(11) (1) Birth Death & War!

At Pena Palace

 

Aurore;

An eerie silence encloses the castle which befell us with preternatural speed, glancing at each person sitting around the table I have a premonition of the treachery to come. Looking John in the eye it’s obvious he sees the simulated falsehoods of those who would aid our enemies to go to battle and seize the throne from under the king. With my strength waning I know my battle soon will be of childbirth rendering this woman’s frailty incapable of practising her profession, instead, I am compelled to enlist and trust others to gain intelligence by any means at their disposal. The first rack of pain arches my spine and an unearthly scream breaks the silence heralding the birth of our second child, reaching out for John who sits next to me elegant fingers curl around John’s wrist while fingernails dig deep at the second spasm of contorted pain. *

John! Meu amour I whisper Take me to our chambers, Miguel can conclude the business here!


John:

*I nod and rise, motioning to servants to aid Aurore to our chambers. * I’m sure you’ll all forgive me, but as you can see, I have far more pressing concerns right now. Any more disputes and discussions about incursions of Spanish soldiers over our borders can be handled by Miguel. He has my full backing, and anything he decides, you can take as being a decision that I back wholeheartedly. Please, do not make the mistake of trying to play us against each other. I can assure you that any such attempts will be treated with the disdain they deserve. Please, help yourselves to refreshments, and do not linger for my return. I intend to stay by my wife’s side for the foreseeable future. And before anyone says it out loud, that does not mean I place my wife above my country. This country needs a strong line of succession, and I intend to make sure that succession is protected and defended as it should be. Thank you. *I turn and follow swiftly after Aurore, barely acknowledging the nod from Miguel, or the fact that Father Ryan is at my back. *


Father Ryan:

*Follows hot on the lad’s heels. Pretty sure he’s not going to want to be delivering this child on his own, and the last I heard, the physician was off tending to wounded soldiers. Not that his standard cures of “try leeches” or “drink more water” will help here anyway. Grabs a bewildered servant as we pass by. * Quick, lad, go boil some water and bring it to the royal chambers. Some fabrics too, soft and clean. Rip up some sheets of you must. Move it, lad, lively now I don’t think this wee bairn is going to be waiting for you.

 


Aimee;

Ushers the boy through the door to the royal bedchambers with a healthy push from my hand……. dear lord, I say looking up in silent prayer, keep her safe and guide the good father in his work. * Come on boy don’t dilly and dally this baby is on its way! Father peace be with you and may the holy father give you guidance.
John, if you would sit on the bed with your back against the headboard the maid will arrange pillows behind your back, now manoeuvre Aurore gently between your legs, I’m sure it’s a practised movement. John raises a brow with a broad grin Aurore if you can manage it, my dear, lean back against Johns’ chest. Turning to the father with a stern look Father if you can give me a moment to ensure our queen’s dignity!

 


Aurore.

*Dear Aimee, such comfort at times when matters need organisation.  Another spasm contorts my body, my shoulders are pushed against Johns’ chest, gritting my teeth I lower my chin to my chest and my spine is arched with the contraction. *

John! I’m not going through this again! *Growling through gritted teeth.

Aimee had drawn the heavy drapes around our bed, Aimee sits near my legs on the bed and brings them both up to the knees are bent and slightly apart. John takes both my hands and I gladly grip them fingernails digging into his flesh as another contraction racks my body. *

John you men never understand what we women go through! Father stop praying and get this baby out!

My meu amour takes the abuse as the words reprehend him in torrents, as another contraction silences my verbal attack on poor John. * Meu amour know that I love you!


John:

*I manage a wink at Father Ryan.* I know, my sweet, I know, but … *I grimace.* … if you could please … *I wince* … manage to not break my fingers, I would be very happy. *I bite my lip as she squeezes again. Christ, that hurts … and yet … hell … I squeeze back gently as she releases her vice-like grip slightly, gently kissing the nape of her neck.* Have I told you recently how much I adore you? How in awe of you I am? That you can go through this pain to deliver a perfect human being, a living breathing person, boy or girl I do not care, a sibling for Alexander, another child for Miguel to teach how to ride and fight when he thinks we’re not watching.


Father Ryan:

Glares at Aimee. Do you want this baby delivered? Yes? Are you going to deliver it yourself? No? Then kindly move to one side and let me do my job. This is not my first birth, you know. Finally. Alright, Aurore, you’re doing really well. You’ve done this before, you can do it again. Push when you need to … that’s it … ok, the head is out … breath, my dear, breath. That’s right. Ok, here we go, the final push. Hands the screaming bundle to Aimee as I finish up. Perfect. all done. Relax and breath. That’s right. Well done. This one has a good set of lungs like it’s brother, that’s for sure. Is it a Braganza trait, John?


Aimee.

And! I can assure you, Father Ryan, this baby is one of many for me also, what has made you so grumpy? Don’t answer! now move your elbow and I will assist you! * I give John a reassuring nod and prepare a soft blanket to wrap the baby in after the cord is cut. Aurore gives one last push and a perfectly formed baby makes a noisy entrance into the world. Swaddling the new infant in the blanket, dear lord what a noise……lifting her up cradled in my arms I carry her from the foot of the bed to Aurore’s waiting arms. * Oh my dear I feel quite overcome with joy! She is perfect have you decided on a name?


Aurore.

I breathe in and the breath catches in the back of my throat, and I give way to tears of joy, they trickle from my adoring eyes. One single pearl anoints the baby’s forehead a blessing for her arrival and a prayer to keep her safe. Looking up at John he smiles down at me and kisses my forehead, nodding a knowing nod. * We have talked about a girl’s name, and we have chosen Catherine, she is named in honour of Johns grandmother Infanta Catarina of Portugal and her title will be that of Duchess of Braganza.


Captain Amaiar‏@BlackBasque2016//Reaches out with a gloved hand intending knock gently on the door to their royal highness’s bedchamber when I notice it is already ajar! Without invitation, I stride two paces pushing the door open and step inside, one glance at Catina from under my broad-brimmed hat, jauntily worn to one side, enabling a look from under the rim that sends the poor the girl quivering. I flash a sparkling smile which if she were not Tiago’s sweetheart would be her undoing. // Catina my sweet, looking lovelier than ever!  // Catina blushes and leaves the room with her head bowed, I shrug my shoulders when from the corner of my eye, I catch a stern look from Aurore, which would freeze any man ardour, in one movement my hat is swept from my head held in hand, close to my chest. I direct my charm to my little bird, as I have always done since we were children. //  Good day to you John, I believe Miguel requires us in the great hall, the business on the border he tells me. Aurore my little bird, you look as radiant as ever, and your daughter shares her mother beauty. // I bend down to kiss Aurore’s cheek and then the baby. // And If I am forgiven? I will return later, but for now, John and I need to go!


