Last week’s [Fiction] Friday was to use the word “intaglio” (without having looked it up). As is my habit, I went with a Captain Juan adventure. It appears the Captain not only has sea legs, but a taste for exploration, and has wound up on two other blogs, with a story line that provides an explanation of how he came to be where he was in my last [Fiction] Friday. Annie started it with a different interpretation of “intaglio”, and Jodi continued the story with a dark twist to the character. And now I’ve been challenged to continue it, so here we go!
“My Lord DeLume, I swear that this is the social event of the season!” The Marquis DeLume smiled, and bowed slightly. The Dowager Duchess extended her hand, and DeLume took it gently, kissed it, then stood upright. “Too kind Duchess. Always too kind. You honour us with your patronage.” The Dowager smiled serenely, and strode into the ballroom, her entourage scuttling behind her.
DeLume snapped his fingers, and his man, Tiago, emerged from the shadows and stood beside him. “My Lord?”
“Tiago, are the gates secure?” He nodded curtly. DeLume patted his shoulder and dismissed him. He glanced around the ballroom. The cream of society were assembled, dancing, laughing. Every one of them in that ridiculous new fashion popularised by the younger noblemen. The exquisitely slashed and tattered clothing made by that tailor, what was his name? Solis, that was it. DeLume had seen real swords carve real slashes into clothing. The result was bloody, not fashionable. The closest Solis had ever come to a sword would be his sewing needles.
DeLume shuddered watching the dancing. “Pirates.” He muttered. “They all look like bloody pirates.” It reminded him too much of his past. He picked up a glass of port and swallowed it down. Maybe he should check once again that the gates were secure.
“Presenting his Grace, the Duke Louis deSilva of Castille.”
DeLume turned with a broad grin. Castillian nobility rarely travelled so far without reason, and deSilva was not known to him. Perhaps news from the Royal Court?
On catching site of the Duke, who was warmly greeted by all the minor nobles around him, DeLume’s smile faded. Incredible. The gates were secured. The guests were vetted. All to no avail. He took a deep breath, and stepped forward, unsure of how the situation would play out.
“Your Grace.” He bowed, sharply.
“My Lord DeLume.” The Duke nodded. He waited for DeLume to rise, then smiled. “Might I have a word in private. On a matter of… honour.”
DeLume closed his eyes for a moment. So, this is how it would end. He nodded, and led the Duke to a private anteroom. He entered first, and headed straight for a small cabinet in the wall, containing sherry and port. With shaking hands, he poured a large glass of amontillado, and gulped it down. He heard the door click shut, and the lock being turned.
“So you’ve returned?” DeLume turned round. “Louis deSilva? Castillian too.” DeLume laughed without humour.
“You know why I’m here Diego.”
DeLume sighed. “She’s not here. She hasn’t been here in almost a year. Not since that bastard stole her away.”
There was a slight hiss as hard tempered Toledo steel was drawn across a hardened leather scabbard. The fine point glinted in the candlelight, poised to strike, pointing directly at DeLume’s throat. He made no effort to draw his own sword.
“You aren’t hiding them?”
“No, I’m not.” The sword pointed down to the ground, and the Duke cautiously stepped forward. DeLume licked his lips. “You think I would shield that coward from the fate he deserves? After dishonouring my family?”
The Duke replaced his sword, and began pacing the room. He stopped, reached into his frock coat, and pulled out a scroll that he had taken from a stubborn tailor’s shop. “I have his maps, Diego.”
DeLume’s eyes widened. “How did you… No, best I not know.” The two men looked at each other for a moment, before DeLume spoke again. “Whatever fate is in store for that swine, or me, please, I beg of you. Spare my sister.”
“Diego, I would never harm her! I still…” He cleared his throat, and continued. “After all we have been through together Diego, I never wanted to harm you. I thought you had helped them, I was led to believe that… that you consented to his request.”
“No, I never consented. He took her by force Juan, then he spread rumours that I had given my lawful consent. That consent was only ever for you my brother. The Contessa was deceived by him. He betrayed us all.”
“And he will pay, I swear on my honour.”
“What do you need from me?”
The Duke disappeared, and the fire returned to the eyes of Captain Juan. “An excuse.” He unfurled the map, and jabbed his finger on it. “Van Diemen’s Land. That’s where he is. But with the war, the King will never allow me to go after him. I need you to provide me with an excuse to leave.”
DeLume stared at the map, and the image of his guests popped into his mind. “Pirates. Pirates Juan.” He shook his head and smiled. “I have a contact at the English court, he has the ear of Buckingham, the King’s chief strategist. We’ll spread a rumour that La Gongoozler has been attacking merchant vessels as well as English war ships. The English won’t stand for piracy, and once letters of marque and reprisal are issued against you there won’t be a port that’s safe for La Gongoozler in this hemisphere. The King will have to send you away for your own safety.”
Juan considered the plan. “Agreed. It’s perfect.”
Diego placed his hand on Juan’s shoulder. “You’ll be an outlaw Juan. An accusation of piracy makes you an enemy of mankind, even our allies will be against you. It’s a heavy price.”
Juan smiled. “What is danger when my honour is at stake? Your family’s honour Diego. And her. I would sail to hell and back for her.”
Diego embraced him. “Thank you Juan. Godspeed to you. I pray for calm seas and a good wind. Bring her back safe. And as for him…”
Juan spat on the ground. “Intaglio will never trouble anyone again.”