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Conquest Of Paradise

Chapter Text

“You really should, Villa.”

Francesc Fábregas picks up his cup and starts spinning the red liquid in it. His friend, to whom the words were addressed, shakes his head.

“You know I’m against it, Francesc. If we support it, it will never end.”

“It will never end whether you support it or not,” Francesc replies calmly. “There is a reason for it. It’s a good investment.”

“In what sense is buying a slave a good investment?” Villa frowns.

“Look at your servants. You pay them every week. You feed them, you have them live here. And in the end you have one running away with a few rather valuable things. No chance of catching him, of course, and even if you did, you will have a hard time proving that he stole it, because he obviously already sold all of it.”

“It was one servant. The others I would entrust my life to.”

“Didn’t you say exactly the same thing about that Portuguese boy?” Francesc smirks. “I can’t blame you, he looked really innocent, this... Fábio.”

Villa furrows his brows at the sound of the name.

“If I find him he will regret that he was even born.”

“I doubt you will ever find him. I’d say he’s already on some Portuguese ship heading somewhere he can sell your jewels for more than he could sell them here.”

Francesc puts the cup back on the table and crosses his arms. 

“With a slave, this can never happen to you. It’s much more easier to catch them if they run away, but most likely they never will. Trust me, I know. Besides, you pay once to their owner, to them you pay nothing. Tell me of a better investment.”

“It’s not human. It’s against...”

“The Pope allowed it, Villa!” Francesc laughs. “He encourages it! ‘Saracens, pagans and any other unbelievers can be reduced to slaves’, so it stands in the papal bull. Tell me about humanity, those are not even worth your pity.”

Villa keeps frowning, the wine going bitter in his mouth. He knows that in a way, Francesc is right. He is right because Villa cannot afford another servant to rip him off. Right now, he also cannot afford to pay the money he would have to pay any of the servants he could get in the city, and he for sure isn’t hiring another Portuguese.

“Maybe you’re right,” he sighs finally.

“For sure I’m right. My father has been keeping slaves for years. It works perfectly.”

He looks around him, admiring the decorations of the room. The old maps on the walls, miniatures of ships, shelves full of books and old documents. He knows Villa’s obsession with the sea and everything nautical. A bit strange for someone who hasn’t even go aboard in his life. It’s also his biggest weakness that cost him a lot of money when he financed some voyages that led only to damnation. Francesc tried many times to talk Villa out of supporting those fools who thought they would find some islands made of gold, but without success.

Villa is a fool. Always will be. But maybe that’s why Francesc likes him.

~ ~ ~ 

Villa doesn’t like markets. It’s a paradox, because it’s what he makes his living of. All the foreign merchants need to exchange their coins for the local currency, or people pay them with the transfer orders of funds, so the merchants have to withdraw their money at his place. This all makes him a good profit, and since he made sure the other money changer in this part of the city would be ruined, the merchants now have no other choice than to go to him, no matter how high his rates are.

The slave market is even worse. Villa is ashamed of even setting his foot in there, of becoming a part of it. But he really has no other choice. He needs to save his money somewhere, and he knows well that his friends and business partners, including Cesc, wouldn’t leave him alone until he proved that he is no rebel.

The owner of the slaves is a man in his late forties. Villa has never seen him before, which is strange considering that all the merchants usually come to him before going to the market. But if this one came only to sell, there was no need for him to exchange coins yet. Just from looking at him, Villa would say he is a good businessman. The sparkle in his eyes when he sees a potential customer approaching confirms it.

Villa takes his time, waves the man off when he wants to give him some “good advice”. Those pieces of advice are always good for the seller, not for the customer. Villa actually doesn’t need any advice, because he doesn’t really know what he’s looking for. Anyone who won’t run away with my money.

"This one," he says finally.

The owner blinks in surprise. The one Villa is pointing at is a young boy. He looks tiny compared to the others, even more because of his posture. He’s keeping his head down, like he’s watching something on the ground, but Villa would say that he’s actually focusing on not falling down. It’s well past noon; if he’s been standing there under the merciless sun since morning, he’s probably still on his feet by the pure power of will.

“Are you sure?” the owner asks carefully.

Villa looks at him.

“Are you selling goods or trying to repel customers?” he asks.

“No, no, of course, my lord, I’m not doubting your reasons, whatever they are…”

His voice is ingratiating and slimy. It makes Villa feel sick to the stomach.

“Then don’t. I said I wanted this one. 

The man bows slightly and grabs the boy’s arm. Villa would expect him to startle because he wasn’t looking at them so he couldn’t expect it, but there is no reaction at all. The owner pulls him closer and the boy almost falls. Villa moves unwittingly as if he wanted to catch him, but the boy somehow regains his balance.

“Head up!” the man barks and pushes the boy’s chin up.

It’s then that Villa realizes that the boy’s eyes weren’t lowered. They were closed all the time. Now, for a moment, they open like two dark pools and Villa wants to cross himself, run away or tear his shirt off, all at once. Of course he doesn’t do any of that. He just stands there like he was bewitched. It’s like he’s just seen all the emotions of the world concentrated in those eyes. It’s too much to take and he lowers his eyes. He feels the most insignificant that he’s ever felt in his life. He, David Villa, just lowered his eyes in front of a slave.

“He can be yours for three hundred reals.”

The pragmatism of those words brings him to his senses. He chuckles.

“You cannot be serious.”

“My lord?”

“He’s not worth three hundred reals.”

He gains his confidence. He’s used to dealing with merchants, in fact he’s a merchant himself. The man would be stupid if he didn’t want to rip him off, but he would be stupid if he let himself be ripped off by such barbarian.

“He’s not even worth two hundred,” he adds.

“Two hundred and seventy reals, because you’re a honorable man...”

Villa shakes his head and crosses his arms, inspecting the boy in front of him, careful to avoid his gaze this time.

“One hundred and fifty,” he says.

The man purses his lips.

“I can ensure you, my lord, he’s worth much more than he looks. Two hundred and fifty.”

“I honestly doubt it,” Villa retorts. “Two hundred is my last offer. It’s more than generous.”

The man thinks for a while, then nods curtly.

“He is yours.”

Villa beckons to one of the men responsible for issuing contracts and lets him write a transfer order of funds.

“You can withdraw the money in your own currency tomorrow,” he tells the man.

“Where?” the man asks.

For sure he’s never been here.

“At my house,” Villa replies calmly. “I am the only money changer in this part of the city.”

~ ~ ~ 

Once the deal is done, Villa doesn’t actually know what to do. He has servants, but only those who work under a contract. Villa is meticulous about contracts. Probably it’s a professional deformation, but he needs to have everything written and signed. He’s never had a slave nor has he ever thought about having one.

He’s not even sure if the boy actually understands him. His face is not of the common ones here after all.

“Do you speak Catalan?” he asks, trying hard to hide his uneasiness. “Or Castellano?”

The boy nods calmly.

“Yes, my lord. Both.”

“Good,” Villa sighs. “What is your name?”

Now the boy looks surprised. Like the fact that Villa wants to know his name astonishes him.

“David, my lord.”

Villa laughs. The boy blinks in surprise.

“We have the same name,” Villa says. “Nobody calls me by my real name, though. They call me Villa.”

There is no reaction from the boy whatsoever. He just keeps marching next to Villa for the whole time it takes them to get to Villa’s house. Normally, Villa would hire a carriage, but he’s so distracted that he only thinks of it when they are two streets away.

~ ~ ~

Villa opens the door and they walk in. They stand in the hall. Villa glances over to the boy, but he doesn’t lift his eyes from the mosaic on the floor.

“Sergio?” Villa calls.

There is no answer. Maybe this is why people keep slaves, Villa thinks. Because if all servants were so carefree like Sergio, people would rather do everything on their own.

“Sergio!”

It’s not until the third, already angry call that a young boy appears on the stairs.

“You called, Señor?” he asks with a wide smile. 

“No, it was probably just the wind that you heard!” Villa snaps.

Instead of apologizing, Sergio’s smile grows wider, and he approaches them, now with certain curiosity. Villa points to David.

“Take him to the kitchen, give him something to eat and... just take care of him. Then show him the house.”

“Excuse me, Señor...” Sergio says hesitantly.

“Was there anything that wasn’t clear in what I just said?” Villa stops him.

“No,” Sergio says. “Sure, I’ll take care of him.”

“I hope so. He cost me two hundred reals.”

Sergio gasps audibly, but then collects himself. He wraps an arm around David’s shoulders in almost a protective way.

“Come with me.”

~ ~ ~

“I’m Sergio,” he says when they reach the kitchen. “You’ve probably heard it already, though. Same as the whole city.”

David gives a small smile but remains silent.

“And your name?”

“David.”

Sergio nods and starts rummaging through the pantries, cursing under his breath.

“It’s that Xavi – that’s the cook – had to leave for two days because his mother was sick, and honestly, I can’t even boil water without doing something wrong, and I don’t know where he puts what, so probably don’t expect a warm meal...”

David gives him a surprised look. He wouldn’t expect a warm meal in his wildest dreams.

“I normally don’t work inside the house,” Sergio continues and David is wondering if he stops talking at least in his sleep. “I take care of the garden and the horses and things like that, but no sane person would ever let me come close to things you can break... oh, maybe there is still some of the pork tarts left... they’re good even cold.”

David’s eyes flicker from Sergio to the equipment of the kitchen, but he doesn’t move an inch.

“You’re not very talkative,” Sergio notes.

“We... we were not allowed to talk unless our master asked us something.”

Sergio gasps and then rolls his eyes. 

“I’m not your master, silly, I’m just a groom.”

He finally finds what he was looking for and after a while also locates a plate. When it lands in front of David, he loses the ability to speak again. First, the serving of what Sergio called ‘pork tart’ is so big that it equals the amount of food David has seen in the last four days. And second, it’s not the food he’s used to seeing on his plate. It’s something he would serve his master as the main course. Under the thin crust of dough, there is chopped meat with some spices. David can feel the tears stinging his eyes.

“Hey!” Sergio’s voice makes him gather his wits a little bit. “I know Xavi’s cooking is like art, but this is for eating, not for staring at.”

David smiles shyly and reaches for the plate hesitantly. Sergio figures staring at him wouldn’t make thing easier, so he turns around and heads to the door.

“I’m going to run you a bath and find you some clothes.”

He’s gone before David can process the words “run a bath”. He looks around carefully and then finally pulls the plate towards him before someone can take it from him.

~ ~ ~ 

When Sergio returns, he finds David on the same spot, but at least the plate is empty. He smiles.

“Was it good?”

David nods, then opens his mouth like he wanted to say something, but closes it again. Sergio chuckles.

“And you haven’t yet tasted Xavi’s chopped liver. Or the pastry he makes every Sunday.”

“What does your master eat?” David asks quietly.

Sergio frowns.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean... when you eat this...”

“He eats the same thing,” Sergio says.

“You can eat the same things as your master?”

“Well, of course!” Sergio laughs. “He couldn’t eat it all by himself, if he did, he’d be really fat already. Xavi always makes plenty. He used to cook for a rich family that had seven children, so...”

David keeps looking at him.

“Oh, the bath!” Sergio says, slapping his own forehead. “Hurry up or it will be cold!”

David bites back a surprised scream. If it’s not meant to be cold, then it has to be warm. He pinches himself, half expecting to wake up on the market. But he is still in the house and there is still Sergio’s voice sounding from the hallway. Maybe, after all, it’s not a dream.

~ ~ ~

Sergio opens one door that leads to an almost empty room. There is a huge tub filled with water. On the table next to it, there is a brush and some soap.

“Don’t drown in there, hey?” Sergio grins. “Looking at you I think you could actually go for a swim in that tub.”

David gives him another of his shy smiles and tests the water with his hand. It is, indeed, warm. 

Sergio leaves him there and goes to search for the clothes which he – again – forgot about. When he returns, David is wrapped in the clean sheet Sergio left for him, damp hair sticking to his forehead. Sergio laughs.

“You look like a drowned mouse,” he says and hands him the clothes. “They’ll probably be a bit bigger because... eh... because they’re mine. I would ask Xavi for some, but as he’s not here...”

When David puts them on, Sergio almost doubles from laughter.

“No, that won’t do!”

He has the impression that he’s looking at a pile of clothes hanging magically in the air, because David is nowhere to be seen under them.

“Well, I really don’t know what to do with them...” he sighs.

“I can make them fit if you have a needle and some thread...” David says.

Sergio blinks in surprise.

“You can sew?”

David nods. Sergio’s jaw drops.

“Oh. I once tried to stitch my shirt and almost lost my eye.”

He takes a few steps towards David and tries to help him to at least roll his sleeves up. He continues talking in the meanwhile.

“You’ll probably have to sleep with me, because there’s no other… good God!”

Sergio grabs David’s hand and turns the inner side of his wrist to him.

“What is this?”

Initially, he had it for a burn, and now he sees that it really is a burn, but definitely not a result of an accident. It has a shape, a symbol Sergio doesn’t recognize.

“That’s a mark,” David replies calmly.

“But... why... what...” Sergio blurts out.

“We all have it. It’s how the master marks his property. It’s like with cows, you know.”

“But... but you’re not a cow!” Sergio almost screams.

David backs up, utterly terrified, and looks around like he expects someone to appear out of the thin air to kill them both on the spot.

“No... I didn’t mean...” Sergio blurts out, gripping David’s shoulders in a desperate attempt to calm him down. “I just wanted to say that you’re human, I mean it’s awful to...”

He sighs exasperatedly.

“Never mind, forget it. I won’t speak about it again, alright?”

David nods timidly. Then he lifts his head and looks at Sergio with wide eyes.

“Does that mean your master won’t do it to me?”

“What? Are you... are you asking me if Villa will... God, no!" 

He has to take a few deep breaths to calm down.

“Well, do you think I can show you around or will you kill yourself tripping over my pants?” he asks then.

~ ~ ~

It takes them a long time to go through the whole house. Sergio himself never thought it was that big until he had to walk through it all at once.

“You don’t have fields?” David asks.

Sergio gives him a confused look.

“Fields? We’re in the city. Villa has some land in the country, but I don’t think he cares about it that much.”

“I’m used to working in the fields,” David says. “What am I going to do here?”

“Well, I don’t know. Villa will tell you. I suppose you’ll be doing Fábio’s work.”

“Who’s Fábio?”

Sergio hesitates.

“He was a servant here.”

“What happened to him?”

On one hand Sergio is glad that the boy has lost some of his initial terror and shyness. On the other, he finds these questions rather difficult to answer. 

“He disappeared.”

“How... disappeared?”

“Like this!” Sergio snaps his fingers. “With a few things that belonged to Villa. It made him terribly angry, I can tell you.”

When they are finally done, Sergio opens the door close to the kitchen.

“That’s my room. And also yours, now. I have to warn you, I’m not a very tidy person.”

“Nobody else will sleep here?” David asks.

“No. Xavi has his own room. He gets up earlier than I do when he bakes bread and so on.”

David blinks again, but doesn’t say anything. The thought of sleeping in an actual bed in a room that he will have almost for himself is too good to be true. 

Sergio rummages through his thing and then pulls out some thread and a needle triumphantly.

“Here!” he says. “You can do something with the clothes now. I’ll just go to check if Villa needs something, and then I have to – somehow – make dinner. Which probably won’t end well.”

He closes the door behind him, leans over the wall and sighs. Then he heads up the stairs to Villa’s room.

~ ~ ~

Villa is sitting in his favorite chair, scribbling something in one of the books that are constantly lying around. When Sergio knocks and enters, he instinctively closes it. Sergio smirks and Villa realizes that he cannot even read.

“Did you show him the house?” Villa asks.

“Yes, Señor.” 

Villa nods and takes a cup and a carafe with wine.

“Señor?” Sergio says quietly. 

“Yes?”

“When his former owner comes for the money, do you think I could make him accidentally slip on a horse’s shit or something?”

“Sergio!” Villa snaps, but the laughter in his voice is badly hidden.

Then he notices that Sergio looks... shaken. Which is not a usual thing.

“What happened?” Villa asks.

“Nothing in particular, but... he thinks of himself as of a cow. Have you seen his wrist?”

Villa nods quietly.

“He also asked me if I got beaten if I didn’t carry your orders right.” 

“You certainly should,” Villa notes with amusement. “But I’m afraid you’d be already dead in that case.”

“And he asked me if you will mark him as well.”

Villa turns around briskly.

“What did you just say?”

Sergio shrugs.

“I don’t know why, but he probably thinks that you’re a monster. I’d say he thinks all the masters are the same. He seems to be utterly terrified of you.”

Villa slumps back in his chair. What, in the name of God, have I gotten into? He makes a mental note to strangle Francesc Fábregas the next time he sees him.

~ ~ ~

When David walks into the kitchen, Sergio is rummaging through the pantries again. He turns around and nods in appreciation when he sees his clothes. They still don’t fit perfectly, but at least he now doesn’t look like a kid trying on his father’s clothing, and isn’t tripping over the trousers anymore.

“Can’t Xavi at least write on things what they are?” Sergio laments. "Though I can't read, so it would be useless anyway."

David gives him a skeptical look.

“What do you want to do with flour, vinegar and milk?” he asks.

“Well, I have no idea. I can’t even cook porridge to save my life.”

“May I...” David asks and moves towards the table.

Sergio hesitates for a while, then nods.

“It can’t be worse than my cooking, can it?”

David smiles and looks around.

“Do you have some meat?”

“There’s pork. At least Xavi said it was pork. I hope it’s not a piece of a horse or something.”

“You can eat horse,” David says calmly. 

“Thank you very much, I prefer chicken.” 

In the next few minutes, David gathers all sorts of ingredients Sergio doesn’t even know. 

“Can I... do at least something?” Sergio asks.

He feels rather stupid and useless.

“You can make salad,” David says. “Cut the apples and onions.”

“What nonsense is that?” Sergio frowns.

“It’s not nonsense, it’s delicious!”

Sergio picks up a knife and takes the first apple.

“Peel it. Don’t chop your fingers off, there’s no meat in the recipe.”

“Oh, so you can joke!” Sergio grins.

In not so long, they – well, David with some pretended help of Sergio - manage to cook some meatballs, the salad that Sergio is still skeptical about, and even some almond pudding as dessert.

“Is there something you can’t do?” Sergio asks, rather frustrated.

David looks at him with doe eyes and shrugs.

“I thought so,” Sergio sighs.

~ ~ ~

Villa looks at Sergio in surprise, laying the cutlery back on the table.

“Did you wake up today with some newly discovered culinary talent, Sergio?”

“No, señor. I only made the salad... well, chopped the apples and onions.”

“Alright. Can I talk to the cook?”

Sergio doesn’t look really convinced about it being a good idea, but he walks out the door and returns a few minutes later, dragging David along. Villa can hear his whispered “he doesn’t want to eat you alive, silly” and sighs.

He still thinks that he’s ready for everything. That is until the boy falls on his knees in front of him. Villa freezes on the spot. Then he glances over to Sergio, who rolls his eyes and shrugs in a silent ‘I told you’.

“For God’s sake, get up!” Villa says.

The boy scrambles to his feet but keeps his head down.

“First, this will not repeat itself,” Villa says calmly but emphatically. “I’m neither God, nor a king.”

David fidgets a little, but stays silent.

“Second, I would like you to look at me when I’m talking to you.”

That is rather a challenging order mainly for himself, but he has to get used to it. David lifts his head slowly and looks at him.

“That’s better,” Villa smiles. “Now, Sergio told me that you had some... doubts as to what concerns your work here.”

Sergio makes a face which suggests that ‘doubts’ is really an understatement.

“For now, you will do whatever is necessary to do. Sergio will tell you. If we have guests, count with helping around the house more.”

“Yes, my lord.”

It is barely a whisper, but at least it’s a reaction.

“Now to your other... doubts. I have no intention of hurting you for no reason. I do not beat my servants up for whatever triviality. In conclusion, David, I’m not a cruel person at all. There’s no reason to fear me.”

The boy nods. Still, Villa is absolutely convinced that he doesn’t share his opinion.

“Oh, and I forgot to tell you...” Villa says and smiles. “The dinner was absolutely delicious.”

“Thank you, my lord.”

“I cannot even tell Xavi or he would get jealous,” Villa chuckles. “I had no idea you could cook.”

“My mother taught me.”

It’s the first thing David actually says which is not a simple answer, and it takes Villa by surprise. He tries to remember if there was a woman at the market, but can’t recall the other slaves at all.

“Your mother... she is...”

“She is dead.”

“Oh. I’m sorry, I didn’t know.”

At least Villa now knows two things. He knows that since the early morning whenever he moves, he puts his foot into something, and he also knows that he suddenly feels uneasy in his own house, and has to figure the situation out as soon as possible.

~ ~ ~

David calms down only when they get back to the kitchen. Sergio has to check the house before going to sleep, and David offers to clean the kitchen. Sergio assumes that he wouldn’t offer it if he didn’t want to do it, and he doesn’t feel like being the one Xavi will blame for the mess, so he accepts.

Sergio practically talks himself into sleep while David stares at the ceiling, his mind too awake to sleep. When there’s only Sergio’s quiet snoring to be heard, he throws his blanket away and gets up.

He creeps out of the room to the dark hallway. There is a door at the end of it. David walks to it and pushes the handle. The door is not locked. It almost startles him. He remembers the room he used to sleep in with the others. The door was always locked for the night. His biggest fear was that there would be a fire one night and he wouldn’t get out.

Then he peeks out. He can feel fresh air. The door leads to the garden. He gulps. There is a fence around the garden, not very high.

He could escape. He certainly could climb over the fence and run away now. He could even get quite far before Sergio or someone else would wake up. But where? Where would he go? And what if they caught him?

Besides that, he considers the situation. It doesn’t seem to be bad at all. Sure, he is still a bit afraid of his new master, even though he seems not to be a bad person. But there is something strange about him that terrifies David. He is not readable like his old master. With him, David always knew when he was going to hit him, when he was in a bad mood and it was better to avoid him, or when on the contrary he could expect an alleviation. Villa looks and talks nicely all the time and David just cannot afford to be lulled into a false sense of security by it.

But he has a bed to sleep in, food to eat and even though he doesn’t allow himself to trust him completely just yet, Sergio looks like a nice guy with a big heart.

He closes the door again and goes back to his room. For now he is staying.

Chapter Text

David wakes up to some noise and shouting coming probably from the kitchen. He sits up quickly and turns his head towards Sergio’s bed. Sergio groans.

“Seems like Xavi is back!” 

In the next moment the door of their room flies open and a short, dark-haired man with an angry face runs in.

“Nothing is where it’s supposed to be, the kitchen is completely... who is this?” he trails off when he sees David.

“Good morning, Xavi!” Sergio grins. “This is David and I think now you really scared him.”

“Did Villa finally find someone to replace the Portuguese thief?” Xavi frowns. “What else happened during my absence, did Carles Puyol find the Eldorado?”

“I don’t think he did, since he’s coming to have dinner with Villa tomorrow,” Sergio laughs. “He would be counting his gold if he did, not having dinner with our fool of a master.”

Sergio glances over to David, who almost hides his head under the blanket at Sergio’s audacious statements about Villa.

“Hey, I didn’t mean it in a bad way,” Sergio says. “Villa is a bit of a dreamer. When you see his cabinet, you will understand.”

“Well, I’m going to make breakfast, I can’t spend all day chatting with you!” Xavi says then. “You can come to eat in a while. Though I’m tempted to let you starve for completely ruining my system of organization.”

“It is probably my fault,” David says quietly. “I wanted to clean the kitchen, but I didn’t know where you put what...”

“Well, it doesn’t matter,” Xavi mutters and waves his hand. “I needed to check what we need to buy anyways.”

When he’s gone, Sergio laughs.

“So, this was Xavi,” he says. “I know he looks like he’s constantly angry, but somewhere deep, very deep inside, he’s a nice boy, I swear.”

He walks over to a basin filled with water and splashes it over his face. David joins him hesitantly.

“Who is Carles Puyol?” he asks.

Sergio’s brows shoot up in surprise.

“You don’t know Carles Puyol?” he laughs.

David shakes his head. 

“Ah, I forgot you’re not from here. Otherwise you would know, the whole city speaks about him. He’s a... how do you say it... navigator. Means he sails his ship somewhere he believes he will find some land nobody’s ever been to, and become rich. Until now, though, he’s discovered nothing, and most people laugh at him.”

“And what did you mean with your... our master being a dreamer?”

“Nothing more and nothing less than that he believes in all those fools, and especially Puyol. He gives them money for their explorations and hopes to get something from the treasure they will find. Mostly they don’t find anything, in the better case. In the worse their ship sinks somewhere and Villa’s money goes down with it.” 

“He has to be really rich, then,” David wonders. “With such a big house and so much money...”

“Yes, he’s rich, but there are people much richer,” Sergio says. “Your old master... wasn’t rich?”

“He is a farmer,” David says.

“Well, I think you will be almost bored here,” Sergio smiles. “In our garden there are mostly herbs, and Xavi doesn’t want anyone to touch them anyways.”

They go to the kitchen where Xavi has already prepared breakfast. They sit around the table and Sergio looks delighted at the sight of the freshly baked bread.

“How is your mother doing, Xavi?” Sergio asks when the silence between them becomes too awkward.

“Better. It was probably just some cold. But my mother gets pricked by a thorn and thinks she’s going to die, you know.”

Xavi gets up and starts preparing Villa’s breakfast on a platter. Sergio sighs.

“I should go to feed the horses,” he says, gets up and looks at David. “Do you think you can bring the breakfast to Villa, or are you still too scared to do that?”

Xavi turns around and looks at Sergio with surprise.

“He’s scared of Villa? Why?”

“I have no idea,” Sergio chuckles.

“I think I can do it,” David says, slightly embarrassed.

“Great. So take it upstairs,” Sergio says. “To Villa’s office. Do you remember which door it was?”

David nods. 

“If not, just shout ‘Eldorado’, Villa will run out,” Sergio says and practically doubling from laughter heads out of the kitchen.

~ ~ ~

David takes a deep breath before knocking on the door – or making the best attempt to knock with the platter in his hands.

“Come in!” sounds from the room.

David pushes the handle down with his elbow and leans into the door to open it. He walks in and almost forgets to breathe. The room is the most beautiful thing he has ever seen. There are old maps hanging on the walls, miniatures of ships standing on the shelves and documents and books are covering every single place. The sunlight peaking in from the windows partly covered with heavy curtains shows it all in warm yellow tones, making things look softer. The air in the room smells a bit of dust, ink and wood. It takes David a while to find his voice again.

“Your breakfast, my lord.”

Villa emerges from behind a pile of some books and smiles.

“Thank you. If you find an empty place somewhere, put it there.”

After a while, David locates a table which is only half-covered with some maps, and lays the platter on it. He stands next to it, hands behind his back, listening to the rustling of parchments.

“Oh, you don’t have to stand here,” Villa’s voice says then. “I’m sure there are more useful ways how you could spend your time.”

David nods and slips out of the door, taking in the room with one last look. Unlike Sergio, he doesn’t think Villa is crazy. He finds it beautiful that he believes in something, even if it’s not reasonable or maybe even real. It’s definitely better than spending the day in a chair, drinking wine, watching other people work and complaining about everything. Which was exactly how his old master liked to spend his time.

~ ~ ~

Xavi is already preparing lunch when David comes back with the empty platter. It seems like Xavi needs to constantly mutter something to himself while working. But the more David watches him, the more he sees that under the grumpiness and meticulousness, there is actually only the desire to do everything perfectly, to make everyone, and especially his master, happy.

“I suppose it was you who cooked yesterday,” he says.

“How do you know?” David asks.

“If it was Sergio, Villa would be already poisoned or dead from hunger,” Xavi says. “He’s really hopeless.”

“Sergio is nice,” David objects.

“He is, until you really want to get something done,” Xavi mutters.

Suddenly there is a knock on the front door. The doorknocker is so loud that they hear it even in the kitchen.

“Would you answer it?” Xavi says. 

David makes three steps and then stops.

“What’s wrong?” Xavi asks.

“What if it’s my old master?” David whispers.

“So what?” Xavi shrugs. “You don’t belong to him anymore.”

David still looks startled and Xavi sighs.

“Look, I would go there, but I got flour all over my hands and meat in the oven.”

With a sigh, David drags his feet to the front door and opens it. There is a young boy standing at the doorstep. He looks at David and clears his throat.

“I have a message for Señor Villa, from Señor Puyol,” he announces in an overly-solemn tone.

“Sure. I... can give it to him?” David says, unsure how to deal with a messenger boy, as nobody has ever had any message for his old master – people usually didn’t want to approach him in any way.

“All right,” the boy says and hands David a piece of parchment. “But it’s confidential.”

“You don’t need to worry, I can’t read,” David smiles. “But I wouldn’t read it even if I could.”

The boy gives him one last mistrustful look and disappears behind the corner. David closes the door and walks up the stairs to Villa’s office. 

He finds Villa practically digging in a pile of documents, cursing under his breath. 

“My lord,” David says.

Villa startles and the pile, already unstable, collapses and documents fly all over the room. David instinctively takes a step back like he expects Villa to hit him for it. In his old master’s logic, it would obviously be his fault. But Villa only sighs exasperatedly and turns to him.

“I’m sorry, but... there is a message for you from Señor Puyol.”

“Just what I needed now,” Villa sighs and takes the message from David. 

He reads it quickly and frowns. Then he looks at the mess around.

“Do you want me to help you to put this away?” David offers.

Villa looks at him. 

“If you don’t have other work...”

David shakes his head and kneels on the floor to get the parchments out from underneath the table. When he emerges from the tiny space, he finds Villa on the floor next to him.

“My servants probably already told you about this obsession of mine,” he says casually and takes the parchments from David.

David nods quietly and reaches for another one.

“Most people think I am crazy.”

“I don’t think you are,” David blurts out without thinking, then blushes and looks down.

“No?” Villa chuckles. “Well, I think I’m the person people laugh at the most... maybe after Carles. But to be honest, he at least really sails on the sea, even though he hasn’t yet found any new land.”

“No, I think it’s beautiful that you love something so much.”

“You know, my father was a money changer. So I took after him. But I’ve always wanted to be a sailor. Once I mentioned it in front of him, he almost killed me. So I have at least this. I live my dream through the others... like Carles. Maybe I am really crazy.”

He glances over to David who is listening to him almost devoutly, sitting on his heels. He doesn’t know what came over him, talking like this to someone he doesn’t even know, to someone he owns, for God’s sake, but it’s surprisingly easy. The boy isn’t laughing at him like Francesc and isn’t rolling his eyes openly like Sergio and Xavi. 

“Why sailing?” David asks then.

“Why?”

“Yes. I mean... you could have been interested in... I don’t know... art?”

He seems to be terrified of even asking questions, but asks anyways. The difference between the boy who fell to his knees the other night, and this curious one is astonishing. And Villa finds it oddly refreshing to talk about things he likes, not just money and business.

“Yes. But I like ships and the sea. They represent...”

“Freedom,” David whispers.

“Exactly,” Villa nods, caught off guard but yet delighted in some strange, incomprehensible way. “Freedom.”

It’s a fragile moment and Villa somehow wishes it could last forever. But of course, a second later Sergio’s loud voice sounds somewhere from the hallway and brings them to their senses again. 

“I... should...” David says hesitantly, handing Villa the last few parchments he’s holding.

“Sure. Go and see what he needs,” Villa smiles. “I think I can manage here by myself now.”

David gets up from the carpet and goes to the door. Only when he is out of the room, away from the smell of old books and dust, he allows himself to come back down to earth. It feels like waking up from a pleasant dream. A dream in which nothing hurts, nothing scares him, in which someone treats him as an equal. Of course he knows that he is not equal to Villa, he is not even equal to Sergio or Xavi, most probably not even to the kid who brought the message from Puyol. But still it feels nice to talk to someone that way. And even more, with Villa it feels like his dreamy soul finally relates to someone else’s. Sergio would most probably think he is crazy, same as he thinks of Villa. Nice as he is, Sergio is very down-to-earth. David’s mind likes to wander from time to time. This time the waking up doesn’t hurt. 

~ ~ ~

Sergio is waiting in the hall.

“God, I was worried, where have you been?” he asks, wrapping his arm around David’s shoulder protectively, like he’s checking for some damage.

“In master’s office,” David says calmly.

“And you seem to have survived it!” Sergio exclaims with a mock surprise. “Told you he’s not a bad person.”

On one hand, David wants to believe him. A person with such soul cannot be entirely bad. But he has decided not to trust his new master completely just yet.

“What were you doing there?” Sergio asks.

“I brought a message from Puyol, and then helped him clean up some mess.”

Sergio’s brows shoot up, but he says nothing more. When they come to the kitchen, Xavi has the lunch almost ready. 

“What did you do to the parsley and thyme, Sergio?” he snaps as soon as they enter. “It’s almost all withered.”

“Well, I’m sorry for the sun shining, Xavi!” Sergio grins.

“You could at least water it from time to time. What am I supposed to put on the chicken tomorrow?”

“There are plenty of other herbs in the garden.”

“But you know that Señor Puyol likes it with thyme!”

Sergio rolls his eyes.

“Puyol is so busy talking about his imaginary treasure that he has no idea what he’s eating! Try serving him a roasted rat once, see if he can notice.”

“I don’t know why I let you take care of that part of the garden, I should have built a fence around my herbs!” Xavi continues yelling.

“Well, then let David here take care of it!” Sergio snaps. “He said he’s used to working on the fields anyways. I’m a groom, not a gardener!”

“Sure, you’d like that,” Xavi mutters. “Giving all your work to others, you lazy brat!”

“I can do it,” David says quietly. 

“Sure you can,” Xavi nods. “But beware of Sergio, or you’ll be doing all his work while he’s picking his nose all day.”

“You’re at your grumpy best today, aren’t you, Xavi?” Sergio says lightly, not being offended at all by Xavi’s impression of him. 

“It’s the slugs,” Xavi sighs.

“Slugs?”

“In the lettuce!” Xavi spits. “Haven’t you noticed? No lettuce, two buckets of slugs, it’s a disaster.”

“You can eat slugs,” David says calmly.

Xavi pales and Sergio rolls his eyes.

“Here we go again.”

~ ~ ~

David doesn’t see Villa until the evening when he brings him dinner. He is starting to feel a bit more comfortable now, still waiting for some nasty surprise to come, but also he is slowly realizing that the life here cannot be even compared to his old one.

“Oh, David, just one thing,” Villa says when he’s about to leave.

David looks at him questioningly. 

“Your old master didn’t come for his money today,” Villa says. “It’s a bit strange...”

“Actually it isn’t, my lord,” David gives a small smile. “He probably got drunk somewhere and forgot about it. I’m sure he will turn up tomorrow.”

“Does he do that often?”

“Getting drunk? All the time, my lord.”

“He must be an awful person.”

David says nothing to that. Villa tilts his head in interest.

“Or am I wrong?”

“I’m nobody to judge him, my lord,” David says like he is reading from a book.

Villa sighs. He can read in this tone of voice more than in the words. It’s the voice that says the words were instilled in his mind and Villa doesn’t want to guess how.

“You can go,” he says instead and watches the boy bow slightly and walk out of the room.

He feels like his head has never been heavier with thoughts than it is now.

~ ~ ~

David stands next to Sergio when Carles Puyol arrives to their house. He looks a lot different than David had imagined him. He expected either a nobleman or a man with a weather-beaten face, but Puyol looks like a peasant in nice clothes to him. He immediately scolds himself for the thought. 

Sergio takes Puyol’s horse and pokes David in the ribs. 

“Lead him to the dining room,” he hisses.

David gathers his wits.

“Please, follow me, my lord,” he says to Puyol.

Puyol follows him without paying much attention to him, for which David is quite grateful. When they reach the dining room, Villa gets up from the table and smiles.

“Carles!”

David fights the urge to giggle, because Puyol isn’t the type to friendly embrace other people, and their greeting looks really awkward. He goes to the kitchen where Xavi has already prepared the starter.

“Don’t take it there just yet,” he advises David. “They like to have some time to talk before eating.”

David nods and sits down at the table full of food. Sergio enters soon after.

“So, what do you say?” he grins. “The famous Carles Puyol who to our days has found nothing but one little island made of rocks with absolutely no value whatsoever.”

“Who says he cannot discovered something next time?” David objects.

“You speak like Villa,” Sergio snorts. “I bet he will give him another money, even though he lost so much last time when he gave them to the other fool, Rodríguez.”

“How come he lost the money?” David asks.

“Because out of four Rodríguez’ ships, three sunk and he returned on one damaged, with only a few men and absolutely nothing.”

“I don’t get it,” Xavi intervenes. “If Puyol is so certain to have a plan that will lead him to gold, why doesn’t he go to the King immediately? Why does he beg for money here?”

“That’s it!” Sergio shrugs. “Because the plan must be so bad that they wouldn’t even let him come close to the King with it. So he tries his luck with Villa.”

~ ~ ~

"I don‘t know how it could disappear, Carles," Villa sighs.

"Well, we both know that recently quite a few things disappeared from your house," Carles says sarcastically.

"I know, but why would that boy steal your map and notes? He couldn‘t even read."

"Do you have a better explanation?"

"Maybe he took it accidentally," Villa says.

"In that I hope," Carles raises his brows. "If he burns them in the fireplace, it will still be better than if someone gets their hands on them."

The door opens and David comes in, followed by Sergio who is helping him carry the dishes. 

"Anyways, I‘m certainly heading the good way. If my calculations are right, I will reach India in almost a month less than I would if I took the usual way."

He doesn‘t even notice that the food is on the table.

"I‘m afraid I can‘t help you this time, Carles," Villa sighs. "You know I lost a fortune last time."

"Of course, when you give money to Pedro Rodríguez!" Carles snorts. "He cannot even build a decent ship to start with!"

"I simply don‘t have money to support any quest right now," Villa says. "I have to save even on my household."

"Yes," Carles nods and glances over to David. "I noticed."

David blushes involuntarily and follows Sergio gratefully when he tugs on his sleeve and heads to the door. Before they leave, he can hear Villa‘s voice behind his back.

"At least he‘s not Portuguese." 

~ ~ ~

Puyol leaves when it’s long after midnight. It makes Xavi grumpy because he has to stay up longer than he’s used to, while Sergio is happy because he can sit in the kitchen and have his second, eventually third dinner. 

“What did they talk about for so long when Villa said he wouldn’t give him the money?” Xavi mutters, organizing his tools meticulously.

“Puyol was probably trying to get him to sell his property in the country and give him the money,” Sergio shrugs. “I wouldn’t be surprised if he sold this house next.”

“With us all inside,” Xavi adds.

“No, wait, that would be a nonsense,” Sergio grins and wraps his arms around David’s shoulders. “Him he’s just bought.”

“Sergio!” Xavi snaps, despite David’s gestures telling him that it’s alright. “You better beware if he wants to sell the horses, he could accidentally sell you together with them. You look so much alike...”

David giggles and Sergio throws a piece of bread at Xavi. Suddenly there is a loud knock on the door. Xavi frowns and Sergio gets up with an annoyed face. 

“Only the Devil can knock on the door at this hour,” he mutters and goes to the door.

When he opens the door, the man behind it almost falls inside. 

“What do you want?” Sergio snaps at him. “Don’t you know how late it is?”

“I want my money,” the man slurs, obviously having troubles with standing upright.

“What money?”

“My money, by Satan’s hairy arse!”

Sergio can hear the steps in the hallway and turns his head slightly. David is standing there, hiding in the shadows as much as he can.

“He wants the money for me,” he says quietly. “It’s my old master.”

It catches Sergio off guard just for a moment. Then he turns back to the man.

“Señor Villa is busy now,” he says. “It’s late. Come tomorrow.”

“No way! You don’t want to pay me, I’m taking my goods back!”

He makes a few steps inside and then trips over his own feet. He stumbles and falls right on Sergio. Before Sergio can scramble back to his feet, the man is already making his way to David who stands there like he’s frozen on spot. 

When he reaches up to him, David manages to take a little step back. 

“You forget quickly,” the man snorts.”I’ll make you remember, you little...”

He doesn’t manage to finish his threat because there is a silvery glint in the semidarkness, and when David turns his head, he can see Villa holding a dagger up to his old master’s throat. When he speaks, his voice is as stern as his face.

“Touch him and you’re dead.”

Chapter Text

David tosses and turns in his bed, the events of the evening not letting his mind rest even for a moment.

“You can’t sleep?” Sergio asks quietly.

And David has always thought it was him stating the obvious.

“No.”

“It’s fine now,” Sergio says in a voice he usually uses on fidgety horses. “Villa paid him, so you won’t ever see him again. Actually, even if he didn’t pay him, I think he would have run away. Even I was scared when Villa appeared there.”

“Why do you think he did it?” David asks and turns to Sergio.

“Why did he do what?”

“Defend me. I mean, he hadn’t actually paid for me then, so he wouldn’t have lost anything if...”

“You mean if that dirty drunkard strangled you right in that hallway? For God’s sake, David!” Sergio sighs.

Then he chuckles.

“Why don’t you ask him tomorrow?”

“What?”

“Why don’t you ask Villa why he did it?”

David almost jumps out of the bed.

“I can’t ask him questions like that!”

Sergio contentedly notes that he has already moved from “I can’t ask him questions” to “questions like that”.

“Why not? It concerns you, so just ask him what you asked me. See what he tells you.”

David shakes his head furiously and curls up under the blanket. No way is he going to ask his master about his moves and intentions, no matter how much they concern him.

~ ~ ~

Xavi is so caught up in Sergio’s recounting of previous night’s events that he accidentally pours boiling water over a bowl of fruit instead of the oats that are supposed to become porridge.

“He must have been really angry,” he whispers in a tone that suggests Villa’s anger is no less intimidating than the wrath of God.

“You bet,” Sergio grins and ruffles David’s hair. “The drunkard dared to touch his precious one.”

“I’m not-” David protests, face all red and eyes wide.

“What were you doing, actually, Sergio?” Xavi gets him out of his misery by unfailingly embarrassing Sergio instead.

“Well, I was... he fell on me, alright? And before I could get up... I would have jumped on him from behind, but by that time Villa was already there, flashing his shiny dagger.”

Xavi scoffs a little bit at Sergio’s audacious statement about “jumping on the man from behind”, but decides not to comment on it.

“How lucky we are the Portuguese thief didn’t take that dagger, then,” he notes. “It’s shiny enough to attract the attention of such magpie.”

He arranges Villa’s breakfast on the platter and motions towards it.

“Take it upstairs, one of you. And say I’m sorry about the fruit... It will only be good for a stew now.”

Sergio makes no move suggesting he is willing to be the one serving Villa breakfast, so David jumps to his feet and grabs the platter. He walks up the stairs and knocks at Villa’s office.

“A moment!” sounds from the inside and David can hear some fumbling noises and something being knocked over, which is followed by a stream of curses.

Then the door opens and Villa is standing there with an expression of a child who had just been cleaning up the mess he had made before the parents come home.

“Come in,” he says and steps aside.

One look around is enough for David to tell that whatever it was Villa had been doing, it wasn’t cleaning up, because the room is as messy as always. He puts the platter on a table and then remembers Xavi’s message.

“Xavi excuses himself, my lord, that there is no fresh fruit this morning. He accidentally poured boiling water over it.”

He hates delivering such messages because with his old master it never mattered whose fault it was, he would simply hit the person closest to him. To David’s surprise, Villa laughs heartily.

“I wonder what happened that Xavi forgot what he was doing,” he says. “I don’t know a person more meticulous than him.”

“Sergio was telling him about what happened last night,” David blurts out before realizing that Villa maybe didn’t exactly ask him a question.

“No wonder then, Sergio tends to exaggerate in a very convincing way,” Villa smiles.

David bites his lip, but the question flies out of his mouth before he can do something about it.

“Why did you do it?”

Villa frowns, which is enough for David to regret the question more than he has ever regretted any question in his life.

“What do you mean?”

“I... I mean why did you... you wouldn’t have lost your money anyways, so...”

It takes Villa a while to process what David really means. Then he sighs and sits down on a chair, pulling another one opposite to himself and looking at David.

“Sit down.”

Now it’s David who has something to process. Villa wants him to sit down. In his office. Like... like he is someone equal to him, same as, for example, Carles Puyol yesterday. He makes two tiny steps towards the chair and then decides to sit on it as quick as possible, before he loses the courage.

“Good,” Villa says and looks at him. “I would like to make some things clear now.”

David shifts uncomfortably in his chair. He is sitting with his back upright, so his feet are barely reaching the ground.

“When I warned your old master off yesterday, I wasn’t defending my property. I was defending you.”

David gives him a confused look. He doesn’t consider himself particularly bright, but since he remembers, last time the question was brought up, him equaled property.

“I was defending you as a person,” Villa specifies.

“But...” David starts, but Villa’s look tells him immediately that he is not done talking yet.

“I defended you because it was the right thing to do. Not because I own you. Is it clear now?”

David nods. It’s about as clear as the morning fog for him, but he will think about it later.

“Your status in the society is different, maybe your status in this house is in a way different, but my attitude towards you is no different from the one I have towards Sergio or Xavi.”

Villa stays silent for a moment, probably giving David some time for another “but”. When nothing comes, he gets up with a sigh.

“Now that we are clear, I have a few things I need from you...” he says and walks over to his desk.

David jumps up from the chair, and turns to him. Villa hands him a piece of parchment.

“I need you to give this to Sergio and ask him to deliver it immediately – and the ‘immediately’ is a very important part of the message – to señor Xabier Alonso Olano. Will you remember it?”

“Of course, my lord.”

It’s not like it is an especially difficult name to remember. Maybe David just looks that stupid.

“And, tell Xavi that we will have two guests tonight.”

“Yes, my lord.”

“That will be all for now.”

David nods and goes to the door.

“Where are you from?” he hears behind his back.

He turns back in surprise.

“Pardon me, my lord?”

“I asked where you were from.”

“I came here from Valencia, my lord. But I was born on the Canary Islands.”

“Canary Islands...” Villa repeats.

There is a strange look in his eyes, something between fascination and curiosity, but at the same time he seems a bit lost in thoughts. His eyes are suddenly the eyes of a daydreamer, same like they were when he was talking about his passion for sailing.

“What are they like, Canary Islands?” he asks.

“I don’t remember much from it. I left when I was still a child. But they are very hot and the ground is fertile, mainly for cereals and fruit, and there is a lot of animals. The life is much more simple there. There are no big houses like here, and they are usually not even made of stone. The air smells different there... it smells like dirt and honey...” David blushes when he realizes that he is already surpassing simple facts.

“You can speak very nicely, when you use more than two words,” Villa notes.

“Thank you, my lord.”

“And your old master was from Valencia?”

David nods.

“So he bought you from... the soldiers on the Islands.”

“They weren’t soldiers. They were our own people. Those sold us to the soldiers, and the soldiers took us to Valencia then,” David explains in flat voice that contrasts sharply with the shocked expression that appears on Villa’s face. “My old master never left Valencia before, only now that he lost a lot of money he thought he could sell his goods better in bigger cities.”

“By the goods you mean yourself?”

David gives him a guilty smile. Villa sighs.

“Give Sergio the letter so that he delivers it immediately. Tell him I won’t tolerate any delays caused by him stopping by in a tavern.”

~ ~ ~

“A message for Alonso the crank?” Sergio chuckles when David hands him the parchment, explaining to whom it shall be delivered. “Villa has probably decided to meet up with all candidates for the fool of the century.”

“Who is Alonso?” David asks.

Sergio thinks for a while about how to put it in simple words.

“Think Carles Puyol combined with a soldier.”

Meanwhile, Xavi keeps checking the food supplies and whining constantly.

“Couldn’t you have at least asked who the guests were?” he looks at David accusingly. “What am I supposed to cook, then?”

“Try to think a bit,” Sergio suggests. “I’m supposed to deliver a message to Alonso. Immediately. You can be almost sure it will be him.”

“But Villa said two guests,” Xavi whines desperately. “Who is the other one?”

“Whatever you cook is delicious, Xavi,” David reassures him.

“Except of stewed fruit and dry oats,” Sergio grins and runs out of the kitchen because Xavi is looking around for the nearest tool he could throw at him.

“Can you pluck a hen?” Xavi then asks David.

“Sure.”

“Great,” Xavi says contentedly. “For once Villa employed someone competent.”

~ ~ ~

Sergio returns in two hours, and by Xavi’s disapproving look David judges that the order about not stopping by in a tavern wasn’t kept.

“How nice of you to let us work here and enjoy yourself at the Drunken Horse or whatever it is called, the place you like to go,” Xavi scolds him immediately.

“I had just one cup!” Sergio objects. “So what will we have for dinner?”

Xavi stands in front of the stove, protecting the food with his own body.

“Beware! I might not have a dagger like Villa, but I have plenty of knives!” he says.

“Fine, fine,” Sergio mumbles. “I’m going to tell Villa that his crazy friend with another crazy friend are coming tonight.”

~ ~ ~

The lunch is – according to Xavi – a bit sloppily done, because he is focusing on the dinner. According to David, it’s no different from what he has already seen Xavi cook, but Xavi obviously is more demanding with himself.

When he comes to collect the empty plates, Villa is already scribbling something in his accounts. He definitely has other customs than David’s old master, for whom the three hours after lunch were dedicated to lying in a hammock in the shadow and disturbing him practically meant death, or at least so he told everyone and probably wasn’t exaggerating much.

David looks around the room. The light is now almost orange. He could sit there and watch the light change all day. No, of course he couldn’t. The last time he sat and watched something hurt a lot.

He is probably already standing there for too long, because Villa lifts his head from whatever he is writing. Writing is another thing David likes to watch. It almost looks like magic to him. He never really understood how someone can transform thoughts or words into those little pictures, and another person can read them. But he wishes he could do it as well, because like that he wouldn’t have to remember everything, wouldn’t have to be afraid that he forgets about something he wants to keep memory of forever.

“Do you need anything?” Villa asks.

His tone is not hostile or irritated, he doesn’t look annoyed. It encourages David to break the promise he has given to himself about not asking any questions, ever.

“Can I... ask about something?”

Villa shrugs.

“Sure. If I know the answer, of course.”

“Why... why does everyone want the Canary Islands? There’s nothing valuable there, actually...”

Villa thinks for a while. Then he comes over to a map hanging on the wall and beckons to David.

“Come here.”

David comes closer hesitantly. Villa points to the map.

“Can you find them?”

David studies the map closely, then lifts his hand.

“They’re here?”

Villa shakes his head with a lenient smile.

“No, no, those are the Balearic Islands.”

He takes David’s hand and guides it to another place on the map.

“Here. See where they are? It’s a strategic point. No wonder Sevilla wants it so much. But even if it wasn’t, it’s simply a land that they thought would be easy to conquer, and they always want new land. So far, you’re proving to be bigger fighters than they expected.”

“Not me,” David whispers.

Villa raises his brows and smiles.

“Oh, but you are.”

“I am what?”

“A fighter. I would say you are fighting your little personal war against the Spanish. Including me.”

David gasps and stares at him incredulously.

“I’m not fighting you!”

“Not with arms. But in your mind, you are fighting me a lot.”

Well, he might be right, but nobody has ever been interested about what is going on in David’s head, so why should it matter? For sure he doesn’t know about any fight of his against the Spanish dominance of whatever, as he never understood anything that was going on in this land and he didn’t need to. All that he ever had was his life to care for and protect as well as he could. And if the mistrusting was the fight Villa meant, then it wasn’t actually a fight.

“I’m not fighting you,” David says resolutely. “Just... defending myself.”

“From me?” Villa asks, a bit surprised by David’s sincerity.

“From everything. Everyone.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s the only way to survive!” David says, a bit louder than he had intended to.

Villa lets go of his hand and only in that moment he realizes he has been holding it all along. David spins around, grabs the platter and flees the room as quickly as he can without dropping something.

He puts the platter on the table in the kitchen and sprints to the door, not paying attention to Xavi’s surprised looks. He almost bumps into Sergio who’s coming back from the stables.

“Hey, where are you...” Sergio starts, but David is already in the hallway.

“Leave him alone,” he can hear Xavi’s voice. “You don’t have to poke your nose into everything!”

David opens the door to the garden and runs out. The smell of herbs, soil, sun and flowers hits him, so different from the smell of old wood, dust and kitchen fumes inside the house. He stands there for a moment, looking towards the low fence and the small gate. Then he falls to his knees next to a bed of some flowers and buries his face in them to hide his tears from the sun, the birds and the wind that could dry them too soon.

He has no idea about the curtain in the window above his head moving and a pair of dark eyes watching him.

~ ~ ~

When he opens the door, David understands immediately what Sergio meant by “Carles Puyol combined with a soldier” when he described Xabier Alonso Olano. There is something about him that resembles Puyol’s enthusiasm, but it is more steady. It seems that if Puyol thinks twice before doing something, Alonso thinks at least four times. What is the same is their attitude of a gentleman that leaves David wondering how they ever got to do something as dangerous as sailing surely is.

His companion, on the contrary, looks like the only thing that could stop him from doing whatever he wants is death, definitely not thinking. He’s the type David’s old master would whip just for the fact that he doesn’t like his face. His hair is shorter than the short that is considered decent, his face is freckled and there is something cheeky about it, probably the slight smirk on his thin lips.

Villa and Alonso greet each other in a less friendly way than Villa did with Puyol, but that may be due to Alonso’s different character. Then Alonso gestures to the other man.

“So this is Daniel, whom you were dying to meet,” he says pointedly.

When Daniel extends his hand to shake Villa’s, his sleeve rolls up slightly and reveals something David has never seen before. It’s like someone has painted a picture on his skin. It leaves David speechless for the whole time until the guests disappear in the dining room with Villa.

“It’s getting better and better,” Sergio says next to him in some sarcastic contentment. “Now he’s brought a pirate to our house.”

~ ~ ~

Xavi almost spills the whole bottle of vinegar into the saucepan.

“A pirate?” he yells. “What do you mean, a pirate?”

“Calm down, Xavi!” Sergio grins. “He’s not interested in your flour and lettuce. The lettuce was eaten by the slugs anyways.”

“But there is a pirate in our house, Sergio!”

“Yes, and so far nobody knows, but if you keep yelling, the whole city will.”

“True,” Xavi mutters. “Still, don’t expect me to go out of the kitchen until he’s gone!”

“As if you ever do,” Sergio rolls his eyes.

~ ~ ~

“I’m surprised that Carles allowed you to talk about his plans with me,” Alonso chuckles when Villa introduces him and Daniel to Carles’ maps and notes. “He’s usually more paranoid.”

“Carles needs money,” Villa explains calmly. “If I’m to give them to him, I’ll have to sell some of my properties in the country. So I need to be sure he knows what he is doing.”

“Nobody knows when they sail on the sea,” Daniel notes.

“Well, so put otherwise, I need to know if he has a real chance to discover a new way to India like this,” Villa says.

“There is always a chance. Only that it can be longer than the ones already discovered,” Alonso shrugs. “In that case, the King and the Queen will not be overjoyed to hear about it.”

“I only wonder why it never occurred to any of you to try sailing here,” Daniel says, pointing to the map. “Into the West.”

“Because it’s forbidden!” Villa says with shocked face.

“By who?”

“The Church,” Alonso explains. “They are unholy places.”

“I didn’t know God was a sailor,” Daniel grins. “Or the Pope for that matter. But truth is the Vikings used to sail there for centuries.”

“They say that there is a giant hand that emerges from the sea and pulls the ships down...” Alonso says.

Daniel almost chokes on a piece of lamb.

“And that there are monsters living in the sea,” Villa adds.

Daniel is already laughing openly.

“And obviously everyone who says this was there and saw it with their own eyes. Believe in whatever you want, but in my opinion, if you don’t take a risk, you don’t discover anything.”

“If you do take it, though, you are likely to end up like Pedro Rodríguez. I’ve heard that he had to flee from Barcelona so that they wouldn’t arrest him for debts,” Alonso points out.

“Compared to what I’ve heard about Rodríguez, Puyol has at least decent ships,” Daniel says, looking at some of the notes. “One big and two smaller ones, fast enough.”

“So what do you think?” Villa asks, eyes sparkling again with the fascination of a child.

“I think... that I would like to have some more wine,” Alonso says. “Daniel, be so kind.”

“You can as well say that you’re about to discuss something that’s not for my ears,” Daniel grins. “Take your time. If it’s in the kitchen, I will surely take mine there.”

~ ~ ~

When Daniel walks in the kitchen, Xavi yelps and drops a turnip. Sergio almost doubles from laughter and David just stays his shy self.

“I see you are all quite aware about my... past,” Daniel notes calmly. “But I can assure you that I really came to peacefully ask for some more wine.”

Xavi just mumbles something for himself and keeps close to the knives. David jumps to his feet and goes to the cellar. When he comes back, Sergio is already chatting with Daniel like he knew him for ages. Which proves that he is really able to chat with anyone.

“How come you’re stuck with such fool as Alonso?” Sergio asks.

“Because he figured out that I knew a lot more about sailing than he does,” Daniel shrugs. “So he was kind enough to take the noose off my neck in the last moment.”

It leaves even Sergio speechless, while Xavi crosses himself. Not only has he got a pirate in his kitchen, it’s a pirate once touched by a hangman. Xavi makes a mental note to ask Villa to invite a priest to spray the kitchen with holy water as soon as possible.

“You must miss the sea,” David says quietly.

Daniel chuckles bitterly.

“Same as you miss your freedom.”

David blinks in surprise, but then notices that Daniel is looking at the mark on his wrist.

“Let me tell you a secret,” Daniel says and leans closer to him, even though Xavi is keeping his distance from them and Sergio has gone upstairs to check whether Villa or his guest don’t need anything.

David looks at Daniel curiously. Nobody ever tells him secrets.

“Maybe I’m stuck with that fool now,” Daniel whispers. “But only until he takes me closer to the sea. Once I’m in the right port, he’ll never see me again.”

David looks at him with wide eyes. Daniel winks at him.

“You, dear friend, should do the same,” he says then.

Chapter Text

Francesc Fàbregas throws his legs on the upholstered chair like he was in his own house. He knows very well that Villa doesn’t care for his furniture nor for any other things in his house, until someone touches his maps and books. But things like a broken plate or Francesc’s shoes on a chair leave him completely calm.

“So you are telling me that you have really decided to believe the poor fool?” he chuckles and accepts a cup of wine from Sergio. “I don’t know if I will offend more you or him when I say that you could as well throw the money out of the window already.”

Villa sighs and unwittingly looks at Sergio, who doesn’t say anything but from the look on his face it’s clear that he couldn’t agree with Francesc more. He knows the reasons why Villa has decided to trust Carles’ plans, and Villa certainly doesn’t need him to tell Francesc that it was mainly because of a piece of advice from a pirate.

“It’s my money!” Villa says resolutely. “Sergio, don’t you have another work?”

Sergio is pretty sure he doesn’t, but he can tell Villa is in a mood to drag him out of the door himself if he doesn’t go, so he takes a perfunctory bow and leaves the room.

“So you want to sell the property in Ampurias?” Francesc asks. “Your father must be turning in his grave.”

“I’m not a farmer, besides, the property is too far away for me to visit it often enough. There is no significant income from it,” Villa shrugs.

“But it’s at least something that won’t sink or get lost,” Francesc points out.

“I have already decided, Francesc. I didn’t invite you to let myself be scolded like a child. I want you to help me find someone who would buy it.”

Francesc smirks and finishes his wine. He looks around and when he finds out that Sergio – probably inadvertently – took the bottle with him, he frowns.

“There’s no need to look far,” he says calmly. “I already know of someone who would buy it immediately.”

“Really?” Villa raises his brows.

“Of course,” Francesc nods. “Casillas would.”

Villa purses his lips.

“Nothing I own will ever belong to Casillas!”

Francesc sighs.

“You should really finally get over it, Villa! You’ve both taken it a bit far, but it’s nothing that couldn’t be fixed.”

“True. My position can never be fixed, thanks to him! The whole city will never look at me the same way they used to, thanks to him.”

“Thanks to your own faults as well. He only profited from them.”

Villa laughs bitterly and shakes his head.

“I will not sell my property to someone who treats people on his properties like he does.”

“That’s not your concern when you sell. He gives you the money and then who cares what he does with it? He can set it on fire if he pleases.”

“Life is not only about money, Francesc!” Villa snaps.

“Sure. But your good intentions won’t set Carles on the sea nor feed you and your households, will they?” Francesc smirks. “Just because I have enough money doesn’t mean I don’t know its value.”

Villa nods apologetically. Sometimes he really treats Francesc like a spoiled child, forgetting that he is no more a child. Even though he is still spoiled.

“Alright. You can ask Casillas, but only if you don’t find anyone else, can you promise me that?”

“Of course,” Francesc sighs and leans back in the chair. “And now I would have some more wine.”

~ ~ ~

It’s Sergio again who brings Villa the dinner. Villa pushes aside the documents that concern the property he wants to sell and looks at him.

“What about David?” he asks.

Sergio frowns.

“What about him?”

“I haven’t seen him since yesterday. I’ve been wondering if he is still working here or if he’s suddenly become invisible.”

“To me he has always been close to invisible, señor,” Sergio laughs. “Don’t worry. He is still working here. Just for some reason today he prefers to stick together with Xavi.”

Villa thinks he knows the reason, but doesn’t say anything about it to Sergio, of course.

“Just tell him that he is not supposed to work primarily in the kitchen,” he says. “And that it’s not him who chooses the work.”

Sergio stares at him with his mouth open. He is used to all kinds of Villa’s moods, but today the mood seems to be remarkably bad.

“Sure. I’ll tell him, señor.”

When he thinks of a way to tell David without making him freak out again, that is.

~ ~ ~

When Villa wakes up, the light outside is grayish. He immediately thinks about his father who used to get up before sunrise, and for a moment he is overcome by panic that he is already becoming an old, rigid grouch like him. Then he remembers that he actually wanted to get up early to go check on the properties in Ampurias to make sure everything corresponds to the accounting. He is way too honest to sell a property he hasn’t checked on before.

He gets up and dresses himself. The house is quiet, not even Xavi is rumbling with things in the kitchen. Villa rarely goes downstairs, so he takes a moment to look around the meticulously cleaned and organized kitchen before going to Sergio’s door and knocking on the door resolutely.

It takes a while before a sleepy, half-dressed Sergio with tousled hair appears and looks at Villa half surprised, half angry, trying hard not to yawn in front of his master.

“What-” he groans and shakes his head to get the sleepiness out. “Do you need anything, señor?”

“A horse,” Villa informs him.

“Now?” Sergio gapes at him.

“Of course. I wouldn’t ask you for it now if I needed it tomorrow. I’m going to Ampurias.”

Sergio nods and goes back to the room. He doesn’t close the door, so Villa can hear him mumbling “why didn’t I stay in that inn” and “why can’t he sleep like normal people”. He storms out again in a few moments, looking only a little bit like he made an effort to dress himself up properly, and heads out of the house.

Villa turns away to go and pick up some things he wants to take with him. Then, like the Devil whispers it in his ear, for some reason he doesn’t know himself, he turns back and pushes the door a little bit.

He stands in the doorway, forgetting to knock or otherwise announce his presence. David is standing at the basin close to the window, shirtless, splashing water over his face. He looks even tinier like this, without Sergio’s shirt that, however adjusted, is still too big for him. Villa is convinced that he could comfortably wrap his arm around David’s waist. Also his skin is darker than he thought. The dim, warm light in his office doesn’t really reveal things like the pale, unforgiving early morning sun does. Now he can see everything, the movement of every muscle under the tanned skin, every drop of water shining on the ends of David’s hair. He can notice what he didn’t see before, when he was too aware of the awkwardness of being for the first time in his life the owner of another human being. The strange, exotic beauty that only shines through when the boy isn’t aware of being looked at.

Villa thinks of tiptoeing back. He wants to keep the image as it is, carved into his memory like a relief in a soft wood. He wishes to have it as a relief that he could touch.

In the very next moment, something cracks in the kitchen and David lifts his head. The basin falls to the ground, water splashing all over the room, and Villa thinks that pretending that he was just about to knock would be probably useless.

“I...” he takes a breath.

David grabs his shirt, pulls it over his head and then looks at Villa without saying a single word. It takes all the words from Villa’s mouth once more. It’s not a reaction he expected. He could picture David fleeing the room or at least cowering in a corner, but he’s just standing there, looking at him almost defiantly. Like he’s asking Villa what he is doing in his room, watching him in secret like some thief.

“Did Sergio talk to you yesterday?” Villa asks finally.

“He did,” David nods. “You thought I was avoiding you.”

“And were you?”

“Maybe.”

“Why?”

Before David can answer, Sergio storms back.

“The horse is ready...” he starts, then looks at the water on the floor and Villa and David standing there like they are getting ready for a duel. “What happened here?”

“Nothing,” David says, surprisingly calm.

“Nothing,” Villa confirms.

David moves to the door and Villa instinctively steps aside to let him pass, only then realizing that he is completely reversing their roles. David stops for a moment and looks at him.

“Because you take down my defenses,” he says quietly.

Villa nods, maybe not in affirmation, just because he can’t help himself. He would like to explain, but definitely not in front of Sergio who is watching the scene like a child watching artists on the streets.

He turns around and goes to the stable. The time away and the journey will definitely do him good.

~ ~ ~

The property in Ampurias has been in the family since Villa remembers. His father got it from someone who owed him money, and even though it probably couldn’t satisfy him more than the money would, Villa’s father kept it and left it to Villa in his will together with all he had, except for the small amount he gave to the Church, just as a formality.

Villa himself was born in the city and he didn’t like leaving it. He never spent too much time in the country, unlike some of his friends who were trying to persuade him to come with them from time to time. He didn’t find it refreshing nor good for health. For Villa, the country was boring and health wasn’t his concern since there was no epidemic in Barcelona at the moment.

For those reasons, he only visits Ampurias once or twice a year, to keep his conscience clear. The rest of the time, he relies on Andrés. Unlike Villa, Andrés lives and breathes for the little estate. It’s one of the reasons why he feels bad about having to sell it, and why he cannot imagine it should be his enemy owning it, despite him not having special feelings for it.

“Señor Villa!” Andrés greets him, the surprise obvious in his voice. “We weren’t expecting you!”

“Of course, as I’ve already made my yearly visit a few months ago,” Villa smirks.

“You’re always welcome, señor, but...”

Villa sighs, taking in the surroundings of the estate. He has never noticed how beautiful the nature around was. It’s always like that... we always notice the beauty of things when we’re losing them.

“Andrés, we need to talk,” he says dimly.

~ ~ ~

When Villa comes back to Barcelona a few days later, it doesn’t feel like coming home at all. He rarely leaves the house for so long, and when he comes back, he’s always reminded that this place is far from something he could call home. Home in his mind evokes something warm, safe and welcoming. There is something missing to Villa’s house for it to be called home. Or rather, someone.

He doesn’t know when he has become the solitary man he is now. He used to be a cheerful child and a youngster with many friends. He would never spoil any fun, much to his father’s outrage, and he knew how to enjoy life. But out of his childhood friends, only Francesc and Carles remained, and he somehow lost the desire to enjoy life as there was nobody he would like to enjoy it with.

When he enters the house, he can immediately hear some cheerful banter from the kitchen. He recognizes Francesc’s voice among the clinking of glasses and he heads in the direction of the noise. He stands in the door and takes in the scene.

Francesc is sitting on the chair, a cup in one hand, gesticulating wildly with the other one. Xavi, Sergio and David are sitting at the table. Xavi is smiling while cutting some vegetables. Sergio looks smitten, as he does every time he sees Francesc, Villa has already noticed. David is laughing. It’s not the shy smile of his. He is openly, heartily, loudly laughing.

Some invisible needle pierces Villa’s heart. He would like to know why this atmosphere is never in his house when he’s there. Why he feels so awkward talking to David, why it is always one step forward, two steps back with him, why Francesc can make him loosen up and Villa can’t, what it was that made David laugh while Villa so far has only made him cry.

It’s in that moment when Xavi spots him and jumps up.

“Señor Villa...”

Francesc calmly turns around.

“Oh, so you’re back!” he says like he is the owner of this house and Villa just a visitor. “They said you went to Ampurias.”

“I did,” Villa nods, looking around the kitchen.

“I hope the estate is still standing,” Francesc says. “I have the buyer.”

“Casillas.”

Francesc sighs.

“Nobody else wanted it, I swear that I asked. But what do you want? It’s just a small estate in a place that doesn’t really interest anyone.”

“Why does Casillas want it so much, then?” Villa frowns and pours himself a cup of wine.

“Because Casillas wants everything he can buy for money, I guess,” Francesc shrugs.

“Especially when he can buy it from me.”

Francesc only shakes his head and gets up.

“Well, you want to sell it or you don’t. As I said, I talked to him and he expressed his interest. Everything else is up to you.”

Villa nods thoughtfully.

“I guess I will just have to discuss the intentions he has with it directly with him.”

“So I should tell him you are willing to discuss the deal?” Francesc raises his brows.

Villa sighs exasperatedly.

“Yes. Tell him.”

~ ~ ~

Iker Casillas is a nobleman who wouldn’t even need the exquisite clothes or the graceful horse for the people to tell he is an aristocrat. His whole appearance is screaming it. The way he moves, the way he talks, the way he just looks at other people.

Sergio takes the horse, which is one of the most beautiful horses David has ever seen. It’s white, the mane looks almost like it’s silver. David would imagine this horse to suit a lady better, but surprisingly it suits Casillas just perfectly. It’s a horse to carry someone as noble as it is.

David catches the coat Casillas throws at him without sparing him a single look. He secretly runs his fingers over the smooth fabric before putting it away and leading him to the dining room.

The greeting between Casillas and Villa is cold and formal, one that suggests that once they maybe used to be more affectionate, that once they maybe used to be friends. Casillas sits on a chair and looks at Villa calmly. Villa seems to be happy that there is the whole long table separating them.

“I’ve heard it took Francesc a lot of persuading before you agreed to meet me,” he says.

His tone of voice is calm and nonchalant, he is leaned back and confident. It contrasts sharply with how Villa is tense and how hard he tries to keep his face calm while inside he is fuming.

“I simply didn’t want to sell a property that has been in my family for so long to the first person I come across, that is all,” he says.

“Even if that person would be me?” Casillas smiles.

“I like to have more possibilities.”

“But it seems like the only possibility is still me,” Casillas states contentedly and looks around the dining room. “I would like to see the documents. Just as a formality, it doesn’t imply I don’t trust an old friend. And do you serve wine in your house?”

“Of course,” Villa says through gritted teeth and gets up. “I will bring the documents.”

He looks at David, who is standing at the door, unsure whether to stay or return to the kitchen.

“You heard our guest,” Villa tells him in a forcibly quiet voice. “He would like some wine.”

~ ~ ~

When David comes back with a bottle of wine that Xavi selected already in the afternoon, to make sure it would go well with the dinner he was preparing, Villa is still gone and Casillas is calmly sitting at the table. David tries to open the bottle, but for some reason the cork doesn‘t want to come out. Casillas watches his struggle for some time with an amused smirk before reaching for the bottle.

“Let me.”

David looks at him, cheeks flushed from embarrassment. His old master had his wine in a keg and drank it straight from jars, he never bothered with putting it into bottles. Casillas opens the bottle with practiced ease.

“Naughty bottle,” he says, looking at David with narrowed eyes. “It shall be punished by being drunk.”

David smiles and takes the bottle from him, pouring some of the wine into his cup. Casillas suddenly grabs his wrist and looks at the mark.

“How much did Villa pay for you?” he asks.

“Two hundred reals, my lord,” David answers quietly.

“What a scrooge,” Casillas chuckles. “I would pay more.”

“Just to show that you can,” Villa‘s voice sounds from the doorstep.

“Nice to know you’ve come to your senses, Villa,” Casillas chuckles, looking at David. “Pretty little thing you’ve gotten yourself.”

“Let‘s just say that my situation forced me,” Villa says curtly.

David gathers up all his courage and twists his wrist free from Casillas‘ grip. It‘s subtle, but the way Casillas narrows his eyes tells him that he‘s not used to such defiance from people who in his eyes have no right for it. It‘s not even up for discussion whether in Casillas‘ eyes David has a right for it. When it comes to it, he has no right for anything.

“You wanted to see the documents,” Villa says and steps between them so casually that David can’t tell whether he did it on purpose or not.

“Of course,” Casillas says, his eyes only slowly leaving David’s face, like he wants him to remember that he displeased him.

“You can go,” Villa tells David, still in the casual way, but this time it’s easier to tell.

It was definitely on purpose.

Chapter Text

Carles Puyol storms into the house like a flood, almost knocking off Sergio who opened the door for him. He looks like a hungry person who has just smelled delicious food, but his enthusiasm has nothing to do with the smell of roasted lamb that Xavi is preparing in the kitchen, however appealing the smell is.

Villa leads him to the office instead of the dining room, because it’s clear that Carles is not thinking about food at the moment.

“You got the money?” he asks immediately when the door is closed.

“In a way I’m not too happy about, but yes,” Villa nods.

“What do you mean? You said you didn’t care about that property that much, otherwise I would never want you to...”

“No, it’s not that I will miss that property. It’s about who bought it.”

“Who?”

“Casillas.”

Carles nods sympathetically. He knows Villa’s and Casillas’ conflict very well, he was present for most of the time when it happened.

“But he paid you well.”

“Of course, he always does. It’s just that when I imagine him owning it, I can’t help but want to punch myself... or him. It’s another war that he won.”

“I don’t think he needs to win any other wars. He already got what he wanted, didn’t he?”

Villa smiles bitterly.

“I’m not sure. I’m never sure about his intentions. I’ve always thought he just wanted to have what I had. When I was in the army, Casillas wanted to have a career within the army as well. When I was in the King’s favors, Casillas wanted that place. He got it, by shamelessly defaming me. But for sure now he cannot wish to be in my place. He just wants everything that I own.”

“Everything?” Carles chuckles. “I’m sure he could do without your groom.”

It makes even Villa smile. He is quite sure he is the only person in Barcelona who can put up with Sergio. At least the owner of the inn where Sergio used to work before was on the verge of mental breakdown when Sergio was leaving.

Villa goes to his table and then looks at Carles.

“Listen, Carles, this is the last money I can give you without going bankrupt. I hope you are really sure this is going to work.”

“Like I’ve never been sure before,” Carles says firmly. “This time I will find something big.”

Villa doesn’t look too convinced, but he pulls out the documents. Carles comes closer with an excited look.

“We need to figure out how much we can spend on what,” he says. “If we do it well, we can finance the supplies entirely.”

Villa smiles. Carles looks like an excited child and the enthusiasm gets in his veins as well, letting him forget for a while about Casillas and all other unpleasant things that are on his mind.

If this turns out well, he could become so rich that he could laugh in Casillas’ face. If not, he can always sell his house and go to a convent. Alright, maybe he is exaggerating. He is the second least suitable person in Barcelona to become a monk. First is of course Francesc.

~ ~ ~

Iker Casillas jumps off his horse and takes a look around. He snorts and hands the bridle to the closest peasant.

“So this is what I bought?” he asks derisively. “I thought this was supposed to be a bargain, but it looks like I only paid for a bit of land and some undisciplined peasants who cannot even manage my horse!”

He shoots a sharp look at the man on whom his horse is currently trying to stomp.

“Take the horse away finally, Gerard!” another man says in an annoyed voice and comes to Casillas. “I’m Andrés, my lord, I am in charge of overlooking the property.”

“You were,” Casillas corrects him. “The property now belongs to me.”

Andrés looks at him with surprise.

“Is my lord willing to overlook it himself?”

Casillas looks at him like he was asked the dumbest question in the world. When Andrés thinks about it, he probably really was. There is no way someone like Casillas, with his silk shirt and exquisite leather shoes would move in the country and take care of a farm.

“Of course I am not,” Casillas growls through gritted teeth. “But here Raúl Albiol of my household will relieve you of that function...”

He nods to the man next to him. Andrés shoots one short look at him before turning back to Casillas.

“So that you can fully concentrate on the work on the fields,” Casillas adds with a contented smile. “After closely inspecting the documentation of the property, I believe the potential of it could be better explored, had it been managed by someone competent and not a simple peasant.”

Andrés thanks God that there is no spade, shovel or axe close to him because otherwise he would use it to hit the nobleman over the head.

“As you wish, my lord,” he says instead.

“Now I would like to look around my new possession,” Casillas says, the amusement poorly hidden in his voice.

But before he can even decide where to start, something catches his attention and for a moment he feels like he is having visions. He sees his horse galloping towards the near forest, its mane shining in the setting sun and the bridle flowing in the air. Then the peasant who was supposed to take the horse to the stables and who had been running after the fleeing beast gives up his chase and almost falls on the ground in front of Casillas.

“What is this supposed to mean?” Casillas asks in a dangerous voice, looking from the peasant to Andrés like he cannot decide who is actually to blame.

“Gerard?” Andrés prompts the peasant to show that because he had been engaged in the conversation with Casillas, he isn’t capable of explaining the pitiful situation.

“My lord...” Gerard looks at Casillas, trying to catch his breath. “It escaped.”

“I see,” Casillas says in an icy tone of voice. “I would ask you how it is possible that you cannot even take a horse to the stables, but I am actually not surprised that my horse outsmarted you, because it wouldn’t be hard even for a donkey.”

He turns to Andrés and purses his lips.

“Send some people to go look for it,” he says.

Then he looks at the peasant and narrows his eyes.

“Raúl?”

“Yes, my lord?” Raúl asks.

“When I don’t have a horse, my whip is kind of purposeless. Make some use of it.”

Raúl takes the whip Casillas hands him and smirks.

“It will be my pleasure, my lord.”

~ ~ ~

Sergio ties his hair back and looks at his reflection in one of Xavi’s polished pans. It’s his free evening that the household officially has once a month, but of course he has his ways of increasing the number significantly. He usually spends it in a tavern he particularly likes, not only because the wine there is not as bad as in the other taverns, but also because of the company, and because of the fact that sometimes, Francesc Fàbregas honors it with his presence. This, however, Sergio would never admit.

He looks at David who is sorting some dried herbs on the table.

“You really don’t want to go?” he asks. “There will be girls!”

“Whores,” Xavi corrects him in an icy voice.

“Well, you can’t expect the Queen of Saba, Xavi,” Sergio shrugs and leans over the table to whisper in David’s ear so loudly that Xavi has no chance not to hear him. “I’ve been trying to find Xavi a woman there for some time, but he always spoils it.”

“Because I want to drink my wine in peace and then go home. Alone. I’m not looking for a dirty whore who will steal my money and probably also make me catch something.”

Sergio rolls his eyes.

“So you are really not going?” he asks David.

David shakes his head and gives a small smile.

“Won’t you be afraid here, all alone?” Sergio muses, ruffling David’s hair.

“He won’t be alone, Villa is staring in his maps upstairs,” Xavi reminds him. “Check on him from time to time, David. He usually works until late at night and gets too busy to remember he has to eat something.”

“Xavi, he’s not a pig, you don’t have to feed him constantly,” Sergio laughs.

“It’s not healthy to work with an empty stomach!” Xavi snaps and turns to David. “You know where everything is.”

David nods and giggles when Sergio takes some dry lavender and tries to decorate Xavi’s hair with it.

“Let’s go,” Xavi sighs.

“Don’t lock the house before we come back!” Sergio shouts over his shoulder. “We wouldn’t want to sleep outside!”

“You could always sleep in the stables,” David says.

“Shut up or I’ll make you sleep in the stables,” Sergio grins. “It’s you the intruder in my room after all.”

~ ~ ~

David walks up the stairs and heads to the door under which the light from the inside creates a faint yellow line. He knocks and waits. Villa opens the door and gives him a surprised look.

“You didn’t go out?” he asks.

David shakes his head. Villa looks at the platter in his hands and laughs.

“I see Xavi instructed you well,” he says and steps aside. “For some reason he thinks I must be hungry all the time.”

David lays the platter on the table. Villa makes a nervous step before suddenly taking the decision and closing the door.

“Would you sit down?” he asks.

“I’d rather stand, my lord.”

Villa frowns. There is something he doesn’t know yet in David’s voice. It’s not exactly hostility, but it’s some strange defiance.

“Alright, then I’ll stand, too,” Villa says and crosses his arms. “I’ve been thinking about what you told me. That you’ve been avoiding me because I was taking down your defenses.”

David watches him silently.

“It is exactly what I’ve been trying to do, but I didn’t want you to start avoiding me because of it.”

“Why are you doing it, then?” David asks and his voice is a bit too tight, a bit too desperate.

“Because I think that you don’t need them anymore. Not here. But I don’t want to force you to anything. It was never my intention to hurt you, David.”