 Aurore Braganza‏@auroretrav2014 Meu amour, must you leave? Stay just a little longer Catina is bringing Alex to meet his new sister. *John can see in my eyes how much I need him to stay. With this pregnancy, emotions have run rampant and I have been prone to tears for no reasons. Adoring eyes look upon our new angel swaddled and sleeping in my arms, unlike Alex, she has my dark brown eyes and a mass of very dark brown hair. There is a knock on the door to our chambers and before John can answer in runs Alex, followed by Catina, his excitement bubbles from every inch of his energetic body, he literally bounces onto the bed, landing near his cradled sister and kisses her softly on her cheek. I smile warmly at Catina before turning to John* John please just a few moments so we can all be together just we four.


John‏@DukeBraganza*I can feel my heartbreaking, just staring at the pair of them, Aurore, so strong, so beautiful, and for once, so vulnerable, and little Katherine, so small, so precious … I would love to stay here with them, to watch over them while they sleep, to count every breath they take. But I have a country depending on me, and I must do what is right by my people.* Just a few moments, meu Amor but that is all I can wait. This must be done. The Spanish must be driven back from our borders before they cause unrest. as protector to this pair. I promise to return as soon as I can. *I ruffle Alexander’s hair.* Now, young man, while I am away, I expect you to take good care of your baby sister, and to do everything your mother and Uncle Miguel tell you. Is that clear? *I grin as he nods with a serious face, before collapsing in giggles as I tickle him and hold him close.* And now, Amaia, we must leave. Don’t worry, meu amor, I’ll keep Amaiur safe for you. *I smile as she actually manages a smile, before leaning in and kissing her deeply one more time.* Stay strong, meu amor, stay strong.


Captain Amaia‏@BlackBasque2016

// Glancing over my shoulder back into the room before I close the door behind me, Aurore comforts Alex wiping his tears, as John strides ahead, his face grave, his jaw set the troubles of the kingdom of Portugal weighs heavily on his shoulders.//

John, I did observe, while striding upon the ramparts on watch a rider coming in at speed. Could this be the news we wait for from the border?


John‏@DukeBraganza

Until we reach Miguel, I can hardly be expected to know the answer to that …. forgive me, Amaia, I do not mean to snap, it’s just …. *I allow my words to drift off, knowing he will understand. These are trying times for all of us.

 

 

 

 


*BlackBasque2016// John enters his office a fraction ahead of me, Tiago looks sheepish and flushed I raise a black brow and smirk, the lad does not want to be here, does not take a stretch of the imagination as to where he would rather be! John pulls out the chair to his desk and sits he wears a grave expression before he speaks. I take my hat off throwing onto a seat, casually leaning against the wall with my right shoulder, arms folded across my chest. Miguel passes a letter to John and Joao sits in a chair on the other side of the desk to John, his body stretched out in the chair and his legs crossed at the ankles. I nod in greeting to Joao.//


John‏@DukeBraganzaI nod to Tiago and Joao and take the letter offered by Miguel, reading it carefully. As I feared, the Spanish are testing the boundaries and taunting me at our borders, although our defenders are standing strong. The people there need my help, and quickly, and I need to make sure they stay loyal to me. If the Spanish should win them over ….. I shake my head. It does not bear thinking about. We must act fast. The Spanish are encroaching on our borders. I can only assume that they think me far too busy with personal affairs to take any notice. Unluckily for them, that is simply not the case. Abilio is fighting our cause as best he can, but he requires reinforcements, significant ones, and quickly. Joao, how fast can we get there?

 


João‏@JoaoRibeiro951Stretches nonchalantly.We’re good to go. Supplies are ready to be loaded, the men are ready, the horses are prepared. Give the word. I can send people on ahead. Shouldn’t take us long, in daylight anyway, and I have faith Abilio will hold out until we arrive. If I didn’t, I’d have sent more men ahead already. As it is, the ones I’ve sent should keep the Spanish busy for quite some time. Won’t hurt for John to put in an appearance though, more for our people than the enemy. If they know he stands beside them and doesn’t just utter the words from a distance, it will make all the difference.

 

 


John‏@DukeBraganzaI glance at Miguel. His grin and nod reassure me that they have everything in hand. Excellent. Send your men ahead and we leave at dawn. You’re right. There is no sense of travelling in the dark. Which means I get one last night with Aurore and our children. And then I will be ready to show the Spanish that I mean business.

 


Aurore Braganza‏@auroretrav201438* As the curtain of darkness has fallen, Catina has taken Catherine and lay her in her crib in the nursery, Alex had finally fallen asleep next to me with his head in my lap after his Papa had gone to the war council. Only able to doze I am awakened by the door to our chambers opening quietly, John steps silently into the room, taking his jacket off as he does. The jacket discarded on a nearby chair, in the soft candlelight he melts my heart as he has done a thousand times before, I feel the palpations thump in my chest and long for his arms wrapped around me, once again it would appear we have been blessed with a few precious moments before we are separated. I whisper. * Meu Amore, I did not expect you tonight! Come here so I can look into your face.


John‏@DukeBraganza43

I slide gently onto the bed beside her, shucking my clothes in a neat pile … alright, sue me, I’m a man, and it may be sometime before I can lie this close to my beloved again, so the pile is not as neat as it might be. I wriggle close to her, careful not to disturb Alex. He looks so peaceful. And Aurore looks so … soft …. warm … welcoming. No, this is a bad idea. I don’t want my son to wake to that sight. Hell, Aurore would probably make me explain it to him, in detail, with diagrams. I settle for rubbing my bare flesh against hers.I didn’t really expect to be here either, but Miguel and Joao are ahead of me and everything is already in place. I think I may owe them both before this is through. For now, let’s make the most of what little time we have.


 Aurore Braganza‏@auroretrav201438

*Alex stirs ever so slightly when John lifts himself with care onto the bed sliding himself over next to me, with Alex soundly sleeping on the other side, John’s smile beams wider than I have ever seen him grin before, and he is bursting with pride. I rest my head on his cheat slightly looking up into his face. *

I daren’t ask my love but how long before you leave?


John‏@DukeBraganza28*I pepper her face with tiny kisses, tracing the outline of her eyes, her nose, her cheekbones … her lips …. for some strange reason I am tempted to linger here.* I have to leave in the morning. First light.

Plenty of time to make it to Abilio’s base without risking our necks in the darkness of the night. *I deepen our kiss, savouring her taste.* And yes, I promise I will pass on your best wishes to both Abilio and Adriana, and news of Alex and Katherine as well.

*I kiss that spot on her neck, the one that always makes her arch her back and moans… alright, so that might not have been the best move I ever made.* Meu Amor, tell me, would it be wrong for me to carry Alex to his own bed for the night?


Auroreraganza‏@auroretrav201431m

* John’s kisses delight and tickle like tiny butterfly wings, I willingly yield to his deepening kiss, the warmth of his passion causes my breath to catch, and breathlessly I answer him against his parted lips. *

My love, Adriana will be glad of news from home; I often wonder if she feels isolated so far away from us, please John insists that if there is a risk, she will come to harm, she is to return to court……

My words trail away as his lips invade my senses, brushed over that part of my neck just near the shoulder, I tip my head to the side and arch my back, involuntarily as shivers tingle down my spine, I moan and bury my face into his chest for fear of waking Alex.Meu Amor, I think it would be advisable, Catina is in the next room to Alex and will watch over him during the night! Now make haste my love before the dawn calls, and put some clothes on!

