the journey to Castille went smoothly enough. Well. Esmeralda had decided to follow us and we finally decided to take her with us because the only way we could have gotten her to go back probably would have been unconscious or in chains. When we reached the river, Logan persuaded a Vodacce captain to take us to Castille and we landed a few miles west of Altamira.
But if I had ever really thought that this would be the simple there and back again jaunt the others had tried to convince me it would be, I was quickly brought back to reality when Esmeralda froze in her tracks on the small hilltop she had just climbed. Moments later a group of about thirty horsemen appeared, many of them well-armed with muskets, and led by Don Gabriel.
I cannot say I was exactly surprised to see him. He has always had this knack of being where you least want him to be. The sight of Juan next to him, wearing an Inquisitor’s robes, was a much nastier shock, I felt like my breath had been knocked out of me. You had told me that he had become more and more fanatical, but this I did not expect. I ignored him, concentrating on Gabriel – because Gabriel clearly was the leader in this ambush and because I honestly had no idea what to say to Juan. Not that we found it easy to talk to each other at the best of times, but now? What do I say to my son who apparently hates me so much that he wants to see me dead?
But the Inquisition is nothing if not methodical so we were lock up in cages and taken away, further west. Gabriel took a few men and, as he told me, went to pay his compliments to you. At least, I told myself, he had not captured you yet. It did not do much to put my mind at rest. Juan and his men stayed with us. Locked up with us was Lucani, posing as a Vodacce sailor and Logan’s personal servant (to Logan’s delight) – he has his own agenda in this. No-one but Logan knew exactly who he was at the time and I certainly was not paying much attention. Juan had ridden close enough to speak to me and he said that he intended to end the curse that I had brought over the family with my crimes. A curse that had already claimed his wife and son, who had died in a fire. I was shocked to hear this, I had had no idea Constanza and Juanito were dead. But before I could say anything, a shot rang out and the horse drawing the wagon Lucia and Esmeralda were transported on collapsed – as did several of the guards.
All this the work of none other than El Vago who fled, pursued by Juan and his men. Or rather who lured them away. Alain had used the confusion to open the lock of our cage and we made quick work of the guards that were left. El Vago’s men took us with them, to their hiding place in a small, well-hidden canyon. It seems to be a permanent camp and a place where people can stay who have need to disappear for a while. And here I had the next surprise of this long night: Marisol. I would have rather expected to see her cheering Juan on, but apparently she has had a change of heart. I had not thought that I would ever see her again, much less hold her while she cried and apologised. I had my own apologies to make and and was some time until we felt we could let go of each other.
I got to meet her daughters – the last time I had seen Carmen, she was still a baby and Elisa I only knew from your letters. Marisol and I talked long into the night. When I asked her about you and about Constanza, she said I should wait for El Vago to return. Which I did, with less than my usual patience.
When El Vago returned, Logan had joined us, the others had gone to bed to get at least a few hours of sleep. As it turned out, this incarnation of El Vago was Constanza. At the time, I felt a it too overwhelmed by everything that had happened to muster any real surprise at this. Constanza has always been a headstrong woman who did what she wanted, so the role of El Vago fits her well.
Juan had alienated her with his fanaticism, up to a point where she feared for her live and for that of Juanito. So she had faked her own death to escape – I cannot say I blame her, although this seems to be what has pushed Juan finally into the arms of the Inquisition. But I think he would have ended there in any case.
No-one knew where you and Alba had gone, so I made a guess: the old Numian tower where we used to meet when we needed time away from our families and did not want anyone to find us. So that is where we went, accompanied by Esmeralda and Lucani. Constanza and the rest of Los Vagos had their own matters to attend to.
I did guess right, but we were a few hours too late. Logan could tell me as much by the time we had climb halfway up the hill to the tower by the tracks he found on the ground: hooves and the tracks of people forced to walk against their will. I ran the rest of the way, hoping that Logan was wrong, but all I found in the tower were signs of a fight and a huge bloodstain on the floor.
I felt like someone had stabbed me as well, my knees gave way and I had to fight just to breathe. Logan roughly reminded me that if I gave up hope now, you were certainly lost and he was right, of course. But in that moment, it simply went over my strength to keep believing that I would find you and Alba. Logan’s observation that the bloodstain was right at the entrance, where someone defending themselves would meet an attacker, did a lot to get me back on my feet again. You always had a way with knives.
So we left the tower, joined our friends again and set out to hunt.