“But it’s what I wanted,” David whispers.

“What you wanted?” Villa frowns and takes a step closer. “What do you mean?”

“I wanted you to hurt me. I wanted you to... I don’t know, to do something, to treat me like I’m used to be treated, I...”

Villa looks on in shock as two big tears fall from the boy’s eyes, then he takes two quick steps, closes the distance between them and wraps his arms around David. To his surprise, David leans into the embrace and cries quietly against Villa’s chest. He is small and warm, shivering like a frightened bird.

“Why?” Villa whispers. “Why did you want me to hurt you?”

David takes a shaky breath.

“Because...” he says and looks up at Villa, eyes shining like two onyxes. “Because then I could hate you.”

Villa doesn’t know what to say so for a while he just keeps on running his hands over David’s back. He doesn’t even remember when he last touched another person in another way than just a handshake, but it doesn’t feel awkward at all. Mainly because somehow, he feels that David needs the hug same as he does.

“You want to hate me?” he asks then. “Then it means that you don’t hate me now?”

“No,” David shakes his head and pulls away, wiping away the tears in a gesture that is almost childish. “I don’t hate you. And that is what scares me. Because hate is the best defense. When you expect the worst, when you hate someone, then nothing they could do to you hurts that much. It’s better than to trust someone and then...”

“But that would mean you’d have to hate everyone, David. It’s an awful thing, not to have anyone you could trust.”

“Do you have anyone you trust?” David asks. “So much that you know your life would be safe in their hands?”

Villa thinks of Francesc. Sure, he is his friend, probably the closest one, helps him in his business, but to entrust his life to Francesc’s hands would be like entrusting a porcelain vase to a child. He wouldn’t break it intentionally, but he would still break it sooner or later by negligence. Carles, despite his big heart, is too tangled in his adventures to have time to stop and listen to someone’s problems. David is right. Villa too doesn’t have anyone he could trust so much.

“No, I don’t think I have,” he says quietly. “But I don’t immediately hate everyone, either.”

“Because you don’t have to,” David says, wiping away the remaining tears. “You’re strong. I can’t imagine someone could hurt you.”

“You can still hurt yourself, no matter how strong you are,” Villa says.

David seems to consider it for a while. Then he nods.

“Maybe.”

He looks at the platter on the table and then heads to the door. Villa keeps standing there, watching him silently. Then David stops and turns around, like he was unsure whether to say something or not.

“You know...” he says quietly. “When I first saw you at the market I thought... I felt that maybe you wouldn’t be like my old master. I don’t know why, but you just looked... different. And then I suddenly wanted you to buy me. I was just standing there, wishing that you would pick me.”

“And are you glad now that I did?” Villa asks.

David hesitates. Then he smiles. For the first time the smile is warm and sincere, a bit like Villa has seen on David’s face when he caught him talking with Sergio or Xavi.

“Yes,” he says. “I’m glad.”

~ ~ ~

The house is quiet when Villa finally closes himself in the bedroom. He falls on the bed, folding his arms behind his head and looking at the ceiling like he could read the answers to the many questions on his mind there.

He remembers the way David was trembling in his arms. He felt so tiny against Villa’s body, so warm and fragile. Villa thinks of how he wanted to pull him closer, to feel his heart beating against his. He can hear David’s words all over again in his head. I was just standing there, wishing that you would pick me. He did. But why, he doesn’t know.

Or maybe he does. He just refuses to acknowledge it. Like not naming it would make it a smaller sin.

He sighs deeply and closes his eyes. He will be damned and he won‘t even need any Casillas‘ intervention for it.

~ ~ ~

David can hear Sergio and Xavi coming back already when they are on the street. He is quite sure that the whole quarter has to hear Sergio. If he is normally louder than other people, after a few cups his voice could be heard in the wildest storm. The things are even worse that he is trying to sing.

David takes a lantern and goes to the door. Sergio stumbles inside, supported by Xavi who is apparently sober and not happy about having to accompany his drunk friend, and looks at David.

“God, were you sleeping?” he asks with a bit too much terror. “Did I wake you up?”

“No, I wasn‘t,” David whispers. “But the master probably is, so be quiet!”

Sergio nods furiously and after a few exaggerated “Shhhh!” sounds he tiptoes to the kitchen, managing by some miracle not to knock anything over.

“Señor Fàbregas was there,” Xavi explains to David with a disapproving look. “He was paying. Otherwise Sergio wouldn‘t have enough money to get this drunk.”

David smiles and locks the door. They go to the kitchen where Sergio is wolfing down the leftover lamb.

“This was an awesome evening!” he states once there are only bones on the plate.

“Our views on it couldn’t differ any more,” Xavi murmurs and closes the door of his room behind him.

~ ~ ~

When the morning sun enters the room, Sergio groans and hides his head underneath the blanket. When he hears David pouring water into the basin, he peeks out and looks at him.

“Good morning!” David greets him with a smile. “I see the evening was an enjoyable one.”

“The evening was,” Sergio confirms. “But the morning is awful.”

“There is pain behind every pleasure,” David shrugs. “My mother used to say.”

“Wise woman,” Sergio sighs and climbs out of the bed. “When Francesc Fàbregas is celebrating, it’s always a night to remember.”

“What was he celebrating?” David asks.

Sergio scratches his head.

“I don’t even remember,” he says then. “I would bet it was some promotion within the army. He gets promoted every time someone in the army needs a favor from his father, which is quite often, so...”

“You like him?”

Sergio frowns.

“Fàbregas? Everyone likes him. He’s fun. Quite generous as well. And I think it’s nice that he treats everyone as an equal, even though he is a nobleman. Not like Casillas, who doesn’t notice you unless you have three titles after your name.”

David thinks of the evening when Casillas visited their house. He wishes the man would never notice him.

“Was Xavi too angry?” Sergio asks then.

“Just grumpy. Like all the time.”

“Good,” Sergio sighs. “I told one of the girls at the tavern that he fancied her. I was already a bit drunk. She wouldn’t leave him alone for the rest of the night.”

David giggles.

“God, she was the ugliest and fattest one around there,” Sergio sighs. “I thought Xavi would kill me.”

~ ~ ~

When Sergio and David come to the kitchen to have lunch, Xavi has all the ingredients moved out.

“We’ve run out of almost everything!” he says. “Sergio, I need you to go to the butcher and the miller and order meat and flour, otherwise I don’t have anything to cook with.”

“No!” Sergio whines. “Not today, Xavi, my head still hurts and I’m sick, I can’t even look at food!”

“That is your problem and your own stupidity!” Xavi scolds him. “If you don’t go, tomorrow there will be no food you could look at.”

“You are the cook! Why don’t you go yourself?”

“And you will cook the dinner instead of me?”

Sergio sighs. Then he looks at David and grins.

“He can go!” he says cheerfully.

Xavi rolls his eyes.

“Yes, because he knows where the butcher is, and the mill as well. He has never walked out of this house, Sergio!”

“Then he finally should!” Sergio says. “He can always asks, he can speak, can’t he?”

Xavi looks at David sceptically. He can’t imagine him talking to strangers on the street. But when he looks at Sergio, he knows that he won’t move him from the chair whatever he does.

“Fine. You can stay here with your headache. But don’t count with any pastry on Sunday, because you won’t deserve the flour I will use to make it,” he says.

Sergio looks like is starting to consider going out himself, but then the hangover wins.

“Fine, for once I will make do without them!” he barks at Xavi.

Or steal them at night, he thinks.

 ~ ~ ~

David looks around himself and his heart sinks. The streets look all the same to him and he isn’t sure if he actually wasn’t there already. Xavi had explained to him how to get to the mill, but Xavi obviously knows the city while David doesn’t. Many of the indications don’t even make sense to him.

He doesn’t remember how long he has been lost, but now it’s almost dark. He has no idea in which part of the city he is. He could have as well gotten outside it, even though he doesn’t remember leaving the city gates.

He would now gladly ask someone for directions, his shyness be damned, but there is nobody walking on the streets at this hour. He feels like crying. Then he goes through a passage and realizes he is in some courtyard. He sighs and wants to go back.

Suddenly he hears the clattering of horseshoes behind him. He doesn’t know whether to feel relieved or scared. He decides for scared when he recognizes the horse.

“What are you doing here?” Iker Casillas asks in a harsh voice like David was some thief.

David gathers up all his courage to look up at the rider.

“I...” he starts.

Casillas frowns, tilting his head to see David’s face better in the rests of the light.

“Don’t I know you?” he asks and grabs David’s hand.

He is definitely treating him like a thief.

David tries to wriggle out of his grip and the sleeve of his shirt slides down a little bit, revealing the mark on his wrist. Casillas smiles.

“Of course I do know you.”

~ ~ ~

David is looking around himself, feeling like in some kind of a dream. He is not sure if it is a dream or a nightmare. But Casillas’ house is such a beautiful place that he cannot imagine there could be a more splendid one.

“I should return you to your owner,” Casillas says in a light voice. “He will sure be missing you.”

David looks at him and says nothing.

“What are you even doing in this part of the city? It is quite far from your house,” Casillas smiles.

There is something odd about this smile, David notices. Like it’s only the lips that smile, but his eyes stay cold.

“I got lost,” David says quietly. “I’ve never been outside the house before and all the streets just looked the same to me...”

“Of course,” Casillas laughs. “They shouldn’t have left you go to the city alone for the first time. Anyone would get lost. But Villa has never been too careful of his things.”

“If you just told me how to get home...” David starts.

“But I will take you there,” Casillas gives him the odd smile again. “But in the morning of course. It’s late now and the streets are not safe.”

When it comes to David, he would feel much safer on the streets than with Casillas, but he says nothing. He doesn’t even listen anymore to what Casillas says, just lets himself be led to some room. Some servant brings him food and a basin with warm water. Everything looks nice, warm and welcoming, but at the same time it smells of some danger.

The servant goes out of the room, his steps resonating in the hallway. Then there is silence. David creeps to the door and pushes the handle. The door is locked. He slumps down the wall. He might not be the brightest tool in the shed, but he is starting to understand that he now has some role in a game he doesn’t wish to play.

Chapter Text

“I’ve never had illusions about your cleverness, but I thought you were at least a bit more intelligent than the horses you feed!” Villa yells at Sergio.

Sergio is trying to shrink as much as possible and he is looking so miserable that even Xavi feels like he should help him, despite having already scolded him before they even went to Villa.

“Señor, it’s my fault as well, I should have never agreed...”

“With the idiotic idea of Sergio? Yes, you should have never agreed with it!” Villa snaps. “But it still came out of that empty head of his.”

Francesc Fàbregas is sitting in an armchair, looking like he is actually enjoying this scene. He just happened to be in Villa’s office, discussing business, when Sergio and Xavi came. He is never opposed to some good drama, mainly when it doesn’t immediately concern him.

“I think the owner of the inn was right when he threw you out, and I should do the same!” Villa says.

Sergio’s eyes go wide and he is about to say something, but before he finds his voice again, Francesc gets up from his armchair lazily and stands between Villa and Sergio.

“Calm down, Villa,” he says. “You have enough time for such measures. When you see what even comes out of this. Barcelona is not that big to get lost in it forever. Even a dog finds its way home sooner or later, and so will that boy, I’m sure of it.”

Villa purses his lips. He knows that Francesc is probably right, after all David’s face and behavior is particular enough to make him recognizable. He wouldn’t just blend in the crowd and disappear. But Villa also doesn’t like the image of him even spending the night alone in the city.

“Just get out of my sight!” he growls finally.

Sergio is all too eager to obey this order, closing the door behind him and Xavi quickly.

“You seem really worried,” Francesc notes with an amused smirk, sitting back in the armchair and pouring some more wine in his cup.

“You wouldn’t be?” Villa frowns.

“For a slave that didn’t return home until night? I don’t think it would be the most important thing on my mind. Especially if I only paid two hundred reals for him. I pay more for my shoes.”

“You have this in common with Casillas,” Villa snaps. “You only think about money.”

“I don’t think only about money,” Francesc corrects him calmly. “I just think about money first.”

Villa sighs and drinks some more wine.

“I will kill the groom anyways,” he sighs then.

“Rather send him looking for the boy in the morning,” Francesc chuckles. “You can always kill him later.”

~ ~ ~

When Andrés walks in the big room in which most of the farmers sleep, they turn to him in surprise. Andrés throws a blanket on the last empty bed and looks around.

“Are you now sleeping here?” one of the farmers asks.

“Awesome observation, Pinto!” Andrés frowns. “Of course I am. Casillas’ man needed my bed. My whole house.”

“This is ridiculous!” Pinto says. “Casillas knows nothing about farming and I doubt this... Raúl... knows much more than to ride a horse and use a whip.”

“How is Gerard?” Andrés asks.

“He’s starting to be angry, so I’d say he’s better,” Pinto chuckles. “Jesús is taking care of him. I think they are currently plotting against this Raúl.”

“I hope they won’t get us into even bigger trouble,” Andrés sighs. 

“How much bigger could it be?” Pinto shrugs. “Working on this farm owned by someone who actually doesn’t care about it, and governed by someone who whips people for fun is bad enough.”

“It is,” Andrés sighs. “But still, I don’t think any plan Gerard and Jesús come up with could get us out of this misery. I bet they plan to let him fall into a dunghill.”

Pinto looks at him and raises his brows.

“Their plan maybe not.  But I think that I have a good one.”

~ ~ ~

Sergio looks up when Francesc Fàbregas walks in the stables.

“Are you leaving, señor?” he asks.

“Yes. Villa isn’t a good companion when he’s angry,” Francesc smiles.

Sergio goes to Francesc’s horse to saddle it. 

“I wanted to thank you,” he mumbles.

“For?” Francesc asks and leans over the wall nonchalantly. 

“For saving me... well, for the time being.”

“Oh, don’t worry about it. Villa will cool off. He always does.”

“I was hangover from last night, and well, lazy to go. I didn’t really think clearly. But I really am sorry. And worried, too. David is a friend. I care about him.”

“I know. I think Villa knows too.”

“It didn’t seem like he did. I think right now he wants to throw me out.”

“Right now he wants to kill you,” Francesc chuckles and makes a few steps towards Sergio. “But don’t worry, I won’t let him.”

Sergio narrows his eyes.

“Why?” he asks.

“Why won’t I let Villa kill you?” Francesc laughs. “Well, I wouldn’t want my friend to end up at court for killing a groom.”

Sergio shakes his head and gives a small, a bit sad smile. Francesc takes two more steps to stand right in front of him.

“Not to mention that I would kind of miss that groom,” he says quietly.

Sergio freezes when Francesc touches his hair. Not that he doesn’t reciprocate whatever feelings Francesc has for him, if they are even feelings. Sergio feels good in his company, really good. Even now he feels good. It’s just that it feels inappropriate. Francesc is a nobleman after all, he is rich, he has a good position in the army. Who cares that he owes this position mainly to his father’s fortune and that Sergio has never seen - nor has ever met anyone who would have seen – Francesc to even hold a sword. He shouldn’t be seducing a groom in a friend’s stables.

But this is Francesc Fàbregas and he always does what he wants, not what people think is appropriate. He kisses Sergio before he can even start thinking about the consequences and pushes him into a stack of straw, not caring at all about his clothes nor about what is morally acceptable and what not. 

Sergio’s eyes go even wider when he understands that Francesc definitely knows what he is doing. His tongue pushes at Sergio’s lips and after a while of hesitating, Sergio lets it in. It’s nothing like kissing a girl, there’s not the inevitable shyness in it. They are both hungry for the kiss a for a moment, Sergio forgets about being afraid of Villa, of the scolding Xavi gave him, of being worried for David, he thinks that he doesn’t even know his own name anymore. 

Francesc breaks the kiss to undo the straps on his shirt and if the sight before him isn’t the most beautiful thing Sergio’s ever seen, then he doesn’t know what is. 

“At least now...” Francesc laughs, pausing to kiss Sergio again. “If Villa walks in, he will kill us both.”

~ ~ ~

The bed is softer than any bed David has ever seen, but he doesn’t sleep. He is not that stupid. Casillas may act nice but so does the butcher leading a pig for slaughter. And he knows as much as that nice people don’t lock other people up. 

He looks out of the window. If he knew the way home, he would be probably thinking about escaping, but getting lost once, which can be already taken as an escape, and then escaping from Casillas would be a clear suicide.

Someone, probably one of the servants, walks out of the back door, looks around carefully, then throws a cape over his head and disappears in the darkness.

This house is definitely not the least suspicious place in Barcelona.

~ ~ ~

Sergio looks at Francesc who is trying to catch his breath and giggles.

“You look like you were born in that straw.”

“I just can adapt to everything,” Francesc grins. 

“And to everyone?” Sergio asks half-jokingly.

“No,” Francesc shakes his head and pulls Sergio back for a kiss. “Just you.”

They are just words, Sergio knows it. It’s insignificant, easy to say for someone like Francesc. He knows how to use words, how to say exactly what the person he is talking to wants to hear. Sergio is not so naïve to fall for it.

Despite desperately wanting to fall for it.

When he walks into the kitchen, Xavi turns from the counter to say something, but closes his mouth as soon as he sees him. Sergio sneaks past him to the hallway.

“There is straw in your hair!” he hears Xavi call.

Sergio smiles and closes the door of his room behind him. 

~ ~ ~

When Casillas walks in, David sits up immediately. 

“You said you would return me to my owner,” he says, to his surprise sounding calm and confident.

Even Casillas looks taken by surprise for a moment before putting on his smile again.

“Of course. If you want me to...”

David blinks in surprise. Casillas sits next to him and takes his hand into his. David doesn’t have the courage to pull away. However friendly the gesture seems to be, he still smells some danger underneath.

“Well, you know, boy, that runaway slaves are to be punished, don’t you?” Casillas asks lightly.

David knows. He has been thinking about it all night. 

“I wasn’t trying to run away, my lord, I swear!” David whispers. “I just got lost, I...”

“To me you don’t have to explain this,” Casillas says softly. “I’m just trying to say that maybe your master won’t believe you.” 

David looks at him with wide eyes when he runs his finger over the mark at David’s wrist.

“You’re already familiar with this kind of punishment. I think it’s the most lenient one.”

“What... what other...” 

“Well, normally the runaway slaves are whipped, that’s the custom. But if he wanted to kill you, nobody could blame him. He can do whatever he pleases with his things. It is not a crime to kill a slave.”

Iker fights a satisfied smile. He has the boy exactly where he wanted to have him. Terrified, ready to do whatever Iker asks him to do, just to save his life. It’s incredible how much these hang on their lives, Iker thinks. Us rich, we seem to be looking for every possible way to die. We drink, eat too much, we get into fights, we go to war, sail on the sea. Like we couldn’t get enough of danger, like we wanted to see the face of the Angel of Death as soon as possible. But this little boy has nothing, and he hangs on his poor, miserable life. After all, it’s understandable. It’s the only thing he has.

“Of course I will put my word in for you,” Iker says, reaching out to David’s face tentatively.

The boy doesn’t flinch. He’s more clever than he seems, Iker muses. 

“Will you?” David whispers hopefully.

Iker smiles.

“It would be a shame to destroy such a beautiful thing,” Iker says and runs his hand down David’s back. “I’m sure there has to be a way to get you out of this trouble. I know you didn’t want to do anything bad, did you?”

David shakes his head.

“Of course you didn’t. You are a good boy, aren’t you?”

Iker’s hands are tracing the sides of his spine.

“You have to understand, me and Villa are not really friends. It will take some effort for me to persuade him,” he continues. “I will want something in return.”

He can practically see the battle the boy fights with himself. That in itself is odd. Iker is sure another one like that wouldn’t hesitate in such situation. But the sense of self-preservation wins obviously as David leans forward and presses his lips against the older man’s. Iker laughs shortly.

“Yes. This too.”

~ ~ ~

Sergio walks out of the house. He is so submerged in thoughts that he almost gets run over by a carriage. When he lifts his head, he cannot believe his eyes. He knows that carriage, and it’s probably the last one he would expect in front of Villa’s house.

The coachman jumps off the box and opens the door. Iker Casillas’ head emerges from the carriage and he looks around carefully before stepping out in the street. Then Sergio has to shake his head really hard because he thinks he is dreaming. After Casillas, David jumps out of the carriage. 

“What-” Sergio starts, but then Xavi runs out of the house.

“Will you just stand here, Sergio?” he yells while trying to bow to Casillas, hug David and smack Sergio over the head in the shortest time possible. “Go and tell señor Villa that he has a visit!”

“Of course,” Sergio blurts out and runs into the house.

His head still doesn’t get anything, but he manages to knock at Villa’s door and carefully peak in, just in case Villa still wants to kill him.

“Have you come to tell me about another stupid thing you’ve done?” Villa growls.

“No, señor... I came to tell you that señor Casillas is here.”

“Casillas?” Villa frowns. “Does he want to spoil every day of my life now?”

“David is with him,” Sergio says.

“What?” Villa shouts, making Sergio jump up.

“I don’t know what happened, but...”

“Tell them to come in.”

Sergio nods frantically.

“I was just going to look for David, you know, and...” 

“Tell them to come in NOW!”

Sergio runs out of the office and back to the hall. 

“Señor Villa is waiting for you!” he announces.

“Perfect,” Casillas smiles. “Thank you.”

Sergio blinks in surprise. As far as he remembers, Iker Casillas never smiles to servants. And he never, never ever thanks them.

“This way, señor!” Sergio says.

“I know the way,” Casillas says calmly. “We won’t need you anymore. I will just give señor Villa back what belongs to him.”

~ ~ ~

Villa has to admit that whatever game Casillas is playing, he is playing it well. But Villa wasn’t born yesterday and he is mistrustful enough not to fall for these sweet words and smiles.

But he also knows that the best thing is to play along if he wants to find out what Casillas’ intentions are. He thanks him for bringing him his servant back. Asks politely if he can do anything to pay him back. Expresses his regrets if the situation caused any inconveniences to Casillas.

He is mostly cautious about not sparing David a single look while talking. Whatever Casillas has in mind, he must be relying on the fact that Villa cares about the boy. This is the impression Villa has to disperse.

“Well, I have to go,” Casillas says and gets up, checking discreetly whether his clothes haven’t suffered any crumples while he was sitting. “I have other work to do.”

“Thank you once again,” Villa says and gets up too. 

“It was really no problem for me,” Casillas smiles. “I know that lately you’ve lost a lot of things. I wouldn’t want you to lose another one.”

Villa swallows all the answers that come to his head and takes a deep breath in order not to punch Casillas in the face right away.

“Indeed,” he says. “It seems like things don’t like to stay in my house for too long.”

Casillas grins and nods curtly. Villa looks at David shortly and sees how his eyes narrow when Casillas turns his back on them. There is something in his eyes that he has never seen in them. It’s a look of pure hatred.

No, there is definitely more behind this.

~ ~ ~

Iker walks inside the dining room, looks out of the window and smiles contentedly. It’s dark outside and the only thing he can see is the flame of someone’s torch, moving in the darkness like a lost star. Iker runs a hand through his hair. He feels satisfied and yet restless. He cannot believe his own luck.

When he hears the footsteps behind him, he doesn’t even turn around.

“Did you deliver my message?” he asks.

“Do you really believe he will do it for you?” a voice behind his back says instead of answering.

Iker doesn’t move his eyes from the light on the street.

“You did it. Why shouldn’t he?”

“It’s different. You’re paying me.”

“I saved the skin on his back. That’s probably more persuasive than money, don’t you think?”

“I still don’t think the boy could keep a secret from Villa.”

Iker turns around and faces his interlocutor.

“He will keep it a secret. And so will you. Remember I could still bring you back to the city. If I remember well, they still cut the hands of thieves off.”

“You wouldn’t!” there’s a hint of panic in his voice.

“You know very well that I would. So don’t make me, Fábio.” 

Chapter Text

“So Casillas suddenly turned into a benefactor?” Francesc frowns. “Why don’t I believe it?”

“I don’t believe it either,” Villa shrugs. “But what else shall I think? He brought him home. The boy was fine.”

“Then?” Francesc raises his brows. “What is it you’re worried about?”

“He has something on his mind.”

“Like what?”

“That’s what I can’t figure out.”

Francesc shakes his head.

“Well, for sure you won’t figure it out yourself,” he says. “Why don’t you ask him?”

“Casillas?” Villa blinks.

“God, no!” Francesc almost spits out the wine. “I mean the boy. Ask him what Casillas said to him.”

Villa sighs. Not that he hasn’t thought about it. But he came to the conclusion that it would be useless.

“You’ve seen him. He barely speaks to me. He won’t tell me anything.”

“Then make him.”

Villa turns around briskly and takes a breath. Francesc immediately lifts his hand defensively.

“Calm down, Villa!” he chuckles. “I don’t mean you should whip him or lock him up in a cellar or anything!” 

“Then I’m surprised,” Villa says sarcastically. “It would sound exactly like you.”

“Why so bitter, dear friend?” Francesc smirks. “I don’t hide that if it was about a slave that cost me about as much as the shirt I sleep in, I wouldn’t be racking my brains over how to get something out of him and not hurt his precious little feelings – or, for the matter, precious little body - in the process, but if it really worries you, then it’s your choice.” 

“So what was it that you meant?” Villa asks, deciding not to get into further arguments with his friend.

“God, Villa, have you ever tried behaving like a normal human being with him?” Francesc laughs. “I mean, not like a missionary teaching him about the great ideals of the Christian faith, because honestly, you could have never convinced me about those, and I am actually baptized, so better not try that with the boy who probably believes in some animal gods or something. And, not like the usual stern former soldier.”

“So you mean, behaving like someone completely else than I really am.”

Francesc sighs deeply.

“I remember that you used to be quite a nice man before... well, before Casillas appeared on the scene.”

Villa makes a face.

“Come on, just talk to him!” Francesc says, spreading his arms. “Pour him some wine, make him a bit drunk, loosen him up and he will tell you even what he doesn’t think he knows. These boys are like women, once they got your attention they don’t want to lose it.”

“I see you’re talking out of your own experience,” Villa notes.

“Oh, sometimes I even wish they would leave me alone, those women,” Francesc says with a smug smile. “But you know, we shouldn’t refuse the gifts God gives us...”

“Of course,” Villa says with a skeptical frown and continues staring in his cup of wine.

“Why are you still acting like it is the most difficult thing in the world?” Francesc asks. “You only need three things. Stop behaving like you usually do, enough wine, and empty house.”

“Empty house?” Villa raises his brows.

“Of course. You don’t want that groom of yours to storm in with some new discovery he has just made, or the cook to come to ask you if you are not hungry because you haven’t eaten anything for ten minutes already.”

“You seem to know my household better than me.”

“Of course I know your household better than you,” Francesc smirks. “And that is why I am going to help you with it. Give them a free evening. Sergio will then surely go to his favorite tavern, he will take Xavi with him, and well, I will be there paying them drinks long enough to make sure they don’t return before midnight.”

“I don’t think this will be a huge sacrifice from you,” Villa chuckles. “You do this pretty much all the time.”

“So tonight?”

Villa shakes his head. 

“I am meeting Carles tonight.”

“Oh, he wasn't eaten by any sea monsters yet?” Francesc chuckles. “Alright, but the sooner you do it, the better.”

“I will do it tomorrow then.”

Francesc nods and gets up.

“Alright. Tomorrow I will go to have a few cups at my favorite place.”

~ ~ ~

Sergio is waiting in the stables. When he hears the steps, he turns around and smiles at Francesc.

“Are you waiting for someone?” Francesc asks with a smirk. “I wouldn’t like to interrupt.”

“Of course I am waiting for someone!” Sergio says and leans over the wall.

“Could that someone… possibly be me?”

Sergio narrows his eyes.

“You spend suspiciously much time here now,” he notes.

“Does it bother you?” Francesc chuckles.

“Not at all. But it’s strange.”

“I’m helping Villa with something right now,” Francesc says and comes closer to Sergio. “Maybe you could help too.”

“Me? Help? How?”

“Well, this boy Villa bought…”

“Not again!” Sergio rolls his eyes. “What is so special about him that you’re all obsessed with him?”

“Obsessed? Sergio, you know that the only one I’m obsessed with is you,” Francesc smiles. “But who else is, like you say, obsessed with him?”

“Well, Xavi won’t let me even make fun of him. Villa tiptoes around him like he was made of glass, Casillas eyes him like a chunk of gold...”

“And that is what we are after,” Francesc nods.

“You are after Casillas?” Sergio looks at him. “Have you lost your mind? He just blinks and you end up in prison!”

“Oh, I think you overestimate him and underestimate me!” Francesc laughs. “Listen, you know as well as Villa and me that Casillas doesn’t do good deeds for free, right?”

Sergio nods.

“Then why would he help a poor lost slave boy, let him sleep in his house and bring him home so that he wouldn’t suffer any harm? And not ask for anything in return? Think.”

“I don’t know,” Sergio sighs and bites on his lip. “But truth is that David behaves strangely since he came back. I mean, even more strangely than is usual with him, which means a lot strangely.”

“See? We are already getting somewhere!” Francesc says. “Did he tell you anything? About Casillas?”

“Not at all. He tries to act normally all the time, but he’s so bad at it it’s incredible.”

“Well, that maybe tells us something.”

“What does it tell us?” Sergio asks, feeling a bit dumb, but after all, he is just a groom, so thinking isn’t exactly his domain, he will gladly leave it to Francesc and Villa.

“That if Casillas didn’t ask Villa for anything in return, maybe he asked the boy for something.”

Sergio blinks a few times, then laughs.

“What could he ask for from David? He doesn’t have anything! Even the clothes that he wears are mine!”

“It’s not just things that you can pay with, Sergio!” Francesc says seriously. “And that’s where you could help. I have three tasks for you.”

“What tasks?”

“One, you will keep an eye on the boy. More than usual. Watch what he does, listen to what he says.”

“Fine.”

“Two, when Villa gives you a free evening tomorrow, you have to bring Xavi to the Drunken Horse with you, but the boy has to stay here, understood?”

Sergio chuckles.

“Making him stay won’t be as difficult as persuading Xavi to go with me after the last time.”

“Well, promise him that there will be no fat ladies around.”

“Sure. And the third task?”

Francesc narrows his eyes.

“Three... kiss me now.”

~ ~ ~

Carles Puyol walks in Villa’s house carrying several rolls of parchment and smiling excitedly. Sergio rolls his eyes secretly behind his back while Xavi runs here and there, ensuring that the food is ready to be served.

“Take it upstairs, Sergio!” he says, motioning to a platter with the first course.

Sergio groans and eyes the chicken leg he has been eating with certain regret.

“I will take it there!” David offers suddenly, grabs the platter and disappears.

“Do you get this?” Sergio frowns. “Normally he tries to be invisible when there are people around, and now he is all eager to be around Puyol?”

“Well, why should he be afraid of Puyol, Sergio?” Xavi shrugs. “If he wasn’t afraid of that pirate, God saves us from him ever coming back!”

Sergio snorts at Xavi’s attempt to cross himself while holding a stirring spoon.

“Still, he acts weird. Oh, by the way, do you know we will have a free evening tomorrow?”

“How do you know?” Xavi asks surprisedly.

“Oh well, the birds told me...” Sergio grins.

“Señor Fàbregas told you,” Xavi states. “Don’t count with me to go to that awful place again!”

“Come on, Xavi!” Sergio whines. “I swear no fat girls this time, I swear I won’t get that drunk, we’ll just play cards and maybe dance a little bit...”

“No.”

“Señor Fàbregas will be there.”

“And should I stand on my head because he will be there?” Xavi murmurs, but there is already some resignation in his voice. He doesn’t have the heart to spoil Sergio’s evening, even though he doesn’t exactly understand why he needs him there so much.

“So you’re coming!” Sergio beams. “Perfect!” 

~ ~ ~

David pours some more wine into Carles Puyol‘s cup and starts collecting the plates slowly. Villa and Puyol don‘t seem to acknowledge his presence at all. Well, Villa doesn‘t seem to acknowledge his presence since he came back, David thinks bitterly. He may have escaped the worst, but sometimes he feels like he would rather sacrifice the skin on his back and be noticed than be safe and sound, but meet Villa‘s cold gaze every time he dares to lift his eyes.

"I found a really good shipbuilder in Andalusia. He is not too expensive but his ships are good. I need one big to carry the supplies for sure, and then I‘m thinking two smaller caravels. In case I need a faster ship."

"Two?" Villa raises his eyebrows. "Are you counting with that many men?"

"Of course!" Carles exclaims. "This is now or never, now I am going big! Either I come back with treasure or I don‘t come back at all!"

Villa sighs at the melodramatic, solemn tone that reveals that Carles probably had a little bit too much wine already. 

"And I will sail to the South!" Carles adds and drinks some more wine.

"What?" Villa shouts.

"I decided to listen to Alonso‘s pirate!" Carles says contentedly. "What have I found when I listened to honorable men? Nothing. Maybe the advice of a pirate will bring me luck.“

Villa runs his hands over his face.

"I think we should have the second course now,“ he says.

~ ~ ~

Xavi is looking for honey in the storage room when he hears a loud crash from the kitchen. He immediately runs in to find the jar with beer broken on the floor. The kitchen is empty. A moment later David walks in.

“How did this happen?” Xavi asks, dumbfounded.

“Must have been Sergio‘s cat,“ David says.

Xavi snorts.

“I told him a thousand times to throw that dirty beast away!”

“He loves it!” David shrugs.

“But I don’t have any beer to cook with now!”

“I could bring some from the tavern,” David offers.

Xavi gives him a suspicious look.

“It’s just a street away, I won’t get lost!” David objects.

“Alright,” Xavi sighs, takes some coins from the place he thinks is secret but of course everyone knows where he keeps the money, and gives them to David.

David takes a new jar and runs out of the house. Xavi takes a broom and still cursing at Sergio’s cat starts to clean the floor.

~ ~ ~

The tavern is indeed just a street away, but he still has enough time to think. He feels terrible. He broke a jar and lied to Xavi about it to get out of the house. That in itself is bad, leave alone what he is about to do now.

He enters the tavern and looks around. For a moment he feels some hope that the person won’t be there and he won’t have to do anything. Then he spots the figure in black cape, sitting in the corner of the tavern. He sighs and drags his feet to the table.

“What took you so long?” the man growls when David sits down. “I don’t have all night to spend here.”

“It wasn’t easy to get out of the house,” David says. “And I needed some time, otherwise I wouldn’t have anything to tell you.”

“Well, I hope you have something to tell me, otherwise...”

Otherwise you’re in trouble and me too, David thinks. He cannot read the man’s expression, all he sees is a pair of dark eyes and the tip of his nose, but there is something nervous in his voice. David sighs. He is in trouble either way. He can just hope this will satisfy Casillas enough to leave him alone.

~ ~ ~

Raúl Albiol contentedly wipes his mouth and sprawls out in his chair. He eyes the girl who brought him the dinner for a while and contemplates whether he should have some fun with her tonight, but then decides against it. He has just enjoyed a great meal, so he feels full and entirely satisfied. He isn’t into women that much after all.

He has no idea that behind the house, a group of the workers has gathered and is now waiting quietly in the shadows.

The girl walks out of the house and looks around. 

“Alejandra!” Jesús hisses.

She looks around carefully once more and comes to them.

“So?” Pinto asks her.

“He stuffed himself like the pig he is, and drank a whole bottle of wine. He will sleep in no time.”

“Great!” Pinto rubs his hands together.

“We better get rid of him soon, he’s eyeing me like I’m food as well!” Alejandra murmurs.

“He touches you and I’ll make sure he will have nothing to eye you with!” Jesús growls.

“Of course, you have just the right built to do it!” Gerard chuckles. “We better stick to the original plan.”

In that moment they hear snoring so loud that it could be heard even if the window of Raúl’s room wasn’t open. 

“I think the time has come!” Andrés says.

Then they head towards the fields. 

~ ~ ~

Sergio walks inside the kitchen and finds Xavi wiping the floor angrily.

“What happened?” he asks.

“Ask your stupid cat what happened!” Xavi snaps. 

Sergio looks at the frightened cat that is hiding in the corner and takes it in his arms.

“What happened?” he asks it and Xavi just rolls his eyes. “What did that nasty cook do to you, sweetie?”

“It broke the jar with beer!” Xavi says. 

“Well, Xavi, the cat for sure didn’t think ‘I will break a jar to make Xavi angry’,” Sergio says. “Where is David, by the way?”

“He went to get the beer to the tavern.”

“What?” Sergio yells and drops the cat.

“Calm down, it’s just a street away. If he gets lost this time, I will start doubting his sanity.”

“Still,” Sergio says angrily. “You scolded me so much last time and now you just let him go out? To a tavern on top of everything, at night. You know what could happen to him?”

Xavi has no time to react before Sergio is already in the hall.

“Where are you going?” Xavi yells. 

“I’m going to search for him and bring him home. Safe.”

~ ~ ~

Sergio is just about to enter the tavern when a man in a black cape storms out and passes Sergio quickly. Sergio jumps up, startled, then looks in the direction of the man. Something in his moves is familiar to Sergio, but before he collects his thoughts, the man has already disappeared in the darkness.

Sergio walks in, only to see David waiting for the innkeeper to fill his jar. David looks surprised and sort of confused when he sees Sergio.

“What are you doing here?” he asks.

“I just came to make sure you don’t get lost again,” Sergio grins.

“I’m not a child, Sergio.”

“Sometimes you’re worse.”

David grabs the jar and heads to the door. Sergio catches up with him.

“Also, there are strange people around here,” he says. 

“What strange people?”

“Right when I was going in, a weird guy came out,” Sergio says.

David gulps and tries not to look like he knows what weird guy Sergio means.

~ ~ ~

Iker Casillas is sitting in his office when there is a knock on the door. 

“Come in!” he calls and lifts his head when the visitor comes in. “Finally! What took you so long?”

Fábio takes off the black cape and fixes his hair.

“Don’t ask me what took me so long but what took that boy so long!” he growls. “This was the last time I did this.”

“It’s me who decides whether it was the last time or not!” Iker snaps.

“You promised I wouldn’t have to come back to the city, and you send me just there, just a street away from Villa’s house! If Villa walked in that tavern, I’d be dead on the spot.”

“Villa doesn’t go to taverns,” Iker snorts. “Better tell me what you found out.”

Fábio still looks furious, so Iker lets a servant bring him some wine (that he would never drink himself, of course) and some food. These are like dogs, Iker thinks,you throw them a bone and they calm down.

He listens with interest to everything Fábio tells him, frowning from time to time. 

“Pirate? Did he say pirate?” he interrupts Fábio.

“He said ‘Alonso’s pirate’, whatever he meant,” Fábio shrugs.

“So Xabier Alonso Olano now consorts with pirates,” Iker chuckles. “What a disgrace.”

“And well, he said Puyol wants to sail to the South. But nothing more. And I doubt he can steal the maps. I think Puyol won’t leave them in his house anymore, and the boy wouldn’t dare to steal them anyways.”

“No, we won’t even need them,” Iker shakes his head and looks out of the window. 

“So what is your plan now?” Fábio asks.

Iker smiles and folds his arms, looking at Fábio, who knows immediately that this smile means more trouble.

“Find me that pirate,” Iker says. 

Chapter Text

Fábio peaks out of an inn’s door and curses quietly. Not only hasn’t he managed to gain any information on Alonso’s pirate over the night, but now that the market is starting, he’s already spotted three people he knows. Which means he can’t just go there and start asking around, unless he wants to end up in Villa’s house in no time. There is nothing he wants less.

One of Villa’s neighbors seems to be discussing something with a man who sells fish. Fábio curses again. It’s right who he needs to talk to. At least for him, ‘fish’ connects with ‘sea’ and ‘sea’ connects with ‘pirate’. Maybe it isn’t the most genius thought, but Fábio is no genius, he has enough self-criticism to admit it.

Finally Villa’s neighbor leaves the market and Fábio creeps towards the fisherman.

“Morning!” the man mumbles, not looking very delighted.

Fábio probably doesn‘t look like someone likely to buy fish. And he truly wouldn‘t. As a kid he ate more fish than most of people did in their entire lives.

“Eh... Can you possibly tell me...” Fábio starts nervously.

After all, the man is holding a huge knife, so who wouldn’t be nervous.

“’Re fresh, if you want to ask,” the man growls.

It’s clear that without buying, there will be no talking either. Fine, Fábio tells himself. Casillas wants his information, he will have fish for lunch. Or dinner. Or he can stuff it and put in the room he keeps his hunting trophies, for all I care.

“Where are they from?” Fábio asks.

The man gives him a strange look.

“Man, does it matter?” he barks. “You want a document about their origin? Signed by the King himself, maybe?”

Fábio puts on his business face. Or what he thinks is his business face.

“Of course it matters!” he says. “My lord wouldn’t eat anything you pulled out of some dirty bay!”

His lord wouldn’t eat anything that would come from this market and wasn’t delivered fresh right to his house, Fábio is sure of that. However, it seems to work on the man.

“I have my places,” he says. “Quite far from the shore, if that is what concerns you.”

“Alright,” Fábio says. “I guess one has to know where to go if he wants to have what the others don’t have, eh?”

The man gives him a puzzled look. Alright, Fábio might not be the brightest tool in the shed, but compared to this guy he is a pure genius.

“Or who to ask when he wants to know what the others don’t know,” he continues. “I hear even some lords have to turn to some unusual people when they want to know something.”

“The lords want to know where to fish?” the man blinks.

Fábio feels like smashing him over his head with the nearest tuna.

“No, I mean if they want to know their way to certain places. On the sea.”

“Oh.”

That was enough with puzzles.

“I mean señor Xabier Alonso Olano,” Fábio hisses. “Doesn’t he seek the company of a strange sort of people lately?”

Finally the man’s face brightens.

“You mean the...” he lowers his voice. “The pirate.”

Oh, thanks good Lord in heaven, he’s not entirely stupid.

“Sure. I heard about it from a friend. Surely he doesn’t keep that pirate in his house?”

The man chuckles.

“Surely not. Señora Nagore wouldn’t be happy about that.”

Fábio chuckles as well even though he doesn’t find anything about it funny and he doesn’t care at all about señora Nagore nor about her freak of a husband.

“I wonder where I would hide a pirate if I had one. Alonso must be a smart man,” he says then, pretending that the matter doesn’t interest him anymore. “I’ll take this fish.”

The man looks at the fish Fábio is pointing at and nods contentedly. Then he leans closer.

“Actually, hiding a pirate is easier than you’d think,” he says and winks.

~ ~ ~

Sergio comes into the kitchen where Xavi is tasting the soup he’s cooking and David is polishing some dishes. Sergio stands in front of the window and uses it as a mirror.

“Do I tie my hair back or leave it like this?” he asks.

“If you ask me, both will look awful,” Xavi mutters. “You need a haircut.”

“Thank you!” Sergio snaps. “But I don’t feel like spending money on the barber.”

“I could cut it!” Xavi offers and grabs a pair of scissors from the wall.

“Step back!” Sergio yells. “Don’t even think about that! I’m not entrusting my precious hair to you.”

“I see nothing precious about it!” Xavi says. “I cut my hair myself, too.”

“Well, that’s why it looks as it looks,” Sergio grins and takes the scissors from him.

After a while of struggling to reach the ends of his hair while looking at his reflection in the window, Sergio gives up.

“I could do it,” David offers. “If you entrust your precious hair to me.”

Sergio pets his hair ends while considering the offer.

“If I don’t end up looking like Xavi...” he says then.

“Nothing wrong with how I look,” Xavi snaps.

Sergio sits on the chair while David takes the place on the table to better reach Sergio’s hair. Xavi looks at him disapprovingly, but then focuses on the soup again.

“How dare you say my hair is not precious?” Sergio mumbles and purrs when David runs his fingers through it. “Where have you seen prettier hair?”

“No way you could beat señor Puyol’s hair, Sergio!” Xavi says mockingly.

“Oh, so you prefer curly?”

Suddenly, there is a cough from the door. David turns to the door and when he sees Villa standing there, the scissors in his hand snap closed without him wanting it. He quickly hides the cut-off strand of Sergio’s hair and prays for Sergio not to notice.

“I’m sorry to interrupt,” Villa says, looking rather amused at the scene. “I just wanted to tell you that I will need one of you to stay here tonight. Of course you can take the evening off another day.”

Xavi takes a breath.

“Well, I...”

“Oh, Xavi, please!” Sergio jumps in immediately. “You’ve been so stressed out lately! You need to relax, yesterday was too late!”

Xavi blinks in surprise as he tries to process when did he express any signs of being stressed out, and when exactly did Sergio start to care about his well-being.

“I can stay,” David says calmly.

“But David never goes anywhere...” Xavi starts and then blinks again because Sergio suddenly looks like he is about to murder him.

“It doesn’t matter,” David says. “I don’t want to go anywhere anyway.”

Sergio breathes a sigh of relief and notices that so does Villa, probably relieved that at least Sergio understands his plan.

“Good,” Villa says. “You can continue with... whatever is going on in there.”

Sergio grins and helps himself to an apple from the bowl on the table. They can hear the door of Villa’s office close.

“When he’s not in the company of sailors, pirates and other freaks, he actually acts normal, I would say,” Sergio says.

“Too bad you don’t act normal whatever company you’re in,” Xavi says. “And I warn you, Sergio. One fat girl tonight and I’m leaving.”

~ ~ ~

Iker Casillas hears a knock on the door and quickly hides some pieces of parchment into a drawer that he locks.

“Enter!” he calls then.

The door opens and Fábio walks in, a huge grin on his face.

“I found you the pirate!” he announces.

Casillas looks sceptically at the giant fish in Fábio’s hand.

“Is this supposed to be him?”

“No, this is what I had to buy to get the information.”

“Alright, then take it out of this room immediately and then come back only with the information,” Iker barks.

When Fábio and the fish are gone, Iker opens the window and sprays a bit of cologne in the air.

“Why can’t the servants be at least a bit civilized?” he sighs.

~ ~ ~

Sergio enters the tavern and is greeted by a loud cheer that suggests that he is well-known there. Xavi follows him a lot less enthusiastically. At the table in the middle of the room, Francesc Fàbregas is already throwing one of his countless parties.

“My two favorite people are here!” he announces. “That means... wine for all!”

Xavi doesn’t know when he has become Francesc Fàbregas’ favorite person, but Sergio acts like it would offend him if he wasn’t greeted that way.

When Xavi is sipping on his wine, Francesc takes Sergio to one corner and checks carefully if nobody is listening.

“How is our plan going?” he asks.

“It almost failed because of Xavi,” Sergio chuckles. “I think next time we have to introduce him to our plans as well, he’s absolutely clueless.”

“Not to all of our plans, though,” Francesc winks. “For example, I’ve been trying to come up with a plan how to steal you for myself for a while tonight. Perhaps you have one?”

“I think after a few more cups, nobody will care if we disappear for a moment,” Sergio grins.

“Right,” Francesc nods. “More wine for everyone!”

Then he frowns and takes a step aside to look at Sergio’s back.

“Listen, Sergio, what is going on with your hair?” he chuckles

“What?” Sergio asks, looking worried.

“I don’t know... but one strand is kind of... too short.”

Sergio checks his hair with his fingers quickly.

“I will kill him!” he says then.

“Who?” Francesc laughs.

“David. Unless Villa does it first.”

~ ~ ~

Villa is going through his money records when there is a knock on the door. He looks up in surprise. It can only be one person and he would expect that person to be hiding the furthest from him as possible.

“Yes?” he calls.

The door opens slowly and David peaks in, then stands on the doorstep.

“You wanted to talk to me,” he says.

“Did I?” Villa raises his brows.

“I suppose it’s what the whole thing was for. Sergio is a bad actor and Xavi doesn’t help.”

Villa sighs, half in surprise, half in frustration. He has planned a strategy and now he feels like a general whose maps were just stolen. He planned an offensive and now realizes that the opponent had plenty of time to prepare his defense.

“Well, then come in.”

David walks in and closes the door behind him. Villa pushes aside the books.

“Would you sit down?”

David crosses his arms immediately.

“I’d rather...”

“It wasn’t a question.”

He can almost see Francesc rolling his eyes and mumbling something about him being hopeless. Villa really feels hopeless, but he’s not Francesc to have the magical ability to make everyone immediately like him, nor is he Iker Casillas to put on the honey-sweet fake smile anytime he pleases.

David sits on the small sofa, which is the only place not completely covered in documents, maps and books. When Villa sits next to him, he curls up in the corner the furthest from him possible. Villa suppresses a sigh.

“So if you saw through our plan, you probably also know what I wanted to talk to you about.”

“About señor Casillas.”

Villa nods.

“He helped me,” David says quietly, avoiding Villa’s eyes. “I got lost and he let me sleep in his house and brought me back in the morning. You know it.”

“I know it,” Villa nods. “Only I don’t believe that it was this simple.”

“Why?”

“Because Iker Casillas doesn’t like me,” Villa says simply. “What did he tell you?”

“What was he supposed to tell me?” David asks, looking somewhere between Villa and the window.

“Anything that would concern me, perhaps?”

“He said he would put his word in for me, and he did.”

“Put his word in for you?” Villa repeats. “Why?”

“Well, so that you wouldn’t be angry with me. He said that he would tell you that I really just got lost and I wasn’t trying to run away...”

“But... I never thought you were!” Villa says. “And I wasn’t angry with you. I was angry with Sergio, not you!”

For the first time, David looks at him.

“But you didn’t even... you didn’t even look at me!” he says quietly. “You ignored me. You still do. And sometimes I think I shouldn’t have wanted señor Casillas to ask you not to punish me, because this is worse than all the other things.”

“I can assure you that Casillas didn’t influence me in any way, David, but I would like to know what other things you mean.”

“The ones that he mentioned,” David shrugs. “I thought you wouldn’t believe me, because who’s that stupid to get lost on his way to a mill, and you would have the right to whip me for trying to escape.”

“You believed him this?” Villa asks in disbelief. “You believed that I would hurt you?”

David looks at him like he doesn’t get what is so hard to understand there.

“Even if you wanted to kill me, you would have the right to do it.”

Villa raises his hand and reaches for David’s face. David backs up.

“Yes,” Villa whispers, withdrawing his hand. “You believed him.”

David twitches uncomfortably, like he regrets the sofa isn’t bigger or doesn’t allow him to just soak himself in it and disappear completely.

“I was afraid!” he says then in a voice that is half-apologetic, half-accusing.

“Of me?” Villa asks in a flat voice.

“Yes... No! I...” David bites his lip and curls up in the corner even more. “Not of you... I was afraid you wouldn’t let me come back, that you’d sell me again, because I’m just...”

“You’re just what?”

David lowers his eyes.

“Trouble,” he whispers.

To his surprise, Villa laughs quietly.

“I wish all my troubles were like you,” he says. “I could never sell you, David, because no one is rich enough to be able to buy you for the price I’d set.”

He leans back and smiles a bit mischievously.

“Not even Casillas.”

David looks at him and his eyes glisten with tears.

“I kissed him,” he whispers.

Villa’s smile disappears from his face in a second. For a moment he wants to ask who they are talking about, but he knows it well enough.

“Why?” he asks instead, surprised at how creaky his voice sounds.

What he feels isn’t the usual burning hate towards Casillas. This is rather bitter and leaves a strange, tart taste in his mouth. But maybe he’s just imagining it.

“Because he wanted it,” David shrugs.

He wanted it,” Villa repeats. “What about you?”

David gives him a confused look.

“He’s a lord. I’m a slave. What does it matter what I want or think?”

“To me it matters.”

For the first time, David gives a small smile, his eyes boring into Villa’s like two large, dark pools.

“I know it does.”

Villa tries to get a grip, not to get lost in the strange, tacky atmosphere that seems to be encircling them. He’s heard stories that the superstitious women and peasants told about the strangers, the non-believers, the stories about them being associated with the Devil. Villa is a pragmatic and he doubts the boy cares about God at all, leave alone the Devil. But there is still something strange about him that he’s unable to grasp with reason.

“Are you afraid that I’ll bewitch you?” David asks suddenly like he can read Villa’s thoughts, and there is some amusement behind it, but there’s something bitter as well.

“Should I be?” Villa asks.

“I wish I could do it,” David smiles, looking a bit lost in thoughts. “My old master thought I could. He used to say my eyes were marked by the Devil, I couldn’t even look at him. Whatever bad happened to the animals, it was my fault. But I never bewitched anyone.”

“Oh, that’s not true,” Villa says. “You bewitched me. At the market. And you don’t even know about it.”

He reaches for David‘s face again, and this time the boy doesn‘t move away. He closes his eyes, tilts his head and leans into the touch. For a moment Villa doesn‘t know what to do, feels like he‘s forgotten what it‘s like to have someone that close. Then he takes David‘s hand in his and turns his wrist to him. He runs his thumb over the mark. David flinches like it is still fresh. Villa lifts his wrist to his lips and kisses it.

David stays with his eyes closed, lips slightly parted. Villa wishes he could paint him, because it‘s a sight to behold. He reminds him of an exotic flower that blooms at night. He might hate Iker Casillas with all his life, but he can understand his whimsy now. It‘s just impossible to resist. It‘s a beauty even the kings would fall for.

When their lips touch, it feels like a lightning bolt running through his body and for a moment Villa thinks God decided to finally strike him down for all his previous sins and this one, too. But then David‘s fingertips brush his cheek and he realizes that he‘s very much alive. He also realizes that where he loses courage and thinks of God‘s punishment, David loses his fear, like he‘s finally found what he‘s been looking for. The feeling of safety, of being close to someone, someone‘s gentle touch.

They are David‘s fingers that first creep underneath Villa‘s shirt, with shameless curiosity. Villa lifts his arms hesitantly to help him pull the shirt over his head. David‘s eyes roam over his body and then he touches an old scar on his abdomen.

"Where is this from?“ he asks.

"A battle,“ Villa says. "I used to be a soldier.“

"Why aren‘t you anymore?“

"I retired.“

"Does it still hurt?“ David asks, caressing the long scar.

"Sometimes,“ Villa says.

"Old scars do,“ David nods. "They say when they heal, it means the pain is over. But sometimes it comes back.“

Villa unties the laces on David‘s badly fitting shirt, originally Sergio‘s, he supposes. When he touches David‘s back, he knows immediately that he knows what he‘s talking about. It‘s like running his fingers over folded tissue. He pulls David in his arms, then lays him on the sofa and kisses every single one of the scars. He can feel the boy tremble under the fleeting kisses and he finds his lips again, then pulls back in hesitation. David smiles, turns on his back and pulls Villa down.

"Could it be that now you‘re afraid of me?“ he asks breathily.

"Perhaps. Perhaps I‘m afraid of hurting you.“

"You can‘t hurt me like this,“ David whispers, eyes slightly unfocused. "It only hurts when you‘re not touching me.“

"Then...“ Villa smiles, climbing up to the sofa and trying to find the right position to fit there. "I should make sure you feel no pain.“

~ ~ ~

Sergio creeps across the dark kitchen, followed by Xavi who‘s muttering something about Francesc Fàbregas‘ position in the army.

"He uses his sword just to reach things on the higher shelves, I wonder what he will do once he really has to go to war,“ he says.

"Nah, at that time he‘ll already be a general and he will just look in the maps and command the others from safe distance,“ Sergio laughs. "Is it so late already that nobody‘s awake?“

He opens the door to his room and tiptoes inside. David is asleep and there is a smile on his lips.

"Well...“ Sergio shakes his head. "Now I really don‘t understand anything.“

Chapter Text

Sergio dreams that he is riding a horse when it starts to rain. Then he wakes up to realize that he is in fact in his bed and the rain is water that David is splashing on his face while giggling like a little boy.

“Are you crazy?” Sergio growls. “Why don’t you let me sleep?”

“Because Xavi was already here and he looked pretty mad when he saw you still asleep,” David says and finally stops splashing water on Sergio. “You drank too much again.”

“I never drink too much!” Sergio says. “I drink until I’m awesome.”

“Will you already move your buttocks from that bed, Sergio?” Xavi yells from the kitchen. 

Sergio groans and gets up. He looks at David while washing his face.

“So... what happened yesterday?” he asks.

“Was anything supposed to happen?” David frowns.

“Um... well, I don’t know, just...” Sergio mumbles.

“SERGIO!” Xavi shouts from the kitchen.

“I don’t know why he thinks he can give me orders!” Sergio says. “Soon he will start commanding Villa!”

David laughs and follows Sergio to the kitchen.

~ ~ ~

Raul wakes up to strange silence. Usually he wakes up so late that he can already hear the farmers working on the fields, the sounds of the animals and creaking of the old carriage they are using here. Someone should repair it because it makes too much noise and sometimes it disturbs him in his afternoon siesta. He will tell some of the useless farmers to do it.

But now there is no sound and Raul thinks he woke up too soon. But then he gets up and goes to the window. He can’t believe his eyes. The fields are empty and nobody is working. Except for one girl who is feeding the chickens. 

“Hey, you!” Raul shouts. “Where is everyone?”

The girl turns around calmly.

“Everyone is waiting for you to get up, señor!”

“Why?” Raul frowns.

“Well, they will tell you!” the girl says and runs away.

In a few moments all the farmers gather under Raul’s window. 

“What is this supposed to mean?” Raul yells. “Who do you think will work here?”

“There’s nothing to do, señor,” Andrés shrugs. 

“What?”

“The crops withered suddenly, señor!” 

Raul frowns. Pinto hands him some dry plants, like Raul knows what happened to them. He doesn’t even know what they are. He doesn’t care of plants until they become his food.

“How is that possible?” Raul yells.

Nobody seems like they are willing to give him an answer. He points at one farmer who doesn’t look as stupid as the others.

“You, what’s your name?”

“Jesús, señor!” the farmer says.

“What do you think caused that the crops... died... eh... withered, Jesús?” Raul asks.

Jesús shrugs.

“The punishment of God, señor?” 

Raul growls and slams the window shut. He’s angry, but then he realizes that he should be rather terrified. Because when Casillas hears about it, he will surely kill him. 

~ ~ ~

Villa tries to work, but when he realizes that he wrote three times the same word in his accounts, he sighs and closes the book. 

There is a knock on the door. 

“Enter!” Villa calls. 

David opens the door and comes in, carrying a tray full off plates, as usual. He smiles at Villa and Villa marvels at the change. His presumption that he is not good with words is probably true. Well, at least he can express himself otherwise.

“Xavi thinks you let me starve last night?” Villa laughs, looking at the pile of food.

“Didn’t I?” David smiles. 

“Well, it depends what kind of hunger we are talking about now.”

David blushes a little bit and lays the tray on the table. Villa leans over it and captures his lips. The way David accepts it, like it was natural, without being afraid of being seen, fascinates him, but at the same time leaves him thinking about who was the one before him. Because last night he realized that there had to be someone. But he doesn’t feel like asking. After all, David also doesn’t ask who was the one before him.

“It seems like I will have to give my servants free nights more often,” Villa says.

“I’m sure Sergio will be delighted,” David smiles.

“And you?”

“As long as I get to stay here during those nights, I will be, too.”

~ ~ ~

Raul stares at a piece of parchment. He’s been thinking about what to write to Casillas for a good while. Well, how do you tell someone that the property you were supposed to take care of is completely ruined?

Not like Casillas really cares about it, he has enough money and properties. This one was just a whimsy, he bought it simply to make Villa mad. But still, he hates when his money goes to waste, and what could he now do with a property where nothing grows?

How crops could wither so quickly really doesn‘t make sense to him. There was no hot weather, no rain or anything that (in Raul‘s opinion) could ruin them. He feels like he‘s ready to start believing in the “punishment of God“ theory that Jesús presented to him. 

He sighs, dips the quill in the ink because the one he had on it already dried while he was thinking, and starts. 

With my deepest regrets...

No matter how deep his regrets are, Casillas will cut him into pieces.

~ ~ ~

Iker Casillas doesn’t like people with more power and more money than he has. There are few, but they are there and he hates them with passion. However, he needs them. 

“So you say that there is a pirate in our city?” the regent asks, licking a chicken’s bone. “In the service of Xabier Alonso Olano?”

“Trust me, my lord Vilanova...” Iker says, trying not to show the disgust the name makes him feel. “I have a big respect for señor Alonso. But such thing is unacceptable... and I dare to say, even dangerous.”

“Indeed,” the regent nods and washes his hands in a bowl with water. “Pirates are supposed to be hanged, not wandering around my city, supported by the nobility on top of everything!”

“I was shocked myself, my lord,” Iker nods. “I know señor Alonso is a honorable man. But his obsession with sailing, I regretfully have to admit, is making him forget the good manners.”

Regent Vilanova nods again and looks to the door.

“Captain Fàbregas?” he shouts.

The door opens and Francesc Fàbregas walks in. He salutes the regent and narrows his eyes at the sight of Iker before saluting him as well.

“Señor Casillas came to warn us about a certain pirate that is allegedly in the city, and about señor Xabier Alonso Olano’s alliance with this pirate. Have you heard anything about it?” the regent asks.

Francesc looks at him calmly.

“No, my lord. It’s completely new to me.”

“It shouldn’t be,” the regent snaps. “In your position you are supposed to care for the safety and order in our city. You have a dirty rat running around here.”

“I can assure you, my lord, that I will take care of it as soon as possible.”

“You should,” the regent says. “Arrest the pirate, and tell señor Alonso Olano that I want to have a word with him.”

Francesc salutes both the regent and Iker and walks out of the room. Iker sighs.

“I am not sure if your captain is competent for such task, my lord,” he says.

“Captain Fàbregas is very competent, Casillas!” the regent snaps. “I can assure you the situation will be resolved. In the name of the King and the Queen, I thank you for your help. I am sure your loyalty will be rewarded. You can go now.”

Iker purses his lips, bows to the regent and walks out of the room. He cannot wait until this place will be his. And he is sure it will be soon.

~ ~ ~

Iker Casillas walks in his salon, only to find Fábio sitting in his chair like he was the lord there.

“Will you get up from that chair, you...” Iker barks, looking for his riding crop, only to realize that he unfortunately left it in the stables.

Which Fábio apparently noticed, so he takes his time to get up from the chair.

“So you got what you wanted?” he asks.

“Not yet,” Iker says. “But the things are going the right way.”

He looks at the chair and then decides not to sit on it. Fábio probably has louses, fleas or other nasty things the poor usually have and Iker certainly doesn’t want on him. 

“A messenger was here today,” Fábio says then. “Brought a message from Raul Albiol.”

Iker frowns. 

“Raul can write?”

“Maybe he drew you a picture?” Fábio suggests.

Iker slaps him over his back with his bare hand on sudden impulse and immediately regrets it because his hand is not used to working or punishing insolent servants. He takes the message Fábio hands him. He reads it and throws it away.

“Idiot!” he growls. “Punishment of God! He ruined my property! I will show him the punishment of Iker Casillas and he will never forget it!” 

He looks at Fábio. 

“Go to Arbeloa’s house and tell him I want to talk to him. It’s time someone competent went there.”

~ ~ ~ 

Xavi looks over at Sergio, who rolls his eyes and shrugs. 

“David?” Xavi asks quietly. “David!”

David startles and looks at him.

“What are you doing?” Xavi asks, pointing to the apple that instead of being cut into quarters is already rather mashed.

“I... sorry,” David says, running a hand through his hair. “I was just...”

“Daydreaming,” Sergio grins.

“Thinking,” David corrects him.

“That’s something Sergio never does,” Xavi says. “So he won’t understand.”

Suddenly there is a knock on the main door. Xavi frowns as it is already quite late. 

“I’m going there!” Sergio announces, jumps up, knocks over a jar and stomps on his cat’s tail.

“Dear God, why did you put a soul into a piece of wood?” Xavi sighs deeply.

Sergio runs to the hall and opens the door. He lets out a surprised gasp when he sees Francesc Fàbregas standing there in his uniform.

“I have to talk to Villa,” Francesc says.

“Won’t you come in?” Sergio asks.

Francesc looks around nervously, then nods and quickly comes in. 

“I can’t stay for long,” he says. “Would you call him, Sergio?”

Sergio nods and runs up the stairs. Villa comes down a moment later.

“What happened?” he asks.

“Casillas was at the regent’s house today,” Francesc says. “He knows about Alonso and the pirate.”

“What?” Villa gasps. “How?”

Francesc shrugs.

“I don’t know. The regent even scolded me that I didn’t know about it. I have to arrest that pirate and bring Alonso to the regent. I just wanted to warn you. Better don’t mention Alonso to anyone now, and mainly that they were in your house!” 

Villa shakes his head.

“He’s such a bastard!”

“I know. I’m not happy about it either. I think Casillas is up to something big. Be careful, Villa.”

He turns around, opens the door, carefully checks if the street is empty and walks out. Villa stands there for a while, then he walks back up. He’s so lost in thoughts that he doesn’t notice David standing in the corridor, his lips trembling.

Chapter Text

Iker Casillas hates dirty things, dirty people and dirty places. And the prison in Barcelona is one of the dirtiest places he has ever seen. He is glad that he took a black coat because any dirt will be less visible on it. On the other hand, he really likes this coat and will probably have to throw it away after he comes out of this place.

The guard unlocks the door and lets him in the cell. It’s tiny, dark, dirty and Iker can’t wait until he will be out of it. The man who is laying on a pile of hay in the corner looks at him lazily.

“Do you know who I am?” Iker asks him.

“A guy with a lot of money and terrible choice of perfume?”

Iker feels like drawing his sword and cutting this pirate’s throat right away, but then all his plans would become useless.

“I am Iker Casillas Fernández.”

“Good name. I’m just Daniel, I guess. Since I don’t know who the hell gave birth to me, so... Did you come for a chat or do you need anything else?”

Iker folds his arms.

“It looks like rather you need something,” he says.

“Oh no, I’m fine,” Daniel grins. “The food here is not actually much worse than in the taverns, and I’ve slept in worse places.”

“Well, you won’t get much of that comfort,” Iker says. “I bet there is a noose already waiting for you.”

“There have already been a few of them...” Daniel says and finally gets up. “I wonder why so many noblemen are willing to take them off my neck.”

“You know many things,” Iker says. “About sailing.”

“I know everything about sailing.”

“Was it why Alonso needed you?”

“Alonso, and his weird friend with even weirder servants, yes.”

“What if you worked for me now?”

“I will work for anyone,” Daniel shrugs. “It depends on what I get for it.”

“Your own life isn’t enough?” Iker frowns.

“My life is worth a bird’s shit,” Daniel says and chuckles at the way it offends Iker. “Sorry, my captain used to say that.”

“So what do you want? Money?”

“Obviously.”

Iker thinks for a moment. In a way, it offends him that a pirate is dictating conditions to him. If he could, he would just let them hang him and probably after this conversation, he would gladly watch the execution. But he is already behind with his plan and to look for another person with this knowledge would cost him way more than what he will have to give to this pirate.

“Alright.”

Daniel grins contentedly. Iker purses his lips.

“Just bear in mind that if my plan fails, you’ll land here again,” he says. “And I will personally make sure the noose around your neck is tight enough not to slip off.”

~ ~ ~

Francesc sighs deeply when he sits in his favorite armchair in Villa’s office. He feels more at home there than in his own house.

“I feel like I am actually doing exactly what Casillas wants,” he says. “And I hate it.”

“You do what you have to do,” Villa shrugs. “Unfortunately the regent now does what Casillas tells him to do.”

“I don’t feel bad for the pirate, you know. He’s a pirate after all, so why should I care. But I don’t get it. What does Casillas have against Alonso that he wants to destroy him?”

“Probably he’s the last step before me,” Villa says gloomily.

“The regent took all Alonso’s properties away and ordered him to leave Barcelona.”

Villa grabs the nearest book and throws it across the room where it almost hits Sergio who is standing at the door.

“Villa, don’t kill your staff or I’ll have to arrest you!” Francesc chuckles.

“Sorry,” Villa mumbles.

Sergio lays a bottle of wine and two cups on the table and quickly disappears before something else can hit him.

“We have to find out what Casillas is up to...” Francesc says. “Which brings me to the question... what did you manage to get out of that boy?”

~ ~ ~

Álvaro Arbeloa jumps off his horse and looks around. He honestly doesn’t understand why Casillas even cares about this property. Even if the crops didn’tmagically wither, he wouldn’t have any big profit from it. Half of the products would be eaten by the farmers anyway.

But Casillas sent him here and he has to find out why over so little time all the property went to waste. Álvaro is already convinced that the reason is called Raul Albiol, and Casillas probably knows it as well, but he has to see it with his own eyes.

There is a group of farmers watching him mistrustfully when he heads to the house where Raul is living.

“So this was the plan, Pinto?” Jesús frowns. “To have two instead of one?”

“Eh... no, it wasn’t,” Pinto says. “The original plan was to get rid of Raul and get Andrés back to his place.”

“Problem is I was in charge when Villa was the owner,” Andrés says. “So even if there would be just me and a cow with three heads, Casillas would appoint the cow.”

“Guys!” Gerard says, throwing his arms around Jesús’ and Pinto’s shoulders. “Don’t hang your heads down. We managed to trick Raul, this one wouldn’t be much harder to get.”

“Let’s just hope we all survive it,” Andrés sighs.

~ ~ ~

“So the only thing Casillas wanted was to... kiss that boy?” Francesc laughs. “Villa, you cannot be serious!”

Villa shrugs. Francesc shakes his head. He’s already had a few cups of wine, but even if he drank a whole keg, he wouldn’t believe this story.

“Alright, maybe he did it... I guess I would do it as well, given the opportunity, because he is quite pretty... But certainly it couldn’t be all.”

“That was all he told me.”

“Then you probably did it the wrong way.”

“Yes,” Villa whispers. “I did it the wrong way.”

Francesc raises his brows in suspicion.

“You did what?”

Villa sighs and looks at Francesc like he is about to confess to a murder.

“Well, I...”

“No!” Francesc yells and almost jumps out of the armchair. “No, Villa, no, not again, for God’s sake!”

“I can’t help it!” Villa objects.

“Help what? Don’t you remember what happened last time?”

“Every day I look at my life, it reminds me of that. No need to remind me any further.”

Francesc picks up his cup of wine and shakes his head again.

“I’m surprised to still see you here,” he notes then. “I would expect you to run to a priest to confess.”

“I confessed to you. Though I don’t think it’s as safe as confessing to a priest because I would be at least sure that the priest wouldn’t tell anyone.”

“You can’t be sure even with a priest,” Francesc chuckles. “Just offer him the post of a bishop and he’ll tell you even his own mother’s secrets.”

He finishes his cup and sighs.

“But I’m the last one who should tell anyone, or deliver a sermon on you.”

“What do you mean?”

Francesc bites his lip and looks up.

“I love your groom, Villa.”

Villa almost chokes on his wine.

“Wh-Sergio?”

Francesc shrugs.

“Are you now going to deliver a sermon on me?”

Villa smiles apologetically.

“No. I just... don’t understand how anyone can love Sergio.”

“But he is lovable,” Francesc grins. “And beautiful.”

“You do realize that if your father ever finds out...”

Francesc rolls his eyes.

“He will disown me, kick me out of the house and the army as well, or probably he will kill me instead, because it would save our family from the shame. Yes, I do.”

“And that all is worth a few moments with Sergio in the stables?” Villa asks.

“Oh, Villa, those moments are worth much more.”

“And I was just going to say that you were becoming a more sensible person,” Villa sighs.

~ ~ ~

Iker walks in his house and contentedly states that Fábio is not using any of his favorite furniture. It actually takes Iker some time to find him, which is strange because usually he sees the Portuguese everywhere, mainly when he doesn‘t want to see him.

Fábio is sitting on the terrace that overlooks the garden. In the setting sun it‘s really a sight to behold, with the birds‘ sleepy chirping and quiet bubbling of the fountain in the background. But Iker is not a romantic soul and he doubts people like Fábio even have souls, so he doesn‘t understand why he is here.

“My chair is no longer your favorite place to sit on?” Iker asks.

Fábio doesn‘t move, like he could break some spell if he moved his eyes from the scene in front of him.

“I found you the pirate,” he says quietly. “You have what you wanted. Isn‘t it enough for our deal?”

Iker frowns and takes a step towards him.

“So impatient to leave my service?” he asks.

He grips Fábio’s hair and pulls on it. It strangely disappoints him when the boy just closes his eyes in resignation and lets Iker bare his throat, like he wouldn’t care at all even if Iker decided to cut it.

“The deal will go on until I want it to go on,” Iker growls.

“Is there even still a deal?” Fábio whispers and opens his eyes.

Iker has the impression that he can see something resembling fear in them, like Fábio is afraid to hear the answer. He lets go of his hair and clears his throat.

“Of course there is,” he says. “And it all depends on you.”

“Alright,” Fábio whispers.

“It’s full moon in a few days, don’t forget,” Iker says. “Time to find out what other plans Villa and the madman Puyol made. You will do that, won’t you?”

Fábio just nods. Iker looks one more time at the garden that is now submerging in the darkness, and returns inside. At least he doesn’t have the feeling that he’s losing control anymore.

~ ~ ~

Villa is writing a letter when he notices that the clinking of dishes from the other side of the room has stopped. He lifts his head and sees David watching him quietly.

“What?” he asks.

“Just...” David says and takes a step closer. “How do you do it?”

“How do I do what?” Villa frowns.

“How do you get what you’re thinking... on the parchment?”

Villa smiles.

“Come here.”

David approaches him carefully, like when Villa is holding a quill, he becomes more dangerous. It almost makes him laugh. He pulls David in his lap.

“Look, when you speak, you speak in sentences,” Villa says and circles some words on the parchment. “This is a sentence. The sentence consists of words, and words consist of letters. When you think something, it’s like when you speak, but to yourself. So again you have sentences, words and letters. And this is why you can write the thoughts same as the sentences.”

David pouts like a little child.

“But it looks so difficult.”

“Do you want to try it?” Villa smiles.

David gives him an almost terrified look.

“To... to write?” he whispers.

“Yes.”

David watches him write a word. Then Villa puts the quill in his fingers and writes it again, leading his hand.

“What is the word?” David asks then.

Villa smiles.

“Your name.”

David turns to him.

“It’s yours, too.”

“You remember?”

“Of course I remember your name.”

Villa sighs and smiles bitterly.

“See, and I sometimes forget it.”

“Then I should learn to write it and write it a thousand times for you.”

“So try again,” Villa says and puts his hand away.

David brings the quill close to the parchment and tries to copy Villa‘s lines. The parchment tears under the tip of the quill. David gives Villa a startled look.

“Be gentle,“ Villa says, lining up the quill in David‘s hand. “Like you’re writing on someone’s skin.”

David turns to Villa with a smile that is almost mischievous. A few days ago Villa couldn’t even imagine David could smile this way.

“Would you do it one day?” he asks.

“Do what?”

“Write on my skin.”

Villa blinks, feeling his mouth go dry. He brings his hands to David’s face, tracing the features that are so unique and exotic.

“You are so beautiful,” he whispers.

David laughs childishly, dodging Villa’s lips that are about to land on his.

“You haven’t yet answered me.”

“Oh,” Villa smirks. “What was the question again?”

“If you would one day write on my skin,” David says and looks up to Villa in such way that Villa couldn’t say ‘no’ to him even if he was asking for all Villa has.

“When you write my name for me...” Villa says and tickles David’s nose with the quill. “Then I will.”

“You promise?”

“I promise.”

David smiles and gets up. He collects the dishes and goes to the door.

“I will, you know?” he says, looking at Villa defiantly. “Learn it.”

Villa gives him what he intends to be a mistrustful look, but he ends up smiling halfway. The he takes a clean piece of parchment and starts re-writing the letter to Carles Puyol that had become a teaching aid.

Chapter Text

Sergio comes to his room and looks at David incredulously.

“What are you doing?” he asks.

“No... Nothing!” David blurts out, curls up under his blanket and turns his back to Sergio.

Sergio shakes his head, takes off his clothes and climbs in his bed.

“Are you coming with us tomorrow?” he asks.

David just shakes his head.

“Why am I even asking?” Sergio sighs and blows off the candle on the table between their beds.

David waits for Sergio to start breathing regularly. Then he leans on one elbow and starts writing letters on his pillow with his finger.

~ ~ ~

Álvaro Arbeloa sits opposite to Raul Albiol at the table in Raul’s house.

“So, Casillas sent me here to find out what happened with his property,” he says. “Because he is obviously not buying into your ‘punishment of God’ theory.”

Raul gulps. He’s not sure if telling Álvaro that it was actually Jesús’ theory would help or not.

“He asked me to remind you of the sum he paid for this land.”

Raul gulps again. Álvaro sighs exasperatedly.

“Man, seriously, what happened here?”

“I... I don’t know. Everything was alright, the farmers were working, I was... that doesn’t matter, but everything was under control. Then one morning I woke up and found out nobody was working, so I asked them what happened, and they said the crops just withered by themselves!”

“Over the night or what?”

“I don’t know, I wouldn’t know there was something wrong with the crops even if I was checking on them every day. I’m not a farmer.”

Álvaro sighs.

“I will have a word with the farmers now.”

“And... I’m to stay or...”

Or to pack my stuff and return to Barcelona where Casillas will chop my head off.

“We will see about it.”

~ ~ ~

“Are you coming or not, Sergio?” Xavi yells from the kitchen.

“He found out his shirt was torn,” David smiles. “I think he’s trying to stitch it.”

“Oh no!” Xavi sighs. “We won’t go anywhere, then. It will take him all night.”

“Or he will lose his eye,” David nods.

“Hey!” Sergio growls. “Because of you I don’t have a spare one, because it’s on your body right now, so better help me with it.”

“Don’t you want me to give it back instead?” David asks with a mischievous smile.

“When it’s already adjusted for dwarves? No, thank you!”

David takes the shirt from Sergio and starts stitching the hole on the side.

“By the way, don’t think I don’t know about the strand of my hair that is missing,” Sergio sneers.

“How do you know? Can you see on the back of your head?” David asks him calmly.

“Do you hear this, Xavi?” Sergio chuckles. “When did he become this bold and cheeky?”

“I thought it was your influence,” Xavi says.

“Absolutely not!” Sergio shakes his head.

David hands him the shirt, grabs a basket and disappears in the garden.

“But I suspect Villa is doing a terrible thing,” Sergio whispers to Xavi.

“What terrible thing?” Xavi asks.

Sergio folds his arms.

“He’s teaching David how to write.”

“That’s not terrible,” Xavi shrugs. “Just because you wouldn’t ever learn it...”

“Who says I wouldn’t?” Sergio objects.

Xavi folds his arms.

“Are we going finally or you suddenly prefer David to señor Fàbregas?”

“I’m on my way!” Sergio says and runs to the door.

~ ~ ~

Fábio heads out of Casillas’ house and takes a look around. Not that he expects to meet anyone who knows him around here, but also to get stopped by the regent’s guards wouldn’t be good. Mainly because it’s Fàbregas in charge of them, and Fàbregas is Villa’s friend. He would waste no time to present Fábio to Villa with a bow on top.

The full moon is shining brightly, which doesn’t exactly help. Fábio still remembers the moment when he almost bumped into Sergio on his way from the tavern. If he didn’t put the cape on already inside, he would be probably already dead. Not that Casillas would care that much.

He finds the tavern and comes in. It’s quite full but his favorite place in the corner is empty. He sits on the wooden bench and waits.

“Are you going to have anything?” a voice sounds above him.

“Wine,” Fábio mumbles.

The innkeeper looks at him suspiciously.

“Alright,” he says. “I hope you’re not up to some nasty business. This is not a place for dirty deals.”

Damn it, he looks suspicious even in such place. Luckily before he can start explaining something and inevitably flash the innkeeper his Portuguese accent, one of the guests’ cups is empty.

“Valdés!” the man yells. “Will you let me die of thirst?”

The innkeeper gives Fábio one last suspicious look and heads to get some more wine for the man. Fábio just hopes his mission will be over soon.

~ ~ ~

David enters Villa’s office with the platter that Xavi prepared. Villa is sitting on the sofa with a mischievous grin.

"I‘ve been waiting for you," he says.

"I suppose," David smiles and lays the platter on the table.

A piece of parchment, a quill and a bottle of ink are laying on the writing desk. David approaches it and sits down on the chair. Villa stands behind him and looks over his shoulder.

“Are you going to stand there?” David asks and turns to him.

“Why?”

“You’re making me nervous.”

“But I have to be sure you don’t cheat!” Villa chuckles.

David sighs and dips the quill in the ink. He whines in frustration when the ink makes a blotch on the parchment, but Villa lays a hand on his shoulder comfortingly.

“Go on. I forgive you this one.”

David puts the quill to the paper and starts writing. He even forgets to breathe, so focused he is. When he’s done, he turns to Villa and finds out that he’s smiling.

