Swordsman's Revenge

 

 

 

Part Three

 

   

Young voices brought him from his hazy and dream-filled state.  Zorro felt he wasn't pulling enough air into his lungs, but was unable to do anything about it.  "Hernando, I tell you it is El Zorro.  He must be hurt."  Tornado backed up from the boys and snorted. 

"Juan, his horse will not let us approach."  The boy called out to Zorro. "Señor, can you hear us?  We only want to help you." Zorro heard the second boy try to get closer, talking soothingly to Tornado.  Good for you, muchacho, Zorro thought dreamily. That is the way to do it.   

"Easy boy, easy," the boy murmured, as he stroked Tornado's nose.  Tornado stood still as the boy walked around him and checked on Zorro. Putting his hand on the outlaw's neck, he exclaimed, "By the Saints, his heart is beating so slowly!  We must get him down."   

"Hernando, what is wrong with Señor Zorro?" a third voice asked, but Hernando was too busy to answer.  He had a small knife out and cut the rope holding Zorro on Tornado.  As he hit the ground, Zorro felt no pain.  His relaxed state and the boy helping to stop his fall prevented that.  Tornado danced to one side and then reached down to nuzzle his master.   

"Juan, he is like one dead.  I have never seen a living being so lifeless," Hernando said in amazement.  Zorro felt his consciousness slip in and out like gossamer bits of clouds on a clear day.  He knew someone was administering to him, but felt himself floating away, without being able to understand what was going on.  All conscious thought finally slipped into oblivion.   

"Hernando, is he dying?" Greco asked quietly.  He looked fearfully at the limp outlaw.   

"I say we find out who he is," Juan reached for the mask.  Hernando caught his friend's hand and shook his head.    

"No, Juan, if he dies, then maybe, but if Zorro wanted people to know who he is, he would not wear a mask," Hernando reasoned.  "He saved my sister from drunken vaqueros not too long ago and I am going to do what I can to help him."    

"But what about the robbery?  They said Zorro almost killed the hacendado, and attacked his wife." Greco commented.  

Hernando ignored the comment, even though the incident had puzzled and concerned him.  Whatever had happened, he could simply not believe that Zorro would do such a thing.  There had to be some explanation.  Perhaps when Zorro was better he could explain.  "Who will help me take him to our cave?"  Both of his friends were soon helping him carry the unconscious man to a little cave the boys called their own.  It had been Juan's home since his parents died.  His friends visited and brought small amounts of food and supplies to him each day, usually during the early morning hours.   This night the boys had camped out together.   

As the young men were carrying Zorro into the cave, Bernardo was just coming over the ridge and onto the beach.  Tornado whinnied from near the entrance of the cave.  Puzzled, Bernardo left his mare near the stallion and slowly made his way to the entrance, where he was met by a twelve-year-old boy brandishing Zorro's sword in his face. Putting his hands up in the attitude of surrender, Bernardo signed his disability to the young man.  ‘Zorro needs help,’ he further signed.  ‘Let me help, please.’   

Hernando looked in the eyes of the moon-faced deaf-mute and saw only concern.  He motioned for the man to follow him to where the outlaw lay.  Bernardo knelt down next to his patrón and checked him over, finding no discernible wounds.  The gang of bandits had mentioned a poison in a calabash, which would explain the limpness and weak heartbeat.  In his inspection, he found the dart that Zorro had placed in his sash and examined it by the light of a candle, without touching the residue of poison on the end.  A dart with poison.  The manservant felt he should remember something.   Something important.  

Then he did remember.  Curare!  Don Diego had been reading a book that talked about South American Indians, and had shown it to him.  Curare was a poison they used to hunt animals.  The Indians used blowguns and the darts to shoot animals from the tall trees.  It was reported to be deadly and quick. 

One of the boys reached for the dart and Bernardo slapped his hand away.  He quickly put it down and signed so the boys would understand the danger.  ‘No!  It is poison.  It is what made Zorro sick.’  They seemed to understand most of what he was trying to tell them.  Bernardo then noticed that his patrón didn't seem to be breathing well, and deduced from what he had read in Don Diego’s book that the muscles controlling his lungs must have been partially paralyzed.  Taking off his master's hat, he tried various positions, finally finding one that enabled Zorro to breath a bit better.  Then he sat down next to him to wait for the poison to wear off.  He signed to the boys to take turns watching the entrance of the cave in case anyone tried to approach.    