 


John‏@DukeBraganza28

Oh for pities sake, clothes? This is my castle. *I sigh deeply and wriggle into my shirt and breeches.* This is ridiculous, you know that, right? And I am not putting my boots on. Shirt and breeches will have to goddamn do. *Gently cradles Alex in my arms and heads for the door.*


PrinceAlex‏@braganza_alex27

*Stirs sleepily* Daddy. I’m flying Daddy.

John‏@DukeBraganza28

Well, very nearly, Alex. I kiss his temples gently. Now, you try and get some sleep, like a big boy, and I promise I’ll wake you in the morning before I leave.

 

 


PrinceAlex‏@braganza_alex26

Pwomise?

 

 

 

  

I promise. Now shhh. Sleep. *I watch him for a moment, as he snuggles around, before tucking the covers around him gently. *Night night, little man.*I pad silently to the door, closing it very quietly, before practically sprinting down the hall to Aurore’s chambers before he has the chance to wake.*


Aurore Braganza‏@auroretrav201422

*The door to our chamber clicks silently closed on John’s return, peeling off his loose-fitting shirt from his taut torso, his bare feet are soundless on the stone floor as he approaches the bed.

John with a broad grin wriggles out of his breeches, casually kicking them to one side, and he slides under the covers. There is no neglection of duty on this night his ardour burns with focused passion, tenderness calms his unquench appetite until we are both sated in unbridle fervour our bodies entwined until the breaking dawn. *


Elvas (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈɛɫvɐʃ]) is a Portuguese municipality, former episcopal city and frontier fortress of easternmost central Portugal, located in the district of Portalegre in Alentejo. It is situated about 200 kilometres (120 mi) east of Lisbon, and about 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) west of the Spanish fortress of Badajoz.  The inscribed site name is Garrison Border Town of Elvas and its Fortifications.

Abilio‏@_Abilio_Pereira

Adriana. Adriana! They’re here. John’s here.

*And about time too. Even my most loyal subjects were starting to wonder if the Spanish were a better bet. Just by being here, John will strengthen their resolve. At least, I hope that happens. It is the best bet that Elvas has for peace.*

Tell me the rooms are ready for our esteemed guests and that we have suitable refreshments waiting. Someone get the refreshments. Are the rooms ready? *Spins around in circles, waving my arms around madly, waiting for confirmation.*

Thank God for that. *Glances at the wine and beer. Grimaces. Joao and his men will make short work of that.* Bring more beer from the cellar, quickly. Move, man, move. These are thirsty people and we do not want to keep them waiting. Ok, make ready with the gates. Prepare to meet your King.


Duchess of Cadaval‏@andrianatwinsis23

 << I make circular movements with the flat of my hand, to ease the tightness stretched across my ever-growing belly, gently I trace around the protruding bump which moves and rolls over under my hand. My dearest husband calls for my attention; I know that he worries that my time is so near. Slipping my arm through his arm, we wait for the King to ride in, leading his men into the castle’s inner yard.>> Abilio do not look so worried husband of mine, or the lines will stay permanently around your eyes. All will be well, and this baby will arrive come what May”!


Abilio‏@_Abilio_Pereira23

*Gazes in wonderment and nervousness at the round shape of my wife. I do not know how she can bear to carry this extra weight and extra worry. Try as I may ease her burden, I know she worries far too much, and I am far too reliant on her opinion. —

 I wonder how John can bear to be parted from Aurore and his family. I am not sure I will be able to be parted from Adriana and our child so easily … though, of course, in my case, the well being of an entire nation does not rest upon that decision. Perhaps that will make it easier for me to make my stand alongside John. Perhaps I should ask for John’s advice. Perhaps I should just do my job and trust John to perform his duties as steadfastly. Perhaps Adriana is right, and I worry too much. Things will be what they will be.*


Captain Amaiur‏@BlackBasque201623

// A black brow twitches up, and I watch the bump roll curiously over in Adriana’s stomach! Been a man I’m not accustomed to women’s affairs, however, I’m drawn inapplicable to the largeness of this child! Scratching the hair on my chin, between forefinger and thumb, I contemplate this phenomenon only shared by the feminine gender! I nod running spade finger through my thick black tangled hair and I conclude they are more suited in temperament and build than us males to give birth.

 John enters through the portcullis gate, I salute my King, striding forward to hold the horse while he dismounts.// John when you have rested, I have something to report privately. The reconnaissance has proved to be very fruitful!


John‏@DukeBraganza22

*I dismount gracefully from my mount. A nice grey, steady and stable. Perhaps not the fastest, but that was not the point today. I smile broadly at Adriana as I clap Abilio on the shoulder.* Joao, make sure the horses are taken care of. Amaia, tell me, what did you see as you drifted to the back of our small convoy. Anything of interest? The Spanish perhaps? And were there enough to pass on the news to their leaders that I mean business, or do I need a greater show of strength that will disrupt my dinner plans.*I wink at Abilio.* I assume there are dinner plans. I hope there are dinner plans. *I grin at the look that crosses his face.* Of course, there are dinner plans, and they will be absolutely perfect. Stop worrying, my friend.


Duchess of Cadaval‏@andrianatwinsis22

<> John, my dear friend! Welcome. No need to assume that you and your men are thirsty from your long and tedious ride. Please come and enter our home, its rather large and very drafty, but please make your self-comfortable, Abilio will show you to your chamber, and after you have refreshed from the journey, there’s pig turning on a spit over a fire in the great hall, and many more dishes to satisfy your hunger. I see Joao is attending to the horses and organising the men into their billets; I do hope Joao will join us, as with all your senior staff.


John‏@DukeBraganza22

*I bend and kiss Adriana gently on each cheek.* Aurore sends her warmest regards. The new baby is perfect. We’re calling her Katherine. I have a letter for you, somewhere in my saddlebag. I’ll find it for you later. And I am sure there is precious little that will keep Joao from joining us for dinner, especially if it involves a roast pig and alcohol of some type. Go and rest, Adriana. I think you need it more than I do, and I must speak with Amaia before he sneaks off to find beer.


  Captain Amaia‏@BlackBasque201622h

// I drag my hat off shaking it as I do, then I run my fingers through a mat of caked tendrils the dust from the trail thick in my unruly black hair, I grin at John, shaking the dirt from my coat. //

I have a thirst that needs quenching, but first John to business!

// I cough and shift sideways to stand next to John; he will not be happy with what I saw .//

As you ordered, I rode back about a couple of miles to check our flank; I could hear chattering and horses moving at the trot, they seemed to be in no hurry! So concealing myself in a thicket near the edge of the road, and waited until they passed by. Not sure what you’ll make of this John, but it was Felipe and about ten of his men following the column, and as I said they were in no hurry, means trouble John I can feel it!