“Well...” Villa says and folds his arms.

Truth is the letters are shaky and the last “d” actually looks like “b”, but it’s better than he expected.

“It’s not bad,” Villa says. “You deserve your reward.”

David’s face lights up.

“But maybe we should first eat what Xavi prepared, otherwise he’ll think you let me starve again,” Villa teases.

David frowns and then smirks.

“We could do both at the same time.”

“Hedonist!” Villa chuckles.

“What is that?” David asks.

“A hedonist is someone who seeks as much pleasure as possible.”

“Doesn’t everyone do that?”

“No, I guess not. But I certainly want to try.”

David smiles when Villa pulls him into a kiss. There’s still the candid naturalness in the way he accepts it, like it’s the most natural thing ever. There is no remorse, no worry in David’s mind and Villa wishes he could think about it the same way, without worrying about someone finding out. He stopped worrying about God a long time ago, he’s already accepted that he would go to Hell without a doubt and probably the only thing worrying him about it is that he would be inevitably meeting Casillas there, so he wouldn’t get rid of him even after death. But he still fears the people because there’s still a long way to Hell, but should anyone find out, the way could become damn short.

David unties the laces on Villa’s shirt and takes it off like he fears Villa would never get to it. He kisses the scar on Villa’s stomach and when Villa pulls him back up, he nuzzles the crook of his neck.

“I can’t imagine you,” he whispers. “Going to war.”

“Why?” Villa asks, caressing his hair.

“Because you’re so nice,” David says. “I can’t imagine you killing anyone. And in war you have to kill people, don’t you?”

“Yes.”

“But then... when my old master came here and I saw you with the dagger... you did look dangerous.”

Villa chuckles.

“Well, now I’m just an old, boring money changer.”

“You’re not old,” David objects. “Nor boring.”

“You think so?”

“You could always try to prove it to me,” David smiles. “But you have a promise to keep!”

“I could do both at the same time.”

“Hedonist!” David laughs and takes off his shirt.

When the tip of the quill touches his back, he shivers and closes his eyes. When he opens them again, he sees the perfectly round moon behind the window. For a moment he thinks about where he is supposed to be at this moment. But then Villa’s fingers run down his spine and beyond and he forgets even his own name.

~ ~ ~

Fábio trails inside the house. He’s secretly hoping that Iker will be already asleep, but deep inside he knows it’s just a false hope. Iker can sleep all days long if he pleases, so staying up is no problem for him.

“So?” Iker asks when Fábio enters his room.

“Nothing,” Fábio mumbles.

“How come, nothing?”

“Well, I was sitting there all night. But he didn’t show up.”

Iker stares at him incredulously.

“Didn’t show up?” he repeats.

Fábio shrugs.

“I am not going to be ignored by a slave!” Iker roars and Fábio instinctively cowers in case Iker wanted to throw something at him.

But instead, Iker starts circling around the room like he does every time he thinks about something. Mostly about something really nasty.

“You’ll bring him to my house tomorrow,” he says then. “I don’t care how you do it. But you’ll bring him here and I will show him that I am nobody to be ignored.”

~ ~ ~

Francesc crosses the yard to his house when he hears a rustle somewhere in the darkness. He draws his sword immediately and looks around.

“Show yourself!” he shouts.

He prays he’s not just making a fool out of himself because he’s had quite some cups and maybe the noises are just his imagination. If someone was watching, he would have quite something to laugh to – the captain of the regent’s guards fighting the shadows with his sword. But suddenly, a figure appears from behind some kegs.

“Señor Fàbregas...”

Francesc frowns. The boy looks familiar, but he can’t quite place his face. Even more because he looks like he got ran over by a horse. Or ten of them.

“Don’t I know you?” Francesc asks him.

“I’m Álvaro Morata, I used to work in señor Alonso’s house.”

Francesc nods, opens the door and motions for Álvaro to come in.

Truth is it’s not just his face that looks terrible. His clothes are torn in some places. There are dark circles under the boy’s eyes and he looks like he didn’t eat in days. When Francesc hands him a cup of hot milk, Álvaro almost spills it, so much his hands are shaking.

“Where did you come to this?” Francesc asks, pointing to Álvaro’s face.

“On the streets,” Álvaro shrugs. “I guess I just don’t know how to take care of myself there.”

“Why didn’t you come here earlier? Me and Xabier are friends, I wouldn’t kick you out.”

“I know,” Álvaro says. “But señor Alonso told me to wait. He didn’t want to compromise any of his friends.”

“So it was him who told you to go here?”

Álvaro nods and then reaches for something under his shirt. He hands Francesc some parchments.

“What is this?” Francesc frowns.

Álvaro shrugs.

“I don’t know, I can’t read. Señor Alonso just told me to give this to you.”

Francesc nods and lays them on the table to inspect them later, when he’s less drunk and tired. Álvaro gets up.

“Where are you going?” Francesc asks.

Álvaro gives him a surprised look.

“Well, I...”

“To get a few more beatings from the beggars and drunkards, eh?” Francesc smirks. “There’s an empty room after one of my servants. You can sleep there.”

Álvaro mumbles a grateful “thank you” and heads in the direction Francesc is pointing in. Francesc shakes his head and chuckles.

“Little hero.”

~ ~ ~

David wakes up early in the morning. Sergio is still snoring loudly and doesn’t wake up even when David gets up and starts putting his clothes on. He can hear Xavi already rumbling with things in the kitchen. He turns around as soon as David walks in the kitchen.

“He’s still sleeping?” Xavi asks.

“I’d think he was dead, but dead people don’t snore like this,” David laughs.

“Of course he sleeps when he’s supposed to go to the market,” Xavi growls.

“Actually, I promised him I would go,” David says.

Xavi sighs and hands him the basket and money.

“People should stop being kind to him,” he mumbles. “Or soon he will command us all.”

~ ~ ~

The streets aren’t yet too crowded. It’s early, but Xavi insists they go to the market early to get the best and freshest pieces. David doesn’t mind it. He doesn’t feel well in crowded places.

Suddenly a pair of hands grabs him from behind and pulls him back inside some dark passage. He yelps when his back connects with the cold wall and then he looks up and shivers. He knows the black cape and the dark eyes peaking out of it.

“We were supposed to meet yesterday, I think,” the man says.

David trashes against his hold. He knows the direction he’s leading him in and he doesn’t like it a single bit.

“Stop it!” the man hisses. “It’s your own stupidity. Do you think you can just ignore Casillas like that? That he will simply forget that you exist?”

“I didn’t come because I don’t want to do it anymore!” David says firmly. “I don’t want to talk to Casillas anymore and mainly not about Villa!”

The man sighs deeply.

“For God’s sake, don’t tell Casillas that!” he says. “You have to tell him that you forgot. He probably won’t believe you anyway, but at least there's a chance he won’t kill you.”

“Just let me go, please!”

“So that he will kill me instead? No, thank you.”

David looks at him pleadingly, but the man avoids his eyes.

“Tell him that you forgot and that you’re sorry,” he says. “Play stupid. And then tell him everything you know. Believe me. Don’t mess with Casillas.”

“Why are you telling me this?” David asks.

The man turns to him for the first time.

“I might not be a saint, but I don’t want Casillas to kill you.”

David doesn’t say anything to that. He just thinks of Casillas and about what awaits him in his house. He only knows it will not be nice.

~ ~ ~

Iker lifts his head when Fábio opens the door and pushes David inside. He smiles and raises his brows.

“Well, what a nice visit!” he says and looks at Fábio. “We won’t need you anymore, you can go.”

Fábio is more than happy to comply and disappears through the door. Iker walks to it, locks it and slips the key in his pocket.

“So... I think you owe me an explanation,” he says then.

“I...” David takes a deep breath, remembering what he’s supposed to say. “I’m sorry, my lord Casillas, I forgot...”

“Forgot it was full moon?” Iker raises his brows. “You must be indeed stupid. Or you are making fun of me.”

“No, I’m not!” David blurts out. “But... I wouldn’t have anything to tell you anyways.”

“Nonsense,” Iker snaps but then composes himself. “So you forgot about the meeting you had.”

David eyes him warily. Iker walks to the wall and takes a dagger off a velvet pillow. He turns it in his hand like he’s thinking about something.

“Having such stupid servants must be a burden,” he says. “I think I should make Villa a favor and rid him of you.”

David’s eyes go wide when Iker makes a step towards him. He backs up and his back hits the locked door.

“You can’t,” he whispers.

“Kill you?” Iker smiles. “Oh, yes, I can.”

“You can’t,” David repeats.

“You keep forgetting who you are, little darling,” Iker says calmly. “There’s no one to stop me. To kill a slave is not a crime. It’s like I broke someone’s vase. How much did Villa pay for you? Two hundred? I will give him four hundred because I’m generous and nobody can say anything. He will buy a new slave. Most likely a better one.”

David feels his body tremble but for some reason, in his mind he’s not as scared as he should be. He lifts his eyes to meet Iker’s.

“Villa will not take your money,” he says quietly, but firmly. “He will kill you.”

For a moment Iker seems to be taken aback. Then he starts laughing.

“Oh, will he? Because of you?”

He takes another step towards David.

“I’m Iker Casillas Fernández, you know? Nobody will kill me because I slit a slave’s throat. I’m sure of that.”

David looks at him with some strange, resigned calmness.

“Then...” he says, takes a few steps towards Iker and sinks to his knees in front of him. “Please, make it quick, my lord.” 

Chapter Text

If he is to be honest, Iker is quite disappointed. He expected David to spill out everything he knows as soon as he would grab the dagger. Last time he needed nothing more than words. But all he got was a surprising exchange of words, a promise that Villa would kill him, and then practically a permission to slit David’s throat. Iker bites his lip in frustration. It means that David is either too loyal to Villa, or he indeed doesn’t know anything.

He digs his hand in the boy’s hair and pulls his head back to bare his throat. David closes his eyes but stays silent, depriving Iker even of the pleasure of listening to pleas for his life. It starts to be boring.

“So you indeed have nothing to tell me?” Iker asks for one last time.

“Nothing, my lord,” David whispers.

A lonely tear escapes from underneath his glued eyelids and slowly slides down his temple. Iker looks at him for a moment. In a way he understands why Villa would want to kill him for taking this beauty from him.

“Excuse me, my lord...” a loud voice sounds from somewhere in the room.

David’s eyes snap open. Iker’s grip on his hair loosens and he lets his head fall down.

“There are other ways to make someone talk,” the stranger says.

The only thing David sees from him are his shoes, strange, high, leather shoes, worn out but meticulously polished, like the person doesn’t think that being poor is an excuse for looking poor as well. But the voice is strangely familiar and David finds the courage to lift his gaze. He is looking in a pair of green eyes shining wildly from a freckled face. He recognizes the pirate he once met in Villa’s house, Daniel.

“If you want, I can try to get it out of him,” Daniel offers.

Iker lets out an annoyed growl.

“If you want to...” he says and heads to the door at the other side of the room where Daniel had to come from. “If he doesn’t speak, just snap his neck.”

“Of course, my lord,” Daniel nods.

David yelps when Daniel grabs him and yanks him up to his feet, which draws a smirk from Iker before he leaves through the door.

“Don’t worry boy, I’m not going to hurt you,” Daniel whispers. “I just needed that bastard gone.”

~ ~ ~

Francesc wakes up fairly late and his head still hurts. He drags himself to the kitchen and pours himself a cup of water because he can’t even think of food right now. Then his eyes fall on the parchments on the table.

He sits down and unfolds them. The first few are some maps. Francesc can’t even read the map of his city properly, so he doesn’t get why Alonso would be sending this to him. The last parchment is a letter.

Dear friend,

if you’re reading this, it means that I’m either dead or gone with little chances of returning. The maps are of the southern seas... probably it doesn’t tell you much, but if you have a chance to give them to our common friend, in case it is not too risky, he will know what to do with them. Daniel drew them and swore to me they were reliable, so as much as you can trust the word of a pirate, they should lead where a certain person wants to go. I did the approximate measurements because as a person who has lived on the sea for all his life, he knows little of our measuring devices. Call me an old grumpy obscurant, but sometimes I feel like the progress is a curse sent upon us.

I’m not very much worried for Daniel as I know he can take care of himself, and if not, there is a noose waiting for every pirate, they say, and everyone will meet their destiny sooner or later. My house and properties are probably confiscated, in that case I ask you to just make sure my household is safe as they never knew anything about my activities whatsoever.

You have probably already met the person I entrusted with this letter, he is a good boy who would sacrifice his life for me, which I very much hope will not be necessary. I ask you to help him as much as it is possible for you. He had no family when I took him in and has thus nowhere to go. If need be, I left a small amount of money at our common friend’s house, use them if necessary.

Thank you for all and please know that I’ve always highly valued our friendship. I’m hoping to see you again, here or elsewhere. I took care of not naming the persons in this letter in case it doesn’t get in the right hands, but whoever is reading this now should know that Iker Casillas is the disgrace of the noble blood, not me, and that I hope for him to burn in Hell eternally.

Xabier Alonso Olano

Francesc cannot help but smile while he is reading it, and he laughs openly at the last sentence. Old good clever Xabi.

He lays the empty cup on the table and gets up. Going to his office, he opens the lockable drawer in his desk and puts the maps and the letter there. He doesn’t suppose anyone would dare to search his house, but he doesn’t want them to just lay around. Then he walks out and thinks for a moment.

“Álvaro?” he calls.

Then he rubs his temples.

“Or whatever your name was, I was too drunk to be sure now.”

~ ~ ~

“So I suppose Casillas wants to know something about someone sailing to India,” Daniel says, sitting in an armchair and calmly putting his feet on the polished wood of Casillas’ writing desk.

“I... it was what he wanted to know, but I have nothing to tell, I swear!” David blurts out.

“It doesn’t matter,” Daniel shrugs. “Make something up.”

David gulps.

“Wh-what?”

“Well, if you tell him your master met a giant fish that could talk and told him about mermaids, he probably won’t believe you, but how could he see through a believable lie? He has you as a spy because he has no other way of knowing anything that is going on in your house.”

“You... you want me to lie to Casillas?” David whispers.

“Well, I lie to him all the time,” Daniel grins. “So, just give me some bases. We’ll present him with a good story.”

~ ~ ~

Andrés is suspiciously watching Álvaro Arbeloa walking in the direction of the building the farmers sleep in.

“He’s coming here,” he says.

“Good,” Gerard grins. “That’s what we need.”

“Are you sure that playing idiots is the right tactics, Gerard?” Jesús frowns.

“It’s not,” Pinto says. “But it doesn’t require much effort from Gerard.”

Gerard kicks him and looks around.

“The plan is clear. To persuade them this is a property no one would want. Are you ready?”

Pinto scratches his head.

“Well, I don’t know if I didn’t just forget what you were saying.”

“Great!” Gerard smiles. “Everyone take an example from Pinto.”

In the next moment, Álvaro walks in and looks at them.

“Where is my horse?” he asks.

“Your horse?” Gerard asks.

“Yes, my horse. Do you know what a horse is?”

“Of course, my lord,” Gerard nods. “But I haven’t seen yours.”

“It was in the stables and now it is gone!”

“That happens sometimes,” Pinto nods.

“What do you mean that it happens?”

“Well, the horses sometimes disappear from there. We don’t know why. They are simply gone,” Andrés says.

“It’s probably the punishment of God,” Jesús adds.

Álvaro grits his teeth and turns to him with a dangerous expression.

“Whoever says this phrase next gets five lashes, remember it!” he growls.

~ ~ ~

Daniel is walking in circles around the room, grinning more and more.

“I like it!” he says finally.

“What good is there about telling Casillas that Puyol changed his plans and wants to go to the north?” David asks.

“It means Casillas will want his people to go south because he believes me,” Daniel smiles.

“But that will mean that they will get to India before Puyol.”

Daniel gives him a compassionate smile.

“And if I now tell you to go south, which exact direction will you go? How far?”

David shrugs. Daniel lays a hand on his shoulder.

“To go south is really broad. I will send Casillas’ men another way than Puyol, and if everything goes well, Puyol should get the correct maps.”

David gives a small smile.

“And where will you send Casillas’ men?” he asks.

Daniel narrows his eyes and chuckles.

“Somewhere from where they’ll never return. Too bad they don’t want to take Casillas on board.”

“But...” David whispers. “But Casillas will kill you for that.”

“Maybe he will,” Daniel smiles. “Maybe I’m cleverer than he thinks.”

He looks in the direction of the door and sighs.

“We need to persuade Casillas that I got it out of you somehow,” he says. “He won’t believe you just changed your mind. Sorry, I have to hit you at least once.”

“Wh... no!” David protests. “It’s... I’d have to explain to Villa how I came to it!”

“Even better,” Daniel shrugs. “Finally you’ll tell him about that bastard.”

“I can’t!” David protests. “Casillas would kill me, or Villa would... he would think I betrayed him, and I... I don’t want to lose him.”

Daniel shrugs.

“Then you’ll have to make something up. Hold on the desk.”

David grabs the edge of the desk and closes his eyes when Daniel hits him. He is sure Daniel doesn’t even use half of his strength.

“Alright?” Daniel asks him.

“Don’t worry,” David assures him, blinking the tears away. “I’m used to worse.”

~ ~ ~

Xavi looks out of the window and curses quietly.

“What’s up?” Sergio’s sleepy voice asks from the door.

You are, at last!” Xavi snaps.

“When did I get this drunk?” Sergio whines and scratches his head.

“Well, I don’t know. You disappeared somewhere with señor Fàbregas and when you returned, you were both quite merry already.”

A dreamy smile appears on Sergio’s face for a moment. Then he looks around.

“Where’s David?” he asks.

“I would like to know that as well,” Xavi murmurs. “He should have been already here, unless they moved the market to Madrid.”

“Maybe I should go look for him?” Sergio suggests.

“I doubt you’ll be even able to go upstairs to serve Villa breakfast!” Xavi snaps. “Let’s hope he’s not stupid enough to get lost by day on the way to the market.”

“Even I’m not that stupid,” Sergio grins and grabs the platter from the table.

~ ~ ~

David walks out of Casillas’ house. Or rather stumbles, because only a while ago he was convinced he would never get out of it again, at least not alive. He doesn’t even know where the courage to tell Casillas the things he told him came from. For the love of Abora, he actually threatened him!

He slides down the wall in the corner of the yard and looks up in the sun. Since his mother’s death he hasn’t prayed. Somehow in this foreign world it didn’t feel natural for him. Not that he remembers much of the Canary Islands, but his mother and the others were a connection between him and his culture. Alone he didn’t feel the connection anymore. But now it feels more than appropriate, it comes by itself. He feels the sun rays on his face warming him up like he is suddenly reborn.

The tears start flowing freely and he doesn’t try to stop them, sobbing quietly, unaware of a pair of dark eyes watching him from the window above him.

~ ~ ~

Xavi turns away from the stove when David walks in.

“It was high...” he starts when he spots the red bruise on David’s cheek. “What is this?”

“Nothing,” David mumbles.

“Sergio!” Xavi yells. “Come here!”

Sergio appears in the kitchen carrying two buckets of water. He drops them with two loud thuds.

“Who did this to you?” he asks.

“Nobody,” David says and tries to pass Sergio.

Sergio stops him and turns his face to him.

“Just tell me who it was and I’ll smash his face!” he growls.

David shakes his head.

“It’s nothing. Just let it be, Sergio. It was well deserved after all.”

Sergio just blinks and turns to Xavi.

“Well deserved?” he frowns. “You understand him?”

Xavi sighs and shrugs.

“Like I ever did.”

~ ~ ~

Francesc stands at the doorstep of his kitchen and watches Álvaro wolfing down some pottage and bread. He smiles. The cook, an old woman who has been in the service of his family since Francesc was little, gives him an amused look.

“It’s the third plate,” she says. “Where did you find this hungry puppy, señor?”

Francesc laughs because Álvaro indeed looks like a hungry puppy. He almost wants to pet him.

“Well, I didn’t, he found me.”

He pours himself a cup of wine and motions for the cook to leave the kitchen. Then he sits at the table.

“You know Carles Puyol, I suppose?” he asks.

Álvaro nods.

“You know where he lives?”

Álvaro nods again.

“Alright. So I need you to go to his house and tell him that I have something to show him that I wouldn’t like to take out of this house, so I need him to come here.”

“Of course,” Álvaro says and jumps up.

“Hey, calm down,” Francesc says and pulls him down. “Finish this first. Who knows when I’ll feed you again.”

Then he chuckles and pats him on the shoulder.

“Just joking.”

~ ~ ~

David is helping Xavi to pluck some herbs in the garden. He managed to persuade Sergio to go serve Villa the lunch so that he wouldn’t have to go there, but he’s not sure how long he can manage to avoid him. He needs at least enough time to come up with a story for his bruise.

“Sergio was so drunk that he thought he was living in an empty keg in the backyard of the tavern,” Xavi says. “It took me and señor Fàbregas quite a long time to get him out of there, because...”

Xavi stops mid-sentence and looks somewhere behind David’s shoulder. There is a boy standing at the entrance, and David suddenly realizes that he knows him. At least he knows his eyes really well.

“No way!” Xavi breathes.

“What...” David starts but by that time the boy opens the gate resolutely and walks in.

“This is going to be really nasty,” Xavi says. “Stay here. I’m going to tell Villa that his beloved Fábio is back.”

Chapter Text

Villa appears in the garden so quickly that it seems like he flew down the stairs. Xavi runs out after him and Sergio peaks out of the stables curiously. David just stands there, not knowing what to do. He is still stunned by the fact that the man working for Casillas is actually Fábio, the one whose place in Villa’s house he occupies now.

When Villa grabs him by the collar, Fábio doesn’t even resist, he just raises his hand like he wants to stop him before Villa can say anything.

“Do whatever you want with me, call the guards, but let me tell you something, please!” he says.

“I won’t call the guards, I will deal with you myself!” Villa snaps. “I can handle a petty thief.”

“Just let me tell you...”

“I don’t want to hear anything!” Villa dismisses him and turns to his household. “Xavi, David, go inside!”

Xavi takes David around the shoulders and leads him back to the house. Sergio follows them hesitantly.

“Not you, Sergio!” Villa says. “You will help me.”

~ ~ ~

Francesc unlocks the drawer and pulls out the parchments. Then he lays them on the desk in front of Carles, who pulls them closer to him.

“Where did you take these?” he asks.

“From Alonso,” Francesc says. “Last night the boy I sent for you appeared in my house and gave me these maps and a letter from Xabi. According to Xabi, the pirate drew these and Xabi did the measurement.”

Carles looks at the maps like he’s looking at a legendary treasure.

“Good God, this is... this will save me so much time and trouble!” he breathes.

“You and Villa, if he gave you his money,” Francesc notes.

“Right,” Carles nods. “But he can profit from it as well. If I find the way to India, I will of course mention to the King and the Queen who financed it.”

Francesc chuckles.

“Better don’t mention it before.”

The he stops laughing and looks at Carles like something hit him over the head.

“Good God,” he whispers. “Now I understand.”

“Understand what?” Carles asks, dumbfounded.

“What Casillas is up to,” Francesc whispers.

~ ~ ~

David storms in the stables together with Xavi, who apparently was running after him but couldn’t stop him. He looks at Villa, at the whip in his hand, and for a moment freezes on the spot. Then he makes an abrupt movement and Sergio barely manages to grab him around the waist and pull him back.

“Stop!” David cries. “Please, stop!”

Villa indeed pauses for a while. Fábio lifts his head and looks David right in the eyes.

“Tell him!” he whispers. “Tell him about Casillas!”

David turns to Villa, looking more distressed than Villa has ever seen him. His voice shakes and breaks like he’s close to crying.

“I... Whatever he stole from you, he didn’t want to, it was Casillas who made him do it!” he blurts out. “Please, please, stop!”

“Not me, you fool!” Fábio breathes. “Save yourself!”

“What is there about you and Casillas, David?” Villa asks.

“I... It was me who told him about señor Alonso and the pirate,” David says. “Well, I told Fábio. I listened to what you and señor Puyol were talking about, because Casillas wanted to know it.”

Villa’s eyes go wide.

“But because Casillas forced him to do it,” Fábio says, making a frustrated move that suggests he would wave his hands if they weren’t bound to one of the beams. “He told him that you would kill him if you thought he was trying to escape, and all the things. He was scared to death, he would do anything. I swear he didn’t want to tell him anything more, but Casillas ordered me to bring him back to his house today. I don’t know what he said or did to him then, but I saw him crying. That’s why I came here.”

“Oh really?” Villa says sarcastically. “When did you become a honorable man who protects the others, Fábio?”

Fábio hangs his head with a resigned sigh.

“Think whatever you want of me,” he says. “But I’m telling you the truth.”

“Alright,” Villa says. “So David told Casillas about Alonso because he was scared. That doesn’t excuse anything that you did, does it?”

Fábio takes a breath like he wants to say something, but then decides against it.

“No.”

“Then this is justified,” Villa says and raises the whip again.

He only manages to deliver five more lashes when David finally breaks, or rather slips, free from Sergio’s grip. For a moment Villa thinks David will launch himself at him. Then David steps in the way of the whip and covers Fábio’s body with his.

“Go on,” he whispers and squeezes his eyes shut.

~ ~ ~

Álvaro Arbeloa marches around the property, followed by Raul who is trailing behind him like an obedient dog. Álvaro doesn’t know why Casillas spent any money for this at all. Now that the crops have withered, there is nothing a profit could come from. The few animals they have there barely make for the farmers to have something to eat. And who knows what happened to the crops, so it’s not at all certain that next year the soil will be still fertile.

On top of everything, the farmers are a bunch of idiots. In the morning Álvaro saw Gerard having a serious conversation with a pig, Pinto asked Álvaro if he already found his horse and added that sometimes strange things fell from the sky here, which was backed up by Jesús telling him a long story about a rain of frogs that apparently happened before Casillas bought the property.

“Such things always announce the punishment of God,” Jesús concluded.

Álvaro didn’t even have the mental strength to give him the promised five lashes.

“I don’t know what to do with this land,” he sighs finally. “I think I’ll tell Casillas to sell it.”

“But... to sell a land where crops wither?” Raul asks.

“Of course not now,” Álvaro rolls his eyes. “Wait until the harvest, then pretend the crops are already harvested.”

Raul nods. He only hopes Casillas will think this option as good as it seems to him.

~ ~ ~

Villa walks in David’s and Sergio’s room and remains standing practically on the doorstep. David turns his head slightly and looks at him curtly. Then he looks away and soaks a piece of cloth in a bowl of water. He touches Fábio’s back with the cloth gently.

“Now you really must think I am a monster,” Villa says quietly.

“You were angry,” David replies, avoiding his eyes.

“You don’t mean what you say.”

For the first time David looks him in the eyes and there is something fierce and accusing in them that Villa doesn’t know.

“You could have let him speak.”

“Only under the whip they tell the truth,” Villa replies.

“Under the whip everyone lies, my lord,” David says firmly.

Villa doesn’t know what to say to that. He remembers the scars on David’s back well. They explain his reactions, and then not completely. Like there is something else behind it as well.

“I... I’m sorry,” Villa says and turns away.

When he is almost out of the door, he looks back. He sees David caressing Fábio’s hair gently, tears rolling down his cheeks. Villa is sure that the whole Barcelona has to hear his heart break.

~ ~ ~

Francesc looks at Carles triumphantly.

“We didn’t know why Casillas wanted to destroy Alonso or why would he ever be interested in things connected with sailing, but now it’s clear!”

“Not to me,” Carles shakes his head.

“He only became interested in it after Villa became interested in it! Because he knew that if you found the way to India, you’d mention Villa to the King and the Queen. Which would certainly make them forget about a certain scandal, and Villa would have his status restored. That’s why he was interested in that boy, for God’s sake, I was so blind!”

“What boy?” Carles frowns.

“The slave Villa bought,” Francesc explains. “If only Villa knew how to talk to people without scaring them...”

“But that’s Villa!” Carles laughs. “He gives you that face and you don’t utter a word.”

“Well, the important thing now is to be quicker than Casillas,” Francesc says. “Do you have the ships ready now?”

“In a few weeks I can go,” Carles says.

“Let’s hope Casillas has nothing so far,” Francesc nods. “As I know him, he will choose wrong people anyway. He relies on people like Albiol and Arbeloa just because they have noble blood but they are useless.”

“Why? I heard that Albiol successfully ruined Casillas’ property within weeks!” Carles laughs.

Francesc nods.

“Villa was probably right when he didn’t want to sell it to him. He had a feeling.”

~ ~ ~

“Why did you do this?” David asks quietly, covering Fábio’s back with a wet sheet.

“Someone had to stop him,” Fábio whispers.

“Casillas? But... I’ve always thought you... wanted to work for him. I mean, you’re not a slave, right? He couldn’t just... kill you like that, he’d be punished for it.”

“Maybe, but... nobody would be looking for me if I just disappeared, right? And besides, he had good arguments for me to stay.”

“What arguments?”

Fábio sighs.

“Cris,” he whispers. “I mean... when I came here from Portugal, I was with a... friend. I was never a thief before Casillas made me become one, you know. But Cris was, and he was good. Only one day he made the mistake of trying to steal from Casillas. I swear, that man has eyes everywhere. He called the guards of course, and made them arrest Cris. I went to see him, to ask for mercy for Cris because I was desperate... and foolish enough to think Casillas knew what mercy was. He proposed a deal to me – if I helped him to destroy Villa, he would ask the regent to release Cris.”

He looks at David and shakes his head.

“Now I see how stupid I was. He probably lied to me and Cris is already long dead.”

“No, don’t say this, he’s not!” David says quickly.

“Why are you so nice to me?” Fábio asks. “After all I did to you...”

David shakes his head resolutely.

“You didn’t do anything. If there’s someone I hate, it’s Casillas... And maybe myself.”

~ ~ ~

It takes Sergio a long time to find Villa. He checks the bedrooms and the office to finally find him in his father‘s old room which is closed most of the time. Villa is sitting in the big old armchair, looking out in the darkness behind the window, holding a cup of wine.

“Here you are, señor!” Sergio says. “Xavi sent me to ask...”

“No, I don’t want to eat anything!” Villa snaps.

“Of course,” Sergio mumbles. “I was telling him that, but he just doesn’t understand this sentence.”

“Sergio...” Villa says and looks at him. “Could you go to Francesc’s house and tell him that I ask him to come here now?”

“N-now?” Sergio asks.

“Yes,” Villa nods. “Say that I’m very sorry to disturb him so late, but it’s urgent.”

Sergio nods and leaves the room. Xavi looks at him when he enters the kitchen.

“So?”

“He looks terrible,” Sergio informs him. “He probably went mad. I found him sitting in his father’s room, drinking, and he sent me for señor Fàbregas at this hour.”

Xavi looks at him worriedly.

“What are we going to do?”

“Well, I’m going to señor Fàbregas,” Sergio shrugs. “Maybe, if Villa really goes mad, he will let me stay with him.”

“Only if he loses his mind as well,” Xavi deadpans.

~ ~ ~

Iker walks in the kitchen of his house and looks around. He almost never goes here, he just supposes the food appears on his table when he’s hungry. The kitchen is empty, only Daniel is sitting by the table, peeling an orange using a huge knife.

“Have you seen Fábio?” Iker asks him.

“Is Fábio the one who looks like a wet hedgehog?” Daniel asks calmly. “If so, I haven’t seen him since we had lunch.”

Iker curses quietly.

“What about the maps?” he barks them.

“I am working on them,” Daniel says. “Not at the moment, but I eventually will.”

“You better make the eventually really soon!”

Daniel grins and stabs the knife into a wooden chopping board.

“As you wish,” he says.

Iker looks nervously at the knife still vibrating in the board and leaves the kitchen.

~ ~ ~

Sergio knocks at Francesc’s door and waits. The door opens after a while and a young boy looks at Sergio questioningly. Sergio frowns and stares at him. Stares at him in the who-are-you-I-don’t-know-you-what-are-you-doing-here-I-don’t-want-you-to-be-here-and-why-didn’t-Cesc-tell-me-about-you way. The boy apparently doesn’t notice Sergio’s inner fury, though.

“Yes?” he asks.

“Um... I need to talk to Francesc Fàbregas,” Sergio says.

“Sure, I’ll call him,” the boy nods and disappears in the house.

“And what about inviting me in?” Sergio growls and leans over the door.

Francesc appears after a while and gives Sergio a surprised look.

“Sergio!” he says with a mocking smile. “What are you doing here? Can’t you go a day without seeing me?”

Truth is, Sergio almost can’t.

“Villa sent me to ask you to come over to our house,” he says.

“Now?” Francesc frowns.

“Yes, he says he’s sorry but it’s urgent. And I think that too.”

“Oh my God,” Francesc rolls his eyes. “Did he kill anyone?”

Sergio shrugs.

“Well, almost, I’d say.”

Francesc turns back.

“Álvaro!” he calls. “Could you go and tell Isco to saddle two horses, please?”

Álvaro nods and runs to the stables. Sergio looks at him and frowns.

“Who is it?” he asks.

“Ah, Álvaro, he’s Alonso’s old servant. My new one, then.”

Sergio snorts.

“Didn’t know you cared about stray dogs.”

“But of course I do,” Francesc says. “You know I have a good heart.”

Then he laughs.

“You’re jealous, Sergio!”

“No, I’m not!” Sergio protests.

“Oh yes, you are. “

Sergio lowers his eyes.

“Well, what am I? Just a groom. A groom or a servant, it’s not a big difference.”

“No, it’s not,” Francesc admits. “Unless the groom is you.”

~ ~ ~

Villa is still in his father’s room when they arrive. Francesc frowns when he walks in.

“Since when do you spend time in this grave?”

“Since I wish I could go to one,” Villa says gloomily.

“Good God,” Francesc sighs. “What did you do?”

“Fábio,” Villa says. “He came back today. I whipped him.”

“And you hate yourself for it?” Francesc raises his brows.

“David hates me for it.”

Francesc sits in the armchair opposite to Villa.

“Fábio worked for Casillas,” Villa explains. “That’s why he took Carles’ plans. And then Casillas made David spy on me, and Fábio was the liaison between them. He says when he saw David crying he came here to finally put an end to it. I don’t know if I believe him.”

“You don’t know,” Francesc repeats. “You think he just came here to get killed by you like that. Because he fancied being whipped by you, eh?”

“Now I see it too. David saw it from the beginning. He hates me for not believing him, and probably thinks I am a monster... you’d have to see him, he’s... he despises me. A slave despises me, and is completely right.”

Francesc sighs and gets up. Villa gives him a surprised look.

“Where are you going?” he asks.

“To see how much damage you’ve done,” Francesc says and heads down the stairs.

Chapter Text

When Francesc enters the room, David immediately sits up on his bed. Francesc smiles and raises his hands.

“I swear that I’m coming in peace,” he says.

David is still looking at him with suspicion when he approaches Fábio.

“Show me,” he says and carefully lifts the wet sheet off Fábio’s back.

Fábio sinks his teeth in the pillow. Francesc winces despite himself.

“It’s my fault,” David whispers. “If I told Villa everything, this didn’t have to happen. But...”

“But it’s so hard to talk to Villa,” Francesc smiles.

“Yes,” David breathes out. “And I was scared. Casillas held a dagger to my throat today, it was a miracle that he didn’t kill me. Or, well, not a miracle really, it was Daniel’s work.”

“Daniel?” Francesc raises his brows. “As in THAT Daniel? The pirate?”

David nods.

“What is he doing in Casillas’ house?”

“Casillas wants him to draw the maps with the way to India,” Fábio says quietly. “To have them before Puyol.”

“Well, but Puyol already has them,” Francesc grins. “So Casillas will probably still be second. As he always is.”

Fábio lifts his head in surprise and the sheet on his back slides down a little bit. He lets out a stream of Portuguese curses.

“You lay down and don’t even move!” Francesc says. “It’s not like you have your back in one piece now.”

He walks over to David’s bed and sits down.

“And you now tell me,” he says and takes David by the hand. “What, or rather who, does this situation remind you of?”

David looks at him with astonishment. Then he lowers his eyes and it seems like he tries to hide in some shell. Francesc squeezes his hand gently. David takes a deep breath and bites his lip like he’s not sure he has the courage to say the name. Then he breathes it out like in a dream.

“Kun.”

~ ~ ~

Álvaro lifts his head when Isco walks in the kitchen.

“If you ate my dinner, you’re dead!” he says, pointing his finger at Álvaro.

“I didn’t!” Álvaro protests.

“Last time you did. But it’s alright, I forgive you. Because it was pottage and I don’t like it anyway.”

He walks over to the stove and starts checking the pots.

“Who was that guy?” Álvaro asks.

“Sergio? It’s señor Villa’s groom. Why?”

“He looked like he didn’t really like me.”

Isco chuckles and sits at the table.

“That is probably because he likes señor Fàbregas.”

“Likes... as in...”

“As in they always go to drink together and señor Fàbregas returns home in a really good mood, and Sergio also comes here much more often than he normally would, and all the things that tell you a man like señor Fàbregas wouldn’t be just friends like that with a groom, if you’re not completely dumb.”

“But why would he despise me because of that?” Álvaro asks.

“Because he’s jealous, maybe?” Isco suggests. “Sees a beautiful young thing here that he doesn’t know, that’s enough to be jealous.”

Álvaro looks at him with astonishment.

“You... you think I’m beautiful?”

Isco takes a breath and then clears his throat.

“Did I say that?”

“You did.”

“I’m probably delirious. Out of hunger,” Isco says and takes a bite of the bread he’s holding.

~ ~ ~

Francesc comes back to the room where Villa is still sitting by the window.

“Jesus, Villa, what came over you?” he asks. “It’s a damn miracle the boy is still alive.”

“You know what came over me,” Villa mumbles. “I hear ‘Casillas’ and I see red.”

Francesc sighs and sits in the armchair.

“Well, he’s in the best hands, I think,” he says then. “David knows what he’s doing.”

“He hates me, right?” Villa asks.

“I don’t think he does,” Francesc says and picks up the cup of wine. “You just hit his sensitive spot. One he wanted to forget forever.”

Villa gives him a confused look. Francesc takes a sip.

“The sensitive spot named Kun,” he says.

“What... or who... is Kun?” Villa frowns.

“Was,” Francesc corrects him. “Your predecessor, dear friend. Back in Valencia. One day David forgot to close the gate to the pigpen and his old master’s pig got away. To save David, Kun said it was him who didn’t close the gate. And well, David’s old master had even worse temper than you have. This is why he acts like this now, Villa. He’s living it through once again. I don’t think he hates you, he hates his old master, and right now kind of sees him in you. But it will pass, don’t worry.”

“Why has he never told me that?” Villa asks, seemingly a bit hurt.

“Because Villa, let’s be honest, you are not an easy person to talk to, leave alone about such personal things.”

“I know,” Villa sighs. “Is there anything I can do?”

“Go to sleep,” Francesc says. “And wait. If the boy loves you, he will forgive you sooner or later.”

“I’m not sure that I deserve it,” Villa says gloomily and puts the empty cup back on the table.

Francesc gets up and heads to the door.

“By the way, he’s braver than you think,” he says then and smiles. “Didn’t say a word with Casillas’ dagger against his throat. I bet Casillas is beyond angry right now, he was taught a lesson by a slave.”

Villa looks up.

“A tiny dot of light in the darkness, then,” he says.

~ ~ ~

Daniel grins for himself when he finishes the last map and leans back in the chair. The first part of the plan is finished. But his plans go beyond that.

Iker walks in and looks at the table.

“Are you done?” he asks.

“I am,” Daniel nods.

Iker looks at the maps. Then he looks back at Daniel furiously.

“How is anyone supposed to read this? There are no measurements.”

“I can’t do them,” Daniel shrugs. “I live... well, lived... on the sea for all my life. I know every drop of the ocean by heart. I don’t need your weird tools, I just follow the stars and the instincts.”

“Then how do you think these maps can work?”

“You’re not a sailor,” Daniel says calmly. “If I showed them to a sailor and explained them, they would know how to follow them.”

Iker frowns.

“You don’t want to give your men maps with no explanations just like that, trust me,” Daniel continues. “They will lead them nowhere.”

“Good,” Iker says. “Good, I will take you to speak to the sailors. But God help you if it’s useless.”

“I think God doesn’t help pirates, but I will bear it in mind,” Daniel grins.

~ ~ ~

David looks at Xavi who peaks in the room.

“How is he?” Xavi asks.

David shrugs. Xavi steps in and hands him a cup.

“This should help a bit,” he says.

“What is it?” David asks.

Xavi clears his throat.

“Basically... poppy seeds. They relieve the pain, besides... other things. Don’t tell Sergio I know this, though, he would think stupid, inappropriate things as always.”

“Thank you,” David says quietly.

“I’ll tell Sergio he will sleep in my room now,” Xavi says. “He won’t like it, but I’ll make him shut up.”

David manages to give a small smile. Xavi pats him on the shoulder and leaves the room.

~ ~ ~

Sergio turns to Francesc when he walks in the stables.

“Are you going home?”

“Yes. I’ve already fixed all Villa’s mistakes I could tonight,” Francesc says. “I need some rest.”

Sergio nods and grabs Francesc’s saddle.

“Are you still jealous of Álvaro?” Francesc asks mockinly.

“Always,” Sergio purses his lips. “He gets to share the house with you.”

“The house, not the bed.”

“I hope so.”

“Sergio!” Francesc folds his arms. “You deserve to be spanked.”

“By you?” Sergio grins.

“Who else?” Francesc says and pushes him into a stack of straw.

Sergio laughs madly, then pauses for a while and looks at him.

“Not that it would be too probable right now... but what if Villa walks on us?” he asks.

Francesc scratches his head.

“Well, that wouldn’t be such a tragedy because... Villa already knows about us.”

Sergio forgets to close his mouth.

“What?”

“I had a weak moment and told him.”

“But...” Sergio looks at him, dumbfounded. “How come we are still alive, then?”

“Because it would be a bit hypocritical from Villa to say anything against us,” he smiles. “Long story, we don’t have time for it now. Unless you want to talk instead.”

“No way,” Sergio grins impishly, pins Francesc down and kisses him.

“What are you doing?” Francesc yelps when Sergio bites his neck.

“Marking my territory,” Sergio growls.

“You’re hopeless,” Francesc sighs.

~ ~ ~

David wakes up in the middle of the night, finding the candle on the table already burnt-out. He finds a new one and lights it up.

Fábio stirs in his sleep and David comes closer, caressing his hair comfortingly. The extract from poppy seeds Xavi gave him indeed works wonders as he was at least able to fall asleep. Now he opens his eyes and frowns, searching around him to determine where he is. When he sees David he seemingly calms down.

David takes the candle and places it on the table between their beds.

“I’m not afraid of the dark,” Fábio whispers with a crooked smile.

“I am,” David says. “They come in the dark.”

“Who?”

Tibicenas. Demons,” David whispers. “I’ve seen them. They come from the shadows like dogs.”

He sits on his bed and folds his arms, staring defiantly into the darkness at the other side of the room.

“But I won’t let them come this time.”

~ ~ ~

When Francesc enters the house, he can hear loud voices from the kitchen. He peaks in to find Isco and Álvaro at the table, playing cards and arguing.

“Cheater!” Isco growls.

“I didn’t cheat!” Álvaro defends himself.

“You did. You had six cards, put one in, then I looked again and you still had six.”

“Because one was hidden behind another.”

“And that’s cheating,” Isco says contentedly.

“It’s not. It’s your fault that you can’t count!”

Francesc folds his arms and coughs. Isco and Álvaro jump up and look at him.

“I warn you, if you lose your monthly wages, I won’t give you more,” he says.

“I won’t lose to this one, señor,” Isco frowns. “He’s a little cheater but I’ll show him who is the true master here.”

“After you take care of my horse, if you please,” Francesc nods.

Isco gets up and heads to the door. Then he turns around.

“Don’t touch the cards!” he warns Álvaro. “I’ll be right back.”

“What have I brought upon myself?” Francesc sighs and closes the door behind him.

~ ~ ~

Sergio groans when Xavi shakes him unceremoniously in the morning.

“I knew why I didn’t want to sleep with you!” he barks. “David wakes me up gently, you know!”

“David is too good to everyone, even to those who don’t deserve it. Like you,” Xavi sneers. “Get up, the work won’t do itself.”

“Maybe Villa won’t need anything today,” Sergio says hopefully. “Maybe he got too drunk. Or drowned himself in the wine. Or...”

“Get up!” Xavi yells.

“Fine, fine...” Sergio mumbles and gets up.

When they come to the kitchen, to their surprise they find David already there.

“What are you doing here?” Sergio asks.

“I work here, if you don’t remember,” David says calmly.

“Alright, but...” Sergio starts, earning a poke in the ribs from Xavi. “Alright.”

~ ~ ~

Villa blinks in surprise when he sees David entering the room with his breakfast like every morning. Only this morning David looks like he barely got some sleep and there is something strangely fierce in his face, mostly reflecting in his eyes that burn like two pieces of coal.

“I didn’t expect you,” Villa says quietly.

“Why not, I still work here,” David says, his voice flat and calm.

“I thought you wouldn’t want to see me.”

“It doesn’t matter what I want.”

Villa sighs and looks at him.

“Could we talk?” he asks.

“If it’s what you want,” David shrugs.

“Only if it’s what you want.”

David hesitates and then shakes his head.

“I don’t want to talk.”

Villa bows his head.

“Because I know what you want to talk about,” David says. “And I think I can’t talk to you about it. Not now.”

“I understand.”

David turns around and heads to the door.

“Just tell me...” Villa calls and waits until David looks at him. “If you will forgive me, one day.”

David looks him in the eyes and suddenly looks much older and wiser than Villa has ever seen him.

“Forgive, maybe,” he says quietly. “Forget, never.”

He walks out of the room and closes the door quietly. Villa makes two steps to the door, touching the wooden panel like he could melt through it and touch David’s shoulder to stop him. Then he leans back against the door and slides down to the floor, looking at the ceiling bluntly.

David at the other side of the door does exactly the same thing.

Chapter Text

Iker glances at Daniel who gives him a wide grin as the carriage heads out of the centre of Barcelona. Iker sighs and looks out of the window. He hates traveling, and traveling in the company of a pirate makes it even worse. The sun is not even up yet and he knows that they won‘t arrive to the port before noon. He can‘t even pretend that he‘s looking at the maps because it‘s too dark to see anyways.

“Know any good jokes, my lord?” Daniel asks when the silence becomes too awkward.

Iker looks at him, wishing he could kill with his eyes.

“No, then,” Daniel shrugs.

Iker slumps back on the bench of the carriage and closes his eyes. This journey will be really long.

~ ~ ~

Sergio stops the horse in Francesc‘s backyard and goes to knock on the door. When the door opens and Álvaro comes out, Sergio frowns.

“Señor Fàbregas is not here,” Álvaro informs him.

“And where is he?” Sergio asks.

Álvaro giggles.

“I don’t know. He doesn’t tell me about his every step. But I suppose he has some duties as the captain of the regent’s guards, doesn’t he?”

Sergio purses his lips when he realizes that this boy is outsmarting him and apparently is really enjoying it. He clears his throat and narrows his shoulders.

“Sure. I brought back the horse he let me use the other night.”

Álvaro nods and looks in the direction of the stables.

“Isco!” he calls.

“Don’t talk to me!” an angry voice sounds from the stables.

Álvaro chuckles.

“You can go on sulking if you want to, but there’s a horse requiring your attention!” he yells.

Isco comes out of the stables, frowns at Álvaro and takes the horse from Sergio. Then he points his finger at Álvaro.

“Tonight.”

“What? You will show me who is the true master again and lose the rest of your money?” Álvaro laughs. “I can’t wait.”

Isco lets out an angry growl and leads the horse to the stables.

“You want me to tell señor Fàbregas anything?” Álvaro asks Sergio.

Sergio takes a breath, then shakes his head and almost runs away. Truth to be told, he doesn’t want Álvaro to talk to Cesc at all.

~ ~ ~

Villa scribbles some numbers in his accounting book, then frowns, crosses them out and throws the quill away angrily.

The work has accumulated over the past few days. He has a stack of documents he has to go through, money he has to count and debts he has to pay, but he just can‘t bring himself to do anything. He doesn‘t sleep, almost doesn‘t eat, which worries Xavi much more than it worries him, and doesn‘t talk to anyone, which isn‘t that different from normal since Carles is gone, Xabi is God knows where, and his only friend left is Francesc who after all almost doesn‘t have time for his own life because he has to deal with Villa‘s.

He decides to take some fresh air before going back to work. He gets up and walks out of the room. At the end of the hallway he meets David. By one look at his face he can tell that he doesn’t get much more sleep. He looks at the platter full of food David is carrying and sighs.

“Leave it on the table, I’ll eat later,” he says.

David nods and passes him without a single word. Villa sighs again. If he felt miserable before, now he feels even worse.

~ ~ ~

Xavi turns around and shoots a suspecting look at Sergio who is pushing around the contents of his plate. That in itself is very strange, because usually Sergio wolfs everything down in mere minutes and now even David is gone, having finished his lunch earlier. But the strangest thing is that Sergio is quiet. And that indeed doesn‘t happen often.

“Sergio?” Xavi asks carefully.

Sergio just groans and pushes the plate away.

“What’s wrong with you?” Xavi asks and sits down. “You’re acting strange since morning.”

“I’ve been just thinking,” Sergio mumbles.

“Thinking?” Xavi blinks. “You never do that!”

Sergio kicks him under the table. Xavi folds his arms.

“Alright, thinking about what? Because right now, let me tell you, there are important things going on. Señor Villa is on the brink of going mad, David probably already went mad because he spends the nights awake, staring into the darkness and mumbling weird things about demons. There is the Portuguese fool as well, and if it wasn’t for señor Fàbregas, this house would have been in ruins already, so don’t tell me you have problems as well!”

“Well, I was thinking about señor Fàbregas.”

Xavi frowns.

“What about him?”

Sergio sighs and looks at him in such tragic way that it almost scares Xavi, but in a way he also wants to laugh.

“I have to tell you something, Xavi,” Sergio says in a serious tone.

“If this very serious matter is that you and señor Fàbregas are... well... more than just drinking companions, there’s no need to make such fuss about it because I know.”

“You... you know?” Sergio blurts out. “How?”

“I have eyes,” Xavi states.

Sergio stares at him for a moment and then slumps back in his chair.

“Well, it doesn’t matter because I might not be the only... companion, after all.”

Xavi looks at him.

“What do you mean?”

“Rather who,” Sergio says. “I mean señor Fàbregas’ new servant. Whom he says is really just a servant and there’s no one else and all, but...”

Xavi rolls his eyes and starts collecting the dirty dishes.

“If he says it, then believe him and stop thinking about nonsense.”

“But... but you’d have to see him!” Sergio objects. “He’s younger than me, and pretty, and charming... and he already acts like señor Fàbregas’ house belongs to him!”

Xavi laughs at Sergio’s sour tone.

“And I bet he doesn’t even fathom that there is a stupid groom being jealous of him, and that he has never even looked at señor Fàbregas the way you think. For God’s sake, Sergio, for once think at least a bit more than your horses do and do something useful.”

“Like what?” Sergio asks, pursing his lips.

“Take the money señor Villa left here and go to pay the butcher or we will end up eating the hay from your stables.”

Sergio mumbles something in the sense of Xavi not having any heart, but then takes the money and goes to the front door. He almost bumps into Villa who is returning from his walk.

“I’m going to pay the butcher,” Sergio says. “Do you need anything else in the city, señor?”

Villa looks at him and smirks.

“Unless you can bring me the head of Iker Casillas, no.”

“I will try my best to get hold of it, señor,” Sergio grins and runs out.

~ ~ ~

The regent Vilanova throws the last chicken bone on the plate, washes his hands and beckons the guards to open the door to the dining room.

Francesc walks in and salutes the regent in a way that suggests that he didn‘t find waiting for him to finish his chicken the best way to spend his time.

“Captain Fàbregas!” the regent smiles widely. “The other night I had dinner with your father, please send my best wishes to him.”

Francesc quickly translates the sentence in his head. The other night I made a deal with your father, so he will give me more money and you will get another promotion within the army, but please remind the old man so that he doesn’t forget about it.

“I certainly will,” Francesc nods. “As soon as I speak to him.”

Which will not be anytime soon because the only thing he ever speaks about is when I will get married.

“Now... as I understood from your message, you have information regarding the... pirate... who disappeared from the prison, is that right?”

“Exactly, my lord.”

“So... where is he?”

“Where he is right now I don’t know, but I know where he was after he disappeared from the prison,” Francesc smirks. “In the house of Iker Casillas.”

The regent chokes on the mandarine he’s eating.

“In the house of... but what would he be doing in the house of Iker Casillas?”

“Apparently, Casillas wanted some maps from him. So he was also the reason behind his sudden disappearance from the prison. I see no other possibility for him to escape than than someone bribed the guards.”

“Do you have any evidence for this?” the regent asks.

“I have a servant from Casillas’ house who will testify to this if need be, and another person who saw him there. However, right now nor Casillas, nor the pirate can be found.”

The regent gets up and makes a few steps towards the window before turning around.

“Talk to the head of the prison guards and tell him to find those who let Casillas bribe them. I want their names ready for the execution order. And when you hear from Casillas, let him know that I want to have a word with him.”

“Of course, my lord,” Francesc nods contentedly.

~ ~ ~

Iker Casillas is used to sleeping either in his own comfortable bed, or in places where they serve him decent meals and prepare him a soft, clean bed. Such places, unfortunately, don’t exist in the big ports.

This is the best inn he was able to find. He looks at the still repelling bed and considers not going to sleep at all so that he doesn’t have to touch it. On the contrary, Daniel looks like it is everything he needs and even more as he stretches out on the other bed contentedly.

“This is a nice place,” he notes.

“You think?” Iker growls. “I wonder for how long they didn’t clean this room.”

“Oh, that doesn’t matter,” Daniel smiles. “I’m not talking about the room.”

“What, then?”

“You can smell the sea here. Hear it. And the noises of the port. They are different from the city.”

Iker gives him a skeptical look. Daniel sighs.

“You’ll never understand that.”

“Probably not. I don’t find anything nice about the smell of fish, sound of waves and drunken sailors.”

Daniel shakes his head and smiles nostalgically.

“There’s all the beauty of the world in it.”

~ ~ ~

Francesc sits on the wooden chair and looks at Jordi Alba, the head of the prison guards. Years ago when they both were at the beginning of their careers in the army, they used to be good friends. Only then, mainly thanks to Francesc’s father’s fortune and connections, he went up before anyone could even blink, while Jordi, son of a fellow soldier, had to go step by step and this position was probably the highest he could go. The best thing he could hope for was to keep it. Which right now, with the regent being angry, wasn’t a probable scenario.

“It’s the pirate, isn’t it?” Jordi sighs. “I’m only thinking about that lately.”

“And what have you thought of so far?” Francesc asks.

“Nothing. He was just gone.”

“Nobody is just gone, Jordi,” Francesc says calmly. “I think... and the regent thinks the same... that someone bribed your guards.”

Jordi opens his mouth and shakes his head.

“Impossible. Who would do that for a pirate?”

“I know about someone rich enough to do it, and I also know why he would do it. Who was on the duty that night?”

Jordi scratches his head.

“Well, I don’t remember...”

Francesc gets up.

“Don’t play stupid to me, Jordi, you know it very well. If you didn’t, I doubt you could be in this position. I understand you want to protect whoever it was, friend or not, but it was their own fault to let the pirate go for a few coins. So?”

“Javi. Javier Martínez was on the duty.”

“Good,” Francesc nods.

“And what... what should I do with him?” Jordi asks.

“Make sure he sees the cell from the other side. There’s an execution order waiting for his name on the regent’s table already.”

Jordi gulps. Francesc shrugs and lays a hand on his shoulder.

“You know, when you take the noose off someone’s neck, it will likely end up on your own. Tell him that I highly recommend he confesses right away, it will spare him much pain.”

Jordi nods and swallows further protests, just in case there is a free noose that could end up on his neck as well.

“Oh, I almost forgot...” Francesc says. “I need a favor from you.”

“What... favor?”

“Could you find one guy for me? It’s rather important.”

“You mean... a prisoner?” Jordi frowns.

“Yes. Maybe he’s not in this prison, I don’t know... I thought you could ask elsewhere in Barcelona... He’s Portuguese, called Cris or Cristiano, and was arrested for stealing a few months ago.”

Jordi looks at Francesc incredulously.

“There are dozens of such thieves, besides, if it was months ago, it’s not very probable he’s still in prison. Why would we be feeding him for so long here?”

“I have good reasons to think he might still be there, and I have no illusions that the few pieces of bread would be such loss. Could you look for him, then?”

Jordi scratches his head again. Francesc folds his arms and looks at him.

“I might mention to the regent that you dealt with the bribery in your prison very well and that this case is unlikely to repeat itself.”

“Alright, I will look for him but... how is this important for you?”

“Not really for me, but it could help a friend of mine. Send me a message when you know something. Now excuse me, I have another important meeting.”

Jordi nods and shakes Francesc’s hand. He can imagine that whatever meeting Francesc has, it will be more pleasant than going to tell a friend he is about to be executed.

~ ~ ~

Sergio lifts his head when Francesc sits opposite to him at their favorite tavern.

“I was hoping to find you here,” Francesc says.

“Were you?” Sergio asks with a hint of bitterness.

“Do you have time right now?”

“I went to pay the butcher and now I don’t have anything special to do until dinner. Villa just asked me to bring him the head of Casillas but I guess I have no chance to find it.”

“Definitely not, Casillas is out of town,” Francesc says. “Apparently he went to assure his crazy mission of beating Carles.”

“Well, then I have time.”

“Good. Let’s go, then.”

He throws money on the table and gets up. Sergio follows him with certain curiosity.

“Where are we going?” he asks.

“Well, the plan is to sneak inside my own house through the back door,” Francesc grins.

“And then?” Sergio grins.

“And then I won’t let go of you until the evening.”

“Really?” Sergio giggles. “And what will you do to me?”

Francesc narrows his eyes.

“I won’t tell you,” he says. “Because you wouldn’t be even able to imagine such things.”

~ ~ ~

Xavi walks in Villa‘s office. First he looks at the almost untouched food, then at Villa who is looking around, cursing under his breath.

“Can I help you, señor?” Xavi asks.

“I can’t find my quill,” Villa says.

“And where did you put it?”

Villa looks at him in a way that makes Xavi feel like the most insignificant thing on Earth.

“If I knew that, I wouldn’t be looking for it,” Villa says. “I just threw it somewhere.”

He sighs and sits behind the table.

“Never mind, I’ll take a new one,” he says then. “Did you need anything? Besides telling me that I should eat something.”

“I wanted to tell you just that,” Xavi nods.

“I will. Later.”

Xavi nods and goes to the door.

“Xavi!” Villa calls.

Xavi turns around. Villa scratches his head.

“I... how is Fábio?”

“Better, I’d say,” Xavi says. “Honestly, he looks like any stronger wind could break him, but he holds onto life pretty tight.”

Villa gives a small smile.

“Actually I’m more worried about David,” Xavi says. “A few more nights he spends chasing demons away and I fear he will just disappear into thin air. He’s almost transparent already anyway.”

“Chasing demons?” Villa frowns. “What do you mean?”

“You’d have to ask him,” Xavi shrugs. “I don’t know anything about what it means in... wherever he is from.”

“Canary Islands,” Villa says quietly. “He’s from the Canary Islands.”

Xavi gives another shrug and walks out of the room. Villa closes his eyes for a moment. Then he takes a new quill and opens his accounting book.

~ ~ ~

Sergio writhes under Cesc’s touches which makes the latter smirk as he pinches Sergio’s nipple teasingly.

“So... still not believing me you are the only one?” he asks.

“This doesn’t prove anything,” Sergio says with pretended indifference.

“Doesn’t it?” Cesc frowns. “I must be more convincing then.”

Sergio opens his mouth to retort something but when Cesc slides into him, he just gasps and arches his back.

“You seem to have lost your voice,” Cesc muses, biting Sergio’s neck.

Sergio wraps his legs around his lover’s waist, fingers digging in his lower back. Every move feels better and Sergio would like to know where someone like Francesc Fàbregas learned all that, but then at the same time he prefers not to know. Their mouths clash together and Cesc wins, tongue sliding deep in Sergio’s mouth, making the kiss dirty and sensual. Sergio tries to pull him closer desperately.

“Need anything?” Cesc smiles when he breaks the kiss.

“More...” Sergio breathes.

He immediately regrets it as Cesc takes it as a clue to slow down and tease him further.

“Believe me now?”

Sergio tosses his head from side to side.

“I do, I do, I...”

“Really?” Cesc questions him, changing the angle slightly. “Or you want me to bring Álvaro here and do this to him in front of you?”

“No, Jesus...” Sergio whispers, both disgusted and horrified at the way the fleeting image turns him on. “Please, harder...”

Cesc chuckles and Sergio marvels at his self control with which he still manages to talk, tease and plot, while Sergio is only able to utter short words.

“I would give it to you harder, I’m just afraid you wouldn’t be able to walk home.”

“Fuck...” Sergio hisses when Cesc slams into him hard for demonstration, making him see stars. “I will crawl. Just go on like this.”

~ ~ ~

Fábio looks at David who lights up a candle and sits on the bed.

“You should sleep, you know?” he says.

“I can’t.”

“Really,” Fábio insists. “I feel better. I don’t think the demons... whatever you call them...”

Tibicenas.

“I don’t think they will come tonight. And if they do, I... I don’t know, I’ll call on you.”

David looks at him. Fábio smiles encouragingly.

“Alright,” David says then. “I’ll sleep for a while.”

He lays down and immediately feels his eyelids grow heavy. He reaches underneath his pillow and pulls out the quill he took in Villa’s office earlier that day. He lays it next to him and caressing the feather drifts off to sleep.

Chapter Text

Iker wakes up when the sun shines in his face. At first he just frowns when he realizes he is in a dirty doom in a dirty inn somewhere in a port. Then he realizes that there is something missing in the room. No. There is someone missing.

Iker jumps out of the bed. The room is ideed empty, no sight of Daniel. All he finds is a piece of parchment pinned to the table with his own dagger. Iker comes closer and looks at it. It‘s written in Daniel‘s messy handwriting.

Dear (no longer my) lord Casillas,

I‘m sorry to disappear without bidding you proper farewells, but there is some business that requires my immediate attention. I would certainly like to help you further in your matters, were they not utterly stupid and disgraceful.

Daniel

P.S. I was considering slitting your throat in your sleep, but I‘m not a coward of your sort and I still remember you saved my life, so I‘d say we are even now.

Iker gasps and crumples the parchment before throwing it to the ground. Then he runs out of the room, down the stairs and out of the inn. When he is outside, he realizes that looking for Daniel in the port is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

He keeps running around the port like a lost dog for a while, then stops on the shore.

“Casillas!” a familiar voice sounds from somewhere.

Iker searches for a while before he spots a ship sailing away, and a familiar figure leaning over the rail on the stern.

“So nice of you to come to say goodbye!” Daniel yells to make himself heard over the sound of waves.

“You damned bastard!” Iker yells back. “I’ll have you hanged for this!”

“Sorry, can’t hear you!” Daniel answers while Iker is absolutely convinced he heard him really well.

“You will hear of me again!” Iker threatens.

“I hope not,” Daniel calls and waves at Iker. “Ahoy!”

 

 

~ ~ ~

Francesc hands Jordi a list with the regent’s seal. Jordi reads it and looks at him with tortured expression.

“He really did it,” he states quietly.

“I’m sorry.”

“No, I... I expected it. He just needs to punish someone. If only to show that we don’t let prisoners go on daily bases.”

Francesc shrugs. He actually feels a tiny needle of guilt stinging inside as it was originally him who came to the regent to explain how the pirate likely escaped. But he only did what he had to, both because it was his duty and because he needed to stop Casillas.

“Can he ask for a pardon?” Jordi asks.

“Sure,” Francesc says. “But I don’t remember when it was last given.”

Jordi bites his lip, then throws the list on the table.

“Oh, I almost forgot...” he says. “I might have found the Portuguese you asked me to find.”

“Really?” Francesc smiles and puts a hand on Jordi’s shoulder. “See, you really do your work well.”

 

 

~ ~ ~

Xavi puts the last bowl on the platter and looks at David, who is playing with Sergio‘s cat.

“Will you bring señor Villa the lunch or not?” he asks.

David lets go of the cat that meows in protest, trying to get more of the gentle scratching behind its ears. He takes the platter and heads out of the kitchen. Xavi looks at the cat that is eyeing him accusingly, like he is an evil creature for sending its friend away.

“Sorry, but he has to work,” Xavi mumbles.

The he realizes that he is talking to a cat, and shakes his head wildly.

“Everyone in this house is going mad. And it seems like it’s contagious.”

 

 

~ ~ ~

Iker is sitting in a tavern at the port, staring gloomily in the cup of sour wine. Not only has he lost the pirate, his only way to gold and the new lands, which would have granted him the favors of the King and the Queen. Now he’s also found out that Carles Puyol’s ships have already departed and word in the port is that he already had the maps Iker was trying to get.

How he got them, Iker doesn’t know. He supposed Alonso had them, and when he got rid of Alonso, he expected the maps to at least disappear with him, if nobody of his people could find them.

But it now means that if Puyol indeed finds something, anything worth the interest of the King and the Queen, it will be him, and of course Villa, in their good graces, not Iker. All his plans, all the years of plotting against Villa are now gone.

He feels like crying but no way a nobleman like him would cry, leave alone in a place where everyone can see him.

He orders another cup instead.

 

 

~ ~ ~

Villa looks up when David enters the room and lays the platter on the table. If he can judge, he looks slightly better than the few past days, like he got at least a bit of sleep.

“What are tibicenas?” Villa asks quietly when David is already at the door.

David turns around and looks at him in surprise.

“Why are you asking?”

“Xavi said you were chasing them at night.”

David makes a tiny nervous step. Villa points to the sofa and David sits on it carefully, like he’s afraid some magic will trap him there and never let him get up again.

“They are demons,” he says. “Children of the devil. They come from the shadows at night. Sometimes they come from the sea as well. They are giant dogs with eyes like burning charcoals. And they come to take you with them. To the underworld.”

He looks at Villa defiantly.

“You don’t believe me,” he states. “But I’ve seen them.”

“No, no, I believe you,” Villa smiles. “Actually, do you know why the Canary Islands are called this?”

David shakes his head.

“Because when they discovered them, they saw giant dogs there. In Latin, the word for dog is canis. So, they named them Canariae Insulae. Canary Islands.”

“We don’t call them that,” David says. “We don’t call them anything altogether. Only the islands.”

Villa is looking at him. It feels like they are miles apart. The moments they shared only weeks ago, all the kisses, caresses, smiles, now seem like a dream.

“David, I want you to know that I’m sorry about what happened,” he says quietly. “And I acknowledge it was my fault. I don’t want you to think that I’m cruel. I... Fábio stole valuable things from me and basically betrayed me to Casillas. And Casillas is someone who has hurt me a lot and when I hear his name, I get angry.”

“But Fábio didn’t do it because he wanted to. He had no other choice,” David whispers. “He would never betray you if he wasn’t afraid of Casillas. He isn’t what you think he is.”

“You were afraid of him as well, and you didn’t betray me,” Villa says softly. “Francesc told me. You didn’t betray me with Casillas’ dagger on your throat.”

David lowers his eyes.

“You know, Fábio did exactly the same thing that I did,” he whispers.

“What do you mean?”

“He didn’t betray the one he loves.”

Villa just looks at him, unable to move. David gets up calmly and walks to the door. Then he turns around and looks at Villa in a way Villa knows, he remembers it from the day at the market, when David first looked at him and he could see all the emotions of the world concentrated in his eyes.

“I would have died for you,” he whispers and closes the door.

 

 

~ ~ ~

Francesc walks in David’s and – temporarily – Fábio’s room and smiles.

“I found your friend,” Francesc says. “Cristiano.”

“Wh... where?” Fábio blurts out.

“In jail.”

Fábio almost jumps out of the bed and looks at Francesc with hopeful eyes.

“He’s alive?”

Francesc chuckles.

“Oh, very much alive. He complained to me about everything from the quality of bread to his desperate need of soap.”

Fábio smiles happily and a bit nostalgically, like he can quite picture Cristiano doing that. Francesc sighs.

“Well, don’t get too excited,” he says. “He is still a thief. And the penalties for theft are not a laughing matter. In the best case he could end up with his back in the same condition yours is in.”

“I know,” Fábio mumbles. “Unless Casillas would say he actually didn’t steal anything from him. And he will never do that. Not after I betrayed him.”

“Likely not,” Francesc nods. “Still, I understood that he only took a few coins from him. The court should take it into consideration. I will remind the court of that if necessary.”

“Please,” Fábio whispers. “Whatever, just don’t let them kill him.”

“I’ll see what I can do. Though I’m not sure losing a hand or an ear is that much better of an option, to be honest.”

Fábio smiles sadly.

“Maybe it will sound strange, but Cris without a hand or an ear is still better than dead Cris.”

Francesc rolls his eyes.

“No, I will never understand the Portuguese sense of humor,” he says and walks out of the room.

 

 

~ ~ ~

Xavi takes the jar and pours more wine in Francesc’s cup because Sergio, who normally takes that task upon himself, is staring into space. Francesc grins and waves a hand in front of Sergio’s eyes.

“Are you sleeping with your eyes open, Sergio?” he asks.

“No, I’m just thinking,” Sergio says.

“He does that a lot recently,” Xavi notes. “It never brings anything good.”

Sergio glares at him before going back to his gloomy mood. Xavi rolls his eyes and leaves the kitchen with a basket to pick some herbs in the garden.

“Thinking about what?” Francesc asks. “I hope not poor Álvaro again.”

“No,” Sergio sighs. “Just...”

He bites his lip and looks at Francesc.

“Is it true what they say? About Granada?”

Francesc frowns.

“About Granada? What about Granada?”

“That the King and the Queen want to conquer it.”

Francesc raises his brows in surprise.

“Since when are you interested in the military?”

“Since you are in the army.”

“Oh. Thank you for reminding me,” Francesc grins.

Then he looks at Sergio with a more serious face.

“Well, all I know is what you know. There are voices, but you never know with the King and the Queen. Not until they sign an order.”

“But... if they really wanted to conquer Granada, then... then you’d have to go, right?”

“Probably, yes.”

Sergio folds his arms.

“I don’t want you to go to war!”

“Why?” Francesc laughs.

“I don’t want some stupid Moor to kill you!”

“Sergio...” Francesc sighs and turns Sergio’s face to him. “Look at me. Do I look like someone who’d let himself be killed by a stupid Moor?”

“No,” Sergio whispers. “You don’t.”

“See?” Francesc grins. “Nothing to worry about, then.”

When he looks at Sergio, though, he is sure that convincing him of it will be much harder than convincing him of his feelings.

 

 

~ ~ ~

Iker doesn‘t even know where he is leading the horse. Actually, it almost seems like the horse is leading him. Iker is just focusing on not falling off it‘s back.

He had too many glasses in the port, and when he arrived back home, he made sure he wouldn‘t sober up too soon. On top of losing the pirate, he found out Fábio also disappeared as no one in the house has seen him for a few days.

Between the penultimate and the last cup of wine he got the idea to talk to Francesc Fàbregas. If there was anyone who knew about Puyol‘s plans, except for Villa, it was him. He couldn‘t be sure he would talk to him, but after all, they were nobles and the nobles should stick together. At least Iker‘s drunken brain is telling him that.

He jumps off (or rather falls off) the horse and staggers to the door. He knocks and waits. The door opens and reveals a boy with ruffled hair whose expression quickly changes into something between fear and hatred upon seeing Iker.

“Señor Fàbregas is not here,” he says.

Iker looks at him with bloodshot eyes and then laughs.

“What a pity. I see he makes use of Alonso’s abandoned possessions, though!” he says. “Never mind, I wanted to talk to him, but I think talking to you instead could be useful as well.”

He shoves him unceremoniously and Álvaro stumbles back. Iker looks around the kitchen to make sure there are no other people and then folds his arms.

“So now I understand how Alonso’s maps found their way to Puyol!” he says. “From Fàbregas, of course, and I think I now know who gave them to him.”

He makes a step towards Álvaro and shakes his head.

“I had my people search Alonso’s house once he was gone, but I should have thought of the servants as well. Well, if the regent let me take care of the matter, I’d have Alonso beheaded and his little watchdogs like you hanged. But of course Fàbregas wouldn’t do that. They were friends after all.”

“He wouldn’t do it because he’s an honest man,” Álvaro says.

Iker frowns and then hits him with the back of his hand.

“Since when do you talk to your lord without being asked?” he snaps.

Álvaro blinks back the tears and wipes the blood off his lip.

“You’re not my lord,” he says quietly.

Iker looks at him in disbelief, then he grabs the collar of Álvaro’s shirt and pulls him closer.

“Whoever taught you these manners, boy, taught you wrong,” he whispers. “I’ll teach you how to behave.”

Álvaro raises his hands but doesn’t use them finally. Talking back to a nobleman is one thing, hitting a nobleman is a sure way to have a noose on your neck in no time. And Álvaro thinks that he is too young to die, plus he definitely doesn’t want to die on the gallows. He once witnessed a man being hanged when he was a kid and it haunts his dreams ever since.

“Lesson one,” Iker sneers. “I am a lord. You are a nobody. As such, your place is on your knees in front of me.”

He attempts to push Álvaro down to his knees for emphasize but due to his own unsteady legs and the fact that Álvaro is taller than him and not willing to be Iker’s puppet, he fails miserably.

“Kneel down!” he barks.

Álvaro stares back defiantly.

“Never!”

With an angry growl, Iker launches himself at him. Álvaro hits the wall with the back of his head and slides down to the floor. He rolls out of Iker‘s reach just in time to avoid the expensive leather shoe aiming for his ribs.

“Leave him alone!” a voice sounds from the door.

Iker turns his head slowly and then chuckles. Isco is standing there, holding one of Francesc’s swords in his hand.

“What... what did you just say?” Iker laughs.

“I said...” Isco says firmly and steps closer to him, pointing the sword at him. “Leave him alone or I’ll kill you. So help me God.”

Chapter Text

“Do you know who you are talking to, peasant?” Iker asks, stumbling a bit and grabbing the table for support. “I am señor Iker Casillas Fernández, Lord of Navalacruz and of San Sebastián!”

“I only know you are not behaving like a lord now,” Isco says calmly.

Iker stares at him incredulously. Then he draws his sword and lunges forward, but in his drunken state misses Isco by a good meter. Isco doesn’t know whether he should laugh or be scared.

Iker tries to hit Isco once more, but Isco only steps aside and Iker ends up face first in the shelves with dishes, knocking down some bowls and saucepans. He turns to Isco, face completely red, and waves his sword.

“You will pay for this, you bastard!” he slurs and managing to put his sword back in its sheath on the third attempt, staggers out of the house.

Isco throws the sword on the table unceremoniously, even though it is probably one of Francesc‘s favorites, and runs to Álvaro.

“Are you alright?” he asks.

“I... don’t know,” Álvaro says, still shocked.

Isco looks at him and feels for any broken bones.

“I think you’ll live,” he says then.

“I thought he was going to kill me,” Álvaro whispers. “You’d have to see his eyes.”

“Well, he’s gone now,” Isco says and pats him on the shoulder comfortingly.

Álvaro looks at him.

“God, Isco,” he whispers then. “You threatened the Lord of Navalacruz and San Sebastián that you would kill him!”

“I know.”

“They could... hang you for that or something!”

“Maybe,” Isco nods. “But I think he was so drunk he won’t even remember it in the morning.”

“You can’t be sure.”

Isco shrugs and hauls him up from the ground.

“Alright?” he asks.

“I am,” Álvaro says. “But the world is sort of... spinning.”

Isco catches him in the last moment and sighs, pushing him in a chair.

“Stay here, hold onto the table. I’ll bring you a wet cloth for that head.”

He takes two pieces of cloth off the washing line, for which he is sure the laundress will kill him in the morning, and soaks them in cold water. He brings them back to the kitchen, folds one and presses it against the back of Álvaro’s head.

“Hold it,” he says and starts wiping the blood off Álvaro’s lip.

“You can fight with a sword?” Álvaro asks.

“God, no!” Isco chuckles. “I held it for the first time in my life. And I hope it was the last.”

“You looked quite... intimidating,” Álvaro says.

“Thank you.”

A moment later, Francesc walks in the kitchen and looks at Álvaro’s face, Isco with a bloodied cloth in his hand, bowls on the floor and his grandfather’s old sword on the table.

“What the hell is going on in here?” he asks.

~ ~ ~

Captain Steven Gerrard downs a cup of wine and looks out of the window of the tavern. It’s getting dark already but his eyes are used to seeing in the dark. Besides he knows this port by heart. Like all of them.

A shadow falls on his table and he looks up, ready to snap at whoever is disturbing him that there is nothing to look at. Then he freezes and thinks that he must have had more wine than he had thought because the person he is looking at is someone he had thought long dead.

“Daniel?” he breathes.

“I’m back, Captain,” Daniel says quietly. “If you still need me.”

Steven rises from his chair and looks at him. Then he hugs him, letting the other guests in the tavern see captain Steven Gerrard hugging someone probably for the first time.

“Wine for everyone!” he announces then. “Because my first mate is back!”

Daniel grins and sits at the table. He accepts the cup of wine from the innkeeper and looks at Steven.

“I thought they hanged you in Barcelona,” Steven says.

“They wanted to,” Daniel chuckles. “Twice.”

“Then how come you are still alive?”

“I guess because the nobles are really crazy there,” Daniel shrugs. “They are chasing something in India, I don’t even know what. And they don’t know how to get there.”

“And how come you are here now?”

“I guess because the nobles are also really stupid.”

Steven chuckles and looks around.

“We are sailing south tomorrow,” Steven says. “And I’m glad to have you back. Last time I lost a lot of men.”

“How come?”

“Those damned Portuguese bastards had soldiers accompanying them.”

Daniel nods. He remembers that Steven always went after the big ships. He would never rob a simple merchant who had practically all his life on the ship and was hoping to sell some of it elsewhere to feed his family. Those didn’t interest Steven, both because the booty wasn’t worth it, and out of some higher principle. Steven would kill men, steal from them, he would beat them up for good, but he would never steal from the poor. But going after the big ones had its risks. The rich usually had some men who knew how to use swords with them, to protect them from pirates and from bandits when they went ashore. Daniel knows the fights, the excitement before they jumped on the deck of the other ship, the slight exhaustion sweetened by the clinking of coins. He misses it all terribly. And he’s ready to die tomorrow if it will be in such fight.

~ ~ ~

David is sitting in the kitchen, polishing some bowls and forks that don’t need to be polished at all, but he does it anyway. He lifts his head when he hears steps in the hallway. Villa walks in the kitchen and looks at him with surprise as he doesn’t expect anyone to be up so late.

“Don’t worry, I’m not one of your demons,” he says then.

“I know you are not,” David says calmly. “I wouldn’t hear your steps then.”

Villa nods and sits on the chair. David just keeps watching him before putting the bowl he is holding, down.

“Did you need anything?” he asks.

“I can’t sleep,” Villa says. “Old scars decided to hurt and give me a sleepless night.”

“I know this,” David nods. “Though sometimes I don’t think it’s the scars that hurt. I think the memories of what caused them do.”

Villa smiles.

“You really are a wise boy,” he says. “Much wiser than me.”

“I can’t even read nor write,” David objects.

“Writing doesn’t make you any wiser. You had the best teacher, you know. Life itself.”

David nods and gets up.

“I’ll make you some herbal infusion,” he says. “Sometimes it helps. At least with the scars.”

Villa watches him boil water and putting herbs on a piece of cloth that he then ties, puts into a pot and pours the water over it.

“You know, Francesc told me...” he starts then.

“About Kun,” David finishes, setting two cups on the table. “I know.”

“I am not like your old master, David. I don’t want you to see me as such.”

“I don’t,” David says softly. “I know you are not cruel like he was. I know your reasons were different. I just don’t think that there are reasons that can be justified for doing this, to anyone.”

Villa hangs his head, looking in his cup like he hopes to see the answer in it.

“You know, life is a gift,” David says. “Sometimes it’s hard, sometimes it hurts, but it’s still beautiful to live. Because there is still hope that the next day will be better. Nobody should have the right to take that gift away. To take that hope from someone.”

Villa smiles bitterly.

“You would be a good Christian.”

“I don’t think it matters what you are if you are good,” David shrugs. “See, I know that my life, or Kun’s, or even Fábio’s are not worth much, but maybe for Kun, the next day would be better. Or the other. Maybe he would be standing next to me on the market and you would choose him, not me.”

