Chapter 37: Let The Game Unfold
The thankfully uneventful voyage came to an end, after seven days of continuous sailing, when the ship threw anchors in the shallow waters of the Spanish harbors. Bidding farewell to Andrea and her very hospitable crew, I disembarked the gigantic ship.
Upon the meeting of solid ground with my feet, I sent out a thankful prayer. I by no means am one of those people who are afraid of the sea, but my time in the waters was none too pleasant to desire an extended stay in the sea.
The only plan I had in mind when I left Estercrest was to make it to the Spanish lands in one piece. Now that I was where I intended to be, I had to contemplate on what my next action was to be, and be quick with that.
The book I had gone through during my time at Vincent’s house had little to no information about the whereabouts of Señor Alonzo Gritti. However, it did say that Señor’s childhood friend and partner in business, Señor Jon Carlo carries out his business of slave trading in the biggest market around the only port in the Spanish territory. I had a strong feeling that this friend would lead me straight to Gritti, and I planned to act accordingly.
Adjusting the cloak hood over my head, gathering the excessive clothing in my hands and pulling up my skirt a tad bit, I began the trek through the rocky grounds of the port. I slowed down upon reaching the area occupied by numerous carriages; available for hire. I came to a stop near the first carriage I stepped in to the vicinity of. Bartering a deal, I paid the carriage driver in full. The payment was sponsored by one of the pouches I had obtained from the pirate ship.
With a hundred gold coins clinking in his pocket the carriage driver did not see it necessary to stall my journey, and immediately hopped on the seating at the rear of the horse. Sounds of whips hitting flesh accompanied by neighing of the horse rose into the air before the carriage set into motion.
Within no time the carriage was slowing down, as large crowds marking the market area provided slim to none space for the passing of it. The driver tried to move the pedestrians out of his way by angry shouts and curses in order to keep moving the carriage, but I prevented him from doing so; not wanting to create any scene and garner unwanted attention, and simply stepped out of the carriage. Thanking the man for his services, I continued on foot.
My gender did not allow me to boldly execute the plan I had spinning in my mind. Hence the first task I took upon me was to locate a clothing shop, and purchase a pair of pants, boots and a shirt specified for males. Spotting a few feet of empty space, between two not so busy shabby looking buildings, doused in darkness I recognized the opportunity, and went ahead to avail it. Taking a quick look around I hurriedly slipped into the arms of darkness and undressed. With quite a bit practiced maneuvers I pulled on the shirt followed by velvet pants that got tucked in the pair of leather boots at the cuffs. The shirt fit rather snugly over the area of my breasts, but thankfully the cloak I pulled over the outfit hid everything well.
Once again adjusting the cloak over my head to leave minimum of my face for the sight of the passersby I stepped out of the darkness and became one with the crowd. I walked behind a large group of men; close enough to be seen as a part of their party, and far enough for them to not be suspicious of me. By eyeing the grandeur of each man’s dressing and direction of their walk I was more or less certain where they were headed to; the slave trade. I was not wrong at all in my assumptions. Without any hindrance the party led the way to the largest auctioning of slaves going on in the area.
Wooden structure covered with dry hay was doing the work of a roof, supported by thick date tree trunks. Under the temporary sanctuary set up to battle the intense heat of sun, towards one corner a stage made up of cheap rusting wood was set up. On the stage stood proud owners pulling on the iron chains hanging around the necks of their slaves. Middle aged men with multiple layers of fat covering their structures stepped forward one by one and named the price of their slaves. The slaves regardless of their gender, age, or shape were dragged around and showcased. Mostly male, the buyers would inspect the slaves and place their bid. The one bidding the highest would take away the slaves.
My heart constricted at the sight of the malnourished, helpless slaves chained with utmost brutality. Men and woman alike were dressed in rags; put on display their whipped and mercilessly beaten bodies. Frail bodies of men and women with graying hair were dragged around just as those of young children who could barely stand up for themselves. Dirt and mud caked the bodies and scarce clothing of the humans labeled as slaves. Crying, adolescent children were ripped off the arms of their sobbing mothers and sold by the ruthless masters, who were not deserving of being called humans.
My blood boiled with rage. Had it been possible fire and smoke would have been leaving my nostrils. I was enraged at the inhumane acts taking place all around me, but could not offer much in form of help to anyone in need. I was one and they were thousands who I wanted to rebel against. Inhaling deeply in the hopes of somewhat calming myself, I followed through with what little I could do.
