

« Reply #1 » Published on:December 30, 2012, 12:46:02 PM

Elena

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2. Getting ready for the ball

As professional as Micah was trying to look – and Chago didn’t doubt his skills, having Juan’s trust and teachings was enough of a recommendation in his eyes – he sensed his hesitation and the questioning look asking for the advice of his more experienced companion.

The boy’s bright charcoal eyes awakened in him the responsibility of an older brother, so he answered friendly and assuredly:

“We should investigate definitely, but for this purpose we have to be dressed for the Gala… so each of us goes home to change clothes, then we’ll meet later in the main square! Find ways to conceal your weapons in your clothes… and we’ll be there to enjoy the party, won’t we? Well… besides making our own one!” Chago laughed. “Both of us can recognize a good opportunity for what it’s worth, and avail ourselves of it for a purpose! And it could show tonight or tomorrow night… if we aren’t there we can’t know!”

Micah seemed relieved after hearing his approach of the surprising news, and smiled thoughtfully:

Doña Mariana is offering an extremely good price for this. If we can still pull it off it would give us a powerful ally should we ever have need of her again.”

Chago nodded approvingly. The boy was right, especially in the part of „a powerful ally”, but he was envisaging other challenges to be met later – and then… it would be arguable whose and what needs would have met.

Micah was pleased that Chago seemed taken with their little venture. He had worried the man might balk at knowing who their mark was. Hell, the man seemed utterly amused by it. Juan apparently had chosen his partner well. When he silently asked for advice, he was pleased in the way it was given. There was no condescension in the man's voice and he appreciated that more than the man would ever know. Chago picked up right where he had hoped he would. Go to the Gala? Yes, that would work. Use it to get a feel for the Baron and his entourage.

"Perfect. You are right. We need to blend in and lead this snake from his cover. We meet back in the square in two hours. That should be ample time to get changed and make what adjustments we will need. I'll ask Juan too; see if he has anything to add in." He returned the clothes to his bag and shouldered it and his crossbow. "See you then, Chago." With a nod to the man, he set off back towards The Armory.

Micah arrived back at Juan's and went around going in the back as he always did. Juan was still up having a late dinner at the table in the kitchen and looked up as Micah slipped in, quiet as a shadow. "There's a complication." Juan motioned for him to sit and pushed a plate of tortillas towards him. He picked one up and quickly laid out the situation to Juan, who listened like any mentor would. Encouraging him on when he paused. Micah tore of pieces of the tortilla, speaking rapidly.

Afterwards Juan took a moment to mull over the situation and finally gave a nod of approval.

"I think you have worked this out quite well, except for one small detail. A man showing up with a boy at his side will draw unwanted attention to you. You must blend in. Be indistinguishable from the other at the event."

He gave the man a thoughtful frown. Poking the last piece of tortilla in his mouth, he chewed for a moment, thinking about those words. "But what would make us look more....oh. Ai!" He blinked at Juan, his eyes going wide.

"You have got to be kidding, Juan! Most certainly not, Juan!" His eyes narrowed and he glared across the table at his mentor.

Juan merely shrugged. "Draw attention to yourselves, then. See how much harder it will be to get close to the Baron. It's not my mark, Songbird."

He opened his mouth a few times as if to retort but finally gave a low groan and scrubbed at his face with both hands.

"You're right as usual. Of the two of us I am the only one who can do it. Fine. Just....Nothing too...feminine. Please?"

Juan gave him a nod and he went up to bathe and work all the braids and knots out of his hair. It took almost an hour before Juan showed up with the attire he had acquired for him and he had to admit, it was better than he could have hoped for. The man had to help him with it and then fasten the pistol crossbow and bandoleer of poisoned bolts to his calf. He was actually surprised at how easy it was to get at. When questioned, Juan merely made mention of friends in the trade. Standing and looking at the final result in the mirror made him shudder and look away. Juan noted the look and kissed his forehead in a fatherly manner, before ushering him to be on his way. The two hours was up and he had to meet Chago in the square.

He had hoped to arrive first and indeed was rewarded by an empty square. He still had a few minutes to quell the rising panic and present Chago with his mask once again. My God he was sure the man would take one look at him like this and just know. It made him feel as though he would be sick on the spot. Footsteps however stopped him from further contemplating the matter. Slowly he turned to face his companion and had it not been for the bag in his hand, he was sure the other would not recognize him.

His hair had been unbound and cleaned to shine like spun silk and curled, part of it pulled back in an elaborate gold bird clasp, accented with pearls and emeralds, his make-up expertly applied, his lips made a deep blood red and a slight flush brushed across his cheeks, although with how badly he was blushing, he didn't need it. His slender form was encased in a corseted dress of the darkest black velvet and gold brocade. He seemed clad in the very night around him and trimmed with gold.

A choker rested around his throat set with a large emerald and surrounded by strands of tiny gold beads, the choker itself being made of the same deep black velvet as the dress. Even the barest hint of cleavage added to the illusion, afforded him by his expanded ribcage and a few very tight ribbons. Long had castrati mastered the art of illusion when it cane to the feminine. Gloved hands held a fan and he was grateful for that. He was going to roast otherwise, he knew.

Chago prepared himself carefully for the event, washing away the sweat of the day and putting on his best attire, kept for special occasions like this: a plastered white shirt, a beautifully embroidered vest and a long velvet coat, in contrast with his usual colour preferences, ivory, velvet breeches, Cordoba leather boots... He was aware that shoes would have been a smarter choice for attending a gala… but not when one wanted a safe place for hiding a navaja!

He sighed at the thought of having needed a wig… but this was Maracaibo, Nueva Granada, not Madrid, so wigs weren’t anymore as compulsory as in Spain, he could pass without it!

He was elegant and presentable enough when he went to meet his new business partner.

Micah really looked gorgeous like a young lady dressed for a ball. Almost he hadn’t recognized him. This was evidently a privilege of his youth, and his long hair helped too. Nobody would guess… except his height, a little exaggerated for a lady, but such things happened sometimes… Only that he was extremely nervous and this might ruin everything if he couldn’t calm down. His insecurity showed in his threatening greeting:

"One word, Chago, and I shoot you where you stand! It was Juan's idea. Said it would make it easier to blend in.....That man does not pay me enough for this!"

Chago smiled a little, and the retained laugh glittered in his eyes, without malice. He was sure Micah wouldn’t shoot him… if not for other reason, at least because for the moment being he still needed him by his side! Anyway, this menace wouldn’t make him forego some lighthearted jest:

Que bonita eres*, doña Micaela!” he stated admiratively, with a polite bow, exactly the proper one to greet a lady. "And Juan is the cleverest man and the most experienced of us all here! I wouldn’t have thought of it but he is right, it matches better than anything!”

There was no irony in his voice, only appreciation and some friendly teasing. In fact, who saw this happy couple would have considered them a good complement in everything, including tastes in clothing, as both were wearing elegant, dark velvet attires.

When Chago had approached, Micah had tensed slightly and at being lightheartedly teased, he let a bit of that tension fade away on his next breath. It had not been the reaction he feared and the questions had not come. At least not yet.

He merely nodded when Chago stated that he agreed with Juan. It was the perfect cover as none would expect a couple, let alone a woman to be mercenaries. Maracaibo or not. Crossing his arms over his chest, he gave a slight nod that he was accepting of his fate for the night. Juan was an experienced man, but he highly doubted the man had ever donned such attire to complete what he was set out to do.

“Actually I wouldn’t mind if you introduce me to one of your sisters... You aren’t a bad prospective brother-in-law! And, as I understood, a certain woman does pay you enough that doña Micaela will try her best tonight to seduce Baron Velasquez!”

A dark brow arched up at hearing Chago inquire of one of his sisters. Oh how that would go over! To be honest his sister Kiraz would suit the man very well. She was closest to him of any of his siblings, and the one he missed the greatest. Another nod as he was reminded of just who was paying him enough for this. He could bear such for as high a mark as the Baron was. He fanned himself slightly, helping to fade the rest of the blush from his cheeks, leaving only the flush from the rouge on his cheeks.

That is until Chago told him he was to seduce the Baron! The flush came back full force and his eyes widened. He was about to protest when the other mercenary pushed on and it dawned on him as it must have with Chago. A soft gasp escaped his deep red lips as it all fell into place. It could be flawless. None would expect him and he could indeed get the Baron alone. He doubted the man would suspect him of meaning him ill, especially if he played his cards right. The baron was chasing any skirt around, so a new lady just arrived from Spain would be the right bait. And the large dress could easily hide his deadly weapons…

“As long as you succeed to lure him in the garden… to hide the effects of your... caressing touch, my dear… everything has a purpose tonight!” he continued thinking logically and slightly making fun of this situation at the same time. “Including the first dance which, as my beloved wife, you are going to politely grant me… because afterwards all your attention would go to the Baron!”

“And mine to his guards”, he thought practically, “…however, not before one dance with doña Mariana, if possible! Because she must be there too, otherwise her absence would raise suspicions… Damn Micah’s innocent words of two hours ago …and my twisted mind! Yes, the woman will pay us well… but I wouldn’t mind getting a certain added bonus later… with a brief advance payment tonight…”

This time, his smile was different, mischievous… as if that night would be for entertainment only, thing extremely far from the reality of his thoughts. A bit of lust, a bit of challenge… and some of his hate of nobility added into the mix, stirred by Micah’s spotless plans, had made his blood boil at the thought of getting doña Mariana in his arms, but he was better than this. He never let any emotion between him and his job… Well, actually helping with killing a high society villain and then bedding his not so ingenuous and not so grieving widow…it was an interesting idea, the last part adding incentive to the first one!

But a caprice of his mind wouldn’t turn him from the job at hand! He had known such men – the baron was among them – notorious womanizers who couldn’t accept that a woman they had fancied could resist their advances. He was not among them. For him, women were only an interlude in life. Once, in his youth, he had been in love… and the heartbreak was the main reason for wanting to leave Spain to come back to the Colonies. Almost eight years of strange adventures on sea and earth had been enough time to heal… He remained only with bitterness towards nobility in general, and with a natural shield around his heart. Since then, he had any woman who eyed him with interest… except the married ones. For this, he had morals – some day he might find a woman to swoon him enough to marry her… and the cheaters usually receive their retribution in kind. However, a widow could be fair game… and the thrill of seducing her might be worth the effort! And if rejected… he’ll survive and be fine… and well, with the money received from her for …doing justice.

Yes, doing justice! This is how he saw the situation – and, like always, his practical sense prevailed.

“It was ingenious!” Micah thought, and then again he was brought to a halt. Dance? With Chago? He arched a brow at the man and frowned thoughtfully. It would be expected, of course. He did know how to dance, Alessandro had seen to that. Perhaps it would not be so bad.

"I can see your point in all of this Chago. I will do my very best tonight and we will impress our employer that we can take care of things no matter what obstacles are placed in our way, and have a bit of fun in doing it."

This was not the first time he had donned the feminine, not by a long shot. It was part of being a castrato. Women were uncommon and even banned form the stage at the time and female roles were given over to castrati. He had played the female lead in several productions at the conservatorio. However it was much different being a woman on stage opposed to playing at one in a real setting.

He was still surprised the questions had not come and Chago had instead been delighted it seemed about the idea. He thinks me a young boy, that is why. Would he be so accepting if he knew the truth? That I am neither boy nor man, but something else entirely. He shrugged it off and gracefully accepted his companion's arm, just as a perfectly mannered lady would of her husband.

Chago smiled widely at Micah’s words, but he couldn’t help expressing loudly his thoughts in answering to the boy’s optimism:

“Yes, indeed, we are going to impress our employer! Hopefully more than she expects… while having fun too!”