The outskirts of Badajoz fort

Captain Amaia‏@BlackBasque201623

// Wrapped in the cloak of first light I set out and ride like the wind my mighty steed obeying my demands for speed. My ubiquitous black hat pulled down firmly on my head strangling black locks fall freely around my neck, to lose this hat would be an inconvenience, it had become my trademark. Gone are the leather-clad thighs I bear no resemblance to the sartorial elegance I’m admired for at court, instead, my attire is that of peasants disguised under the black cape, this bizarre disguise drew stares from my fellow comrades when leaving Abilio’s fort. I’m a fleeting shadow which moves inconspicuously under darkening clouds which accumulate over the horizon hanging heavily in the oppressive sky. Dark obsidian eyes look skyward with a prayer to the fading Basque moon goddess, the season is midwinter, and cold wisps of icy air freeze my breath against the black hair of my beard, this will be a hard winter, of hardship, and death.

On the outskirts of Badajoz fort, I slow my steed to a halt and surreptitiously dark eyes, concealed under a hooded brow survey the open land ahead. If I am to be believed I present as a common man of little means, then my steed must be undercover away from prying eyes, and I will travel on foot in paupers clothes to my destination. As the fates would allow there appears to be a disused animal shelter hidden in a small thicket of trees, this will suit my purpose well. The shelter, previously used by a goat herder, has a water supply and broken stacks of hay scattered on the earth flooring, after settling the stallion in, I continue on foot towards the imposing walls of the fort.

 The Spanish soldiers on guard seem not to have noticed that I have slipped in on the end of a group of men and women carrying heavy sacks of supplies into the fort, through a small gate to the side of the main fortified entrance.         A waggon full of bags stacked ten high are been unloaded, workers stand in line and wait as each bag is placed across their shoulders, I wait until it’s my turn, hunching over a large man, slings a heavy bag of grain onto my back, my head lowered avoiding suspicion eyes.

I follow on behind the dregs of society, the unwanted the rudiments of humanity. Weighed down, like a beast of burden, my shoulders strain under the weight of the bag. A malodorous odour percolates the confined atmosphere which appears to have its origin in the slaughterhouses, the miasma hangs fetid in the air. As we proceed along the tunnel, noisome vapours rise smouldering from discarded straw raked to the sides of the passageway, put there to soak up moisture seeping in through the bedrock on which the fort is built. The air, what there is of it, rises and hangs low just below the ceiling melding with the acrid smell from the oil lamps which are set in an iron bracket attached to the dank walls of the dark passageway.

At the end of the passageway, the light shines brighter voices can be heard, soldiers jest with each other, cursing the illegitimate king of Portugal. Gritting my teeth, I choke back my anger, and note the small guard room as we pass, twenty men at the most and not fighting men by their appearance. I grin like a fool and nod burbling as one of a simple mind, letting a sizable amount of drool dribble from my mouth into my now filthy beard.

These misfits continue to make fun, and I play their game acting the jester until reaching the stores. A vast cavern opens up under the fort, and I would have expected for the place to be bulging with supplies, there seemed to be adequate food for a month or so, however, not for a sustained siege in midwinter, this will be noted when I report to John. I drop the heavy sack from my shoulders onto the store floor, rolling them to bring the circulation back, we are ushered out with no time for the poor unfortunates to catch their breath.

 

A whip cracks with no warning over our heads the retch in front of me falters and falls there is no mercy at the hands of his Spanish masters. At the back of the line, I move silently, and with stealth hunched over, my head lowered giving a furtive glance as we approach the opening at the end of the passageway. Seizing the first opportunity, I throw myself to the ground fitting and talking in a strange tongue, the Spanish soldiers are unsympathetic laying in the boot until I pretend to pass out. I wait until dusk and set out toward the small thicket of trees, relieved to find my mount still in the shelter, the night will fall soon enough, and under cover of darkness, I will take my leave riding hardback to Elvas, with valuable information for @DukeBraganza . //


Aurore Braganza‏@auroretrav201420

* Stretching and rolling my aching shoulders, Alex does so make such a fuss these days wanting to be carried like a baby, this has taken its toll on my body when recovering from giving birth only a short time ago. Bless my dear firstborn he is lost without his Papa, although I will not complain he is the most caring brother to Catherine who thrives and is such a happy baby. Leaning back into the pillows I relish a little more time in the relative peace of our chambers. My fingers stray over the empty expanse of bed towards John’s pillow collecting it hugging it against my body my face buried in the comforting softness with each breath I sense his presence, his lingering essence is provocative of the last time we were together, I yearn for his touch, his tender kiss, with all of my heart, and soul my body aches for John. The days are filled with affairs of the court and the children of-cause, but the nights, oh the nights, are agony without him.*


Catina‏@catina201620

My Lady! My lady! { I burst through the door into the Queen’s chambers, in a blind panic. This would never have happened if my dearest Tiago had been here. The very thought of him been away reduced me to sobs of salty tears which stain my youthful complexion. }


Aurore Braganza‏@auroretrav201420Catina! What on earth? Come, come * Relaxing on the bed I had hoped for a few moments to myself without the children, alas I can see I have deluded myself once again. I smile warmly at Catina, who has worked herself into quite a frenzy as she bursts into my chamber.*

Come child sit on the bed next to me! Now, take in a deep breath and start from the beginning. *passing the poor child a handkerchief. *

 


Catina‏@catina201620

{I take the handkerchief from My Lady, blowing my nose very grateful for her sympathy and concern. I wipe my tears which are now falling like rain, and I try to begin through my anguish. Panic closes my throat, and it’s hard to breathe through the shuddering sobs, and the mucus is blocking my nose.} My Lady…. I don’t know how to tell you! {Sniffing} Amante! He pushed me aside while walking in the garden with Alex, and he has taken him..I’m sorry I tried…{My words trail away consumed by sobs} Sorry, so sorry, my Lady this is all my fault!

 


Aurore Braganza‏@auroretrav201420

* My heart sinks into my stomach, and I feel immediately sick! Taking a deep breath, I know from experience that calm must be the order of the day, Taking Catina’s hand I speak softly to her, at times like these I miss John’s council. * Catina! Absolutely not! How can it be?

I should not have been so complacent where Amante is concerned! *A young captain knocks on the door announcing his rank and name before I bid him enter. The young captain is very impressive, with newly-promoted the stripes on his arm, which he wears with pride.

He informs me that Miguel has taken charge of the hunt for Amante and the crown prince, he looks at Catina with compassion and adds the guard had followed Catina and Alex at a distance without being intrusive, they had no reason to suspect Amante and he took them with an element of surprise. I thank him and request that he keeps me informed, clicking his heels together he salutes and takes his leave.*

Now, Catina, you are to return to the nursery and take back into your care Catherine. Meanwhile, I will dress suitably and join the search! It would be ridiculous if they expect me to do anything else.


PrinceAlex‏@braganza_alex20

Tugs on the man’s hand. I don’t like him. He smells weird, and he’s not nice like Tiago. And he doesn’t play hide and seek like Uncle Miguel. And he talks a lot, but it makes no sense. And he doesn’t answer any of my questions properly. He has no idea why the sky is blue.