“I wouldn’t,” Villa says. “I would always choose you.”

“You didn’t know Kun,” David smiles somewhat melancholically.

Villa feels a tiny needle of jealousy stinging him inside but realizes how inappropriate it is when David’s smile fades on his lips.

“I saw them that night,” he whispers. “Tibicenas. I saw them come for him. Saw their eyes. I’ll never forget it.”

He falls silent then. Villa sets the empty cup on the table.

“Tell me,” he says. “Is there anything I could do to make up for it?”

David shrugs and gets up. Then he looks Villa in the eyes.

“You almost took Fábio’s life,” he says then. “Save it now.”

Villa watches him disappear in the darkness of the hallway. Then he nods for himself, gets up and goes to his bedroom, forgetting completely about the pain he felt before.

~ ~ ~

Isco lifts his head when he hears the door screech and the horses let out annoyed puffs as if asking who is disturbing them.

Isco doesn’t live in the house, he has his own place in the stables, upstairs, where they originally stored the hay. After they rebuilt the stables, the loft stayed abandoned and Isco took it for himself. He likes it more than having a simple room.

He peaks out from behind the wooden rail he has built himself, more to make the place look like an actual room than out of fear of falling down. Álvaro is standing at the door, looking rather nervous.

“Hello!” Isco calls and grins.

“May I?” Álvaro asks.

Isco nods. Álvaro climbs the ladder to the loft and looks around curiously. There is nothing special there of course, but the place looks really cozy and warm. Like a children’s tree house.

“I... I wanted to thank you,” he says. “I don’t know what would happen if you didn’t come and make him go away.”

Isco smiles.

“It’s alright.”

Álvaro takes a step towards him.

“And I... I wanted you to know that I thought of you, when he hit me. I thought that I couldn’t die because I had to see you again.”

Isco just stares at him for a moment.

“You must have hit your head really hard,” he notes then. “But then... if in the morning the guards shall indeed come and arrest me for threatening Casillas... I don’t want to regret not doing this while I had the chance.”

“Not doing what?”

“This,” Isco says and touches Álvaro’s face, surprisingly gently. “And this.”

He captures Álvaro’s lips and pulls him closer. Álvaro winces and lifts his hands as if to push him away, but then lays them on Isco’s shoulders instead. Isco looks at his broken lip that started to bleed again.

“Sorry, I forgot... it had to hurt,” he says.

“It did hurt, but... delightfully.”

Isco chuckles, pulling him on the bed and kissing his neck. For some mysterious reason Álvaro smells like camomile, like a meadow under hot sun.

“You speak like a nobleman,” Isco says quietly. “You use such words... intimidating... delightfully... I like it.”

Álvaro gives him a shy smile, lifting himself up on his elbows. Isco waits for him to take a breath and then steals the words from him with a kiss.

“Wait!” Álvaro breathes and breaks free from his grip.

“I don’t want to wait,” Isco whispers.

Álvaro licks his lower lip.

“But... I don‘t know...“

“Just lay down,” Isco says. “I’ll take care of you.”

“Like you always do,” Álvaro smirks.

“Like I always will.”

~ ~ ~

Iker stumbles inside his house, throws his coat and sword on the floor and thinks about how the hell is he supposed to take off his shoes without hurting himself in one way or another. He considers waking some servants up but then decides that he has had enough of servants.

He was humiliated by a groom. Well, rather he humiliated himself, and nobody actually witnessed it, apart from Alonso’s former servant, but it is bad even like that.

His whole life is falling apart. For a moment he thinks that he should finally forget about all his plans to destroy Villa, he should just get married to some rich and pretty woman who would give him a heir, and just hope he would get in the King’s and the Queen’s good graces in a different way.

Then he starts laughing madly. He definitely had too much to drink if he is thinking about becoming a honest man.

He decides to sort things out with Fàbregas’ groom in the morning and promises himself to come up with a better plan to destroy Villa.

A moment later, he passes out on the bed, completely dressed, snoring loudly.

~ ~ ~

Álvaro nuzzles at Isco’s neck, trying to snuggle up against him despite being considerably taller.

“Say another word like that,” Isco whispers.

“Like what?”

“I don’t know, one of the words you like to say. It makes me feel like I just slept with a prince.”

“A simple servant isn’t enough for you?” Álvaro laughs.

“To be honest, I was hoping you’d turn out to be some forgotten prince, then you’d take me to your castle and I’d never have to work again.”

“I’m so sorry for ruining your dreams,” Álvaro sighs. “But all I have are these words I learned from señor Alonso, and about ten reals, out of which five I won in the cards from you.”

“Then why did I even sleep with you?” Isco almost yells, slapping Álvaro’s back jokingly until they both start laughing.

“You know, I wouldn’t do it either if I knew it would make our relationship so tempestuous.”

“Tempestuous,” Isco repeats. “Here you go, your Royal Highness.”

Álvaro laughs and shakes his head. Then he looks up at him.

“It is a crime, isn’t it?” he asks. “What we just did.”

“You regret it?” Isco asks.

“No, I don’t!” Álvaro objects. “Just...

“Just what?”

Álvaro sighs deeply.

“Why do I always have to do things I could die for?”

“Because, I guess, those are the ones worth doing,” Isco grins.

The he kisses Álvaro’s forehead comfortingly.

“Nobody saw us,” he whispers.

“Just the horses,” Álvaro smiles.

“Oh, yes!” Isco says and turns around to look down at the horses. “You are all to remain silent about what I did to this beautiful boy!”

Álvaro giggles. Isco looks at him and narrows his eyes.

“Because I will do it again,” he finishes.

~ ~ ~

The dawn is breaking when Steven and Daniel walk aboard Steven’s ship. Usually they have to leave before the first light, but this is a safe port. The guards know better than to come here.

Some of the men who slept on the ship come out on the deck. There are indeed some Daniel doesn’t know and some are missing. He doesn’t feel sad, though. Everyone’s destiny is in their own hands according to Daniel’s life philosophy. And besides, as he likes to say, death is certain, the hour of it uncertain.

“Welcome back on the Plunderer’s Pride,” Steven says.

“Thanks, Captain!” Daniel smiles.

In his head he hears the words differently. What he hears is “Welcome home.”

~ ~ ~

Francesc wakes up to steps and voices outside his house. He dresses up quickly and comes out of the house. There are several guards standing in his yard, seemingly rather unsure about the whole situation. Before he can even ask anything, Álvaro runs out of the house and looks at the soldiers.

“It’s my fault, all my fault, and if you have to hang someone, then me!” he blurts out.

Francesc grabs his shirt and pulls him back like an unruly puppy.

“Hey, slow down, boy. Nobody is hanging anyone here.”

One of the guards makes a nervous step towards him.

“Señor Fabregas, señor Casillas sent us. He says a servant here threatened him.”

“Tell señor Casillas that instead of sending guards to my house, he shall present himself at the regent‘s house by noon, or else I will send the guards to bring him there,“ Francesc says in his most authoritative voice. “Also tell him that while there is no evidence that my servant threatened him, he hurt my servant and I will not tolerate it. I do have evidence for that, his face is the evidence.”

The guard salutes him and then the whole group marches out of the yard. Francesc yawns and shakes his head.

“Like it‘s our fault Casillas got drunk and embarrassed himself.”

In that moment, the door to the stables opens and Isco walks out, looking around sleepily.

“What happened?” he asks.

Francesc bites down a laugh.

“The guards came to arrest you,” he says, feigning a serious tone. “But Álvaro offered them his head for yours.”

“W-what?” Isco gasps.

“Well, and if I didn’t put them and Casillas back in their places, your friend here would have a noose around his neck before you would even bother to wake up.”

He finally smirks and winks at Isco, but then puts on the serious face again.

“You two are more lucky than you know,” he says. “Because the regent is not really Casillas’ friend now and because he was so drunk that he can’t even tell what really happened and what not. But next time... don’t wave my grandfather’s sword at egoistic noblemen.”

“What is ‘egoistic’?” Isco asks.

“Who only cares for himself,” Álvaro explains before Francesc can even take a breath. “Like selfish.”

Francesc rolls his eyes.

“I sense the Xabier Alonso Olano’s influence here,” he sighs. “Alright, I’m going to get some more sleep. I hope there is no other reason why the guards should come to arrest one of you.”

“No, señor,” Isco beams at him.

Álvaro blushes and disappears in the house quickly. Francesc rolls his eyes again and heads to his bedroom.

The day doesn’t look like a good one. And he hasn’t yet faced Casillas.

Chapter Text

Xavi is chopping meat for lunch when he hears steps behind him. He turns around to see Fábio standing there.

“What are you doing here?” Xavi asks.

“Yeah!” Sergio nods, coming from the pantry with a jar of vinegar. “I thought David wouldn’t let you move a finger.”

“I need to talk to Villa,” Fábio says.

“Well, he’s upstairs, but...” Sergio starts.

Fábio nods and heads to the stairs. Sergio turns to Xavi.

“A few days ago he was almost dead and now he’s going to take the stairs?” he asks.

“See, and you can’t get out of bed even when your back is perfectly fine,” Xavi shrugs.

~ ~ ~

Francesc only gets two more hours of sleep when a guard appears in the house. Francesc groans upon seeing him. He wonders why he didn‘t decide to become a painter instead of a soldier. Well, probably because he can‘t even paint a circle that would be round.

“What is it now?” he asks.

“We went to señor Casillas. He said he would be at the regent’s house by noon.”

“And you have to come here to tell me that?”

“He asks you to bring your evidence in case you want to accuse him of something.”

Francesc chuckles. Damned Casillas. He might be an idiot when drunk, but he sobers dangerously quickly.

“Tell him the evidence will be there,” he says.

He walks back into the house and sighs. Now he has to be really careful because clearly, Casillas is not going down easily.

~ ~ ~

Villa looks up in surprise when there is a knock on the door. Nobody usually comes at this hour, it’s between breakfast and lunch. He only hopes Xavi hasn’t decided that he needed to eat something even between the two meals.

“Enter!” he calls.

Fábio walks in and looks at Villa who is more than surprised to see him. Then he notices that Fábio is more likely gripping the door for support than just to hold it open. He motions to the sofa.

“Sit down.”

Fábio more falls on the sofa than he sits.

“I need to talk to you,” he says.

“What about?” Villa asks.

“Casillas... and David, too.”

“I’m listening.”

“I already told this to señor Fàbregas, but I think I owe you an explanation. I didn’t steal your things just like that. I’m not a thief. I stole them because I had no other choice. Casillas made me. I don’t know what you two did to each other, but he hates you.”

“That’s not news to me,” Villa smirks.

“I didn’t know why he was so obsessed with David, after all, he is just a slave and he didn’t look like he knew much about you anyway... but now I understand.”

“You understand what?”

“You care about David.”

“And?”

“So he is the only place Casillas can hurt you in. At least now.”

Villa keeps looking at him.

“You can’t let him,” Fábio says. “David is the kindest person I’ve ever met, and he’s suffered enough for three lives already. You mustn’t let the bastard hurt him.”

“I would never let anyone hurt him,” Villa says.

“You did already,” Fábio points out. “Though you didn’t want to.”

He sighs and looks at Villa.

“I just thought I had to tell you before you throw me out, because when Casillas finds me, I think I might not be able to speak ever again, so...”

“Let’s talk about throwing you out when you can at least walk,” Villa frowns. “Just one thing interests me. You said that you were no thief. Why did Casillas choose you, then?”

“Because he knew I couldn’t say no to him,” Fábio shrugs. “Did señor Fàbregas tell you about Cris?”

“He mentioned something,” Villa nods.

“Now Casillas will kill me for going to you and bribe the court so that they kill Cris. Or he will let them kill him first and then he’ll kill me.”

“Even Casillas is not omnipotent,” Villa smirks.

“You certainly don’t have to be omnipotent to get rid of me and Cris.”

Villa gives a resigned nod. He would like to be more reassuring, but Fábio seems to be awfully realistic.

~ ~ ~

“You can’t mean it, señor!” Isco yells and steps in front of Álvaro protectively. “He almost killed Álvaro yesterday and you want to present him to that crazy drunkard again?”

“He certainly won’t try to kill him in front of the regent, Isco!” Francesc says.

“Still,” Isco mumbles. “Once you come too close to the nobles, it’s like when you enter a swamp. You never get out.”

“Thank you for comparing me to a swamp,” Francesc grins.

“I didn’t mean you, señor,” Isco mumbles somewhat annoyed.

“It’s alright, Isco,” Álvaro says. “I’ll go. If it helps anything...”

“I promise Casillas won’t touch him,” Francesc adds. “Unless he dares to touch me first.”

“If he does, I’ll find him,” Isco says resolutely. “And I won’t bother with warning him first this time.”

~ ~ ~

David picks up the dirty dishes from the table and lays them on the platter carefully. Then he shoots a careful look at Villa.

“What?” Villa asks.

“I just...” David takes a breath. “I know Fábio talked to you.”

“He did,” Villa nods. “Do you want to talk to me as well?”

David hesitates and then walks over to him.

“I don’t know what else to say. There is not much I could say than what I already told you about Casillas. Just...”

“Just?”

“I think he’s a fool,” David says. “If he thinks he can hurt you by taking things from you.”

“Unfortunately he knows how to hurt me,” Villa sighs. “And he doesn’t have to take anything from me. I thought it hurt me, when he took my position at court away, when he bought my property. But it was nothing. Nothing compared to how much it hurt me when he hurt people I loved... and love.”

“Do you mean the one you never talk about?” David asks softly.

Villa looks at him in surprise. David smiles.

“I know there is someone. Some open wound that hurts more than the old scars, that doesn’t let you sleep at night. Old scars don’t hurt like that. They are closed, healed.”

“There is someone,” Villa nods. “Was. He’s just a shadow now.”

“Who?”

“Leo. He was my father’s apprentice. You know, when it looked that I would have a career within the army... my father wanted to make sure he would have a successor, and I wasn’t really interested in business back then. I only came back home for short periods of time, but with Leo I was looking forward to every time I would come to Barcelona. He was quiet and responsible, my complete opposite at that time, but that was what I needed. We used to spend the days together, just talking and taking walks, and somewhere in the middle we fell in love. Then, people started talking, and unfortunately, Casillas heard them.”

“What did he do?”

“Mentioned the rumors in front of the King. He didn’t want to get rid of me completely, he wanted to torture me, he insisted they were just rumors, that there was no proof, that a person of my status couldn’t be tried by an official trial, but that he should talk to me, and so on. But the one who was to blame for everything that followed was me, not Casillas. He started it, but I played by his rules and didn’t realize it until it was too late.”

“What do you mean?”

“The King asked me if the rumors were true. I denied it. They asked me if I knew the boy. I said he was my father’s apprentice, nothing more. But my father heard about it and realized that my career was at stake. When I returned next time, Leo was gone. My father said he went himself, I know it wasn’t true. I never saw him again. Nobody heard about him anymore, in Barcelona or anywhere else. If he left a message, my father made sure I would never get it.”

He looks around the office and runs a hand through his hair.

“It was then that I fell out with my father. I stopped denying the rumors, I even acted in such way that everyone who wasn’t deaf and blind had to know they were true. I retired from the army before they could make me, blamed it on the injuries, even though I could still fight anyone if I wanted to. I spent some time in Ampurias, pretended I needed the fresh air to recover, while I just didn’t want to be here with my father, be here where everything reminded me of Leo. Then my father fell ill and I returned. He died, I stayed here, became a money changer. Instead of a big career within the army, the life at court and love of my life, I had this house and a few friends left. You know the rest.”

David keeps looking at him for a while, then shuffles closer and reaches for Villa’s face.

“So this is why you are... what you are,” he whispers.

“A bitter, old, grumpy man?” Villa smirks.

“No,” David shakes his head. “Kind to people who are hurt. Because you are hurt.”

“I wasn’t too kind to you,” Villa says. “Not kind enough.”

“You were. You are. And I wish I could accept it, I wish I wasn’t afraid to give in to it... but I still am.”

“Afraid of what?”

“That one day someone will take it away and I will die. I don’t mean die like really die, I mean... die inside. When I first saw you at the market, I was dead. I didn’t care about who would buy me, what they would do to me, where I would go... But then I saw you and I felt the tiny sparkle of hope and I knew that I was coming alive. And I don’t want to die again.”

Villa gets up from his chair and looks him in the eyes.

“I would never let you die,” he whispers.

“Then you should kiss me,” David smiles. “Because I think I will die if you don’t.”

~ ~ ~

The regent’s house is immense and full of precious things, paintings and expensive carpets on the floor. Francesc’s or Alonso’s houses are nothing compared to it and Álvaro thinks he must be dreaming when they walk across the huge hall.

“Close your mouth, Álvaro,” Francesc says quietly.

Álvaro smiles sheepishly.

“And don’t speak unless the regent asks you a question. Mainly, don’t let Casillas provoke you. He will try.”

“I know.”

The two guards open the door for them and they walk into the regent’s drawing room that he’s chosen for the meeting.

Casillas is already sitting in one of the chairs. Francesc salutes the regent and after a while of hesitating, beckons Casillas as well. Álvaro bows deeply to the regent, promptly ignoring Casillas. The regent looks slightly confused.

“Señor Casillas asked me to bring my evidence, my lord,” Francesc explains. “He came to my house yesterday when I wasn’t home, and hit my servant. Not only is it not behavior expected from someone in his position, it’s something I refuse to tolerate.”

“Captain Fàbregas, I thought we were about to discuss more serious matters than some servant’s face!” Vilanova says, somewhat annoyed.

“I deeply regret the damage I caused to Captain Fàbregas by trying to educate his servants, which is something he omitted to do. Just let me tell you something about this servant, my lord Vilanova!” Casillas says with a contented smile.

“Why would I want to know?” the regent frowns.

“Because it’s rather important. Before working at Captain Fàbregas’ house, he worked at Xabier Alonso’s house.”

“I don’t see the point.”

Casillas gives a mischievous smile.

“It means that if he worked there, he had to know about Alonso and the pirate, and if he didn’t tell anyone about it...”

“Then it certainly isn’t as bad as bribing a prison guard to let the said pirate go, then hide him in your house and finally lose him somewhere in a port,” Francesc snaps. “Actually, Casillas, you managed quite a stunt!”

“Silence!” Vilanova bangs his fist into the table.

He waits for everyone to look at him, which takes some time because Iker and Francesc are trying to kill each other with their eyes while Álvaro is just desperately trying to pretend that he isn’t there. Apparently it doesn’t work, as the regent looks at him.

“Did you work at Xabier Alonso’s house?” he asks.

“Yes, my lord. Until he had to leave the city. Then I went to señor Fàbregas who was kind enough to let me stay in his house.”

“Did you know anything about some pirate?”

“No, my lord.”

“Liar!” Iker jumps up.

“Please, gentlemen, you are giving me headache!” Vilanova says and stands up. “First of all, I don’t understand why we are arguing about a servant here. Casillas, give the boy some coins as a compensation and next time solve such things between yourselves, I don’t have time for that.”

“But...” Iker looks at the verge of tears while Francesc is biting on his lip so he doesn’t laugh and Álvaro looks half terrified, half utterly confused.

When the regent frowns again, Iker pulls out a few coins from his pouch and hands them to Álvaro with a disgusted face. Álvaro makes a step back and looks at the regent.

“I don’t want anything from him, my lord,” he says.

The regent looks like he is about to explode any moment.

“Then get out of here before I decide I don’t like you!” he snaps. “You don’t want to know what happens to people I don’t like.”

“Yes, my lord. I mean, no, my lord. Thank you, my lord!” Álvaro bows and practically runs out of the room.

“And now,” the regent says, helping himself to a mandarine from a bowl on the table. “Casillas, how do you explain to me that you denounce Alonso because he is hiding a pirate, and then you go bribe a guard and hide the same pirate in your house, to lose him finally?”

“Because I...” Iker takes a breath. “I thought he could be useful.”

“For what?”

“For... I thought I could find a way to India.”

You?” Vilanova’s eyes go wide. “Why would you want to do such thing?”

“Because he found out that Carles Puyol was sailing to India with the support of David Villa,” Francesc explains before Iker can utter a word.

“Not a word about David Villa will be said in my house, gentlemen!” Vilanova says through gritted teeth.

“Then we can as well end this conversation because the true reason behind everything señor Casillas ever did is David Villa.”

“I wanted to find a way to India to serve our King and the Queen, not because of Villa!” Iker finally snaps.

Nor Francesc, nor the regent look convinced.

“Let’s get over with this matter finally,” Vilanova says then. “Casillas, the right punishment would be the same as for Alonso, but if you did it, as you say, with good intentions...”

Francesc makes a face that Vilanova fortunately doesn’t notice.

“I will only confiscate the properties in Navalacruz. So don’t consider yourself the lord of Navalacruz anymore. And if I hear of you again soon, be sure I will not be this lenient.”

“But I...” Iker takes a breath.

“And I advise you to get over your obsession with David Villa,” the regent adds. “Now go. I have plenty of work with the Inquisition tribunal. They have been hanging and burning people like crazy lately, I don’t even have time to sign all the orders.”

Iker doesn’t say anything more because he is sure the regent didn’t mention the hanging and burning just like that.

~ ~ ~

Daniel can feel the familiar excitement when Reina, one of the few men he knows from the old times, spots a ship on the horizon. Steven comes up and looks in the direction of the ship together with Daniel.

“It seems like they don’t even know what they are doing,” Daniel notes.

“There was a storm last night, they might have lost their course... or other ships if they were sailing together,” Steven nods.

“Easy prey, then!” Daniel grins.

“Everyone get ready!” Steven orders. “It doesn’t look like there are soldiers on the ship, but let’s prepare for every possibility.”

Then he turns to Daniel.

“I can entrust you with the helm, right?” he asks.

“Sure, Captain.”

Steven winces at one of the youngsters tripping over his own feet out of excitement and heads to his cabin.

~ ~ ~

“Listen, Álvaro...” Francesc asks when they walk outside the regent’s house. “You really didn’t know about what Xabier was doing with the pirate?”

Álvaro bites his lip.

“Actually...” he says. “I kind of... knew.”

“Kind of?”

“I delivered the messages between them.”

Francesc folds his arms.

“So you lied to the regent indeed!”

Álvaro gives him a mischievous smile.

“And do you realize that I am the captain of the regent’s guards, and that you now confessed to me?”

“I do, but if you wanted to, you could have let the guards arrest me already in the morning or now in the palace, so I figured you wouldn’t do it now.”

They come to the square in front of the prison and stop. The square is full of people.

"What is going on in here?" Francesc asks one man.

"There‘s public hanging today, señor," the man says. “The guard who let some pirate go. I don’t understand how someone can be so stupid.”

Francesc places a hand on his forehead.

"Oh, I completely forgot!"

The voices grow louder and the heads turn to the place where the procession is passing. Francesc crosses himself hastily. Next to him, Álvaro flinches and then disappears somewhere in the crowd. Francesc frowns and moves as if to go after him, but then he notices Jordi.

Only that he looks nothing like the Jordi he knows.

He looks more like a ghost, paler than Francesc has ever seen him, deep blue circles under his eyes. He’s trailing after the guards, the priest and the few ministrants who are mumbling prayers, like he doesn’t see and hear them. Despite his uniform, he’s acting nothing like a guard should act while leading the condemned to the gallows. One hand gripping Javi’s arm, he’s patting his back comfortingly, not caring at all about whether people see it or not.

Francesc feels the stinging needle of guilt prick him again. He sighs deeply when the guards make place for the priest to climb the stairs and Jordi follows him, dragging Javi up more because he seems like he will faint in any moment than because he would be putting up a fight. The hangman looks a bit confused when he sees Jordi, but Jordi tells him something and the hangman just shrugs. He asks Javi for his last words, but he just looks at him like he doesn’t even understand what he’s saying.

The priest starts the final prayer and Francesc bows his head together with the other people. Only instead of praying, he curses Iker Casillas with all his might. Then he decides to find Álvaro. He has seen quite a few people die, he doesn’t have to see another.

He finds Álvaro in a tiny side alley, curled up on the ground, back leaning against the wall of some house.

"Is it over now?“ Álvaro asks shakily, looking up at him.

“Yes, it is,” Francesc says, somewhat confused. “What’s the matter?”

“I can’t see this,” Álvaro whispers. “I mean, hanging. My father was hanged.”

“What for?” Francesc blinks.

In all honesty, if he has a son of a murderer in his house, he wants to know.

“Blasphemy,” Álvaro says with some kind of unnatural bluntness. “He got drunk one evening and wanted to throw a stone through the window of some man who offended him, but the stone flew through the window of a church. I didn’t see him die, but once I saw another man being hanged, and I saw my father in him. I don't want to see it again.”

“I’m sorry,” Francesc says because he can’t think of anything else to say.

Then he hauls Álvaro up and looks at him.

“Do you think you can go home alone? I need to speak to a few people. I’ll be late.”

“Sure,” Álvaro nods. “And thank you.”

“For what?” Francesc asks.

“Everything. You’re not like the others.”

“You mean the others from the swamp of nobility,” Francesc grins. “I’m glad I am.”

~ ~ ~

To Francesc’s big relief, he finds Villa in his office, not in his father’s room, and he looks surprisingly a lot like the man he knows from the times before the whole Iker Casillas saga started.

“I came to talk to you about Casillas, but seeing you I think I will better not mention him,” he smiles. “Though you could like this story.”

“I have no hope of Casillas ever embarrassing himself enough for me to like it,” Villa smirks.

“Oh, he already did,” Francesc chuckles. “Well, not publicly, but still. He got drunk and decided to pay me a visit. Unfortunately for him I wasn’t home, and he also underestimated my servants.”

“Underestimated?”

“Well, Álvaro refused to kneel to him, and Isco took my grandfather’s sword and saw Casillas out.”

Villa laughs heartily and raises the cup.

“Hail the brave!”

“They are idiots,” Francesc sighs. “Were Casillas not completely drunk and were the regent not angry with him, they’d be both dead by now. Isco acts without thinking too often, and Álvaro thinks too much for his own good. Anyway, it was good for something. Casillas is no longer the lord of Navalacruz and the regent doesn’t want to hear about him for a while.”

“I seriously underestimated you,” Villa says with astonishment. “I was worried when you said you had a plan against Casillas, but you are more than serious opponent.”

“And I’m not done with him yet,” Francesc nods. “Though I don’t think he will present me with such good opportunity again.”

~ ~ ~

As Steven and Daniel expected, there are no soldiers on the foreign ship, even though the sailors surely know how to use swords. Daniel wipes a drop of blood off his lip and looks down at the freckled blonde who made him shed it. He looks awfully young to be the captain of the ship, but all of the captured sailors insist that he is. Well, as far as Daniel knows, Steven also was a feared pirate at a young age, and Daniel himself doesn’t remember any life before the sea.

“What do you want?” the blonde scoffs at him when Daniel hands his sword to one of the pirates and hauls him up.

Contrary to the popular belief, Daniel has manners and this boy is, judging by his clothes, from a good family. Daniel is sure they can sort this out without him sitting on the boy.

“What do people like us could possibly want?” Daniel smirks.

“There’s nothing to take, unless you need food,” the boy shrugs.

Steven comes closer to them.

“Is this the captain?” he asks.

“It seems like he is,” Daniel nods.

Then Reina hurries to them with a distraught expression.

“There’s nothing valuable,” he reports.

“I told you,” the blonde groans. “We only carry the provisions for the bigger ship.”

“The bigger ship?” Steven frowns.

“Yes. We’re accompanying Santa Marta, Carles Puyol’s ship.”

“Whose ship?” Daniel asks incredulously.

“Carles Puyol’s.”

Daniel looks at him as though he is some fantastic sea monster. Then he bursts out laughing and can’t stop for long minutes.

Chapter Text

Cristiano looks at Francesc with an ironic smirk when he comes in.

“Did you come to tell me that you forgot to execute me with that guard?” he asks. “I won’t go there now, the crowd is already gone and I want to go in style!”

“I am sure that if you were in that guard’s place, you wouldn’t care,” Francesc deadpans. “I came to tell you that your trial will be in three days. Better don’t come there with this attitude.”

“Will my attitude make a difference when Casillas bribes the judge?” Cristiano makes a face.

“I think he won’t. He’s done with bribing now, at least for some time.”

“Then I should go there and be all regretful and penitent, right?”

“I am not sure that you are capable of that, but yes, you should try. I will try to intercede on your behalf.”

“Thank you, I guess,” Cristiano says like he is not used to being thankful to anyone.

“Right now, there’s nothing to thank me for,” Francesc shrugs.

“And... Captain?” Cristiano bites his lip.

“Yes?”

“Do you know... anything about Fábio?”

“Nothing more than that he’s alive and in Villa’s house, which is probably the best place for him to be now,” Francesc shrugs. “So, see you soon.”

He motions for the guard to unlock the door and walks out of the cell.

“Captain!” Cristiano yells when he’s almost in the middle of the corridor. “I still don‘t have the soap!”

Francesc turns around and narrows his eyes.

“I just tried, never mind,” Cristiano sighs.

~ ~ ~

Álvaro sits on Isco‘s bed and pulls his knees to his chest.

“How was it?” Isco asks.

“Terrible,” Álvaro mumbles. “Well, at the regent’s house no, that was alright. But then.”

“What happened then?”

“On the square... there was a public hanging. And I...” Álvaro takes a breath. “Well, I can’t see those.”

Isco shuffles closer to him and wraps an arm around Álvaro’s shoulders.

“Are you still afraid?” he asks. “I mean, because of us.”

“Can I not be?” Álvaro looks at him. “Every time I imagine...”

“Don’t imagine, then!” Isco whispers and nibbles on his neck.

“What are you doing?” Álvaro yelps.

“Kissing you better,” Isco grins.

“You’re biting me better!”

“Is that not allowed?” Isco asks and reaches for the ties of Álvaro’s shirt. “Even if it leaves marks, the marks don’t scream who gave them to you.”

Álvaro sighs but helps him take his shirt off.

“Do you always have to be so temeritous?” he asks.

“I don’t know what that word means, but I guess I do,” Isco laughs.

“It means like... reckless.”

“I definitely do, then.”

“And...” Álvaro says and dodges Isco’s lips. “Does it always have to be this way?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean... what if for once I took care of you?”

Isco blinks and then chuckles.

“Come on, you can’t even take care of yourself!”

“Hey!” Álvaro protests and jumps on him. “That’s not true!”

“Try to prove it to me, then.”

Álvaro smirks and nuzzles at Isco’s neck, paying him back with a few nibbles. He traces his ribs with the tips of his fingers while kissing down his sternum. Isco gnaws on his lip. Not that looking down at Álvaro isn’t amazing, but having him looking down at you is maybe even more amazing. His hands and lips can do wonders to Isco’s body and he forgets all the taunting jokes he wanted to say.

“Damn you,” Isco breathes when the kisses and gentle touches are not enough anymore. “Stop teasing.”

Álvaro gives him an innocent look from underneath his eyelashes.

“I didn’t mean to...”

Isco groans, grabs his hand and shoves it down.

“I would get to it!” Álvaro protests.

“But I would be already dead then.”

“Can’t allow that,” Álvaro mumbles against his heated skin.

Isco places a hand on his neck and wraps the other one around his waist to hold him down and make sure he doesn’t go anywhere before Isco gets what he needs. The curious look on his face is almost amusing and the way it changes into one of immense pleasure is delightful. Isco arches into him and smashes their mouths together, careful not to take the lead from Álvaro as he doesn’t want to deal with his whining later.

“Didn’t you say that you’ve never done this before?” he asks breathily when he gets back into the state in which he can form actual words.

Álvaro smiles brightly.

“I learn quickly.”

“Dangerously quickly,” Isco nods.

Álvaro snuggles to him and closes his eyes sleepily, letting Isco caress his back and for once not complaining that he does it the same way he does it with the horses when he wants to calm them down.

“At least now when it comes to confession, we will both have the same thing to confess,” Isco says.

Álvaro’s eyes snap open.

“No way I’m telling this to the priest!” he whispers.

“Right,” Isco nods. “Good idea. We’re damned with or without confession.”

~ ~ ~

Francesc is on his way out of the prison when he passes the guardroom and stops in his tracks. He makes a step back and walks in.

“You should go home,” he says quietly.

Jordi lifts his head. Francesc takes off the coat of his uniform and sits on the other chair.

“I saw you on the square,” he says as if to explain his concern.

Jordi looks at him bluntly.

“I promised him I would stay with him until the end,” he whispers.

“I’m really sorry, Jordi.”

“It’s not your fault,” Jordi shakes his head. “You just did what you had to do. You’re the captain of the regent’s guards.”

“Sometimes I wish I weren’t,” Francesc sighs. “But really, you should go home and get some sleep.”

Jordi looks at him, something wild in his eyes, like he isn’t really listening to what his friend is telling him.

“Nothing will happen to him, right?” he asks. “Casillas. He will just laugh in everyone’s faces.”

“He lost the title of Lord of Navalacruz,” Francesc says.

“What is that compared to losing your life,” Jordi snorts. “He should have paid for it, it was him who started it all.”

“And he will pay for it,” Francesc says firmly. “I promise you that.”

Jordi looks at him and then gives a small smile.

“He should be afraid,” he says. “Because when you set up your mind on something, it’s bound to happen.”

“I hope so,” Francesc smirks and gets up.

He makes two steps to the door, then turns around and hugs Jordi for the first time since their childhood. And it doesn’t feel awkward at all.

~ ~ ~

“So Carles Puyol,” Daniel says when he finally wipes off the tears that started rolling down his face when he was laughing. “Carles Puyol sailing south to find the new way to India.”

The blonde looks at him with a shocked expression.

“How do you know about it?”

“I drew the maps that he is, hopefully, using,” Daniel says calmly. “But you are going in the wrong direction, mate.”

“We lost the other two ships in the storm, and our ship is damaged. We were looking for a place to land to try to repair it.”

“Look no more, I will sink it to spare you that work,” Steven grins.

The blonde blinks rapidly, his eyes lingering on him for a while and then flickering to Daniel like he is seeking help from him. Apparently he judges Daniel to be the more intelligent and reasonable one.

“Unless you have something that could make us want to reconsider,” Daniel says and raises his brows.

“There’s nothing worth taking.”

“I think there is something,” Steven grins and looks at him. “Or rather someone. Don’t tell me you wouldn’t be missed anywhere.”

“If you want ransom I don’t know who could give it to you,” the blonde says. “Puyol is God knows where on the sea now and he wouldn’t have money to pay you anyway.”

“Better think of someone quickly,” Steven says and starts playing with his knife pointedly. “Family?”

“I don’t have any. Anymore.”

“Or some rich friends of yours. You rich lads like to stick together.”

The blonde thinks for a while.

“Maybe Xabier Alonso,” he says then.

“But Alonso had to leave Barcelona, he is banned from returning to the kingdom of Castile and nobody knows where he is,” Daniel objects, surprising him once more. “Unless you do?“

“I think the lords in the Lordship of Biscay accommodated him. In Bilbao.”

“But Biscay is under the King and Queen‘s reign as well, isn‘t it?”

The blonde chuckles.

“Tell this to Ander Iturraspe or Gorka Iraizoz. They‘ve been promptly ignoring the King‘s existence for years. And Madrid is too far away for the monarchs to control them.”

Daniel looks at Steven who ponders it for a while.

“Alright, sail to Bilbao,” he says then.

~ ~ ~

Francesc yelps when someone jumps on him from behind. He turns around to see Sergio grinning at him, a bunch of carrots in one hand, a fresh fish in another. Francesc promises himself never to pass close to the market again.

“I hope I didn’t crumple your uniform, Captain Fàbregas,” Sergio says.

“I am more worried about the fish being so close to it,” Francesc says.

“Oh, that...” Sergio says and looks at the fish. “Xavi wants to cook it for lunch. I’m not too happy about it. I hope it shrinks and is only enough for Villa.”

“And I thought you’d eat anything that is called food,” Francesc smirks.

Sergio frowns at him.

“I have a free night today,” he says then. “Will you come to the Drunken Horse?”

Francesc sighs.

“I’m sorry, I can’t.”

Sergio’s face falls.

“You always can!” he objects.

“Not today. My father invited me for a dinner and he insists on me being there for some reason.”

“Alright,” Sergio sighs.

“I will make it up to you,” Francesc smiles. “I promise.”

“I can’t wait!” Sergio says and leans forward like he wants to kiss him.

“Are you mad?” Francesc hisses and steps back. “We are on the street, you donkey head!”

“Streets are stupid,” Sergio sighs. “Alright, I have to run, or the fish will cook in the sun and Xavi will kill me. But you will come soon, right?”

Francesc nods and turns around. He somehow isn’t in the mood for Sergio’s jokes. He thinks of Jordi, Casillas, the regent, the rumors about Granada and the dinner at his father’s house. It’s enough to spoil his day completely.

~ ~ ~

“Here,” Steven says and puts a piece of parchment, a quill and a bottle of ink on the table. “Write a letter to Alonso. Daniel will tell you what to write. And then choose one of your men who will deliver it. Rather someone who won’t run away as soon as he comes ashore, that wouldn’t be good for you.”

“Sure,” the blonde sighs.

He takes the quill and looks at Daniel who sits on the table next to him, watching him with a smirk.

“Just making sure you write what you’re supposed to write,” Daniel says. “I can read, for your information.”

“I wouldn’t expect that.”

“Mind your tongue or you could lose it,” Daniel says with a blank face, not giving any clues about whether he means it as a joke or if he’s dead serious. “Better explain your situation and ask Alonso for ten thousand reals.”

“Ten thousand?” the blonde jumps up. “Are you mad?”

“And how much do you think your life is worth?”

The blonde opens his mouth, but then takes the quill and starts writing. From time to time he looks up to Daniel and when he gets the approving nod, continues to write. Then he signs the letter a hands it to Daniel.

“Fernando José Torres Sanz,” Daniel reads. “That is a mouthful.”

“Your name isn‘t?”

“I guess not. I‘m just Daniel.”

“No last name?”

“None that I know of. And not that I‘d ever need to use it.”

He blows on the parchment and waves it in the air to make the ink dry more quickly. He reads it over one last time and gets up. They walk out on the deck. The port of Bilbao is within their sight but they head to a bay nearby.

“Well, now choose someone from your crew to deliver it. Someone reliable, if you please,” Daniel says.

Fernando thinks for a moment.

“Juan will go,” he says then.

Daniel follows his gaze to one of the sailors.

“He doesn‘t look like the bravest one,” he smirks.

“But he has manners. That‘s more important for this cause.”

“So you get it,” Steven says when he’s handing Juan the letter. “Not a word about us to... whatever his name was.“

“Iturraspe.”

“Yeah, that one. If I see one soldier, I will slit your captain’s throat, I hope it is clear.”

“It is,” Juan nods.

“If you are not back until dawn, I will slit his throat too, is it clear?”

“Yes.”

“Just go there, find Alonso and give him the message.”

Juan nods and turns around to go to the boat.

“Juan!” Fernando calls and comes up to him. “Just... Iturraspe is not really the lord of Biscay, but if you don’t call him that, he will get angry, alright?”

“Sure.”

“Xabi might be the one who can save us, but if Iturraspe pleases, he won’t be able to move a finger. Try not to offend him. ”

“I will.”

“That’s enough!” Steven barks. “He’s delivering a letter, not leading a war against the Lordship of Biscay.”

Juan exchanges the last worried looks with Fernando before getting into the boat. Steven motions for Reina to take Fernando to the cabin and orders him to guard the door.

“I thought the merciless bandit was my role, captain!” Daniel grins when they are gone.

“Sorry for taking it from you,” Steven chuckles. “But the intellectual pirate actually suits you just fine.”

~ ~ ~

Villa smiles when David walks in his room and closes the door.

“I thought I would die of waiting too long,” he whispers.

“What if I went out?” David smirks.

“You would be so cruel?” Villa frowns.

“No,” David shakes his head. “Because then I would die too.”

"It took a surprisingly long time to get Sergio out of the house today,“ Villa notes.

"It‘s because señor Fàbregas can‘t come to his favorite tavern,“ David explains.

"And where is Fábio?“

"Downstairs. But I don‘t think he will want to go up the stairs again, if you are worried.“

“I’m only worried about having too little time,” Villa says, pulling David closer.

“For what?” David asks, making Villa wish he wasn’t in a talkative mood right when talking is the last thing Villa wants to be doing.

He answers with a smirk, untying the laces that are practically the only thing holding David’s shirt on his body because as soon as they come undone, it simply falls off him despite him not making the slightest move.

“I should buy you a new shirt,” Villa muses. “This one doesn’t seem to be your size.”

“It’s Sergio’s,” David laughs.

“Right. Maybe mine would fit you better,” Villa offers and David laughs, helping him take it off.

Villa lays him on the bed and some strange surprise appears on David’s face for a moment, caused by his back not being accustomed to connecting with such a soft surface. Villa smiles and gets on the bed a bit more swiftly on purpose to make the mattress dip and sway. David is pliant in his arms, like he will take anything from Villa if it means being touched by him, and the way he accepts his kiss leaves Villa still amazed like the first time. His mind flies to Leo for a moment, remembering how stiff and worried he was before Villa’s actions robbed him of the ability to think. David looks like the moment Villa kisses him, his mind goes blank and he only gives in to the sensations. He is by no means ashamed of showing his body, or looking at Villa’s for that matter.

“How can someone be so beautiful?” Villa whispers against David’s skin.

He reminds Villa of an exotic flower blooming right under his fingers. His eyes grow even darker and his moves become languid and more natural.

“I’m not beautiful,” David objects.

“Liar,” Villa smirks.

“I’m not…” David starts again but then Villa manages to hit just the right spot and the rest of the sentence is spoken in a language Villa doesn’t understand, but kind of wishes he did.

~ ~ ~

Francesc feels the strange nervousness engulfing him, same every time he enters his father‘s house. He never knows what to expect, but he rarely is thrilled when his father invites him. Last time it was because he got the - according to him awesome - idea of marrying Francesc‘s sister Carlota off to Zlatan Ibrahimović, who was claiming to be a Grand Vizier somewhere in the Ottoman Empire. It took all night and Francesc threatening to rather kill Carlota with his sword than to let her marry Ibrahimović (which she herself asked him to do) to persuade him it was a bad idea. And when it was later revealed that Ibrahimović was nothing more than a fraud, Francesc‘s father didn‘t even thank him.

The fact that Francesc‘s grandmother is sitting in the armchair in the dining room and not upstairs in her room, and she is looking around harshly doesn‘t help. Something is definitely going on.

Then his father walks into the dining room together with a stranger wearing expensive clothes of some foreign fashion and Francesc sighs. It looks like he will have to deal with the usual situation.

"Oh, here you are, Francesc!“ his father says merrily. "Please, let me introduce you to my friend Tanoukh and his daughter Daniella.“

Then a dark-haired woman in exquisite dress appears behind him and Francesc knows that it‘s not Carlota‘s turn to marry this time. It‘s his. 

Chapter Text

The dinner seems to be endless, though Francesc’s father looks like he is having a great time discussing business with Tanoukh, and Daniella looks like she wants to eat Francesc for dessert (alright, maybe he is exaggerating and it’s just the way they express affection wherever it is she is from).

Finally the guests leave and Francesc’s father retires to his room with the excuse of having to look at some business while it is just a way to give Francesc time to stop fuming before they talk.

Carlota looks at her brother with sympathy and nibbles at a grape.

“If you give me your sword, I‘ll try to kill you painlessly,” she says then.

“Thanks, sister. I appreciate your offer. But I will try to talk to father first.”

“I think it‘s useless,” Carlota sighs. “He seems like he‘s set his mind on this already.”

“He set his mind on you marrying Ibrahimović as well and I managed to talk him out of it.”

“But Ibrahimović wasn’t his friend. And he looked sort of suspicious. A Grand Vizier sure wouldn’t have to sleep at the Drunken Horse.”

Francesc sighs and walks up the stairs to his father’s room. He finds him in his favorite chair with a glass of wine, looking satisfied.

“What is this all supposed to mean, father?” Francesc hisses. “You don’t even tell me anything and throw me to some stranger and his daughter like a bone to a dog!”

“Daniella is lovely,” his father says calmly. “There is just one thing I don’t like about her.”

“Just one?” Francesc sighs.

“Yes. That she’s not of noble blood, but well. Her dowry is big enough for us to let it pass.”

“Also to let pass that she could be my mother?”

“She is not that old, Francesc, and looks great for her age.”

“Doesn’t it make you wonder why she’s not married yet at this age?”

“What is the problem, Francesc?” his father spreads his arms. “You know you will have to get married one day. So why not now?”

“Because I don’t want to, I don’t want to marry Daniella nor anyone else!”

His father rises from his chair, which means that he is done persuading and is just about to start with threatening.

“Do I have to remind you that you have your title, your position within the army and all the money you spend with servants at the Drunken Horse… yes, I know about it… thanks to me?” he snaps. “You owe something to me, don’t you think?”

“I am not a thing you can trade with!”

“No, certainly you aren’t. You are my son. And I wouldn’t want to lose my son,” he says and pours himself another cup. “But even I am not omnipotent, not without money. And without the money from Tanoukh, I might not be able to influence some things.”

He looks at Francesc calmly and sips from the cup.

“With the war possibly approaching, I would want my son to be somewhere safe, not in the first line. But as I said… I might not be able to, and I also might not want to influence it.”

The door bursts open, revealing a very distressed Carlota who apparently was listening behind it.

“Papa, you cannot be serious!” she exclaims.

“I am being very serious, Carlota, and you could already start learning some manners. No wonder none of my kids are married yet, you behave like you were some peasants!”

He takes his seat again and looks at Francesc.

“Think about it. I want to know your decision by the end of the week,” he says and looks at Carlota. “And looking at you, I clearly have to find you a husband as soon as possible, so that you finally start behaving like a lady. I said all I wanted to say. I have some work now, so I bid you good night, children.”

~ ~ ~

Villa looks at David whose fingers are drawing abstract ornaments on his chest. It seems like he is thinking about something.

“Once you said I would be a good Christian,” David says then. “What did you mean?”

Villa chuckles.

“You understand life differently than other people. You are good by nature, no one has to teach you that. You don’t have to think about if what you do is right or not, you just do it and it’s right. While I think about it all the time and mostly what I think is right ends up being a complete disaster that hurts people.”

“Is this why you never go to church?”

Villa gives him a surprised look. David is the last person he would expect to talk to him about religion.

“Well, maybe it is. I am a bit ashamed to go there after all that I’ve done…”

“What have you done?”

Villa smirks, somehow bitterly.

“For the start, I just made love to you. And that is a sin.”

“But you didn’t hurt me,” David objects. “Why should it be a sin, then?”

“Because to sin, you don’t necessarily have to hurt other people. Though that is also a sin.”

“My old master was hurting us all the time, he was drinking all the time, swearing all the time, and still went to church. I don’t know why you couldn’t. You’re not a bad person.”

Villa laughs.

“So you know something about religion.”

“I know a bit, just from what I’ve heard. But I don’t even know what you do in the churches.”

“Would you like to see?” Villa asks, leaning over the headboard and looking down at him.

“S-see?” David looks at him. “You mean…”

“I mean I’d take you with me.”

“But I don’t know…”

“You can just look. And listen.”

“But can I even... go there?” David asks, biting on his lower lip.

“It will be no worse than when I go there,” Villa says. “So?”

“Yes, I... I would like to,” David whispers.

“Alright,” Villa smiles. “We can go on Sunday. But I have to get you a new shirt until then.”

~ ~ ~

Álvaro wakes up to some loud singing. When he looks out of the window, he sees Francesc Fàbregas criss-crossing the yard, singing loudly, apparently some song that is popular in the taverns. He loses his balance a few steps from the door and it’s enough to make him stop singing, but he somehow manages not to fall down.

By the time he gets to the door, Álvaro is already entering the kitchen with a candle. Francesc grins at him, then trips over his own feet and falls somewhere between the table and the shelves with pots before Álvaro can catch him.

“I’m alive,” Francesc informs him. “Unfortunately.”

Álvaro looks like he’s trying hard not to roll his eyes, then grabs Francesc and hauls him to his feet.

“Let’s get you in bed, señor,” he sighs.

Francesc eyes him like he’s surprised that he has a bed in this house, or like he’s surprised to be in his own house. When they reach the room, Álvaro takes his sword from him like he judges it too dangerous to let Francesc close to sharp objects in this state, and makes him sit on the bed.

“Tell me, Álvaro…” Francesc mumbles. “You’re such a reasonable boy… if you were me…”

“But I’m not you, señor.”

“Alright, so if you were you, it doesn’t matter,” Francesc says, somewhat annoyed. “If you could either marry a woman you don’t love, and keep most of what you have now, except your dignity, or you could go to war and likely die, but have your conscience clear. What would you choose?”

Álvaro keeps looking at him for a while.

“I would marry her,” he whispers then.

“What?” Francesc looks at him.

“I would marry the woman and I would try to... learn to love her.”

“You think that love can be learned?”

“Some kind of love, yes. Maybe not the passionate, the love when you see someone and know immediately that you will not sleep that night because you will think of them, the love that burns you inside. But the calm, steady one, the love based on respect and understanding, I believe that it can be learned if you really try.”

“You really speak like Xabi sometimes,” Francesc chuckles. “But I don’t know if such love is even worth it.”

“Worth your life? I believe it is,” Álvaro shrugs. “But you’re a soldier. You probably see it differently. I mean, war, dying and all.”

“Problem is, I don’t,” Francesc sighs. “I think I don’t want to die just the same as you don’t.”

He falls back on the bed, feet still dangling over the edge, and closes his eyes.

“And the worst is when it’s your own father who wants to kill you. Because this will kill me either way,” he says.

A minute later he is snoring loudly.

~ ~ ~

Fernando looks at Daniel who is rummaging in the cupboards of the cabin they are holding Fernando in. By the way he is doing it he judges that the cabin is actually Daniel’s.

“What are you looking for?” Fernando asks then.

“Just a friend of mine,” Daniel grins.

Fernando gives him a confused look. When Daniel pulls out a bottle of rum victoriously, he understands. Daniel hesitates for a moment, then opens the bottle and raises it to his lips.

“Cheers, mate!” he says and takes a sip, then smiles almost happily. “I missed this.”

Fernando eyes him awkwardly, but it doesn’t seem like Daniel wants to leave the cabin yet.

“It was you who navigated the ship before you attacked us?” Fernando asks then, more to break the uncomfortable silence.

“Yes.”

“You are an awesome helmsman. Why do you do this? Why don’t you just work as a sailor on... some normal ship?”

Daniel chuckles.

“Because I would make ten times less. And I don’t like when someone tells me what to do.”

“Your captain tells you what to do.”

“My captain deserves my respect.”

He drinks more rum and shrugs.

“Also, I think that I like this life. Even though I don’t remember having a different one,” he says. “Night, señor Fernando José Torres Sanz.”

Only when he closes the cabin door, Fernando notices that he left the bottle on the table. He grabs it and after a while of thinking, drinks the rest of rum. At least it helps him to fall asleep, despite being on a ship full of pirates.

~ ~ ~

When Álvaro climbs the ladder to Isco’s place, Isco is already in bed.

“I appreciate sleeping with you, but... you know, sometimes...” he says and looks at Álvaro. “You take up damn too much space, get it?”

Álvaro smirks and sits on the bed.

“I heard some noise,” Isco says. “What was that?”

“Señor Fàbregas,” Álvaro explains. “Drunk.”

Isco laughs and pulls Álvaro closer.

“Would you ever give me up?” Álvaro asks suddenly and looks him in the eyes.

“What do you mean?” Isco frowns.

“If you had to either give me up or die, would you give me up?”

“Why are you thinking about this?”

“Señor Fàbregas asked me something. It made me think…” Álvaro says and closes his eyes. “I’d want you to give me up. If you should die, I’d rather want you to give me up.”

“Álvaro...” Isco sighs. “I love you and the way you are all clever and stuff, but sometimes I wish you were just as stupid as I am.”

“You’re not stupid,” Álvaro objects.

“Well, I’m not exactly a thinker either,” Isco laughs. “Listen. Whatever señor Fàbregas says or whatever situation he’s in, he’s a nobleman, he’s rich and a soldier. Whatever is happening to him is not likely to happen to us at all.”

“I think his father wants him to marry someone he doesn’t love,” Álvaro says.

“See?” Isco grins. “Then we’re good. Because nor you, nor me have a father. Aha! See, I’m actually clever.”

Álvaro smiles and kisses him. Isco pulls him down and sighs.

“I’ll really have to build a bigger bed.”

~ ~ ~

Getting to the shore doesn’t take Juan nearly as much time as it takes him to find the palace. Even though it shines so bright that once he spots it, he only has to follow the lights.

When he sees the amount of candles and hears the clinking of glasses and loud voices, he immediately knows that he is interrupting some feast. And delivering a message in the middle of a feast is never a good idea. His worries are confirmed when he asks for lord Iturraspe and the servant indicates to a bit too merry young man in the middle of the table. Too merry and too young for Juan’s liking.

Juan bows deeply to him and clears his throat. He’s not used to dealing with lords, or people who consider themselves lords. When those people are also drunk and don’t look like they are interested in whatever he has to say, it’s even worse.

“Señor Fernando Torres...” he starts after giving the best greeting he is capable of.

“And that shall be who?” Iturraspe interrupts him.

Juan judges that he should make it sound like Fernando is really important.

“Son of José Torres Sanz, the former member of the Royal Council. His Royal Highness himself...”

It’s like stabbing into a wasp’s nest. Iturraspe puts the cup down with such force that the wine splashes onto the table.

“His Royal Highness can kiss my not royal...”

“Ander!” a man on his right exclaims but it almost gets lost in the burst of laughter that follows Iturraspe’s incomplete statement.

It takes a while and a lot of whispering from the other man to calm him down, but finally he looks back at Juan.

“Well, whoever Fernando Torres is, what does he want?”

“He is sending a message to señor Xabier Alonso Olano.”

“Alonso is not here now. And won’t be at least until the morning.”

It’s even worse than it looked. But going back to the ship without delivering the message would probably equal the pirates killing his captain, so Juan tries to think about something.

“Then, my lord, could I ask you to pass him the message when he comes back?”

Iturraspe narrows his eyes.

“Do you have me for a messenger?”

“I wouldn’t dare, my lord,” Juan bows his head. “But I have to return to my ship before dawn. I only humbly ask you to give this letter to señor Alonso.”

When there is no reaction, he gathers all his courage and practically forces the letter in Iturraspe’s hand. With another deep bow he retires from the table and lets the servant lead him outside.

Iturraspe watches him for a while like he isn’t sure it wasn’t a hallucination. Then he throws the letter over his shoulder where it lands between empty glasses and other things, and picks up the cup again.

He wakes up in the morning with a terrible hangover and the feeling that he should do something, but can‘t remember what. 

Chapter Text

Francesc groans when Álvaro opens the shutters and the sun shines right in his face.

“Why are you so cruel?” Francesc mumbles and covers his eyes. “Such a pretty face and such a torturer!”

Álvaro chuckles and stands in front of the window, blocking part of the sunrays.

“I wouldn’t do it, but Isco thought you were dead.”

“I kind of feel like I am,” Francesc says and sits up. “What did I do last night?”

“I don’t know, señor, but apparently it involved a lot of wine,” Álvaro says. “You were singing quite loudly, then fell down in the kitchen and… discussed your personal life with me.”

Francesc winces.

“Let me give you a lesson of manners, Álvaro,” he sighs. “When a man who was mortal drunk asks you what he did, you are not supposed to tell him what he really did, because he doesn’t want to know. You’re supposed to tell him ‘don’t worry, sir, you didn’t embarrass yourself’.”

“I’ll remember that,” Álvaro smiles shyly.

Suddenly the bell of the nearby church starts striking and Francesc’s eyes widen.

“Is this… is it…”

“Noon,” Álvaro nods.

“Oh damn!” Francesc yells. “The trial!”

In the next moment, he puts on one shoe, trying to put the other on while running, and only stops outside when he realizes that he doesn’t have his coat and sword. Fortunately by the time Isco has his horse ready, Álvaro runs out of the house, handing him the sword and his coat that even looks like someone gave it a good brushing after it suffered some minor damage the night before.

He jumps on his horse and before darting in the direction of the court, he prays for Cristiano not to do anything stupid before he gets there.

~ ~ ~

It has been days since Iker Casillas left his mansion. Or his room. It has also been days since he last spoke to anyone, if he didn’t count the servants, and servants don’t really count as human beings for him.

So when one of them runs in the room, it bothers him no more than a fly would. Though when he thinks about it, flies can be really annoying.

“Señor Casillas…” the servant blurts out.

“If there’s not a fire, you are getting five lashes for disturbing me!” Iker barks.

He doesn’t really know what the servant could be disturbing him from, probably staring into the wall, but even when a lord stares into the wall, nobody should be allowed to disturb him.

“I fear it’s worse, my lord!” the servant says, apparently out of breath.

“Worse than a fire?” Iker frowns.

“Yes…” the servant nods. “Lady Sara is here.”

“Lady Sara… as in Countess Sara Carbonero, Lady of Niebla?”

“Exactly, my lord.”

Iker jumps up and looks around him and also tries to look at himself. Fact is that the room is a mess, there are empty glasses all around, and he himself hasn’t shaved for at least a week and, to be honest, he stinks. Iker Casillas Fernández, Lord of Navalacruz and of San Sebastián… no, just of San Sebastián, stinks.

“Give her a room, food, drinks, dogs to play with, whatever, until I…” Iker starts muttering, but in that very moment, Countess Sara walks in, accompanied by two of her servants.

“Well,” she says upon seeing Iker with his disheveled hair, unkempt beard and dirty clothes. “It’s worse than I thought.”

~ ~ ~

Steven Gerrard walks on board and looks up to the crow’s nest.

“Pepe?” he calls.

“Can’t see anything, captain!” Pepe replies.

Steven turns to Fernando and smirks.

“Your noble friend isn’t really in a hurry to help you,” he says.

“If he got the message already,” Fernando retorts. “Juan said he was absent.”

“Pray for him not to be absent for too long,” Steven says. “I might lose my patience. Sitting in a bay waiting has never been my favorite thing to do.”

“At least it’s a ship that carries food,” one of the pirates grins, munching on a piece of meat.

“Yes, that’s the only thing that interests you, Flanagan,” Steven smirks. “But we want money!”

“You should have robbed someone else, then,” Fernando snaps.

Steven only backhands him in a nonchalant way before retiring to his cabin.

~ ~ ~

Francesc arrives to the court just in the middle of Cristiano’s heart-wrecking story about how he stole from Casillas to keep himself alive after having starved for two weeks. To give him credit, the story would make a stone cry, but the judges are known to be harder than stones.

“It was just a few coins,” Cristiano concludes. “And I was desperate. Otherwise I would never take anything from a man as honest and gracious as lord Casillas.”

Francesc almost dies of laughter and he can see that Cristiano also has troubles to keep his penitent expression.

The judge sighs, probably out of relief that Cristiano is done with his acting. Francesc leans closer to him.

“With your permission,” he whispers. “I talked to the prisoner and I have reasons to believe that he truly regrets his deed. And we all know that Casillas tends to… exaggerate sometimes. He really took just a few coins and didn’t harm anyone.”

The judge nods and then scratches his head.

“The court has decided…” he starts in the solemn tone.

Then he realizes that it’s only him, Francesc and a few officials around, plus the prisoner. No need for a show.

“Give him twenty lashes and send him away,” he says then.

“But I didn’t even steal twenty coins!” Cristiano protests, but catches Francesc’s glare and closes his mouth again.

When the executioner comes closer to him, Cristiano narrows his eyes.

“I swear, if you hit my face, man, we will have a talk!”

~ ~ ~

David walks in the kitchen to find Xavi plucking a chicken rather angrily and Sergio looking at him with worried expression.

“Xavi, could you do it a bit more humanly?” he asks.

“It’s dead, Sergio,” David says matter-of-factly. “It can’t feel anything.”

“But still…” Sergio objects.

“Do you want me to pluck you instead?” Xavi groans. “Because nothing would please me more!”

He drops the chicken on the table unceremoniously and stands up. David leans closer to Sergio.

“What did you do this time?” he whispers.

“Me? Nothing. I wasn’t even in the mood for joking,” Sergio says, rather bewildered. “But the fat girl was there again. I didn’t even say anything, but unfortunately she remembered Xavi too well.”

David giggles. Xavi turns to them and frowns.

“For some reason, she is convinced I want to marry her. And I didn’t mention marriage at all. So how could she get this idea?”

“I don’t know, Xavi, really!” Sergio spreads his arms.

“Alright. By the way, David, the farmer we take rabbits from will have two rabbits ready for us on Sunday. Could you pick them up?”

David looks at him and bites his lip.

“In… in the morning?” he asks.

“Yes, why?”

“Well, it’s that… on Sunday morning, I might not be here.”

Sergio chokes on the piece of apple he is eating.

“What?” he asks. “Where would you be?”

“I…” David takes a breath. “I may accompany señor Villa somewhere.”

Before Sergio or Xavi can say a word, he grabs the basket and runs to the door that leads to the garden.

“Do you understand any of this?” Sergio looks at Xavi. “Because I don’t.”

“In this case, I must admit it might not be due to your stupidity,” Xavi sighs. “Because I don’t understand it either.

~ ~ ~

There are only three persons in the world that Iker Casillas is afraid of. The King, the Queen, and Countess Sara Carbonero.

When she hands her traveling coat to one of her servants and takes a fan from the other, Iker feels worse than if she were a knight drawing a sword.

“I came because I was worried about your health,” she says, fanning herself gracefully while one of her servants brings a chair for her and she beckons him. “Thank you, Jorge. Now go help the other… what was his name again?”

“Javier, my lady.”

“Yes, that one. Go help him with my things. I don’t have to remind you what will happen to both of you if you break my tea service, do I?”

Iker cringes. If she brought her tea service, his hopes that she would just leave after dinner are ruined.

“Don’t worry, my lady. We will take care of your tea service like it was our child,” Jorge says, earning himself a cuff with Sara’s fan.

“How long are you going to pity yourself?” Sara asks when her servant is gone.

“What else should I do?” Iker asks. “I lost my title, after I lost my chance to ruin Puyol’s plans and destroy Villa, after I lost a pirate somewhere in the port and got laughed at by a pair of insolent servants… oh, and after the property I bought from Villa turned out to be completely worthless.”

Sara sighs deeply.

“If you go on like this, you will lose the rest of your titles, your money, health and sanity!” she says resolutely. “It was really high time I came to your rescue.”

“What did I do to deserve it?” Iker asks.

Apparently, Sara can’t hear the sarcasm behind his words.

“Nothing,” she says and gets up. “But luckily for you, I am capable of forgiving. Even that you didn’t marry me.”

She turns around once more before walking out of the room, the fan in front of her face in a way that only lets Iker see her eyes.

“By the way, do you realize that you stink?” she asks nonchalantly and walks out, the train of her dress rustling quietly on the floor.

~ ~ ~

Daniel chuckles when he walks in his cabin and sees Fernando's broken lip.

“Cheeky much?” he asks. “Captain doesn’t like it, just a piece of advice.”

“It should have come a bit earlier,” Fernando smirks.

“The sun is setting,” Daniel notes. “I think we can’t expect your friend to arrive today.”

“I said, maybe he didn’t get the message. Or there is the worse possibility.”

“And that is?”

“Iturraspe doesn’t want him to leave.”

“Why would he care?” Daniel frowns.

“You never know what comes to Iturraspe’s mind,” Fernando shrugs. “He’s not very predictable. He lost his father as a child, and his mother was in charge of the properties. Well, she was more interested in having lovers than in politics, taxes and taking care of her son, so to keep her conscience clear she set the rule that there was nothing Ander couldn’t have or do. There are legends about the crazy things he could come up with.”

“For example?” Daniel asks and sits in the chair opposite to Fernando’s.

“When he was eight, he wanted a unicorn, so he sent an expedition of servants to find him one in Asia. Nobody ever saw them again.”

Daniel chuckles.

“Something ate them on the way?” he suggests. “Or they preferred running away to returning to the land practically ruled by a crazy eight-year-old?”

“Yes, probably the latter,” Fernando nods. “Then when he was fourteen, he heard a girl sing while washing clothes and liked her voice so much that he had her sing him to sleep every night. She went mad after about three months and ended up in a nunnery.”

Judging from the smirk on Daniel’s face, he doesn’t judge treating people like pets the worst thing in the world.

“Well, and to top it all, he made his best friend Markel his advisor, gave him a huge mansion and made him a knight.”

“What’s strange about that?”

“Markel was a stable-boy.”

“Well, better than if it was a horse,” Daniel shrugs.

“Yes. And actually, I think it was the sanest thing Iturraspe has ever done, because Markel can actually think. Since then he at least forgot about unicorns. ”

“That guy is hilarious!” Daniel says. “I’d like to meet him, honestly. But if I were Alonso, I would not entrust him with my life.”

“He had no other choice if he really didn’t want to leave Spain.”

“I personally can’t wait to leave it,” Daniel says. “Though elsewhere they also wanted to hang me, but Barcelona is the only place where they wanted to do it twice.”

Fernando laughs, even though it’s not exactly a laughing matter.

“You’re good at telling stories,” Daniel notes.

“Let’s hope Iturraspe doesn’t want me to tell him bedtime stories.”

“Yeah,” Daniel says and then tilts his head to the side.

“What?” Fernando asks.

“Your lip. It’s bleeding again,” Daniel explains and reaches out to wipe off the drop of blood.

Fernando looks at him, bewildered. Daniel clears his throat and gets up.

“Well. Let’s hope your friend comes tomorrow. When the captain gets angry, it will be really bad for you.”

“Thank you,” Fernando grins. “That’s a hell of a ‘good night’.”

~ ~ ~

Markel Susaeta walks in the dining room and smiles when he sees Xabi Alonso sitting there, having breakfast.

“Good morning, Markel!” Xabi says when he sees him.

“Good morning. I see you’re back from your mission.”

“I wouldn’t call it a mission,” Xabi smiles. “I was just trying to get some information on Carles’ journey. But nobody in the other ports has heard about him.”

Markel frowns and turns to Iturraspe.

“Ander, did you give him the letter?” he asks.

“What letter?”

“The letter... from the sailor... oh my God, I can’t believe you were that drunk!” he exclaims when none of the words seem to make Iturraspe remember the situation.

“A letter from a sailor?” Xabi asks, intrigued. “What letter?”

“I have no idea,” Iturraspe scratches his head.

“There was a sailor who came to the feast two days ago... he had a message from some Fernando Torres, for you,” Markel explains, looking at Xabi. “Unfortunately Ander was already so drunk that he apparently doesn’t remember it.”

“Where is the letter?” Xabi asks.

“I don’t remember that either,” Iturraspe shrugs. “Does anyone of you know if I could go fox hunting?”

“No, because there are no foxes in the forests here, Ander,” Markel says patiently. “Don’t you remember what you did with the letter?”

“I don’t know… what I usually do with things, probably.”

“What is that?” Xabi asks.

“He throws them away, if they are not made of gold,” Markel explains. “I’ll look for it, don’t worry.”

“After we go fox hunting,” Iturraspe says. "Because I want to go fox hunting."

“I told you, Ander, there are no…”

“Send some hunters to catch foxes in other forests, then release them in ours and we go fox hunting!” Iturraspe says and gets up, shaking his head. “God, you really are thick sometimes, Markel.”

~ ~ ~

When Iker joins Sara in the rooms she took to herself (without asking him, in his own house, and furnished them with her own things and servants – there is not a big difference between a servant and a piece of furniture, Iker thinks), he already looks more presentable. At least he had a bath last night and changed his clothes and also had his beard shaved.

He watches Sara holding her cup out to Jorge who fills it with tea.

“Isn’t it a bit strange to have male servants carrying your fan and pouring you tea?” Iker asks.

Sara lays the cup on the table.

“I had a maid, until someone…” she looks pointedly at Jorge. “Got her pregnant.”

Jorge puts the kettle back and scurries away.

“And now I’ll tell you what to do,” Sara says. “Your plan with Puyol is passé, so get over it. Then there is the property and your honor lost to the servants.”

“Yes,” Iker nods.

“You sell the property,” Sara says. “And I’ll take care of the servants. I doubt they will dare threaten a lady with a sword.” 

Chapter Text

David nervously pulls at the sleeves of his new shirt. It’s Villa’s and it indeed fits him better than Sergio’s shirt. The problem is that he is not used to feeling such fine material on his skin. The shirts he used to wear since he was a kid were made out of nettles, stiff and scratchy. And even though Sergio’s was a cotton one, it still didn’t feel anything like this.

“Is there anything wrong with your shirt?” Villa asks, trying to hide the amusement in his voice.

“No,” David mumbles and forces his fingers to stop fiddling with the ties.

“I hope so,” Villa smirks. “The silk it’s made of traveled the whole way from Venice for a reason. It’s the finest there is.”

David is quite ready to believe it.

When they approach the church, he finally stops worrying about the shirt.

“Are you sure that I can walk in there?” he asks Villa and bites his lip. “I’m not even… that…”

“Baptized?” Villa smiles. “That doesn’t ban you from going to church. You just can’t make a confession or take the Eucharist, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t listen.”

They enter the church and Villa heads to the benches when he realizes that David is no more by his side. He turns around and smiles. David is standing a few steps from the main door, looking up with his mouth open. Villa folds his arms.

“Are you coming or not?” he asks.

David finally tears his eyes from the decorated ceiling and joins him.

“It’s huge,” he whispers when they sit in one of the benches in the back. “It didn’t look so big from the outside. And it’s so… beautiful. Like a palace or something.”

“Yes,” Villa nods. “There is one thing I like about churches, and that is that everything makes sense in them. Everything is there for a reason, has its meaning. Where things stand, how many there are, the way the whole building is built...”

“Isn’t it the same with everything in life?” David frowns.

“Do you think so?” Villa chuckles. “I don’t know. I sometimes think life is just a mess.”

“I think life is only as complicated as you make it.”

“And how do you make it simple?”

“You give up,” David smiles. “You just go with it. I mean... most of the things you can’t change anyway.”

Villa wants to say something, maybe oppose that opinion, but in that moment, the organ music sounds loudly from the gallery and he stands up, pulling David up as well. The fact that he hasn’t gone to the mass for a long time and the way it’s all new to David makes the feelings almost new to him as well.

 

~ ~ ~

Iker glances over the table at Sara nervously and puts down the spoon he is holding. He doesn’t even feel like eating. Sara takes a sip from her cup and makes a face.

“Jorge?” she calls.

When nothing happens for a while, she looks towards the door.

“JORGE!” she yells.

The door opens and her other servant runs in.

“My lady, you sent Jorge to prepare your carriage!” he says.

“Is he not done yet?” Sara frowns. “Never mind, you will do.”

“You wish, my lady?”

“Make me a cup of tea. Of my tea. I don’t know how they call this thing here, but it’s certainly not tea.”

The servant bows and goes to the door.

“And... Juan?” Sara calls.

“I’m Javier, my lady.”

“You are what I say you are!” Sara snaps. “Put a spoon of honey in it. Just one. I need to think of my figure.”

Iker watches Javier exit the room and then clears his throat.

“Are you going anywhere? I mean, the carriage...” he asks with hope in his voice.

“Yes, I am going to see the regent,” Sara replies calmly and pushes away the cup. “I hope you are not going to just sit here all day.”

Actually, it is exactly what Iker was planning to do.

“No, I... will try to put together everything to sell the property,” he says.

“Good,” Sara nods.

“What do you need from the regent?” Iker asks carefully.

“First of all, I need to hear the objective version of your story. Without your self-pity and the contentment of people who hate you. And then, it never hurts to keep good relations with people like Vilanova.”

“I just wonder how all your plans can help me get back at Villa.”

“Get back at Villa?” Sara frowns. “Do you realize that it’s Villa who should be getting back at you? As far as I remember, you had the last word.”

“I won’t be at peace until I destroy him completely. Maybe before I would let it pass, but now he and the stupid slave he’s bought are the reason of my downfall... even more than Fàbregas’ servants, those just took the rests of my dignity.”

Sara sighs deeply and accepts the cup of tea from Javier. She takes a sip and smiles.

“Delicious... Javier. Is my carriage ready?”

“It will be, in a minute. When Jorge finds the whip to get the horses going.”

“He better find it quickly or I will find it myself and put it to good use, then,” Sara says.

“I will tell him to hurry up, my lady,” Javier nods and runs out of the room.

“At least one of them seems to be competent,” Sara sighs and drinks the rest of her tea.

 

~ ~ ~

Xavi is in the middle of cutting vegetables for lunch when he hears the clattering of horseshoes. He wipes his hands on his apron and goes to the door. He gives a surprised look to Francesc Fàbregas and the other man with him.

“Are we disturbing?” Francesc asks and raises his brows.

“Ah... no, but... it’s just me and Fábio here,” Xavi says.

“Then at least Cristiano came at the right moment,” Francesc smiles. “Could you see him in? I will take the horses to the stable as I see Sergio is not here.”

“Sergio went to buy rabbits,” Xavi says and gives Cristiano a mistrustful look. “Follow me.”

They pass through the kitchen to the servants’ rooms.

“Fábio?” Xavi calls. “I think you have a visit.”

Fábio sticks out his head and gasps.

“Cris?”

“In all my beauty!” Cristiano grins. “Just joking, I’ve already looked better.”

Fábio practically runs out of the room, beaming.

“Wait, wait!” Cristiano says and steps back. “If you want to hug me, try not to touch my back.”

“Yes, preferably don’t touch mine either,” Fábio laughs.

Then they turn to Xavi who is still standing in the corridor. He clears his throat.

“I’m not sure if having you two in this house is safe,” he mumbles.

“Don’t worry, Xavi, Cris doesn’t want to steal your dishes,” Fábio smirks.

“If there’s food in them, though...” Cris grins.

Xavi rolls his eyes and goes back to the kitchen where Francesc is already sitting at the table with a cup of wine. Apparently he already knows the house well enough to know where to find the wine.

A moment later, Sergio runs into the kitchen, holding two rabbits in his arms.

“Is it... it is you!” he says breathlessly upon seeing Francesc. “I saw your horse in the stable.”

“Yes, it’s me,” Francesc smiles.

“SERGIO!” Xavi yells then. “The rabbits are... alive?”

“Of course,” Sergio nods. “What should they be, dead?”

“Yes. Because they should be our dinner, Sergio.”

“Don’t call them dinner, Xavi!” Sergio snaps and holds the rabbits to his chest protectively. “They are Concha and Paco!”

Francesc almost falls of the chair.

“Oh, God!” Xavi sighs and rolls his eyes.

“Can I keep them?” Sergio grins and pets one of the rabbits while letting the other one hop on the table.

“Yes, until lunch,” Xavi says. “Then Concha and Paco will go to the saucepan.”

Sergio pouts and sits at the table. He waits for Xavi to go to the cellar to look for something and then looks at Francesc.

“Did you come to visit me?” he asks.

“Actually, I thought I would talk to Villa,” Francesc says. “But of course I’m glad to see you as well.”

“Villa is in the church,” Sergio says.

Francesc chokes on the wine.

“He is where?”

“In the church,” Sergio shrugs. “With David.”

“With… Sergio, one of us has gone mad and I don’t know who.”

“I’m telling you the truth,” Sergio says. “Villa went to church, with David, whom he dressed in his own silk shirt. It doesn’t even surprise me anymore, because he apparently has been also teaching him to write. Next week he will show him his accounting books and the next me and Xavi will be polishing David’s shoes.”

Francesc is laughing already at the image of David staring into Villa’s books, but the last causes him to almost double up with laughter.

“Jealousy is a sin, Sergio,” he warns.

“I’m not jealous of David!” Sergio objects. “I’m just worried.”

“Worried about what?”

“About Villa maybe taking David for something more than he is,” Sergio says. “It never ends well, you know. Poor boys don’t become princes. Even though I’d like to believe it sometimes.”

He gets up, grabs the two rabbits and disappears through the door. Francesc nods for himself and goes to pour himself another cup.

 

~ ~ ~

Markel walks in the big hall to find Iturraspe looking at a chess board and frowning.

“You haven’t made a move yet?” Markel chuckles.

“No. I take my time. Just Xabi always comes and makes a move in seconds and then goes away, but that’s not chess! You’re supposed to think about it, aren’t you?”

“I suppose he thinks about it. Just really quickly,” Markel shrugs. “It’s a bit too quick, that’s true, but you thinking about a move for two days might be a bit too slow, actually.”

“I can think about it as long as I please!” Iturraspe snaps and looks at him. “What did you want?”

“The huntsman wants to speak with you.”

“Let him come in,” Iturraspe says and throws the chess board against the wall.

“What are you doing?” Markel frowns.

“I just won!” Iturraspe announces.

“No, you didn’t. You threw the board against the wall.”

“Right. Now prove that I didn’t win!” Iturraspe grins.

Markel sighs and goes to invite the huntsman in.

“My lord,” the huntsman says and bows deeply. “We caught ten foxes and released them in the forests, as you wished.”

“Oh,” Iturraspe says and pouts. “But I don’t feel like going fox hunting anymore.”

Markel puts his hand on the hilt of his sword instinctively because the huntsman looks like he will jump on Iturraspe and try to strangle him with his bare hands.

“But… what are we supposed to do with the foxes now?” he asks then, forcing his voice to stay calm and polite.

“I don’t know,” Iturraspe shrugs. “Eat them, for example.”

“As you wish, my lord,” the huntsman says through gritted teeth and leaves the hall.

Iturraspe reaches for an apple on the silver plate and another apple rolls down to the floor. Markel sighs and bends down to pick it up. Iturraspe probably doesn’t give a damn if it rots somewhere underneath the table, but Markel kept some of his instincts from the life before. And back then, an apple could have been his entire lunch. Then something catches his attention.

“What is…” he mumbles and crawls under the table.

“I don’t think I need a new dog, what are you doing there?” Iturraspe giggles.

“I think I found the letter,” Markel replies and crawls backwards on all four, which makes Iturraspe laugh even more.

Then he looks at the piece of parchment in his hand. It’s all crumpled, a bit torn, looks like someone stomped on it repeatedly and it smells of wine, but it’s without a doubt the letter.

“Excuse me, I’ll just give this to Xabi,” he says.

“What if I want to read it first?” Iturraspe asks.

“When was the last time you read something voluntarily?” Markel frowns.

“You’re right,” Iturraspe nods. “I’ll go fishing instead.”

“Great idea, Ander!” Markel says. “Fish we already have, so there’s no need to bring them from elsewhere.”

 

~ ~ ~

Villa thinks that he’s never listened so close during a mass. Even as a kid he was always fidgety, he would look everywhere else but at the priest and he would think about the silliest and most inappropriate things instead of listening – about how on Earth the painters who painted the ceiling got there, if they couldn’t fly, which his father told him they of course couldn’t; about what was underneath the priest’s frock, if he wore regular underwear or not; and about the Virgin Mary who had dark hair in all the portraits when he imagined her as a blonde and it irritated him to the point that he repainted one of the pictures they had at home, and got a good beating for it.

The priest is reading the story of Abraham and Isaac. It is his favorite, at least Villa remembers hearing it several times from him, and he doesn’t go to church often. “Look, Abraham was ready to sacrifice his only son to God,” he always almost shouts at the crowd. “And you are not ready to sacrifice a tiny bit of your goods for the church and the poor!” The theme of sacrifice, especially of self-sacrifice, is implied in almost everything Father Guardiola says.

“When they reached the place God had told him about,” Father Guardiola reads, his voice becoming louder and clearer. “Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.”

Villa glances over at David and blinks in surprise. Tears are running down David’s face in two big streams. He almost doesn’t blink, his eyes are transfixed on the priest’s mouth. Villa is only grateful that the story ends well, otherwise he would blame himself forever for traumatizing him.

 

~ ~ ~

Xabi reads the letter Markel hands him and then drops it on the table.

“Bad news?” Markel asks.

“Yes,” Xabi nods and gets up. “Listen, Markel, I think I need your help.”

“My help?”

Xabi goes to the door, looks out, then closes it and locks it.

“Fernando has problems. Some pirates captured his ship. They are in a bay nearby, waiting for me to bring the ransom... well, I hope they are still waiting.”

“That is bad,” Markel nods.

“If they see a soldier, they will kill everyone, I am sure of that.”

“How can I help you, then?”

“I have the money and I will go there, of course. But I’m afraid that if your lord noticed…”

“Ander?” Markel chuckles. “He won’t notice anything. He’s busy thinking about his ingenious plan to become the rightful lord of Biscay.”