The same mischievous smile arose on his lips when thinking about the baroness…

After giving his arm so politely to his supposedly female companion, Chago whispered:

Doña Micaela, I am your husband, don Ramon… but we need a surname too, and a story to tell!”

After this, Chago suddenly remembered Micah’s surname, and it gave him the needed idea:

“If I may borrow your name and comb it a little…we might be don Ramon and doña Micaela de Silva, from Sevilla… and we’ll agree upon the other details on the road towards the ball! We can’t arrive there without our plan detailed as much as possible! Besides, I have attended some such upper class events in my youth, when I was in the Army, and I remember the needed manners. Have you ever attended a ball…?”


* How beautiful you are!
« Last Edit: December 30, 2012, 01:02:12 PM by Elena »

 

Re: Dancing in the night

« Reply #2 » Published on:December 30, 2012, 12:46:44 PM

Elena

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Micah gave a pleased smile at his own surname being used. It was thoughtful in a way. Although another question soon followed and he could not help the slight tense that moved through him. He took a breath, let it out slowly and after a moment, looked up at Chago.

"Yes, I have been to my share of such functions. I spent eight years in Naples with my former mentor and tutor, who was insistent on teaching me such things. You have naught to worry about."

He toyed a bit with his fan before closing it and walking with perfect posture and grace beside his partner. It was Chago’s turn to sigh relieved and smile brightly.

“Maybe the idea of balls brings him memories as sad as mines!” the Valencian supposed, and immediately it occurred to him that for him it was also the first time since leaving Spain that he was attending a ball. “Perhaps it’s a good idea that his previous words gave me …somebody else to focus my attention on… when I’d be inclined to remember the balls in Spain… and Luisa!”

“Yes! I really like the way you think! As long as we are prepared for… the unexpected… But we will go our own ways – and what if we might need…?”

Yes, the unexpected! Chago must shake his head, clear it of a certain womanly image with chestnut locks and velvety glittering eyes… and of another, already blurred, image of a seventeen years old bride… somebody else’s, of course… and try to end his phrase which starts with the eternal “what if?”

But Micah knew the answer – it was in front of them, in the boy’s hand:

“Do you know how to read a lady's fan, Chago?" He brought the fan up, covered his lips with it and then fanned himself slowly. "We can communicate quite easily with it and I am sure the Baron knows how to read one as well. One as well-versed in women should after all.” he gave Chago a conspiring smirk.

The question raised more painful memories from deep inside Chago, memories he wouldn’t have believed still existing. But he tried to dismiss them in a grin:

“After three years spent in Spain, of course I know! But I suppose the two of us should agree on some other meanings… otherwise, the Baron doesn’t need to know really everything the de Silva spouses are telling each other, needs he?”

A wink ended his words.

Micah gave a nod when once again. Chago picked up flawlessly right where he needed to. Adding a few movements of the fan that would have only meaning to them. Exactly. He nodded along with him pleased that he would only have to figure out a few, instead of completely teaching Chago to read his fan. Add in a few the Baron would know and interpret and he would have that man eating out of his palm by midnight. He was rather starting to get into the idea of this and working out how he would play the perfect bait for the Baron. He was likely over thinking things as he should merely have to flirt once and that would be that with the notorious womanizer.

The boy’s further idea wasn’t bad either:

“How best to get in with him, then? I think we should go indeed as recently arrived from Spain looking to acquire land in the same way he has. That would give us common ground and likely catch his attention. We should not rush this. We have all night if we need it. I agree to leading him into the gardens. He will not want his guards near while he….chases my skirt.”

At this he lifted a brow and gave Chago a smirk that suggested the Baron would be quite surprised should he catch and find out what was concealed by said skirt.

Slowly all of his nerves had faded and he was he perfect cool-headed mercenary again. Perhaps he would even be able to sing. That would surely make an impression and allow him some of his own true pleasure at the gala. It was just odd now to him to be going without Alessandro at his side. There were some days he missed the man so much it hurt. But now was not the time to think of such things. He promised himself he’d write Alessandro the next day, and brought himself back to the present, intent on proving himself yet again to Juan as an apt pupil. And perhaps to Chago as well. And should he find someone else to trust in the meantime? Well that wouldn’t be so bad either.

“Yes, my dear wife, I am a hidalgo with money, trying to obtain an encomienda… in the land of Guajiros. Let me ask the baron about this… because I actually know the issues… and he mustn’t be aware that I really do! I’ll have a little comedy to play, too! All night is ours, indeed… and once in the garden, you’ll kill him easily and unseen. Then you’ll come back to me for… a dance, querida… and some more mingling… We’ll make sure to be seen as much as possible inside, not in the garden, because so we wouldn’t be suspected!”

As another chunk of the plan fell into place, Micah gave a short nod. Chago was thinking ahead to how to avoid all suspicion and be on the safe side and that gave him an idea of his own. He would let Chago deal with all of the business end of things as he knew very little on the subject. He would simply play his part there of being the understanding wife. How odd that word sounded to him, but he would have to get used to it quickly as they were approaching the estate.

Then Micah showed his strange luggage:

“I am armed, and will also leave this close in case I need it. In the garden, on our way up to the estate I will properly stash it. It has my dagger in it as well as a clean pair of gloves, the same as the ones I wear in case I get blood on them. After handling the baron I intend to disarm and change my gloves before returning inside. That way should anyone have managed to see me leave I can fully claim innocence for how would I have killed him if I am unarmed?" He gave another of his characteristic smirks, looking up at his "husband".

Chago smiled, nodded approvingly and memorized the place where the bag had been stashed away, protesting only a little:

“I am armed too! I’ll have my eyes on the guards. Are you sure you want the dagger left there, and not in your garter?”

He wouldn’t have separated one minute of his beloved left-hand dagger , “vizcaina”, how it was called in Spain, as it had been made on the shores of Biscaya gulf, in Navarra. And the navaja was hidden in his boot – actually that was the reason he didn’t choose to wear shoes at a so elegant function. But to each own, his merits, and if the boy felt confident enough without it…

Micah had only given a slight smirk. He'd collect it when he needed it. Last thing he needed was for it to free itself and blow his cover. The crossbow had actually worried him a bit, but Juan had assured him it was quite secure. It was a Venetian model pistol crossbow and he found the design something he quite liked. Of course he would have preferred to have his beloved crossbow with him, but that would be far too difficult to conceal and still move normally.

The plan got more and more flesh on it as they were approaching the alcalde’s mansion, where the ball was hosted.

“If you need my help for any unexpected situation you might meet in the garden… what kind of trill can the Songbird launch in the depth of the night, to be known only by the two of us?”

"When I disappear with the Baron, listen. Should you hear the call of the lyre-tailed nightjar, come with your sword to bear." The bird was a particularly beautiful bird native to the area. "I should have no trouble, however. He will not be expecting any ill intent beyond his own."

They went over a few of the signals they would be using once their plan was set into motion as they approached the estate. Chago’s glance changed from the previously somehow amused one to a serious and honest look deep in the boy’s charcoal eyes. This was business time… and they were a team. A rather deadly one!

“I’ll pay attention! You can count on me! And, for your sake, I hope you’re right and no trouble might appear. Anyway, be sure I’ll be around if called!”

A reassuring hand on the boy’s shoulder completed the promise. It was exactly what he had been brought there to do. Nothing in this world could hinder him from it – and less of all the future widow’s velvety eyes!

Micah gave a curt nod at Chago's assurance, hoping it was merely caution and he would not be put into a situation where he would need to call the older mercenary.

Chago liked to feel in control of the situation, and the detailing of the plan – as flexible as it was – added to his assurance. He also liked his new business partner. This boy, as young as he still was, had a lot of potential. No wonder that Juan himself was training him… and Chago would feel brotherly enough to help further perfecting Micah’s skills as well.

A soft sigh escaped his lips at this thought, linking it with the regret that his hometown wasn’t close enough, and therefore he couldn’t be the one to teach his nephews what his father had taught him and what else he had learned during so many years spent with a weapon in his hands. Because that miller of a brother-in-law he had, could teach them only an honest trade… and, while this had undoubted merits, for a man, knowing to defend himself and his cherished ones’ honour was equally important.

Halfway along Micah paused and motioned for Chago to wait. Slipping off into the dark to the side of the path, he stashed the bag under a thickly growing bird of paradise. It was well hidden within the plant's shadowy embrace. Carefully he picked his way back to the path and linked his arm once more with Chago's. Seeing another couple coming close he gave a doting smile resting the hand holding his fan on his companion's arm.

"Forgive me, husband dear. I saw the most beautiful flower and had to see if it smelled as divine as it looked. There are such wonders here that do not exist in our beloved Spain!"

His voice was no longer even a hint masculine. Instead it was a silky purr that breathed of feminine seduction and tinged with a hint of a girlish giggle. The illusion was in place and as far as he was concerned, the game was afoot and their story put into play. He had already noticed the other couple, but pretended to just see their approach. He spread his fan and ducked behind it shyly, giving a slight blush in his pretense of embarrassment.

Chago chuckled at Micah’s reaction, so appropriate for a nice wife.

“This boy has a great talent, indeed!” he thought admiratively at his voice inflexions and natural look. "If he ever gets tired of being a mercenary, he would be a lovely actor… not only in the Colonies, but even in Spain …especially that he has a good voice too!”

But the answer was a mere: “Verdad, querida*!”

Then, he whispered tenderly at “her” ear, with a teasing smile which, in this case, would have made his father and Sevillan ancestors proud:

“How lovely is your accent from Madrid! You are really a noble lady, raised at the court… until you married this Sevillan hidalgo with his heavy Andalusian way of speaking!”

Actually he was trying to imitate more his father’s brogue, which padre Juan de Dios, his teacher, had strived successfully to make the two sons of a Sevillan hidalgo give it up for a literary speech.

A good attempt, because the moment of facing the unknown was drawing near.

At his given compliment to the accent he still bore from Madrid, Micah gave a pretty blush yet again and turned an affectionate gaze to him, just what would be expected at that time. He couldn't know just when they were being watched and it all had to be played perfectly.

"Madrid may be my home, but I would not trade my Sevillan hidalgo and his Andalusian way of speaking for a man of the Madrid court. They're just not entertaining enough." He purred back at him, a small playful grin tugging at his lips.

Chago smiled widely hearing Micah’s so feminine and loving answer, entirely appropriate for the wife he was playing, and silently admired his acting talent.

”Well… speaking about the court, I am sharing your opinion!” he couldn’t abstain to whisper, making sure nobody else can hear.

 

Re: Dancing in the night

« Reply #3 » Published on:December 30, 2012, 12:48:11 PM

Elena

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3. Wolves in the sheep's skin

The alcalde’s mansion was adorned for the festivities. Music was heard from far away, lots of couples were already there, their clothes colouring the garden and the steps.

Chago remained silent for a few moments. Before approaching the guests, he made the sign of the cross, and, with a mute prayer, his right hand went, for a brief moment, to his neck, where the emblem of his patron saint was hidden under the shirt. Then he gave a daring bold look to Micah. He was ready for whatever was bound to come.

Micah also looked back up towards the mansion and let his eyes roam over those figures he could spot. There was no way he'd be recognized, but he still wanted to make sure of those he would have to be more careful around. Luckily this was an upper class function and few if any of the patrons at Juan's would be in attendance. He was also seeking out their mark and after a moment decided he must be either inside or deeper in the gardens. He glanced to Chago at his side and noted the business look he was wearing. His own was there as well, but as the "female" companion, looking bold would seem out of place. Instead he opted for a slight squeeze of his arm as they ascended the steps into the gala.

He caught the sign of the cross and whispered his own soft prayer to his saint as well. They would need all the luck and protection they could get that night. He gave a few gracious nods to those they passed, his fan currently gripped in his hand, closed. He had not been to this particular estate before and it took his breath away for a moment to see all the work that had been done to make it ready for the gala. The music brought a soft smile to his lips and he could not help tapping a bit of the rhythm with the finger that lay across the closed edge of his fan. He knew the song quite well as it was a favorite of his.

