Starlight Dreams

 

 

 

 

Chapter Twenty-One

Another Rescue

 

“I know what Grandfather said, Bernardo, but I think that Zorro should be out there to make sure everything is going all right,” Jandro said, pacing in the tiny confines of the secret room.   Since they had returned from the starship and their visit with his father, he had been wrestling with the fact that he should be out there tonight—that Zorro should be out there to make sure that Father was safe.

The mozo tapped him on the arm and then signed.  ‘Zorro does not need to go out every night and for every possible reason.’

“What better reason than that one of the most influential members of the area has been missing for more than three days?” Jandro argued.  “Wouldn’t Zorro be out if it had been Don Cornelio or Don Miguel that were missing for that long?”  The boy and the man stared at each other.  “Bernardo, the most important reason is that it’s Father.  I cannot do anything as Jandro, but I can as Zorro.”

‘Zorro is not just a disguise.  Zorro is a dangerous responsibility,’ Bernardo pointed out.  ‘Your father knew it would be dangerous when he began fighting as Zorro, but I do not think even he realized just how dangerous.’ 

Jandro watched carefully, and felt that he understood what the older man was telling him.  He sighed.  “I . . . I think I know that.  I have to admit, it was exciting last night.  I felt a rush.”  Jandro paused and looked down at the floor.  “But I know that things can go wrong.  I was out there with Father.  I saw his blood.  I know it can be dangerous, Bernardo,” he said softly, fervently, looking into the servant’s eyes.  

Bernardo nodded, sighing.  ‘Only go out during the time that Don Diego is out there.’

“I understand and I will try to get some sleep, but I want to be near the mission before sunrise,” Jandro responded.   

The mozo nodded again.  ‘I will wake you in time.’

“Thank you for understanding, Bernardo,” Jandro said. 

Smiling, Bernardo signed, ‘I have been doing this for fifteen years.  I understand perfectly.  I also understand that you are Don Diego’s son.  You have his courage and his sense of justice.’ 

“I appreciate that, Bernardo.  That is a great compliment.”  Then Jandro grinned.  “I cannot wait to see Father’s face.”

‘Off to bed with you, you scamp!’ Bernardo admonished the boy with a smile of his own.  As the boy left the room, the old servant shook his head.  Only fifteen years ago, he thought.  Only fifteen years ago since this own boy’s father had grinned at him in just the same way, just before going out into the dark night against Monastario.

 

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Minta stared through the view screen as the ship slowly lifted off.  She watched Diego’s shadowy form as he stood against the gnarled trunk of the old oak for the few seconds that it took the ship to rise high enough from the ground to ignite the main thrusters.  It was less than an hour before the light of dawn would reveal the shuttle and they still had to make the trip to the mission.  Minta was grateful that they were just a short distance from the church.  It wouldn’t take long for the Indian searchers to find Diego. 

While her heart seemed to race in fear for her beloved, she kept reminding herself that everything would go smoothly and within a couple of hours at the most, Diego would be safe in the mission.  Still her heart hammered, her anxiety refusing to be mollified.

She felt a comforting touch on her arm.  “He will be fine, Minta,” Jerintas said as he stood beside her.  “He is determined.” 

Minta turned to her stalwart mentor.  If she could imagine what having a brother would be like, she could only think of the last twelve years and know.  And yet, she sometimes thought of him like she imagined a father would be.  She remembered her last visit so many years ago, and how Don Alejandro had been after he had warmed to her.  Jerintas was like that, too, sometimes.   Right now, she felt she needed all the comfort she could get.  “I can hear the worry in your voice.  Diego is still very weak, so very vulnerable.”

“Yes, I worry.  He should have stayed on the ship for a few more days, but I would have expected no less,” Jerintas said with a sigh.  “He has taken enough pain medication to last for several more hours.  By then, he will be safe in the mission.”

“Yes,” Minta said.  She shivered in her anxiety.  Then she felt Jerintas’ strong arms around her.

“Are you cold?” he asked.

“No, just afraid for Diego.  I appreciate what you are doing for me and Diego and the children,” she answered.

“I would do anything for you,” he murmured.  The shuttle’s thrusters drowned out any other words.

Within minutes the little shuttle touched down, almost in sight of the mission.  She and Jerintas stepped through the airlock into the crispness of the early morning.  Slight tendrils of gold and red touched the eastern hills and the pair quickly moved away from the ship to allow it to lift off. 

They walked briskly to the mission, slipping into the church.  She prayed briefly and lit a candle for Diego.  Jerintas followed at a discreet distance. 

“My child,” a soft voice said from nearby. 

She turned and saw Father Felipe.  Quickly she joined him where he sat on a pew not too far away.  Jerintas sat next to her, nodding deferentially to the priest in greeting.  The flickering of the candle was reflected in Father Felipe’s clouded eyes, making him seem almost sad.  “Diego is ready, Padre,” Minta said. 

“Good.  That is very good,” he said with a smile.  “How is he?”

“Still weak, but thanks to the doctors, he is well enough to try to pull off this scheme of ours,” Jerintas said softly, gazing around at the dark vaulted ceilings of the chapel.  

ˇGracias está al Dios!” the priest exclaimed.  It is almost light enough to send several of my children out to look for him.  You two stay here and wait while I take care of that and then we can talk.”