“But the rightful lord of Biscay is…”

“Right,” Markel nods. “The King himself.”

Xabi looks at him utterly horrified, while Markel is more amused than anything else. Apparently he’s been dealing with Ander Iturraspe’s caprices for quite a long time to let them spoil his day.

“How does he want to…” Xabi gasps.

“The King has a daughter, Isabella,” Markel reminds him. “She is ugly as hell and a religious fanatic, but apparently Ander doesn’t care. There is only one brother between her and the throne, and he’s quite a fragile child. He only needs to think of a way to persuade the King to give her hand to him.”

“Such a way practically doesn’t exist.”

“I know,” Markel shrugs. “Tell that to Ander. What exists in his mind is real. If he wants you to have two heads, you’re bound to grow the other one.”

“Thank God it hasn’t crossed his mind yet,” Xabi laughs.

“It could happen any moment, though,” Markel smirks. “Go. I will keep him occupied for as long as possible. I’ll tell him that if he wants to marry Isabella, he should at least read the Bible. That will take him about five years, or at least two days before it annoys him enough.”

“Thank you,” Xabi says. “I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to pay you back.”

“When I need rest, maybe I’ll ask you to keep Ander occupied in my place,” Markel chuckles. “Sometimes it’s worse than with a child, I tell you.”

Xabi smiles.

“Well, I gotta go,” Markel says then. “Ander decided to go fishing, I have to make sure he doesn’t drown.”

“I hope he doesn’t go fishing in the bay where the pirates are,” Xabi says.

Markel stops at the door abruptly.

“Now you seriously scared me!” he says and runs out of the door.

 

~ ~ ~

“Leaving already?” Sergio asks when Francesc comes to the stables.

“Yes. I have to. I will speak to Villa next time. And I think Cristiano will find the way out of the house. Hopefully without Villa’s things.”

Sergio nods and checks the saddle once more. He never double checks, only Francesc’s saddle. He definitely doesn’t want Francesc to die because of his clumsiness. Not that he wants other people to die because of it, but this is really a special case.

“Who is he?” he asks suddenly.

“Who is who?” Francesc frowns.

“The one you are avoiding me for. Tell me his name so I can kick his ass and stick his head in a dunghill!”

“Daniella.”

Sergio’s eyes go wide.

“What?”

“Daniella. It’s her, not him. And I’m supposed to marry her.”

Sergio just stares at him with his mouth open.

“Oh,” he says then, unable to think of anything else to say.

He leans over the wooden rail with his back to Francesc who stays in the aisle.

“My father and her father have some kind of business deal together, I understood. That’s how it works in families like mine,” Francesc says. “Basically children are like horses. You sell to who pays the most.”

“Do you love her?” Sergio asks then.

Francesc laughs bitterly.

“She’s about ten years older than me, dresses terribly and I saw her just once in my life.”

“That doesn’t sound like you love her.”

“You must hate me now,” Francesc sighs.

“No…” Sergio says and turns to him. “No, I don’t.”

“No?”

“Well, it’s not like I thought you would ever marry me. I didn’t imagine myself in a white dress with a veil, or something.”

Francesc laughs, despite not feeling very much like laughing. Just the image is too much not to laugh.

“No, but it would change a lot of things. I mean, your life changes when you get married, I suppose,” he shrugs.

“What if you don’t marry her?” Sergio asks.

“My father will probably disown me and send me in the front line when our monarchs finally decide to send the army to Granada.”

He kicks the rail.

“But I don’t care,” he whispers then. “I so don’t care.”

“I do care,” Sergio says quietly. “I mean, I do care if you die or not.”

“And do you prefer me hers and alive or dead and yours?” Francesc asks.

Sergio opens his mouth and then closes it again, clutching the rail.

“Now that you put it like this, it doesn’t look like there is a better possibility,” he says then.

“Right,” Francesc nods. “There isn’t. Wedding or war, I never thought it would look the same to me one day.”

“You know what?” Sergio whispers.

“What?”

“You can now kiss the groom.”

 

~ ~ ~

Álvaro finds Isco in his room in the middle of tools, nails and wooden boards.

“What is this?” Álvaro asks.

“New bed,” Isco says. “It will be.”

“Oh,” Álvaro says and folds his arms. “So we are getting more... earnest?”

“I don’t know what you mean, but you should help me if you want to sleep in it as well,” Isco grins.

Álvaro approaches him, but he only manages to grab the nearest board when Francesc’s voice sounds from the yard.

“Alright, it will have to wait,” he says.

“You always find an excuse for not having to work,” Isco bickers.

Álvaro throws a handful of sawdust at him and climbs down the ladder.

“Ah, so there is someone,” Francesc says when he comes out. “I thought the house was empty.”

“Isco is upstairs, señor,” Álvaro says. “Will you still need the horse?”

“You tell me, will I?”

“Probably yes. A messenger brought a message from the regent. He asks you to come to his house as soon as possible.”

“Alright,” Francesc sighs.

“Then a messenger from your father was here.”

“What does my father want?” Francesc frowns.

“He wants to remind you that it’s Sunday tomorrow,” Álvaro shrugs. “Whatever it means.”

“It means exactly that,” Francesc sighs. “Tomorrow is Sunday.”

 

~ ~ ~

Villa smiles when David walks in with his lunch.

“Where is your new shirt?” he asks.

“Well… I have to work and I didn’t want to… tear it or spill something on it,” David smiles shyly.

“Don’t worry about it,” Villa whispers. “I will rip it off your body sooner or later.”

David just laughs shortly and accepts Villa’s kiss.

“I wanted to thank you,” he says.

“Thank me?” Villa raises his brows.

“For taking me with you today,” David nods. “It was... I felt like I was a part of your life.”

“You are a part of my life, David,” Villa says quietly. “A very important part.”

David lowers his eyes, blush creeping up his cheeks. Villa can’t help but smile.

“Father Guardiola can be a bit... passionate sometimes,” he says then. “I hope he didn’t scare you.”

“No,” David smiles shyly. “I’m... I’m sorry if I did anything... bad.”

“Don’t worry, you didn’t,” Villa smiles. “Actually, I also cried when I heard that story for the first time.”

“Really?” David asks.

“Yes. I was about seven or eight years old. I think I never trusted my father the same after that.”

David nods like it’s not a silly childhood story but a very serious matter.

“I have to go,” he says then. “Xavi needs the rabbits for dinner and Sergio doesn’t want to kill them.”

“Why?” Villa frowns.

“He named them and says they are his friends now.”

Villa just rolls his eyes and pulls the plate to him.

 

~ ~ ~

When Francesc walks in the regent’s house, he almost bumps into Jordi.

“What are you doing here?” Francesc asks.

“The regent wanted to congratulate me for dealing with the bribery in my prison,” Jordi says, balling his fists. “It took me a lot of self-control not to throw anything at him.”

“I understand.”

“By the way, do you know that Countess Sara is here?” Jordi asks then, trying to change the topic as soon as possible.

“Countess Sara Carbonero, Lady of Niebla?”

“Yes. She was here today.”

“Are you sure it was her?”

“Everyone saw her... and heard her,” Jordi laughs. “She went to visit the regent, but came unannounced and he didn’t have time to see her. He had a delegation from the King and the Queen there, apparently concerning the matters in Granada.”

“I suppose Lady Sara wasn’t too pleased,” Francesc chuckles.

“She was furious,” Jordi nods. “Rumor has it that she is staying at Casillas’ house.”

“I thought her and Casillas was an old story,” Francesc says.

“Everyone did, especially when she courted young Sergi Roberto, or rather his titles, money and properties... can we actually say a lady courted a man?”

“When it’s Lady Sara, we definitely can,” Francesc nods. “And if she is back with Casillas, there can’t be anything good behind it.”

 

~ ~ ~

It’s already getting dark when Francesc leaves the regent’s house. What he was suspecting is actually true. The monarchs started to send their delegations to all the major cities. Granada has rebelled against the monarchs and the war can’t be over until it is standing. Despite it being just one city, nobody can be sure the king of the Moors doesn’t have allies. Short or not, it is still war and people die in war.

He keeps replaying his conversation with Sergio. Hers and alive or dead and yours? He doesn’t even notice that he is leading the horse towards the house of his father and not his own.

When he is standing in the backyard of his father’s house, he notices the carriage standing there. He immediately knows who it belongs to. After all, it’s not hard with the strange style it is decorated in. He jumps off his horse and enters the house.

His father is just on his way down the stairs, holding one of his accounting books.

“Francesc!” he says with more or less feigned surprise.

“Is he here?” Francesc asks breathlessly.

“Who?” his father frowns.

“Your friend, Tanoukh.”

Then he walks into the salon, a little bit too quickly and resolutely for someone with good manners. The man standing at the bookcase turns around.

“Señor Semaan, I would like to talk to you,” Francesc says.

He can see the worry on his father’s face and laughs bitterly in his mind.

“But of course,” Tanoukh nods.

“I would like to…” he takes a deep breath.

Tanoukh cocks his head to the side.

“Yes?”

“I would like to ask for the hand of your daughter Daniella... in marriage.”

Chapter Text

Francesc can practically hear the breath his father lets out. Tanoukh smiles widely.

“Daniella?” he calls.

In a moment, Daniella emerges from the dining room where she was apparently talking to Carlota and Francesc’s grandmother. Upon seeing Francesc she smiles and lowers her eyes in the best performance of a shy girl he has ever seen, and curtseys so naturally that it’s clear what she’s spent her life on.

“Captain Fàbregas has just asked me for your hand, sweetheart,” Tanoukh says. “What do you say?”

“I think Daniella is delighted,” Carlota’s sarcastic voice sounds from the door.

Francesc’s father shoots a warning look at her. Daniella looks up and with another smile gracefully outstretches her hand to Francesc who takes it and kisses it.

“Oh, children!” Francesc’s father cries, beaming happily. “This deserves a toast!”

He hurries to the kitchen himself, without actually calling a servant, which suggests he is beyond excited, and comes back with a bottle of wine.

“Of course we will organize a proper engagement later,” he babbles while pouring the wine into the glasses. “This is just for good luck.”

Francesc looks at Carlota who looks mightily unimpressed, and just shrugs in a “What could I do?” way.

“So,” Francesc’s father says when everyone takes their glass. “To Francesc and Daniella!”

Francesc downs his glass in three gulps.

~ ~ ~

“So you really worked for Casillas all the time?” Cristiano asks. “How did you survive that?”

“You see,” Fábio shrugs. “I almost didn’t.”

“You can’t imagine how many times I imagined snapping that bastard’s neck,” Cristiano growls. “It kept me going in prison.”

“So you just went out of prison where you were for theft and you want to go back for murder?” Fábio shakes his head. “Better think of what we will do now.”

“Well, we can’t return to Portugal, that’s for sure,” Cristiano says.

“Because of you,” Fábio grins.

“Well, I didn’t ask for the ten warrants with my name on them, but it’s how it is,” Cristiano shrugs.

“But if we stay here, Casillas will kill us.”

“Maybe something or someone will kill him first,” Cristiano suggests. “How long can you stay here?”

“Until Villa kicks me out,” Fábio shrugs. “Which right now he doesn’t want to do because he feels guilty, I suppose.”

“And he has all the reasons to,” Cristiano frowns. “Well, I mean I stole and got punished for it, alright. But he’s no damn judge and not a saint either, I’ve heard.”

“Listen, Cris... what if we tried to find some work? I mean, just normal work.”

Cristiano looks at him as if Fábio went absolutely mad.

“Do you remember when I worked in the bakery in Lisbon?” he asks.

“Yes,” Fábio nods.

“And do you remember why we had to escape from Lisbon?”

Fábio bites his lip.

“Because the bakery burned down.”

“Exactly,” Cristiano nods. “Better don’t suggest this anymore.”

~ ~ ~

Xabi curses when he sees the pirate ship. He hasn’t seen that many of them. But this doesn’t look like a ship of some bandits pretending to be the rulers of the sea and attacking small ships. This ship is a good one, fast and agile, and he supposes that those men know what they are doing. Otherwise they would never dare to ask a nobleman for ransom.

When he reaches the ship, a ladder rolls down from the deck. Xabi takes a deep breath and starts climbing it. On the deck, the pirates are already waiting for him.

“Welcome on Plunderer’s Pride, señor Alonso!” a familiar voice says.

“Daniel?” Xabi breathes out.

“I’m sorry, señor Alonso, it’s not personal,” Daniel says. “This is just a really strange coincidence.”

“You are the captain of this ship?” Xabi asks.

“I wish,” Daniel laughs. “But I’m just the first mate. The captain is waiting for you in his cabin.”

“Shall we go, then?”

Daniel smirks and motions to the narrow staircase.

“I hope the self-proclaimed lord of Biscay doesn’t know you are here,” he says.

“I certainly hope he doesn’t,” Xabi sighs.

~ ~ ~

On the shore of a different bay, Ander Iturraspe is fuming with anger after he pulls out his fishing rod to find the bait gone but any fish on the hook.

“Are there actually any fish?” he asks.

“Sure,” Markel nods.

“But I haven’t caught any yet!”

“You’ve been here for barely an hour,” Markel objects. “You have to be patient.”

“Don’t the fish understand I don’t have all day to wait for them?” Iturraspe barks.

“Maybe they are shy, my lord,” someone says.

Iturraspe turns that way.

“Shy?” he frowns.

“I mean, they don’t see the lord of Biscay every day,” the man shrugs.

Markel bites his lip. Iturraspe folds his arms.

“Who are you?”

“Ander Herrera, my lord, the water bailiff.”

“I like you,” Iturraspe states. “So... you know a lot about the fish, right?”

“They are like my friends.”

He seems to have all Iturraspe’s attention now and Markel doesn’t know whether to be worried or glad that someone else is dealing with this caprice.

“You should explain to them that when I’m here, they should show up!” Iturraspe says.

“I will, my lord,” Herrera nods. “It won’t happen next time.”

A soldier who’s just arrived from the palace looks at Markel confusedly.

“Who are they talking about?” he asks.

“Fish,” Markel replies resignedly.

The soldier blinks and then approaches Iturraspe.

“My lord, I’m sorry to interrupt your important conversation, but Captain Llorente would like to speak with you. He says that it’s urgent.”

Iturraspe frowns, looks at the rod that shows no signs of having a fish caught on the hook, and nods.

“Let’s go, then,” he says and then turns around and points his finger at Herrera. “You, fish friend, will have dinner with me tonight.”

~ ~ ~

If there is a weakness Sara Carbonero has, it’s that when she gets angry, she always gets a headache the day after.

“Jorge!” she calls, but it’s more a whine than an order.

Jorge peeks in the room and when he sees that there is nothing she could throw at him immediately, he walks in.

“You wish, my lady?”

“I have a headache!” Sara says like it was Jorge’s fault.

“Do you wish me to get you a doctor?”

“No!” Sara snaps. “Open the window!”

Jorge opens the window and looks at her again.

“Now go and tell Iker... señor Casillas... that I will not have dinner with him. I’m sure he will be delighted. And call Javier.”

Jorge nods and runs away before she can think of other orders. When he comes back, there is a wet cloth on Sara’s forehead and Javier is sitting by the bed, waving Sara with her fan.

“Señor Casillas wishes you quick recovery, my lady,” Jorge says.

“You’ve just made this up,” Sara growls.

“Yes, my lady, actually he said ‘At least I won’t lose my taste tonight’ or something in that sense,” Jorge admits.

Sara closes her eyes and presses her lips together.

“Men are ungrateful bastards,” she says. “This incompetent drunkard is acting like I bother him, while without me he is useless. I don’t know who is worse, if him or that prick Sergi Roberto who said in front of all the court that I was old.”

Jorge prefers not to react. It was indeed a very awful and delicate incident. He is sure that if Lady Sara were a man, she would have declared war on Sergi Roberto and his family. Actually, he thinks that she really contemplated it.

“And on top of everything, the arrogant Vilanova,” she continues. “But they will see who Lady Sara is... ah, my head!”

Javier replaces the cloth on her forehead and hands her the pouch with sweet-smelling herbs that are supposed to relieve the headache. As for Jorge, he can’t see how it could possibly work because it’s giving him a headache without even coming close to it.

“I won’t just lay here doing nothing so that the incompetent failure of a nobleman can ruin himself before I manage to...” she bites her lip and clears her throat. “I have a task for one of you.”

~ ~ ~

Daniel opens a door that leads to the captain’s cabin and walks in.

“Captain, señor Alonso is here,” he says.

Steven turns around and smirks.

“Señor Alonso,” he says. “Finally. We were already worried that you weren’t a good friend.”

“I am a good friend,” Xabi replies sternly. “The message got lost and it took some time before it reached me, but I set sail as soon as I received it.”

“Then I’m sure we will have no more complications once you are here,” Steven says. “By the way, I’m Steven Gerrard, the captain of Plunderer’s Pride. Daniel, I’m sure, you already know.”

“Can we get to the business, captain?” Xabi asks.

“But of course, we will,” Steven nods. “Have a seat.”

Xabi sits on a chair and watches Steven take the other, putting his feet on the table. Judging by the fine leather of his boots, one of Fernando’s sailors is now walking the board barefoot.

“Did you bring the money?” Steven asks.

“I want to see Fernando first.”

Steven frowns and swings on the chair slightly.

“I am the captain of this ship, señor Alonso. It’s me setting the rules.”

“I just want to know that Fernando is alright, that is all.”

“You care about him suspiciously much,” Steven notes. “He’s quite a misbehaving kid, I tell you. The person who made him a captain couldn’t be sane.”

“Fernando is a good sailor, and he’s not as young as he looks,” Xabi replies, forcing his voice to stay calm.

“Good. You get to see your friend, I get the money,” Steven says finally. “Daniel, would you invite señor Torres to join us?”

“It will be my pleasure,” Daniel smirks. “If he’s able to walk, that is. Recently he took fancy in my supplies of rum.”

Xabi only blinks when Daniel walks out and closes the door behind him.

~ ~ ~

Villa lifts his head and smiles when David comes in after knocking on the door. He’s wearing the silk shirt again and Villa knows that if he asked, David would come up with a lame excuse like that his old one is just being washed.

“There’s... eh... there’s someone who wants...” David says, pausing when he sees Villa holding his dagger, the one he remembers him threatening his old master with.

“Who wants?” Villa prompts him, putting the dagger back in it’s holder on the wall and the piece of cloth he was cleaning it with in a drawer of his desk.

“To exchange money,” David finishes and steps aside.

A young man walks in and beckons Villa.

“Good afternoon,” he says. “I’ve heard you were the only moneychanger in this part of the city.”

“I am,” Villa nods. “But you don’t look like you’re from too far away.”

“No, I... my... I am just supposed to change the money for my master,” the man says and throws a pouch with money on the table.

Villa unties it and pours the coins out. He inspects them for genuineness and counts them carefully.

“It’s not how it usually works,” he notes while unlocking the chest in the corner of the room. “Usually the customers write a transfer of funds and the merchants withdraw the money in their own currency here.”

The man, or rather a boy, nods nervously. Villa takes a pouch out of the chest. He counts the money carefully.

“Here,” he says then. “I take one tenth as my provision. Do you want to count it yourself?”

The boy shakes his head and takes the money.

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome,” Villa says. “Your master is a merchant, then?”

“Eh... yes,” the boy nods. “From... Provence.”

He looks like he can’t wait to be gone already so Villa decides not to question him any further. Who knows what kind of master he has, he thinks. I surely don’t want to be the reason why someone gets beat up.

The boy scurries down the stairs and then walks in the kitchen. Three men are sitting around the table there, one cutting vegetables, the other polishing some bowls and the third is watching them with an offended face.

“What do you mean it’s disgusting?” he asks, Portuguese accent creeping in his words heavily. “Tripe with white beans, it’s delicious.”

“You say that just because tripe is the closest to meat you’ve ever been, Fábio,” the man with a bowl in his hand smirks. “I bet Casillas didn’t feed you chicken.”

The man with vegetables lifts his head and frowns at the sight of the boy.

“What are you doing here?” he asks.

“I... eh, I’m just on my way out, I got a bit lost...” the boy blurts out.

“The way out is the other way,” the man says.

In that moment the man who saw him in appears.

“Oh, you got lost?” he smiles amicably. “I’ll see you out.”

“Yes... thank you,” the boy nods. “It’s... a big house.”

“It is. I sometimes still get lost in it myself.”

He sees the boy out and closes the door behind him. The boy lets out a sigh of relief and then smiles. He now knows what he needed to know.

Tucking the pouch with money under his shirt, Javier heads in the direction of Iker Casillas’ house.

~ ~ ~

Captain Fernando Llorente looks like he could be even the King’s most important general, at least with his attitude and the way his uniform is put in order. Markel thinks that he is too good to command just the army of Biscay that never actually leads any war.

“What was so urgent?” Iturraspe asks him. “I was busy.”

“My lord, we discovered a pirate ship in one of the bays,” Llorente says.

Markel bites his lip. Damn Captain Fernando My-Shoes-Shine-Brighter-Than-The-Sun Llorente and his meticulousness.

“Pirates?” Iturraspe frowns and the childish improvidence and playfulness disappears from his face in a second, like a moment of sanity in a fool’s face. “In my waters?”

“Shall I send the guards, my lord?” Llorente asks.

Iturraspe takes a breath. Markel grabs his sleeve.

“Wait!” he says. “I... Captain Llorente, could you leave us for a moment?”

Llorente narrows his eyes in a look that suggests that he is not happy about being commanded by a former groom, no matter if he’s a knight now, but after Iturraspe dismisses him as well, he bows and retires to the adjoining chamber.

“What is it, Markel?” Iturraspe asks.

“I... you know, the pirates...” Markel starts. “You can’t send the guards there.”

“I can’t? I’m the lord of Biscay, I can do whatever I please.”

“Xabi is on that ship.”

Iturraspe looks at Markel like he’s gone mad.

“Xabi? Xabier Alonso? What is he doing there?”

“The pirates captured his friend’s ship and asked for ransom. He went there to give it to them. If you send the guards there, the pirates will kill them all before your soldiers can stop them.”

“Why should my soldiers stop them?” Iturraspe asks in a dangerously cold voice. “Without a doubt they are some sailors sent by the King, the less there is of them, the better. What interests me now is how you know about it, and more, why don’t I know about it.”

Markel gulps.

“I... Xabi asked me for help, I promised him...”

“Xabi, Xabi, Xabi!” Iturraspe explodes and when he switches from the noble Spanish into Basque, Markel knows he’s in deep trouble. “Who is your lord? Who gave you all you have, who made you what you are? This is your gratefulness? This is your loyalty? Hiding things from me? You call yourself my friend? Off with your head!”

The door opens and six guards walk in.

“What are you doing here?” Iturraspe barks.

“You wanted to execute me,” Markel reminds him.

“Go away, idiots, I didn’t mean it!”

The guards march out again. Iturraspe sits in an armchair, his expression slowly changing from angry into hurt. Markel knows that it might be even worse.

“I thought I could trust you,” he says. “That you were different.”

He grabs a vase from the table next to the armchair and throws it to the opposite side of the room. Then he looks to the door.

“Captain Llorente?” he calls.

The door opens and Llorente walks in.

“Send the guards for the pirates. Bring everyone who stays alive here. Pirate or not. Everyone.”

“Of course my lord,” Llorente nods.

“And as for this one,” he looks at Markel with a mix of hurt and disillusion. “He’s not allowed to leave his room.”

“As you wish, my lord,” Llorente says and beckons two guards that are standing at the door.

“Their blood will be on your hands,” Markel hisses at Llorente when he passes him by.

“At least I am not betraying my lord,” Llorente says calmly. “Once a peasant, always a peasant, I reckon.”

~ ~ ~

Isco and Álvaro wake up to some strange sounds coming from the yard.

“What is it?” Isco frowns.

“I think it’s señor Fabregas,” Álvaro says. “Singing.”

“Is he drunk again?” Isco sighs. “If he wants to be, alright, but why does he have to sing?”

Álvaro laughs.

“I should go put him to bed,” he says. “Last time he would have slept in the kitchen under the table.”

“Nah, if he’s able to sing, he can fall in his bed on his own,” Isco mumbles and pulls Álvaro closer.

A loud noise that sounds like something heavy and made of metal falls on the ground followed by a stream of curses makes Isco sigh deeply and Álvaro get up.

By the time Álvaro finds him, Francesc is trying to open the door of his room, only the other way round.

“You have to pull it, señor,” Álvaro says.

“Ah!” Francesc nods and pulls on the door.

In the next moment he flies to the wall together with the door. Álvaro rolls his eyes and helps him get up.

“You had a reason to celebrate?” he asks when he’s helping him to bed.

“I suppose. I got engaged today.”

“Congratulations.”

“Wrong,” Francesc mumbles. “You’re supposed to say ‘My condolences’.”

~ ~ ~

David walks in Villa’s room with a bottle of wine and smiles.

“Do you really want the wine, or you just want company?” he asks.

“I want both,” Villa smiles and watches him pour the wine. “Have some.”

“Me?” David looks at him. “Wine?”

“You’ve never had it?”

He immediately realizes that it was a stupid question. Slaves on a farm of such master as David’s old one were probably glad if they could drink water. David pours the wine into a second glass and sips a bit hesitantly.

“Where are the others?” Villa asks.

“Xavi is cleaning the kitchen. Sergio is sad because his friends Concha and Paco got eaten for dinner... I mean the rabbits. And Fábio is in our room, sulking because Xavi bashed Portuguese cuisine.”

Villa laughs heartily. David smiles and drinks more wine. Then he looks at the dagger on the wall.

“What were you doing with it?” he asks.

“With the dagger? Cleaning it,” Villa says and gets up. “Just an old habit. In the army they teach you to take care of your weapons. They are all you have to protect your life.”

He takes the dagger and looks at it. Then he offers it to David. David looks at him with wide eyes.

“I use knives just for cutting vegetables,” he smiles sheepishly.

“This is not a knife,” Villa says. “It’s much more.”

David reaches out and takes the dagger from him. He weighs it in his hand and then wraps his fingers around the hilt.

“You can really fight with this?” he asks. “I thought only assassins used it.”

“Of course you can!” Villa nods, opens a chest in the corner of the room and pulls out another dagger, less decorated and apparently quite old. “En garde!

David gives him a confused look.

“It means... take the guard position. In French.”

David stands up and sways a bit, the wine taking effect fast.

“I don’t know the guard position,” he giggles.

Villa smiles and takes the position. David mimes him and laughs. When the blades crash against each other, he jumps back.

“Don’t you run away from the duel, coward!” Villa says with feigned menace and drinks more wine in a hurry.

“Run away? Me? Never!” David exclaims and lunches forward.

Suddenly there is a crash coming from the door. Both turn that way, blades still crossed. Xavi is standing there, looking at them with a shocked expression, a plate with food laying on the floor.

“I... I will come later,” he blurts out and disappears.

Villa and David look at each other for a second. Then they burst out with laughter and can’t stop for minutes. 

Chapter Text

Ander Herrera rarely leaves his house by the sea, and it’s actually the first time he sees the palace from the inside, and it’s right from his lord’s dining table. If he’s nervous, though, he doesn’t let it show. The atmosphere is still a little too heavy.

“You’re upset, my lord,” he notes.

“Upset? No, I’m furious,” Iturraspe says and throws the cutlery on the table. “What do you think about pirates?”

“Pirates?” Herrera repeats and thinks for a while. “They are not interested in fish, so they don’t interest me.”

Iturraspe sighs and goes back to eating.

“But I think they are a bit like tunas,” Herrera says after a while.

“Tunas?”

“Tunas are predatory fish,” Herrera explains. “They eat other fish. That in itself is no problem, but if you have tunas in waters where nothing eats tunas... that becomes a problem.”

“Indeed,” Iturraspe nods and smiles. “This is just what I needed to hear.”

A few moments later, a guard walks in.

“You know, I really believe that fish have feelings,” Herrera is just saying with a dead serious expression.

Iturraspe looks like they are discussing a very important scientific thing. The guard has to take a deep breath so that he doesn’t start laughing.

“A message from the King, my lord,” he announces and bows.

“Burn it.”

“It’s from the King, my lord.”

“I said...”

“You shouldn’t ignore the King, my lord,” Herrera says calmly. “It’s like when you ignore a shark. Ignore it or not, it will still kill you.”

Iturraspe sighs exasperatedly.

“Give it to me.”

~ ~ ~


Sergio approaches the market and sighs deeply. It’s him going to the market today because David has a strong hangover. The absurdity of the situation makes Sergio almost dizzy.

He comes to the man he usually buys poultry from.

“Give me two partridges,” he says.

“I don’t have any more,” the man replies.

“What?” Sergio stares at him. “But the market has only started!”

“Yes, but right when I came, someone bought all the partridges I had,” the man shrugs. “All twenty.”

“Who needs twenty partridges?” Sergio snorts.

“It was some foreigner. Said he was buying them for a feast his master is hosting tonight,” the man says, clearly glad he has someone to share his luck with. “His daughter is getting engaged to Captain Fàbregas.”

Sergio almost drops the basket.

“They must be awfully rich,” the man sighs. “They also ordered four dozens of eggs and three turkeys to be delivered to their house later. Well, anything else than the partridges?”

Sergio tries to swallow, but it feels like swallowing thorns.

“Give me two chickens instead,” he spits.

~ ~ ~


Sara sits at the table and looks at Iker who is trying to finish his breakfast as soon as possible.

“Do you have anything to do that can’t wait or you just want to be gone as soon as possible so you don’t have to sit here with me?” she asks.

“As if you are ever busy,” Iker scoffs. “Yesterday you didn’t even leave the house.”

“I don’t have to leave this house to know more than you do,” Sara smiles.

“For example?”

“For example, weren’t you looking for your Portuguese servant?”

Iker looks at her with interest.

“You know where he is?”

“Of course,” Sara smiles and sips on her tea. “He’s in Villa’s house.”

It makes Iker raise from his chair.

“In Villa’s house?” he repeats. “Nonsense. Why would he go there? He stole things from Villa, he would be dead on spot if he walked in there?”

“According to Javier, he was very much alive,” Sara says calmly.

“He... he saw him?”

“Saw and heard. I believe he is called... Fábio?”

Iker sits on the chair again. Sara smiles contentedly.

“See? How would I know his name if it wasn’t true?”

“I believe you now,” Iker says and runs a hand through his hair. “Well, I’m going there and I’ll kill that little rat!”

“If you want to spoil everything, go,” Sara narrows her eyes. “But I thought you wanted to get back at Villa.”

“And?” Iker frowns.

“Think,” Sara says and looks at Javier who refills her cup. “Javier here is my servant. If all of a sudden he would be gone and I found out he was in your house...”

She picks up a knife and turns it in her hand.

“And I went there and killed him...”

Javier gulps when she puts the blade to his neck in a way that everyone would expect more from a skilled bandit than from a lady.

“I would still only have one servant less,” Sara finishes and puts the knife back.

Iker is still looking at her with a rather dumb expression. Sara sighs.

“Alright, I will serve it to you on a silver plate.”

~ ~ ~


Xabi stands up when the door of the cabin opens and Fernando walks in, accompanied by Daniel who is more steadying him than manhandling him.

“You noblemen can’t drink,” he snorts before sitting in a chair in the corner of the room.

Xabi hugs Fernando and sighs with relief when he sees that he is alive and unharmed, save for a split lip.

“Well, you’ve seen your friend,” Steven says. “Now I want my money.”

“And then you’ll let Fernando and the others go?” Xabi asks.

“Wait, wait, wait,” Steven chuckles. “There has to be a misunderstanding.”

“What misunderstanding?” Xabi frowns.

“Did you read the letter?” Daniel asks lazily. “I thought you were smart, señor Alonso.”

Xabi looks at him, at the familiar smirk, and suddenly understands.

“You tricked me,” he whispers and looks at Daniel accusingly.

“I didn’t,” Daniel laughs. “The letter says it clearly. Ten thousand reals for your friend with an endless name. There was not a single word about the others, leave alone the ship.”

Xabi falls back in the chair.

“You’ll get the money, what else do you want? Those sailors are not rich, you won’t get ransom for them,” he says.

“I know,” Steven nods. “But they are not entirely worthless either. We are now sailing west, and in the Ottoman Empire I believe they will pay well for some slaves.”

“You bastard!” Fernando shouts and only Xabi’s grip stops him from launching himself at the pirate.

“Wait,” Xabi says. “We can arrange this. I can give you more money if you want.”

“As much as I will get on the market? I don’t think so,” Steven smirks. “Pay me for your friend and you two can go, or you’ll leave without him.”

Xabi takes a breath but in that moment the door flies open and a pirate runs in.

“Captain, Pepe saw a ship!” he says.

“Well, that’s not unusual, Flanagan, we’re on the sea!” Steven snaps.

“Well, but it’s a ship full of soldiers.”

Steven jumps up from his chair and in a blink grabs Xabi’s collar and pulls him up.

“You brought the guards upon us?” he growls.

“No, no I didn’t, I swear!” Xabi says.

“I told you I would slit your friend’s throat if I saw one soldier. I can as well do it now!”

Shoving Xabi aside, he reaches in his boot and pulls out a knife. The moment he plunges his hand in Fernando's hair and pulls his hair back, baring his throat, Daniel’s hand stops him.

“Steven, don’t!” he says.

“What are you still doing here, aren’t you supposed to be at the helm right now?” Steven barks.

“If you leave them alive it can help us in case we get caught!” Daniel says, avoiding Fernando's pleading eyes.

“To hell with them!” Steven growls, lets go of Fernando and runs on board.

~ ~ ~


The feast in Francesc’s father’s house is indeed spectacular. There is way more food than they can eat and the guests are way more cheerful than Francesc would like them to be. He only invited his close friends, more out of politeness than because he feels like he should celebrate. Villa was honestly astonished at the news, as he never imagined Francesc would get married so soon, if ever. Jordi luckily saw into the matter enough not to try to congratulate him. As Xabi and Carles were away, there weren’t many people left that he could invite. For a moment he played with the idea of inviting Casillas, just because he knew that there was nothing about it that he could spoil more, but then he decided not to bring Villa and Casillas to one place.

From Daniella’s side, though, there are more people than he would imagine. Some women, apparently her friends with the same awful sense of fashion, probably some of her relatives and her father’s friends. Francesc keeps closer to Carlota because right now she seems to be his only ally.

“Papa, but Daniella isn’t a Christian, is she?” Carlota asks when she is sure everyone is eating so they will all hear her clearly. “How can they get married in church, then?”

Daniella shoots a panicked look at her father and Francesc bites his lip so that he doesn’t laugh.

“Well...” Tanoukh clears his throat.

“It’s no problem,” Francesc’s father smiles. “We will see Father Guardiola about it as soon as possible. I am sure he will find a solution.”

Carlota purses her lips which suggests that thinking about this plan to save her brother took her a long time and now she will need more to think of another.

After the dinner, Francesc retires to the salon with Villa. Jordi seems to have interest in one of Daniella’s friends, so Francesc decides not to ruin his evening.

“I don’t know if I should scold you or not,” Villa says.

“For ruining my life?” Francesc asks.

“That too. And for breaking my poor groom’s heart.”

“Don’t even remind me,” Francesc sighs. “You and your little servant can live happily until the end of our lives because your father is already rotting under the ground. I didn’t have such luck.”

“Francesc!” Villa says scornfully.

Then he looks at his friend and smirks.

“What?” Francesc asks.

“Nothing,” Villa says. “Just... for the first time you called David a servant, not a slave.”

Francesc makes a face.

“See? I’m going too sentimental.”

~ ~ ~


Captain Llorente marches in the hall of the palace and salutes his lord with a proud grin on his face. Behind him, the guards lead in a group of pirates in shackles, and the sailors, Xabi and Fernando among them.

Fernando stands the closest to Daniel and he leans closer to him when the guards command them to stop.

“You wished to meet Ander Iturraspe one day,” Fernando whispers. “Your wish is now fulfilled.”

Daniel would laugh, but truth is that Iturraspe looks too sane for his liking now. Maybe not like the sanest person in the world, but still sane enough to throw a noose around his neck, metaphorically speaking, of course.

“Captain Steven Gerrard,” Iturraspe says.

Steven winces at the terrible pronunciation of his name.

“Am I famous even here?” he asks.

“There are warrants with your name all over Spain,” Iturraspe says. “I heard that you wanted to change your orientation and become a slave trader, though.”

“Nah, that would be just a side job, sir,” Steven grins.

“I am sorry to ruin your plans, then,” Iturraspe says. “But it will have to wait until your next life. Because there isn’t much remaining of your present one. Not all noblemen wish to consort with pirates.”

The last sentence is clearly a message to Xabi.

“Let me explain...” Xabi starts.

“No, I will explain something to you, later!” Iturraspe snaps. “Captain Llorente, take the pirates where they belong. As for the others, if they are injured, have someone tend to them, and they may rest now.”

Daniel looks at Fernando who looks a bit more distressed than he should in Daniel’s opinion. It’s not him they are going to hang, after all. Then he looks at Iturraspe. If he has to die, he wants to have his last joke.

“Will you let me go if I promise to bring you a unicorn?” he asks.

“Take him away!” Iturraspe barks.

When the door closes behind them, Iturraspe slumps down in his chair a little, like not letting his mind wander to his imaginary lands exhausts him.

“Tunas,” he mumbles.

~ ~ ~


It’s fairly late when Villa comes back home from the feast. He is not used to going out anymore, so he sort of feels like a thief in his own house where everything is quiet.

Suddenly a door screeches and David’s face appears in the gap.

“Oh, so I am caught!” Villa smiles. “The others are asleep?”

“Well, Sergio went to sleep even before dark, and Xavi was so glad that for once he didn’t have to accompany him to the Drunken Horse that he went to sleep as well. Fábio went somewhere with Cristiano.”

“If they end up in jail, I’m washing my hands clean of it,” Villa sighs. “Well, will you accompany me to the bedroom? It’s dark in here.”

“I could just give you the candle,” David says so innocently that Villa would almost believe him he doesn’t have a clue of what he meant.

Then he laughs and joins Villa on the stairs.

The door closes behind them quietly and David lights more candles. Villa sits in an armchair for a moment before getting up to start undressing.

“No, wait!” David stops him. “I haven’t yet seen you in such beautiful dress. I want to look at you some more.”

Villa laughs and sits back in the armchair, for once not berating David for sitting on his heels on the floor like an obedient dog, because he knows that he only does it now when he really wants to.

“Is he happy?” David asks then.

“Who?” Villa frowns.

“Señor Fàbregas.”

Villa sighs.

“I’m afraid that he isn’t.”

David lays his head in Villa’s lap, smiling almost imperceptibly when Villa starts caressing his hair.

“Sergio is sad as well,” he says. “Well, he won’t admit it, but you know something is wrong when he stops talking.”

“It seems like not only slaves, but even the rich are not the masters of their fate,” Villa sighs.

“As long as they have parents?” David asks with a bitter smile.

“Yes,” Villa nods. “Which means that luckily I am the master of mine now.”

“And of mine,” David reminds him.

“I keep forgetting about it,” Villa smiles. “Well, can I take off the clothes now?”

David looks up at him and laughs.

“I’m nobody to forbid it to you,” he says.

~ ~ ~


“I don’t like it, Cris!” Fábio whispers when Cristiano peeks over the fence of someone’s yard.

“Nobody’s there,” Cristiano says. “I’ve been watching the house for two days. It’s empty.”

“Empty houses in the city don’t exist,” Fábio objects.

“Nah, they do if their owners are banished from the city!” Cristiano grins.

Fábio gasps.

“This is... is this... Xabier Alonso’s house?”

“I have no idea what the guy is called, but I know he had to go away.”

“Yes, but that means that this house practically belongs to the regent! Cris, if they catch us there, we’re dead!”

Cristiano rolls his eyes.

“Nobody will catch us. And we need a little privacy.”

Fábio wants to say something but before he can open his mouth, Cristiano jumps over the fence. Fábio sighs and follows him. It’s still safer than to leave Cristiano alone. And it’s also safer to go inside than to stay out because the moon is shining too bright for them to be covered by darkness.

The door of the house is locked, but a simple lock is no problem for someone like Cristiano. In a few moments they are standing in a big hall with a huge staircase.

“Too bad that they’ve been gone for so long, there won’t be any food, I fear,” Cristiano sighs.

They walk up the stairs and Cristiano opens all the doors and inspects the rooms with the speed only an experienced thief can have. Then he stops and grins at Fábio.

“Perfect!” he whispers.

The room is a big bedroom, clearly belonging to the master of the house. The wardrobes are open and there are pieces of clothing here and there, like the person was packing in a hurry. In the middle of the room, there is a huge bed, still meticulously made up.

Cristiano grabs Fábio around the waist and pushes him on the bed. Fábio expects it to creak, but it’s so soft that it feels like falling in a pile of feathers.

“If they catch us, we’re dead,” he repeats when Cristiano climbs on the bed.

“True. So better be quiet,” Cristiano grins and starts devouring Fábio’s mouth.

~ ~ ~


Fernando looks at Xabi who is circling around the room like a tiger in a cage.

“Can he really do it?” he asks. “I mean, hang the pirates.”

Xabi chuckles dimly.

“Of course he can, they are pirates. Even if he didn’t really have the right to do it, I don’t think the King would be upset about him sorting this out. But here, he can do whatever he wants. If he wants to hang me, there’s nobody to stop him either.”

“You’re a nobleman!” Fernando objects.

“I’m banned from Spain. I’m already breaking the law by being here,” Xabi says. “And I’d probably deserve it.”

“What nonsense is that?” Fernando frowns.

“It’s my fault, I underestimated him!” Xabi says.

“Who could blame you? Last time I saw Ander Iturraspe, he ordered the whole court to chase swans in the pond in his gardens during a feast. Two of the chambermaids drowned.”

“He was fifteen back then.”

“Well, I didn’t know insanity could subside with age,” Fernando grins. “But whatever he does with the pirates is one thing, but does he have the right to hold us here? We’re no criminals!”

The door suddenly opens and Captain Llorente marches across the room like Xabi and Fernando aren’t even there.

“Captain Llorente?” Xabi asks.

Llorente stops and turns to him.

“I... I need to speak to Markel,” Xabi says.

Llorente gives him a compassionate smile.

“I’m afraid that first, it’s not possible, and second, it wouldn’t change anything. It seems like the position of our lord’s best friend is already held by someone else,” he says.

Chapter Text

When he wakes up, Fábio immediately knows that he’s not in his own bed. It’s too soft and he knows for sure that his blanket has never felt like satin. He cracks open one eye and closes it immediately, hoping that he’s still dreaming and will wake up as soon as possible.

He tries again. The image is still there. The image of Cristiano sitting in an armchair in Xabier Alonso’s bedroom, wearing Xabier Alonso’s expensive clothes and inspecting a dagger clearly belonging to Xabier Alonso as well.

“Cris...” Fábio whispers, utterly horrified.

“Good morning, love!” Cristiano grins, attempting the posh Spanish accent but failing miserably.

“What are you doing?” Fábio almost yells and jumps out of the bed.

“Just looking at this, but it’s useless,” Cristiano sighs and throws the dagger on the table.

“Useless?” Fábio frowns.

“Yes, it has Alonso’s coat of arms on it. Can’t sell that. The noblemen annoy me, they have to put their initials on everything. Who the hell cares about who they are?”

“The... the clothes... take them off!” Fábio hisses.

“Again?” Cristiano grins.

“I don’t mean that! You can’t just go around wearing this!”

“Around this house? Who minds it?” Cristiano shrugs.

“I mean outside.”

“Oh, but I’m not exactly planning to go outside now. When I do, I will change of course.”

“You want to stay here? Are you mad?” Fábio is practically yelling now.

“Nobody lives here. Nobody needs the house. The regent surely doesn’t. But I don’t have a place to stay, so I think I’ll take it for myself now.”

Fábio almost faints.

~ ~ ~


Xabi and Fernando almost jump up when the door opens and Captain Llorente walks in.

“My lord wants to speak with you,” he says. “Now.”

Xabi and Fernando nod and follow Llorente to the dining room. There, a servant is having a hard time because Iturraspe is obviously not satisfied with his breakfast.

“Where are the eggs?” he yells at the servant.

The servant ducks instinctively.

“There are no eggs because there are no hens, my lord,” he explains carefully.

“What happened to them?” Iturraspe asks.

The servant closes his eyes for a moment.

“Foxes killed them,” he whispers then.

Llorente puts him out of his misery by clearing his throat.

“Señor Alonso and señor Torres, my lord,” he announces.

“Ah, perfect!” Iturraspe says and throws his napkin at the servant. “I need to speak with you about this whole incident with the pirates.”

Xabi takes a breath.

“I asked Markel to...”

“I know,” Iturraspe interrupts him. “I can’t deal with you the way I can deal with Markel, I am not your lord after all, but I thought that my hospitality was a reason for you to at least not do things behind my back.”

“I apologize for that,” Xabi says. “I just figured that you would immediately send soldiers to deal with the pirates. And I couldn’t endanger my friend’s life.”

“I understand.”

Xabi blinks in surprise, fighting the urge to look around if they are really alone and if it was really Iturraspe who said it.

“Your friend and his men are free to go,” Iturraspe says. “My guards will take them back to their ship.”

Fernando's face lights up and he looks at Xabi hopefully. Xabi resists the urge to rejoice just yet.

“You are very generous,” he says instead.

“Why? They didn’t do anything bad. They were the victims after all.”

“I am to go, I suppose?” Xabi asks then. “I didn’t repay you well for your hospitality.”

“You can do as you please. I am not sending you away. I would only like to ask you to respect me more next time. I am having difficulties not calling this situation a conspiracy.”

“Thank you, my lord. It will not repeat itself.”

“Alright,” Iturraspe nods. “You can go now.”

Xabi nods and follows Llorente out of the room. He almost feels like he was just scolded by a ten years old kid.

~ ~ ~


Iker feels a tiny sparkle of hope when he sees Jorge preparing Sara’s carriage. It could mean that some matter at home requires her immediate attention and she will have to leave. Then she appears in the hall accompanied by Javier and his hope is quickly extinguished. She is wearing a robe too fine to be suited for a long journey, and there is no sight of her tea service either.

“Where are you going?” he asks her.

“To Francesc Fàbregas’ house,” Sara says calmly. “I should congratulate him on his engagement.”

“Since when are you interested in engagements that aren’t your own?” Iker frowns.

“I am not,” Sara snaps. “It’s of course just a pretense.”

“Pretense for what?”

Sara sighs deeply and outstretches her hand. Javier hands her the fan he is carrying and Sara immediately starts fanning herself frenetically.

“I am going to have a look at the servants who allegedly stripped you of the remnants of your dignity,” she says. “Though looking at you I’m not sure if there was any they could strip you of.”

~ ~ ~


After a night spent mostly awake, Markel realizes that he’s becoming really worried. He knows Ander Iturraspe enough to tell when he’s just momentarily angry and something tells him that this is not the case. They’ve had a few arguments over the years, but Ander always came back to Markel after a few hours when he cooled down, simply because he had no person that would be so close to him and he started missing him. Now that he left him almost a day locked in his chambers with two guards outside, Markel knows that this time will be different. The better option is that Ander decided to let him stew for some time. The worse is that he gave up on him for good.

It takes almost half a day before the sound of a key turning in the lock interrupts his gloomy thoughts. The door opens and Ander walks in slowly, stopping a few steps away from Markel. He doesn’t look as furious as he did before, but he’s still far from throwing himself in Markel’s arms.

“I let them go,” he says. “I mean Torres and the sailors. And Alonso can stay or go wherever he wants to go, for all I care.”

Markel nods and looks at him.

“What about me?” he asks.

Iturraspe fixes him with his eyes for a long time.

“I don’t know,” he says then in a flat voice. “I don’t know.”

“I know that I betrayed you,” Markel says. “I didn’t tell you about the pirates, and conspired with Alonso behind your back. I promised him I would keep you busy so that you wouldn’t notice...”

“Stop now!” Iturraspe says. “Stop, or the next thing you say will be already enough for me to have you beheaded. And I don’t want to do that.”

“I just wanted to help them, I knew you would...”

“And if I did?” Iturraspe snaps. “Everyone here got used to the fact that whoever shared my mother’s bed could overrule my decisions, but let me remind you that these times are gone!”

“Let me also remind you that the King...”

“The King...” Iturraspe says through gritted teeth and stalks closer to him. “Never cared about ruling Biscay, just about holding the title. The country would be in ruins if he was supposed to really rule it. And suddenly he remembered that I had an army, because he’s unable to put together one that would finally conquer Granada. No wonder, if he’s unable to deal with pirates in his waters.”

“Wait, wait!” Markel whispers. “You want to send your army to Granada?”

“Isn’t that what an army is for?”

“Wait, you can’t...”

Iturraspe turns around and points a finger at him.

“Erase this word from your vocabulary,” he says quietly. “Or I will erase it myself and it won’t be pleasant.”

He storms out of the room and there is a quiet thud and the key in the lock again. Markel slides down the wall. The way out of this situation will be longer than he thought.

~ ~ ~


Sara’s carriage stops in Francesc Fàbregas’ yard and Jorge rushes to open the door for her. Isco walks out of the stables to take care of the horses and also Álvaro appears in the yard. Sara steps on the stairs of her carriage and then stops when she sees the mud and puddles on the ground, left after the heavy rain at night.

“What...” she frowns. “Can’t Francesc Fàbregas at least pave his yard? I’m not destroying my shoes and dress!”

“With your permission, my lady...” Álvaro says and before Sara can blink, he collects her in his arms and carries her over to the doorstep.

She stares at him with cheeks burning red, too shocked to notice Isco practically doubling from laughter at the door of the stables.

Francesc appears on the stairs then and she quickly composes herself.

“Captain Fàbregas!” she smiles.

“Lady Sara,” Francesc says politely, kissing her hand. “What brings you here?”

“Oh, I...” Sara says, again distracted by Álvaro who passes them by. “I heard the news about your engagement. I came to congratulate you.”

“Thank you,” Francesc says. “I would have invited you if I knew you were in town.”

It’s such a blatant lie that Sara would cuff him with her fan if he wasn’t a nobleman.

Sitting on a sofa in Francesc’s salon, she accepts a glass of wine and puts on her nicest face.

“I hope you will introduce me to your fiancée soon,” she says. “I believe she is... a noblewoman as well?”

“No, she isn’t,” Francesc says calmly. “Her father is my father’s great friend and business partner. They are very rich, but not of noble blood.”

“Oh, well, it’s not the most important thing, is it?” Sara smiles. “Even noble blood doesn’t ensure good manners and high-mindedness. I am sure your fiancée is a lovely lady.”

Francesc puts all his mental strength into keeping a neutral face.

“Have you been here for long?” he tries to change the topic.

“A few days, yes,” Sara nods. “I came to visit the poor Iker. Lately he’s been quite unwell... mainly mentally, I fear.”

“That is very sad,” Francesc nods. “I believe it has to do with him losing his properties and titles?”

“A bit of all,” Sara sighs dramatically. “He also has troubles with some property in the country, I understood, so I am helping him with that matter now.”

“I’ve never doubted that you had a good heart,” Francesc nods and somehow manages not to laugh.

“Well, I’m afraid that I have to go,” Sara says and gets up. “It was nice to see you again, Captain Fàbregas, and I hope to meet your lovely fiancée as well before I leave town.”

“I am sure we can arrange that,” Francesc nods. “I’ll see you out.”

Sara waits for him to walk to the door. Then she carefully drops her fan on the floor and kicks it slightly so that it ends up under the sofa, peeking out just a little. She passes Francesc and smiles.

“Oh, and just a friendly piece of advice,” she says then. “Before you get married, pave your yard. I’m sure that your wife, or rather her shoes and robes, will appreciate it.”

~ ~ ~


David sighs in relief when he finally finds Sergio, sitting on the rail in the stables, feeding a horse an apple.

“Here you are,” David says. “I was worried.”

“About me?” Sergio blinks.

“Yes. We haven’t seen you all day,” David says. “And I believe that apple was meant for you.”

“I’m not hungry,” Sergio shrugs and then bites his lip. “Listen, you... you and Villa...”

David looks up at him curiously.

“If he had to get married,” Sergio says. “What would you do? I mean, would you just disappear from his life, or you wouldn’t mind, or...”

“I’d do whatever he’d want me to do,” David shrugs.

“Really?” Sergio blinks.

“He owns me, Sergio,” David says softly. “If he wants me to stay, I have to stay. If he doesn’t want me anymore, he’ll have to sell me.”

Sergio opens his mouth and closes it again before he finds the ability to speak.

“I... I can’t imagine what it has to be like, to think like that, to live like that,” he whispers.

“Sometimes it’s easier than you think,” David smiles. “If you accept it, in a way it makes you... free.”

“But wouldn’t you want to... be really free?” Sergio asks. “I mean, not afraid of displeasing your master, and free to go wherever you want...”

“I used to,” David says and pets the horse on the head. “Before, in Valencia, sometimes I imagined what it would be like, if I didn’t have to sleep locked in one room with the others, if I had enough food and nice clothes, if I wasn’t afraid to make friends because I’d knew I wouldn’t lose them, if there was no pain, no wounds and no scars, if my master was actually kind.”

“And now?”

David smiles widely.

“Now I have all this, Sergio.”

“I’m afraid,” Sergio whispers. “Afraid that she’ll eventually steal him from me. That he’ll forget about me. It can’t be that hard for her. Women are sneaky. She’ll always find something to keep him home. Pretend to be sick, then there will be children...”

“Sergio,” David smiles and pets Sergio the way he would the horse, finally drawing a smile from him. “People are not things. They can’t be stolen. Unless they wish to be stolen. And I don’t think señor Fàbregas wishes that.”

“You know...” Sergio says and looks at David. “I never thought I could envy you anything. But now I do.”

~ ~ ~


Isco grins when Álvaro climbs the ladder to their – now common – room.

“What was that with Lady Sara?” he asks. “I was waiting for her to slap your face the moment you put her down. She looked like a beetroot.”

Álvaro just shrugs.

“Why? I used to do it with señora Nagore all the time.”

“Well, if your señora Nagore was as crazy as your señor Xabier, I’m not even surprised,” Isco smirks. “Or maybe señora Nagore fancied you.”

“You’re stupid,” Álvaro frowns and slaps him over the back.

“I know, you don’t have to wave it in my face,” Isco says. “I’m actually better when I don’t speak, you know.”

“Exactly,” Álvaro smiles and kisses him.

“Still, I don’t like it that she was here,” Isco frowns.

“Why?”

“I don’t know. Just a feeling.”

“You have feelings?” Álvaro raises his brows. “That’s new to me.”

“Her and Casillas were once quite close to getting married,” Isco says. “Now Casillas gets in trouble and she appears here, what do you make of that?”

“That she wants to help him?” Álvaro shrugs.

“Exactly,” Isco nods. “Only I don’t think she wants to help him in the good sense of the word.”

~ ~ ~


Fernando has never been in jail before. Not even as a visitor. It’s only logical; he is an honest man who has honest friends.

The guard leaves him on his own in front of Daniel’s cell, but doesn’t let him in. Fernando doesn’t insist. The guard is probably already breaking some rules by letting him talk to the prisoner.

Daniel smirks when he sees Fernando, then gets up and walks to the bars.

“What a nice visit, I feel honored!” he chuckles.

“We’re going home,” Fernando says.

“Home?”

“Yes. We’ve lost too much time, there’s no chance to find Carles and Busquets... I mean the captain of the other ship... anymore,” he sighs. “Well, seems like I won’t become rich and famous.”

“Maybe next time,” Daniel smiles.

“Maybe.”

“I hope you won’t say one of those phrases now,” Daniel says. “Like ‘I’ll pray for your soul’ or something like that.”

“And you have a soul?” Fernando smirks.

“Oh, I believe that I do,” Daniel grins. “It’s probably quite black and heavy, but I think it’s there.”

Fernando nods and bites on his lip.

“I’m sorry,” he says then. “It shouldn’t have ended like this.”

“These are the risks of being a pirate,” Daniel shrugs. “You were right, if I were just a regular sailor, I probably wouldn’t have a noose on my neck. But I don’t regret anything.”

“I do,” Fernando whispers.

He reaches through the bars to grab Daniel’s shoulders and pulls him closer. Daniel chuckles.

“Careful with that. I’m practically dead already, but you could easily join me if you do this.”

“They should prepare one extra noose, then, because I’m going to do it.”

Daniel laughs even in the kiss. Fernando steps away and looks at him as though he is about to make the decision of his life. He pulls Daniel in an awkward hug, the two of them and the cold, rusty bars in the middle. Then he turns back and walks down the narrow corridor.

Daniel frowns and then he feels it, the weight in his pocket that wasn’t there before. His fingers close around something cold and heavy and he pulls it out, staring at it incredulously.

It’s Fernando Torres’ knife.

Chapter Text

Sergio wakes up and finds the bed next to him empty. That isn’t a surprise considering how early Xavi usually gets up, but the whole house is unusually quiet. He gets out of the bed and checks the next room. The beds are meticulously made, well, David’s more meticulously than Fábio’s for sure, but there’s no sight of them. The kitchen is empty as well, but there are some dishes that suggest someone had breakfast there. Sergio scratches his head. He wonders if he isn’t still asleep and isn’t dreaming some strange dream in which all the people in the world suddenly disappeared and he stayed alone, and also wonders if it actually wouldn’t be better. At least there would be no Cesc and no Daniella, and no Xavi, even though he’s sure he’d start missing his grumpiness sooner or later.

There’s a screech in the hallway and Sergio sighs. He will have to share the world at least with Fábio.

“Where’s everyone?” Sergio asks.

“They went to church,” Fábio says. “It’s Sunday.”

“Everyone went to church?” Sergio frowns. “David too?”

“Yes,” Fábio shrugs.

“You could have gone as well, then, there would be no difference,” Sergio mutters.

“But my problem is not that I don’t believe in God,” Fábio laughs. “I do believe in God.”

“Why are you here, then?”

“Because if I accidentally met Casillas there, I think not even God could save me,” Fábio says. 

~ ~ ~


There are many things that are a major improvement in Ander Herrera’s life since he’s staying in the palace. Food is one of them, since he doesn’t have to eat fish anymore. Eating fish always felt like eating friends to him, and the fact that Ander Iturraspe prefers fish alive same as him makes him really happy. That having a warm and clean room instead of the cottage by the sea is an improvement isn’t even up for discussion and the task of filling the small lake in the garden as well as all the fountains with fish is one of the best things that happened to him in his life.

When he walks in the main room of the palace, he finds Ander Iturraspe in his usual mood of the last few days, which is not a good one.

“Still the pirates?” he asks.

“Yes and no,” Iturraspe sighs. “More the people here. What to do with the pirates, it’s easy to decide. What to do with those who call themselves my friends and yet conspire behind my back, I don’t know.”

Herrera thinks for a while.

“You know, fish...” he says then. “They don‘t know where they can go before they learn it. They just test the water, and sometimes something eats them and the other fish know that they can‘t go there, and sometimes they‘re lucky and find waters with plenty of food and then the others know they will be just fine there.”

Iturraspe listens to him attentively. Then he nods slowly.

“You’re right. You’re absolutely right.”

He hangs his head and then blinks in surprise when Herrera tangles his fingers in his hair and kisses him softly.

“You think that you can just kiss your lord like this?” he asks and raises his brows.

Herrera just smiles and shrugs.

“When he is sad...”

“You can’t kiss your lord like this,” Iturraspe shakes his head. “You must.”

~ ~ ~


Isco knows that he can sleep longer on Sundays because the church is so close to their house that Francesc Fàbregas doesn’t need a horse to go there. And besides that, he stayed at his father’s house the night before because his father wanted them to go to the church together in the morning. By the gloomy face Francesc had on when he was leaving, it had something to do with his wedding.

So when some cold breeze wakes Isco up, he is ready to destroy whatever is causing it. When he cracks an eye open, he knows he will have to rather murder someone. Álvaro is grinning at him while waving him with a fan.

“Are you mad?” Isco groans. “Where did you get this?”

“Found it in the salon under the sofa,” Álvaro says and sets the fan on the side carefully. “It must belong to the lady who was here yesterday.”

“Well, then I’ll bury it somewhere deep so that you can’t wake me up with it again!”

“I should give it back to her,” Álvaro says thoughtfully.

“Come on,” Isco chuckles. “Lady Sara Carbonero is probably the richest woman in Spain after the Queen. She surely has twenty others like that!”

“But it’s polite,” Álvaro objects. “To keep it would be like to steal it.”

“Do as you wish,” Isco sighs. “But don’t expect me to go to Casillas’ house with you. I don’t think he’s forgotten about what happened last time.”

“He’s a lord,” Álvaro smiles. “I’m sure he forgets quickly about some servants.”

“Maybe, but I don’t think there have been too many of them that threatened him with a sword.”

Álvaro sighs, because no matter how scornful Isco is trying to sound, there is still a hint of pride in his voice and a smug smile on his face.

~ ~ ~


Even though there are many churches in Barcelona, most people go to the one where Father Guardiola preaches.

Villa smiles proudly because David doesn’t seem so lost anymore. Nobody would actually guess that he’s only here for the second time. Xavi actually can’t stop shaking his head at the sight.

Then Francesc Fàbregas and his family walk in, as well as Tanoukh and Daniella, and the people immediately start whispering and looking at Daniella curiously. David leans closer to Villa.

“This is her?” he asks. “Captain Fàbregas’ fiancée?”

Villa nods and raises his hand to salute Francesc. Before Francesc can answer, a lady gets up from the bench in the front and makes her way to them.

“Captain Fàbregas!” she exclaims. “What a surprise!”

“Lady Sara,” Francesc mumbles and kisses her hand. “Nice to see you again.”

“This must be your fiancée!” Lady Sara smiles.

“Yes, this is Daniella,” Francesc says. “Daniella, let me introduce you to Countess Sara Carbonero, Lady of Niebla.”

“I’m so pleased to meet you,” Lady Sara coos and kisses Daniella on both cheeks. “I already asked Captain Fàbregas to introduce us, but it seems like destiny brought us together sooner.”

“We are here mainly to see Father... Guardiola, was it?” Daniella says, looking at Francesc’s father. “I am not baptized and so we have to...”

“But of course!” Lady Sara smiles. “And actually... I think I have an awesome idea! Wouldn’t it be great if I became your godmother?”

“Lady Sara, it would be a great honor for us,” Tanoukh mumbles and bows.

“You would do this?” Daniella breathes out.

“But of course,” Lady Sara smiles. “It would make us practically a family!”

From Francesc’s face it’s clear that the idea of becoming one family with Lady Sara isn’t one he appreciates.

~ ~ ~


Xabi watches Fernando’s sailors getting on board of a ship. Fernando hugs him and sighs.

“I wish you could come back with me,” he says.

“I don’t think that will ever happen again,” Xabi smiles bitterly. “But it’s not so bad here. At least Nagore feels like home here, and well, I also can’t complain.”

“Can’t complain when your life depends on what mood Iturraspe wakes up in?” Fernando shakes his head. “Xabi, that guy is even more insane than I remember him!”

“I think he made a reasonable decision,” Xabi says. “You can at least return home. And the pirates deserve the punishment. They wanted to sell your men as slaves!”

“I know,” Fernando sighs. “I just hope one day Casillas will get what he deserves and we’ll meet again as equals.”

Xabi just smiles. Fernando walks on board and waves. Xabi watches the ship set sail and then turns back and walks to the palace.

On his way he passes Ander Herrera with a vat full of goldfish, releasing them in one of the fountains while Iturraspe is watching him from a balcony with an enamored look in his eyes. Xabi wonders whether Fernando wasn’t actually right.

~ ~ ~


When the mass is over, Francesc waits for his father, Tanoukh and Daniella to get tangled in a discussion with Father Guardiola. Then he approaches David and takes him to the side.

“I… I need to talk to Sergio,” he says quietly. “Do you think you could tell him I’d like to meet him?”

“At the Drunken Horse?” David smiles.

“No, my father seems to have his spies even there. At the Withered Rose. He will know where it is. Tell him I’ll be there tonight.”

“I will tell him,” David nods.

“Don’t tell anyone else.”

“Of course not,” David smiles.

Francesc bites his lip.

“Do you think he will come?” he asks.

“I’ll tell him to,” David says. “You two need to talk.”

~ ~ ~


The key clicks in the lock and Markel looks to the door. When Captain Llorente walks in, bad feeling creeps in his mind. When he hands him a scroll of parchment, the feeling becomes stronger.

“What is that?” he asks.

Llorente doesn’t even have the mocking smirk on. He looks rather taken aback. That can’t mean anything good.

“The order for your execution,” he says quietly.

Markel reaches for the parchment like he expects it to dissolve in his hand, like he can’t believe that it’s real. But the parchment feels like real parchment and Llorente also looks too real for it all to be a dream.

“But... I...”

I don’t believe that he signed it, this is what his mind wants to say. But the signature is well there, written by a hand that didn’t tremble. The words don’t make sense to Markel just yet, but they are clear enough otherwise.

“But I didn’t even have a trial,” he says then. “I didn’t...”

Confess to anything. But of course he did. At least to betraying his lord, conspiring behind his back with a nobleman banished from Spain by the King and the Queen, and he didn’t report a pirate ship he clearly knew about, and in the process he probably also disrespected his lord various times. It’s not only enough for one execution order; it would be enough for three.

“He can’t do this!” he whispers.

“I believe he consulted it with two judges and both confirmed that he could,” Llorente shrugs. “I’m sorry. The favor of the mighty is capricious. You never know the day and the hour.”

Markel looks at the parchment again, reads it again. Only now he is able to take in other things than the simple word “death”.

“But...” he says when Llorente is almost at the door. “I’m to be hanged? I believed I had the right to be beheaded.”

“As a knight, you would,” Llorente nods. “But if you read the rest, you’ll find out that this title was taken away from you. And as a simple peasant charged with treason, the punishment is hanging. You are still allowed to stay here until the execution, my lord asked me not to take you in jail.”

“Because it’s full of pirates or it’s an act of mercy?”

Llorente doesn’t answer, he just closes the door behind him and locks it. Markel throws the parchment on the table, goes to the dresser and pulls out a bottle of liquor. For a while he decides whether to get drunk now or keep it for the night before his execution. Then he decides for now. With a bit of luck, he will persuade Llorente to get him another one when the time comes.

~ ~ ~


Sara lifts her head when someone knocks on her door.

“Enter!” she calls.

Javier walks in and bows.

“My lady, there is someone saying he is a servant of señor Francesc Fàbregas. He wants to speak with you.”

Sara raises her brows and smiles.

“Send him in, then!” she says.

In a moment, the door opens again and Álvaro walks in, bowing to Sara with grace that almost takes her by surprise.

“What brings you here?” Sara asks.

“I... I brought you your fan,” Álvaro says and hands it to her.

“My fan!” Sara exclaims and takes it from him. “I‘ve been looking for it everywhere! Where did you find it?”

“In señor Fàbregas‘ salon. Under the sofa.”

“Oh, I must have dropped it there!” Sara smiles. “Sometimes I‘m really clumsy. Thank you... Álvaro, was it your name?”

Álvaro nods.

“I was just about to have a cup of tea,” Sara says. “Please, sit down and have some with me. For sure you are not in a rush on Sunday?”

Her dress rustles on the floor as she walks to a small serving table on which an exquisite tea service is lined up meticulously. She clinks with the cups for a moment and then returns with two of them filled with tea. She sits gracefully on a chair opposite to him and smiles.

“Not everyone would bother with returning it,” she notes and drinks a bit of the tea.

“I thought that maybe you would miss it,” Álvaro says.

“I would. It’s my favorite fan,” she smiles. “I saw your lord today, in church with his fiancée. Lovely lady, don’t you think?”

“I don’t know, my lady,” Álvaro says. “I haven’t seen her yet.”

“I promised I would become her godmother. Father Guardiola of course had some objections and wanted to torture the poor girl with Bible for at least a year until he would baptize her, but luckily we talked him out of it…” Sara keeps talking and the words become a constant buzzing noise in Álvaro’s ears, like a swarm of bees, and her strong perfume makes him dizzy.

“I… I have to go,” he says when she stops talking for a while.

Sara just smiles. Álvaro gets up and tries to grab the table for support. His head spins and he falls on his knees on the soft carpet. Sara raises a finger with a playful smile, like she is training a dog.

“Stay!” she orders.

Álvaro couldn’t move even if he wanted to. He just keeps looking at her, his mind suddenly too slow to understand what is going on. Sara looks somewhere over Álvaro’s head and smiles.

“I don’t know what your problem was, Iker,” she says. “He’s tame like a lamb.”

She moves her hand over Álvaro‘s face, closing his eyes, and he realizes that his eyelids are too heavy for him to open his eyes again.

“Good night, sweetheart!” she whispers.

The sweet scent of her perfume is the last thing his mind registers before going completely blank.

Chapter Text

David has to search the whole house before he finds Sergio. He is in the cellar, pretending that he’s cleaning the shelves, even though they don’t need to be cleaned because Xavi wouldn’t tolerate even a thin layer of dust on them.

“Here you are!” David says. “I have a message for you.”

“A message for me?” Sergio frowns.

“From señor Fàbregas.”

Sergio’s eyes light up and he doesn’t manage to hide it. Certainly not from someone as observant as David.

“What? Where did you see...”

“In church,” David explains. “He wanted me to tell you that he will be at the Withered Rose tonight and he would like to speak with you.”

“Really?” Sergio asks.

“Do you think I made it up?” David chuckles.

“No,” Sergio admits. “I don’t think you’d know about the Withered Rose if he didn’t tell you about it.”

“So will you go there?” David asks.

“I don’t know,” Sergio sighs. “I don’t have a free evening today.”

“I’m sure Villa will let you go. Or I can tell him to let you go.”

“So you now tell Villa what to do?” Sergio folds his arms.

David just gives him an enigmatic smile.

“You want me to?” he asks.

Sergio leans over the shelves.

“Alright,” he says. “I’ll go.”

“Fine. And leave the shelves alone already. I’m sure the jar with cranberries doesn’t need to be polished twice a day,” David smirks.

 

~ ~ ~


A guard walks in the dining room just when Ander Iturraspe is having lunch. When he’s occupied with food, it’s usually the best time to talk to him. However, this time it doesn’t seem to be true.

“My lord?” the guard says tentatively.

“What?” Iturraspe snaps while trying to stab his fork in a pile of peas.

“Señor Alonso would like to speak with you, my lord,” the guard says.

A pea slips from underneath Iturraspe’s fork and hits the servant in the eye. He pretends that nothing happened.

“This is so stupid!” Iturraspe exclaims.

“I beg your pardon, my lord?” the guard frowns.

“Peas. It’s stupid. I will ban it from growing in Biscay. What were you saying?”

“That señor Alonso would like to speak with you.”

“Send him in!” Iturraspe says, pushes the plate away and eyes it with a murderous expression.

Xabi Alonso walks in a moment later.

“Sit down,” Iturraspe says. “But don’t touch the peas, they’re evil.”

Xabi manages not to comment on it. He sits down and looks at Iturraspe.

“You can’t be serious about this,” he says.

“About what?”

“Markel.”

Iturraspe folds his arms.

“I see Markel has good friends when they come to plead for him. But I think the only thing that could help him would be if I was his friend.”

“And you are!” Xabi says. “It was all my fault, not his.”

“Are you telling me now that I should execute you instead of him?” Iturraspe raises his brows. “I don’t want to imagine what your wife and children would have to say about it. Leave alone that I couldn’t do it. I could only hand you over to our dear King, hail to him and all his family, forever and ever.”

He makes a face and drinks a bit of wine as if to get a bitter taste out of his mouth. Then he leans closer to Xabi.

“There was a conspiracy. Someone has to pay for it. So it’s you or Markel. Your call, señor Alonso.”

“But... there was no conspiracy!” Xabi almost yells. “I just told him about the pirates and asked him to keep you busy so that you wouldn’t notice I was gone!”

“Exactly,” Iturraspe nods. “And that is a conspiracy. It wouldn’t be if you informed me about the pirates or if he then informed me about your plans. But like this...”

Xabi sighs exasperatedly. Iturraspe picks up the fork from the table and looks at it like it’s the first time in his life he sees a fork. Then he looks back at Xabi.

“If only once,” he says slowly. “Just once, he said he was sorry. But to be forgiven, you have to ask for forgiveness, señor Alonso. And so far, no one has asked me to forgive him.”

 

~ ~ ~


Iker Casillas looks at the man opposite to him and folds his arms.

“So you are interested in the property in Ampurias?” he asks. “You don’t look like someone interested in farming.”

“You don’t look like it either, and yet you are in possession of it,” the man smiles.

Iker hates when other people are outsmarting him. Unfortunately, it happens to him a lot lately.

“True. That’s also why I’m selling it, though. I mean... the property is in great condition, it’s just that I don’t have any significant profit from it. There’s more work to it than profit.”

He hopes his lie is not too blatant.

“I am sure I will be able to put it to good use,” the man assures him. “The people working on the farm will stay, I suppose?”

“If you want them to,” Iker shrugs. “They stayed when I bought the property, but of course you can bring your own people.”

“Perfect,” the man nods. “Then we can seal the deal?”

Iker pulls a parchment closer to him and dips a quill in the ink.

“What did you say was your name?” he asks.

“López. Diego López,” the man says.

Iker scribbles it on the parchment in the empty space of the purchase contract, then signs it. Diego López reads it and then signs it as well. He shakes Iker’s hand contentedly and takes the contract.

“Thank you, señor Casillas,” he says.

“It was my pleasure,” Iker replies.

He motions for a servant to see López out. He opens the small chest with money and pets the golden coins for a while. Then he goes to inform Lady Sara about his awesome deal.

 

~ ~ ~


David collects the dishes and looks at Villa who is already flipping through his accounting books.

“Can I ask you for something?” he asks.

Villa looks at him in surprise and smiles.

“You want something from me?”

“It’s not for me,” David explains quickly.

“Ah, this is my David. I was already worried I was talking to someone else,” Villa chuckles. “What is it?”

“Well, it’s not our free evening... I mean, Xavi’s, Sergio’s and mine...”

“No, it isn’t.”

“But... Sergio would need to... go somewhere tonight. I wanted to ask you if you could possibly miss him tonight.”

Villa raises his brows.

“So Sergio needs to go somewhere,” he repeats. “Well, then Xavi will have to work alone in the kitchen and with Fábio I can’t count as with a servant because I understood he spends the nights somewhere else and I better don’t want to know where... That leaves only you in case I need something.”

“In case you need something, I’m entirely at your disposition.”

Villa manages to keep down the smile that’s fighting to get on his lips.

“Well, then... tell Sergio he can go. But instead of his free evening later this month. We have to be fair to everyone,” he says.

“Thank you,” David smiles.

 

~ ~ ~


If he could, Francesc would fall face first on his bed and fall asleep. He spent almost two days in the company of his father, Tanoukh and Daniella, and also briefly Lady Sara and Father Guardiola. He feels emotionally exhausted. The only tiny sparkle of hope he has is that maybe he will see Sergio tonight. He doesn’t really know what he wants to tell him, he just knows that he has to see him. He doesn’t know what he will do if Sergio doesn’t come, either.

“Señor!” Isco calls at him when he’s just getting ready to go to the tavern.

“What?” Francesc asks, somewhat annoyed.

“Álvaro went to the city in the afternoon and he’s not back yet,” Isco says a bit out of breath. “Something happened to him, I know it!”

“You’re exaggerating, Isco,” Francesc sighs. “He’s not a kid to get lost.”

Isco stares at him defyingly.

“I’m not exaggerating! He went to return Lady Sara’s fan. I know she has something to do with it. You have to ask her, you have to order her...”

“Countess Sara Carbonero is too high in the hierarchy for me to order her anything!” Francesc snaps. “Besides, it all sounds a bit too improbable to me. Why would she be interested in Álvaro at all?”

“I don’t know, but I’m telling you this is her work!” Isco says desperately. “She is staying with Casillas after all, you can imagine the things they are able to think of together! You have to do something! You have to at least ask her!”

“Even if she knows something and you are right, she won’t tell me, Isco,” Francesc sighs. “I’m sorry, but I think I can’t do anything. And now excuse me, I’m in a hurry. We’ll talk about it in the morning.”

Isco grits his teeth when Francesc turns around and gets on his horse.

“If she doesn’t tell you anything, to me she will,” he mutters.

 

~ ~ ~


Daniel blinks in surprise when Xabier Alonso Olano appears in front of his cell.

“I didn’t think you’d miss me,” he smirks.

“It’s not why I’m here,” Xabi says.

“Then what? Did that weird lad who apparently rules this country decide to let us go?”

“I don’t think so. He’s going to execute his best friend, so it doesn’t seem he will have mercy as for what concerns you.”

“Then it means that you are here because you need something.”

“I need to know how you escaped from Barcelona.”

Daniel smirks and leans over the bars.

“In other words, you need me to tell you all I know that could be useful to you before I’m dead.”

“To each his own,” Xabi shrugs. “You knew what you signed for when you returned to that ship...”

“Instead of leading a honorable life, blah blah blah... your noble friend with freckles spoke exactly in the same way.”

“So how did you do it?” Xabi asks.

“Well, after I landed in the prison in Barcelona, a certain nobleman came to visit me and offered me to get me out and also to give me money if I give him the same maps I drew for you. Then one night, a guard dragged me out of my cell and threw me out of the prison where that nobleman’s servant waited with a carriage and took me to his house.”

“And that nobleman was called?” Xabi asks.

“Want to guess?” Daniel grins.

“Iker Casillas.”

“You win.”

“Did you give him the maps?”

“Maps, yes. The ones I gave to you, no. And besides, he didn’t know how to read them without all your silly measurements. That’s why he took me to a port. Not the smartest thing to do. I managed to find a smugglers’ ship that took me on board and then to another port where I found my captain. You know the rest. I’m afraid it won’t help you much.”

“Well, at least Casillas isn’t the saint anymore.”

“No, but I bet the regent already knows about all this. At least I’ve heard that guard who let me out ended up on the gallows. For sure he told them who paid him before. He’d be stupid if he didn’t get himself off the rack with it. And as I haven’t heard about Casillas following him or following you, I suspect he got off quite easily. Bastards like him usually do.”

Xabi nods thoughtfully. Daniel runs a hand over the rusty bars.

“What about your friend?” he asks then. “Is he gone already?”

Xabi looks at him, almost startled, like Daniel interrupted him from some thoughts.

“Fernando?” he asks. “Yes, he is. He went back home.”

“To Barcelona?”

“I suppose he’ll just leave the ship in Barcelona, then return to Madrid.”

“So he is from Madrid?” Daniel asks.

Xabi frowns slightly.

“Yes. Why are you interested? It’s not like you’re going to see him again.”

Daniel shrugs and smiles.

“You never know, señor Alonso. You never know.”

 

~ ~ ~


Sergio walks in the tavern and looks around. It’s honestly one of the worst places in Barcelona. Some people say that the name ‘Withered Rose’ comes from the local prostitutes who are not exactly the youngest and prettiest ones. But whenever someone needs a place where everyone minds their own business, it is the right one. Also it’s one of the few open even on a Sunday.

Francesc is sitting in the corner of the tavern, a wooden mug of beer in front of him. To drink wine in a place like this isn’t a good idea unless you want to get gastric ulcers. Sergio sits opposite to him and looks at him.

“You’re here,” Francesc smiles.

“You wanted me to come,” Sergio shrugs.

The innkeeper comes to them and looks at Sergio.

“Beer?” he asks.

Sergio nods, not because he exactly wants to have some, but because it’s impossible to sit there and not order anything.

“What did you want to tell me?” Sergio asks then.

“I don’t even know,” Francesc smiles sadly. “I don’t know if there’s anything to say. I think I just wanted to see you. And to tell you that I love you. Nothing can change it.”

Sergio looks at him for a while.

“But you changed,” he notes. “Before, you used to do everything your way. You didn’t care. Now, I don’t even see you anymore, and when I do, we’re hiding here.”

“I know,” Francesc nods. “But you knew that we would always have to hide. Even if it wasn’t for my father and Daniella.”

“It was still different when she wasn’t here. You were different.”

Francesc sighs and looks around. Except for a few soldiers already fairly drunk and enjoying the company of the girls, and one old man who fell asleep in the other corner with the cup still in his hand, they are alone. Honorable citizens don’t spend the Sundays in taverns. Francesc takes Sergio’s hand.

“What do you want me to do? Just tell me and I’ll do it. I don’t care, I’ll call the engagement off, I’ll let my father disown me, I’ll go to war, I don’t care anymore!”