However he knew he had to be watching for the Baron and Baroness. Perhaps they could even involve doña Mariana to an extent. Perhaps have her dance with Chago and leave him with the Baron. He would have to watch and see if that opportunity presented itself. Little did he know that Chago had already decided to dance with the Baroness.

“We should go make our pleasantries to the hosts first, do you think?”

He gave a slight nod in the direction of the wealthy landowner and his wife. Very pregnant wife, he noted. She had to be absolutely miserable, yet she seemed content to stand at her husband’s side and slowly fan herself, greeting each guest with a warm smile. He counted on the first little meeting to spark the curiosity abut the new couple in from Spain and get their story around to the Baron’s ears. From there all they had to do was play their game flawlessly.

Chago nodded. This was the opportunity to meet not only them, but also every person of importance not only in the Maracaibo Gulf area, where land owners – encomendados – prospered, unhindered by the war, but in a great part of Nueva Granada.

Only that Chago hated with passion all these damn rich snobs, and he wouldn’t have attended such a ball if it wasn’t for their important target… and, well… a less important additional reason he was envisaging didn’t hurt either!

Chago did not need the locker Micah had received in order to find Baron Velasquez, as he was in Maracaibo for enough years to know well the baron’s hateful mug… and all the stories about the unfathomable acts of cruelty happening on his large encomienda. He seemed to have noticed him somewhere in the main hall.

“Let’s the comedy further go on!”, he thought, with an endearing smile addressed to his beloved “wife”, who graciously greeted the others, the closed fan in his gloved hand. “If he can play his much more difficult part, damn if I can’t!”

Actually, for him now this was the smallest of challenges.

Don Alfonso de Heredia and his wife, doña Esperanza, were greeting each guest with a warm smile. Actually the gala was organized to celebrate his recent appointment as alcalde. He was the baron’s right hand in everything… so doña Mariana had thought well her revenge. Besides, in a full house where her presence was noticed, her involvement couldn’t be suspected at all…

“Good evening, señor alcalde, and congratulations for your new position as a leader of this town!” Chago said politely. “Your invitation surprised me profoundly, as we have just arrived from Sevilla. Thank you for your kind hospitality, and I hope we’ll have the opportunity to know each other better. My name is Ramon de Silva, and please let me introduce to you my wife, doña Micaela. We intend to get established here, for the beginning, as my wish is to obtain an encomienda in the territory of the Guajiros… I heard this is a fertile land, but maybe you can advise me what plantations should I envisage…”

Don Alfonso de Heredia answered to the greetings, introduced his wife to them and promised to discuss later in detail about the land perspectives here. Then, as a good host, he introduced the newcomers to a few of the members of the local high society – the baron, don Francisco Velazquez, included.

Chago was laughing inward, hearing himself how he played the fool Sevillan came with big dreams, richer than ever. Only a newcomer like he pretended to be could not know that the Guajiros were just revolted again, and that massive troops were sent against them… Their land wouldn’t value as much as the arrow point needed by the Indians to kill any invading colonist!

Playing the part of the perfect Spanish wife felt odd to Micah, but he had played odd parts before. He had to quite thinking that his stage experience didn't count. It very well should as he could indeed make the illusion and maintain it in much the same sort of manner. Moving in perfect tandem with Chago, he approached the alcalde and his wife. Giving the perfect lady-like curtsey at being introduced, he turned his attention to doña Esperanza and asked quietly how the pregnancy was going, what sex she thought the child may be. Perfectly expected questions of any young woman to another. He knew it was best to let Chago do as he needed and stay out of that conversation like he would be expected to.

When the Baron and Baroness made their way over amidst the introductions he made sure to flash his most coy smile at the Baron and then cover it up with his fan as he turned back to Chago. He instead spoke to the women of the group, taking the measure of doña Mariana as well. She would need to be made aware at least of what was due to happen so she could respond accordingly instead of being blindsided by the news when he killed her husband in the gardens. No need to blow their cover by blindsiding her with things.

They barely had the opportunity to mingle a little with the guests, when the party was opened with a minuet . Chago suppressed a chuckle, which remained in the amused glitter of his eyes, and invited Micah with a polite bow:

Querida, this is the perfect dance for us!”

He was right, if they managed to take exactly the position they wanted, the prescribed moves of this dance would work in their favour, because at a certain moment Micah would be facing the baron indeed… and Chago…

He didn’t watch the boy’s reaction to his words, because then maybe the laughter couldn’t be contained anymore – and this wasn’t recommendable at all!

*True, darling!
« Last Edit: December 30, 2012, 01:01:44 PM by Elena »

 

Re: Dancing in the night

« Reply #4 » Published on:December 30, 2012, 12:48:40 PM

Elena

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At hearing his ‘husband’ declare they should dance when the minuet started playing, Micah almost twitched. Such an odd little tic would have given him away or at least aroused suspicion, so he gave a soft smile and quiet little nod instead.

Did he remember how to dance this? He was already counting out the beat in the next breath as he let Chago lead him to where the dancers were lining up. Yes, he could do this one. It was popular and common at every event. Of course he had to remember the female part, the beat he could handle, that came from his training at the conservatorio. Moving with a dress on? Now that was going to be the interesting part.

Once the  dance began, the steps came to him with ease and he remembered the poise Alessandro had always told him to be mindful of. Graceful and elegant lest the illusion be ruined. He gave a polite smile to each face that met his glance and fell into the dance with all the style of a Madrid-born noblewoman. He did have a character to portray after all. He, like Chago, knew just what they would face if they were found out. Although he wondered a bit about what humiliation he would face first as his status as a castrato was revealed. He still worried that Chago would find out and think less of him.

When he was facing the Baron, he made sure to set the game in motion that he and Chago had decided upon earlier on their walk up to the estate. It was simple enough for him to catch the man’s attention and then add a slightly coy smile that apparently registered with the womanizer as an opening. He gave a wink when they moved in close that few would catch and even fewer would think anything of. Micah however knew different.

Micah’s hand was cold, due to the nervousness, and Chago, understanding, tried to squeeze it reassuringly. They were a team, and they had to succeed. If not for the big reward promised, then for their hides which wouldn’t value two coppers if caught… or maybe for…

Doña Mariana seemed even more beautiful than he remembered her, now that Chago could look at her more closely – or actually as close as possible unless the night following the funerals would be exactly as he desired it. She was the live image of the Spanish pride, but Chago knew that under the ice appearance of certain women like her an ever consuming fire could lie unknown.


A woman in her early thirties, with the milky white complexion of those born in the North – maybe in Navarra, maybe in Catalonia or Aragon – further highlighted by the elegant silk dress, colour of the peach,  and the matching ribbon in her chestnut hair, replacing the more traditional comb, peineta, used by most ladies here and in their home country alike… The gloves and the fan in her hand had the same pastel colour too, and a crooked smile fluttered on the mercenary’s lips knowing that soon she would be all in black, feigning to mourn for a husband who had always disrespected her.

He took a deep breath in order not to allow a giggle when the steps of the dance required Micah and the baroness to come closer and give their hands, first one to the other, then, after a few other figures, with other two ladies. The boy was gracious indeed… He could have been any grande’s page… if he didn’t choose better and wiser, a skill allowing his freedom! And for people like them, freedom was the most important thing, damn all the nobility who think they own everyone’s souls, not only the people’s working hands!

When the minuet’s steps brought the baroness in front of him and he took her hand as the dance requested, he looked straightly into her deep blue eyes and asked politely, with a low tone and a charming smile:

“May I have another dance with you a little bit later? A sevillana, perhaps? ”

Of course there were plenty of people from Andalusia who had come to the Colonies, exactly like his father… or how he was pretending to be tonight, so the band had to play, later, dances from all parts of Spain – jotas and fandangos for the northerners, sevillanas for the southerners, maybe the new dances from the Spanish court for those from Madrid… And nothing was better for what he intended than the lively dance full of passion from his father’s land!

Micah locked gazes with the baroness after the dance and holding his fan closed in one hand, he gently tapped the end of it with his index finger. (I need to speak with you)

A brow slightly arched and she responded in kind, first touching her right cheek and the passing the fan, held in her right hand, in front of her face. (Alright. Follow me.) Micah gave a soft smile and fell into step with the Baroness as they approached the two men waiting for them.

Moving up to stand beside Chago, he placed a hand on the man’s arm.

“Husband dear, that dance heated me quite a bit. I think the Baroness and I are going to go get some air. Please do excuse us.”

He even went so far as to place a soft kiss to Chago’s cheek, and in turning away gave the Baron another slight smile. Oh, it was going to be easy to get that man to chase after him.

Chago was looking at Micah out of the tail of his eye, admiring his acting talent. He also caught the message to the baroness, making him wonder what was in this youngster’s mind. The confirmation came when his graceful “wife” kissed him so tenderly, asking for permission to go outside with her.

“For God’s sake and for the name of Santiago the Apostle, protector of those who fight for a good cause!” he thought in worry, while continuing to take part mechanically in the men’s discussions about the imminence of wining the war, breaking the blockade and so on. He had noticed already that everybody avoided any mention about the guajiro rebellion, not to scare him… as they were definitely preparing an extremely bad deal for the Andalusian newcomer. “I hope this boy knows what he is doing and won’t do or say anything foolish!”

His mind wasn’t clear about the meaning of “foolish” – as in getting them caught or as in screwing up Chago’s intentions of getting closer to doña Mariana?

 

Re: Dancing in the night

« Reply #5 » Published on:December 30, 2012, 12:51:41 PM

Elena

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4. Seduction

Chago had admired the baroness for a while, from the distance. The most beautiful woman in the area… and the most unattainable! As her husband’s affairs were common knowledge and past gossip subjects, her high and mighty demeanour was also known and respected. Of course he wouldn’t have dreamt to ever have the opportunity to make her acquaintance, and he’d survived without, but since he learnt from Micah there was the prospect to meet her, Chago’s mind was looking for other… further possibilities too – provided he wouldn’t say anything wrong now. And sevillana was one of the dances meant to make even an iceberg melt.

It is a very graceful dance, with couples approaching and separating like courting pigeons. They change places, get around the partner, dance face to face or back to back, their heads and eyes having their own story to tell. And indeed, as the moves request the man, at a certain moment, change place with the partner and dance for a short while with the lady on the other row, it happens sometimes that, following the duel of glances, first with his original partner, then with the other one, he may lose himself in the depth of the other’s eyes, making it much too difficult to remember that he used to had another partner at the beginning of the dance… Anyway, as concerned Chago, this prospect was out of consideration now!

Once out of sight and in the gardens away from prying ears, Micah palmed the locket into doñaMariana’s hand, in order not to exist any evidence, and carefully instructed her.

“Be seen as much as possible. You will be free before the sun rises.”

She looked speechless at the unexpected news bearer, in shock, not knowing what to believe. Then she smiled and nodded approvingly. The advice was good… the news too… but who was that new lady with impeccable manners, and why exactly she was the one conveying the message? Was the Andalusian newcomer, don Ramon de Silva, the one she had hired? Or she had only to deliver a message… and that mysterious Songbird would appear when needed from the dark, do what he had to do and disappear?

The sevillana came sooner than she had expected, changing the flow of her thoughts. The baroness was rather tense. Chago wasn’t sure if Micah had told her anything, or what and how exactly, but he had chosen some words for this purpose too, waiting for the right moment to tell them. Instead of reminding her of the promise wrung during the minuet, the mercenary decided to approach her directly, with the trampling steps of the beginning of this dance and a seductive smile, side-stepping around her and measuring her up.