 


Miguel Pedrosa‏@miguelpedrosa9120

Strides through the corridors, barely acknowledging people as they scurry out of the way. Shame they weren’t this alert when Amante wandered in here and grabbed my godson from my niece. My niece! I ask you. Mano has a lot to answer for. Her head in the clouds, pining after Tiago. Not even a decent knife to hand. She should know better. She will know better after this, or I will know why! Might be a plan to bring Tiago back from the front, to ease her distraction. I don’t care how many times Mano insists we keep them apart. I am not going through this again. He’ll just have to learn to like Tiago. Not one of you has seen the Prince? Do you all walk around with your eyes closed? This is not a game. I want him found, quickly. No real fear Amante will get far. The outer gates are locked down and I will have the hide of any man who lets him past, but I need Alex safely returned to his mother, preferably before she starts extracting information from my soldiers in her own indomitable fashion. I haven’t got that many men to spare.

 


Aurore Braganza‏@auroretrav201420

I had forgotten how liberating putting on a pair of breeches and a loose shirt could be, sitting on the bed I pull on a pair of boots, John had made especially for me for riding, my dagger tucked neatly into the top of my right boot, should it be needed. There is a nip in the air as we approach winter, so I grab a short jacket from the closet. I quench my fears with a deep breath as I open the door to our chambers and make haste through the palace and into the grounds. I sight Miguel and hurry towards him!“Miguel, my dear friend, what news?” laying my hand to his arm, I add with emphasis and some authority. I pray! That my son has not been harmed!

 


Miguel Pedrosa‏@miguelpedrosa9120

Amante has more use for him unharmed. If he wanted him dead, he’d have done it already. No, his aim is to carry the boy off somewhere, maybe to John’s uncle. Try for the throne through John’s heir. Don’t worry. They won’t get far. Certainly not beyond the outer defences. ~

Every man on every gate and checkpoint knows better than to let that happen. They are still within our grasp. I have set my men to search, and we’ll find them soon. Go, wait inside, we can cope.


Aurore Braganza‏@auroretrav201420

Miguel! You should know me well enough by now and realise that I have no intention of sitting in my chambers when, my son, the Crown Prince is in danger! I raise up my hand with the palm facing Miguel And there will be no further discussion! *I adjust the knife which is slipped into the top of my boot, deliberately so Miguel will notice, and he sees everything nothing goes beyond his all-seeing eyes. I turn to address the young captain. *

Now Captain! if Miguel can spare you. We might take the wooded pathway down to the lake; I’m sure there are disused building that would afford a closer inspection!


Miguel Pedrosa‏@miguelpedrosa9120

*Rolls my eyes. Of course, she was going to say that. And I’ve already checked the buildings myself, so no harm in letting Petro go with her. At least I know she’ll be safe with him.* As you wish, my Queen. *Not used to this royal diplomacy stuff yet. ~

Hope that sounded right. Better than ‘Really? Fine, go check the bleeding obvious while I do the legwork.’ And it helps make her feel useful. Catina is definitely going to have to prove her worth to me before I leave her alone with Alex again. This is a headache I did not need.* Alex!!! Where the hell is the boy?

 


PrinceAlex‏@braganza_alex20

Bored. This man is No fun. And he’s hurting my wrist. Stomps my foot hard down hard on his fancy boot and kicks him in the shins just like my Uncle Miguel taught me. Giggles as he screams in pain and says some naughty words. Hah, that will show him. Runs away, fast, and I can run fast and hide well. Uncle Miguel says so. Mama!!!!!!

 


Aurore Braganza‏@auroretrav2014

Captain! Listen I swear I just heard Alexandre’s voice! I draw my knife…… and begin to run faster than I have ever run before in my life, the Captain just to my side one pace behind. Hickory eyes are drawn into a gaze watching and listen to every sound from the undergrowth in the woods to either side of the pathway. Senses honed I’m a cat ready to spring at the monstrous man who has abducted my son. Alex……

PrinceAlex‏@braganza_alex

*Sits by the duck pond and talks to the ducks. Uncle Miguel always says I can come here when I want. I like ducks. They walk funny.*


Aurore Braganza‏@auroretrav2014

At the end of the pathway, at last, I can see buildings which are set back from the lake, my heart pounds frantically beneath my breast, and my thoughts are wildly emotions as I continue to run. What if Amante’s motive was not to take Alex for political gain but to drown the heir to the throne, it would be years before Catherine as infante is old enough inherit the throne……And Alex so loves the sound of running water feeding in from a natural stream its sauces in the Sintra hills that surround the palace; it would be easy to persuade him to play near the water. Captain Petro enters the first building; I swallow choking back my fear along with the bitter taste of bile threatening to rise and vomit from my sickening stomach. The captain and I check the other smaller buildings…….nothing! Then a cry, no a sequel and we both run towards the lake.

  PrinceAlex‏@braganza_alex

Mama! Where’ve you been? Come see the ducks. Is daddy here?


Aurore Braganza‏@auroretrav2014

Alex, my child! I say, I do not recognise the voice speaking the words high pitched with more than a note of panic.Where is he Alex? That Amante! * Spitting out the words as I pull Alex into my protective arms holding him close.*

 


PrinceAlex‏@braganza_alex

Who? Oh. Him. He smelled funny. Wrinkles nose. He was no fun. Looks around. He’s over there, in the bushes. Can’t even play hide and seek properly.

 


 Aurore Braganza‏@auroretrav2014In the bushes Alex? Captain take Alex back into the palace you will find Catina in the nursery, stay there and keep them all safe! Alex, my darling boy, stay with the captain and look after your sister!I give Alex a hug kissing the mass of blonde curly hair on the top of his head, he is so like his Papa in many ways, and if the Spanish had not tested our borders John would be at my side now, and none of this would have happened.  Swivelling on the heels of my boots I push my way through the bushes to the side of the Moores garden. Up ahead there is the sound of rustling, eyes narrowed chocolate hues fuse with ebony never have I before felt such hate. Not even with my encounters with Cardinal Richelieu. The Cardinal had said to me, on one occasion “anger” is good Aurore “Use it to your advantage”! Hardening my heart! The “Red Rose” emerges, and I can taste her vengeance! No more will I suffer the barbs of poison from Amante’s serpent’s tongue! Just ahead Amante the odious little man who has colluded with the Spanish for the last time! There is no need hiding, Miguel has the grounds surrounded! Amante, there is no escape! A loud thud focuses my senses, the hair on the back of my neck rises and I whip my head around with a steely glare in the direction of the sound. There through a gap between two small bushes Amante prostate on the ground….like a cat after its prey, I spring through the gap, my knife in hand ready to slit his throat if need be. And as my mood stands, I have no qualms in doing so. He squirms pathetically scrambling to his feet, attempting to run, I lunged at him slashing through his jacket into the fleshy part of his upper arm, he squeals like a stuck pig with instant pain, to my disappointment, the little worm clutches his wounded arm manages to escape.