Sergio shakes his head desperately.

“You can’t. I don’t want it. I wouldn’t want to see you destroyed.”

“But I am destroying myself right now!” Francesc objects. “Without you, I... I don’t even feel like I’m alive, I feel like whatever I do is what my body makes in its own volition and I don’t have control over it. I don’t have control over anything anymore.”

Sergio stares in his wooden mug for a while.

“I think you should get married as soon as possible,” he says then.

Francesc looks at him like Sergio is mad.

“What?” he spits out.

“Yes,” Sergio nods and then smiles. “Because you know, once you do it, they’ll leave you alone. I mean your father and her father. And then... who would think it strange if you go to visit Villa?”

Francesc frowns.

“What would it solve?”

“Nothing,” Sergio says. “There is not a solution. Not one that we would like. But like this... we will at least see each other. We can be together at least for a while.”

“Alright,” Francesc smiles mischievously. “So I will play some comedy for them from now on.”

Sergio grins and shuffles his legs under the table so that their knees touch.

“That’s how I know you,” he says.

 

~ ~ ~


David peeks in the kitchen carefully. Xavi is washing the pans and banging them loudly in the basin.

“Lazy brat,” he mutters. “He goes out just when I ask him to get me the barrels for the meat. Now I have the meat and the marinade, but no barrels!”

“You can do it tomorrow,” David says.

“Tomorrow? Do you think I have time for it? And how long can the meat last in this heat? I put it in the cellar, but if it gets spoiled...”

David sighs. Xavi seems to be in an extremely bad mood.

“If at least the other lazy brat was here,” he continues. “I mean Fábio. But he’s God knows where. I don’t get it. Villa feeds him and lets him stay here, but instead of doing something to pay back, he is probably busy stealing somewhere with that awesome friend of his. Villa should kick him out already.”

“Speaking of Villa,” David says to cut Xavi’s monologue short because it threatens to go on until the morning. “Shouldn’t I take any food upstairs?”

Xavi’s eyes go wide like he’s just realized that he forgot about his own wedding. Then he starts lining up food on a tray.

“This should be enough,” he says when the pile is almost bigger than the tray.

“I’m not even sure I can carry it,” David smiles.

He picks up the tray and walks up the stairs. Then he knocks on the door of Villa’s office.

“Enter!” Villa calls.

David walks in a blinks in surprise. He expected Villa to be submerged in his accounting books, or in his maps, but instead of it, he is sitting in his favorite armchair, drinking wine and reading a book that doesn’t look like the heavy ones he keeps his accounting in, or like the Bible (David actually remembers the letters on the front cover of the Bible from church, which means he learned to read some new letters).

“I already thought Xavi forgot,” he says, a finger between the pages to mark the place he stopped reading at.

“He did,” David smiles. “I reminded him.”

Villa just raises his brows. David lays the tray on the table and turns back to the door.

“Where are you going?” Villa asks in an amused voice. “What did you say earlier? That you would be... entirely at my disposition?”

David hides the smile before turning to face him.

“And I am, if you need me,” he says.

“I do need you,” Villa says and gets up from the armchair. “Very much.”

 

~ ~ ~


Contrary to the popular belief, Countess Sara Carbonero doesn’t like socializing. She sees it as something necessary for her personal profit, but she actually doesn’t like people. She prefers men to women in a way because she is more likely to get things from them, but in general all people annoy her.

After a day spent mostly talking to other people – and some of them were of the sort she usually doesn’t talk to – she welcomes the solitude of her chambers. She drinks a cup of lemon balm infusion to help her sleep, and opens the window to let at least some air in. She has already gotten used to getting ready for bed on her own since she left her pregnant maid in Niebla. She doesn’t trust anyone else that much, and for sure she isn’t going to ask Jorge to brush her hair because she could end up half-bald.

Her eyes start closing as soon as her head touches the pillow. The day was hectic, but successful in all ways. Her plot is unfolding slowly but surely, and she will soon get what she desires. She smiles for herself and drifts off to sleep.

Barely an hour later, she wakes up to a blade on her neck, a hand clamped over her mouth and the eyes of Francesc Fàbregas‘ groom looking into hers.

"Don‘t scream," Isco whispers. "Or I‘ll kill you."

Chapter Text

“Where is he?” Isco hisses. “Álvaro. What did you do to him?”

“Why should I tell you?” Sara smirks, looking defiant and self-assured even in a nightgown and with a dagger up her throat.

“Because I’ll kill you if you don’t.”

“You’d be dead tomorrow as well if you did it.”

“I don’t care. Without him I’m dead anyway.”

Sara‘s lips curl up in a smile.

“Oh, this is so sweet,” she whispers. “Especially how courageous you’re trying to look, but actually you are so scared.”

“I’m not scared.”

“Aren’t you?” Sara raises her brows. “Then ask me that question, boy. Ask me if I killed him.”

The words have exactly the effect she wanted them to have. Isco makes a step back involuntarily, as if she’s possessed by the Devil, and bumps into the nightstand. A glass of water that was standing too close to the edge falls to the floor and breaks into pieces. Sara rolls off the bed and scrambles to her feet, ready to run away.

The door suddenly bursts open and reveals a sleepy Javier with a dagger in his hand.

~ ~ ~


It’s one of the few times Francesc Fàbregas walks home from a tavern in an almost-sober state. He entrusted Sergio with his horse, because Sergio’s way home was longer and because he felt that the night air would help him think.

All of a sudden, someone jumps out of the shadows and pushes him to the wall, aiming a dagger at his throat.

“Money or life!” the person barks.

It takes Francesc only a second to recover from the shock.

“What the hell, Cristiano?” he groans.

Cristiano gulps and quickly hides the dagger behind his back.

“Señor Fàbregas,” he laughs nervously. “I... eh... could we... pretend that I didn’t say anything?”

“What about pretending that I won’t arrest you while I actually will?” Francesc asks and folds his arms.

“Oh, come on!” Cristiano makes a face. “It looks worse than it is.”

“Give me that dagger,” Francesc says. “Maybe I won’t consider it an armed robbery then.”

Cristiano hands him the dagger with a guilty expression.

“Xabier Alonso’s dagger?” Francesc raises his brows. “Where did you come to this?”

“You don’t want me to reveal all my secrets, do you?” Cristiano sighs.

Francesc shakes his head in disbelief and puts the dagger under his belt.

“You can’t imagine how tempted I am to throw you back in jail,” he says. “But you are lucky that I am in a good mood tonight.”

“Really?” Cristiano smiles.

“You will clear out of Xabier’s house immediately... don’t try to tell me you’re not staying there. And if I or any of my guards catch you jumping people in the dark, you will not leave the prison complete, is that clear?”

Cristiano sighs deeply, but nods.

“You should think of a better lifestyle quickly,” Francesc says.

“I’d like to, but what can I do when the only thing I know is stealing and as for Fábio, he can’t even leave Villa’s house by day because that Casillas guy wants to have his head? If only he was more important so someone would want to for example poison his wine, but he doesn’t even interest anyone!”

“He certainly interests me,” Francesc smirks. “Don’t worry, I’ll get back at him sooner or later.”

“If I can help with it, just call on me.”

“I will,” Francesc says. “Now get out of my sight. And if I see you with another or Xabier’s possessions...”

“Don’t worry, you won’t. Uh... but... do you think he would mind terribly if I kept his underwear? Mine is kind of...”

“I don’t want to know!” Francesc barks. “Well, if you don’t mind having Xabier’s initials embroidered on your underwear, then I’m sure he won’t need it anytime soon.”

“You’re right,” Cristiano nods and scratches his head. “It would be a bit awkward.”

~ ~ ~


Villa opens his eyes when he feels David’s lips travel up his chest. David looks up at him with a curious expression, more awake than before. On the other hand, Villa feels quite sleepy. He clearly is getting old. Well, or maybe he just works too hard.

“What were you reading?” David asks.

“What?” Villa blinks at him.

“The book you were reading. What was it?”

“Ah... that. Poetry.”

“Will you read it for me?” David smiles impishly.

“Since when are you interested in poetry?” Villa chuckles.

“Since when are you?” David laughs. “I thought you only read documents and maps.”

“Mostly. But I had to take my mind off them.”

“Why?” David asks, looking so concerned and attentive that it causes Villa to smile.

“Well, I received a letter from Xabier Alonso... he had to take a great risk to send it, so I immediately knew it would be important. He wrote that pirates captured one of Carles’ ships. There is quite a commotion in Biscay because of it.”

“What happened to the sailors?” David asks.

“Well, the Basque soldiers liberated them and arrested the pirates, but they lost too much time and have to return back to Barcelona. Nobody now knows where Carles’ ship and the other one are. They lost track of them in a storm.”

“I’m sure they are fine,” David smiles and his hair tickles Villa’s chest when he lays his head on his shoulder. “I can’t even imagine something bad could happen to señor Puyol. Even the sea monsters have to be afraid of him.”

Villa laughs.

“You’re right. And well, if they are too far on the sea, nobody will have news about them until they land.”

He runs his fingers through David’s hair.

“You know, it’s strange,” he sighs then.

“What is?”

“To talk about this with someone. With you. Before, I would just... keep it all to myself, and it would keep nagging at me. Like this, when I talk about it with you, I feel so light.”

“You worry too much,” David whispers. “But I like you for it. It means that you care.”

Villa tilts David’s chin up and captures his lips. The house is now quiet, with Sergio and Fábio gone and Xavi probably already asleep or minding his own business.

“Bring the book,” Villa says when he finally lets go.

David smiles, gets up and takes the book. He hands it to Villa and climbs back on the bed.

Our lives are rivers, gliding free/To that unfathomed, boundless sea,/The silent grave!

Villa looks up in surprise when David climbs on top of him, but he only smiles mischievously.

“Go on. I’m listening.”

Thither all earthly pomp and boast/Roll, to be swallowed up and lost/In one dark wave.

His breath hitches in his throat when David sinks down on him, but David urges him on, moves in the rhythm of his words. His eyes are even darker than usual, pupils dilated in the dim light, two dark bottomless pools. The candlelight casts shadows under his cheekbones, a bit less protruding than when he saw him for the first time, but still prominent enough that even though he is not scrawny anymore, they make his face stand out. He looks almost like he doesn’t come from this world.

Only Villa can’t decide if he came from Heaven or Hell.

~ ~ ~


Javier and Isco stare at each other for a while. Both look surprised the same, and also as much reluctant to actually use the daggers they are holding. In Isco’s case the dagger is more for the impression. Javier maybe knows how to use it, but clearly never had to do it.

Isco solves the dilemma for them when he makes two jumps across the room and the third out of the open window. Javier makes a feeble attempt to pursue him, but then decides to check on Sara instead.

“Are you alright, my lady?” he asks.

“No!” Sara yells at him. “Go wake up that incompetent dumb idiot now!”

“You mean señor Casillas, I suppose?” Javier asks.

“You suppose well!” Sara growls. “And find Jorge!”

Javier nods and runs out of the room. Sara looks out of the window and curses in a way not suitable even for a soldier, leave alone a lady. She clearly got rid of the wrong servant. The other one at least had manners.

Javier comes back when Sara has already put on her outer garments, brushed her hair and meticulously washed her face everywhere Isco had touched her.

“Señor Casillas is on his way. But I couldn’t find Jorge,” Javier says.

“He’s probably busy getting another maid pregnant,” Sara spits out. “Never mind, you’ll do.”

It’s honestly the sentence that can reliably scare Javier to death anytime she speaks it.

~ ~ ~


Markel turns to the door and then back, eyes fixed on something behind the window. Captain Llorente clears his throat as if he’s not sure whether Markel is even aware of his presence.

“When?” Markel asks bluntly.

“Tomorrow.”

Markel nods and finally turns to him. Llorente fidgets. He seems to be rather unsure of how to cope with the situation because all the people sentenced to death until now were regular thugs he didn’t know and didn’t have to approach. The prison guards dealt with them.

“I’m supposed to ask if you want anything,” Llorente says. “As in... last meal, a priest, things like that.”

“A bottle of something strong would come handy,” Markel says. “But I suppose I should be at least able to stand upright if I’m to be hanged.”

“Probably yes,” Llorente nods.

“Then I would like the priest.”

~ ~ ~


Álvaro tries to move his hands but realizes that he can’t. They are bound together by a scratchy rope and so are his feet. There is a piece of cloth tied around his eyes, unusually soft compared to the coarse rope. He feels thirsty and nauseous and the cloth in his mouth doesn’t help. He tries to remember something, anything, but his mind is too clouded. Slowly he remembers Casillas’ house, then Sara, the fan, her perfume, the tea. The tea.

“Are you awake, boy?” a voice sounds next to him and Álvaro feels his heart skip a beat.

He doesn’t know that voice, can’t even tell if the person is young or old, just that it clearly belongs to a man and there is possibly an accent to it that he can’t place. Someone’s hands help him sit up. He takes deep breaths because the nausea is still there and he’s afraid that he will faint. Though maybe in a secret corner of his mind, he would welcome it.

The man frees his mouth and helps him drink. Some of the cold water splashes on Álvaro’s shirt but he actually welcomes it. The air is hot and still and he guesses that they are indoors.

“Who are you?” he asks in a shaky voice. “What do you want from me?”

“My name will not tell you anything,” the man says calmly in careful Spanish. “And we don’t want anything from you. We got payed, we do our work.”

“But what...”

“Better don’t ask too much,” the man stops him. “And rest some more. Whatever it was that they gave you, it was really strong.”

He helps Álvaro lay back down. The floor is hard but there is some blanket thrown over it in the place where he lies. And there is still the strong smell of Sara’s perfume, gardenia and patchouli with hints of honey, adding to the nausea and the fear.

For the first time he admits that Isco’s mistrust towards people of noble blood was probably justified.

~ ~ ~


Xabi heads across the hall towards Ander Iturraspe’s rooms. He usually is careful and deliberate in his thoughts and movements, but this time he actually moves as if he wants to walk right through the walls. He is only a few steps away when the door opens and a man in a black cloak runs out. In the next moment, he is followed by a porcelain cup that flies out of the room and breaks on the wall.

“Charlatans, parasites, I will drown you in those potions!” Iturraspe’s voice yells from the room.

It’s probably a sign not to come in, but as Llorente told him Iturraspe would receive him, he doesn’t want to miss the opportunity.

When he walks in, he finds Iturraspe throwing some vials and dried herbs out of the window.

“What’s the matter?” he asks carefully.

“My head,” Iturraspe says.

Xabi blinks in surprise. As far as he knows, people that are insane usually aren’t aware of it.

“Hurts!” Iturraspe barks at him. “What did you think?”

“Nothing,” Xabi says quickly.

“The things they are trying to give for it me would kill a three-headed dragon.”

Judging from the tone of his voice, he takes the existence of three-headed dragons for granted.

“What did you need?” he asks then.

“I... don’t tell me that you’re really going to do it.”

“Do what?” Iturraspe frowns.

“What you want to do tomorrow.”

Iturraspe presses his hands to the sides of his head.

“Not again!” he sighs. “I’m tired, so tired of this.”

“Tired of your best friend?” Xabi asks quietly.

“Tired of being stabbed in the back by my best friend, maybe!” Iturraspe snaps. “Tired of everyone acting like it’s perfectly fine! I just want to get this over with. And I don’t want to talk about it with anyone.”

“I’ll leave you alone, then,” Xabi says coldly. “Can I do anything else for you?”

“Yes,” Iturraspe says. “If you see my water bailiff, tell him I want to speak with him.”

“Sure,” Xabi nods resignedly.

Well, at least he tried all that he could try to do.

~ ~ ~


Isco can hear the steps behind him. The distance between him and whoever pursues him doesn’t shorten which is a good thing, but he can’t keep running around Barcelona forever.

“Hey!” the person calls.

It doesn’t exactly sound like the regent’s guards. He still keeps running, though.

“Hey! Hey, stop!”

Isco turns around and looks at the other man. Then he stops, more because his legs are threatening to give up under him anyway. Jorge leans over the wall opposite to him and tries to catch his breath.

“I want to help you!” he says when he finally manages to form words.

“Help me?” Isco frowns.

Jorge nods and comes closer. Isco doesn’t even reach for the dagger because he now knows he wouldn’t use it anyway and Jorge doesn’t look like he’s armed.

“You know where he is?” he asks instead.

Jorge nods.

“But we’d need horses, otherwise we won’t make it in time.”

“Horses?” Isco repeats. “That’s no problem.”

~ ~ ~


Ander Herrera walks in and smiles. He is probably the only person entering Ander Iturraspe’s rooms without being afraid of the consequences, though it might be due to the fact that he hasn’t known him for as long as the other residents of the palace do.

“Finally a friendly face,” Iturraspe sighs.

“I suppose the lords never have a lot of friends,” Herrera shrugs and sits on the sofa.

“No. The people at court are worse than sharks,” Iturraspe mumbles. “Sharks eat you right away. People pretend they are your friends first.”

Herrera nods and smiles.

“And then people don’t get why I prefer fish.”

Iturraspe returns the smile and sits next to him. Herrera takes his hand.

“So you believe I don’t want to eat you?” he asks.

“Right now, I maybe don’t even care,” Iturraspe sighs and lays his head in Herrera’s lap. “My head is killing me.”

“You really don’t care. You have five guards at the door but trust me enough to lay here like this.”

“That’s my problem. I want to trust someone. I need to trust someone. But always end up trusting the wrong person.”

Herrera runs his fingers through his hair gently and smiles.

“Maybe not always.”

Iturraspe gives a vague, sleepy affirmation, more like a cat’s purr when Herrera’s fingers return into his hair, playing with it. A few moments later, he falls asleep like that, still holding the younger man’s hand.

Herrera doesn’t dare to move until morning not to wake him up.

~ ~ ~


Francesc is in a good mood. After speaking with Sergio, nothing seems to be as gloomy as it did before. So he will get married. He’d have to do it anyway, sooner or later. At least he won’t have to go to war and maybe it won’t be that bad to have someone to take care of his house and his well-being. Maybe he would have chosen a different woman, but it could be worse.

And he won’t lose Sergio. He won’t let anyone to take him away from him.

He makes a resolution to visit Daniella the next day, because he should convince her and her father that he really wants the marriage if it’s supposed to be fast. He doesn’t want their parents to give them more time for bonding. And also he should visit Father Guardiola and tell him to hurry up with the baptism. It’s just pouring water and oil over someone after all, it doesn’t require months of preparations.

Everything is fine again. He is sure that after some sleepless nights, he will sleep like a baby tonight.

Only when he comes home to find the house empty and two horses and his dagger missing, he knows that he is probably rather in big trouble.

Chapter Text

“At first I thought you were the other one,” Isco says as soon as they sneak outside the city through the least guarded gate.

“Javier?” Jorge smirks.

“Yeah. He would have probably killed me for that woman and you’re helping me?”

“Well, his family is actually of noble blood, but not very rich. He could have been a page to some nobleman, only that there weren’t any near Niebla. So he ended up serving Lady Sara. The loyalty he has, I guess you have to be born with it.”

“You weren’t?”

“No way!” Jorge laughs. “Actually I’m here because I... eh... am the reason why Lady Sara’s maid can’t be here. If you know what I mean.”

“Oh. Congratulations.”

“Thank you, but I’m afraid that the poor kid won’t ever see his father. Lady Sara will chop me into pieces when she finds out I helped you. That is, if I even make it back alive.”

“Then why are you doing it?” Isco frowns.

“Because it’s unfair,” Jorge says resolutely. “Well, many things Lady Sara does are unfair and bad, but this is beyond bad. All this boy did was to be too polite.”

“Well, and he made Casillas mad as well, some time ago,” Isco admits.

“How so?”

“He refused to kneel before him.”

“Well, whatever,” Jorge snorts. “You only really have to kneel before God and the King. But your life is too high of a price for someone’s hurt pride. Especially if it’s someone like Casillas.”

Isco nods. He couldn’t agree more.

“So... which way now?” he asks.

Jorge points in one direction and sighs deeply.

“God protect us,” he whispers.

~ ~ ~


Francesc is grateful that he didn’t get drunk the night before. He needs his head clear now, if he wants to avoid, in the best case, a major scandal.

First he thinks about going to Villa’s house. He’s already helped Villa enough when he didn’t know what to do, so Villa could maybe tell him what to do now that Francesc can’t think of anything.

Then he frowns. If Isco was right - Francesc actually can’t understand why he had discarded that option so easily before - and Casillas is involved in this business, then he has to at least put up all the defenses possible.

Villa can wait. First he needs to take some precautions.

He heads to Xabier Alonso’s house, looks around to make sure that nobody is watching, and then comes in. He makes way into the bedroom, then leans over the doorstep and clears his throat.

Fábio screams and hides under the blanket. Cristiano frowns and looks to the door. When he sees Francesc, he scratches his head.

“Señor Fàbregas,” he yawns. “What a surprise.”

“Didn’t I tell you to get out of here?” Francesc asks.

“Well, but you wouldn’t be so cruel to kick me out at night, would you?” Cristiano grins.

“I will certainly kick you out now. Get dressed. Fábio, you go where you should be, and Cristiano, you’ll go with me.”

“Where to?” Cristiano asks while Fábio just peeks out from underneath the blanket.

“My house,” Francesc says. “Let’s say my guarding dog got lost and I need a new one.”

“And I should be that dog?” Cristiano frowns.

“Do you have another place where you need to be now?” Francesc asks. “Except jail?”

“No,” Cristiano says and reaches for his clothes. “I’m just afraid that when I bark, it will be with a Portuguese accent.”

~ ~ ~


Markel honestly thinks that Father Toquero looks way more distressed about the execution than he himself does. Not only he had stumbled over his words several time during the night when they prayed, he also rushed to close the windows so that they wouldn’t hear the sounds of the gallows being nailed together, and by the morning Markel actually ended up being the moral support to Father Toquero and not the other way round.

That’s probably why when Father Toquero asks “Ready, my son?”, he almost wants to laugh.

“As much as I’ll ever be,” Markel replies.

If in some strange way you can be ready to die at the order of someone who used to be your best friend, then he’s ready.

Captain Llorente doesn’t look as distressed as Father Toquero, but still his grip on Markel’s arm isn’t as firm as it probably should be. He leads him all the way to the scaffold, but then hands him over to two guards and takes place next to Iturraspe in the box on the side. He leans closer and whispers something to him. Iturraspe nods solemnly, and then lifts his eyes.

For some reason, Markel thought he wouldn’t have the courage to do it, to look at him. He even thought he wouldn’t come, that he would just wait somewhere in the palace for it to be over. But there is no guilt and no regret written on his face as he locks his eyes with Markel. Just something that could be either sadness or a reproach. And for the first time, Markel actually feels like there is a reason why he is standing here.

Why the hell did he care? About Alonso, about the pirates, about anything else than Ander Iturraspe, when he knew that he shouldn’t have. Without him, he would be still cleaning the stables, hungry most of the time. Ander didn’t have to give him anything and yet he did, out of friendship, because there was nothing else Markel could give him back. While Alonso, all he had from him were his thanks, and he couldn’t buy anything for those. Certainly not now.

The hangman looks like he is mightily bored, and yet Markel is sure that he doesn‘t have nearly as much work here as he would in Madrid or Barcelona.

“Do you want the blindfold?” he asks in a routinely oblivious voice.

Markel shakes his head.

“Last words?”

Right, now he should say something deep, something that would at least make him remembered, but he‘s not sure that he wants to be remembered at all.

“I‘m sorry,” Markel says.

The hangman waits for a moment before he realizes that it was most likely all Markel had to say. He throws the noose over his head and Markel closes his eyes.

“Stop!”

He knows the voice but doesn’t dare to open his eyes, even when he hears the steps on the wooden stairs. Then the rope leaves his neck and a hand touches his face and he finally opens his eyes.

“These waters are too dangerous, my friend,” Iturraspe whispers. “Something could eat you. It almost did.”

For a moment Markel thinks that Iturraspe went completely insane for good. Then the realization sinks in and his legs almost give up under him. Iturraspe catches him in time.

“You... you knew you would do it!” Markel breathes out. “You knew you would stop it!”

Then he looks up at him.

“Or... please, say that you did.”

“I‘m sorry I played this game with you,” Iturraspe says. “But it hurt me. I wanted you to know how it hurts when a friend betrays you. I wanted you to be sorry.”

“You’ve just taught me the biggest lesson of my life,” Markel whispers.

“I was afraid you would slap me,” Iturraspe smiles apologetically.

“I would like to,” Markel nods. “But my hands are tied.”

Iturraspe laughs and presses a kiss to his forehead. In the middle of the crowd, Father Toquero swoons with relief.

~ ~ ~


Xavi wakes up to loud noises that sound like someone rolling heavy things on the floor. When he comes out of the room, he realizes that it indeed is someone – Sergio – rolling heavy barrels to the kitchen.

“What on earth are you doing?” Xavi yawns.

“You wanted the barrels for your meat,” Sergio grins. “So I’m getting them to the kitchen.”

“Now? You were supposed to do it yesterday at a reasonable hour!” Xavi snaps.

“Well, yesterday I had other duties.”

“I can imagine, drinking with señor Fàbregas,” Xavi mumbles.

In that moment, the back door screeches and Fábio sneaks through it, only to meet an angry Xavi with folded arms.

“Another one like that,” Xavi says. “Lately I’ve been wondering if there’s still anyone working in this house, except for me.”

“David,” Sergio says.

Xavi clears his throat and goes to the kitchen. Sergio frowns and then runs after him.

“What was that supposed to mean?” he asks.

“Nothing,” Xavi says. “Will you have breakfast or are you too hangover?”

“I’m not hangover at all,” Sergio says. “I had one beer.”

“What happened?” Xavi asks.

“Well, I suppose now señor Fàbregas is about to get married, he can’t walk around the city drunk. And I never drink more than the person I drink with.”

“I would ask why you sound so cheerful about señor Fàbregas’ marriage, but I’ll keep it for later,” Xavi says. “I can only take as much at a time.”

~ ~ ~


The night – or what he thinks is night, because there are no voices and no motion around – is the longest one in Álvaro’s life. He tries to think about where he is, but he has no way to tell because he doesn’t even know how long he was unconscious. He also has no idea of who the people – and there are more – are. Most of the time he hears them speak in simple, bad, accented Spanish, like they come from different places and Spanish is the only language they can use to communicate. But sometimes, when they are further from him, he has the impression that they speak a different language that he can’t understand, can’t even tell where a word begins and ends. His mouth is free now but he doesn’t dare to scream. Most likely they are nowhere near other people anyways. He cries for a while because in all honesty, he is no hero and he doesn’t want to die, he wants to go home and curl up in Isco’s arms.

Then at one point he can hear voices, steps, clinking of metal, laughter and other sounds. He imagines this is what an army getting ready would sound like, but there are too little people for an army.

When someone touches him, he yelps, curling up into a ball instinctively.

“Easy, easy,” he hears a voice that is vaguely familiar and he remembers the man who first talked to him. “Sit up carefully, boy.”

Álvaro manages to sit up with some help of the man, whose voice and movements are strangely calm and there is almost some compassion to them.

“Feel better?” he asks.

Well, Álvaro still feels like something big smashed him over the head, but at least he’s not nauseous and dizzy anymore. He eats the few pieces of plain bread the man feeds him and drinks some water.

“Let’s go,” the man says then, cuts the rope around his feet and helps him get up.

Álvaro tries to reason with himself, persuading himself that if the man wanted to kill him, he wouldn’t feed him and ask if he felt better, but he doesn’t know these people’s customs well enough.

The man helps him climb onto a horse and ties his hands to the saddle. The horse is probably attached and led by another one because he has no control over it.

“Slow down, Karim!” someone shouts. “We have company that’s not too strong in the saddle!”

There is a chuckle in front of them and then the other riders slow down, riding swiftly, but not galloping. They stop after what seems like hours and hours of riding to refresh themselves. They keep Álvaro closer to them this time, to keep an eye on him.

“He is quite something,” someone says in an amused voice.

There is an accent to it as well, but a different one, softer and more melodic.

“Indeed. Nobody would know if we...” a second voice adds.

“No!” the voice of the man who helped Álvaro drink says resolutely. “The woman said don’t kill him, don’t hurt him.”

“But who wants to kill him or hurt him, Sami?” the first man chuckles. “You know me. I’ll be gentle.”

By the laughter that comes from the rest of the group, they obviously know him well enough to know he just said the biggest lie about himself. But Sami isn’t laughing.

“I said no.”

There is a mix of discontented groans but whoever Sami is, he clearly has some word in this group.

“You always spoil all the fun,” the man whom Sami put in his place sighs. “I’m starting to think it was better in Maghreb.”

“Then you should have stayed there, Karim!” Sami snaps. “Here you are under my command. And I say you are not touching the boy, or I will personally chop your hands off.”

After that, nobody dares to speak again.

~ ~ ~


Javier’s bad feeling when Sara Carbonero spoke her favorite words “you’ll do” was justified. Going to David Villa’s house and pretending he needed to exchange money while he actually spied there was easy. Definitely easier than sneaking in Francesc Fàbregas’ house with no pretense. Even if the house is supposed to be empty.

Suddenly someone grabs him from behind and puts a dagger to his throat.

“Are you lost, boy?” a voice with thick Portuguese accent asks.

“Let go of me!” Javier demands, trying to struggle against the hold and avoid the blade at the same time, which is not an easy task. “I’m the servant of Countess Sara Carbonero and...”

“Oh, let’s see if I give a damn about who you are... no, I don’t,” the man laughs.

“I swear, if you don’t let me go...”

“Boy, you have a dagger up your throat and you think you are the one who can threaten here?” the man growls. “Shut your pretty mouth and pray for my hand not to slip as we go inside.”

“You’ll regret this!” Javier hisses.

“We’ll see who will regret it more,” the man smirks. “But I think it won’t be me.”

~ ~ ~


The first thing Markel does when he finally fully comes to his senses is that he takes a walk in the gardens of the palace. Not that he is a big romantic, but right now they look like paradise on Earth to him. He notices that all the fountains and small ponds are full of fish now and guesses whose work it is, but has to admit that it’s actually beautiful.

Next he heads to Iturraspe’s rooms.

“Do you feel better now?” Iturraspe asks when he walks in.

“Like I was just born again,” Markel smiles shakily and sits down. “You can tell me now. You really planned it this way? That you would stop it?”

“And you thought I would let them hang you and come to watch?” Iturraspe narrows his eyes. “But it was hard to keep the game up in front of everyone. Mainly Alonso and Llorente. And poor Father Toquero. When he beseeched me in the name of God while sobbing uncontrollably, I almost granted you the pardon right away.”

“Is he alright?” Markel asks. “It was a bit too much for him.”

“Yes, I think Llorente sprayed him with holy water and Father Toquero immediately scolded him for it, so he will be fine.”

“I wanted to tell you again that I’m sorry for what I did. I was afraid of what you would do. I know I should have trusted you.”

“I thought about it a lot,” Iturraspe says. “And I think that your advisors shouldn’t be your friends, and your friends shouldn’t be your advisors.”

Markel nods slowly.

“I’ll give you back the title of a knight, I’ll give you back all the privileges. But you’ll have no influence on the political matters of this country anymore.”

“Alright,” Markel nods. “Thank you.”

“It will be better like this,” Iturraspe says and touches his arm lightly.

In that moment, Captain Llorente walks in.

“My lord,” he says and approaches him carefully. “I have a very bad... there is a very big problem.”

“And that is?” Iturraspe frowns.

“The pirates... are... gone.”

Markel tries to pretend he isn’t there at all. He just slipped out of the noose so he surely doesn’t want to be at the receiving end of Iturraspe’s anger again. Llorente would apparently like to disappear as well, but his responsibility doesn’t allow him to.

“Gone,” Iturraspe repeats slowly. “How so?”

“Well, one of them apparently had a knife and...” Llorente starts and then stops because there is actually no better explanation for it.

Iturraspe gets up, glares at Llorente and the two guards and then walks out of the room.

“Don’t dismount the gallows yet,” Llorente says gloomily to the guards. “Probably just adjust the rope for my height.”

~ ~ ~


David knocks on Villa’s door and comes in after Villa tells him to.

“You have a visit,” he says. “Señor Fernando José Torres Sánz.”

Villa raises his brows but then nods.

“See him in.”

David turns around and after a while returns with the guest.

“Do you now introduce yourself with your full name?” Villa laughs when they shake hands.

“Ah, indeed,” Fernando places a hand on his forehead. “I guess it became a habit in Biscay. You have to use all the titles you have to be worth Ander Iturraspe Derteano’s attention.”

“So things in Biscay haven’t changed,” Villa sighs.

“They have,” Fernando says. “Before Iturraspe was just playing on being important. Now for some reason he has the King’s blessing for it. He has an army, a navy, and the right to sentence people to death. I don’t know who is more insane, if him or the King.”

“The King knows what he’s doing,” Villa says. “Iturraspe is like a child. As long as you give him enough toys, he’s happy. The King wouldn’t want to rule Biscay himself, and he knows Biscay has military potential that he might need to make use of.”

“I just hope Xabi can one day come back because if he stays there, he’s bound to go insane as well,” Fernando sighs.

“What about Carles, then?” Villa asks.

“We lost them in the storm, and then those damned pirates...” Fernando runs a hand through his hair. “I could have become rich and famous. Now everyone will have me for a fool.”

“Everyone's had me for a fool for years now,” Villa smiles comfortingly. “You’ll learn to live with it.”

~ ~ ~


Francesc walks in his kitchen and stops when he sees Cristiano cleaning his nails with a dagger.

“You have a visit, señor!” Cristiano smirks.

Francesc looks at the boy tied to one of the beams, and has to grab the table for support.

“Cristiano!” he exclaims then.

“But señor, I almost didn’t touch him!” Cristiano protests. “Alright, maybe I slapped him a few times, but that was just to teach him some manners.”

Francesc folds his arms. Cristiano raises his hands.

“He was sneaking around here like some thief. Said he was the servant of some Countess Sara Cara... whatever.”

Francesc’s expression suddenly changes from stern to interested.

“Sara Carbonero?” he asks.

“Right, that’s her!” Cristiano nods.

Francesc approaches the boy who is eyeing him hatefully.

“Why did she send you here?” he asks.

The boy looks at him, then smirks and looks away.

“It will be better for you if you speak now,” Francesc says calmly, using his professional voice.

“You can do whatever you want to me,” the boy spits. “I won’t betray my lady.”

“I’m not sure if her gratefulness, if there will be any, is worth it,” Francesc sighs. “But whatever I want, you say...”

Cristiano snorts and sits on the table.

“Just tickle him with the dagger a bit more and he’ll break down, señor,” he drawls.

“But I’m not a bandit, Cristiano,” Francesc smiles, his eyes not leaving the boy’s face. “I’m a honorable citizen, a nobleman and the captain of the regent’s guards. All I want is justice.”

He turns around and taps Cristiano on the shoulder.

“Keep an eye on him until I return. No more slaps.”

Chapter Text

The prison guards look worried when Iturraspe appears there. The scolding from Llorente was one thing, but they’ve always believed Iturraspe didn’t even know where the prison actually was. Their chief approaches him carefully to give explanation.

“So, Corporal Iraola,” Iturraspe says sweetly. “I’ve heard that about fifteen pirates decided that they didn’t like our prison anymore. And you apparently didn’t impede them from going elsewhere.”

“Well, we didn’t find out they were gone until we started missing Beñat,” Iraola says. “And then we went to look for him, and found the pirates gone and Beñat... locked in the cell.”

He points to one cell where the said guard is still sitting, glaring angrily at the crowd that has gathered in front of the bars.

“The key is gone and we can’t get him out. I’ve already sent for the blacksmith,” Iraola says.

Iturraspe looks at him, then at Beñat, and then starts laughing hysterically. Nobody else dares to laugh, they just stand there awkwardly for the long minutes that he is laughing. Then he finally stops and looks at the chief of the guards.

“Send the blacksmith home,” he says. “Leave him there for some time, it will serve him right.”

At that point, another guard runs in, bows to Iturraspe and salutes his superior.

“My lord, Corporal Iraola, they found Mikel and Kike!” he says, trying to catch his breath. “Dead.”

Iraola looks positively terrified by now.

“What shall we do?” he asks before he realizes that he is the one who should be answering the question.

“You don’t know?” Iturraspe frowns. “Then I’ll tell you what to do. I have a particularly good day today. I’m not sure it will be good for you too, though.”

 

 

~ ~ ~


Both Cristiano and Javier lift their heads when Francesc walks in, accompanied by three guards. Upon seeing Jordi Alba, Cristiano slowly retreats to another room because his back suddenly starts to itch.

“Well, as I said, gentlemen,” Francesc says casually. “I caught a thief in my house, who refuses to tell me what he was looking for here. I gave him a chance to speak but apparently he’s too stubborn. So I decided to hand him over to you.”

Jordi beckons the guards who cut off the ties and drag Javier out of the house.

“Jordi,” Francesc whispers and comes closer to him. “Go gentle at first, alright?”

“And if he doesn’t speak?” Jordi asks.

“He will. Just find something he’s afraid of more than of Carbonero.”

“Damn, I don’t know if there is anything I’d be afraid of more in his place,” Jordi chuckles. “But don’t worry, I’ll try to keep him whole... or almost.”

 

 

~ ~ ~


Fernando watches David as he collects the dishes after dinner prepared by a very distressed Xavi who kept lamenting about Fernando arriving unannounced, so he couldn’t have prepared anything decent. According to David and Fábio what he cooked was more than decent, but Xavi insists that their standards are low because most of their lives they used to eat God knows what. But he is still less grumpy than usual, because David made at least his mother’s salad and even Fábio helped with cleaning the asparagus for the main course and cutting the onions and apples for David’s salad and didn’t complain even though it resulted in at least three cuts on his fingers.

“I’ve already seen faces like that,” Fernando notes when David leaves with the dishes.

“On the Canary Islands, perhaps?” Villa smiles.

“Perhaps. Well, certainly not in Barcelona. Where did you come to a servant like that?”

“On the slavery market,” Villa says calmly.

Fernando gives him a shocked look. Villa just shrugs.

“Francesc talked me into it. It was the best thing Francesc ever talked me into, if I’m to be honest.”

He gets up and brings two cups and a bottle of wine that David left there earlier.

“Listen, Villa... you know when I told you about the pirates?” Fernando asks.

“Yes?” Villa asks and pours wine in the two cups.

“I might have done a really stupid thing,” Fernando says.

“And that is?”

“I... I gave my knife to one of them. In prison.”

Villa quickly puts the bottle on the table.

“Why would you do that?” he frowns.

“I wish I knew,” Fernando sighs. “Just... he was different, you know? All of them were just the pirates everyone talks about, but this one was... I don’t know, clever, intelligent, I’d even say he had manners. I suddenly thought he didn’t deserve the same fate the others did. I know it sounds crazy, he is a pirate after all... but if even Xabi sought his help...”

“Wait... are we talking about Daniel here?” Villa asks.

“You know him?” Fernando blinks.

“I had the honor,” Villa nods. “He helped Xabi with the maps that Carles is using. He caused quite some turmoil here before he made a fool out of Casillas and disappeared.”

“Escaped from a prison here, then from Casillas, only to be executed by Iturraspe... you have to admit it wouldn’t be fair.”

“You should hope nobody will find out about this stunt of yours. Iturraspe probably couldn’t punish you once you are here, but he could still mention what you did to the King.”

“If he didn’t hate the King.”

“I don’t think he hates him that much. I’ve heard he promised him his army to reconquer Granada.”

Fernando reaches for his cup and downs it in three gulps.

“Lord, have mercy on us!” he says.

 

 

~ ~ ~


Almost all the palace except the servants has gathered in the hall. Captain Llorente and his guards, the head of the prison guards, and also the head of the palace guards are looking at each other nervously. The old scribe is getting his quills and parchments ready, Father Toquero is sitting quietly in the corner and Markel is biting on his lower lip, reminding himself that whatever Iturraspe says or does, he mustn’t comment on it.

Iturraspe sits on the chair and looks at them.

“My orders that are to be known in the whole Biscay,” he says and looks at the scribe who gives him a nod and dips the quill in the ink. “Two hundred reals to everyone who brings one of the pirates back to the palace,” he says.

The man scribbles it on the parchment.

“Who will be caught hiding one of them in their house will be hanged.”

The quill screeches a bit and Father Toquero lets out a barely audible whine.

“Should any of the pirates eventually found by the guards put up resistance, they are to be executed on the spot.”

Then Iturraspe turns to Llorente and other guards.

“Captain Llorente, how many men respond directly to you?” he asks.

“Twenty, my lord,” Llorente says.

“Then each of them will give you one lash for your incompetence. I postpone the punishment until tomorrow evening because now we need you to find the pirates. For each that is found I’m willing to forgive you one lash, so make some efforts. That guard who let himself be locked in a cell by a pirate isn’t to leave it until... next year, let’s say.”

He stretches in his chair and smiles contentedly.

“Any more orders I could give? I’m starting to like it.”

 

 

~ ~ ~


By the crackling of fire, sounds of sleepy birds and slightly cooler air, Álvaro guesses that the night has fallen. There are voices sounding from the direction of the fire, laughter and cheerful banter. Suddenly the tone of the voices changes, together with some noise coming from somewhere further away. Whatever it means, the voices now sound really angry. If this isn’t the right time to start praying, then Álvaro doesn’t know what is.

“Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven...” he whispers frantically.

For a son of someone executed for blasphemy, he‘s not doing bad. He knows many of those who go to church every day and preach to other people that what they do is wrong, can’t even tell their beads right. Álvaro actually can. His father taught him, before he accidentally threw that stone through a window of a church where the sexton was just changing the candles.

“Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death...”

“I don‘t know about the Virgin Mary,” a familiar voice says and in the next moment the ties on his wrists are gone. “But I‘m here.”

Álvaro tears off the blindfold from his eyes and throws his arms around Isco. Isco presses his lips to Álvaro’s temple firmly and runs his palms over his back comfortingly.

“Alright, move, move, we don‘t have time!” he whispers then. “They won‘t be chasing their horses for that long.”

They sneak out of the provisional camp and run into the darkness. Isco looks like he knows what he’s doing and Álvaro trusts him completely. It’s not like he knows where they are or who the other people are.

“How did you find me?” he asks.

Isco points to the place where three horses are waiting, together with a boy Álvaro recognizes as one of Lady Sara‘s servants. He waves nervously at them.

“They are still chasing the horses,” he says. “Even if they catch them, they will probably miss this one.”

“Who are they?” Álvaro asks.

“The Moors,” Jorge says. “Moorish soldiers. After the wars, quite a few of them are hiding here. The ones who survived.”

“And your lady makes deals with them,” Isco states.

“She makes deals with whoever can be useful to her,” Jorge shrugs. “These were on their way to Granada.”

“So where are we now?” Álvaro asks.

“Near Valencia. They weren’t exactly in a hurry, while we almost overrode our horses.”

“Where did you...” Álvaro asks and then looks at Isco with a shocked expression when he realizes which horses they are riding.

“Well, señor Fàbregas will probably kill me,” he says. “But actually, I prefer him to kill me than to be executed for sneaking into Lady Sara’s rooms and holding a dagger up her throat.”

“Are you sure we should go back to Barcelona?” Jorge sighs. “I’d rather ride to the end of the world. Wherever it is.”

 

 

~ ~ ~


Captain Llorente is in a bad mood. Not because of the prospect of being flogged by his own soldiers. That he can take. Worse is the bad light that this whole incident could cast on his career.

He and his soldiers have been combing through the whole port for hours, but without any success. So when a short boy stops him in front of one tavern, he is quite ready to give him the brush-off. He knows him well, mainly because Iker Muniain is the cause of all trouble going on in this part of Bilbao. Nobody actually knows what he makes his living off, but everyone knows it’s not entirely righteous bread and butter. He usually sells things that he got in an obscure manner, or provides services that nobody else would provide.

“I’ve heard you’re missing some pirates,” he says in a bored voice.

“Now listen, Muniain, I don’t have time for your stupidities!” Llorente snaps.

“And I’ve heard...” the boy drawls like Llorente didn’t even say anything. “That there is money involved.”

“Yes, but not for stupid talking!” Llorente says.

“Fine,” Muniain folds his arms. “So how much would I get for six?”

Llorente shakes his head, then stops abruptly and gapes at him.

What?” he yells then.

 

 

~ ~ ~


Francesc knocks on the door of the house Tanoukh Semaan is renting in Barcelona. Maybe the possibility of Lady Sara becoming Daniella’s godmother isn’t so big now, but he doesn’t need to be one family with Lady Sara. He mainly needs Father Guardiola to stop being stubborn and proceed with the preparations as soon as possible, and he needs to play this game as well as he can.

The door opens and a servant shows him inside the house. It’s full of expensive, exotic things, as he would expect from a rich merchant. Then Tanoukh appears in the hall and looks contentedly at Francesc and the bouquet of flowers he is holding.

“Señor Fabregas!” he exclaims. “What a surprise! Will you be staying for dinner?”

“No, thank you,” Francesc says. “I just stopped by to see Daniella. I hope it is not too inappropriate.”

“Oh, how can you even think that! You are officially engaged after all, of course you can see your future wife!” Tanoukh chuckles.

Francesc manages not to cringe.

“Please, make yourself at home, I will see if she’s in her room, maybe she went to the garden...” Tanoukh says and walks up the stairs.

Francesc sits in the armchair that looks the most normal and least dangerous, and waits. He can hear Daniella’s voice that sounds a bit hysterical and Tanoukh is probably trying to comfort her. Then he appears on the stairs again.

“She will be here in a minute,” he says. “She is upset I didn’t let her know earlier so that she could make herself more beautiful. I was trying to tell her she didn’t need it, but you know women...”

The minute is half an hour long, but finally Daniella appears on the stairs. She curtseys gracefully and accepts the bouquet with a smile.

“I’m glad you came here,” she says. “I almost thought we wouldn’t even see each other before the wedding. I know, of course, you are busy.”

“I just have some trouble right now,” Francesc says. “But it’s nothing I couldn’t solve soon. Same as the matter with Father Guardiola...”

“Oh, I have been reading the Bible for the past few days,” Daniella sighs.

“And how far are you now?” Francesc asks.

If she reads it, it will definitely help persuade Father Guardiola.

“I fell asleep when that snake appeared,” Daniella says.

Francesc resists the urge to cringe again.

“Well, there might be also a problem with your godmother,” he says then.

“With Lady Sara?” Daniella blinks. “Is something wrong with her? Is she unwell? But she was here yesterday!”

“Was she?” Francesc frowns.

“Yes, she stopped by for a cup of tea. She is really nice.”

If Francesc wasn’t persuaded that there was some evil plan on Lady Sara’s mind before, now he certainly is.

 

 

~ ~ ~


David sneaks in Villa’s room after Fernando is gone, finding Villa staring into a map.

“He looked upset,” David notes. “Your friend.”

“Well, he could have been famous and rich. You wouldn’t be upset if you had to return home with nothing?”

“I’d be glad I’m alive,” David shrugs. “But I’m not a sailor.”

“And you’re wise,” Villa smiles. “Not a fool, nor a dreamer.”

“But I do have dreams. I’ve just learned to keep them to myself. It’s safer.”

“And you wouldn’t share them... not even with me?” Villa asks and pulls David in his lap.

“Why now? They’ve come true,” David smiles.

“All of them?”

“Most of them.”

“And those that haven’t?”

“Those can’t come true. There are dreams that can, and some that have to stay dreams.”

“What are they for, then?” Villa asks, trying to put David’s fringe in order and failing miserably.

“Dreaming,” David smiles. “They are the places your mind goes when you can’t sleep because you’re sad or afraid.”

“And you go there often?”

“No,” David says and kisses him. “Not anymore.”

 

 

~ ~ ~


Ander Herrera lifts his head when Iturraspe comes inside the room where he is sitting in a sofa, trying to move as little as possible not to break anything that is in the room.

“Have I done anything wrong, my lord?” he asks.

“Why do you think so?” Iturraspe raises his brows.

“I was told not to leave your rooms.”

“Ah, so,” Iturraspe smiles. “You think that you’re a prisoner in my rooms.”

He sits next to him.

“We have pirates on the run around here right now. I would prefer to keep you safe, and there isn’t a safer place than my rooms. Not even the prison, as it proved.”

Herrera nods thoughtfully.

“Like when you want to release fish in a pond,” he says. “You have to make sure there are not any predators in the water.”

“Are my rooms such a bad place?” Iturraspe asks.

“There are no fish,” Herrera says. “Otherwise it’s fine.”

“Well, once the pirates are caught, and I hope they will be caught soon, you can go back to your fish.”

“No, it’s... I mean... I do love my fish, but... I don’t prefer them to you.”

“I guess this is an honor,” Iturraspe smiles.

“You’re tired,” Herrera states and runs his fingers across Iturraspe’s face like he is touching a water surface.

“It was a long day,” Iturraspe nods. “Though I’m sure for someone it was even worse. I mean Markel or Father Toquero.”

“It’s strange,” Herrera smiles.

“What is?”

“That they believed that you would do it,” Herrera shrugs.

“You didn’t?”

“No. Never.”

“Why?”

“Because when a fish bites me, I don’t kill it,” Herrera says. “And you understand this.”

“Yes, I do.”

“See? You could never kill him,” Herrera smiles.

Iturraspe smiles and reaches for his hand tentatively, after which Herrera finally deems it safe to move. Just before their lips can touch, there is a knock on the door.

“Go away or I’ll behead you, whoever you are!” Iturraspe yells.

The person doesn’t dare to knock again. Iturraspe sighs.

“Sometimes I feel like a fish myself,” he says. “Whenever I want to have a moment for myself, someone decides to go fishing.”

“You need to swim deeper, then,” Herrera smiles. “And not let anyone to lure you out.”

“Lure me away from you? I can’t imagine a bait that could do that.”

“If when they find the pirates I’ll have to go, I hope they never find them,” Herrera whispers.

“Honestly, the pirates are right now the last thing on my mind,” Iturraspe says and kisses him.

 

 

~ ~ ~


On his way to Villa’s house, Francesc stops by in prison. He meets Jordi on his way to the guards’ room.

“Ah, Francesc!” Jordi says. “I needed to speak with you.”

“What is the matter? Have you gotten anything out of my thief?”

“Well, that is the matter. How gentle am I supposed to be? Because I’m running out of methods that could still be regarded as gentle.”

“Really?” Francesc frowns.

“Usually such boys, you just show them the worst things you have here and explain how they work, and they spill out everything. He didn’t even look impressed. All I’ve heard from him so far were threats and swearing. By the way, do you even know who he is?”

“Who?”

“Javier Manquillo.”

“Manquillo, Manquillo...” Francesc mumbles. “It is supposed to tell me something, isn’t it?”

“His father is a hidalgo de sangre. They’ve lost their fortune but not their noble blood of course. And I’m not sure I’d want to explain to that man that I tortured his son for nothing.”

“It’s not for nothing, trust me. And someone who’s only deemed worth of carrying Lady Sara’s fan can’t be that important. But alright, I take the responsibility.”

“Not that it calms me down that much, but at least I can say you gave me the order now,” Jordi grins. “What exactly do you need to know?”

Francesc looks around to make sure nobody is listening.

“I think Lady Sara Carbonero is up to some very suspicious business that involves also Casillas,” he says quietly. “And I want to be a step ahead of her. But right now I’m probably a step behind.”

“And are you sure that you can win this game?” Jordi asks.

“No,” Francesc sighs. “But I need to at least try.”

 

Chapter Text

Jorge, Isco and Álvaro don’t dare to stop all night long. It’s mostly Jorge leading them, because out of them three he at least knows the land a little bit. The Moors, if they were trying to chase them, probably gave up because when the sun rises, there is no trace of them. It doesn’t mean the end of troubles, though. A group of soldiers appears as soon as they ride out of the forests, and encircles them. They look like they belong to an army of someone wealthy, and they don’t seem to be happy to see them.

“What are you doing here?” one of the soldiers asks.

“Why are you asking?” Isco retorts. “Do we look like bandits?”

“It’s our duty to stop everyone who is crossing our borders,” the soldier says firmly. “There are too many Moors sneaking around lately.”

“Certainly,” Isco says through gritted teeth. “We are running away from some of them.”

The soldier suddenly looks intrigued.

“You mean they are after you?” he asks. “Why would they chase you?”

“If for nothing else, then for letting their horses loose,” Jorge smirks.

The soldier frowns and another one comes closer to them cautiously.

“They’re just fooling you, Cristian,” he says.

“Maybe. Maybe they are not,” Cristian says calmly and turns back to them. “You let their horses loose just like that?”

“No. To distract them,” Isco says. “And help my friend here whom they were holding captive at Lady Sara Carbonero’s command.”

Cristian and the other soldier exchange surprised looks once they hear Sara’s name. Then Cristian nods resolutely.

“I think you should explain this to our captain,” he says.

~ ~ ~


Lady Sara Carbonero is in a very bad mood. Not only did a groom dare to touch her and threaten her, she is now missing both of her servants. None of her plans seem to work.

“Maybe you should retreat a little bit,” Iker suggests.

“I am not you!” Sara snaps. “I can do it without the incompetent servants. When I see them again I will make sure they regret it, but right now I don’t need them. Now it’s your time.”

“My time?” Iker asks, slightly worried.

“Yes. My task was getting close to Fabregas, which I’ve almost perfectly achieved, through his fiancée. That woman is in the seventh heaven just because I’m a noblewoman treating her as equal. When they get married and I’m her godmother, we’ll be practically one family. He won’t be able to do anything against me.”

“And my task is?” Iker dares to ask.

“Villa!” Sara barks. “Who else?”

“But... how am I supposed to get to him?”

“Didn’t I give you enough clues already?” Sara sighs. “I’ll tell you again. You better listen this time.”

~ ~ ~


“I swear, if you’re making fun of me, Muniain...” Captain Llorente growls.

He wouldn’t listen to someone like Muniain normally. But the tiny hope of getting six lashes less justifies him wanting to at least try.

“I never joke when it’s about money,” Muniain says.

“So where do you have them?”

“At a secret place. I promised them I’d take them away on a boat.”

“And now you’re betraying them to me?” Llorente frowns.

“They have nothing to pay me with. So your offer is better.”

“Fine. So lead us, you Judas.”

Muniain smirks and leads Llorente and a few of his guards to a dark yard behind one of the worst taverns in the port. He motions for them to hide in the shadows or behind the empty kegs, and opens a small door that leads apparently to some cellar. After a while, all six pirates come out in the yard. Llorente shakes his head in disbelief before walking out of the shadows.

“Well, look who we have here,” he says and folds his arms while the guards move to catch the pirates. “My lord is very upset that you didn’t find our prison to be hospitable enough. But he is willing to accommodate you once more. If you refuse, though, he has given the permission to execute you on the spot.”

The pirates don’t seem to make a clear choice, only swearing loudly, the curses most likely addressed to Muniain. Muniain doesn’t mind at all, approaching Llorente with a contented smile.

“What about my reward?” he asks.

“And you think I carry hundreds of reals with me while on duty?” Llorente asks. “You want your money, you’ll have to ask someone else.”

“Who?”

“The one who promised it. Iturraspe.”

Muniain sighs. He is not sure that Iturraspe is someone he wants to come too close to. He hopes that at least the money will be worth it.

~ ~ ~


Francesc heads to the prison in the morning. He finds Jordi going through some parchments.

“Ah, I’m so glad you’re here,” Jordi says. “I hate this. Why do they have to write everything down? The people it’s about can’t read anyway.”

Francesc smiles and sits down.

“So?” he asks.

“Well, Lady Sara has quite loyal servants,” Jordi says and puts his feet on the table.

“He didn’t speak?” Francesc blinks.

“But of course he did, everyone does, eventually,” Jordi smirks. “Well, I’ll be honest with you. I couldn’t get anything out of him for a day. Then there was something that required my attention and Negredo, if you remember him, offered to take my place. By the time I came back, Negredo already knew everything.”

“I hope the boy is still alive.”

“That’s the thing with Negredo. He doesn’t have a scratch, well, almost. But he will probably dream of Negredo for quite a few nights.”

“So what is it that the lovely Lady Sara has plotted against me?” Francesc smiles.

“It doesn’t really seem like she’s plotting against you, she just has something against your servants.”

“So it’s true?” Francesc asks, bewildered. “She is really behind that thing with Álvaro?”

“I know as much that she paid some Moorish soldiers to take care of that business. And then apparently your other servant...”

“Isco.”

“Appeared at night in Lady Sara’s bedroom...”

Francesc covers his face with his hands.

“With a dagger that I assume was yours...”

A desperate sound escapes Francesc’s lips.

“And threatened to kill her if she didn’t tell him where Álvaro was. The young Manquillo apparently interrupted him and your dear servant escaped through the window. But that’s all he knows about it. Then she sent him to your house just to ensure Isco wouldn’t tell you she was behind it, but of course Isco wasn’t there while your new Portuguese servant was.”

“Cristiano my servant? Not even in my wildest dreams,” Francesc chuckles. “I don’t want him to steal the roof above my head. Fine, so we know she plotted against my servants, but why?”

“I think if the boy knew, he’d have already said it. Do you really believe Lady Sara discusses her plans with her servants? Do you discuss yours?”

“Only when I’m drunk,” Francesc says. “Alright. Thank you, Jordi.”

“Wait, and what am I supposed to do with him now?” Jordi asks.

“Well, I don’t need him to run to Lady Sara, telling her I already know about her plans. Can’t you keep him here for a little more?”

“When he already confessed? To a crime that he didn’t commit while Cristiano basically committed a crime on him? Francesc, when I write about this to the regent he will send me to shepherd sheep on the pastures!”

“Alright,” Francesc sighs. “Then do what you must. Actually, maybe if she changes her plans, it will be better.”

“Or worse,” Jordi states.

“After Isco’s stunts?” Francesc makes a face. “It can’t be much worse.”

~ ~ ~


Ander Herrera wakes up when the birds in the garden start chirping. It’s a different sound from the one that used to wake him up back home, the voices of hungry seagulls and waves hitting the rocks. This is cheerful, tender chirping of sparrows and robins, and the air smells not of salt and algae but of flowers and wood. He moves carefully but Iturraspe still wakes up and pulls him closer possessively, like a favorite toy.

“Where are you going?” he mumbles. “The audience isn’t over before your lord gives you the permission to leave.”

“Even the audience in bed?” Herrera giggles.

“Especially that one,” Iturraspe says contentedly.

“Do I still have to call you ‘my lord’?” Herrera asks.

“And what would you want to call me? Goldfish?”

Herrera laughs quietly.

“Goldfish? No, that doesn’t suit you. You’re more like... a Fairy Basslet.”

“Why?”

“You’re beautiful and peaceful, when you’re well taken care of. But if not, you get territorial. And you’re quite finicky as well. Like Fairy Basslets. They rather starve to death than to settle for something else than they want,” Herrera smiles. “But I’d rather call you ‘my love’.”

“My love,” Iturraspe repeats. “Nobody has ever called me that.”

“That is sad.”

“It is.”

“I don’t like you sad.”

“Then call me ‘my love’.”

“So I can?” Herrera smiles.

“No. You must.”

Herrera giggles again and hides under the covers when someone knocks on the door.

“What is it?” Iturraspe yells.

“Breakfast is ready, my lord,” a nervous voice announces from behind the door.

“I hope there are eggs!” Iturraspe says.

“Well, my lord, we still don’t have...”

“I don’t care!” Iturraspe shouts in the direction of the door. “When I come to the table, there will be eggs, even if you have to lay them yourself!”

“As I said,” Herrera says contentedly and wraps his arms around him. “Finicky like a Fairy Basslet, my love.”

~ ~ ~


Javier drags his feet towards Iker Casillas’ house. If he ever felt honored to be chosen to accompany Lady Sara to Barcelona, now he envies everyone who was allowed to stay in Niebla, beginning with Beatriz, the maid who is expecting Jorge’s child, Saúl, a servant who always breaks things Lady Sara likes the most and thus wasn’t deemed safe to approach her tea service, and ending with Óliver whom Lady Sara kicks out of the house regularly at least twice a week only to call him back when she realizes that the dishes don’t wash themselves and vegetables don’t peel on their own.

He sneaks inside the house, hoping at least for Casillas to be gone because Casillas surely knows how to chop someone’s head off with a sword while Lady Sara probably doesn’t have these skills. Though with Lady Sara he can’t be sure even of that.

“Well,” Lady Sara says when he enters her rooms, not stopping to wave herself with her fan. “I hope you have a very good excuse, boy. Care to tell me where you spent last two days?”

“In prison, my lady.”

Judging from Lady Sara’s face, it was a good excuse.

~ ~ ~


Francesc leads his horse in Villa’s stables. He is so lost in thoughts that he doesn’t notice Sergio until he jumps on him and kisses him.

“Do you want to kill me?” he laughs.

“Do you?” Sergio asks. “I haven’t seen you for days! Were you that busy fooling your fiancée?”

“My fiancée hasn’t see me much more than you did,” Francesc says. “I have other problems, that’s why I’m here. I hope Villa is here and not in church with his exotic servant.”

“He’s here,” Sergio says. “But I was hoping you were here because of me.”

He throws his hands around Francesc’s neck and pulls him closer.

“Later,” Francesc laughs and pushes him away gently. “I need to talk to Villa and for that I need to be still able to think clearly. Which I couldn’t in the proximity of his groom.”

Sergio makes a face but doesn’t protest any further. Francesc enters the house through kitchen, the way he usually does because he almost feels at home here so he doesn’t need to use the door for visitors. Xavi looks at him and immediately starts lamenting about not having anything fancy prepared for dinner.

“Calm down, Xavi, I didn’t come for dinner,” Francesc says. “I’ll settle with a cup of wine.”

He walks up the stairs to Villa’s office and knocks. The door opens and David looks at him with surprise. Then Villa appears behind him.

“Oh, a visitor!” he smiles. “Come in.”

David leaves the room and almost gets knocked to the floor by Xavi who is running inside with a plate with cheese, fruit, some bread and cold pork. He goes back to kitchen and starts peeling the onions Xavi prepared on the table. Sergio is still in the stables and Fábio is sniffing around the pots on the stove before Xavi comes back.

Suddenly someone knocks on the front door resolutely.

“Well, it’s busy here today,” Fábio notes. “Will you go there?”

David nods and walks to the hall while Fábio keeps inspecting the contents of the pots. He opens the door and freezes. He is standing face to face with Iker Casillas.

~ ~ ~


The soldiers keep surrounding Isco, Álvaro and Jorge as they ride in silence towards a fortress standing on one of the hills. There Cristian tells them to get off the horses and leads them inside. They reach a small room that looks a bit cozier than the others. The furniture is still simple and purposeful, but there are decorative weapons on the walls and there is a fireplace. A man is standing by the fireplace with his back turned to them.

“Captain Bartra?” Cristian says.

The man turns to them. He can’t be much older than they are, but there is something noble and resolute about him, some charisma that would never let anyone doubt the decision of whoever gave him this position.

He looks at Cristian and then at them.

“Lieutnant Tello,” he nods. “What is the matter?”

“These people were crossing our borders and they have a very... unusual story.”

Captain Bartra sits in the armchair by the fireplace and motions for them to sit on the other chairs.

“I’m listening,” he says.

He indeed listens to them attentively, like he doesn‘t want a single word to escape him. No surprise, no emotion shows on his face.

“This is indeed hard to believe,” he says when they finish. “Do you have any proof?”

They look at each other like they can’t believe their ears.

Proof?” Isco asks.

“Yes. Proof that this is all Lady Sara’s plot.”

Well, Álvaro could describe Lady Sara’s perfume quite well, but he doubts that Captain Bartra knows what Lady Sara smells like. For Captain Bartra’s own sake he hopes that he doesn’t. Then it all slowly connects in his mind. Her perfume. He could smell it even far away from Barcelona. He has the impression that he can still smell it now. He reaches in his pocket and smiles.

“Actually, I do,” he says and hands Captain Bartra the scarf that was tied over his eyes.

Captain Bartra takes it and inspects it closely. Then he looks at Álvaro and back at the scarf. In one of the corners, there is embroidery, with the initials S.C. bold and clear.

It’s the only mistake Countess Sara Carbonero made in this ingenious plan.

Chapter Text

Captain Llorente walks in the dining room accompanied by Muniain and Father Toquero, who mysteriously found out about the pirates’ arrest and insisted on asking Iturraspe for permission not to attend the execution.

Iturraspe doesn’t even notice that they are there. He’s listening attentively to Herrera’s explanations of mating rituals of trouts. Llorente clears his throat. Iturraspe turns to him with a murderous expression and jabs a fork in the huge piece of ham in the middle of the table.

“What is it?” he barks.

“My lord, we have found six of the pirates,” Llorente says, glancing nervously towards the fork. “They are back in jail already.”

“Perfect. This is who?” Iturraspe asks and points at Muniain.

“Iker Muniain. He turned the pirates in to us. Now he would like to have his reward.”

“Then give it to him,” Iturraspe shrugs. “Why are you even interrupting my breakfast?”

Llorente gives him a look of disbelief.

“Are you sure, my lord?”

“It was my word, wasn’t it? Two hundred reals for every pirate. Six times two hundred, give him one thousand two hundred reals and be glad that he spared you six lashes,” Iturraspe says and looks at Father Toquero. “And what are you doing here?”

“My lord,” Father Toquero mumbles. “I wanted you to ask for permission to... not go to the execution of the pirates.”

“How, not go to the execution? How many priests do you think we have here? You want them to die without confession, without the last prayers, without the chance to repent?”

Father Toquero looks like he is about to faint on the spot, like Iturraspe is the priest and he the worst sinner. Herrera gets up from the table and touches Iturraspe’s arm lightly.

“I think Father Toquero could use some time out of the city,” he says quietly. “By the water, perhaps. Just watching the fish, maybe, it calms you down like nothing else.”

“That doesn’t tell me who will take care of the execution,” Iturraspe says, but he already sounds half convinced.

“For sure there is someone?” Herrera says and looks at Father Toquero who senses his chance and immediately starts wrecking his brain, trying to think of a solution.

“There... there is this young priest, he has just been ordinated recently...” he blurts out.

“See?” Herrera smiles. “It’s been too much for poor Father Toquero lately, he needs some rest. And this young priest will at least get some practice.”

Iturraspe frowns.

“On the responsibility of you two,” he says then. “Go watch the fish, Father, but if this young colleague of yours messes something up, the bishop will first hear about it from me, and I will mention also why he was in charge of it.”

Father Toquero nods quickly and runs out of the dining room before Iturraspe can change his mind. Also Muniain and Llorente disappear because the audience went way better than they thought.

“And you, my love,” Iturraspe turns to Herrera. “Don’t try to manipulate me ever again.”

~ ~ ~


Isco looks mightily annoyed, Jorge would probably want to disappear somewhere far away, only Álvaro is his usual quiet and polite self. Which annoys Isco even more because being bossed around by a pretty young thing in a uniform hurts his pride greatly. Captain Bartra folds Lady Sara’s scarf carefully, like it’s a part of his uniform that needs to be in perfect order, and then looks at them.

“Can we... go now?” Jorge asks with last remnants of hope in his voice.

“Not yet,” Captain Bartra says calmly. “I believe my lord would like to have a word with you. This is a very interesting matter and certainly can’t be just forgotten.”

He gets up and checks his uniform.

“We are going back to the city tomorrow,” he says. “Until then you can rest. I’ll tell someone to bring you some food and water.”

The door closes behind him with a quiet clack.

“I’m dead,” Jorge whispers. “I’m seriously dead.”

“Why?” Isco asks.

“You know who his lord is?” Jorge asks.

Isco shakes his head. Jorge sighs deeply.

“Sergi Roberto, the Duke of Tarragona. Lady Sara’s nemesis.”

~ ~ ~


David keeps staring at Iker Casillas like it’s the first time he sees him. It almost feels like he does because Casillas doesn’t look the way David remembers him. He isn’t wearing his best clothes and doesn’t have the fake, sweet smile on his face. He looks even more frightening like this.

“Won’t you see me in?” he asks.

David swallows hard but doesn’t move.

“It’s called good manners, but probably nobody taught you that,” Iker taunts. “Villa isn’t a master in this domain either.

“This way, my lord,” David says, the offense finally giving him some courage.

“Perfect. Thank you.”

“But señor Villa already has a visit.”

“Really?” Iker raises his brows. “And I thought my old good Villa was a loner. Well, I suppose his visitor is Captain Fàbregas, and I don’t mind speaking in front of him. Go tell him that I’m here.”

David nods and walks up the stairs. He knocks on the door and enters without being given the permission to come in. Both Villa and Francesc turn to him.

“What is it?” Villa frowns.

“Señor Casillas,” David whispers. “He’s waiting in the hall.”

“He is what?” Francesc jumps up. “He dares to walk inside this house?”

“He wishes to speak to you,” David tells Villa. “And says he doesn’t mind speaking in front of Captain Fàbregas.”

Villa and Francesc exchange confused, slightly worried looks.

“See him in,” Villa says. “Let’s see what he’s come up with this time.”

~ ~ ~


“So, if I understand it well, you told them all about my plans,” Sara says, not ceasing to wave herself with her fan.

“But I didn’t want to, I swear!” Javier blurts out.

“You still did,” Sara says and gets up. “I wonder what your father will have to say when I tell him that his son is a traitor who cannot keep his lady’s secrets. And also I will have to tell him that I will have to take back the fields he has on my properties. I can’t afford to support disloyal families.”

“No, please, just not that!” Javier begs and falls on his knees in front of her.

Sara at least stops waving herself, which hopefully means that he has her attention.

“I should have taken Óliver with me,” she still mutters.

Javier wants to object that Óliver would be the first to send Lady Sara to hell in Javier’s situation, as his level of loyalty isn’t even high enough for him to let someone prick him with a needle for his lady, but he knows better than defy Lady Sara in her bad mood.

“But I will believe you,” she says then and lifts Javier’s chin with the folded fan. “You didn’t want to tell them my secrets. That sneaky Fàbregas was simply one step ahead of us, and his insolent servant stepped over the line this time. You would never betray me willingly, would you?”

“No,” Javier whispers. “Never.”

“Good. So I will forgive you. But you know what it means. I now expect complete loyalty from you. I hope you take my point.”

Javier nods quickly. Sara sighs and puts her fan on the table.

“So get up,” she says. “And make me a cup of tea.”

~ ~ ~


It’s already dark outside, but Jorge keeps repeating that he is dead and nor Álvaro, nor Isco have the strength to tell him to shut up. Isco is in a bit better mood, which is caused by the food on the table, but when he notices Álvaro didn’t even touch it, he immediately starts to fret over him.

“I’m fine, I just didn’t eat almost anything for the past few days,” Álvaro says.

“Well, and then when do you plan to start?” Isco frowns.

Álvaro nibbles at a piece of bread and Isco rolls his eyes.

“Will you tell me now what exactly that witch did to you?” he asks then, ignoring Jorge who starts lamenting himself louder.

“I don’t know what she did,” Álvaro shrugs. “I came to return her fan. She invited me for a cup of tea. That’s all I remember.”

Isco rolls his eyes and hugs him.

“When I next want to let you go somewhere alone, remind me you’re a clueless child who thinks noblewomen invite servants for a cup of tea on daily bases.”

“Or you’ll just go yourself,” Álvaro smiles. “She surely wouldn’t have fooled you.”

“I’d pour that tea over her head,” Isco growls. “What kind of woman is she? And... hey, Jorge, what is it with Lady Sara and the Duke of Tarragona? So that we know what to prepare ourselves for.”

“The worst,” Jorge says gloomily. “Last year, when the old Duke, Sergi’s father, was still alive, Lady Sara decided she would marry Sergi. Well, she wanted his money, titles and properties of course, and also to get closer to the King, because his family is somehow related to the House of Trastámara. She invited herself to Reus and basically asked the old Duke for his son’s hand. He agreed to it. But then he suddenly died and Sergi immediately called the engagement off. In front of the whole court, in a way that left Lady Sara literally fuming.”

“I think I would like to hear that,” Isco grins.

“Yes, I believe he said something in the sense that she should marry someone her age,” Jorge says and cringes. “And that he wasn’t planning to get married in the next ten years or so, and that he would let her know when he would change his mind, if she was still interested. Which he said in a tone that made it clear that he meant actually if she was still alive.”

Isco laughs out loud and even Álvaro smiles. Jorge gives them a terrified look.

“You’re acting like she could hear us,” Isco makes a face.

“Well, back then in Reus, Óliver laughed,” Jorge whispers. “It was terrible. She let him walk all way back to Madrid next to the carriage.”

“I honestly hope the Duke hates her the same she hates him,” Isco says. “Because then we could maybe sympathize.”

~ ~ ~


Iker walks in Villa’s room and salutes both Villa and Francesc formally. Then he turns to David who is about to walk out of the room.

“Would you stay for a while?” he asks. “I think this matter may also concern you.”

David blinks in surprise, but then moves to the corner of the room. Iker smiles contentedly and looks at Villa.

“I knew you weren’t the most honorable person in the world, Villa, but that you were also a thief, I ignored.”

“How dare you...” Francesc raises from his chair.

“Don’t you have a servant in your house that doesn’t belong to you?” Iker asks, ignoring him.

Villa sighs and Francesc sits back in the chair.

“You probably mean Fábio.”

“Of course I do mean him. Because as far as I know, he was, and strictly speaking, still is in my service.”

“That doesn’t mean that I stole him from you.”

“That’s why I’m here,” Iker says. “Because I believe that we can solve this matter without going to the regent with it and making a scandal out of it. It’s just a servant after all, and not a very good one. So I hope you recompense me and we will forget about it.”

“I’m not going to recompense you for treating your servants so badly that they run away from you!” Villa snaps.

“My servants, you said it right. I can treat them in any way I want.”

“He’s right, Villa,” Francesc says quietly. “Fábio was his servant. You are supposed to recompense him. Either with money or with a servant of yours.”

“Fábio is a human being, Casillas, he doesn’t have a price,” Villa says firmly.

“Right,” Iker nods with a smile, then raises his hand and points at David. “But this one does.”

Villa just looks at him, apparently unable to think of an appropriate thing to say. Francesc looks slightly embarrassed.

“I could ask for a lot,” Casillas smiles. “But I won’t. I’ll only ask for your slave. For you, he is worth the two hundred reals you bought him for. For me he is worth exactly what Fábio was worth. And we can conclude this matter peacefully. Otherwise...”

David looks at Francesc, then at Villa and finally at Casillas. Then he grabs Villa’s dagger off the wall, grips it with both hands and aims it at his own heart.

“In a while I shall be worthless for you, my lord,” he whispers.

 

Chapter Text

Francesc is the fastest to react. He jumps to David, grabs him around the waist with one arm and uses the other hand to twist the dagger out of his hands. When he throws it to the ground with a loud clank, David slumps back against him.

“What was that, you fool?” Francesc snaps at him. “What did you think you were doing?”

David looks at Villa who looks completely petrified, and at Casillas who also seems to be taken aback a bit.

“You said that I wasn’t a thing,” David says, eyes boring into Villa’s. “So I wanted to decide my fate myself.”

Villa moves like he wants to hug him, but realizes in time that there’s also Casillas in the room.

“Let’s cut this nonsense,” he says and clears his throat. “Casillas, David doesn’t equal money.”

“We could polemicize about this,” Iker says calmly. “But alright. Then you have to recompense me.”

“You don’t have to,” a quiet voice sounds from the door.

Both Villa and Iker turn that way and Iker’s eyes narrow when he sees Fábio standing there.

“What do you mean?” Villa asks.

“This is all because of me,” Fábio says and enters the room. “And you don’t have to recompense señor Casillas if I come back to him.”

“What... no!” David blurts out, trying to set himself free from Francesc’s hold.

“It’s all he’s asking for, so I’ll go with him and it’s all solved.”

“You can’t,” David whispers.

“Fine!” Iker says, ignoring him completely. “Then we could consider this affair closed.”

“You can’t,” David repeats.

“You saved my life,” Fábio says and looks at him. “It’s time for me to pay you back.”

“Touching,” Iker growls. “Let’s go.”

He straightens his clothes and shoots a winning smile at Villa, maybe not as wide as he wishes he could, but he still knows that he’s leaving as a winner.

“You can’t let him,” David cries as Iker pushes Fábio out of the door like a disobedient kid, and he tries to get to Villa but Francesc is still holding him, so he just tugs on Francesc’s sleeve desperately. “You can’t let him, he will kill him!”

“Well, and what should I have done?” Villa snaps. “Let him kill you instead?”

David glares at him, then runs out of the room without saying anything. Villa sighs and sits in the armchair.

“I should have strangled the bastard the moment he walked in,” he mumbles.

“Unfortunately with people like him, the law is usually on their side,” Francesc says. “Isn’t it strange, though, that he started missing Fábio just now? And how did he know that he was here? I thought nobody knew about it, except your servants.”

“Well, that’s it. I wouldn’t be surprised if Sergio mentioned it somewhere in a tavern.”

“Only that Sergio hasn’t been going to any taverns lately,” Francesc reminds him. “And Casillas starts acting only when Lady Sara Carbonero visits him... I bet she has something to do with this, same as she’s behind the disappearance of my two servants.”

“Is she on a crusade against servants?” Villa frowns.

Francesc shrugs and reaches for the cup of wine, forgotten on the table.

“Question is, who could have told her that you had Fábio in your house, and what she wants from us. The sooner we find out, the better.”

~ ~ ~


Xabi walks down the gardens of the palace, then stops when he spots Markel staring absent-mindedly at a group of birds playing in the branches of a tree.

“What are you doing here?” he asks.

“Nothing,” Markel says. “That is my problem. Because Ander told me what I mustn’t do, but omitted to tell me what I was actually supposed to do now.”

Xabi chuckles.

“That sounds exactly like Ander,” he nods. “Is he King yet, by the way?”

Markel smirks and leans back in the bench.

“No. That plan is postponed.”

“Why?”

“Because Ander found the love of his life.”

“Really? Who?”

“Our water bailiff. In other words, a boy who talks to the fish and thinks that they have feelings. I’d say they think very much alike.”

“Goodness gracious,” Xabi sighs.

“You understand that the King’s ugly, mad daughter can’t even compete with Ander Herrera and his weirdness,” Markel laughs. “I’m actually quite glad that it’s this way. Maybe he will also forget about his crazy plans to lead a war against Granada.”

“Those were indeed crazy plans,” Xabi nods. “But Captain Llorente will be sad if there is no war.”

“Captain Llorente has different problems now,” Markel says. “Twenty... no, fourteen now... lashes for his incompetence to hang the pirates, and a few pirates still running around here.”

“Is one of the arrested ones... Daniel?”

“I have no idea,” Markel shrugs. “I better don’t ask about the pirates... you understand why.”

“Of course.”

“I think I’ll ask Ander if I can at least go back to cleaning the stables,” Markel sighs.

~ ~ ~


Even though Álvaro has already seen the regent’s house, the palace of the Duke of Tarragona is no less grandiose. More, it looks like the person who lives there actually has some style, while the regent only fills it with expensive things.

When they enter the reception hall, Álvaro and Jorge bow, Isco bows when Álvaro pokes him in the ribs. Captain Bartra approaches the Duke and starts explaining something to him in a low voice. The longer he speaks, the more intrigued the Duke looks.

“Lady Sara, you say?” he frowns. “Lady Sara made a deal with Moorish soldiers to get rid of a servant who displeased Iker Casillas?”

“I know it sounds crazy, my lord...”

“No,” Sergi laughs. “I’m actually quite ready to believe it. And why exactly did this ingenious plan fail?”

“Apparently because of one of her servants,” Captain Bartra says and points at Jorge.

“You are Lady Sara’s servant?” Sergi asks.

Jorge falls to his knees.

“My lord, please, behead me because what Lady Sara will do to me will be much worse!” he pleads.

An amused smile appears on the Duke’s lips.

“I’m not favorable to beheadings and we don’t even have a swordsman, I’m afraid... do we, Marc?”

“No, he died last year,” Captain Bartra says. “And you didn’t appoint a new one.”

“I’m not even going to.”

“Then... arrest me for something so that I don’t have to come back to Barcelona!” Jorge exclaims. “What do I need to do to get arrested here?”

By that point, Sergi is openly laughing.

“I will try to think of something,” he says then and looks at Álvaro. “The victim of that plan was you?”

Álvaro nods.

“Yes, my lord.”

“Did they hurt you?”

“No, my lord.”

“No, but they wanted to take him to Granada!” Isco snaps, ignoring Captain Bartra’s scolding look when he speaks without permission. “Whatever is in Granada.”

“The last Islamic state on the peninsula,” Sergi says calmly. “I suppose it was a very lucrative deal for them.”