At first, she looked at him astonished, then she smiled rather tentatively, starting the pattering steps. It wasn’t exactly one of her favourites, but she remembered to having promised it to him… and having in front of her a good dancer helped her concentrating and letting herself enveloped by the fascination of the spirited dance… until her eyes met his burning gaze, which seemed to have a strange effect on her.

Sevillana’s graceful steps, so elegant and full of passion at the same time, highlighted the woman’s shape. Chago was seeing only her curves, imagining all the things he could possibly do to her, in another time and place, far away from all those gossiping snobs. He shook his head with a proud movement, in the rhythm of the dance, and locked his eyes blurred by lust in hers, letting them convey what he couldn’t dare saying yet.

Chago had lived enough in the right circles in Spain, as a young officer, in order to know the difference between sevillana bolera, which was danced at the social functions of the upper class, and sevillana flamenca, danced in Andalusia by everybody at the saints’ days fairs. However, with calculated moves, he decided to borrow boldly something from sevillana flamenca, if that would help him getting closer to the baroness. Besides, even for the ones watching from the sides, it wouldn’t be such a wrong thing, only a rather forward move, enforcing the idea he wanted to give the others about himself – that Southerner hidalgo with noticeable Andalusian brogue, newly enriched and less familiar with the Madrid court manners.

Their upper arms touched in the daring sway took from the sevillana flamenca, as they were close, almost in the same side line, before turning back to back, looking deeply in each other’s eyes.

Doña Mariana blinked, a little bit annoyed at this countryman who had some charm and was a good dancer, but definitely lacked manners and his dancing skills had been evidently perfected at the local holidays in his native region, not at the court! Even if he wasn’t who he pretended to be, as the message from his “wife” suggested, he was anyway much too daring, and she didn’t like the thrilling sensation she had when their upper arms touched… as surprisingly enjoyable as it was.

When she heard his low voice, she frowned, thinking that a cheeky declaration might follow his dashing approach, and she was ready to rebuke him ruthlessly for everything he had done or said improperly, irrespective who he really was! Everybody knew how the baron was, but it didn’t mean that she could have been considered an easy prey, too! …However, his words were telling a totally different story… the one of revenge, somehow heard before, but also of …protection!

“The dark one is by your side to look after you, while the Songbird will sing tonight the most beautiful song for your delight!”, he whispered with the same charming smile exactly when they were side by side. “I hope to enjoy your company for a part of this beautiful evening”, he added persuasively.

Her blue eyes widened in disbelief. Revenge, she knew what it meant. It had boiled too much inside her until she found the courage to do something about it. And she knew that the Songbird had been the one chosen by Juan, and that he would be also accompanied by another. That this other was El Moreno, about whom people in Maracaibo had heard various rumours in the latest three years or more, she was glad to hear. It meant the invitations she had sent through Lydia were in good hands. Nevertheless, when he stated that he was there to protect her, this thought was, at the same time, unfathomable and encouraging.

If this newcomer was indeed El Moreno, then it explained his passion for the sevillana flamenca, his lack of courtly manners… and it meant that… the Songbird was a woman? She had heard something about female mercenaries, but until now she couldn’t believe they really existed, that a woman can be so deadly with a weapon, not with poisons and spells, which were feminine by their nature.

His words had reassured again the baroness that her plan was being taken care of. She understood now the reason why doñaMicaela was flirting with the baron. Her eyes became even livelier. She wouldn’t admit even to herself that she was looking forward to spend more of her time with him, that she was more than intrigued about him now, when she knew the truth. How was a man living in constant danger and defying it, different than the pansies she had met at the court in Madrid and here?

Chago was amused to notice how he had startled the baroness, making her cover her face with the fan, while her velvety gaze sparkled more appealingly. Well, in such a dance a lady’s fan might tell something at a certain moment, when she had the partner’s attention, even if its movement lacked the diversity of gestures the ladies on the side, who were just admiring the dancers, could do with their fans, conveying lots of messages like Micah had suggested in the beginning of this mission. But doña Mariana’s fan was rather a shy one… At least for now, but he preferred this way! What a fan might say, too many eyes could see…

“I am glad to hear this!” she returned him a flirting smile when their right shoulders touched and their gazes met again, while the bodies were still back to back. “Then it means I’ll see you again…”

Her demeanour had changed, even if the smile fluttering on her lips could have a hundred meanings. Now she wasn’t anymore offended by his dancing style, even if the touching of their shoulders had brought her a new little shiver, despite the heat of their two bodies caught in the dance. By contrary, she started liking it. Maybe those peasant girls at the saint days’ feasts knew how to take pleasure in dancing sevillana more than a noble could believe… And yes, she had heard, while still in Spain, rumours about certain nobles attending wholeheartedly the local fiestas in the villages on their lands, and she was looking down on them then… Had she been wrong and harsh to judge them? Anyway, she was ready to really enjoy the gala night… and if to the further deadly revenge she could add some teasing for her husband now, by flirting under his eyes with this handsome and dangerous man who danced so well… why not?

“Of course, tonight and in the lonely night following the dark day!” he murmured insinuatingly.

“No, he wouldn’t dare to appear then!" the baroness thought, breathless, without figuring up that one of the two mercenaries should turn up anyway to claim the due money.

There was no challenge Chago could deny taking, especially that sparkles were floating in the air between them. Only that now, that the dance was towards its end, and he had promised the… future widow to seek her the night after the funerals, it occurred to him that he might have another problem: how to convince Micah to let him go after the money… and to believe him that he didn’t intend any double-crossing? Because he was honest… as regards the money, which seemed to lose something from their value when compared with the “added bonus” he was dreaming of.
« Last Edit: December 30, 2012, 01:01:15 PM by Elena »

 

Re: Dancing in the night

« Reply #6 » Published on:December 30, 2012, 12:52:15 PM

Elena

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Micah had whispered something to the baron during this dance too. He was already flirting openly, and his mark obviously liked the attention. Among the words they had exchanged, there was a veiled wish of dedicating a song to the most powerful man in the region, and the baron, who was also extremely vain, couldn’t pass the opportunity. So he talked to the music band, and, in a break between dance suites, the band leader said:

“And now, some of the young talents here will offer a gift to the hosts!”

There was a young lady playing the zanfoña, a specific chordophone used for the court music, then Micah started singing a well known Andalusian "Polo":

“Ay! I keep a sorrow in my breast,
I keep a sorrow in my breast, Ay!
that to no one will I tell. 
Wretched be love, wretched,
Wretched be love, wretched, Ay!
And he who gave me to understand it!  Ay!”


Chago had heard Micah singing a few times in Juan’s tavern, mostly for himself, not for the customers, and, given his interest for music, he could appreciate the boy’s voice, even if it was still a young boy’s low alto, but this time he couldn’t avoid noticing the other alto dimensions his tone had, with deep-felt feminine pitches. He had heard “cante jondo” before, how this style was called in Andalucia, sung by women, and his voice, a bit deeper, still sounded sensual. Micah’s talents were amazing, and if he had looked, at the beginning, at his supposed “husband”, as if requesting his permission to sing, now his eyes were locked with his mark’s, seemingly the song being directly dedicated to him.

“How wonderful is your wife’s voice!” the host told him with admiration. “She definitely has a soul for Andalusian songs, even if she hadn’t been born there!”

“Yes, I know – her voice attracted me to her initially… together with her substantial dowry!” he chuckled, playing his role of a newly-rich without manners.

While Micah's attention was entirely focused on the baron, Chago approached a gallery containing buffets where all kind of refreshments were displayed in tempting array. He looked at the cold beef, roast and boiled, Spanish dried sausages, fish, Malaga and Alicante wine assortment, sangria for the ladies and stronger beverages for the gentlemen, picking something for himself. All the excitement of the new adventure had given him a healthy appetite.

Soon the alcalde introduced him to other men who made their fortune as encomendados. Of course he had to get busy with them, speaking about land, crops and nostalgically about life in Spain, while keeping a discreet eye on the baron’s guards. Obviously he couldn’t compromise doña Mariana’s reputation. One dance, especially as he danced that sevillana, was enough, even if the etiquette allowed for a second one with the same lady, but not consecutively. For this second one, he had a plan already… and nobody could say the next day that they had danced together more than once during the ball.

He found another dance partner for a jota castellana, which jumping, lively steps were a pleasant difference from the previous ones – and, besides, if somebody was watching him as he was feeling, she couldn’t find any reason to get wrong ideas. Only that the person who was actually watching him – because the baroness had thrown only a few discrete glances – admiring openly his dancing skills was Micah, who had been raised by Alessandro, far away from Spain, and he wasn’t so familiar with some of the Spanish dances. For example, he was comparing now jota castellana with the saltarello so popular at the Carnivals he had attended with his mentor.

Micah fanned himself as if he was melting, considering that the time had come to put his plans into work. Not that he actually wasn’t – who wouldn’t melt in that damn black velvet and gold brocade dress? He looked at doña Esperanza, the alcalde’s wife, wondering how on Earth was she able to bear this heat and weariness while in her seventh month of pregnancy. When he met the baron’s eyes, the moving of the fan invited him to a walk in the garden. So, he went outside and the baron followed him.

The older mercenary had noticed Micah’s fan inviting the baron to follow him outside. Good move! The notorious womanizer threw a smirk to his guards, who knew to remain at their place.

Chago looked at doña Mariana meaningfully, then he headed towards the garden. However, he stopped as close as possibly to the entrance, but in the dark, the closest place where the lantern’s ray didn’t reach, waiting for her to follow him. He was also not as far as to miss any of the baron’s guards who might have wanted to go out seeking for their master… even if he hoped it wouldn’t be the case, and he could also hear the lyre-tailed nightjar if Micah needed him.
 
In two minutes, she was in the doorframe, looking for him.
 
“Please come a few steps to the left, but remain in the light!” he whispered to her. “Everybody must see you… not the one you are talking to!”
 
She nodded approval and did as instructed. She seemed, to the ones looking from the main hall, that she was just enjoying the fresh air in solitude, and their whispered discussion couldn’t be heard.
 
First the baroness looked at the mercenary with mixed thoughts. She wanted to ask him lots of questions, but she knew some of them wouldn’t be answered tonight… or ever, and for others …she was lacking the words, only her eyes telling him more than she intended. Yes, she knew now that it was true, that El Moreno and the Songbird came for a purpose, and her dream of revenge will be met. This night would be undoubtedly an eventful one… or had it started already to be?
 
“Will you leave for Spain afterwards?” he asked her, trying to keep a polite conversation on a rather neutral ground, and knowing that she would understand that he meant if she would have to go to Spain to claim the inheritance for her elder son.
 
“No, I’ll send the boys to my brother in Zaragoza. He’ll take care of their …proper education and of anything else! I can’t leave the encomienda here, if I want them to get something at the right age… Whom to trust?”
 
He received exactly the answer at his question, and he had to admit she was right, that was the best solution.
 
She kept wondering if there was any hidden intention behind it, but as she couldn’t guess one, her thoughts lingered on him… and his unusual “wife”.
 
“How is it possible for such a nice lady… to be the one accompanying you?” she asked boldly, still in a whisper and already looking for the appropriate words for her next question.
 
Yes, she was interested how was possible for a woman to be a mercenary skilled with weapons… but as her thoughts became strangely clouded while around Chago, she would have wanted to know something else too… if doña Micaela was indeed his wife, or his lover… and this was more difficult to ask casually.
 
Chago had understood her first question, and he had chuckled. Yes, this boy’s acting talent and disguising were impeccable! But would doña Mariana really expect him to reveal any of their secrets? He desired her a lot, but the lust didn’t take his mind as if he were a boy, with the blood boiling in the first passion of his life! He knew he couldn’t trust her, and if she was their employer tonight, a few days later she could be the one betraying them. Never trust a mind who had already made murder plans!
 