Amante‏@AmanteBelo1

    1. *Runs for the horses. Good job I planned my escape in advance. It should have been so easy. I am, after all, an official diplomatic envoy. No one questioned me as I gained entry to the palace, and that flimsy girl was no protection, but the boy … stubborn does not begin to describe him. And always with the questions. Question after question after question. I was tempted to slit his throat on the spot just for some peace. And then the brat kicked me. Me!!! Grimaces as I grip my wounded arm tightly. His mother is even worse. Well, Duarte can send someone else to do his dirty work. I’m done with these idiots. More trouble than they’re worth. I just hope my arm is not left with a scar. The women would not find that attractive. Although, now I think of it, it could lend me an air of danger. Hmm, maybe not such a bad outcome after all. Time to head for the border though, before that bitch decides she wants more than a scratch.*

 


 

 

Warpedsails Tavern…..Obidos

“What do we do about a problem called Catina” 

Miguel Pedrosa‏ @miguelpedrosa91

Drops myself into a seat in my brother’s tavern. Doesn’t even bother to raise a hand or glance in his direction. He’ll head over soon enough, when he has a chance, and he knows what I drink. Why waste energy.


Manuel‏@ManoPedrosa91replying to @miguelpedrosa91

*Takes a deep breath as my brooding younger brother darkens my door for the first time in a while. Must mean he wants something. Finishes serving my customers. Nods to Don Pau and glances meaningfully at the wines behind the bar, none of which are strictly legal. Not that I think that’s why Miguel is here. He is my brother at the end of the day, but best not to force the issue, for both our sakes. Grabs a bottle of Vinho do Douro and makes my way to his table in the darkest corner.* Afternoon, brother. What brings you here?


Miguel Pedrosa‏@miguelpedrosa91

*Pushes the chair opposite with me with afoot, as an invitation for Mano to sit down.*


Manuel‏@ManoPedrosa91

*Hides my sigh and drops into the chair, pouring us both a glass of wine. Waits for him to tell me why he’s here. I know better than to try to force his hand. He’s a sulky bastard on a good day. Way too much like our father.*

Miguel Pedrosa‏@miguelpedrosa91Apr 4

*Takes an appreciative sip of wine. Whatever our differences may be, and I have to admit they have been many over the years, I cannot help but admit that Mano knows a good wine when he tastes it. I’ve never known him to serve his customers complete rubbish. Probably why his taverns have always been successful.* I take it you heard that someone attempted to grab the Crown Prince?


Manuel‏@ManoPedrosa91

Inclines my head. I had heard, yes. How did your guards let him in?

 


Miguel Pedrosa‏@miguelpedrosa91He was a diplomat. He had every right to be in the palace. Maybe not in the royal chambers, granted, but once within the walls of the palace … I have to admit that our security needs a little work. *Sighs slightly.* The guards I left in charge were not quite as capable as I would have hoped. They have been reassigned. Our new captain, Petro, is now in charge. *Shakes my head.* Luckily, Alex seems to like him. However, should someone try the same trick a second time, I need to know that should they somehow make it past him, they will cause no harm. I need to trust the people guarding John, Aurore, Alex and Catherine. Trust them with my own life. And I am no longer sure Catina is capable of such a thing.


Manuel‏@ManoPedrosa91*Bristles with indignation.* My daughter is more than capable of looking after two small children.


Miguel Pedrosa‏@miguelpedrosa91Really? Rubs my chin. Only, she let Amante take Alex from her without so much as scratching him!

 


 

 

Manuel‏@ManoPedrosa91

The man was probably armed.


Miguel Pedrosa‏@miguelpedrosa91

*Snorts derisively.* There is no probably about it, and that is not the point, as you well know. She has to be able to protect the children, not just entertain them. If I needed an entertainer, I’d hire a clown. They need someone to look after them. I need to know how capable she is. I took her on as a favour to you, to help Aurore. Lord only knows, she had a hard time trying to do that. *Shrugs slightly.* Granted, looking after Aurore was never going to be easy. Hell, that woman could take on an entire army without missing a beat. In fact, I almost feel sympathy for Father Ryan right now, getting dragged God knows where on her hunt for God knows who. Then again, Father Ryan is more than capable of handling himself in any situation. But none of that is the point right now. Right now, all Catina has to do is take care of two small children. She didn’t even have a knife with her! How is she supposed to protect them without a weapon?


Manuel‏@ManoPedrosa91

Maybe it would be dangerous to have a sharp knife with small children around.


Miguel Pedrosa‏@miguelpedrosa91

*Rolls my eyes.* Yes, I know. Safety of the children is paramount. But she had no weapon and did nothing to stop Amante simply taking Alex. She was far too distracted to think clearly.

 

 

 


Manuel‏@ManoPedrosa91

*I know where this is heading, and it is not good.* Distracted?


Miguel Pedrosa‏@miguelpedrosa91

Distracted. Worrying about Tiago.

 

 


Manuel‏@ManoPedrosa91

That boy is nothing but trouble.


Miguel Pedrosa‏@miguelpedrosa91

That boy is in love with your daughter, whether you like it or not

 

 

 


Manuel‏@ManoPedrosa91

He’s a bad influence.


Miguel Pedrosa‏@miguelpedrosa91

Chuckles. I think that works both ways. Look, I sent Tiago to the front line, at your insistence, to give them both space to think things over, but the time has come. Either Catina starts to carry a knife, you teach her every dirty trick you know, and she protects the children properly, or I will have no choice but to bring Tiago back to do that job. Alex prefers him to everyone else, and Lord only knows, I’ve tried enough of my men as a guard.  With the exception of Father Ryan, none of them has lasted longer than a week before he loses them in a game of “Hide and Seek” And I can hardly have a man of the cloth acting as a bodyguard for the Crown Prince now, can I? Only Tiago seems capable of keeping up with him.


Manuel‏@ManoPedrosa91

But he distracts Catina!


Miguel Pedrosa‏@miguelpedrosa91

His not being here distracts her more! She walks around in a daze, hardly knowing where she is, constantly worrying about him. I cannot allow it to continue. Talk to your daughter. If you cannot convince me that she can do the job on her own, then I will have to find someone that can, and she can come back to work for you here. *Glances around at the bottles of wine that have suddenly been covered over.* And I promise not to notice the barrels of rum and wine that miraculously appear in your tavern every time a certain pirate docks. The choice is yours, brother. Either Catina steps up and does her job, or I bring Tiago back to do it instead. Then Catina can she stay at the palace as a maid, alongside Tiago, or she can work here at your tavern. That is up to you, but the children will be protected, one way or the other. You have until Aurore returns to make your decision.


Royal Stables Pena

Aurore Braganza‏ @auroretrav2014 27*Under the cream flesh my breast my heart pounds, and blood flows with a rhythmic beat through my veins the pulse throbbing with primaeval instincts to protect my child. I have no need to explain the anger I feel towards Amante’s and heinous crime. With every step my focus grows stronger, every thought crystal clear, and every action plotted on the real-life game of chess, each piece placed strategically. I have often pondered, about Felipe as Envoy for Spain at the royal court, if he is the orchestrator of Amante’s crimes. Increasing my pace towards the stable block, I know in my heart that Amaliur and John are the only men alive who understand what it is to be Basque and that it carries specific responsibilities and part of the Basque nature is to defend “The Home”, this monstrous perpetrator gained entry into our lives through duplicity casting aspersions on the sanctity of our court and for this, he will pay with his life.