Hours later, as the sun was making its journey above the eastern hills, Bernardo noticed that Don Diego's breathing seemed to be deeper, and checking, he found that his heartbeat was stronger as well.  Sighing in relief, Bernardo signed to the boys that he thought the poison was wearing off.

One of the boys, the one named Hernando also sighed in relief.  He saw how tired the deaf-mute was and made signs to indicate sleeping.   At first the man shook his head, indicating that he would stay by Zorro.  ‘I can watch him for a short while,’ Hernando insisted, using hand signs to get his point across.  ‘I will let nothing happen to el Zorro.’

‘You will wake me if anything happens?’ Bernardo signed.

Hernando nodded. 

Bernardo was tired.  It had been a long and stressful night.  He saw sincerity in the boy’s eyes and acquiesced, lying down right beside his master.   Soon he had drifted off into a light sleep. 

                                                                          

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Zorro's dream of gliding through the ocean slowly changed to wakefulness in a cave that echoed with the crashing of the surf on the shore.  He smelled a fire and something being cooked.  Fish?  Trying to turn his head a bit, he felt no success.  When his double had said 'meet your worst nightmare,' he had been right.  Zorro's thoughts kept returning to the overwhelming desire to be able to move any part of his body.  It was an agony.  Yelling mentally at his hand to move or his tongue to work was torture.  The disappointment when nothing happened was excruciating.  Sweat rolled down his face from the effort to move just one finger.  He thought what a pleasure it would be at a future time to be able to get his fingers around the neck of his enemy and show him what they could do.  But now?  Concentration!  Intense concentration.  Finally he was able to turn his head a bit, and sighing, he saw Bernardo sleeping beside him.   

He only rested for a moment.  He had to get control of his body.   Fingers move!!  Sweat rolled into his eyes and he blinked trying to clear his vision.  A boy came in his line of sight and looked into his eyes, smiling when he saw the outlaw awake and gazing at him.  The boy whispered if he wanted something to drink.  He thought it was the same boy who had overcome Tornado’s shyness, but as yet Zorro was unable to answer.  The boy frowned a bit, but smiled again when he looked down and saw the outlaw moving his finger.  Again Zorro relaxed for a moment, realizing that the curare should wear off soon.   

A little more than an hour later, Zorro moaned slightly in triumph.  He had finally worked his hand over to Bernardo.   Now he concentrated again and was able to curl his fingers around the manservant's wrist.  Bernardo's eyes flew open and he looked into the exultant eyes of his patrón.  The mozo beamed.  Another hour went by and the curare had worn off enough so that Zorro could sit up with help. 

“Señor Zorro, would you like something to drink?” the boy, Hernando asked. 

This time, Zorro didn’t disappoint him.  “Sí, my friend.  I am very thirsty.”  And he was.  Nothing had ever tasted so good, even if the poison was still enough in his system that some of the cool water ran down his chin. 

By noon, the poison was almost completely out of his system.  Sitting just outside the entrance of the cave with the boys and Bernardo, Zorro answered their questions about the imposter and then he sighed.  "Muchachos, you cannot imagine the agony of not being able to make your body do what you want it to do.  I wish I had that calabash and my impostor in front of me right now."  Watching Tornado run up and down the beach, Zorro suddenly remembered what was tied to the saddle.  Whistling, he carefully walked the short distance to the stallion, where he undid the bag and carried it back up to the cave.  "Behold, this is what is going to hang me unless I figure out how to clear my name."   He mentally laughed at the thought that he already could be hung for his role as the outlaw, Zorro, but this would make the punishment even more assured.   Pulling out the jewels, he let the boys touch them before putting them back in the bag.   

"But if you did not do those terrible things, then why do you have the Morento's property?" Juan asked, looking askance at the outlaw.   

"I took them from the real thief, the one who has been impersonating me, just after they had shot me with the dart."  Looking at Bernardo, Zorro motioned to him that it was time to go.  "My friends, you have been of great service to me.  I only ask that you wait to judge me when this is all over. I did not steal these, nor did I attack Don Francisco and Doña Anna Marlena."  

"I believe you, Señor Zorro," Hernando said with the simple faith of the young.  The other two boys were silent.  Zorro put the jewels back in the bag and tied it back on the saddle horn.  Mounting, Zorro and Bernardo began their journey back toward the de la Vega hacienda. The outlaw made a flourishing salute to the boys as he left.  It felt very good to be able to do so.

 

 

Chapter Four
Chapter One
Hernando Chronicles Introduction
Zorro Contents
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