“These skills are useful both for men and women… and they are learnt while young”, he answered without telling her that his companion was a boy. “Some people have this talent. Some don’t, and they don’t live enough to tell it! Have confidence in Juan!”
 
“I have”, the baroness answered, looking into his eyes to see his reaction at the following question. “And is she really…your wife?” she couldn’t abstain to ask, as no better words came to her mind.
 
Chago’s smile got wider. Behind the curiosity he felt the bud of jealousy determining it, and hurried to answer sincerely, still not revealing anything:
 
“The Songbird can be only my good business partner, my brother in arms!”
 
In her opinion, his words weren’t the most appropriate, and she protested softly:
 
“You are speaking as if she was a man! But she is definitely a woman – one not older than twenty… at most twenty-two! No man in this world could have this seductive womanly grace, this silky voice, this girlish giggle… She dances well, she talked with us about the latest fashion and other feminine subjects, and her song full of emotion… I would have believed her in love with the one she has dedicated it to, if I didn’t know better!”
 
Chago at first chuckled at the strange idea… but her arguments were standing.
 
“Damn it, she might have a point!” he finally let himself doubt Micah. “What if this sixteen years old boy… is indeed a woman in her early twenties? It would explain this unusual acting talent which I admired at him… and how he blended with the role…”
 
But he remained consequent with his interlocutor:
 
“Our subject is the Songbird, El Pajaro Cantor, so I can’t speak otherwise than I do!”
 
She understood his meaning. Irrespective if behind the name was a man or a woman, as long as the name was male, it was normal for him to speak as such. And if he assured her that they were only partners in crime…
 
“Why would I care, actually?” she wondered, in disbelief towards herself, saying something totally different: “That<Polo> was extremely touching! She has a soul for it!”
 
“I guess so. The duende – <soul>, how one could call this spirit of the cante jondo - is not a question of ability, but of blood, of spontaneous creation, climbing up inside you, from the soles of the feet. But this is not something you could have learnt about in Zaragoza, no offence. It comes from my land of origin only."

The baroness nodded in acceptance, as she had heard about this subject before.

 

Re: Dancing in the night

« Reply #7 » Published on:December 30, 2012, 12:52:36 PM

Elena

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When Chago heard the accords of a chotis, he smiled widely and asked her with a low voice:

“Shall we?”

Doña Mariana seemed undecided, but he took her hand and pulled her gently a few steps laterally, towards the darker part of the garden, but not far from the lighted entrance. This dance will be their little secret… a main stride towards conquering her or, if not, at least another sort of opportunity to fulfill his fantasy of having her in his arms.

It was a slow dance, newly introduced at the court in Madrid during his service in Spain, and now it seemed to have arrived to the Colonies, together with so many upper class people – second and third sons who couldn’t inherit the domains their parents had in Spain, but who could make their own name and fortune on the natives’ expense here. Some were saying that it was coming from Scotland, its name of “chotis” deriving from “Scottish”, and that it was the favourite dance of the Queen Maria Luisa de Savoya, whose mother had been Princess Henrietta Anne of England.

This dance allowed a man to hold a woman in his arms more than any other dance of the time, and that was important for him, not where it actually came from. It was almost immodest compared with the minuet and only slightly daring if compared to the fandango and sevillana flamenca, but its slow movements were a pleasant change after sevillana’s footing and other Spanish trampling lively dances. Besides, unlike the others, which required a large space for both partners, this could be danced on the smallest piece of ground.

The baroness held the edge of her dress with the left hand, so that it should not trail and be stepped on, as it was the position for dancing the chotis. It was too dark where they were for Chago to catch an eventual glimpse of an ankle revealed by this movement… and, besides, his eyes were locked in hers since the beginning. Her perfume of roses and sweet basil, which had drawn him wild since the sevillana, now overwhelmed him totally.

The sweet melody overflowed with longing, desire and tenderness. He made her spin around him, then in front of him, on the right hand, exactly when the dance required. Doña Mariana was holding his hand and somehow it didn’t matter anymore for her where they were, that they didn’t belong... or anything else. As if for him it was any different! There were only the two of them, the darkness around and this dance, like a spell of passion. She wasn’t sure that she liked this dance before, but now she was wishing it to never end, to feel his strong protecting arms and burning gaze, sparkling in the night. This rolling was bringing her a nice pink colour in her cheeks and a sort of veil on her eyes.

“I can’t believe my dream finally came true!” he whispered in her ear, adding afterwards the few verses in fashion years ago in Spain, when the chotis was gaining popularity:

“Whosoever the dance did discover
Had in mind each maid and lover
With all their burning ardor.”


She shivered both at the thrill of his warm breath and at the sense of the verses. She had heard them long time ago, but without giving them importance – only tonight they seemed to have a new meaning. She had never moved so delicately, as if she was a wind tail flying around until everything else was fading away.
 
The steam continued to rise from the tropical night of August as well as from the heat inside of them. His hands lightly traveled around her back, giving her palpitations. She was feeling so well in his arms, protected and cherished. She would have never believed that a man she had barely met, a soldier of fortune, could have such an impact on her!
 
Chago’s heightened senses could perceive most of the changes in her disposition, in her feelings. He smiled conceitedly in the dark. He had been right - doña Mariana was among the women who could hide their inner fire even from themselves under a curtain of ice… but only until the ice melt, and this was exactly happening.
 
“Are you as good a swordsman as you are a dancer, and as skilled with weapons as with words?” she asked playfully, also in a low voice, only for him to hear.
 
“If you don’t know yet the answer, you’ll know it soon! And I hope there will be a moment when I’ll have answers for everything you’re curious about!” he grinned, his twisted mind thinking totally differently than how she’d interpret his words.

When the dance ended with a last pirouette, instead of releasing her, Chago held her closer and sought her lips, still gently, but with the thirst too much time suppressed. The moment kept still as their worlds crashed down, two souls fusing into one with that kiss. The emotion was more powerful than he could imagine, her lips were soft and enticing…

She melted in his embrace, almost not believing he had dared to kiss her, neither the turmoil stirred by it deep inside her. The kiss was sweet and full of passion, and this handsome dark devil surely knew how to conquer a lady, to make her feel alive and wanted… like she hadn’t felt since her marriage, fourteen years ago.

“I am burning for you, and you know it already!” he whispered. “However, this is neither the time, nor the place for us. I shall tell you for how long you have been a part of my thoughts… a few nights later, if you want to hear it.”

Doña Mariana, overcome by her own strange new feelings, remained silent, trying to consider the whole situation. She knew it wasn’t proper… but arranging for one’s unfaithful husband to be killed was more proper? They were already bound in crime! And if this bold Andalusian man was willing to risk anything to see her again… well, she couldn’t deny it to him, especially that she was feeling so good in his arms! She let out the breath she was holding right against his mouth, only to take his lips with hers. What other confirmation could he expect?

Her kiss was unexpectedly shy, more a young girl’s, not a mature woman’s, but once he felt it, together with all her confusion, doubts and that new awe which had pushed her in the arms of a soldier of fortune, he answered with tenderness and longing. The shadows of the night danced in ecstasy around their newly discovered fervour, but Chago had to think of everything, and, after a few more moments and an overpowering hug, he reluctantly let her go, with a caress on her cheek:

“You’d better turn back to the main hall and be seen mingling with everybody! And, if you really want to help us, you’d better speak with his guards, distract their attention from his delay, while I’ll remain here a little more, to be sure everything is as it should be!”

The baroness knew he was right. She understood everything exactly as it was said, irrespective that she would have wanted the embrace to last all night long. Following his suggestions was the only wise thing to do in order to avoid gossips and further questions - and she intended to make herself useful as suggested.

Five or ten minutes spent in the darkness of the garden, wouldn’t be noticed, but more, yes, and she couldn’t afford any speculation - especially tonight! She smiled at him and entered again the great hall.

Chago shook his head to chase away her shadow, as their purpose here took place of any inflamed revelry. There would be blood tonight. Better the baron's than theirs!

 

Re: Dancing in the night

« Reply #8 » Published on:December 30, 2012, 12:53:37 PM

Elena

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5. Murder

With a strange triumphant smirk, his pupil fixed on his newest conquest as if he wanted to hypnotize her, the baron advanced with outstretched arms, while the supposed prey recoiled, trembling and batting eyelashes, saying on an innocent tone:

"Oh, you frighten me! Let me go, my husband might see us!"

Micah flirted, giggled, almost let himself embraced, then he started running towards the darkest spot of the gardens, knowing that don Francisco Velazquez would follow him. Moreover, the young assassin turned his head and looked at his mark playfully, while calculating well his moves. He knew that he had not enough strength to carry and hide the baron’s corpse in a bush, unless he happened to fall in the immediate proximity of them, so, once arrived where he wanted, Micah feigned stumbling and he caught the edge of his dress…

The Venetian pistol crossbow got in his hand quickly, followed by the poisoned bolts. He wished he had his favourite crossbow, not the Venetian pistol, which wasn’t, by design, as accurate as a full size crossbow, exactly how a pistol could not be as accurate as a rifle, because it had a shorter draw length. But Micah’s long arms, hardened by long hours of practice, got the right amount of draw force for it. He could hit his target with pinpoint accuracy up to 50 yards away, and, unlike firearms, his beloved crossbow had two more qualities: it was silent and even deadlier due to the possibility of using poisoned bolts.

Breathing calmly, keeping his focus and not allowing the adrenaline flow upset his aim, exactly how Juan had taught him, Micah pulled quickly the string back, placing the yew bolt, fletched with leather and with a special, strong, square tile head the Venetian killers called quadrello, made specially to penetrate armours. Sliding it back as much as possible, he launched quickly a bolt, then the second one, aiming them at the baron’s heart, while the lewdy womanizer, thinking he finally got her, was saying:

“So are you waiting for me, querida?”

“Yes, I am!” the killer answered, quickly enough that his victim, mortally wounded, was still able to hear him.

The baron’s face convulsed in a grotesque way once he felt the pain caused by the little bolts. He opened his mouth to shout or moan, but the monkshood poison the bolts had been dipped into was strong enough to make its effect immediately, affecting both the heart and the lungs.

Pointing like compass needles in his chest, the bloodied bolts were silent, neutral accomplices. Micah pulled them out carefully, not to get in contact with any remaining poison, and he didn’t lose his time to look a second time at his mark. He hid the body in the decorative bush immediately close and he hurried to the far away part of the garden where he had hidden his bag. He took the clean pair of gloves, put the crossbow pistol and the bolts set inside the bag and placed it in the same position as before, in order to be easily recovered from outside.
 
He breathed alleviated. Now, that everything had been done, he had to go back and play again his part in the big comedy. Anyway, he had enjoyed singing earlier, and everybody’s admiration was ambrosia for a person of the scene, like him. Besides Alessandro, this was what he missed from leaving the opera world behind.
 
He saw Chago waiting for him in the dark, close to the entrance, and he smiled him widely. For the one looking from afar, it was a loving smile from a wife to her husband, but the older mercenary understood exactly its meaning.
 
“Which dance will you further grant me, doña Micaela?” he asked his young partner, returning the smile.
 
Micah blinked in confusion at first. What a question - as if he hadn’t just danced in the night the mortal crossbow’s dance! But Chago was right, it actually was to be expected, they couldn’t blow up their cover right now. The Valencian seemed to be thinking only about partying; nevertheless, this might have been only a façade, as he had been waiting for the call of the lyre-tailed nightjar and he was ready to help him, should the need arise. Besides, his practical thinking had its merits.
 
“I think a gavotte would be the best,” Micah said.
 
He loved courtly dances the most, while Chago seemed to prefer the traditional Spanish ones. The gavotte was a good choice, its dynamic rhythm providing the ideal outlet for blowing off the steam accumulated during the mission. Moreover, nobody could suspect a dancing woman, all smiles and sweetness, that she had just killed her too insistent suitor.
 