I shudder, winters chill shiver through my body the season is turning colder and beginning to take hold of the land. I approach the stables yard taking a detour into the tack room, just inside the door are rows of pegs from which the soldier’s capes hang, warm woollen capes and at the end of the row, I find my own royal blue velvet cape, wrapping it around my slender shoulders, paying attention to secure it closed with silver clasps, finally pulling the hood up to protect my face from the cold before walking into the yard.

Fresh horses have been saddled ready for a scheduled patrol, for which I am very grateful and this will suits my purpose well, I engaged the Sargent of the troupe in conversation informing him that I intend to ride out with them. There is frenetic activity as men stride around the yard making ready to ride, as requested my horse is saddled and led out into the yard; I nod to the Sargent with a polite smile. To one side of the captain’s office in open conversation, I notice Father Ryan and Miguel. There’s no way I can avoid a conversation with Miguel, for he would never sanction what I have in mind, I make the decision to mount and ride the horse over to Miguel thus giving him no opportunity object. To my amazement, he has second-guessed my intentions and insists that Father Ryan accompanies for the full extent of my “little excursion”. Am I that predictable?

That this enigmatic man realises my intention to track Amante as soon as we are outside the Sintra’s outer limits I sigh, with a disgruntled expression, I have known Miguel for a very long time, and with all my negotiations with him, there will always be compromises. Father Ryan and I to ride at the head of the troupe. The Sargent had been bemused by my second request after I requested a fast horse, I asked him to allow his Queen to take the lead as we ride out of the stables, explaining that I was under the King orders. *

Aurore Braganza‏ @auroretrav2014 20I had forgotten that fatigue draws the energy from every part of your body when riding long distances, and I have to admit my fitness not as it was before the birth of Alex and Catherine. I have thought of John while tracking Amante he is my heart and soul the rock I depend on, this protracted war has torn us apart and the children miss him most of all. Alex, his smile lights up a room when he enters, Catherine who will win the heart of kings when she is older. I do hope @braganza_alex will watch over his little sister, I made sure that @aimeemaid was charged with their care. I cannot leave the responsibility to Catina alone. @miguelpedrosa91 is equally pleased with the arrangement. I glance over my shoulder towards @FatherPRyanwho is lagging behind and I see that he is nodding to sleep in the saddle, so before he hits the ground, calling back to him, and suggest we stop and rest until dawn in a small clearing adjacent to a stream. Father @FatherPRyantakes care of the horses unsaddling both and leading them to water, he tethers them to a tree allowing them to pick at the sweet grass at its base.            The man thinks of everything, especially food and he produces from his saddlebag a cloth which had been wrapped around bread, cheese and spicy chilli and paprika sausage. It is evident from the day’s ride and the clumsy signs left behind by @AmanteBelo1 that he is making his way to the border, once he is captured I will let John deal with him, should he try to escape then death will be his just reward.


forte-da-graca7-1024x683

Elvas Fort on the Spanish Border.

Duchess of Cadaval‏ @andrianatwinsis 20

He will not settle, the endless thunder from the great guns keep him awake and he shudders every time a cannonball hits its mark. It is becoming repetitive every dawn. Abilio says the siege is lasting longer than they predicted, I can not stand much more and the Spanish have laid in enough supplies to get through winter. Glancing from the nursery window, I wonder how my dear friend Aurore is faring, without John. It seems strange that she is not at his side, especially in times of conflict. I look into my babes sleeping face, so innocent and at peace with the world I pray as I lay him in his cot that he will never know mans inhumanity to man.>>


Near the border

Aurore Braganza‏ @auroretrav2014 20

Father Ryan begins to break camp, it is just after dawn, he dowses the fire, so no trace of smoke or warm embers is left behind. He brings over the saddled horses and I mount gingerly lowering myself into the saddle, my muscles ache, I had forgotten the price you pay when so unfit. And there’s is another full days ride until we reach the border. I groan, but will not complain in front of the good Father. Riding down the road I hope that Amante languishes asleep next to a campfire, his arrogance has always been beyond stupid and he would not even contemplate that we search for him. If this is should be the case, then his freedom will be short-lived. Father Ryan, who is a large man, is finding the saddle uncomfortable, he picked his horse in haste which was already saddled and did not think to test the size. He has shifted his weight more than once in the last couple of hours. And he insists that we halt so he can relieve himself in the bushes, I have to admit a few moments out of the saddle will mean I can stretch my tired legs. I walk up and down swinging my arms trying to bring back some feeling into my numb limbs. I roll my head from side to side and hear it click as it snaps back into place. At that point, I am aware of the acrid smell of smoke. There, a short distance away through the trees a whisp spiralling upwards from a fire, pulling my dagger from its sheath, I begin to walk quickly with the blade held glinting in the early morning light. Making my way through the undergrowth, there is a dank smell of rotting leaves from Autumn they squelch under my boots. I move silently with stealth towards what may be an inhabited camp. I stop abruptly listening intently, there ahead twigs snap under a carelessly placed foot. Springing into action a feline predator after the animal who dared to threaten her offspring surefootedly over the uneven ground. Amante within my grasps. Three more strides then I grab a handful of blonde curly hair wrenching his head back and drawing the blade across his neck with enough pressure to scribe a thin line of blood across his pale skin. Suddenly without warning horses of the Apokolips descend upon us as they explode at speed into the clearing. Instantly I recognise the men ware the livery of Duarte, an enemy recognisance into Portuguese territory. Amante squirms within my grip whimpering pathetically begging for the captain of the enemy band to set him free, from the bitch who holds him to ransom. Father Ryan appears just in time brandishing a rifle in one hand and leading the two horses by the reins with the other hand. He strides to stand near my side, “back away, my lady” he says in a grave voice. I draw the knife away from Amante’s throat shoving him forward into the ground, at the same time as taking charge of the horses, mounting my own horse I hold the other ready for Ryan. He backs up to his horse and tossing the rifle up to me as he mounts his horse, I fire a warning shot over the heads of Duarte’s men, and we make a hasty retreat. 

 

I shiver as cold breeze wraps around us and gives little comfort to our anxious thoughts, I find myself grateful that we have not much further to ride until we reach the fort. Father Ryan has hardly spoken since we made our hasty retreat from Durates patrol. I know little of the Fathers past only that he was not always a priest. However, his instincts and experience urge him to look back over his shoulder for he knows only too well the precarious situation we now find ourselves in. I pull the thin mantle further around my body, wishing that I had prepared better for such a journey. The hair on the back of my neck bristles, and under my blouse goosebumps rise on the skin on my forearms. I shudder tensing my shoulders. An eerie light creeps over the end of the day, eventide, where the chapel bell would generally call the good Father to prayer. I am acutely aware that two riders alone are vulnerable to attack. My horse whiney’s and dances sideways at the trot his ears twitching back and forth, far behind us, he hears a faint whiney answering his call.*

“Father, I think it would be prudent for a change of pace, I haven’t a clue who is behind us, but I’m not prepared to wait and find out!”