“Very what?” Isco asks.

“Good for them,” Álvaro hisses.

“They got paid once by Lady Sara, then they would get paid for the second time in Granada.”

“Paid for what?” Isco asks harshly.

“For what?” Sergi raises his brows and his eyes flicker to Álvaro and back. “For who.”

Isco opens his mouth and closes it again. Sergi looks at Captain Bartra.

“Send some men in the direction you came from. Maybe they can find these Moors.”

“What will it be good for, my lord?” Captain Bartra asks.

“If what they are saying is true, then Lady Sara has committed, or at least tried to commit an awful crime that violates the papal bull. A crime for which the word of servants won’t stand against hers, though, and one silk scarf won’t be a proof big enough for the King.”

“You want to bring this to the King?” Captain Bartra asks in disbelief.

“If need be...” Sergi smiles mischievously and for the first time also Isco looks like he might find some sympathy for him. “Someone has to show her that not everyone is afraid of her.”

Captain Bartra doesn’t look convinced, but he just bows and leaves the hall. Isco cheers up noticeably, while Jorge looks close to fainting. Álvaro seems to be deeply humbled by the fact that such things are going on because of him.

“And until then,” Sergi says and looks at them. “You are my guests.”

~ ~ ~


Ander Iturraspe walks in the chapel where Father Toquero is already expecting him with a young priest who looks rather nervous.

“This is Father San José,” Father Toquero says.

“Father Toquero told me that you were ordained recently,” Iturraspe says.

“Last month,” Father San José says.

“But he led the mass very well,” Father Toquero quickly intervenes.

He secretly hopes that as the mass he has in mind was not on Sunday and thus Iturraspe wasn’t present to it, nobody will inform him that Father San José forgot to say “Go in the peace of Christ!” before he left with the altar boys, and the people remained sitting in the church until Father Toquero found out what was happening.

“So the confession, the last Eucharist and the final prayers will be up to you. Are you sure that you will manage to handle it on your own?” Iturraspe asks.

“With God’s help...” Father San José says. “I’ve already heard confessions.”

“Then I would confess.”

Father San José shoots a terrified look at Father Toquero, who just shrugs.

“Y-you?” he whispers.

“Father, if you are afraid of hearing my sins, how can you hear the pirates’?” Iturraspe smiles.

“O-of c-course,” Father San José says and shows him to the confessional.

Father Toquero starts praying quietly.

~ ~ ~


Iker looks a bit unsettled when he enters the dining room and finds out that Sara organized something that looks like an intimate dinner for two. She looks very pleased for some reason and it worries Iker because he is not sure that there is anything to celebrate.

“You did very well,” Sara says and gives him a bright smile.

“You think?” Iker frowns. “But I only got Fábio back, and I thought you said the slave...”

“Of course, of course,” Sara smiles condescendingly. “But I didn’t really suppose Villa would give you the slave.”

“No?” Iker blinks.

“No. And the fact that he didn’t just confirms what we needed to be confirmed.”

Now Iker is beyond confused.

“What we needed to be confirmed?” he asks.

“Have you ever asked yourself,” Sara says in a forcibly patient voice. “Why would Villa be so reluctant to give you a slave instead of much more money than he bought him for?”

“I don’t know,” Iker shrugs.

“Because he cares about him!” Sara snaps. “And why would he care about a slave?”

“You mean...” Iker whispers.

Sara just smiles and eats a piece of chicken.

“And why... did you want me to get Fábio back?”

“Because,” Sara puts on the patient tone again. “We might have the suspicion, but we need also proof. Or at least, a testimony.”

“And if he didn’t actually see them do anything?” Iker frowns.

“Then he better put his fantasy to use,” Sara narrows her eyes.

“I see your servant is also back,” Iker says and clears his throat. “Where was he?”

“In prison,” Sara says through gritted teeth. “On Fàbregas’ command. Where Fàbregas let his barbarian friends torture him to find out about my plans. Tough opponent he is. But I will get him where I need him, don’t worry.”

Truth is that Iker is worried. A lot.

~ ~ ~


Francesc comes to the stables where Sergio is already waiting, looking at him curiously.

“What did that bastard want?” he asks. “And what did he do to David?”

“Luckily he didn’t do anything to him,” Francesc says. “Why?”

“He’s pretending to be weeding the flowerbeds at the back of the garden,” Sergio says. “That obviously means that he’s crying there.”

“Casillas found out that Fábio was here. And came to ask Villa to give him either money, or David in exchange for his servant. Finally he left with Fábio.”

“Oh,” Sergio gasps. “Which means that we can start mourning for the Portuguese fool. Casillas will kill him.”

“Don’t you, by any chance, know how he could have found out about Fábio?” Francesc asks. “I mean, couldn’t you or anyone else have mentioned he was here?”

“I surely didn’t mention it anywhere,” Sergio pouts. “And Xavi and David almost don’t leave the house, and even when they do, they are not the kind of people to tell secrets everywhere. Maybe someone saw him when he went to meet the other Portuguese thief?”

“Maybe,” Francesc nods. “Or maybe someone saw him in this house? Didn’t Villa have customers lately?”

Sergio’s face looks tortured like every time he tries to think hard about something.

“There was this boy,” he says then. “He came to exchange money for his master, he said. It was weird because the merchants don’t usually do it this way. And then he accidentally walked in the kitchen instead of going out. David had to see him to the door. Sure he had to see Fábio in the kitchen.”

“A boy, you say? A stranger?”

“Didn’t talk weirdly,” Sergio shakes his head. “Actually, he didn’t look like someone who would run some merchant’s errands.”

“In what sense?”

“He looked too clean and too well-behaved for that,” Sergio snorts. “And posh. He looked at David like David was supposed to clean his shoes.”

Francesc nods and runs out of the stables, back into the house and in Villa’s office.

“A boy who came to exchange money for his master,” he says breathlessly.

“What about him?” Villa frowns.

“What do you remember about him?”

“He said his master sent him to exchange money, and that he was a merchant from Provence.”

“So we have a clean and well-behaved boy, who looked posh and despised a slave, didn’t speak with any accent despite being allegedly from Provence, sneaking in your kitchen on his way out.”

Villa looks at him, all confused.

“You know who it was?” he asks.

“I think that I do,” Francesc nods. “Javier Manquillo, Lady Sara Carbonero’s servant. Or rather, spy.”

Villa just bangs his fist into the table helplessly.

~ ~ ~


Isco looks around the room and then sits on the least comfortable chair, like all the sofas and armchairs scare him.

“If I knew that I’d end up as a prisoner myself, I don’t know if I’d go to save you,” he says and looks at Álvaro.

“The Duke said ‘guests’, not ‘prisoners’,” Álvaro smiles.

“Well, I believe Lady Sara also said ‘have a cup of tea’ and not ‘I’ll almost poison you and sell you to the Moors’!” Isco snaps.

“But that was Lady Sara,” Álvaro shrugs. “Not everyone is like her.”

“You liked him,” Isco states.

“Who?”

“The Duke of Tarragona.”

“Isco!” Álvaro exclaims. “How can you think that?”

“I saw how you were looking at him. And I know you’re into noblemen.”

Álvaro laughs.

“How am I into noblemen?”

“Well, the things I’ve heard about señor Alonso...”

“I didn’t like señor Alonso like that, Isco!” Álvaro sighs and pokes him in the ribs. “And if you want me to be honest, fine, the Duke of Tarragona is... winsome. But I would never change you for a dozen of dukes.”

“Anyway, if he wanted to, you couldn’t really say no to him,” Isco mutters.

“But there is no way he would want to, so you don’t need to worry,” Álvaro smiles.

“How can you know?”

“You were probably really busy observing the way I was looking at him,” Álvaro chuckles. “Otherwise you would have noticed the way he was looking at Captain Bartra.”

Isco gapes at him for a moment. Álvaro laughs and hugs him.

“Is there anyone of who you wouldn’t be jealous?”

Isco is about to kiss him when someone knocks on the door. They jump a good meter away from each other.

“Enter!” Álvaro calls.

A servant opens the door and walks in.

“My lord asks you to join him at the dinner,” he says.

“Here you go,” Isco mutters. “Let’s see if tea will be served.”

 

Chapter Text

Markel walks across the hall and turns into the corridor that leads to Iturraspe’s chambers. He almost bumps into Captain Llorente.

“Oh...” he says when they exchange excuses. “Have you seen Ander?”

“He’s scaring off the young priest, I suppose,” Llorente says. “If you excuse me now, I have to receive my fourteen lashes. And I would like to get it over with as soon as possible. I don’t think Iturraspe will appear there and give me the pardon.”

Markel just nods awkwardly. To be completely honest with himself, he didn’t expect Iturraspe to give him the pardon while he was his best friend. So Llorente has all the right reasons not to expect it.

He would wish him courage or something in that sense, were he not sure that it would sound a lot awkward, even more because he and Llorente are not really friends, and because in all honesty, Markel is one of the reasons why they are even putting up with the pirates now.

“And by the way,” Llorente turns around like he is not going to receive fourteen lashes but just to get a cup of milk in the kitchen. “I’ve seen you in the gardens with Alonso. I hope you are not plotting any foul things again.”

“Are you now spying on me?” Markel frowns.

“I’m just watching you,” Llorente smirks. “It’s my duty.”

“Your duty is to protect your lord.”

“Exactly. And that is what I do. See you later.”

~ ~ ~


“So?” Sergio asks when Francesc walks back in the stables. “Suspicion confirmed?”

“I think so,” Francesc sighs. “If only I could have kept that little spy locked up longer, I wouldn’t let him slip this time. He’d spill out even Lady Sara’s deepest secrets.”

“Given that he’d know them,” Sergio smirks and comes closer to him. “I don’t know yours, for example.”

“I’m not your lord, remember?” Francesc smiles.

“Good that you aren’t,” Sergio says. “I don’t know if I’d dare to kiss my lord.”

“And you dare to kiss me when I’m not your lord?”

“I dare to do much more,” Sergio says and kisses him.

Francesc doesn’t even say anything when they land in the hay right next to a pitchfork. The mental image of the whole city trying to figure out how the captain of the regent’s guards could die in his friend’s stables impaled on a pitchfork even amuses him.

“How about your wedding?” Sergio asks then.

“Do you have to mention it now?” Francesc frowns. “I’ve managed to forget about it for a moment.”

“And about your fiancée?” Sergio laughs. “You know, I think I’ll go to see her one day. I’m curious if she’s really that horrendous.”

“Don’t even think about that!” Francesc growls, pulling Sergio closer.

“Why not? I’ll just look at her, from a distance.”

“No, you won’t,” Francesc says resolutely and flips them over, pinning Sergio under him. “You’ll stay here and pretend that you don’t exist anymore.”

“That’s kind of hard,” Sergio laughs. “The whole city knows that I still exist.”

“The whole city doesn’t matter. If my father doesn’t hear about you, I’ll be perfectly happy.”

“Fine. I’ll take care of not crossing the old grumpy man’s way,” Sergio says. “As long as the young grumpy man crosses mine often enough.”

“Grumpy?” Francesc yells. “Did you just call me grumpy?”

“And what will you do to me if I call you grumpy again?”

“Bury you under this hay so that nobody will find you again,” Francesc smirks. “But that will be only the last part.”

“I’d rather see the parts before that.”

“I don’t think it will be much about seeing,” Francesc narrows his eyes.

“Even better,” Sergio grins.

~ ~ ~


Isco looks at the pile of clothing that was brought to him and curses. It isn’t any high-fashion, actually it’s not different from what the servants he had seen on the corridors wear, but he still doesn’t even know what belongs on which part of the body. He usually contents himself with a shirt and simple pants, and he would content himself with them also now, but truth to be told, after the long journey they need to be washed. And when Isco admits that himself, it means that it’s very obvious. He, unlike Álvaro, doesn’t wash his clothes every two days.

He fumbles with the ties on the shirt and curses again.

“Can’t you even put a shirt on?” Álvaro’s amused voice sounds behind him.

“I can, just this...” Isco says, turns around and gasps.

Because if he didn’t know this was Álvaro, he would bow to that person. He is wearing practically the same thing Isco has been trying to put on, but wearing it with such grace that it leaves Isco speechless. He even has the short cloak that Isco has never put on in his life as he simply never came across an occasion special enough to do so, hanging over one shoulder casually like he wears it every day.

“What?” Álvaro laughs when Isco just stares at him.

“You do not only speak like a prince, now you look like one.”

“You’re silly,” Álvaro laughs and adjusts Isco’s shirt.

“This belongs where?” Isco asks and picks up another piece of garment.

“Over the shirt,” Álvaro smiles.

“And this,” Isco pokes his hand through a slash in the fabric. “Is supposed to be there?”

Álvaro is practically crying already.

“Yes, this is supposed to be there, you sweet idiot!” he says. “Your shirt is supposed to show through that slashing.”

“And what point is there in making more holes in clothes than necessary?”

“Lord, have mercy,” Álvaro sighs.

~ ~ ~


“...may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,“ Father San José says and wipes his forehead. “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.”

Iturraspe walks out of the confessional with a wide smile. He kneels in front of the altar, crosses himself and walks out contentedly. Father San José, though, stumbles out completely exhausted.

Ander Herrera is feeding the fish in one of the fountains in the gardens when Iturraspe finds him.

“Are you still upset?” he asks. “I mean, for what I said about Father Toquero.”

“No,” Iturraspe shakes his head. “Now I’m upset because you ignored my wish.”

“Your wish?”

“To stay in my rooms when the pirates are still on the loose.”

“You expect the pirates to be taking a walk in your gardens?”

“No, but...”

Herrera grins and then splashes water in Iturraspe’s face. Iturraspe jumps back and glares at him.

“You splashed water at your lord!” he says and folds his arms. “Do you know what the penalty is for that?”

“No,” Herrera giggles. “What is the penalty for that?”

“I don’t know yet,” Iturraspe says. “But it will be severe.”

Herrera’s smile gets wider.

“Will you send the guards to arrest me?”

“No, I’ll catch you myself.”

With loud laughter, Herrera runs away from the fountain, with Iturraspe pursuing him. They almost run into a frightened gardener who drops his watering can and then looks on with horror as Iturraspe runs right through a line of flower beds. Herrera slaloms between a few apple trees, then he jumps in another fountain, a bigger and more shallow one with statues in the middle. He runs to the center and stands under the spray coming out of one of the statues.

“You think that you won?” Iturraspe folds his arms.

“Didn’t I?” Herrera calls and climbs on the base of the statue.

Iturraspe smirks and then jumps in the fountain. Herrera doesn’t stop laughing until Iturraspe reaches the center of the fountain as well, having slipped twice and thus soaking wet.

“You’ve just lost!” he announces contentedly.

~ ~ ~


When the guards at the door let them in the dining room, Isco feels at least a bit more relieved when his suspicion that the whole court would be present to the dinner isn’t confirmed. Instead, there are just the Duke and Captain Bartra sitting at the table. A servant points out three chairs to them.

“I sent ten men in that direction,” Captain Bartra says. “As we don’t know exactly how many of the Moors there are...”

He glares at Álvaro, Isco and Jorge as if the mere existence of Moors is their fault.

“Perfect,” Sergi smiles at him reassuringly. “Thank you.”

“I still don’t know how the King will believe the Moors more than he would believe the servants. If we find them, of course, and if-”

“Lady Anna!” the guard by the door announces.

“Ah, my sister!” Sergi smiles.

Álvaro taps Isco on the shoulder when the door opens.

“You have to get up when a lady enters!” he whispers.

Isco huffs in annoyance, but gets up. Lady Anna walks in and looks at Isco, Álvaro and Jorge, who is trying hard not to gape at her.

“Oh, we have guests!” she smiles and sits down next to Sergi.

“Well, guests...” Sergi smirks. “More like... allies.”

“Allies? In what cause?”

“In a cause called feeding Lady Sara her own medicine,” Captain Bartra says.

“Marc, this is no way you speak to a lady,” Sergi frowns.

“So it’s again about Lady Sara?” Anna asks, completely ignoring whatever way of speaking Captain Bartra used. “I thought we were free of that woman at last.”

“Unfortunately not. She really crossed the line this time. She even made a deal with some Moors.”

“I understand,” Anna sighs. “Just... be careful, brother. She is capable of anything.”

“I couldn’t agree more, my lady,” Jorge mumbles gloomily.

“Don’t worry, I won’t go to the King with a simple suspicion,” Sergi says. “I will go there when I know I have enough proof to destroy her.”

The servants bring the plates and bowls with food. Isco frowns at all the silver on the table, then glances at Álvaro who picks up a fork as if he doesn’t need to think about it at all. He is not the only one watching Álvaro with awe.

“Where did you learn all of this?” Lady Anna asks. “I don’t want to offend you, but I haven’t seen many servants with such manners.”

“Ah, my lord taught me,” Álvaro smiles.

“Who is your lord?”

“I mean, my former master. Señor Xabier Alonso.”

Lady Anna smiles sympathetically.

“Oh. I’ve heard about what happened to him.”

“I hope you don‘t believe all of it,“ Álvaro mumbles. “Actually, it was why this all started.”

“In what sense?” Sergi asks.

Álvaro tells him the whole story about Alonso’s maps and Casillas’ visit at their house, ignoring Isco who looks like he will stab him with the biggest fork on the table.

“That was a very dangerous thing to do,” Sergi says. “I mean, taking the maps to Captain Fàbregas. Well, opposing Casillas as well.”

“With Casillas’ combat technique? I doubt it,” Captain Bartra chuckles. “Once during an army parade he almost lost his eye because he forgot how long his sword was.”

Judging from the amused smirk on Sergi’s face, he remembers it as well.

“I had to do it,” Álvaro shrugs. “I owed it to señor Alonso.”

“Well, what I think is that Casillas is being Lady Sara’s puppet,” Sergi says. “He doesn’t have the brains she has.”

“But what does she actually want?” Captain Bartra frowns.

“That is of course what we have to find out,” Sergi says and tries hard to ignore Anna’s worried face.

The only person who seems to share her worries is Jorge.

“I’m not sure that I want to know,” he mumbles and reaches for another piece of chicken.

~ ~ ~


Father Guardiola is preparing the sermon for the next morning mass when he hears a carriage stop in front of his door. He closes the Bible and goes to open the door.

A servant jumps out of the carriage and then Lady Sara appears, wearing dark dress and a velvet coat with a hood. The servant helps her get off the carriage and looks around carefully. Lady Sara hurries inside the house and only there she takes off the hood.

“Lady Sara, what an unexpected visit!” Father Guardiola says while Lady Sara sits by the fireplace.

“I would also like it to stay a secret visit, Father,” Lady Sara says.

“If it’s about your... goddaughter...”

“No, it’s not about Daniella,” Lady Sara dismisses him. “Though I hope you will stop being so stubborn and proceed with the formalities quickly. I came for a different reason.”

“And that is?” Father Guardiola asks.

“I came to seek advice.”

“If I can be of any help...”

“Maybe you can,” Lady Sara says and thinks for a moment before speaking again. “If I want to make a denouncement to the Inquisition Tribunal, who do I need to speak to here in Barcelona?”

Father Guardiola just stares at her like the Devil himself appeared in front of him.

~ ~ ~


Sergio wakes up in the middle of the night. He isn’t sure what exactly it was that woke him up, but as he is already up, he tells himself that the leftover chicken in the kitchen is probably feeling lonely there and he should keep it company.

He throws away his blanket and goes to the door. Then he stops in his tracks and scratches his head, trying to make his sleepy mind work.

In the next moment he runs in the other room and shakes Xavi awake.

“What is it?” Xavi groans.

“Get up!” Sergio yells and shakes him again.

“What... did I forget to prepare the bread dough?” Xavi’s eyes snap open and he sits up.

“I don’t know and I don’t care about dough,” Sergio says. “But David is gone!”

“Gone?” Xavi frowns. “Gone where?”

“I don’t know, if I knew, I wouldn’t be here!” Sergio says. “But his bed is empty!”

“Wait, wait...” Xavi says and yawns. “Let’s not panic. Did you look for him?”

“No! But where would he go?”

“Well, you look in the garden, I’ll look around the house!”

Sergio nods and runs to the garden. Xavi searches the kitchen and the cellar, even looks behind the kegs with meat, even though there is no reason why David would be hiding there in the middle of the night.

Then he goes to check the hall and finally walks up the stairs. He looks in Villa’s office, Villa’s father’s old bedroom, the guest rooms and the walk-in wardrobe. He is probably fairly loud while doing it, because when he is about to go to check the attic, the door to Villa’s bedroom bursts open and reveals Villa in his nightdress, a candle in one hand and a dagger in the other.

“Xavi!” he snaps while Xavi is recovering from the shock. “I thought you were a thief!”

“Señor, I’m sorry, I...” Xavi blurts out when a loud crash sounds from the garden.

“What was that?” Villa frowns.

“Probably Sergio,” Xavi mumbles.

Villa looks at him and purses his lips.

“And can you tell me what you two are doing up at this hour, sneaking around the house like thieves?”

“I... well, we are looking for...”

“For what?”

“David,” Xavi says and cringes.

“David,” Villa repeats. “Why is that?”

“Because he’s gone,” Xavi says.

Gone? How... gone?”

In that very moment, Sergio runs up the stairs.

“No trace in the garden,” he blurts out before realizing that Villa is standing there as well.

Villa looks from one at another.

“I think you’ll have to explain something to me,” he says then.

Chapter Text

“So David is gone. Just like that.”

Sergio and Xavi cower because Villa’s eyes are sending lightnings in their direction.

“I... I woke up and he was gone,” Sergio mumbles.

“If you didn’t sleep like a log, it wouldn’t have happened!” Xavi bickers.

“Well, and what am I, his guard? If he decided to run away, then how would you want me to stop him?”

“Enough!” Villa roars. “Sergio, didn’t David tell you anything?”

“No,” Sergio shrugs. “He didn’t even go to have dinner. After Casillas left, he was crying in the garden for some time... and then went to bed. He was sleeping when I came back... or well, maybe pretending to be asleep.”

“But where would he go?” Xavi asks. “At night? He doesn’t know the city. And why would he want to run away now, it doesn’t make sense.”

“Maybe Casillas kidnapped him!” Sergio offers.

“Sure. He broke inside the house, burst in your room and kidnapped him without you waking up,” Xavi cringes. “That would have woken up even you.”

“True,” Sergio nods.

“Well,” Villa says and gets up. “Sergio, saddle a horse for me.”

“N-now?” Sergio looks at him. “Where are you going?”

“To look for him.”

Sergio looks at Xavi like he expects him to try to talk some sense into Villa, but when he says nothing, he goes to the stables.

~ ~ ~


Isco finds Álvaro on the battlements. The place is unusually silent, the only sounds being those of the steps of some guards walking somewhere below them. Overall, compared to Barcelona, Reus is a calm and friendly place. Isco feels happy for its inhabitants to be saved from Lady Sara.

“Where is Jorge?” Álvaro asks.

“Probably having naughty dreams about Lady Anna,” Isco says and Álvaro slaps him on the shoulder. “Of course, it’s no way I should speak about a lady.”

He looks into the darkness.

“Do you trust him?” he asks then and looks at Álvaro. “The Duke. I know you trust almost everyone including witches like Lady Sara, but do you really believe that he can help us?”

“He’s the only one who can,” Álvaro shrugs. “I mean, señor Fàbregas couldn’t do anything even if he knew. Lady Sara is a Countess after all.”

“I know, he told me,” Isco frowns. “Refused to move a finger for you. He’s even worse than your señor Alonso who fled and left you behind.”

“He had to flee and left me behind for my good,” Álvaro says firmly.

“Alright,” Isco raises his hands, taken aback by the sudden hostility in Álvaro’s voice.

Álvaro walks closer to the edge of the walls and leans over it. He still remembers the day he met Xabier Alonso Olano for the first time.

The day of the execution, the blacksmith for whom Álvaro‘s father worked kicked him out of the house. It was only logical that he wouldn‘t feed someone‘s son, leave alone a son of someone executed for blasphemy. It still meant that Álvaro had nowhere to go.

He wandered around the town until he crossed the way of the crowd heading to the square to watch the execution and the crowd drew him in like a flood. Someone recognized him right away, then everyone was looking at him, the men swearing at him, the women whispering while covering their mouths with their hands, making the sign of the cross occasionally, their eyes flickering from him to the gallows like it was written on his face that sooner or later he would end up there as well. He didn‘t care. All he could think of was that he didn‘t understand how it was fair to kill someone for breaking a window. Even if it was a window of a church and it was bad, but it was just an accident and his father wasn‘t a bad man.

Suddenly a young nobleman stood next to him and laid a hand on his shoulder.

“Don’t look, boy,” he said and turned Álvaro to him. “You don’t have to look.”

There were some discontented voices around but one look of the nobleman silenced them.

“Come,” he said then. “Don’t turn around. Don’t look.”

He was gripping Álvaro’s shoulders so tightly that he couldn’t turn around even if he wanted to.

“Do you have a place to go?” he asked.

Álvaro shook his head and sniffled. He didn’t have any other family and now almost surely no friends either. Nobody would even give him any work there.

“Would you want to come with me?”

“Where to?” Álvaro whispered and looked at the nobleman who was smiling kindly.

Wherever it would be, it couldn’t be worse than what was waiting for him here.

“Home. To Barcelona.”

Álvaro didn’t remember much more from that day. He spent almost all the journey crying in the nobleman’s shirt, then fell asleep and only woke up when the carriage stopped in front of a big house in Barcelona. He never returned to Madrid again.

“You know, the Duke is a lot like señor Alonso,” he says, looking back at Isco. “When you need help, he helps you, whoever you are. He doesn’t judge.”

“And he has quite a lot of things against that witch, which is good,” Isco nods.

“You really held a dagger up her throat?” Álvaro asks.

“Yes. And you know what?” Isco grins. “I loved it.”

~ ~ ~


Father Guardiola says a quiet prayer in his mind before finding the words to answer Lady Sara.

“I suppose your... accusations... would be grave and soundly based,” he says and raises his brows.

“Grave, yes. Soundly based... what would that mean?”

“You would have to have proof, at least some. Though most of the offenses you could denounce in front of the Inquisition Tribunal are hard to find... material proof, let’s say, for.”

“What about witnesses?” she asks with a slight smile. “Wouldn’t that be enough?”

“You would have more of them?” Father Guardiola whispers.

“I would have...” she starts, but stops herself before she can blurt out the as many as I please part. “Enough.”

“Alright, then,” Father Guardiola licks his lips. “Then, you would have to meet a person called fiscal. He would investigate the denunciation and question the witnesses.”

“The accusation would be anonymous, I presume?” Sara asks.

“Of course. The... accused... will not know the identity of the accuser.”

“Perfect,” Lady Sara smiles. “Then... who is the fiscal here in Barcelona?”

~ ~ ~


Iturraspe walks in his rooms and motions for Markel to follow him. Markel looks at him and raises his brows.

“You’re wet,” he states.

“Awesome observation,” Iturraspe grins. “I sure didn’t notice.”

He throws his wet coat on the floor and takes a clean towel to dry his hair.

“What did you need?” he asks.

“I wanted to talk to you. Though maybe Llorente already told you. Because it seems like he is now watching my every step. Probably he has me for the biggest threat out here.”

“Oh, don’t mind Llorente,” Iturraspe smiles and hugs him. “He’s bitter, suspicious and spoils every fun. Except mine, because nobody can spoil my fun.”

“I wanted to ask you what I was supposed to do now that I can’t intervene in any politics.”

Iturraspe throws the towel to the opposite corner of the room just for the sake of throwing things and goes to search for a dry shirt in his wardrobe.

“Actually, I do need something from you,” he says once he wins the fight against the silk ties on the shirt.

“Please, don’t tell me that you now want to go fox hunting, because the hunters spent weeks shooting the foxes to save our hens,” Markel sighs.

“No, I don’t want to go fox hunting,” Iturraspe laughs. “But tell me... how long has it been since we last organized a feast?”

“Not so long, but the last time you were so drunk that I’m not surprised you don’t remember it.”

“But it’s my birthday in a week.”

“I know, you celebrate birthday every year.”

“True,” Iturraspe says and grins. “But this year, I don’t want to celebrate it like every year. I’m tired of those boring feasts.”

“Then what am I supposed to do?” Markel asks.

“You are supposed to organize a feast that will not be boring,” Iturraspe says contentedly. “I don’t care how much it costs, I don’t care what it requires. I just want one thing.”

“And that is?”

“I want there to be fish.”

“Fish?” Markel repeats. “Excuse me, but... it’s just to make things clear... the fish should be... in their cooked state or alive?”

Iturraspe looks at him and folds his arms.

“I will give you a question. Let’s see if you’re my best friend or if I should have your head chopped off. What do I hate the most in the whole world?”

“More than the King of Spain?” Markel asks.

“The only thing I hate more than the King of Spain.”

“Salted cod.”

“Exactly. So the fish should definitely be alive.”

“Will do.”

When he walks out, he almost bumps into Ander Herrera, soaking wet.

“Was there a flood?” Markel asks.

Herrera just laughs and runs away. Markel shakes his head and goes to his rooms.

~ ~ ~


The moment Villa rides out of the house, he realizes that he has no idea where to go look for David. He doesn‘t know how long he‘s been gone, how far he could have gone. And mainly, he has no idea what the reason for his disappearance is.

He was upset about the incident with Fábio. Probably felt also betrayed by Villa, because it had to look like Villa wasn‘t willing to defend anyone. Truth to be told, Casillas won that battle.

The only reasonable thing to do seems to be looking at the places David probably knows. He decides to try the church first. As he leads the horse in the direction of the lights coming from inside of the church, he hears the sound of a carriage jumping on the pavement. He frowns. A carriage at this hour?

In the next moment a carriage emerges from the darkness in the direction of the parish and passes him by fast enough for him not to notice who is sitting inside. He is almost sure that he knows the blazon on the back, that he has already seen it somewhere.

He goes inside the church but it‘s empty. With a sigh, he decides to try some of the taverns next.

~ ~ ~


Álvaro walks in a study room and bows when the Duke lifts his head and looks at him.

“You wanted to talk to me,” Álvaro says.

“Yes... wait a moment, please.”

He scribbles something on the parchment on the table and sighs.

“One would say that the King has plenty of things to do, but apparently he has enough time to write personal letters.”

“Jorge told me that you were related to the House of Trastámara,” Álvaro says.

“My mother was the King’s cousin,” Sergi says calmly. “It makes me important enough to have a word over the one of Lady Sara, for example, but not important enough to get my hopes up for sitting on the throne one day.”

He throws the quill on the table, looks at Álvaro and smiles.

“I wouldn’t want the throne anyway. It’s not a very safe chair to sit on.”

“As you can see, not even being a servant is safe enough,” Álvaro says.

“Certainly not, if you come across the wrong people,” Sergi nods. “Well, why I wanted to talk to you... Cristian... I believe you know Cristian?”

Álvaro nods.

“He sent a message this morning that they found some Moors and were bringing them here. Some Moors. And that is the problem. We don’t know if they are the right ones.”

“The problem is that I won’t recognize them,” Álvaro says. “I didn’t see them.”

Sergi nods thoughtfully and then smiles reassuringly.

“Don’t worry. Maybe we can think of something. I’ll let you know when they arrive.”

Álvaro nods and looks at him shyly.

“Can I have a... personal question?”

Sergi raises his brows in surprise.

“Go ahead.”

“If you had to marry Lady Sara, I mean... if your father didn’t die... what would you have done?”

“I had various plans on my mind.”

“Really?”

“Yes. I spent hours and hours thinking about how to escape that marriage. At first I thought I would run away, simple as that. Pack a few things, take a horse and go somewhere, anywhere. But my father would have probably found me, and also, I didn’t feel like leaving everything behind because of one greedy woman. I also thought about telling my father that I wanted to become a priest, but of course he would never let his only son to become a priest... and to be honest, I definitely wasn’t born for the frock. Then I started thinking about having her poisoned.”

“I can’t imagine you doing that,” Álvaro shakes his head.

“I don’t know if I would have done it, if it really came to it. But I wouldn’t marry her. That much I know.”

“Why? I mean, she’s rich and beautiful after all...”

“You’ll think that I’m a fool, but I believe in love.”

“Why does it make you a fool?” Álvaro asks with a smile.

“Because you can believe in love. Princes, dukes and counts can’t.”

He smiles sadly and then folds his arms.

“Well, tell me everything you remember about the Moors.”

~ ~ ~


Cristiano groans when something touches his shoulder. Still half asleep, he moves to brush it off. The touch returns.

“Fucking rats,” he mumbles and opens his eyes.

What he is looking at is definitely not a rat.

“What the hell are you doing here?” he asks and looks at David.

“What are you doing?” David whispers. “How can you just go to sleep?”

“Well, what else should I be doing at night?” Cristiano frowns.

“Señor Fàbregas didn’t tell you?”

“Didn’t tell me what?”

“About Fábio.”

“What about Fábio?” Cristiano asks and sits up.

“He’s in Casillas’ house.”

“What?” Cristiano yells. “What... how...”

“Casillas came to Villa’s house today. He knew about Fábio. And he asked Villa to give him money or me, for Fábio. And Fábio said that he would return to him so that Villa didn’t have to.”

“Damn!” Cristiano says and jumps from the bed. “Damn! I... I swear I’ll kill the bastard if he touches him, I will chop him into pieces, I’ll take what’s dearest to him and set it on fire!”

“We have to help him!” David says.

“Yes, but I don’t know how,” Cristiano sighs. “I can’t search the whole house and hope nobody will catch me. And if they do catch me, I’m dead. Plus there’s the woman, too.”

“What woman?”

“Some Lady Sara Caramba or whatever. And she apparently likes to make people disappear. Also I suppose her loyal puppy will be there.”

He sits on the bed and sighs.

“Damn, this will be the most difficult burglary in my life.”

~ ~ ~


Fernando opens the door and looks at the messenger who hands him a letter.

“Who is it from?” he asks.

“I don’t know, señor,” the boy shrugs. “They just asked to deliver it.”

Fernando thanks him and hands him a coin. Then he walks back to the salon where Juan is sitting, sipping on wine and looking about as miserable as Fernando is feeling. They don’t even feel like going out because they get the impression that people stare at them everywhere they go.

Fernando opens the letter on the way and then grabs the table for support.

“Bad news?” Juan asks.

“Yes,” Fernando whispers and looks at him. “It looks like Gallega is lost.”

“What?” Juan jumps up.

“Some Portuguese sailors coming back to Lisbon saw a ship during a storm at night. The ship hit the rocks of some small island. The Portuguese sailed there in the morning once the storm calmed down to look for survivors, but all they could find were the rests of the ship. And the description matches Gallega perfectly.”

“Oh God,” Juan says and crosses himself. “Do they mention Santa Marta?”

“No. No, this... this guy, Figo, I suppose the captain of the Portuguese ship, only mentions Gallega. If Santa Marta was near, they would have come to the rescue them, I think.”

“How could they go shipwrecked when the Portuguese had even time to watch for other ships, for God’s sake?” Juan cries. “What was Busquets doing?”

“Anything could have happened,” Fernando shrugs. “Maybe the ship was already damaged, or they lost the sails...”

A knock on the door interrupts him. He goes to the hall and opens the door. In the next moment, Sergio Busquets’ fiancée falls in his arms sobbing uncontrollably.

~ ~ ~


Lady Sara smiles contentedly when Javier serves her a cup of tea and a piece of lemon cake. She barely got a few hours of sleep, but she doesn’t have time to sleep now.

“Sit down,” she says.

Javier stares at her like he sees her for the first time.

“Yes, you. Sit down.”

He pushes away the other chair and sits down carefully. Sara puts down the cup and looks at him.

“I need some advice,” she says.

“From me, my lady?” Javier blinks.

“As strange as it sounds, yes,” Sara nods. “Between Saúl and Óliver, which one is less stupid?”

Javier chokes on thin air.

“Pardon me, my lady?”

“I don’t expect there to be a big difference,” Sara says soothingly. “I only need to know which one is more likely to remember a few simple facts.”

“I still don’t understand...”

“I’ll put it into simple words, then,” Sara smiles. “Which one is a better liar?”

~ ~ ~


Villa comes back to his house completely exhausted. He walks in the kitchen and rubs his eyes because the first thing he sees is David.

“Where were you?” he shouts.

“In my house,” Francesc’s voice sounds from the table. “I found him talking to Cristiano.”

Villa slumps on the chair and looks from Francesc to David.

“Why?” he asks.

“Apparently they were planning to break in Casillas’ house,” Francesc says with a hint of amusement in his voice.

“We have to do something when you won’t!” David says and pouts.

Francesc bursts out laughing when he sees the pouting, defiant David and shocked Villa.

“Go to your room,” Villa says in a dangerous voice. “And stay there.”

David looks at him.

“You can’t...” he starts.

“I can do anything I want!” Villa snaps. “I said go to your room. And Sergio will lock the door.”

David gets up, gives him a hurt look and disappears in the corridor. Villa sighs and Francesc looks at him curiously.

“You didn’t need to be so harsh,” he says. “It was just a stupidity.”

“That stupidity could cost him his life,” Villa snaps. “If Cristiano wants to do such stupidities, fine. But there’s something going on and we can’t afford to play the way they want us to play.”

They?” Francesc narrows his eyes. “You mean Casillas?”

“Casillas and whoever is acquainted with him. Tell me, do you know who has two white horses in his blazon?”

Francesc frowns and sips on the wine.

“His blazon? It’s her blazon. Lady Sara’s. Why?”

“Because her carriage almost rolled me over when I was going to the parish.”

“Lady Sara was at the parish? At night?”

Villa nods and pours himself a cup of wine.

“You understand that I prefer David not to like me for a while to having to see him dead.”

~ ~ ~


Sergi narrows his eyes when Cristian and his guards bring in a group of Moors, obviously annoyed by being pushed around. They have to get through the initial stage during which the Moors pretend not to understand nor Spanish, nor Catalan. After a pointed look by Captain Bartra and a few well placed blows by the soldiers however they resolve to find whatever knowledge of Spanish they have. Mainly when they realize that however nice the Duke looks, he has no intentions of stopping his soldiers from hurting them.

“We are just passing through here,” one of the Moors says.

“After making a deal with Lady Sara to sell someone she needed to get rid of in Granada?” Sergi asks.

“I don’t know what you are talking about.”

“And the money my soldiers found on you?”

“We sold a horse.”

Sergi cracks a smile.

“What an exquisite horse it had to be. I wish I was the buyer.”

The Moor folds his arms.

“Is it illegal to just pass through?” he asks.

“No, it certainly isn’t.”

“Well.”

“So you don’t know anything about Lady Sara, you weren’t in Barcelona and you are just passing through.”

“Exactly.”

“Then I can’t waste your time,” Sergi says and turns to the guards. “Let them go.”

Captain Bartra looks at him like he just went crazy and Cristian is close to throwing a tantrum. The Moors look very pleased as they head to the door.

“Karim?” Sergi calls suddenly.

One of them turns around and meets the Duke’s mischievous smile.

“Well, so you are Karim,” he says. “And I suppose the one who wants to kill you right now will be Sami.”

He gets up and motions to the guard standing in front of the door on the opposite side of the hall.

“And now you can tell me that you have never seen this boy before,” he adds when Álvaro walks in.

Sami winces while Karim looks like he wants to smash himself over the head. Sergi walks up to them.

“I have one piece of advice for you,” he says. “Don’t try to play with me ever again.”

~ ~ ~


Fernando is walking around the city. He sent a message to Villa because Villa is more likely to find out more about Gallega, as Barcelona is a port. He doesn’t have much hope, though. It’s unlikely the Portuguese would be wrong. Well, maybe at least Santa Marta is still safe, though they will have to go back without the supplies.

He is so submerged in thoughts that he bumps into someone. He only notices well polished shoes and pants that look sort of expensive.

“Excuse me, señor,” he mumbles.

“So it‘s true,” the man says. “The clothes really make the man.”

Fernando lifts his head and gasps. He is looking at Daniel the pirate.

Chapter Text

“What... what are you doing here?” Fernando blurts out.

“Were you expecting me to be already dead?” Daniel smirks.

Fernando looks around quickly, to make sure nobody overheard them.

“No, but...”

“Let’s say that I came to return your knife,” Daniel says. “It was very useful. Thank you.”

Fernando just keeps staring at him when Daniel hands him his knife. Then he finally comes to his senses. He’s talking to a pirate, a pirate that was supposed to be hanged, on the street, with people passing them by, people who know him...

“Come with me,” he says and takes Daniel by an elbow. “You can’t just stand here like this.”

Daniel just smirks like he was expecting it, and Fernando feels his stomach make a twist. Giving the pirate his knife was nothing compared to what he’s gotten himself into now.

 

~ ~ ~


Villa sighs when he walks in David’s and Sergio’s room and is met with an angry, reproachful, pouting David.

“Fine, so you are angry with me,” he states.

David doesn’t react, he just tears his gaze from Villa and decides to stare at the wall instead.

“And you don’t want to talk to me.”

David continues ignoring him. Villa sits on the bed beside him, far enough from him not to invade his personal space.

“Tell me, what do you want me to do?” he asks.

David gives him a short look and then averts his gaze again.

“Something. Anything,” he mumbles.

“That’s it. You don’t know, and I don’t know that either. Casillas might be a dumb piece of shit, but he’s got the name. And if his name doesn’t work, he has Lady Sara. And with that witch you don’t joke, David.”

David’s lips curl up in a smile when he hears Villa talk like the last soldier of fortune.

“But he will kill him,” he whispers then.

“I don’t think he will,” Villa says comfortingly. “It wouldn’t bring him anything.”

“Except joy,” David makes a face. “I’m sorry for disappearing, but I had to. I’d come back in the morning, you wouldn’t even know, but... I had to warn Cris.”

“I know,” Villa sighs. “But I was worried. We both know what happened last time.”

“So you forgive me?”

“For going out without my permission, scaring me to death, scaring Sergio and Xavi to the point that they stopped arguing with each other and for making Francesc drag you here?” Villa asks, frowning like David just asked a really stupid question. “That will take more than just one ‘I’m sorry’.”

“I promise I will apologize properly,” David smiles. “Later.”

“I hope so,” Villa nods, then cracks a smile, hugs David and presses a kiss to his hair. “Oh God, what possessed me that I bought someone like you?”

Guayota,” David grins.

“What is that?”

“It’s a bad spirit. The king of evil genies. He lives in a volcano.”

“It’s something like the Devil, then,” Villa nods. “But the Devil lives in Hell.”

“I know. And offers people apples. Father Guardiola said that.”

Villa hides an amused smile. He isn’t sure what other people, and mainly the Church, would think about David’s way of understanding Christianity and mixing it with his own religion, but he personally loves it.

 

~ ~ ~


Since he’s become the Duke of Tarragona, Sergi has had many audiences, but none of them was as funny as the one Álvaro asks him for. Mainly because it starts with Isco trying to pull him away before they even walk in.

“I just wanted to ask you for...” Álvaro starts, when Isco puts a hand over his mouth.

“He wanted to ask you for nothing,” he snaps. “He’s delirious, excuse him.”

Sergi giggles when Álvaro desperately tries to free himself from Isco’s hold while Isco is indeed acting like he’s dealing with a delirious kid.

“I order you to let him speak!” Sergi says then and smiles at the defeated look Isco gives him as he releases Álvaro. “What did you want to ask me for?”

“I... please, don’t kill them. The Moors,” Álvaro blurts out.

“See? He’s out of his mind!” Isco rolls his eyes.

“They held you against your will and you’re asking me for mercy for them?” Sergi raises his brows.

“But they didn’t kill me. And they didn’t treat me bad, at least Sami didn’t.”

Sergi looks rather intrigued. Then he glances over to Captain Bartra.

“If you ask me, I’ll tell you to kill them right away, so better don’t,” he growls.

Sergi sighs and looks at Álvaro.

“As I told you, I’m not favorable to beheading people. Also, it’s not why I wanted to find the Moors. I need them for their testimonies against Lady Sara.”

“And after that?” Álvaro asks.

“After that I’ll leave it up to the regent,” Sergi says calmly.

Álvaro just opens his mouth. Isco, on the other hand, looks very contented.

“Well, now you know what you wanted to know,” he says. “And don’t think I’ll let you talk to the regent. Let’s go.”

“I’m not sure if he’s really not out of his mind,” Captain Bartra says when the door closes behind the two boys.

“No,” Sergi shakes his head. “He’s practically a saint.”

 

~ ~ ~


Xabi is going to the chapel to make a prayer for Carles and the rest of the sailors, but stops in his tracks when he sees Markel watching the fish in one of the fountains.

“What are you doing here?” he asks.

“Looking for inspiration,” Markel mumbles.

Xabi sits on the edge of the fountain.

“I’ve been wanting to ask for a while now, but I think now it’s the right time. Why does everyone seem to be obsessed with fish here?”

Markel chuckles.

“Because Ander is obsessed with them now. That’s the rule here. If Ander decides that white is a good color, don’t you dare to dress in any other color than white. If he decides that fish are awesome, you have to admire them.”

He shakes his head and laughs.

“Once he was really into purple. I was so grateful when he got bored with it... you can’t imagine how bad I look in purple.”

Xabi sighs.

“Tell me, don’t you get tired of complying to all his crazy wishes?” he asks.

“Sometimes,” Markel smiles. “But Ander isn’t a bad person. There’s just a part of him that never grew up, and as much as that part can be annoying sometimes, I think it gives him some lucidity that actually makes him a better person. I want him to be happy, and I think finally the time has come when it’s no longer things that make him happy, but people.”

Xabi listens to him attentively, then he gets up and smiles.

“You know what, Markel?” he asks. “You should be the lord of Biscay.”

 

~ ~ ~


Javier finishes explaining what Lady Sara asked him to do, and looks at the two other servants hopefully.

“Not in your wildest dreams, Manquillo!” Óliver yells.

“But Lady Sara...” Javier starts.

“Lady Sara my ass!” Óliver barks and Javier looks around like Lady Sara was supposed to appear magically in the kitchen of her house in Niebla and punish them both. “Lying in front of the Inquisition Tribunal? If she wants to kick me out of here, fine, but she can’t force me to do this!”

“Why not?” Javier asks desperately.

“Because I can’t lie!”

“Well, I know lying is bad, but...”

Óliver rolls his eyes.

“It’s not that! I can’t lie at all. Even when I’m telling the truth people think I’m lying! And when they find out that I’m lying, which will be after three words, I don’t feel like letting myself be burnt at the stake for Lady Sara’s whim.”

“Saúl...” Javier looks at the other boy pleadingly.

“Nope,” Saúl says without even lifting his eyes to Javier, and continues peeling the beetroots.

“She will kill me if I don’t bring one of you!”

Saúl shakes his head resolutely.

“Why doesn’t she ask Jorge?” he asks. “He once lied to a servant about this house actually belonging to him and the poor girl ate it up completely.”

“Because Jorge is gone,” Javier sighs.

“Gone where?” Saúl frowns.

“I don’t know. Nobody does. He disappeared.”

“He what?” a woman’s voice sounds from the door.

Javier looks there and sighs when he sees Beatriz, Lady Sara’s maid.

“Don’t worry, he will appear eventually,” he says but doesn’t sound too convinced.

“Eventually?” Beatriz cries. “He promised he would marry me once they came back from Barcelona! Like this, my father will kill me for having a bastard child! Even the priest won’t baptize the child!”

“Truth is that wherever he is, he is probably scared of Lady Sara now,” Javier says. “Because she is determined to cut him into pieces when she sees him again. She’s terribly mad at him.”

Beatriz sits down carefully on one of the chairs and looks at him.

“And this thing... that she asked you to do... does she care greatly about it?” she asks.

“She isn’t thinking about anything else lately,” Javier says.

Beatriz nods and then bites her lip.

“Take me,” she says then.

“What?”

“Take me to Barcelona,” she repeats calmly. “If I do what she wants, maybe she will let Jorge come back... when he reappears.”

If he reappears,” Saúl mutters and throws the last beetroot in the saucepan. “Because we all know Jorge.”

 

~ ~ ~


Fernando thinks that he must have gone really mad when he realizes that now the pirate is sitting in his salon (with his feet on the polished mahogany table, but that is only a small detail), drinking his wine and smirking the way Fernando remembers it from the ship and then even the prison. It seems like this is Daniel’s signature smirk, and for other people it probably translates best as trouble.

“So... how did you get here?” Fernando asks.

“Do you really want to know?” Daniel cocks his head to the side.

“Better not.”

“Yeah, I thought so.”

“Then... what are you really doing here?” Fernando asks.

“I don’t have anything better to do, actually,” Daniel shrugs. “My mates are probably in prison or already dead. So I thought, before I decide what to do with my life, I could stop by and we could start where we finished last time.”

“Where we finished?” Fernando frowned.

Daniel nods and smirks again.

“You kissed me, don’t you remember?”

Fernando blushes. He remembers, and isn’t sure if he wouldn’t rather forget. Kissing someone he was sure he would never see again in his life was a whole different thing than having that someone in his house, obviously determined not to drop the subject too soon.

“Listen, I...” Fernando starts.

“I am a nobleman who only dares to kiss people he is sure will die before they have a chance to tell someone about it,” Daniel completes for him. “Then you made a huge mistake by giving me that knife.”

“No, I...”

“Am a coward?” Daniel smirks.

“Shut up, God damn it!” Fernando yells and jumps up.

To his surprise, Daniel looks very contented.

“Finally you stopped stuttering and blushing like a virgin,” he says calmly. “Unless you are?”

“What?”

“A virgin.”

Fernando feels the heat pool inside him, spreading the blush over his face, even though he is not a virgin, because even though he’s not married, he is a sailor and he is a nobleman and he did have a few girls in his (or his for the night) bed. However, he is sure that Daniel is talking about a whole different virginity.

“I’m not, of course,” he says.

Then he realizes that he is discussing his sexual life with a pirate.

“Not that it’s any of your business,” he snaps.

“Sure,” Daniel smiles. “So... do you have some more wine?”

 

~ ~ ~


Francesc Fàbregas walks in the hall of his parents’ house and looks up to the stairs where his father appears, carrying one of his accounting books.

“Ah, Francesc!” he says like he is surprised to see him.

Unless he forgot that he sent him a message in the morning asking him to come, it’s another of his comedies.

“What’s the matter?” Francesc asks. “You asked me to come as soon as possible.”

“Your fiancée is here,” his father says. “And she has some good news.”

If they are good for her, then they are definitely not good for me, Francesc muses.

He walks into the salon, where Daniella is sitting in the company of Francesc’s grandmother and a woman, who is most likely her chaperone. Francesc bows down and kisses her hand.

“My father told me that you had some good news,” he says.

“Yes!” Daniella smiles brightly. “I saw Father Guardiola today and he said that the baptism could be on next Sunday.”

“Oh,” Francesc says and tries to look at least neutral, because excitement is out of question.

But then, it could be a good opportunity.

“Does your godmother know already?” he asks.

“Lady Sara? No, I think she doesn’t know it yet. I was planning to tell her later today.”

“What about we visit her together?” Francesc offers.

Daniella practically starts gleaming at the word “together”.

“That would be perfect!” she says. “We could take my carriage, if you don’t mind.”

The chaperone clears her throat and mutters something in a language Francesc doesn’t understand. Daniella rolls her eyes.

“We are getting married, Farida. It’s not inappropriate.”

The woman doesn’t object any further, she just picks up Daniella’s coat and fan and follows them outside.

“Father Guardiola said that during the baptism, he will pour water on me,” Daniella says then. “I hope not much of it?”

Francesc suppresses the mental image of Father Guardiola pouring a whole bucket of water on Daniella’s head. He reminds himself that the woman is his fiancée and he should learn to at least respect her when he knows that he will never learn to love her.

“Don’t worry, my dear,” he says. “It’s just symbolical.”

“I hope so,” Daniella nods. “I wouldn’t want it to ruin my hair.”

Francesc almost sighs. He remembers when Álvaro told him that he believed that love could be learned.

He is sure that if Álvaro saw this woman, he would change his beliefs.

 

~ ~ ~


“You really will have no authority if you let everyone do whatever they want, you know?” Marc frowns when he and Sergi are alone in the study room. “You let that groom make such a comedy in front of you. I’d almost think you have a weakness for him.”

“I find it beautiful that he did so much to save the other boy,” Sergi smiles. “He defied Lady Sara, his own lord, went so far, risked his life...”

He looks at Marc and lowers his eyes when he sees his amused smirk.

“I’m a hopeless romantic, I know.”

Marc shakes his head.

“I would also go far for you. However far it would take. To the end of the world, even.”

“Why aren’t you a woman, Marc?” Sergi sighs.

Marc lets out a surprised laugh.

“What?”

“Why aren’t you some rich countess? I would marry you and be happy until the end of my days.”

“I’m quite happy being a man,” Marc grins. “But if it makes you like me more, I can try to put on some of your sister’s robes, for example.”

Sergi almost dies of laughter when he imagines Marc in Anna’s robe.

“But I meant it,” Marc says then. “I would do anything for you.”

“But because I’m your lord.”

“Because you are the lord of my heart,” Marc smiles and leans closer to kiss him.

Sergi stops him and holds him back at an arm’s length.

“No... don't.”

Marc looks at him, just a hint of hurt glimmering in his eyes.

“What are you afraid of?” he whispers.

Sergi runs a hand through his hair nervously.

“You. Me. I’m afraid...”

“Yes?”

“I’m afraid that if I kiss you now, I won’t be able to give you up ever again.”

“Very well,” Marc smirks. “Because I don’t want you to give me up ever again. That’s why I’m going to kiss you now, whether you want it or not.”

“And if I don’t want it, how are you going to do it?” Sergi folds his arms.

Marc lets out an amused chuckle.

“Considering that you’ve always preferred books to swords, it will be an easy task. So you better let me.”

He inches closer tentatively, his eyes never leaving Sergi’s aquamarine pools until their lips are almost touching. Then Sergi raises his hands and shows them to Marc.

“I surrender, Captain,” he whispers.

“Wise decision, my lord,” Mark breathes and presses his lips to Sergi’s.

Chapter Text

Daniel’s body is muscle, ink and scars. It’s not like anything else Fernando has ever seen and it fascinates him.

They had a bit too much wine and it affected him a lot more than it affected Daniel, who is without a doubt used to stronger liquors in much bigger quantity. That’s why where Fernando feels like in a surreal dream, Daniel is still pretty much sober, only a bit more merry than usually.

The kiss is different from the one in prison because now they both have something to lose. It tastes like wine, like red berries with a hint of spices, and it’s by no means chaste nor clumsy, it’s slow and sensual and it’s nothing like Fernando ever experienced with the girls in the lousy port inns or with the maids in his parents’ house. When he runs his palms over Daniel’s back, it feels different too. He can feel the knots of muscles and the raised scars on his skin.

“We’ll be damned,” Fernando whispers, writhing weakly under Daniel’s body as if to relieve his conscience at least a little bit. “Burn in Hell. Eternally.”

“Oh, really?” Daniel smirks and pins him down with his thighs. “I don’t believe in that kind of Hell.”

“And what...” Fernando gasps when their bodies come into even closer contact. “Hell do you believe in?”

“You know the nights when it’s pitch dark and there is a storm so big you can’t stand upright on the deck because the waves are playing with the ship like it’s a child’s toy? And then a lightning comes and for a moment you see the black clouds, like giant heads of some monster, and the white foam on top of the waves so high they would swallow you like a tiny fish, and there is the constant roar of water, the sound you would never believe the sea can produce because the water is supposed to be quiet and calm? It fills not just your ears, it fills you whole, overwhelms you, and you know you’re supposed to be brave because you’re a grown up man, a sailor, but you’re still scared like a little kid. That is the Hell I believe in.”

Fernando swallows hard when suddenly Daniel’s inked arms appear at the sides of his head and the green-grey eyes are looking right into his, so he has no time to marvel at how good Daniel is with words, at least for a pirate.

“And it’s also the way I want to love you tonight,” Daniel whispers.

~ ~ ~


Fábio raises his head when he hears the steps approaching the door of his room.

If it can be called a room, actually. It’s more like an unused pantry, with a tiny window too high for him to reach. It’s dim there during the day and completely dark at night, and the air is so stiff and heavy that he constantly feels like he’s suffocating.

The prison Cristiano told him about and that he feared he would one day end up in as well almost looks like a better place to be.

Fábio secretly hopes for the steps to belong to Javier, Lady Sara’s servant. Not that he is very kind to him, though there is maybe a hint of compassion in the way he treats Fábio, but at least it would mean food. He just hopes for the person not to be Casillas.

The door opens with a screech. It’s not Casillas. It’s worse. It’s Lady Sara.

“Casillas is not here,” she informs him like she can read his mind. “Nor is Javier. So forget about trying to soften their hearts. You won’t soften mine, either.”

Fábio is convinced Lady Sara doesn’t have a heart, so he would never try to soften it.

“I come with an offer,” she says. “And you better listen well and make a good choice, because I won’t repeat it.”

Fábio is willing to listen to anything if there is a chance for him to get out of the tiny room. Suddenly, a servant comes running down the corridor and bows to Lady Sara.

“My lady,” the servant says. “Captain Fàbregas and his fiancée are here to see you.”

Sara purses her lips and looks at Fábio.

“We will talk later!” she snaps, bangs the door behind her and locks it.

~ ~ ~


When the guards let Markel in Iturraspe’s rooms, he and Herrera are in the middle of a card game. Markel almost chuckles when Iturraspe immediately throws his cards on the table, pretending that he has to attend to him. It means that he was surely losing.

“I didn’t mean to interrupt,” Markel says with an amused smirk.

“It doesn’t matter,” Iturraspe assures him. “What did you need?”

“I just wanted to tell you that from now on you are banned from going to the back of the garden,” Markel says.

“I am what?” Iturraspe stares at him.

“Unless you want to ruin your surprise,” Markel adds. “Have a good night, my lord.”

He bows and walks out of the room. Iturraspe folds his arms.

“He banned me from going to the garden,” he says and turns to Herrera. “A former groom banned me from something!”

“I know,” Herrera giggles. “It’s for your birthday.”

“You know? You know what he’s doing there?” Iturraspe asks.

“Yes. He asked me for help.”

“You know!” Iturraspe exclaims. “You will tell me now.”

“No,” Herrera shakes his head.

“No? How, no?” Iturraspe growls. “I’m your lord!”

Herrera smiles impishly and shakes his head again. Iturraspe stalks closer to him.

“Tell me!”

“Make me.”

“I will.”

“How?”

Iturraspe narrows his eyes.

“Through torture. Very slow torture.”

“I am looking forward to that,” Herrera smirks. “You should just know that I’m not ticklish.”

It seems to upset Iturraspe a bit, but he quickly composes himself.

“Never mind. My imagination is broader than that,” he growls. “You’ll beg for mercy.”

~ ~ ~


“What a nice surprise!” Lady Sara exclaims when Francesc and Daniella walk in her rooms.

“Lady Sara,” Francesc bows and kisses her hand.

Sara and Daniella kiss on both cheeks affectionately.

“You two here, together...” Sara smiles and motions for a servant to bring tea. “I suppose you have something important to tell me?”

“Well, Father Guardiola said the baptism could be next week,” Daniella says.

“Oh, but that is wonderful news!” Lady Sara says with a wide smile. “Then your wedding can also be very soon.”

Francesc puts all the effort into keeping an enthusiastic face.

“Lord Casillas isn’t here?” he asks then. “I was hoping I could invite him.”

“No,” Sara says and picks up her cup. “He is in San Sebastián. Something required his attention there.”

“What a pity,” Daniella says, despite never meeting Casillas in person. “Please tell him that he is of course invited... after all, we will deliver an official invitation, won’t we?”

Francesc grins at her.

“Of course,” he says. “I am just a little bit worried, because I want to invite also my friend Villa. And he and Casillas are not really friends, I’m afraid.”

“Oh, don’t worry about that,” Sara smiles sweetly.

“Are you trusting your diplomatic skills so much, my lady?” Francesc asks. “Do you think you can reconcile them? That is a difficult task.”

“I can assure you that there will be no scandal involving these two at your wedding,” Sara says. “After all, we still have enough time.”

There is something wicked in her tone and her eyes and Francesc doesn’t like it a single bit, but he can’t figure out what it is.

~ ~ ~


Xavi is chopping meat for his pork tarts while Sergio is cutting carrots madly.

“Sergio?” Xavi frowns. “Sergio!”

“What?” Sergio asks.

“What are you even doing?” Xavi asks and points at the slices of carrots.

Some are so thin that they are almost transparent, others are two inches thick.

“Well, cutting them,” Sergio growls. “Do it yourself if you don’t like it, I’m a groom, not a cook!”

“You are even more grumpy than me today,” Xavi shakes his head, takes the carrots from Sergio and gives them to David. “Could that be because señor Fàbregas hasn’t visited us for quite a long time?”

“That’s only understandable when he is getting married soon!” Sergio snaps. “And what I think about it apparently doesn’t interest anyone!”

“I thought you approved of that wedding,” Xavi frowns.

“Yes, but I didn’t approve of Cesc... señor Fàbregas... to spend his time just with her!” Sergio says. “Besides, I heard people talk on the market today... the things they say about her...”

“You’re worse than a woman, Sergio,” Xavi says.

Suddenly, a knock on the door sounds from the hall. Xavi frowns.

“A visitor so late?”

“I hope it’s not Casillas,” Sergio says. “Because if it is, I will...”

“I better open the door,” David says calmly and goes to the hall.

There is a boy standing on the porch.

“I have a message for señor Villa,” he says and shows David a parchment.

“Do you need to give it to him personally or you can give it to me?” David asks.

“I guess it doesn’t matter,” the boy shrugs. “Just make sure he gets it.”

David nods and takes the parchment. He runs up the stairs and knocks on Villa’s door.

“Enter!” Villa calls.

David opens the door and walks in. Villa is reading a book and making notes on a piece of parchment.

“There is a message for you,” David says.

“Message from who?”

“The messenger didn’t say.”

Villa breaks the seal and reads the first line.

“Oh, it’s from Fernando,” he mumbles.

Then he lets the parchment fall on the table.

“What happened?” David asks and comes closer.

“Fernando got a message that one of the ships that accompanied Carles’ ship was shipwrecked near Portugal. Nobody survived, it seems.”

“It means that now señor Puyol is alone on the sea?” David asks.

“Nobody actually knows where Carles is,” Villa sighs. “Probably if he knows that both of his other ships are lost, he landed somewhere and is trying to get some provisions or maybe some other ship to accompany him. He wouldn’t continue alone... I hope he wouldn’t.”

“He could just come back,” David shrugs.

“He invested a lot of money into it.”

“But isn’t it better to lose the money than to lose your life?” David frowns.

“I don’t know if Carles thinks it is,” Villa smiles sadly.

“You would lose money as well, wouldn’t you?”

“Yes. But all I really want is for Carles if not to succeed, then at least to be safe. Unfortunately this quest seems to be doomed.”

David doesn’t say anything, he just settles on the floor at Villa’s feet and lays his head on his knees like a faithful dog would, and Villa suddenly realizes that for the first time he doesn’t wish to be on the ship with Carles, but he’s perfectly happy just where he is.

~ ~ ~


Fernando looks at Daniel who casually pours himself another cup like he is in the middle of a dinner, not like he just got out of bed completely naked.

“You told me that you were a pirate because of the money,” Fernando says. “Is it true?”

“It is.”

“It’s just the money?”

“The money, and then... something I don’t think I’d find anywhere else.”

“What’s that?”

“Loyalty,” Daniel says. “Not the false loyalty like in the army, you know? And I think I just need to be loyal to someone.”

He puts the cup down and smirks.

“Why are you asking?”

“Just... I’ve been thinking...”

“You’ve been thinking whether I could lead a honorable life,” Daniel finishes. “Well, what we just did wouldn’t be right even if I was the most honorable sailor to ever step on board.”

“No, that’s true,” Fernando nods.

“You know, I can see you in a couple of years as the captain of some ship of the royal navy or something,” Daniel says. “But where do I see myself? I don’t know. I might still be a pirate. I might be long dead. I don’t know. But I do know that if I stay, the captain of a ship in the royal navy thing will never happen for you. So.”

“So?”

“So I’ll finally get out of your life,” Daniel says calmly. “I’ll just wait for a good wind.”

~ ~ ~


Xabi looks at Markel who has just finished reading a letter from Fernando Torres. They are sitting on a bench in the gardens as the sun has not yet set completely and they're less likely to be overheard there than somewhere in the palace.

“He sent the same letter to Villa, apparently, but I’m afraid Villa can’t do anything for Carles,” Xabi says.

“And why does he think that you can?” Markel asks.

“Maybe he hopes that Ander will miraculously become less crazy than he is, I don’t know.”

Markel sighs deeply.

“Look, Xabi, we had this once already. And I ended up with a noose on my neck and let me tell you, it was the worst feeling ever. If I do something behind Ander’s back once more, he will not personally take the noose off my neck, he will personally kick the stool under my feet. And it’s sure that he would find out. Llorente is following me around like a dog.”

“I know,” Xabi sighs. “I’m not asking you to do anything behind Ander’s back. Just... if I could somehow get a ship to find out about Carles... I mean, if Busquets’ ship was near Portugal, then Carles’ had to be near... and if he knows he lost both of the smaller ships, he could be waiting somewhere... he just needs at least one ship with provisions. If I could...”

“Xabi...” Markel says sympathetically. “Ander doesn’t care about sailing. He doesn’t care about new lands. He honestly thinks that there is just the Kingdom of Spain, which to him means the royal palace and Biscay, and that when you cross the borders of Biscay, you fall into some abyss of nothingness.”

“And here I was, thinking he was given proper education,” Xabi smiles sadly.

“He was, but do you honestly think Ander ever listened during the lessons? He lives in his own world, the preceptor could explain things to him a thousand times and in the end, Ander would scream that he was a liar, and run away. We had some hard time looking for him around Bilbao a few times. Then his mother told the preceptor to simply agree with everything Ander said and not to force anything. Which means that if Ander said mermaids were real, the preceptor had to say they were.”

“Things haven’t changed much since then,” Xabi notes.

“No, just now he can execute you for not agreeing with him,” Markel shrugs. “I’m sorry, but I won’t help your friend. I simply don’t know how.”

When he walks out of the shadows of the trees, he notices Captain Llorente talking to Father San José at the door of the chapel, but in reality his eyes are set on Markel and Markel doubts he’s even listening to whatever Father San José is saying. Rolling his eyes, he heads to his rooms.

~ ~ ~


Lady Sara looks out of the window to the backyard where a carriage stops. She walks out and waits on the doorstep until Javier jumps out of the carriage and helps Beatriz to get out as well.

“What is she doing here?” Sara frowns.

“My lady,” Beatriz says. “I’ve heard what Jorge did and... I’m sure it was nothing against you, I’m sure he didn’t mean bad...”

“Why are we even talking about that brat here?” Sara yells hysterically.

“I asked Javier to take me instead of Óliver or Saúl,” Beatriz explains. “I mean, if I testify, if I tell them what you want me to, they will maybe believe the word of a pregnant woman more easily.”

“You might be right,” Sara says after a while of thinking. “Though I’m not sure how credible a pregnant woman who is not married will be... well, we can lie to them about you being married if need be, they probably wouldn’t have time to investigate if it was true. Perfect, so we have you, Manquillo here and the little thief, if he decides to take my side, which I will make sure he will. That should be enough. Now you have to learn your lines. They will most likely try to prove you’re lying, mainly Fàbregas, so you need to know your version really well.”

“What if Lord Casillas...” Javier whispers.

“Casillas is gone, I sent him a fake message saying there was some business in San Sebastián requiring his attention. So he will be gone for a few days. That means Fàbregas won’t be able to manipulate him even if he wants to. I also made sure Father Guardiola, his fiancée and family would keep him busy enough,” Sara says contentedly. “All we have to do now is to speak to the right person. And if we succeed, we will all profit from it. All.”

She touches Javier’s shoulder with her folded fan affectionately – because she would never touch a servant with a bare hand – and smiles wickedly.

~ ~ ~


Isco curses quietly when he struggles to put on the clothes he was given. He just wishes he could go back to wearing what he’s used to wear, and he would do just that, had Álvaro not insisted that it would be rude to have dinner with the Duke like that, and had Captain Bartra not confirmed it by looking at Isco like not wearing three layers of clothing was the same thing as walking around naked, if not worse.

By the time he reaches the room next to the dining room, both Álvaro and Jorge are already waiting there. How even Jorge can put up with all that unnecessary fashion is simply beyond Isco.

Of course, Sergi and Captain Bartra are wearing even more unnecessary layers of clothing, and judging by Jorge’s face, Lady Anna is wearing just too many of them for his taste.

“I called you because I wanted to inform you that I’m leaving in the morning,” Sergi says when they sit at the table.

“To Barcelona?” Álvaro whispers.

“Yes,” Sergi smiles. “Until I return, I leave you under the protection of my sister.”

Isco resists the urge to make a face, because Sergi makes it sound like Lady Anna would really protect them in whatever situation, including an army taking siege of Reus or an assassin appearing in their bedroom. To his annoyance, Álvaro looks like he truly believes that she would, and Jorge looks like he doesn’t mind what she will protect them from as long as he can stare at her cleavage.

“But... will you just accuse that woman... Lady Sara... of selling Álvaro to the Moors?” Isco asks. “Why should it even interest anyone? I mean, it’s not like señor Fàbregas cared greatly about Álvaro, and he is actually his servant.”

For the first time, Captain Bartra looks like he and Isco can relate in a way.

“You might be right,” Sergi nods. “But I believe it’s not the only thing she’s done. I will make sure I have enough arguments before I confront her, don’t worry.”

Not just Isco, but also Lady Anna and Captain Bartra look like they worry a lot. Sergi, on the other hand, looks calm and determined.

“To justice?” he asks and raises his glass with a mischievous smile.

 

Chapter Text

Ander Herrera runs a hand through Iturraspe‘s messy mop of hair and smiles when it barely makes him frown in his sleep. He opts for a kiss on the cheek then, but even that method fails to wake the other man up. With a sigh, he pushes himself up and steals the pillow from beneath Iturraspe‘s head.

“You woke me up,” Iturraspe states, his eyes still closed like he is determined to sleep even without the pillow. “I should throw you to my greyhounds.”

“As you wish, my love,” Herrera giggles. “But someone is at the door, that’s why I woke you up.”

“You just don’t want me to throw you to the greyhounds,” Iturraspe mumbles as he’s looking for some clothes to put on. “But I wouldn’t.”

“Because you love me?”

“No, because they’d get too fat!” Iturraspe snaps.

Herrera falls back on the bed, laughing.

“I love you grumpy,” he says.

Iturraspe closes the bedroom door and crosses the antechamber. There is a servant standing there, looking rather nervous.

“Excuse me, my lord, but the execution of the pirates will start soon,” he says.

“And why should it interest me?” Iturraspe barks. “Aren’t you able to hang them without me? Do you need me to tie the nooses?”

“N-no,” the servant says. “But Captain Llorente...”

“Captain Llorente is lucky that it’s not also the day of his execution, so he definitely shouldn’t be telling me what to do!” Iturraspe snaps. “And make me some breakfast!”

“Yes, my lord,” the servant bows.

“And I want there to be strawberries.”

“My lord, it’s March, there are no strawberries yet,” the servant objects.

Iturraspe narrows his eyes.

“You know, when I think about it, my greyhounds are looking a bit too thin lately,” he says.

“Strawberries,” the servant nods. “Yes, my lord.”

~ ~ ~


Fábio blinks into bright light when the door opens and a servant ushers him out. He had spent another night in the tiny room because apparently Lady Sara’s visitors left too late or she didn’t feel like talking to him after they left.

He blinks again when the servant leads him right in Lady Sara’s rooms. Lady Sara is having breakfast and the smell of strong tea, honey and fresh bread almost makes his head spin.

“So...” Lady Sara says, picking up her cup and looking at him like he is supposed to amuse her during her meal. “You should know that I don’t care about what you did or didn’t do for Casillas. If he’s mad at you because of something, it doesn’t interest me.”

Fábio isn’t sure if he should say something or not, so he just nods.

“But I have my own plans, and they kind of coincide with Casillas’ interests,” she continues. “So if you please me, it can also mean he will be more benevolent.”

She puts the cup back on the table, takes her fan and starts playing with it.

“You have two options,” she says then. “You help us and then you can walk out of here and go wherever you want to go, maybe with that other Portuguese thief, if he doesn’t lose his head until then. Or you can spend the rest of your life in that room and the next time you see the sun will be when it rises above your grave.”

“What do you want me to do?” Fábio dares to ask, because the prospect of spending the rest of his life, however short it would be, in that place scares him like nothing else.

Lady Sara looks pleased.

“I need you to tell someone what you saw in David Villa’s house.”

“What I saw?” Fábio frowns.

“More precisely, what you saw him do with his servant.”

“Which servant?” Fábio asks, genuinely confused.

“He doesn’t have that many!” Lady Sara barks. “The slave.”

“David?” Fábio blinks. “But... what about him?”

“I think you don’t really understand my point,” Lady Sara sighs. “David Villa has an unusual interest in that boy. Haven’t you noticed?”

Fábio is about to say that he didn’t notice anything, but then he sees the meaningful look she gives him and he nods hesitantly. He is rewarded with a bright smile.

“Good. Now, I suppose you saw the ways he expresses that interest. Anything that would cross the lines of an usual master-slave, or master-servant relationship.”

Even Fábio isn’t that thick not to understand what she means. He gulps and nods again. Lady Sara’s smile would now probably melt a piece of ice.

“Perfect,” she says. “Maybe some food would help you think of some of these ways?”

It’s low, it’s terribly wrong, but the honey is liquid gold and the bread is the freshest he’s ever seen. He launches himself at the food and decides to think of the consequences later.

~ ~ ~


Xabi finds a place on the courtyard that is already crowded by people who came to watch the execution. A moment later, the pirates and the guards appear, led by Father San José. Daniel is not there. Nor is the captain of the ship. Most of the pirates are the young, clueless ones who fell into Muniain’s trap easily.

While the hangman is preparing everything, Father San José invites the crowd to recite the final prayer. He looks rather nervous, but at least he’s not about to faint.

Xabi is not surprised when he doesn’t see Markel anywhere. The memory is probably still too fresh. But Captain Llorente is standing under the scaffold, overseeing everything carefully, like he wants to make sure that the pirates will be finally hung for good. Xabi also blinks in surprise when he sees Iker Muniain in the crowd, a wicked smirk on his face. He is definitely not afraid of the pirates cursing him before they die.

Then Xabi looks up and sees Ander Iturraspe standing on the balcony, stirring his tea casually, not stopping the fluid motion even when the loud clank of the stool being knocked over cuts through the silence.

The sight is so fascinating and terrifying at the same time that if he had thoughts about trying to outsmart Iturraspe one more time, now he discards the idea for good.

~ ~ ~


Lady Sara walks in a room that looks like a small office and takes a look around. The man sitting behind the table gets up and kisses her hand.

“Lady Sara, it’s a pleasure to meet you, despite the occasion not being very pleasant,” he says. “My name is Gabriel Fernández. I was told by Father Guardiola that you needed to talk to me.”

“It’s my pleasure, Señor Fernández,” she nods and sits on the upholstered chair he offers her. “Yes, Father Guardiola was the first person I went to see with my... concern.”

Fernández folds his arms and leans back in his chair.

“Go on.”

“It came to my attention that certain David Villa is involved in some very... disturbing activities.”

“Could you be more accurate?”

“Well, señor, a woman of my upbringing shouldn’t even speak this word,” Sara says and pretends that she’s blushing. “He took interest in one of his servants, it seems. A male servant.”

Fernández leans closer.

“It’s not that I’m questioning your intentions or your word, Lady Sara, but... do you have a proof for your words?”

“Actually, I have witnesses,” Sara says calmly.

“Witnesses? There are more?”

“Yes,” Sara nods. “You know, the first one to bring this to my attention was my servant, Javier. He was in Villa’s house because I sent him there with some errand, and he returned very distraught. You have to understand, it’s actually a boy with good manners, his father is a hidalgo de sangre, and I care deeply about him, so of course I wanted to know what happened. You can imagine my horror.”

“Yes,” Fernández nods. “But you said there were more?”

“Yes,” Sara nods. “Villa stole a servant from my good friend, Iker Casillas, that’s a whole different story... And this servant also witnessed these awful things in Villa’s house. And then there is a girl who saw these two accidentally when she was on her way from church... it’s just terrible, that man has no decency, and this girl is with child, you can imagine how dangerous the shock she suffered was.”

Fernández rubs his palms together.

“I would like to speak to these people, Lady Sara. Do you think it’s possible?”

“Of course,” Lady Sara nods. “I will send them to you whenever you are able to receive them.”

“The sooner, the better,” Fernández says. “Tomorrow morning perhaps?”

Sara nods and gets up.

“The Holy Inquisition is lucky that we have concerned people like you,” Fernández says and kisses Sara’s hand again.

“I just want to serve the Holy Church,” Sara says firmly. “There is no place for such people in it.”

“Indeed,” Fernández nods. “See you soon, Lady Sara.”

~ ~ ~


It may be a coincidence that the day starts with an execution and ends with Ander Iturraspe’s birthday party, but as Xabi knows Iturraspe, it doesn’t necessarily have to be accidental.

The guests gather in the front of the garden. There aren’t that many, and almost none of them are from elsewhere than Biscay and Gipuzkoa.

There are lights at the back of the garden and when they approach them, they see they are actually coming from the small lake. In the middle of the lake, there is some sort of a platform decorated as a dining room. The only way to reach it, unless they want to take a swim, is by one of the small boats scattered around the shore.

“Well, this is the closest to fish I thought I could let you,” Markel says. “I hope there is enough of them in the lake.”

“There is,” Herrera confirms. “I took care of it.”

Iturraspe looks at them and everyone falls silent.

“You know what?” he asks.

“What?” Markel asks with a bit of worry.

“You two are just perfect,” Iturraspe says.

~ ~ ~


Sergio blinks in surprise when Francesc Fàbregas appears at the door of the stables.

“Isn’t it a bit too late for a visit?” Sergio asks.

“Is it too late for you?” Francesc smirks. “Because I came to visit you.”

“Not Villa?” Sergio raises his brows.

“No. You.”

He shuts the door and bars it. Sergio leans over the rail of one stand.

“My fiancée is going to be baptized tomorrow,” Francesc says. “So hopefully the wedding can be soon, and then hopefully my father will leave me alone.”

“Can we just not mention your fiancée now?” Sergio asks.

“Then what are we going to talk about?” Francesc raises his brows.

“You know, right now I don’t feel like talking at all,” Sergio says and pushes him in the closest stack of hay.

“That’s very unusual for you,” Francesc notes.

“Shut up,” Sergio whispers and kisses him.

~ ~ ~


Markel approaches Xabi when he notices Iturraspe is tangled in a conversation with Herrera, who is apparently explaining something about fish to him and Jon Aurtenetxe.

“I thought of something,” he says. “I mean, concerning your friend Puyol.”

“I wouldn’t want you to get into trouble,” Xabi shakes his head.

“No, this has nothing to do with Ander. I thought you could speak to someone else about it.”

“To who?”

Markel nods to one of the noblemen who is currently occupied with the cake.

“Lord Ibai Gómez,” he says. “He’s quite into adventurous things. I think he sailed to Africa once. He could be interested.”

Xabi nods.

“Thank you. I’ll speak to him. Preferably before he gets too drunk. Or at least less drunk than Ander.”

Markel glances over to Iturraspe, then walks over to him and with a stoic calm takes the bottle from him.

“I think you had enough,” he says.

“What gives you the right to tell your lord how much he can drink?” Iturraspe barks.

“The state my lord is in,” Markel answers calmly and takes the cup from him as well. “Last time you got drunk like this, you and Gorka Iraizoz decided to lead a war against each other. Using slugs as weapons.”

“That was a genius idea,” Iturraspe nods. “Unfortunately it was Gorka’s idea.”

“I know. But Llorente still hates you for it. You hurt his military pride.”

“I still hate Llorente because he lost me the war. I lost a slugs war against Gipuzkoa. I’ll die in shame.”

“You can still get revenge one day. Using earthworms, for example.”

Iturraspe chuckles and judging from his face, Markel is sure that he has just made a mental note to think the idea through once he is more sober.

“You know what, Markel?” he sighs then and hugs Markel like he’s a pillow or some other inanimate object.

“What?”

“You’re my best friend. I love you.”

“Oh, dear Lord in Heaven, you really shouldn’t drink so much,” Markel sighs.