Their entrance was not noticed, as the musicians had made a break and several people had sought the coolness of the summer night for a little while. Chago and his “spouse” took care to speak with a few to whom they had been already introduced, and to go back inside together with other couples.

Micah’s fan moved casually, while looking at the baroness, sketching a brief “yes”. For other eyes, it might have seemed a mere coincidence, not a calculated gesture, but doña Mariana knew differently. She smiled at the “woman” who had completed the dangerous job, then her eyes lingered on the Songbird’s escort, the famous El Moreno. Her cheeks got red and warm… obviously, the damn heat of this hall was to blame, not her recent pleasant memories about a dance or two and what followed them.

When the musicians played the gavotte, Chago invited his “spouse”. He took his younger partner’s hand, finding it again cold and nervous, but this mattered less, as long as it hadn’t trembled on the crossbow at the right moment. The older mercenary, like most soldiers skilled in both swordsmanship and firearms, had an outstanding respect for the archers’ concentration and skills, as they have always been considered part of an ancient and noble warrior tradition, not interested in the modern, ground-breaking vulgarity of firearms. One couldn’t achieve excellence in their field without a deep self-control and calmness, much deeper than a swordsman’s. This was one of the reasons why Chago had always admired Juan and his young apprentice.

Chago’s former dance partner from the jota castellana was on his other side. Doña Mariana was watching him, admiring the sure, graceful moves and the elegant poise, without realizing that usually a swordsman was a good dancer, as both activities required agility and rapid footwork.

“Better to focus on the dance than on the dreaded chaos moment when the guards, tired of waiting, who have started fussing already, will discover Francisco’s body”, she thought practically.

The gavotte barely finished when doña Esperanza, the host, paler and paler, cried in pain. The child was coming, her first one, sooner than expected, and she couldn’t bear anymore the abrupt, mind-numbing pains.

The gala night broke suddenly; the doctor was summoned to go upstairs, with the mother-to-be, who was carried by two men. It was a good opportunity that “don Ramon de Silva and his lovely wife” retire too, together with others. Chago made efforts to avert his eyes and not seek doña Mariana’s. He might lust after her more than he wanted to admit, but he wasn’t a fool. Somebody could have seen and misinterpreted it, and no one of them needed this.

“Please, husband dear, don’t hurry!” “doña Micaela” pleaded rather loudly. “I am feeling a bit tired…”

Chago slowed down his steps, understanding that they couldn’t seem be running away, unless they wanted to attract undue attention. Yes, Micah was playing his role damn well… or was it her role and doña Mariana was right?

“Sorry, querida, I was caught by my own thoughts…”, he said on the same tone that could be heard by eventual prying ears, then he continued in a whisper, for the Songbird’s ears only: “I was actually thinking that somebody might be curious enough to follow us, so I guess we should go to the inn, not to our places for the moment being… and manage something afterwards. We should also be seen at the gala tomorrow too, not to raise any suspicions…”

Micah threw him a killing glance. Once again in a dress? And playing this damn role? But yes, he was right. Maracaibo was their headquarters. They couldn’t risk being exposed here. And there will be a follow-up of the celebration anyway, as the alcalde will have a heir… well, or a daughter.

“Agreed, but shortly. We get seen, we greet everybody, then I’ll get a migraine and we’ll retire.”

Chago seemed to pay attention to a noise in the bushes bordering the road. He got closer, extended an inquisitive arm… and with a quick move, Micah’s incriminating bag was hidden under his coat. The boy threw him a thankful glance this time, and Chago whispered tenderly:

“This is the best way. So we reserve a room at the best inn for tonight and tomorrow night… just in case.”

He was right, there were other people from outside the town heading to that inn too, it would have looked strange if the Spanish couple they wanted to be taken for tried to disappear on the way. Chago went ahead, gave the inn-keeper a gold dubloon before asking for a room in a low voice, and he received it immediately, for a price that would have made anyone cringe. Only that he didn’t, especially that the price seemed to include not only the emergency costs, but also confidentiality, without further words.

Once they locked the door behind them, Micah looked at him strangely and said on a low tone, with a crooked smile:

“May I ask you for a bit of help? A woman’s life is so awful!”

Of course that ball gown needed an additional pair of helping hands in order to be gotten out, and Chago was glad to oblige, hoping that he would ascertain if doña Mariana was right or not. Unfortunately for him, all he could see was the usual Micah, fully dressed with breeches and shirt underneath the gown and the stays. But at the same time it was extremely well thought for the Songbird, who could go out the window and vanish in the dawn, to tell Juan about the successfully accomplished mission, while he remained confined there.

“We’ll make our appearance later than tonight. This will allow you to come back to me after the darkness falls and don’t forget to bring another suit for me too. Take this one with you!” he gave the boy his own elegant clothes. “You know better that tomorrow night we won’t return here!” Chago added, when Micah bid him good bye.

Of course the Songbird knew all these, why El Moreno needed to remind him only because, between them two, Micah was the younger one? He wasn’t anymore a boy, he was Juan’s apprentice… or, how Chago had said some hours before, already journeyman? he smiled.
« Last Edit: December 30, 2012, 01:00:43 PM by Elena »

 

Re: Dancing in the night

« Reply #9 » Published on:December 30, 2012, 12:54:29 PM

Elena

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6. Aftermath of a murder

The second gala night, all the alcalde’s guests were talking about two subjects only: at the beginning, about the host’s newborn son, then, in detail, about baron Velasquez’ murder. What else to do, given that, due to the respect the newly appointed official owed to the baron, music wasn’t allowed anymore tonight?

Micah, dressed into another tastefully gown brought by Juan, found quickly his way to the women with whom he had talked the night before, and learnt about doña Esperanza’s precarious health, as the birth had been difficult. She had delivered a healthy, but tiny boy towards noon, to her husband’s joy. After these pieces of information, all the discussion revolved around how the baron had been found in the garden, at dawn, all covered in blood and lifeless cold. There were debates and bets about the weapon the killer had used and about the reason why one would want the baron dead; these speculations were made both by men and women, each group discussing it from a different angle.

Micah needed all his acting skills in order to remain impenetrable and not burst into laughter. He knew better that the few stains of blood on the baron’s white shirt didn’t mean that he was “all covered in blood” – those squeamish beings should have seen other mercenaries’ “work”, even El Moreno’s, who really deserved this expression. And nobody seemed to guess that crossbow bolts had been the used weapon…

“But weren’t you in the garden with him?” a bolder lady asked.

“Yes, for a little while. Then he met another couple and discussed with them, while I returned to my husband”, the dutiful “wife” answered with a little smile, not losing her composure.

Chago kept the appearances too. His attire, courtesy of the same former brother-in-arms, now become a good tavern keeper, was elegant but different from last night, and even more different than what El Moreno was normally wearing. He mingled with the others and listened more than got into the debates, telling that he had not much fighting training in order to appreciate what happened. It seemed that doña Mariana, seeing that her husband doesn’t show anymore, had alerted the guards. They had searched the garden and didn’t find anybody or anything until the morning light had showed them a few traces which made them look in that bush. The poor widow was devastated, they said…

Doña Micaela” approached her husband, complaining about an awful migraine, which determined them to bid good-bye to the people, telling them that next day they were leaving to see some lands he intended to buy. They left with slow pace, Chago pretending to be concerned about “her” health. Only that at the crossroad, seeing that nobody was around, they chose the other path, leading to the outskirts.

“You are my guest tonight, Micah, and we’ll celebrate the end of the mission!” Chago whispered.

The little house he had rented in the Zamorra district – making fun of himself in silence that it’s his own land, as his real family name was Zamorra too – had only ground floor with three rooms aligned on a porch, without an interior hall. The kitchen, outside, was not much used, except a coffee now and then, or a bitter, revigorating tea after a night of partying, to chase away both alcohol and weariness.

Micah was wondering if this was the beginning of a friendship between brethren-in-arms. If he could trust anybody else after Alessandro, while Chago had his own thoughts. The difficult discussion started only later, around a table, each of them with a mug of wine in front of them. Yes, a sort of quiet celebration of their success, and also, for the sake of the younger mercenary, a review of what could have gone wrong but it hadn’t. Then, Chago was the one to open the subject of the due money, and he tried to convince the one who deserved the payment that it wasn’t the Songbird, but El Moreno who had to go bring it. With a deep breath, he had to confess also why he wanted to do it:

“Micah, I might be a reckless fool sometimes, however I’d like to think I am not stupid! She knows I’ll be coming for the money, she is waiting for me… but I don’t know if as I want it or as she wants it. And if the second version involves any kind of trap to get rid of the …witness to her involvement, which is not to be excluded, then I’ll have my punishment and be my fate as God wants it in retribution for my deeds. Nevertheless, the job was yours and the money well deserved, so please keep watch somewhere and if you hear anything strange… you’ll know how to take what is yours and to punish the cheating!” he finally said.

It wasn’t easy to convince another mercenary that his intentions weren’t to cheat on anybody, and he was shy to admit the real reason why he volunteered to go, especially that he wasn’t sure about Micah’s gender anymore, due to the doubts seeded by the baroness… Damn, he was fighting men, partying and having fun with women, but he had at least enough manners not to discuss with a woman about another one!

Micah snickered when hearing his last plea. He would have allowed him anyway, because he was convinced that if Chago attempted any doublecrossing, either he, or Juan would have hunted him down eventually. But only an adventurer like El Moreno could get his neck into the noose only because he had promised a rendez-vous to a woman!
« Last Edit: December 30, 2012, 01:00:16 PM by Elena »

 

Re: Dancing in the night

« Reply #10 » Published on:December 30, 2012, 12:55:09 PM

Elena

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7. Promises were made for keeping

The time had lapsed exactly as promised during the chotis. The night had fallen already, covering a fresh grave in the cemetery and also the place which had been so agitated during daytime. Chago, dressed in his usual black attire, one with the night, approached the Velazquez mansion with quiet, puma steps.

The two-storied mansion was big, in the well known colonial style, completely matching the money and social status of the deceased baron Velazquez. Made of gray stone, with smooth stucco sidings, round windows, arcaded entry porch and large square pillars, it had the traditional flat roof, with parapets, generating a sort of terrace called azotea, where usually the ladies of the house spent their time admiring the surroundings without being disturbed by anyone.

The second floor had recessed porches and balconies, and Chago was wondering if doña  Mariana remembered his words or not. There were two rooms in the house which showed the faint glimmer of a candlelight, but given their position, the mercenary supposed the room which had a nice balcony with the door open, only with a curtain of beads swaying in the night breeze, was hers. Fortunately for him, a big tree was around, and if he climbed noiselessly, a branch could bring him into that balcony, so he started immediately.

Once arrived at his destination, he tried to peek between the beads if the woman in the room was exactly the one he was looking for – and yes, she was.

Doña  Mariana, tired after the traditional three days of wake and after having to play the grieving widow in front of everybody, during the wake, at the funeral and afterwards, was finally alone, preparing for the night. She had released her hair from the confinement of the hairdressing, brushing it. In the mornings, it was Lydia, the maid, who was combing her hair, but at night she preferred to do it alone. She had other things to focus her mind on, so she forgot the daring promise El Moreno had made her, even if the night before, when she had remembered it, she got the money ready.

The sound of the beads didn’t draw the attention of her tired mind, only seeing in the mirror the already known silhouette behind her succeeded to do it. She sat up, whispering, startled:

“So you have really come!”