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Jandro rode away from the mission in the direction of the eastern hills, the sun shining fully in his face.  His heart was constricted with fear.  Father had not been found yet and Mother was almost beside herself.  Squinting, he peered into the distance, seeing rocks, trees and a great deal of brush that might hide a man, even one that didn’t want to be hidden.  However, that didn’t negate the fact that his father, still recovering from a life-threatening wound, had been out in the chill and damp of the early morning for almost four hours.  The neophytes that had been sent out to search had come back with reports of having seen nothing, and of course, their word had to be accepted as they could not be let in on the secret of his father’s return. 

So when he showed up at the mission several hours after dawn, his journey having been delayed by overzealous lancers giving him chase, he was greeted by the concerns of his mother, Jerintas and Father Felipe.  The priest had perused him anxiously, while his mother had gasped slightly in shock before regaining her composure.  Following their directions he had found the grove of oaks where his father had been left, but their density, along with the sporadically heavy ground cover and the persistent foggy mist made him see why even the Indians might have had problems locating Father.  And they didn’t have the benefit of specific directions either.  Father must have become confused and tried to find the mission himself.  Carefully, slowly, he guided Tornado between the trees, giving the stallion plenty of time to pull in the scents of the place.  The ebony horse’s ears swiveled back and forth, his nostrils quivered and he pawed at the hard ground.  After they had been looking for what Jandro estimated to be about a half an hour, most of the foggy mist had burned off. 

Tornado suddenly jerked his head around and whinnied.  Jandro slackened the reins and the stallion trotted toward another small stand of trees a quarter of a mile distant.  As the remaining mist stubbornly continued to snake its tendrils around a few of the old trees, the form of a man came to the boy’s view.  Father!  It was Father!  Jandro quickly dismounted and rushed to the injured man’s side.  The sun fell over his shoulder and bedazzled his father, who seemed to be taking a long time to wake up.  Father blinked at him, and then, as full awareness returned, he gaped at him. 

“El . . . Zorro!” Father stammered, lucid enough to keep up pretenses. 

Jandro nodded.  Father gazed at him, his eyes widening in shock.  

“I am very glad that you found me.  This cursed injury has made it hard to do anything, much less find help.” 

Padre Felipe was worried and sent me to help in the search,” Jandro said.  “Are you all right?”

Father had a bemused look on his face and then he began to chuckle, holding his stomach as he laughed.  Finally, he gained a measure of control and smiled at Jandro, who was gazing at him with a puzzled look on his face.  Seńor Zorro, I cannot explain my amusement right now, but we will definitely have to have a talk …later,” Father explained.  “But I am all right, just cold and stiff and tired . . .of being tired.” 

Diego sat in the morning sun gazing at the shadowed face of his son, astonished at how much the twelve-year-old resembled him.  With a sigh, he reached up with his free hand and grasped at the bark of the tree, pulling himself up to a standing position.  Jandro grasped him around the shoulders and helped.  Diego let the sun warm his face before he tried to move. 

“The Mission is just over the far hill.  Do you think you can mount Tornado . . . Don Diego?” Jandro asked. 

Diego considered the question as well as the discretion of his son as he portrayed the role that had become such an intrinsic part of his own heart and soul.  He thought that this son of his would someday be taking his place, doing what he had been doing for the past fifteen years.  Then he pushed all consideration of Alejandro’s succession to the role of Zorro aside, thinking only of the present.  “I am not sure, but I’m willing to try.  I do not think I can walk very far.”

“It appears that you already have,” the young Zorro quipped.  Diego just smiled.

Grunting as he lifted his foot into the stirrup, Diego allowed Jandro to give him an extra boost into the saddle.  Diego slid back and as the black clad youth mounted in front of him, he rubbed the sore muscles of his abdomen, trying to ease the throbbing that the recent exertion had brought on.  For his part, Jandro kept Tornado to a slow walk all the way to the mission.  Diego allowed himself to relax in the saddle and move with the steady, slow and even rhythm of the horse’s steps, leaning against his son’s warm back, his right arm wrapped around Alejandro’s slender waist as they slowly rode down the trail.  Well before they reached the door of the chapel, the bell rang, announcing their arrival.  Father Felipe, several novice priests, some Indians, Jerintas and Minta rushed out the door. 

Diego almost forgot that he was supposed to be seeing Minta for the first time, but caught himself and dissembled again, acting surprised.  “Minta!” he cried out as they approached the mission.  “You have come back!”  He did not have to ‘act’ out his pleasure at seeing her. As Father Felipe and one of the Indians helped him off the back of the horse, she stood near the priest’s elbow and when he was safely on the ground, she took him in her arms and hugged him tightly, as though she really had not seen him for twelve years.  Her attention was not entirely unappreciated either and he wrapped his free arm around her as well, feeling her warmth, and the beat of her heart against his chest.  He ignored the lethargy that enveloped him as he reveled in the feel of his beloved against his body. 

“I must go now,” Zorro announced as he mounted.  Vaya con Dios,” he said, gently nudging the stallion and breaking into a gallop toward the far hills. 

Feeling the beginning of shakiness in his legs, Diego pulled back slightly, but still kept his arm around Minta’s shoulder.  Father Felipe was immediately at his other side and they helped him into the church.  By the time they had reached the infirmary, Diego was ready to lie in the leather-latticed bed and sleep until doomsday.  The last thing he remembered after Father Felipe and Jerintas had briefly examined him was Minta’s kiss and a blanket covering him.  Then there was nothing.

 

 

Chapter Twenty-two
Chapter One
Zorro Contents
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