Father Ryan‏@FatherPRyan15

“Aye, lass, I know. They’ve been following us for quite some time. *Grins at her expression.* I’m not as green as some think. They’ve kept a safe distance, never close enough to really worry me. They got closer when we caught up to Amante. I did think as to how they might have been with him, but they’d have moved in then if that was so. And I’m pretty sure they’re not Miguel’s men. He’d have warned me, if only for their sake. *Frowns as I think.* You’re right though, we should pick up the pace. No point tempting fate if we don’t have to.


Aurore Braganza‏@auroretrav201415

* Eases my horse into a canter, shaking my head at Ryan raising a brow.* “I don’t think it’s the Spanish or they would have taken chase when I fired the warning shot. No whoever it is they do not want to be identified, well not as yet.” *Laughing at the good Father as I push my horse into an extended canter.* Let’s ride. I will see you at the fort! *I conceal my apprehension knowing if it is the Spanish they will close the gap between us. And I wonder if Amante still rides with them out for revenge. A loud crack from a musket fires over our heads and if the horses were not spooked before they are now…..we ride with the devil at our heels towards the fort. Our horses pushed into a gallop they stride out shoulder to shoulder. I look back to where clouds of dust rise behind us, and I pray we can outrun whatever chases us.*


John‏@DukeBraganza15

*I raise my hand for the men behind me to stay quiet.* Hear that? There are riders up ahead. Armed. Quietly now. Tiago, take the flank. Abilio, watch our backs. This time, let’s find out who it is before we open fire. It could be the Spanish, but that deer earlier was plainly no threat. *I grin as the man responsible for letting loose with his rifle before he realised what was rustling in the undergrowth turns a deep red. Hopefully, it’s not a mistake he’ll make twice.*


 

Aurore Braganza‏@auroretrav201415

* Horses hooves thunder in a cloud of inclement weather behind us with a storm brews with speed as the riders move closer. I crouch over the horse’s withers, placing my weight into the stirrups on the balls of my feet and lifting my seat away from the saddle. The horses stretched at full gallop we can ask nothing more of them. Ryans horse alongside me the good Father casts a sideways look of concern and then doubt is replaced with determination. I am puzzled that, unless I imagined it, the Spanish patrol has grown in number judging by the noise of galloping hooves radiating from within the cloud. I heave a sigh of relief as up ahead, not far in the distance, the banners of the Braganza’s. The last ditched effort to ride to safety seems like an eternity and the Spanish gain ground baring down on us with speed. My heart pound within my chest the noise of galloping horses makes my blood pump harder I barely see the commander, my Meu Amor, at the front of our men. Ryan, and I slide to a halt as we pass him. Turning my horse around on his quarters, at this point, see John. The horse’s nostrils are flared the inner part red from exertion, as he draws in each breath his ribcage extends, and our hearts beat together as one. Patting his neck, I whisper good boy, then I ask him to walk forward halting the horse next to John!* “Well, Meu Amor. That is what I call an entrance! ” *John raises a curved brow unperturbed by my sudden appearance.*


 John‏@DukeBraganza15*I make sure my men do not fire on my priest and my wife. Honestly. Here? Now? And yet, strangely, I am not entirely surprised. I wave the left flank of men over to cover their arrival. And the Spanish are close on their tail. And the Spanish are close behind them. I shake my head. Just when you thought it was safe to go out on patrol on your own border.* Just the first riders. Do not fire on the second group! *I turn to my beloved, who looks flushed and yet so utterly and completely full of life.*

“Well, good evening, meu amor. Should I even ask?”


Aurore Braganza‏@auroretrav201415

“You may ask, but don’t expect an answer until we are alone! “*John beams at me and I tilt my head to the side with a raised brow.* We have much to talk about! And when you find Amante, I will be the first to interrogate him!

 

 

 

 

 

 


Felipe‏@ViceroydeSilva14

{I ride hard at the front of my men, my banner unfurled behind me. Lord, I hope John recognises us for what we are. This could get very complicated otherwise.} Do not fire at the Portuguese! Any man who does will answer to me. I want that worm Amante.

Dead or alive, I do not care which. {I swerve intentionally as we approach the Braganza banners, leading my men sideways in an attempt to trap the fleeing Spanish. I smile as John’s men open fire, noting that they are definitely not firing at my men, but are aiming purely at the Spanish. Yes, alright, I realise I am Spanish, but right here, right now, I am not one of their numbers. Amante’s lies and deceptions have driven me past the point of no return. My loyalty has gone unrewarded, and I tire of the backstabbing. Besides, attempting to kidnap the Prince? That was such a low blow that I do not even know where to begin. I always thought of John as a fair and worthy adversary. In contrast, Amante is a stain on the earth and I wish him gone. I order my own men to open fire on the Spanish as some attempt to turn and ride at us. I peer through the smoke raised by the gunpowder, trying to see where Amante had got to. I have no intentions of allowing him to slip through my fingers if I can help it.}

 


Father Ryan‏@FatherPRyan14

*Watches as the Spanish patrol that rescued Amante are cut down to size by John’s men, and the Spanish riding behind them. Well now, this is a turn up for the books. The Spanish are firing on the Spanish. I never saw that coming. From the look on John’s face, he did. Looks like he recognises that second banner. Friendly Spanish? Will wonders never cease. Maybe that’s why they were following us without attacking. Or maybe they were using us as a way to find Amante. Whatever the truth, seems our guardian angels were working overtime this last couple of days, and long may that continue.*


Captain Amaia‏@BlackBasque201623

 

Return from the siege!

Battle fatigue has rendered my body incapable of little more than sliding from my horse as I arrive at Elvas fort. Dismounting I pass the reins of my horse to a stable boy with half a smile walking wearily into the inner keep. I bring news of the siege to John, my King our troops have breached the out walls of the Spanish held fort. I as descend the stone stairs to the billets and enter my quarter’s I slump onto a chair in front of a fire. My muscular aching legs crossed at the ankles stretched out in front of me, which are wracked with pain from and combat.

My face is drawn with the strain of responsibility splattered with blood and mud. I thank the Lord for this respite away from the carnage near the breached wall. Reflecting on my luck, I pull off my gloves, dropping them to the floor, sinking further back into the chair, thankful to be alive. The images in my mind disturbed me my head pounds with the sound of cannon, I sit up abruptly leaning forward resting my elbows on the leather-clad knees, which are infused with the putrefying stench of war. These horrific images of death etched in my brain forever, as once seen never forgotten I am responsible for maiming and killing so many and the bitterness of blood remains in my mouth. We fought side to side, shoulder to shoulder as brave men fell all around us their screams melded with the roar of cannon as we breached the outer defensive wall of Badajoz fort.

The aroma of death hung like a putrid cloud over bodies left to rot where they fell, black crows land in a flurry of obsidian wings their grasping claws sink deep into the bodies while their sharp curved beaks stripped the flesh from the bones of the grotesque corpses. I Stand attempting to shake the memories from my mind. Straightening up stretching the tense muscles of my torso fists clenched I roll my head from side to side the stiffness easing. I bend my sword arm at the elbow supporting it

with my hand and pull it across my chest groaning with the pain as mighty shoulders click back into place. I heave a sigh, as much as I would like to stay next to the fire now I must make haste to the meeting room and brief my king

Continues on the page (11) (2) Birth Death & War!