Save few coins I used all the jewels and coins I had on me to purchase two girls aging between six and ten, one boy lying around the age of five years, one old man with grey hair, and two women aged around fifty. Taking their chains in my hands I led them out of the market area. Seeing the crowd thinning I came to a halt, and began to work on divesting my companions of the chains weighing their weak frames down. Upon seeing their confused and fearful eyes I gave them a reassuring smile, and went on to reassure them that they would come to no further harm. When the chains were no longer an issue I pulled out the pouch tucked under the belt around my waist. Handing the pouch to the elder male, I told the party they were free to go. Without another word I collected the iron chains in my arms and walked away leaving the six now free humans in a state of bafflement.
Chains in arms, I walked back and forth in the market till I located a blacksmith in business. The chains sold for just enough money to let me buy a bow and a quiver stocked with exactly seven arrows. With arms at ready it was time for me to act upon my plan.
During the auctioning I might have been pained seeing so many in distress, but that had not prevented me from doing what I had intended to. I had kept my eyes and ear on alert to pick up any information on Jon Carlo. It turned out to be a task easier than expected. Almost everyone knew Senor Carlo, and gossiped about him sending pointed looks his way. I paid attention just long enough to memorize his features, before turning away.
With quick, determined steps I headed away from the market through the one and only available route. Making certain I had put enough distance between the crowd and myself to have no peers at the moment, I picked a suitable tree and climbed up. Securing my footing on a high and stable branch I sat; hence began the waiting game.
Six arrows safely resting in the quiver supported against my back, one arrow strung in the bow I aimed for the head of my prey. In usual cases I refrained from spillage of unnecessary blood, but at this point I would not endanger the life of my baby by showing mercy which is taken by most as weakness. The sun was hastily sinking below the seas when Senor Carlos appeared in my sight along his procession. Seated on the back of a glorious stallion, Senor rode in the front while behind him two slaves tugged a giant cage placed on a four wheeled trolley. The cage homed around six female slaves all of different ethnicity. Two armed guards rode parallel to the cage; one on each side, while two guards on horse backs brought up the rear of the progression.
I wanted to be as stealthy as possible. I waited on the progression to move ahead of the tree I was perched on. Once everyone had moved forward I aimed, and released the arrow. With a faint swoosh the arrow embedded itself into the back of the guard’s skull. With delay of no more than a couple of movements, I shot another arrow that found home in the second guard’s chest, piercing his heart. Reloading the bow with two arrows simultaneously this time, I made the shot for the remaining two riders. Within one moment from the release of the arrows from my bow, the guards slid of their horses and fell to their death. By this point chaos had taken over the ones still breathing. The slaves pulling forward the cage stilled, looking around with fear instilled eyes while the one caged screamed with fear. A confused Jon Carlo wielded a sword, searching for his enemy.
In another time I would have loved the challenge, but in this moment I had to let it pass for one very innocent life depended on my survival and wellbeing. Leaving two arrows spare, I aimed and let loose one that stuck into Senor’s right arm. The sword dropped with a clatter to the ground closely followed by a screaming Senor.
I carefully jumped to the ground, and ran to where a dead soldier lay. Pulling out his sword, I gracefully made my way towards the man whimpering with the intensity of pain. Hatred shone in my eyes as I bent down slightly and snapped the rear end of the arrow protruding from his arm.
“Who the god damn hell are you?” Senor tried to yell, but miserably failed.
Instead of offering him a plausible answer, I used my foot to push the now broken arrow further into the man’s flesh. He screamed and hurled profanities at me which did nothing to stop me, but made me press the arrow harder. Taking almost completely the pressure off his wound, I pressed the pointy end of the sword into his manhood hard enough to draw a few droplets of blood. He cursed. I kicked his jaw harshly to make him shut up.
“Open the cage, and leave. All of you are free as of now.” I addressed the duo of slaves standing near the cage. They gave me blessings and sent smiles my way which I returned with one of my own, before turning to the man at my mercy.
“You, Senor, are going to lead me to the dearest of your entire friends, Alonzo Gritti.”
He opened his mouth to say something. Before any words escaped his lips I kicked him in his manhood with a great force. He howled in pain while his skin turned pale as he tried to deal with the pain.
“Senor, I advise you to not try and make things difficult for yourself. If you do not agree to my orders, I will cut your manhood off piece by piece, and the chances are I would feed it to you as well. Hence, make it easy for yourself and lead the way. What do you reckon?”
“Alright, alright, I will take you to Gritti, if you let me live and do not harm me anymore.”
“You got yourself a deal, Senor.” I said with a triumphant smile.