She had hoped he would, but now, that it happened, she couldn’t believe, especially that she understood exactly how he had done it, by climbing to her balcony like in the legends. Her eyes, big in wonder, lingered from his silhouette in black attire, faithful to his name of El Moreno, strong and triumphant, to the shadows the faint candlelight couldn’t hide – the moon light falling on his body and on a part of the floor, the shadows on his handsome face, so unsuited for a mercenary who should have looked ferocious, not gentle and impish like him…

“I promised you I would!” he answered simply, looking straight into her eyes. “Not only for the money due to the Songbird, but first because I have missed you, and I thought you’d need some comfort after such a long day.”

His low, musical, somehow tender voice had an unexpected effect on her, at the same time upsetting, soothing and rising a sort of strange eagerness inside her...

“Yes, I need it.”

A shiver coursed her veins, unaware that by that small step to meet him, she would be so dangerously close to this strange, daring rogue… practically in his arms. But once there, feeling his warmth, his protective strength, his smell of wild herbs, as wild as the man was, it seemed that was the place she belonged to, exactly how she had been feeling also three nights ago, and all the nerves of these three tough days overcame her.

Chago was looking at her and reading the answer on her trembling lips, because the voice didn’t help her anymore, and big pearls of tears were running on her cheeks. She buried her head against his chest, sobbing softly. He tightened his embrace, holding her close, caressing her hair and inspiring the perfume of roses and sweet basil which had dazzled him also at the gala:

“I remain here, with you, until dawn. Everything has passed, you mustn’t think anymore about it,” he attempted to appease her. “But if you consider it may help you, I am ready to listen to your fears, regrets, anything that streamed these tears,” he added, in an impulse. “Tell them for once, then bury them into oblivion forever!”

Doña Mariana threw him a confused gaze. If her own husband had never offered to listen to her, then how this soldier of fortune that she had barely known volunteered immediately? She was so accustomed to keeping everything for herself, good and bad alike – and lately there have been mostly bad things. Why it got suddenly hotter inside, since he was here? And why was she feeling so well in his arms, so safe? This she had asked herself three nights ago too, during the chotis and afterwards… She shouldn’t…

For a few seconds, silence became solid and hurting, while she could feel her quickened heartbeats. Then he got seated in an armchair without expecting her invitation, pulling her in his lap, and the world seemed to turn upside down.

“It’s not proper!” she protested, feeling a strange tension inside her, not really unpleasant, only.. disturbing, and, at the same time, the urge to rest her head again on his shoulder.

“Nothing has ever been proper between us,” he answered, “so tonight doesn’t matter anymore than the gala night had… or than the evening when you sent Lydia on a mission.”

Yes, from this point of view he was right, planning to kill her philandering husband was not more proper than kissing a stranger in the garden, or sitting now in his lap, so she found a comfortable position and rested her hands on his shoulders, playing instinctively with a rebellious dark wavy hair lock she had found there. She wasn’t aware yet how much she had longed for his unsettling touch, neither that she had wanted to comb with her trembling fingers through his thick, curly mane, as coarse and long as a lion’s. Doña Mariana was thinking that there were women who would have given everything to have such a healthy, dark hair which didn’t need special techniques for curling, and he, a man, had it instead.

Without showing how much he liked her little caress, Chago looked directly into her eyes and said softly:

“I’m listening. It will do some good to you. And if you want to cry, my shoulder is a welcoming pillow for your tears. But afterwards, no more thoughts to what can’t be changed.”

This was the right incentive for her to let out of her heart everything. How the baron’s behaviour had hurt her up to the point of not taking it anymore; how these three days had been tiring and rough, with everybody around her, forcing her to feign a grief she couldn’t have; the rueful nightmares involving her husband’s ghost, and how the bishop’s words frightened her… Then, remorsefully, doña Mariana got up, brought the purses and threw them into his lap, with words uttered among sobs:

“Last nights I was also afraid to sleep, what if his ghost comes to torment me again? I’ll burn in hell by his side… Not even there to escape him… Take the devil’s money and get lost with it! You two earned it with skilled work… And I’ll receive my due punishment…”

His hand brushed the purses by his side and it extended to bring her back close to him. Of course she was repenting; she wasn’t a cold-blooded killer by her nature, only a beset soul who overflowed the bitterness of fourteen years of humiliation, lately become public.

If until now he had listened respectfully, without any of the gestures he had longed for, this time his arms encircled her waist and his lips came next to her ear, whispering soothingly:

“If you are to burn in hell, you’ll burn by my side, not by his… He has plenty of company there, I have only you and I wouldn’t let you go from my embrace to any ghost might claim you! You deserve a protecting knight to fight even the Devil himself for you.”

His warm lips wandered on her cheek, up to the spring of her tears, wiping them out with his kisses. Instinctively, she turned towards him the other half of her face, which received the same treatment, starting from the blue eye, then the cheek, lower and lower, until he tasted her lips, slowly and tenderly.

Yes, she believed him that he’d defend her of any ghost or devil, and burning in hell by his side didn’t seem as terrible as her previous idea, as his warm lips were chasing away her tears, leaving an eerie sensation instead... She wrapped her arms around his neck, answering the kiss not as shyly as in the garden, but with all the desperation of a tormented heart. It wasn’t really passion, not yet, she had never known it, but it was something close enough, a similarly powerful feeling.

“I have promised to tell you tonight for how long you have reigned over my thoughts,” he told her when they recovered their breaths. “Well, I saw you first at the procession of Saint Sebastian, two years ago, and I couldn’t forget your beauty ever since. But you were so far from me, so unattainable; I considered my… admiring thoughts no harm for anybody. I simply knew there is no woman more beautiful than you in the whole province. However, since the Songbird told me who our employer is, and especially since I saw you in front of me at the gala… everything was stronger. I thought I couldn’t dream to be closer to you than at the sevillana, but then the chotis came at the right time… as if I had requested it; and I’ve been waiting the three long days to pass, in order to feel you in my arms again and to taste your sweet kisses.”

His voice, barely whispered, husky with passion, made her rezone strangely. She was afraid… not because she knew he was a mercenary, even if the impropriety of this budding relationship had stricken her every time when she was thinking… and yes, she was thinking at him a lot during the latest three days. She was afraid of the fire she had felt inside him during the sevillana and later, while dancing chotis… afraid but wanting it at the same time… maybe it would burn hot enough that she’ll be able to keep warm at its memory… and perhaps she’d understand… what exactly? She didn’t know, her thoughts couldn’t be as precise… And she was even more afraid when she found out that, while in his arms, she had that fire inside her too!

His words disturbed her in another way. No, they weren’t too daring, only that… Was it possible? If he didn’t lie and he was admiring her for such a long time, then he was indeed like one of the knights she had read about. Yes, El Moreno was her knight… even if not in shiny armour, but in dark clothes, one with the night…

Her hand traced the supposed armour, tentatively touching his shoulder and his chest, and feeling the bold hand warmer. The cotton texture let her feel the strong muscles underneath, and her breath changed rhythm. Almost she couldn’t believe that she had dared to touch him. She had pined for him too, and she could admit it now, blushing:

“I have missed you so much these days! I was crying like a respectable widow, while I was aching for your arms, your voice whispering in my ear, your breath on my neck. Aching to feel our chests pressed so close that we can feel the others' hearts beating, like it happened in the garden.”

Her body’s little reactions were telling him this for a while already. Chago smiled, and a wandering hand made its way beneath the rich locks of chestnut hair to caress her nape.

“Like now?” he kissed her again, still respectfully, but with increasing passion. “I am here, the dark nightingale prince of the legend, meant to disappear only at dawn.”

She knew the story, she had always liked the song, and, gaze locked with his, she started singing with low voice the first  chorus:

“Nightingale, you who represent the freedom
Go and tell to the city
How much loneliness is behind my window!
Where is your master, the prince,
Tell me, my nightingale?”


Her voice, even so softly as she was singing, not to be heard by anybody else but him, was pleasant, but the sadness overpowered it. Yes, he understood how lonely she must have been there, while her husband was partying everywhere and with everybody.

For Chago, what he was feeling for doña Mariana was more than simply lust and less than love, but still a genuine interest and understanding. If he was meant to be her dark nightingale for one night, so be it! Micah brought her the freedom by killing her husband; he was there for her now to give her comfort and hope, more than anything else. So his voice joined hers in the continuation of the song:

“Tell me who are you?
I am your prince charming,
Transformed into a nightingale.
And that adoration opened the prison
By the grace of love.

Nightingale, you crazy songbird,
You are going to be my man,
Because I don’t have any other love
Than the one born this morning.
Nightingale, you who represent the freedom
Go and tell to the city
How much happiness is behind my window!
The prince, my master,
was brought here by a nightingale.”


Doña Mariana realized that the song matched so well her situation, not only because the nightingale was also black and insignificant until singing, and because she liked his voice too. She was the lonely princess in the tower, and he was the bird prince. And she was so close to him… so attracted to him, actually, without knowing even his name.

“Tell me who are you?” she repeated exactly on the tune, looking at him. “I haven’t kissed a dark shadow. You know my name… I need yours too!”

Why did she need his name? She couldn’t say… but she wanted to know it, at the same time doubting he’d lie and tell a random one.

Chago smiled and answered:

“I have promised you that tonight you’d find all the answers I can give you. Yes, you’ll know my name. But if I say it, you’ll wonder if it is truly mine. So you’d better find it yourself, to be sure it is mine… and start with opening my shirt. You’ll see why.”

She looked at him shocked, but his smile was warm, not even naughty this time. Trembling fingers complied shyly, prey to a twofold curiosity: if there was indeed something meant to reveal his name, and if there was a hidden purpose, less honourable, behind his request.

Once the laces undone and the beginning of his chest revealed, she saw the peculiar shape of the cross brighten at his neck and she understood immediately:

“Santiago?” she asked, her hand resting on the cross… or at least this was her excuse.

It suited him, being protected by the saint leading the glorious soldiers in fight. He was as courageous, skillful and determined to win… Only that it was another kind of fight he was into in the latest years.

He shuddered at the touch of her fingers, but his smile grew wider:

“Yes, Santiago. Or, for friends, Chago. And you are my friend more than my employer.”
« Last Edit: December 30, 2012, 12:59:49 PM by Elena »

 

Re: Dancing in the night

« Reply #11 » Published on:December 30, 2012, 12:55:46 PM

Elena

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8.May nighttime not break

He kissed the corner of her mouth, nibbling her bottom lip. The young widow moved her head to meet his mouth with her own.

“Why are you doing this to me?” doña Mariana asked afterwards, with a frown, on a contraried tone, unsure what to understand from all those uncanny sensations and emotions that overcame her in his presence, and even more since she had tasted his fiery kisses and since she was feeling his pulse, his heartbeats, through the hand unwilling to leave his neck and his chest.

He understood perfectly her meaning, and replied directly:

“You know why: because this is my only opportunity to be so close to you, and I have just told you before for how long time you have been in my thoughts. Do you want me to describe you even what dress you were wearing at the Fiesta de San Sebastian then, in order to believe me? I remember other details too…”

She looked at him, puzzled and pleased, at the same time, shaking her head. She didn’t need him describe her, she believed him and she was thrilled that a man could think of her for two years, remembering the slightest details about a woman he had seen only from the distance. It was like in the books about knights she had read long time ago.

“Besides, you have just told me that you need me to chase away any ghost from your soul,” he added, with a mischievous smile.

True enough! She wanted him there… she needed the protection of his tender embrace, his comforting words, his kisses… She preferred to burn in hell with this handsome rogue for eternity, not with her cheating husband. Remembering about the one whose death she had ordered, and why exactly, she said hesitantly, on a strange tone:

“Only that I wish to understand why he…”

The remaining words got swallowed in a knot. Doña Mariana was too proud to confess loudly, even now, concrete details on the humiliations she had suppressed for fourteen years, but Chago guessed what she meant. He looked into her eyes earnestly and a wandering finger touched tenderly her face, while he explained her:

“No, you won’t ever understand this, because I am male and I still don’t.”

Her look was even more perplexed:

“How come? When you…?”

“When you are attempting to seduce me since the gala”, she had thought, without daring to say it.

“No, I am not like him at all, there are too many differences! First of all, if you consider, now or later, that you don’t want to be so close to me, and you change your seat, I’ll remain here as quiet as I am now, when you are in my arms, and we’ll continue our conversation on the same tone. I will never chase you or another woman – while you know that don Francisco... I might knock once at a door, if I don’t find it already open; but if it doesn’t open then, I am on my way. He deserved to die, how many girls on the encomienda he had forced! This is the greatest crime, in my opinion,” he admitted openly.

Doña Mariana looked straight into his eyes and found there lights showing that the answer was sincere. Yes, it might be possible that he was different and not understanding the baron’s ways. If she thought better, she had liked Chago’s attention too, and he had never forced her – to a dance, to a kiss or anything else. She had promised him a sevillana, she agreed to the chotis and to everything that followed, like a fly was attracted by a flame. Also, tonight, he would have taken the money and left if she hadn’t sought comfort in his welcoming arms…

Chago let his words sink in her mind, continuing only when his gaze met hers again:

“I am also different from him, because if I am here now, I am in virtue of the promise made to you. But no woman is waiting for me elsewhere and to no one else I have made any promise. Otherwise, I simply couldn’t have been here…keeping you in my arms. Another difference is in the fact that, irrespective how I am burning for you, first of all I respect you and I care for you. If I was like him, I would have seduced you three nights ago, without caring about your reputation, about anything. Or even tonight… instead of discussing about your fears and your children, don’t you believe that another one would have acted far differently?”

She understood that he was right. That some other men instead of him, would have behaved far differently. Perhaps Chago had been a little too daring sometimes, but never lewdy, nor otherwise disrespectful, and it was obvious from his words and behaviour that he had in view her welfare.

“Yes, I know that you care for me,” she whispered.

A part of herself would have wanted indeed to test him, to get up and put some distance between them… only that it felt so good being next to him, and the distance would grow by itself in a few hours… No need for such tests, she knew he would have done exactly how he had said, not moving and not trying to convince her to get closer again.

Doña Mariana was feeling pulled towards this dark rogue, and if she remembered well, it might have happened once in her life… many years ago… but not with this intensity. Chago was El Ruiseñor, her nightingale prince from the legend, meant to make the confining tower more bearable. She feared and liked, at the same time, this mysterious power making her feel on fire… She couldn’t understand. Yes, she had been married for about fourteen years; this handsome devil wasn’t the first man who had held her in his arms, nor the first one to kiss her; then why he was completely different… or rather, why was she completely another person with him?

Her eyes were hooded when she looked at him again. How she wanted to keep forever in her memory his shuttered, but striking face, with features seeming carved by a good sculptor, those dark agate eyes that seemed to hold all the secrets of the universe, that roguish smile she had been thinking about since the mission had been accomplished, a smile which unexplainably melted her.

“Tonight doesn’t exist,” she whispered, with the wish to deny everything what came against her lifetime beliefs, but, at the same time, to keep him by her side… or rather to remain in the arms of this mysterious knight as long time as possible.

Her breath ragged pleasantly against his ear, as Chago understood what she meant and didn’t contradict her:

“Of course it doesn’t exist, it is only a dream! Unfortunately, nothing more, because the sun will rise above each of us, alone… It has been certainly my dream of a long time, but is it yours too?” he asked directly, locking gaze with hers, because he wanted doña Mariana to answer without any misunderstandings or regrets.

Chago considered himself strong enough to accept any response from her.

If it was her dream? Surely yes, for a lifetime, since the young girl she had been once, in the castle in Zaragoza, was listening to the ballads, and afterward, in her loneliness of a married woman her husband wasn’t interested in… This handsome soldier of fortune was dark, dangerous, but kind and tender at the same time, an untamed knight adoring her for so long in silence. It was exactly like in the legends… Sir Lancelot and Queen Guinevere had only a brief moment of happiness together, while the count of Olinos and his beloved Infanta…

Doña Mariana shivered, both of passion which she hadn’t understood yet and of terror at her previous comparison, not to be unlucky. The ballad she was thinking about told about the Count of Olinos and the princess, madly in love, but to prevent the couple's marriage, the queen sent her men out to find and kill the count. Soon after his death, the princess died of heartbreak. The ill-fated couple reunited after death in their new incarnations first as plants growing together (she a white rosebush, he a hawthorn), then, after the queen destroyed them, as birds that flew away together.

The young widow was shocked to realize that she wanted this man by her side now, while they were still alive, not only in death, even if the perspective of keeping each other company in Hell would have made the punishment bearable.

“Yes, it has been my dream too, my dark nightingale knight!” she admitted, with a maidenly blush, raising her hand to caress his cheek, her soft fingers noticing that he had freshly shaved before coming to her, as their touch met no stumble, while the other hand was resting on his chest, not needing anymore the excuse of the cross.

Emboldened both by his unusual, cat-like way to show how much he enjoyed her caresses and by her own revelations, she pulled his head to her mouth, softly pressing her lips to his forehead, then to his brow, kissing gently, before moving down, as if she intended to imprint the shape of his eyes, the curve of his cheek, the steel of his jaw.

Her long, mahogany-shaded hair enveloped them both like a sort of cloak. She wrapped her arms against his waist, with her head on his chest, listening to his heartbeats… as if hers were matching his, too. His mouth slowly crushed hers, in a warm and passionate kiss, only a little rougher than the ones before, pressing her again close to him. His teeth nipped softly her bottom lip, the tip of his tongue traced the shape of her upper lip, then teased at the corners of her mouth. Her lips parted on a sigh, allowing his exploring, and she stretched herself up to kiss him back. Her lips twisted against his, and she pressed herself closer, her arms wrapped around his strong neck. A strange heat rose in all her body, and her nails bit into his nape, as she was kissing him with the same fervour.

Her answer was unrestrained, with an unguarded honesty and innocence which made him understand again that, even if she had been married for many years, this woman had never known passion before. After they recovered their breath, she lingered and showered his mouth with kisses that were so soft that Chago wasn’t sure if he felt her breath or her lips on his. He sought her lips again, drinking, together with her breath, also all her fears and insecurities, leaving only that delightful ache and longing. She felt swept away, barely hearing his whisper:

“The time for death, funerals and publicly shown tears has passed. Now it’s time to celebrate life! You are alive, free and revenged! This is everything that matters tonight!”

His kiss turned greedy with want, need, and desire. Its sparks ignited her blood, and wildfire spread through her, especially that Chago trailed his knuckles across her neck, letting his fingers wander across her delicate collar bones while arousing purrs accompanied her breath. She let her head fall back and her eyes close, her lips remaining open, as she was craving one more kiss from him.

He tentatively slid his tongue across her bottom lip, sending her to frenzy, then he descended, stringing soft, biting kisses along her throat until she turned and captured his mouth in a hot kiss. No one of them could say who reached first for the other. Flames began licking at her body with his caresses and kisses, and she understood only then how desperately she needed him, how he had already left his footprints on the sands of her soul, and that she could never forget the glow of his eyes, now or three nights ago, in the same darkness, during the chotis. Their hands on each other wandered in exploration, curious, tender and caressing, and their kisses became more demanding, more passionate.

Chago’s fingers slid under lace-edged silk with fumbling and caressing gestures, while he was singing her softly, almost in a whisper, his impossible  wish for that wonderful night:

“May nighttime not break
please, may it not break!
…May it be long and serene
like the stem of a rose,
may it be made of white moon
with its frost and its shadows.
Because I need to love you very much,
I need to love you so much!
And if nighttime doesn't end,
I will drive you wild…

Because I keep a world
of restless wishes in store,
because I have so much, so much, that...
because I keep for you
dreams, caresses and kisses…
Tomorrow morning
if nighttime doesn't break
we will do crazy new things
with our remaining love.

May nighttime not break,
may morning never come!
May nighttime not break, may morning never come.
May the star never hide,
Neither the moon at your window –
To be an eternal night,
A long, large night!”
« Last Edit: December 30, 2012, 12:58:31 PM by Elena »

 

Re: Dancing in the night

« Reply #12 » Published on:December 30, 2012, 12:56:43 PM

Elena

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9. EPILOGUE


Irrespectively what his song was saying, the dawn was nearly breaking, and Chago had to go back to where Micah was waiting for him.
 
He looked again at the sleeping beauty cradled at his chest, her hair spread all around. He was drinking in her unusual charm, still marveling at the paleness of her skin, which was bearing now the marks of a night of wild passion – the passion she seemed to have just discovered. His initial opinion had proved to be true – her curtain of ice had been melted by his fiery desire, revealing her inner fire. He was filling his eyes and his soul with the image of doña Mariana, to find her burning inside him in the lonely nights which were bound to come soon and be plenty, for a man in his trade.

He had held her tenderly, caressing her to sleep, with words of endearment. Now, that she was finally asleep, soundly and quietly, no ghost menacing her dreams anymore, he had to get out of the bed without waking her up, to get dressed quickly and leave the same way as he had come, without forgetting the money Micah rightfully awaited.

“Will you return tomorrow night too?” she had asked him not too much time ago, with pleading eyes.

“Not tomorrow night, but the night after… and as many nights as I can and as you want me to!” he had answered immediately, thrilled by knowing that she needed him.

He definitely couldn’t give her his heart – first that Luisa had taken care to break it long time ago, so he wasn’t sure if any pieces remained, and secondly, that as beautiful and as affectionate she could be towards him, how to trust a woman who had paid for her husband’s murder, irrespectively how many reasons she might have had? However, the perspective of a forbidden affair with the most attractive woman around was even more appealing. He knew it couldn’t last, they were far too different, but as long as doña Mariana desired him and he didn’t put her reputation in danger - because he respected her indeed, as much as he admired her – he would be there for her, in the extent his missions allowed him.

With these thoughts he approached Micah, whose fine hearing had noticed him already.

“I thought you’d never come back!” he protested softly. “You know I hate waiting!”

“You had a good reason to wait,” Chago answered, handing him the three full purses. “I haven’t counted them, but I hope they are exactly what has been promised to you.”

Micah took them and weighed them in his hand. If they were pieces of gold, most likely they were the agreed amount.

“Let’s share then!”

Unlikely for an usual mercenary, Chago told him honestly:

“It has been your work, so you are the one to decide how much my covering for you was worth. I wouldn’t complain anyway, I had too much fun accompanying you and I didn’t do anything important this time.”

In the Valencian’s opinion, his prize had been greater. He was still wondering if Micah was indeed the boy he claimed to be or if doña Mariana’s impression was the right one, but he had decided already that he didn’t care. If they were to work again together some day, he’d take the challenge to learn the truth; if not, why bother?

Micah looked at him scrutinizingly. It was an extremely atypical reaction in their trade, however the man had a point. If he had requested a sum Micah considered exaggerated, and they had squabbled about money, forgetting the brothers-in-arms feeling had before, then would it have been better? Definitely not. Anyway, he’d take care that Chago received a fair share, because they might work together some other times too. He had an idea what the man was meaning by “having fun”, and he prepared a teasing comment, only that the older mercenary’s next words took him by surprise:

“But instead of letting ourselves caught by dawn counting gold, let’s go home and meet tonight at <El Milagro>! This is a tavern where one may party more at ease than at Juan’s. You are paying the first round and bringing me my share!”

Chago had always been practical, and Micah had to recognize it. The dawn was casting its reddish dancing shadows over the lake Maracaibo, the islands around and the buildings of the flourishing town, while a man and a young boy entered the gates in a casual walk.

- THE END -
« Last Edit: December 30, 2012, 12:59:01 PM by Elena »

 




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