Iturraspe just laughs and lays his head on his shoulder.

“I’m so happy I didn’t let them hang you,” he says.

“Me too. By the way, it seems that Lord Gómez is leaving,” Markel informs him.

“I want to see that,” Iturraspe says excitedly. “Because there are no boats currently.”

“You’re mean,” Herrera giggles.

Ibai Gómez is apparently fully aware of the fact that all the boats are on the shore at the moment, but he doesn’t seem to mind.

“Goodnight, my lords and ladies!” he says and with a loud splash jumps off the platform.

Iturraspe almost doubles with laughter. Xabi now perfectly understands why he and Gómez are friends.

~ ~ ~


David knocks on the door of Villa’s bedroom and waits. Villa opens the door a few moments later, already in his nightwear.

“Your clothes,” David says and raises the hanger with Villa’s dressy clothes higher.

Villa takes the clothes from him and looks them over quickly.

“I can’t say that I’m looking forward to it.”

“What is it, actually?” David asks.

“Francesc’s future wife’s baptism,” Villa makes a face. “I think there is only one person looking forward to it less than I do.”

“Who?”

“Francesc.”

David smiles. Villa looks towards the staircase.

“Where are the others?”

“Xavi went to bed already. And Sergio is in the stables.”

“At this hour?” Villa frowns. “What is he doing there?”

“As I know Sergio, he’s maybe talking to the horses,” David shrugs.

“And you?” Villa asks. “What are your plans for the night?”

“Well, at night I usually sleep,” David laughs. “But if I can help with anything...”

“If you can help me with the wine Xavi left on my table, it would be very appreciated.”

“I’m not sure if I should,” David says, but comes in. “You know what happened last time when I drank wine.”

“We had a duel with daggers,” Villa nods. “It’s a precious memory.”

He pours wine in two cups and hands one to David.

“To what?” he asks.

“You know I’m not good with this,” David pouts.

“With what?”

“Words.”

“Your words, dear David, are like pearls. Very rare, but when you say something, it’s always worth a fortune.”

“So... to pearls?” David smiles.

“To pearls,” Villa nods and touches David’s cup with his.

~ ~ ~


It registers only about a minute late in Iturraspe’s mind that Herrera is in the room with him when he gets back to the palace.

“And you are doing what here?” he asks.

“I still have to give you my present.”

Iturraspe grins and pulls him closer.

“If the present is you, I desire nothing more.”

Herrera giggles and dodges his lips.

“Close your eyes.”

“Nah, I close my eyes and you’ll stab me or smother me with a pillow or whatever,” Iturraspe mumbles.

“Do I look like I would do that?” Herrera tilts his head.

“No,” Iturraspe sighs and closes his eyes. “I’ll be damned for trusting you.”

With another giggle, Herrera puts something in his hand.

“Guess.”

Iturraspe frowns.

“It makes weird sounds,” he states. “It’s all weird. Rough on one side, smooth on the other.”

“And what is rough on one side and smooth on the other?”

“People.”

Herrera laughs loudly.

“True. But what else?”

“What else, what else... Seashells.”

“You’re a tough match in riddles, I suppose,” Herrera says, kisses him and takes the seashell necklace from him, placing it around his neck.

“You’re doing this so that I don’t throw it away because it’s not made of gold?” Iturraspe smirks.

“No. To see how it suits you.”

“And?”

“It could be better.”

He unties the laces on his sleeves and slides it over his head.

“Yes, that’s better. A lot better.”

“Tell that to my tailor, I’m sure he won’t be happy.”

“He should learn to complement your beauty better, then,” Herrera grins. “Though it would mean that he would have no work, because the best clothes for your are no clothes.”

They are not really compatible when drunk, because wine makes Herrera more bold and talkative, while Iturraspe is mostly sleepy and paranoid. He falls on his back and pulls Herrera with him accidentally rather than makes an intentional move. He still makes an effort to flip them over once he recovers from the initial surprise. Herrera takes him by the hands and pushes him back into the mattress gently.

“Not tonight,” he whispers.

“I’m your lord and I order you to let me up!” Iturraspe mumbles.

“I’m afraid that I’m going to disobey you this time, my lord,” Herrera grins. “You may punish me in the morning.”

~ ~ ~


Despite Captain Bartra’s objections, Sergi decided to leave his carriage in Reus and travel on horseback. He doesn’t really believe that it is more dangerous, more on the contrary, and it’s also a lot faster.

And before he goes to Barcelona, he still has some places to go and some people to speak to. Because his plan goes beyond simply convicting Lady Sara of the crime she committed against Álvaro. He is sure some servant wouldn’t interest the regent or the King the way he interests Sergi.

Niebla is the first place they stop at. The yard is clean and tidy, and the house looks mostly empty. Then two servants walk out and exchange confused looks when they see a Duke with his suite standing there.

“I’m Sergi Roberto, the Duke of Tarragona,” Sergi says in a calm, friendly voice. “Maybe you remember me. And you are?”

“Saúl,” one of them says, apparently taken aback by the fact that someone like Sergi wants to know his name.

“Óliver,” the other one says, his attitude slightly more indifferent.

“Lady Sara isn’t here,” Saúl says then. “She’s in Barcelona.”

“I know,” Sergi smiles.

“Then who are you looking for?” Óliver folds his arms.

“You.”

Óliver laughs while Saúl looks really worried. Sergi looks around but there seem to be no other servants.

“I need to know something about Lady Sara,” he says. “I thought you could help me.”

“No,” Saúl shakes his head immediately. “She would kill us if she knew we were even talking to you.”

“Too bad,” Sergi sighs, pulls out a pouch with coins and throws it in the air, making sure the coins clink when it lands back on his open palm. “I thought you could be of some help. But of course I wouldn’t want to force you to betray your lady.”

Saúl frowns and turns around to go back in. Óliver bites his lip.

“To hell with that witch,” he says then and makes a grab for the money. “What do you need to know?”

Chapter Text

Sergi sits in the kitchen of Lady Sara’s house. It appears that before she left, she locked all of the fancy rooms and took the keys with her to Barcelona, to make sure her servants wouldn’t steal or break any of her things. He quietly thanks God for not being a servant of that woman.

Saúl serves him and Captain Bartra some wine, but then goes to curl up on the bench next to the stove and pretends he isn’t even there. Óliver is much bolder, mainly whenever his eyes fall on the pouch with money.

“So, for how long haven’t you heard from your lady?” Sergi asks.

“Well, she sent Manquillo here recently because she wanted him to bring one of us to Barcelona,” Óliver says.

“But you didn’t go?”

“To let them burn me at the stake just because of Lady Sara’s crazy ideas? No, thank you!” Óliver snorts.

“Why should you be burnt at the stake?” Sergi frowns.

“Well, for lying to the Inquisition Tribunal?” Óliver asks.

“Lying to the Inquisition Tribunal?” Sergi frowns and looks at Captain Bartra, who is still eyeing the two servants mistrustfully. “Why would she want you to do it?”

“Because there is some guy she wants to accuse of... how do they call it?” Óliver scratches his head and looks at Saúl, who just shrugs. “You know what, when a guy does with another guy what he should do with a girl.”

Captain Bartra clears his throat to hide a chuckle.

“Sodomy,” Sergi says calmly.

“Yeah, that,” Óliver says. “And well, she wanted us to lie that we saw this guy do those things with his servant, just... how disgusting is she?”

“Don’t you by any chance know who she wants to accuse?”

“Nah, Manquillo said something, but you just can’t listen to all Manquillo says, your head would burst,” Óliver shrugs. “But he’s not even that important, I mean he’s not a nobleman like you. But Manquillo said she wanted to get his head for Casillas. You know, Casillas is a guy she wanted to marry but he didn’t want to marry her. She pretends she’s still friends with him but you should hear her when someone mentions him in front of her. Saúl here once did. She broke her fan when she hit him with it.”

“Then why does she want to help him?” Sergi frowns.

“Because she needs to marry him.”

“Why?”

Óliver chuckles and looks at Saúl again. Saúl now looks like he can’t decide whether to kill Óliver right away, or wait for Lady Sara to do it.

“I see she really managed to keep it secret,” he smirks.

~ ~ ~


Isco walks in the room they share with Álvaro, and stops when he sees Álvaro sitting on the bed, looking quite miserable.

“Hey,” Isco frowns and sits next to him. “What’s wrong? I thought everything was getting better now.”

“What if we can’t return to Barcelona?” Álvaro whispers. “Like... ever? Like señor Alonso?”

“Well, he is somewhere, walking and breathing, isn’t he?” Isco shrugs and hugs him. “So we would be as well.”

“But...” Álvaro starts when Isco kisses him.

“No buts. I promised I’d take care of you and I will. In Barcelona, Madrid or in Hell.”

Álvaro looks at him and gives a small smile.

“I was so scared,” he whispers. “I mean... with the Moors. I was scared I would never see you again.”

“And now you don’t want them to die,” Isco notes.

“But it wasn’t their fault, it was Lady Sara’s plan.”

“Well, let’s hope the Duke is more clever than he looks and she will pay for it.”

Álvaro nods and then looks at Isco.

“Did you lock the door?” he asks.

“Why?” Isco raises his brows.

“Did you lock it or not?”

“Why?” Isco asks and fights the mischievous smile getting on his lips.

“Because if you didn’t lock it, someone might walk in and see,” Álvaro explains to him patiently like Isco is a little child.

“See what?” Isco folds his arms.

“See me... kissing you...” Álvaro smiles and kisses him.

Isco grins and marvels at how Álvaro’s mood can change in minutes.

“You might want to keep the rest for later, though,” he says. “Dinner will be served soon.”

“You prefer dinner over me?” Álvaro frowns.

“No, I’ll just keep you for dessert!” Isco grins.

He walks over to the door and pushes the handle.

“Oh, look, I didn’t lock it!” he says.

Álvaro almost faints.

~ ~ ~


On the rare occasions Markel got drunk and needed some fresh air, he usually went to the forest or somewhere else alone, and hoped it would help. He certainly wasn’t accompanied by a whole suite including Captain Llorente, obviously Ander Herrera, and even Father San José. But whatever happens in Ander Iturraspe’s life is a huge event, even a hangover.

“Stop!” Iturraspe orders suddenly.

Everyone stops their horses. Iturraspe looks at a group of young children with baskets.

“What are they doing?” he asks.

“Looking for mushrooms,” Herrera explains to him.

“Here? Don’t mushrooms grow in the garden like other vegetables?”

“No, they don’t,” Herrera says patiently. “They grow in the forest, and you have to know where, or you have to look for them.”

Iturraspe thinks for a moment.

“But these are my forests,” he says then. “So they are my mushrooms. They are stealing my mushrooms!”

Markel rolls his eyes.

“Lord, have mercy!” he whispers.

~ ~ ~


Francesc pulls on the ties of his shirt nervously. He is sure that there is some nasty plan going on, and instead of finding out what it is about, he is stuck in the church with Daniella, her father and Lady Sara, waiting for Daniella’s baptism. He tries to keep close to Villa who seems to be his only kindred soul there.

“Where is that priest?” Francesc growls.

“I haven’t heard of Father Guardiola ever being late, leave alone for such an important event,” Villa says and looks at Daniella who smiles brightly at him like he just said a compliment.

“Indeed,” Francesc’s father nods. “Where is he?”

Lady Sara just sighs, waving herself with a fan. A few moments later Father Guardiola runs in.

“I apologize,” he says, trying to catch his breath. “I was called up by a higher authority.”

“God?” Villa asks and Francesc almost starts laughing loudly.

Father Guardiola narrows his eyes.

“No,” he says curtly. “I’ll just change and we can begin in a moment.”

Francesc nods, but can’t help a frown when he sees Lady Sara’s contented smile that has no plausible explanation. But before he can really think about it, Father Guardiola walks in with the altar boys and Francesc stands up with the others.

There is clearly nothing he can do here.

~ ~ ~


Fernando wakes up when the bright sun shines in his face. He groans and sits up, then gets up and walks out of the bedroom. The house is quiet, no sign of Daniel’s presence.

He wanders to the dining room and is just about to ring the bell to call his servant to serve him breakfast when he spots the piece of parchment laying on the table.

Dear señor Fernando José Torres Sanz,

the wind is right today.

I thought about what you said and however hard it is to admit it, maybe you were right in some things. I was lucky twice, and they say nobody escapes the noose three times.

The sea is unpredictable. Maybe we’ll meet again. If we don’t, I hope it’s because you’ll be a famous sailor on a ship much better than the one we met on, with a helmsman much more skilled than the one you had before.

Daniel

P.S. I helped myself to a bottle of your fine liquor – take it as my last pirate act, or well, you drank mine on the ship, so who is the thief here, ha?


Fernando drops the parchment on the table. He knows he should feel relieved, but he can’t tell if that numbness he suddenly feels inside is actually relief.

~ ~ ~


Fábio startles when he hears steps approaching his room. It feels like only a moment ago Lady Sara’s servant locked him in the room, so he feels really worried about what they might need him for again.

The key sounds in the lock, but it doesn’t turn smoothly this time, it sounds rather like someone is struggling with the lock. Then the door opens and Fábio gasps.

“Cris!” he whispers. “How did you...”

“Hurry up!” Cristiano growls. “The woman and her puppy won’t be gone forever.”

Fábio figures that the woman is supposed to be Lady Sara and her puppy probably Javier. He follows Cristiano out of the room, waiting for some servants to appear at any moment. But Cristiano makes his way through Casillas’ house like it’s actually his own, avoiding the places they would most likely be caught.

When they are out on the street, Fábio blinks in disbelief.

“How did you find me?” he asks.

“Well, that strange servant of Villa’s told me where you were. He looked like he would stone me to death if I didn’t help you,” Cristiano laughs.

To his confusion, Fábio looks like he’s about to cry.

“What’s up?” Cristiano frowns.

“I did a terrible thing, Cris,” Fábio whispers.

~ ~ ~


When he finally gets back from the forest, Markel is emotionally exhausted. Luckily Herrera managed to talk Iturraspe out of arresting the kids for theft and showed him how to look for mushrooms, which resulted in the whole suite looking for mushrooms that Iturraspe would always claim as his own find. Llorente looked like he would pull out his dagger and kill Iturraspe at any moment, but for example Father San José seemed to really enjoy it, running around the forest in his cassock and cheering loudly whenever he spotted a mushroom, edible or not.

Markel leads his horse to the stables because he always takes care of his own, force of habit. Then, when he’s about to go out, he sees something that makes him stop in his tracks and hide behind the door.

Captain Llorente is standing at the back gate of the palace, talking to Iker Muniain.

Not that Llorente doesn’t have the right to talk to whoever he wants to, but according to Markel, Iker Muniain is a strange choice, to put it mildly. Everyone knows Muniain’s reputation isn’t the best, and there is nothing Llorente could possibly need from him unless he is plotting something nasty.

He has a bad feeling, like if he lets this pass, pretending he didn’t see anything, something bad will happen. But then, if he goes to Iturraspe with it and it’s nothing, he might as well end up on the gallows again, or look like he went insane. He wishes Xabi was there so he could ask him for advice, but Xabi is gone to Lord Gómez because of the Puyol problem.

He watches Muniain leave with what looks suspiciously like a pouch full of money, and asks God why there can’t be just one day he wouldn’t have to wreck his brain over something.

~ ~ ~


Villa sighs with relief when he takes off the fancy coat. It’s already dark outside. The feast Daniella’s and Francesc’s fathers organized to celebrate Daniella’s baptism took almost all day. Villa would have left earlier, but Francesc looked so miserable that he didn’t have the heart to leave him there alone.

He’s just about to walk up the stairs when there’s a loud, resolute knock on the door. Villa frowns, but as he’s in the hall already, he goes to answer the door himself. He freezes the moment he opens it. Jordi Alba is standing there, accompanied by four guards.

“We have an arrest order,” he says in a flat voice. “Signed by Luis Enrique, the fiscal.”

“An arrest order for me?” Villa frowns.

“You, and your servant.”

“Which servant?”

Xavi and Sergio, who rushed in the hall in the meanwhile, exchange horrified looks.

“The one called David,” Jordi says.

~ ~ ~


“Thank you very much for your help,” Sergi says when Lady Sara’s servants see him and Captain Bartra out. “I promise that I will keep our conversation confidential.”

“Nah, just don’t tell the witch it was me who ratted on her,” Óliver says.

Sergi blinks and clears his throat.

“That was exactly what I’ve just promised you,” he says.

“Oh. Sorry, you said it way too complicatedly,” Óliver grins.

Captain Bartra rolls his eyes while Sergi laughs genuinely. Then he hands Óliver a pouch with money.

“For your service,” he says. “You deserve it.”

“Thank you,” Óliver says and looks at Sergi. “Though if you give Lady Sara a lesson, it will be better than all the gold in the world.”

“I will try,” Sergi smiles and gets on the horse. “Goodbye.”

Saúl barely mumbles a polite farewell, looking relieved that Sergi is leaving already. Then he looks at Óliver who is still petting the pouch with money, and sighs.

“When Lady Sara kills you, where do you want me to bury you?” he asks.

~ ~ ~


The guards stay silent all the time it takes for the carriage to take them to the prison. Villa feels like yelling at them, or at least asking them what it’s all supposed to mean, but he knows better. David stays silent as well and Villa thinks that he actually looks more composed than he himself is. He only looks frightened when they arrive to the prison and two of the guards take him away from Villa.

Villa expects the other guards to throw him in a cell immediately, so he is surprised when instead he is taken to a rather fancy office. A man is sitting behind the table, looking at Villa calmly, like they are supposed to have a cup of tea together. He is well dressed and looks calm and composed. He actually looks more like a nobleman than a man of church. Though he can as well be both.

“My name is Gabriel Fernández,” he says. “I was assigned your case by Luis Enrique, the fiscal. Do you know why you’ve been arrested?”

“No,” Villa barks.

Fernández doesn‘t even blink.

“You and your servant are accused of sodomy. I’ve heard it’s not the first time this stain is on your name. It just looks like this time you weren’t careful enough.”

“They were disgusting rumors then, and they are nothing more than that this time!” Villa growls.

Fernández gives him a stern look.

“I could just let you sit in a cell for months, just thinking about what you did. I am doing you a favor by informing you what you are accused of. ”

“Accused by who?”

This time, the look is almost condescending.

“The accuser always stays anonymous, you know that.”

He stays silent after that, like he expects Villa to start spilling out his secrets.

“You have absolutely no proof!” Villa yells.

“We do have witnesses.”

“Witnesses to what?” Villa barks. “Were these witnesses in my house?”

Fernández smiles contentedly.

“Yes, two of them were.”

Villa just blinks. Fernández pushes a few parchments aside and leans closer to Villa.

“And once we have a confession of one of you, we will have all we need to bring this to the Tribunal. You do know that a voluntary confession will spare you much trouble and might get you a more lenient punishment, don’t you?”

“I will never confess to anything.”

“You maybe not,” Fernández smirks, gets up and motions to the guards to take Villa away. “But that boy... I’ve never heard of anyone who wouldn’t confess to Álvaro Negredo, and I’m sure he will not be the first.”

Chapter Text

Francesc is sitting at the table in Villa’s kitchen. He’s only come home from his father’s house after the feast Tanoukh organized after Daniella’s baptism, when Sergio came running to his door, banging on it like there was a fire.

It turned out to be a lot worse than a fire.

“Can’t you do anything?” Sergio asks with a terrified look.

Xavi is sitting at the table as well, the food completely forgotten on the desk behind him.

“I’m afraid that I can’t,” Francesc sighs. “I can go to the prison and ask about them, but that’s all. I don’t think the regent would listen to me, he already has his picture of Villa, and he actually only waits for the Inquisition Tribunal to give him the sentence to sign.”

“And who is in the Inquisition Tribunal?” Xavi asks. “Maybe...”

“I don’t know them,” Francesc shakes his head. “I know the head of the Inquisition is Florentino Pérez, but he has nothing to do with the particular offenses as such. Thefiscal here is Luis Enrique. Still too high for me to reach. He has his calificadores, who are supposed to examine the case. I don’t know who they are.”

“It’s impossible!” Sergio shouts. “There has to be something we can do!”

“I’m not as much worried for Villa as I am for the boy,” Francesc sighs.

“Why?”

“Because he looks strange, says strange things, believes in strange things... it will be like poking a venomous snake with a short stick.”

Sergio bangs his fist in the table, making the bowls and tools jump up. Xavi looks miserable and worried.

“The worst thing is that I know it’s all Lady Sara’s work... maybe Casillas had something to do with it as well... but I suspected them for so long and I couldn’t do anything. And now I can do even less,” Francesc sighs.

“Why?” Sergio asks.

“Because Lady Sara is now my fiancée’s godmother,” Francesc looks at him. “We’re practically one family now.”

~ ~ ~


David feels like the whole time he’s spent with Villa was just a pleasant dream that he’s now woken up from. The tiny cell and its locked door remind him of the room his old master used to lock them in. He remembers his fears, the way it felt when in the darkness - because their master wouldn’t waste candles nor wood on them - he imagined the walls shrinking around him, suffocating him. He remembers the way Kun always held him and comforted him. But Kun isn’t there anymore.

For a while the panic overcomes him and he finds himself scratching at the walls and the door of the cell.

But then he pulls himself together and reminds himself that he was not dreaming. Villa is real, he’s still somewhere out there, even though David doesn’t know where, and he’s smart and brave and has friends like señor Fàbregas and señor Torres. For sure they do have hope. He just has to be patient.

He falls asleep somehow and only wakes up when the door of the cell opens with a loud screech and two guards walk in.

“Get up!” one of them barks. “Someone wants to talk to you.”

“Well," the other chuckles. "You better hope he wants to just talk.” 

~ ~ ~


“Llorente plotting against Iturraspe?” Xabi raises his eyebrows.

“You think that I’m paranoid,” Markel sighs.

“I didn’t say that,” Xabi says softly. “But Llorente is a soldier and he has the highest position within the army that he could ever have. What would it bring him?”

“I don’t know,” Markel shrugs. “But whatever he was talking about with Muniain had to be some foul business, because Muniain doesn’t do honorable things.”

He throws a stone in the pond and watches the fish swim away quickly.

“I swear that if he hurts Ander, I will kill him with my bare hands.”

Xabi looks at him a bit skeptically, but then smiles.

“I’d love to have a friend like you,” he says.

~ ~ ~


Marc looks around the room. It’s the best this inn had to offer, but it’s still almost offensive for someone like Sergi. Sergi however doesn’t complain, even though the wine tastes line vinegar and someone forgot to clean the spiderwebs in the corners of the room.

“We should have gone to some house in the city,” Marc mumbles. “This place isn’t very safe.”

A loud burst of laughter sounds from the taproom and then something crashes in there, perfectly timed to confirm his words.

“I didn’t feel like explaining to anyone why I was going to Barcelona,” Sergi says. “If what that boy said was true, the whole matter is quite complicated already. That means Lady Sara had to think it through really well. Probably the only thing that can be my advantage is the moment of surprise.”

“Well, it’s your plan,” Marc shrugs. “I’m just a soldier, I’m not even supposed to think much.”

Sergi smiles as he watches Marc go to the door.

“Marc?” he calls.

“Yes?”

“You said that this inn wasn’t of the safest places?”

“I don’t find it very safe for someone like you indeed.”

“Then you should stay here with me,” Sergi says.

Marc’s lips curl up in a smile.

“Is my lord afraid?” he asks.

“He quite possibly is,” Sergi nods.

Marc locks the door and folds his arms.

“And in what proximity to my lord should I be staying exactly?”

“You are the captain of my guards,” Sergi grins. “You should be able to determine that on your own.”

“Then, I’d say the right place would be within the reach of both a weapon and you.”

“I don’t care for the first part, captain,” Sergi says. “But I agree with the second.”

~ ~ ~


Negredo lays his hands on David’s shoulders and it’s almost a fatherly gesture, even though the grip is quite painful.

“Do you know what these things are?” he asks in a light tone.

David turns his head and looks at him with surprising calmness. Negredo honestly thinks that they should design some tools that look more gruesome. He still remembers a certain Javier Manquillo who didn’t even bat an eyelash at the sight of them. And Manquillo was almost a child.

“I think I do, señor,” David says quietly, momentarily surprising Negredo with his politeness.

Then Negredo recomposes himself and puts on the nicest face that he knows. It’s still fairly frightening.

“You know, I always try to avoid using these,” he says. “It would be easier if you just told me the truth.”

“I could tell you what you want to hear, señor,” David smiles sadly. “But then I would be lying.”

“Think well about it,” Negredo frowns. “I know how to make you speak.”

“I don’t think you master any pain that I wouldn’t know,” David says quietly.

Negredo’s eyes fall on the mark on David’s wrist and then he pulls the shirt down his shoulders. He laughs heartily.

“I’m not a stupid peasant that whips his slaves when he’s drunk,” he whispers in David’s ear. “You maybe think that you know everything, but I could show you that you know nothing.”

He steps back and beckons the guards.

“But I’m patient. I’ll give you some time to reflect. I hope when we see each other again, you’ll be more reasonable.”

The glint of fear in David’s eyes tells him of his victory.

~ ~ ~


Sara sits in one of the exotic chairs in Daniella’s father’s house and accept a cup of tea.

“I hope I’m not interrupting,” she says. “I wouldn’t want to take away any precious time you could spend with your future husband. I know his time is worth gold.”

“He sent me a message this morning,” Daniella says. “It said that a friend of his was in trouble and he would be more busy now.”

Sara purses her lips.

“Let me tell you something... as a woman.”

Daniella leans closer. Sara puts the cup back on the table and shoots a glance to Javier who is standing by the door. He bows slightly and walks out of the room.

“Men will always have many excuses,” Sara says. “I’m not saying that Francesc is lying to you, actually, one of his friends is really in trouble, but you shouldn’t allow this.”

“I shouldn’t allow him to help his friend?” Daniella blinks.

“No, no, no, I’m not saying that!” Sara holds her hand up. “I’m just saying that no friend should interest him more than you do, you understand? You are his future wife. You should be the most important person in his life.”

Daniella nods and looks at Sara like Sara has all the wisdom of the world.

“But... what can I do?”

“For the start, you should tell your father that he’s neglecting you. More, neglecting you for a friend, who is not a very honorable man and the trouble he’s gotten himself into could leave a stain on your name as well, should anyone associate him with your family. I’m sure your father wouldn’t allow that.”

Now Daniella looks horrified.

“But... I’m afraid that...” she looks around to make sure nobody is listening, but there is only her old chaperone sleeping in an armchair in the corner of the room. “He might leave me. His matters always seem so important to him, and he always looks so angry when my father or his father pressure him into something. What if he really cares about this friend more than he cares about me?”

Sara nods thoughtfully. It seems like Daniella isn’t that stupid after all. Actually, she seems to be quite pragmatic. At least she doesn’t believe that Francesc loves her with all his heart.

“Well, then... we should use a couple little tricks,” she smiles. “If not only his friend, but also his fiancée is in trouble, he will have to make a choice. And I’m sure his good manners won’t allow him to prefer any man over his future wife.”

~ ~ ~


Villa is pacing around his cell. He was given a fairly luxurious one, at least compared to the other cells, but he couldn’t care less. The prison of his mind is much worse.

He doesn’t know where David is at the moment, what they are doing to him. Villa’s imagination is good enough to guess, though.

He weighs the possibilities. It’s quite obvious that Fernández will go this way, treating Villa relatively well and only using the testimonies from witnesses he got God knows where, and possibly David’s confession, against him.

But if he told him what he wanted to hear, then maybe he could end it, maybe they’d be more merciful. Sure, they would still both die, but Villa’s heard those who repented were at least garroted before being burned.

He’s already lifting his hand to bang on the door when it occurs to him.

It’s exactly what Fernández wants.

They are not interested in David at all, he’s just a tool to destroy Villa. Whoever planned it knows that he cares about him. But no plan is perfect. There has to be a way out somewhere, and he needs to find it, or let someone else find it. If they haven’t come for him yet, it means they have nothing yet. That may be the only thing that can save them. Time.

He sits back on the stool in the corner and forces himself to think.

~ ~ ~


Markel cowers when a porcelain vase flies out of Iturraspe’s rooms, hitting a guard in the head. Luckily he is wearing his helmet.

“How come we don’t have a presentable carriage?” Iturraspe’s voice yells in the next moment.

“Umm... I don’t know, my lord...” someone in the room mumbles.

“Maybe because you never travel anywhere,” Markel says and walks in. “Good evening. May I know why you woke up all the children in Biscay that were already in bed?”

Iturraspe looks at the servant and scoffs.

“Go away!” he barks.

The servant is more than happy to oblige. Markel approaches Iturraspe carefully.

“So what happened?”

“This happened!” Iturraspe says and hands him a piece of parchment.

“You’re throwing things because Etxeita is getting married? I didn’t know you secretly loved him, I’m sorry.”

“I don’t care if he’s getting married or if it’s his funeral, what annoys me is that I have to go there and I don’t even have a carriage that would be presentable enough!” Iturraspe growls.

“Well, you’ve never wanted one,” Markel shrugs. “When is that wedding?”

“In two weeks.”

“He invited you so late?” Markel frowns.

“No, but I only read correspondence once a month. My head always hurts when I read too much.”

Markel resists the urge to roll his eyes.

“Fine. I’ll try to think of something. But promise me you’ll stop throwing things at people.”

“I’ll try.”

Markel nods and walks out. On the corridor he passes Herrera who is carrying a bucket.

“What is that?” Markel asks.

“An eel!” Herrera announces with a wide smile.

“I don’t want to know what you’re going to do with it,” Markel says. “But I hope it will cheer Ander up.”

~ ~ ~


Gabriel Fernández is going through some documents when there is a knock on the door.

“Enter!” he calls while still reading a long parchment.

The door opens and Álvaro Negredo walks in.

“Ah, Negredo,” Fernández says and throws the parchment away. “So, what do we have?”

“You aren’t very patient, my lord,” Negredo smiles.

“The boy didn’t look like I’d need to be patient with him,” Fernández frowns. “Don’t tell me he didn’t spill anything out.”

“He doesn’t exactly fear pain, so I didn’t make him feel any yet, my lord,” he says.

“Then?”

“He fears something else.”

“What is that?”

“Confinement. The tiny, dark rooms. He’s like all the savages of his kind,” Negredo smirks. “I’ll leave him to reflect for some time down there with rats. It should make him speak.”

“You better pull him out before he loses his mind, though,” Fernández says sternly. “A madman would be of no use to us if we want to get Villa. Are you at least sure that he and Villa really... you know?”

“I don’t know what the truth is yet, but I know one thing, my lord,” Negredo says. “You don’t usually dress your servants in silk shirts.”

Chapter Text

Francesc is just getting ready to go to the prison to at least try to find out something about Villa when he hears something in the backyard. He catches a glimpse of several horses through the window and heads to the door. Before he reaches it, though, the door bursts open and a pair of soldiers walk in, looking around and completely ignoring Francesc, like it’s not even his house and like he doesn’t exist. Then they turn back to another soldier who’s standing outside.

“Captain,” they say. “Everything is fine, captain!”

The soldier nods and beckons the guards who walk out again. Then he walks in himself and holds the door. Francesc is just about to ask who they are and what the hell they think they are doing, when another person walks in. Francesc looks at him and blinks in surprise.

“Your Grace,” he mumbles and bows.

Sergi waves his hand impatiently, motioning for him to get up.

“Captain Fàbregas, please excuse my soldiers, they are only concerned about my safety,” he says. “Also I’m sorry to come unannounced and at this late hour, but I wanted to keep my visit a secret.”

“Of course, Your Grace,” Francesc nods and leads him to the drawing room.

Sergi follows him and sits in one of the armchairs.

“First of all, you might want to know something about your servants,” he says.

“Álvaro and Isco?” Francesc gulps. “What...”

“They are well and safe. Mainly thanks to Isco. He has more courage than the King’s best soldiers, I would say.”

“Excuse me, Your Grace, but I don’t understand.”

“Lady Sara Carbonero, from what I understood, gave your servant a sleeping potion and then paid some Moors to take him to Granada and sell him there,” Sergi says. “Luckily one of her servants is a honest man and he revealed to Isco where they were heading, so the two pursued the Moors and managed to free Álvaro. On their way back, though, they ran into my soldiers. This is how I know the story. They are now in Reus.”

“You... you came here to tell me about this?” Francesc asks, completely dumbfounded.

“Yes, but not only that,” Sergi says. “When I found out about what Lady Sara was up to, I figured that she was probably plotting something bigger. So I went to Niebla and talked to some of her servants. What they told me was very interesting, and alarming as well. It seems like she wants to accuse someone of sodomy.”

“She already did,” Francesc sighs.

“Really? Who?”

“My friend, David Villa. They arrested him and his servant a few days ago.”

Sergi nods and thinks for a while.

“Have you had any news about them since?” he asks then.

“No. Not at all. Nor about Lady Sara. But she is still in town. She visited my fiancée yesterday.”

“Good,” Sergi nods. “Captain Fàbregas, I am willing to help your friend, but I will need your help as well.”

“I’ll do anything I can,” Francesc assures him.

“I need you to find out as much as you can about your friend’s... accusations. Who is investigating the matter, what they’re accusing him of exactly, who are the witnesses they have. Do you think it’s possible?”

“I hope so. My good friend is the head of the prison guards.”

“Perfect. You know, I will talk to the regent, but I have to know as much as possible. The regent is an impatient man.”

Francesc nods and then looks at him.

“Your Grace, I beg your pardon, but... may I ask you why you are interested in my friend’s problems? You’ve never met him.”

Sergi smiles somewhat guiltily.

“I have to admit, Captain Fàbregas, that my reasons are partly very selfish. Truth is that I promised your servants to bring down Lady Sara for good, but I was very pleased when they presented me with the opportunity to do so,” he says. “She once wanted to play with me. I think it’s the right time for me to make my move.”

~ ~ ~


Villa lifts his head when he hears the already familiar heavy steps approaching. The key turns in the lock and two guards walk in.

“Fernández wants to see you,” one of them says.

Not that he wasn’t expecting it. Fernández surely has people above him, and those people are most likely putting pressure on him.

Fernández doesn’t look like he’s under any pressure when Villa sees him, though. He looks like he slept soundly and had a good breakfast. Villa had neither of that.

“Señor Villa,” Fernández smiles. “I hope our conversation today will be more fruitful than the last one.”

Villa doesn’t answer.

“I thought about what you said to me last time,” Fernández says and leans back in his chair. “I think you are a very practical man.”

“I would say so,” Villa growls.

“So you are not someone who thinks a lot about the spiritual things and theology.”

“I do believe in God, but the nuances of the doctrines are sometimes lost on me,” Villa says. “I prefer to leave the spiritual things to the experts, and I trust them to judge wisely, same as people trust me not to steal from them when I change their money.”

“I though so,” Fernández nods. “So I will not appeal to your conscience as a Christian. Instead, we can discuss the facts, if you agree.”

“I would prefer that indeed.”

“So,” Fernández says and beckons a scribe in the corner of the room to get ready. “Let’s talk about this... servant of yours. How did you even find him?”

“I bought him. On the slave market,” Villa replies.

“I see. Which implies that of course your servant is not of the Christian faith.”

“No. He comes from the Canary Islands. He has a faith of his own.”

“Have you actually discussed these matters together?” Fernández asks.

“Very vaguely,” Villa replies carefully.

“Now that’s interesting,” Fernández folds his arms. “Because you were seen by many people going to church together.”

“I tried to do my duty as a Christian,” Villa says. “To teach him about our religion. The only right religion there is.”

“Of course, of course,” Fernández mumbles very skeptically. “Let’s get back to the beginning. So you say that you bought the servant. But you have other servants that you actually employ. What was the reason behind your purchase?”

Villa grits his teeth when he hears Fernández speak about David as he would about a thing. He’s also so tempted to ask about David, to try to find out at least something about him, but he figures that it’s exactly what Fernández is waiting for.

“I needed to save money,” he replies, forcing his voice to stay calm. “I endorsed my friend’s voyage to India. I had to save the money somewhere.”

“I understand,” Fernández nods, looking over his shoulder at the scribe who keeps writing down everything Villa says. “But I also heard that you got an offer to sell him for more than you bought him for, and you refused. Why was that, if you were, as you say, in need of money?”

Villa presses his lips together. Bloody Casillas.

“He is a good servant. I would have troubles replacing him.”

“In what actually is he so good?” Fernández asks and raises his brows.

Villa feels like strangling him in that moment.

~ ~ ~


Markel is lounging around the stables when he hears steps behind him. He turns around and sees Xabi watching him with an amused smile.

“Oh, Xabi,” Markel says.

“Are you still spying on Llorente?” Xabi smirks.

“Not really,” Markel says. “Spying wouldn’t help, I’d need to see in his head.”

He kicks a stone on the road and sighs.

“Oh, by the way, how did your meeting with Lord Gómez go? I completely forgot to ask.”

“Well, Lord Gómez is... very special,” Xabi smiles. “No wonder he and Iturraspe are friends.”

“Did he help you?”

“We agreed that Carles’ current mission was lost. We’re unlikely to find him so quickly. But Lord Gómez told me that when he comes back to Barcelona, I should try to contact him and then Lord Gómez would be willing to finance a new mission.”

“That sounds great,” Markel says.

“It does for Carles, not so much for those who financed this mission, though,” Xabi shrugs. “Their money is lost for good.”

Markel nods and then frowns when a servant comes running to them.

“Señor Markel, the new carriage is here!” he announces. “But...”

“But what?” Markel asks.

“But I’m not sure lord Iturraspe will like it.”

“Why?”

“Um... well, it has the King’s emblem on it.”

Markel sighs and crosses himself.

“Wish me luck,” he tells Xabi. “I have to tell this to Ander now. If he kills me, it was nice to know you.”

~ ~ ~


Francesc just manages to lead a horse out of the stables to go to see Jordi, when a servant from his father’s house comes galloping to his courtyard.

“Señor Fàbregas,” he says, trying to catch his breath. “You have to go to your father’s house immediately.”

“Why?” Francesc asks. “Did anything happen to my sister? My father?”

“No,” the servant shakes his head. “Your fiancée. She was... attacked.”

“What nonsense is this?” Francesc frowns. “What do you mean, attacked? Where? How?”

“On the street, in her carriage,” the servant explains. “They will tell you more, they just asked me to bring you right away.”

Francesc sighs deeply, then gets on the horse.

“Alright, then, let’s go,” he says.

~ ~ ~


Iturraspe rolls his eyes and sighs when someone knocks on the door.

“Go away, whoever you are!” he groans.

“It’s me!” Markel calls.

“Well, then go away, Markel!”

The door opens and Markel walks in. Iturraspe looks at him angrily.

“I told you to go away!”

“Yes. But exactly the moments when you tell everyone to go away are the ones when it’s dangerous to leave you alone. So what’s wrong?”

Iturraspe looks at him desperately.

“Do you think I will have to get married one day?” he asks.

“You should have been already married by now,” Markel says.

“I know,” Iturraspe sighs. “Do you remember when my mother was so worried that I wasn’t interested in marriage and, well, things related to it?”

“Yes.”

“The dignitary she was sleeping with at that time advised her to get me a whore.”

Markel chuckles and looks at him with interest.

“Well? What happened? Was she ugly?”

“No. No, she was beautiful. She was by all means beautiful. But...”

“But?”

“But she was a woman. And I just... hell, she was a woman I saw for the first time in my life, what did my mother expect me to do?”

“Well, whores usually are women you see for the first time, and also the last time.”

“I wanted to send her away, but she was scared my mother would be furious with her. So we ended up playing cards all night.”

Markel presses a hand to his mouth, trying hard not to laugh at the image of Ander playing cards with a whore, and even more at the dreamy smile that is now on his friend’s lips.

“She was good at cards,” he whispers. “Really good.”

“Well, what is the moral of the story?” Markel asks.

“That I can’t get married because it would be a disaster!” Iturraspe says. “But everyone’s getting married. Even Etxeita, and he was always the first one to say he was only interested in swords and horses.”

“You don’t have to do what everyone does, and to have everything the others have,” Markel says softly. “And you are not the King. Which maybe you hate for several reasons, but there is one advantage to it.”

“Which is?”

“You’re entitled to love. To love whoever you want to love.”

“Not really,” Iturraspe sighs.

Markel smiles and leans closer to him.

“As long as you remember to keep the door closed, you are,” he whispers.

~ ~ ~


When Francesc walks in his father’s house, all the family, including Daniella, her chaperone and her father are gathered there.

“What happened?” he asks.

Daniella is shaking, apparently unable to stop crying.

“I... I was...” she starts and then breaks down again.

“My daughter was on her way to church to see Father Guardiola,” Tanoukh explains. “When two armed men forced the carriage to stop, and attacked my daughter and her chaperone.”

Francesc looks at Daniella, who is wailing loudly. Carlota just keeps rolling her eyes secretly and his grandmother keeps saying “somebody give the poor girl a cup of tea” but nobody is listening to her.

“I’m very sorry to hear that,” Francesc says and when his father frowns menacingly, he approaches Daniella carefully. “Did they hurt you, my dear?”

With another sob Daniella throws her arms around Francesc and holds onto him for dear life.

“Those men stole the chaperone’s money and ripped my daughter’s necklace off her neck. She was bleeding!” Tanoukh says furiously.

Francesc looks skeptically at the small scratch on Daniella’s neck and then turns to him.

“Why do I have the impression of you being angry with me?” he asks. “It’s not like I sent the men to rob your daughter!”

“No, but if you were with her, it wouldn’t have happened!” Tanoukh says and Francesc’s father nods in agreement. “You are her husband-to-be. When will you finally start acting that way?”

“Papa, it wasn’t his fault!” Daniella says and cuddles up to Francesc. “Will you stay here tonight? I’m still scared.”

Francesc curses in his mind, but nods exasperatedly and attempts a smile.

“Of course. I will.”

~ ~ ~


Sara turns around when there is a knock on the door.

“Enter!” she calls.

Javier comes in with another young man and closes the door.

“My lady,” he says. “This is Asier.”

“Oh,” Sara says. “Well? How did it go?”

“If all people were as easy to rob as those two women, I wouldn’t complain, my lady,” Asier chuckles and pulls out a necklace. “Will you want this?”

“No, keep it,” Sara shakes her head. “As a part of the payment.”

“Fine,” Asier nods and slips the necklace back in his pocket.

Sara takes her fan and then approaches him.

“I think you got paid enough. I want your absolute silence. We’ve never met, you don’t know me. If you ever reveal to anyone that I had anything to do with it, you will regret ever being born.”

“Telling anyone that wouldn’t be really in my interest,” Asier smirks. “You don’t need to worry.”

“Very well,” Sara nods. “You can go now.”

Asier nods and walks out of the room. Sara looks at Javier and smiles.

“I’m very pleased with you,” she says.

~ ~ ~


Villa falls face-first onto the mattress in his cell when the guards bring him back. It got dark behind the windows of Fernández’ office in the meanwhile, and he was almost falling asleep there, while Fernández didn’t look tired in the slightest, asking questions that didn’t even make sense to Villa anymore. Truth to be told, he also had lunch in the meanwhile and then kept asking while peeling an apple, enjoying a cup of wine and having a servant massage his shoulders.

Villa of course wasn’t entitled to enjoy any of those luxuries.

He however managed not to give in and ask about David, but Fernández was also careful in avoiding him in any other way than the one that concerned the past. Sometimes he spoke in such way that made Villa worry that David was already dead, but then he reasoned with himself. It wasn’t what they needed if they wanted to prove their point. They needed them alive. But then the little voice in his head came in. It could have been an accident. They wouldn’t be very careful with a slave, would they?

The steps behind the door rouse him from the dark thoughts and he lifts his head, hoping with all his heart the guards are not coming for him to take him for questioning again. If they are, he will pass out on Fernández’ table, for all he cares.

The door opens and the face of Jordi Alba appears in the jar.

“Hey!” he calls.

Villa scrambles to his feet. Jordi looks around and then back at Villa.

“I shouldn’t be here, I’m currently pretending to be checking the whole prison to make this less suspicious,” he whispers. “I just wanted to see you, in case Francesc asks me about you.”

“He knows I’m here?” Villa asks.

“I thought he did, but he hasn’t showed up yet,” Jordi shrugs. “Well, I see you’re holding on. They gave you the best cell there is, too.”

“Please, I...” Villa whispers and looks at him. “The boy...”

Jordi sighs exasperatedly.

“I knew you would ask,” he says. “Hell, I shouldn’t... I can’t tell you anything. Fernández will burn me because I endorsed your crimes or something.”

“Please, just tell me if he’s alive.”

Jordi scratches his head angrily.

“Well, he is,” he spits out then. “Negredo threw him to what we call ‘the hole’.”

“What does that mean?”

Jordi looks positively nervous and angry by that point.

“It means a tiny space with no windows and a lot of rats!” he snaps. “Inspection of this cell is over.”

He slams the door shut and locks it.

“Cursed be the day I became Fàbregas’ friend,” he sighs.

~ ~ ~


Sara sits at the table gracefully and looks at Iker.

“See, it wasn’t hard at all,” she smiles. “You sold your property, the servants who insulted you are gone for good, and Villa and his slave are in prison. I had the opportunity to meet this Gabriel Fernández and I can tell you, it won’t be long before they will be burning at the stake, as they deserve, disgusting sinners. And I did all of that only for our friendship.”

“You are amazing, Sara,” Iker says, somehow moved by her selflessness. “A true friend. The only one I have.”

“Oh well, don’t!” Sara says, pretending to be moved as well. “We better toast.”

She lifts her cup and raises her brows.

“To us?” she asks.

“To us.”

Chapter Text

The night is the longest in Francesc’s life. To give Daniella credit, she almost doesn’t talk, doesn’t reproach anything to him, she even isn’t hysterical anymore. His father and her father make up for it, though. Sometimes he feels like he is about to marry Daniella’s father and not her.

When the morning comes, Francesc puts on his uniform and excuses himself, telling them that he has his duties. Which always works with his father and Daniella just watches him lovingly and when she gets to button up one button on his jacket that he omitted, she looks like the happiest person in the world.

He heads straight to the prison, hoping for Jordi to be on duty – though since certain time, he suspects him to be constantly on duty and sleeping only for an hour or two in the guards’ room.

“You took long,” Jordi greets him when he walks in. “I almost started to think you became like your father.”

“Like my father?” Francesc raises his brows.

“Forsaking your friends. In the name of honor.”

“You know I could never be like my father,” Francesc sighs and sits on one of the chairs. “So what can you tell me?”

“That someone must really hate your friend.”

“That I already know. Casillas. But it’s his lovely friend, Lady Carbonero, behind this all.”

Jordi nods and looks at Francesc.

“I shouldn’t tell you anything, you know. Or maybe I could tell you that Villa is still alive and relatively unharmed, I dare to say. Fernández... the fiscal, you know... even ordered to give him the best cell, and he did nothing more than question him so far.”

“Isn’t that a bit strange?” Francesc frowns.

“It’s more than strange. But I think he took the other boy as a weapon he wants to use against Villa. He threw him in the hole. Negredo advised him to do it. He guessed immediately the boy was... well, not afraid of whips nor fire as he already was familiar with them. But darkness and thick walls, that always works on someone who spent most of his life outside.”

Francesc sighs deeply.

“Do you know who are the witnesses Fernández has?” he asks.

“No,” Jordi shakes his head. “I’m here all days, I don’t hear much.. But if you say Lady Carbonero is behind this, I think I know one witness for sure.”

“Really?” Francesc asks.

“Yes,” Jordi smiles. “And you know him as well.”

Francesc thinks for a while and then places a hand on his forehead.

“Damn! Manquillo!” he says and jumps up. “Thank you, Jordi!”

“If you’re about to do something, do it well,” Jordi says. “Otherwise we’re both in trouble.”

~ ~ ~


Xavi kneads the dough angrily until he realizes that he’s probably overdone it already. The house is dead quiet and if it wasn’t for the birds singing in the garden, he would have thought there were no more living beings around him.

He throws the dough back in the bowl, opens the door resolutely and heads to the garden. Sergio is sitting under a tree, looking at the sky.

“Are you actually going to do something, Sergio?” Xavi asks and folds his arms.

“Why?” Sergio asks bluntly. “What is the point of cleaning the house and keeping the garden now?”

“The point is that when señor Villa comes back, he can’t find the house looking like a pigpen!” Xavi barks.

Sergio looks at him with bloodshot eyes.

“He won’t come back, Xavi, don’t you understand?” he asks, voice breaking. “He won’t come back and nor will David. Nobody the Inquisition took like this has ever come back.”

“You don’t know that for sure,” Xavi retorts, still sounding sure enough for Sergio to shake his head in disbelief. “How many people the Inquisition took do you know?”

Sergio just shrugs and gets up.

“Not even Cesc looked hopeful, and Cesc always looks hopeful,” he says. “It’s his nature. If he doesn’t think they can be saved, then how do you want me to have hope?”

“There’s always hope!” Xavi says. “Señor Fàbregas won’t give up and if he sees you like this, I don’t want to know what he will think.”

It works like magic. Sergio nods and heads to the house. When Xavi comes back in the kitchen, he can hear Sergio opening and closing the doors upstairs. It’s now easier to pretend the situation is not as grave as it is. Xavi sighs and starts chopping the vegetables.

~ ~ ~


The door opens with a loud screech and the sound and light creeping in scares a few rats so that they run to hide in the darkest corner. The corner is already occupied by David who merely lifts his head to look at the guards standing at the door.

The light of the torch one of the guards is holding is burning his eyes and he hides his face in the crook of his elbow. The other guard grabs him and hauls him up without saying anything. He goes willingly because any place they take him to will be better than the tiny cell.

The corridors and stairs they walk seem to be endless. Even if David thought of escaping and managed to get out of the cell somehow, he would most likely get lost in the prison.

Then they enter another room and the guards push him forward. He backs up upon seeing Negredo’s dangerous face, but then something scares him to the point that he forgets about Negredo completely. Villa is standing there, the look on his face something between exhaustion, surprise and worry.

The thoughts that flood David’s head are suddenly too much to take. He feels guilty because in the endless hours in the dark, tiny cell, he was crying for Kun and not Villa, he also feels guilty because he is the reason why Villa is here, and he remembers his old master’s ways and knows that every time he wanted to punish him or Kun, he brought them together and punished the other one, and he couldn’t bear seeing them hurting Villa, his gentle, good, loving Villa.

He throws himself at the guards who brought him in and starts begging them to take him back to the cell. He’s scared of that place but he’s ready to stay there for the rest of his life if it can save Villa.

“Oh well,” Negredo’s satisfied voice says. “Fernández will be surely satisfied when I show him a half-mad savage speaking some diabolical language.”

“It’s no diabolical language, you fools, it’s his native language!” Villa shouts, forgetting about his resolution not to show that he cares.

“Do you understand it?” Negredo asks with a smirk. “I don’t. And I doubt the Tribunal will. So regardless of whether either of you confesses, Fernández can still have this one burnt for witchcraft. Just looking at him I would believe it.”

He raises his brows and leans over the wall.

“Unless you want to confess to your crimes?” he offers. “The Tribunal would also be ready to believe that the poor, uneducated slave had no other choice than to submit to your disgusting perversities. Maybe they will kill him quickly. Maybe they won’t even kill him, I don’t know.”

Villa gives him a hateful look. Negredo smirks and folds his arms.

“Think about it, but think quickly. Otherwise I’ll help you think.”

~ ~ ~


If there is something that makes Sergi different from the rest of the aristocracy, it’s the fact that he doesn’t like wasting money and even less does he like wasting time. When Francesc Fàbregas gives him the name of Lady Sara’s servant, it takes merely an hour before the said servant is sitting opposite to him in a small room of the inn where Sergi is staying.

“Your lady plotted a very good plan, it seems,” Sergi says and looks at Marc, who is standing behind Javier, looking both menacing and amused. “But I already know a big part of it, and you might want to tell me the rest.”

“You can’t buy me with money!” Javier spits.

“I’m not trying to buy you,” Sergi says calmly. “I’m going to meet the regent tonight, and by the end of that meeting, Lady Sara’s fate will be sealed. I’m giving you the last chance to save yourself.”

Javier just folds his arms and looks at the floor like he can see through it.

“My lord,” Marc says. “May I ask you to leave us in private for a while? I think the boy is just a bit confused. With your permission, I will explain the situation to him.”

Sergi raises his brows, but then nods and walks out of the room. He cringes when something crashes in the room and then Marc’s loud voice sounds from there. He doesn’t necessarily endorse Marc’s methods that are sometimes too harsh for his gentle manners, but he is willing to close his eyes before them when the situation calls for it.

The door opens a few moments later and Marc’s smiling face appears.

“I think we’re set,” he says. “The young man would like to tell you something.”

~ ~ ~


That Iturraspe actually left the palace to go to Xabier Etxeita‘s wedding is a miracle, at least according to Markel. First he refused to come near the carriage because it had the King‘s emblem on it. When the whole situation started to be tiring, mainly for the whole suite waiting there, Corporal Iraola, who was appointed to accompany them probably as a punishment for letting the pirates escape from the prison, simply used his sword to get rid of the emblem.

The other problem was with Ander Herrera, who didn‘t want to leave his fish, which offended Iturraspe and he accused Herrera of liking fish more than his lord. It took another hour of them chasing each other in the gardens, reconciling. By the time they got back, the majority of the suite was already asleep.

Finally they didn‘t even manage to leave Bilbao before the night fell. While everyone was annoyed about having to sleep in an inn when they could still sleep in their own beds, Llorente looked actually satisfied.

When Markel thinks about it, too satisfied for his liking.

He checks that Iturraspe is still arguing with his guards about the way they rode next to his carriage and “obstructed his view of the country”, and heads to the stables where Llorente disappeared.

~ ~ ~


Sara finds Iker in his best clothes, going through the fancy weapons on his wall, trying every single one, first by stabbing an invisible opponent with it, and then checking in the mirror how he looks with it and whether it goes well with his clothes.

“Lady Sara, I’m afraid I won’t be able to keep you company at the dinner tonight,” he says. “I hope you won’t mind.”

“Not at all. I’m invited to the regent’s house tonight,” Sara says with pride in her voice.

Iker stops waving the sword in the air and looks at her.

“You? I am invited to have dinner with him tonight!” he says.

“That must be some kind of misunderstanding,” Sara frowns. “Javier?”

She waits for some time but when Javier doesn’t appear, she sighs deeply.

“People mysteriously disappear from this house, it seems. First Jorge, then the Portuguese thief and now Javier!” she mutters and goes to her rooms.

She returns with a piece of parchment and shows it to Iker.

“It says clearly... tonight, dinner at the regent’s house.”

“I got the same one,” Iker says, selects a dagger and puts it on his belt before picking up his invitation and showing it to Sara. “Well, maybe he already knows how close friends we are and invited us both.”

Sara hums noncommittally. It offends her not to be the only guest, and it offends her even more that Iker looks actually like he doesn’t care. She glances at the dagger he’s finally chosen and sighs.

“I’m going to change,” she announces.

“Why?” Iker asks.

“Because my green dress doesn’t match your attire!” she barks. “At least have a carriage prepared.”

Iker nods and looks in the mirror again. He looks well. Maybe he will be able to persuade the regent to forget about his escapades and give him his title back... though he will better wait until the regent’s had a lot of wine to try it.

~ ~ ~


“I’m afraid that I can’t let you go and warn your lady now,” Sergi says when Javier reluctantly tells him the rest of the whole story.

He snaps his fingers and two guards walk in.

“You’ll stay here and my guards will make sure you don’t leave this room. I have given them the permission to use every means to ensure that. I hope they won’t have to do anything more than to stand by the door, though.”

Javier gives him a hateful look. Sergi pretends he didn’t notice.

“When the matter is solved, you are of course free to go,” he adds and walks out.

The guards close the door and lock it. Javier quickly searches the room for possible escape ways, then searches more thoroughly in desperate attempt to find something he could kill himself with. When he finds nothing, he slumps back in the chair and submerges in the gloomiest thoughts about his future.

~ ~ ~


“You planned this, didn’t you?” Markel barks at Llorente. “You and Muniain.”

Llorente looks at him with certain surprise, but then smiles condescendingly.

“What was I supposed to plan?” he asks. “With Muniain?”

That Markel would also like to know.

“I noticed how happy you looked when we had to stop in this inn,” he says. “Will it make it easier for Muniain to assassinate your lord in his sleep?”

Llorente keeps looking at Markel for a while, like he is trying to understand his ways of thinking. Then he starts laughing loudly.

“Oh my!” he exclaims. “You really thought I wanted to kill Iturraspe? You really thought that?”

“And don’t you?”

“You fool, and what profit would I have from that? On the contrary, you don’t meet a lord that rich and that crazy every day.”

“So what is this all about?”

“I don’t like who is advising him,” Llorente smirks. “At first, I had my eyes set on you, but then I realized you no longer had the main word.”

Markel frowns. Llorente smiles condescendingly and lays his hands on Markel’s shoulders.

“You understand that this country can’t be practically ruled by someone who thinks fish have feelings,” he says.

“You can’t be serious,” Markel gasps. “You can’t... you’re going to break his heart! Ander loves that boy, don’t you understand?”

“He will get over it,” Llorente shrugs. “He always loves his toys when they’re new. And then forgets them when he gets new ones.”

In that moment Markel doesn’t care that Llorente is considerably taller than him. He pushes him away with such force that he hits the wall with his back, and he would marvel at his strength if he had time for that, but he just runs out of the stables as fast as he can.

He can hear Llorente yelling at the guards to stop him, but he keeps running. The guards are luckily too surprised and before they even process Llorente’s orders, Markel is already gone.

~ ~ ~


Sara honestly thinks that she and Iker had to make a great impression when they walked in the dining room, dressed in their best, with Iker having an exquisite dagger on his belt and her carrying a huge fan made of black feathers. But the regent looks rather displeased for no apparent reason.

When they sit at the table, instead of having the first course served, the regent looks at them sternly.

“I have invited you because it came to my attention that the two of you have been involved in some very shameful activities recently.”

“Shameful activities?” Sara frowns. “I don’t know what you mean.”

“Me neither,” Iker says.

“So you want to tell me that you didn’t, for example, use the services of some Moorish soldiers, that you weren’t behind the disappearance of Francesc Fàbregas’ servants, that you didn’t accuse David Villa of sodomy?” the regent asks in a very dangerous voice.

Sara gets up, cheeks burning and eyes wide.

“No, I didn’t, and whoever says that I did is a filthy shameless liar!” she snaps.

“So you say that the Duke of Tarragona is a filthy shameless liar,” a soft voice sounds from the other side of the room.

Sara turns around and gasps, too surprised to react.

“I haven’t forgotten, my lady,” Sergi smiles brightly. “I haven’t forgotten you treating me like a pawn in your game. But if you’re not careful, Lady Carbonero, even a pawn can take the dame.”

~ ~ ~


The assassins are three, Markel can see them from the courtyard at the top of the stairs that lead to the rooms of the inn. Before he can do anything, one of them opens the door of one of the rooms. Then they freeze because they surely didn’t expect Ander Iturraspe to be standing right behind that door.

Markel thinks of calling the guards but then remembers that thanks to Llorente, the guards are now after him. And indeed, a few of them appear in the courtyard and look confusedly at the scene.

It takes only a few seconds but it seems like eternity when they stare at each other. And Markel has to give it to Iturraspe, he might not have all things right in his head, but he is the first one to react and he realizes who the men are and why they are there quicker than Markel would expect him to. It still doesn’t change the fact that they are three and armed.

In the very next moment, Iturraspe pulls out his dagger and pushes Herrera behind him.

“Over my dead body!” he growls.

Chapter Text

For a moment nobody moves. Even Llorente, who arrives after the guards, just stands still and watches the scene.

One of the guards, apparently confused by the whole situation, and unaware of Llorente’s presence, makes a hesitant step. Then he pulls out his sword and jumps between the men and Iturraspe. Llorente closes his eyes.

“To hell with you, Iraola!” he mumbles.

~ ~ ~


“That’s not what I asked from you, Negredo!” Fernández yells and bangs his fist into the table. “The boy is not so important. I need to get Villa!”

“My lord, I tried to...” Negredo starts, but Fernández gives him a furious glance that makes him shut up.

“Have you gone too soft or are you suddenly too old for this?” he barks. “Have you actually touched one of them yet?”

“My lord, as I already told you, the boy...”

“All you’ve told me were just words, but I can see no results!” Fernández says. “You will have Villa’s confession until the morning, or I will take care of it personally.”

Negredo just blinks, then he bows and backs out of the room. He wipes his forehead and then starts down the corridor.

“Bring that savage up!” he snaps at the guards. “And don’t let him bewitch you.”

~ ~ ~


Herrera rushes in the room where the guards took Iturraspe after he and Iraola took care of the assassins. Markel is also there and Iraola is standing by the door, sword still ready.

“My love, you’re bleeding!” Herrera says, completely forgetting about the rule of not using that form of address in front of other people.

“Well, so don’t remind me of it!” Iturraspe barks. “I hate seeing blood when it’s my own blood!”

“Ander, listen to me!” Markel says and kneels in front of him. “It was Llorente! It was Llorente’s plan, he conspired with Muniain to get rid of him, to have a bigger influence on you. I know it sounds crazy and I’m the last one to talk about conspiracy, but it’s true, please, you have to believe me.”

Iturraspe thinks for a while and then focuses his eyes on Markel.

“I do believe you,” he says softly, then leans closer to Markel and kisses him on the forehead. “Thank you.”

He looks to the door and narrows his eyes.

“Iraola?” he calls.

“My lord?”

“You are the new captain from now on,” Iturraspe says. “Find me Llorente. And preferably that little rat who helped him as well. I want them locked up before the sun sets.”

“Yes, my lord.”

“And someone get me a doctor before I bleed out!”

Markel looks skeptically at the small, shallow scratch on Iturraspe’s arm and smiles.

“Of course. I’ll get you the best one.”

~ ~ ~


“My lord,” Sara says, still trying to keep her face. “My servant and the two other boys are just very disrespectful, rude and disobedient kids. I can assure you that I will punish my servant as just, and I will ask for the same to be done to the other two.”

“That will be a problem,” the regent says. “As I understood, they are now under the protection of the Duke of Tarragona.”

Sara gives Sergi a hateful look.

“Lady Carbonero,” the regent says and leans back in his chair. “What I was told is very grave. Would you explain to me why you acted that way?”

Sara’s lips are a thin line. Iker is slumping down in his chair, pretending he isn’t there.

“If Lady Carbonero is not willing to explain it, I am,” Sergi says. “We could begin with the fact that Lady Carbonero is a sly, manipulative, hateful person convinced of her superiority to everyone. Or with the fact that she has lost all of her friends over the past few years and is now desperately trying to make new ones – that is, among people who don’t know her true nature yet.”

“I will not let you insult me like this!” Sara says.

“And there is also the little detail that is probably unknown to everyone here,” Sergi says calmly. “And that is the fact that Lady Sara Carbonero has absolutely no money anymore.”

“What...” Iker jumps up.

Sara is as red as a beetroot. Sergi smiles and looks at her.

“Yes. She has only the house in Niebla. Nothing more.”

~ ~ ~


Markel has known Iturraspe since they were kids, and he would swear that he’s never seen Iturraspe more angry than he’s now. His expression is murderous and he’s circling the chamber at a mad pace.

“I’d hang him, I’d seriously hang him if it wouldn’t demoralize the army!” he growls.

“So... what do you want to do?” Markel asks.

“Behead him!” Iturraspe shouts like Markel is supposed to take his sword and go to behead Llorente on his own.

He pets his favorite greyhound that lifts its head after he shouts, and turns his attention back to Markel.

“Did they catch that little rat as well?” he asks.

“Muniain? Not yet. He knows all the rat holes in the port, it’s going to take a while until they find him.”

“Whatever,” Iturraspe growls. “He wasn’t the main part of this plot. I don’t care if I watch his execution now or next week.”

Then suddenly, he stops in the middle of one of his circles and looks at Markel with tears in his eyes.

“How could they?” he asks in a broken voice. “How could have they even... thought of it? It... it would have been like... like killing a dove.”

Markel just blinks in bewilderment. He doesn’t really know Iturraspe like this, the never discovered poetic side of him left aside, but he knows him hysterical, happy, angry, sad or annoyed, but as far as he remembers, he’s never seen him close to crying.

He doesn’t really know what to say, so he just makes a step closer and hugs his friend. And by the way Iturraspe snuggles up to him, it was the right thing to do.

~ ~ ~


Francesc walks in the kitchen and looks around. It still smells of freshly baked bread and cooked vegetables, but there isn‘t the usual joyful atmosphere that made him welcome every time he sat at the table with a cup of wine.

Xavi is silently salting the meat in a keg. Sergio runs in a moment after.

“Well?” he asks breathlessly. “Anything new?”

“Not yet,” Francesc shakes his head.

“But... they are...” Sergio whispers.

“They were alive when I last asked,” Francesc shrugs. “There is a plan, but... the outcome of it is not sure.”

“I don’t even understand you,” Sergio sighs. “What plan?”

“I can’t tell you,” Francesc says. “It involves important people.”

“That’s good, isn’t it?” Sergio asks. “Important people are good. If they’re on your side, that is. Oh by the way, Fábio and Cristiano were here.”

“What?” Francesc exclaims.

“Yes. Cristiano apparently stole Fábio away under Casillas’ nose,” Sergio laughs. “I knew he was great at stealing things, but he’s no less skillful in stealing people. Well, I told them they couldn’t stay here, that it was too dangerous.”

“You did well,” Francesc nods. “The guards might come here at any moment.”

“That’s what I thought,” Sergio grins. “So I told them to go to your house instead.”

Francesc keeps nodding thoughtfully for a while before the words sink in.

“WHAT?” he yells then.

~ ~ ~


“But...” Iker starts.

Sergi lifts his hand and smiles condescendingly.

“The properties you sold to señor Diego López are not nearly as worthless as you thought. Lady Sara apparently found out and recommended López to buy them. For López it was a bargain and he paid a percentage to Lady Sara for arranging such a great deal for him. She used the money to pay the Moors for getting rid of Francesc Fàbregas’ servant, who allegedly dishonored you by...”

“Enough!” Iker yells.

“We’ll skip that part, then,” Sergi smiles. “But it’s a pity as it was the funniest one. Well, and then she tried to get rid of David Villa as well, when she... anonymously, of course... accused him and his slave of sodomy and heresy. She provided fake witnesses, like for example Javier Manquillo, who is her servant, Beatriz Espejel, who is... what a surprise, her maid, and Fábio, who is... I already lost track of whose servant he actually is, but it doesn’t matter. All to convince you that without her, you were a nobody, and to make you marry her at last.”

“Marry her?” Iker shouts. “Never!”

“It’s nothing new,” Sergi says calmly. “She has been trying to marry rich men for quite some time already, since she lost her fortune. You, me, she also tried Vicente Guaita, the Grand Master of Knights Hospitaller... I hope he has already stopped laughing because that much laughter can’t be healthy.”

Now also Sara raises from her seat.

“You disrespectful...” she starts, but the regent stops her.

“Silence!” he barks. “Once this comedy started, I want to see the end of it, because right now I can’t believe my own eyes and ears!”

“Well, there’s not much more to it. Lady Sara violated the papal bull by practically selling the servant to the Moors as a slave, while the bull states clearly that nobody of the Christian faith can be sold in slavery, leave alone to the Moors. Lady Sara also accused David Villa and his servant, provided false witnesses and thus deceived the Inquisition Tribunal and damaged David Villa’s reputation. Her... marriage politics, let’s say... are perhaps disgraceful, but they are not illegal, so we shall not take them into consideration.”

Sara lets out a high-pitched laughter.

“You don’t have any proof for that, my dear Duke. My word stands against the one of the servants.”

“I have more than enough proof,” Sergi says and looks to the door. “Captain Bartra?”

The door opens and Marc walks in, accompanied by the guards who are leading the Moors in chains. He walks up to Sergi and hands him Lady Sara’s silk scarf.

“If you don’t recognize the Moors, Lady Carbonero, maybe you will recognize this,” Sergi says and shows her the scarf.

“What is it?” the regent asks.

“It’s a scarf that Lady Carbonero used to blindfold the servant she sold to the Moors,” Sergi replies. “She probably didn’t realize that it had her emblem on it.”

He turns to her and smiles.

“Or you did? Did you want to sign your masterpiece?”

Sara walks around the table and smirks.

“You think that you won, right?” she asks quietly. “But you should know that the Carbonero family always fights until the end!”

This is the end,” Sergi says calmly.

Sara narrows her eyes and smiles. Then she snatches the dagger from Iker’s belt and lunges forward. It’s so unexpected and fast that nobody in the room moves.

Nobody, except Captain Bartra. He pushes Sergi out of the way of the dagger, but doesn’t have enough time to get out of it himself.

As the blade slides between his ribs, his and Sara’s eyes meet, both surprised and frightened the same.

 

Chapter Text

Sergi is the first person that moves, almost at the same time when the guards make a few hesitant steps to hold Sara back. Marc practically falls in his arms.

“My lord,” he breathes out and it sounds like he’s almost perfectly happy.

The regent comes to his senses a moment later, remembering that he is the master of the house and the person that should be giving orders there.

“Well, do something!” he yells at the guards. “Get the poor boy a doctor... or a priest, whoever can be useful to him more!”

He turns to the guards that are standing by Sara’s sides, not daring to touch her.

“Take Lady Carbonero to the tower and guard the door!” he says. “She’s not to leave this house until a verdict is taken.”

The guards finally take Sara’s by her arms and not paying attention to her protests, lead her out of the room. Iker almost tiptoes to the door, like he expects the regent to arrest him too. The regent notices him, but eventually lets him go.

“And send someone to the prison,” he says then. “Villa and his servant are to be released immediately.”

“But if the Inquisition...” one of the guards objects.

“It’s my word and the word of the Duke of Tarragona against those of the fake witnesses. The Inquisition has to take account of that.”

The guard nods and walks out of the room. The regent sits back in his chair and drinks a whole cup of wine. This was far from his idea of a calm evening.

~ ~ ~


It’s almost morning when Iturraspe returns to his rooms. He was contemplating going to the prison and ripping Llorente’s heart out with his bare hands, but then decided to sleep on it. Ripping hearts out of people could always wait until after breakfast.

Herrera is sitting by the window, careful as always not to move too much when he’s in the middle of fragile and valuable things. To Iturraspe, however, he looks like the most fragile thing in the room. He’s determined to think of a way not to let him out of his sight ever again.

“Did they catch him?” he asks quietly.

“Muniain? Not yet,” Iturraspe says, takes off his shirt and throws it to the other side of the room where it lands on the head of some statue.

“And Llorente? What will happen to him?”

“If I don’t kill him myself, which I would like to but shouldn’t do, he’ll be beheaded.”

“For trying to kill me?”

“Officially it will be for conspiring against me,” Iturraspe says. “But in fact it’s for trying to kill you, yes.”

Herrera finally moves from his spot, walks up to him and touches the rim of the bandage on Iturraspe’s arm reverently.

“Thank you,” he whispers. “For saving my life.”

“If it wasn’t for me, nobody would try to kill you,” Iturraspe says and looks away.

“If it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t mind being dead.”

He tangles his fingers in Iturraspe’s hair and smiles.

“I know you’re just the Lord of Biscay...”

“Not the rightful one, even,” Iturraspe makes a face.

“Just the not-rightful-Lord-of-Biscay,” Herrera smiles and caresses his face. “But I’d bow to you deeper than I would to the King.”

~ ~ ~


Francesc enters his house and folds his arms. Cristiano is sitting at the table in the kitchen, peeling an orange with Xabier Alonso’s dagger while having his feet on the table. Judging from the fine leather of his boots, the dagger was not the only thing he took at Alonso’s house. Fábio is trying to pretend that he isn’t there at all.

“Welcome, señor Fàbregas!” Cristiano says cheerfully.

“Thank you for welcoming me in my own house, Cristiano,” Francesc says in the coldest voice he is capable of.

Cristiano just grins. Francesc walks up to him, confiscates the dagger and looks at him.

“So, I know that Sergio sent you here. I will not make any problems of the fact that you are in my house, then.”

“Perfect,” Cristiano says. “Because right now, we don’t have anywhere to go. After I rescued Fábio from the evil woman, we couldn’t really walk around Barcelona. I don’t want Fábio to fall in her clutches again.”

“With a bit of luck, this problem might be solved as we speak,” Francesc says.

“Did you send assassins to murder that woman? Oh, señor, you could have just asked me and I would gladly...” Cristiano starts when the sound of horseshoes on the tiles of the freshly paved yard interrupts him.

A guard storms in a moment later.

“Well?” Francesc asks impatiently. “What happened?”

“Terrible things, my lord,” the guard says gloomily.

“For God’s sake, Muniesa, you sound like Father Guardiola during his Sunday sermons!” Francesc barks. “Be more precise, will you?”

“The Duke of Tarragona gave his accusations to the regent,” Muniesa says.

“Great. And Lady Sara?”

“Lady Sara stole Lord Casillas’ dagger and wanted to kill the Duke.”

Francesc gulps.

“So...”

“The Duke is alive,” Muniesa assures him quickly. “Though the captain of his guards might not be among us anymore as we speak.”

Francesc curses like the last soldier of fortune.

“And Lady Sara?”

“She’s imprisoned in the tower of the palace now, until a verdict is taken. The regent sent an order for señor Villa and his servant to be released immediately.”

A big weight lifts from Francesc’s heart. At least a part of the plan went well.

~ ~ ~


Sami lifts his head when the steps he had heard approaching his cell stop. Two guards are standing at the other side of the bars, and between them the Duke, looking at Sami like Sami is his last hope in the world.

“Let me guess why you are here, my lord,” Sami chuckles. “What could possibly a Spaniard related to the House of Trastámara want from a Moor?”

Sergi bites on his lower lip.

“I’ve heard the stories...” he starts.

Sami smiles condescendingly.

“We are not your God, we don’t perform miracles every day, my lord.”

“Perform one miracle for me and I’ll save your life.”

Sami gives him a mistrustful look.

“Life for a life, that is fair, isn’t it?” Sergi asks.

“Fair enough,” Sami nods and gets up. “I shall see what can be done.”

~ ~ ~


The guards wake Villa up from his exhaustion-induced drowse. He wills himself to wake up completely before they reach Fernández’ office. He doesn’t want to accidentally confess just because he feels sleepy.

Fernández looks calm as always, but there is also some badly concealed annoyance in his face.

“Señor Villa,” he says when the guards make Villa sit on the chair. “I received an order to release you.”

Villa can’t believe his ears. He immediately thinks that this is some clever trick to make him confess, and decides not to say anything.

“You have some powerful friends, it seems. The Duke of Tarragona pleaded on your behalf. Apparently he found out that the witnesses in your case were false and the accusation is thus not soundly based.”

This doesn’t really sound like a trick, although Villa doesn’t have a clue why the Duke of Tarragona, who is some young boy Villa has never even spoken to, should be interested in his case.

“At the request of the Duke of Tarragona and with the agreement of the regent, I did consult this with the Grand Inquisitor himself,” Fernández says. “The trial will be suspended. You are free to go.”

“Suspended?” Villa repeats.

“Suspended,” Fernández nods with a smile. “I suppose you understand that word, señor Villa.”

“I didn’t commit any offense,” Villa says.

“We don’t have proof that you did,” Fernández says patiently. “But we don’t have proof that you didn’t, either. In this case, we simply cannot acquit you. The trial will besuspended, and can be continued at any time. In case new evidence appears. That will be all. Go in the peace of God.”

Villa feels like jumping over the table and strangling Fernández right there. But as he has the great chance to leave the prison now, he doesn’t want to stay there for committing a murder.

“What about my servant?” he asks then.

“Your servant is free to go as well,” Fernández says. “But remember, señor Villa. God sees everything, and I see just a bit less than He does.”

~ ~ ~


When Sergi and Sami walk in the room, there is already the priest praying the Rosary in the corner. Sami doesn’t even look at him. He walks to the bed and removes the piece of linen covering the wound in Marc’s chest. The priest looks horrified and offended at the same time.

“What... don’t touch him!” he yells.

“No... let him!” Sergi says quietly and gives Sami a nod.

The priest jumps up.

“He’s already taken the viaticum, you can’t...”

“How eager you are to send him to your God,” Sami mumbles and turns to Sergi. “Give me a person who will bring me all I will need. And order this charlatan out.”

Sergi doesn’t even hesitate before he asks the priest to leave the room. The priest looks at him with eyes burning with anger.

“You are only making place for the Devil here,” he says.

“If I have to give my soul to the Devil to save him, I will,” Sergi says. “If God can’t save him, maybe the Devil will.”

The priest just crosses himself and runs out of the room.

~ ~ ~


Villa still can’t believe that it’s happening when the guards lead him down the corridors to the main entrance. But the door indeed opens in front of him and nobody tries to stop him when he walks out.

He squints in the bright light and takes a deep breath. It feels like coming back to the world of living.

The door behind him screeches again and he turns around. Two guards push David out of the door, almost like he’s a thief they kick out of their house, and close the door again.

Villa makes two steps, his legs still not fully obeying him the way he’d want them to. By the time he reaches him, David is curled up against the cold wall of the prison, hiding his face from the sun in the crook of his elbow. Villa touches his shoulder lightly. David curls up into an even tighter ball and whimpers.

“It’s me,” Villa whispers.

It takes a while until David lifts his head and looks at him. Villa has to fight with himself so that he doesn’t cringe, because he almost doesn’t recognize this boy. David has almost an animalistic fear in his eyes, he looks like he hasn’t slept for years and his hands and nails are bloodied and bruised like he tried to scratch his way out of his cell.

“Let’s go,” Villa says, pulling him up gently. “Let’s go home.”

~ ~ ~


Sara is pacing around the chamber. Despite it being in the highest tower of the palace, it’s a prison many people would gladly spend the rest of their lives. There’s nothing missing for her comfort, but she’s paying no attention to the food and wine on the table, nor is she taking advantage of the soft armchairs or bed.

She is not really worried, not yet. More like furious. How could it happen? How could her plan backfire? She swears in her mind, berates herself for every little thing that she underestimated. Mainly Francesc Fàbregas’ groom. Had she not let him escape, had Manquillo been a bit braver and quicker, the Duke of Tarragona would never find out about her plan.

The very moment she thinks about the Duke of Tarragona, the door opens and the Duke walks in.

“You might want to know that the two men you accused were released,” he says. “By doing what you did, you only made things worse for yourself.”

“I warned you,” Sara says. “I always get what I want, in one way or another. And it’s dangerous to stand in my way. He stood in my way.”

The plate with food flies across the room and ends up bumping into the opposite wall. Sara cowers unwittingly and then resists the urge to back up when Sergi makes a step towards her.

“Pray to God for him not to die,” he says quietly. “Because if he dies, I will have you burnt at the stake.”

Before she can say anything, Sergi looks her in the eyes and for the first time Sara admits to herself that she is afraid of him.

“And I will watch. Every single minute of it,” he adds and bangs the door behind him.

Chapter Text

Jorge is happily staring at Lady Anna’s cleavage when a messenger obstructs his view, handing her a letter. She breaks the seal and reads it quickly. Her lips shiver and she crumples the parchment in a ball.

“What happened?” Isco asks, not paying attention to Álvaro, who is poking him in the ribs in a desperate attempt to tell him that it is impolite to ask like that.

However, Lady Anna doesn’t seem to be upset by his behavior.

“Lady Sara,” she says. “She tried to kill my brother.”

Jorge chokes on his fried eggs. Álvaro’s eyes go wide and even Isco shuts up.

“But... she didn’t kill him!?” Jorge asks.

“No. The captain of his guards jumped in the way of the dagger, it seems,” she says and closes her eyes. “I warned him. I knew something like this would happen.”

She grips the armrests tightly.

“My brother may be smart and courageous, I’ll give him that. If he was to lead a war against any lord, I’d trust him. But only a woman knows how to lead a war against another woman,” she says and gets up. “I’m going to Barcelona. And you are going with me.”

Jorge pales and Álvaro shivers. Isco looks at her defyingly.

“Is that really your wish, my lady?” he asks.

“No,” she says resolutely. “It is my order.”

~ ~ ~


Both Sergio and Xavi run in the hallway when the door screeches. Xavi stops in the doorway while Sergio runs up to Villa and David.

“Oh God!” he exclaims. “I thought you’d never...”

David cowers at the sound of his voice and even takes a step back.

“Sergio!” Villa hisses. “Quiet!”

Sergio just blinks but shuts his mouth and turns to Xavi hesitatingly. Xavi rolls his eyes and pulls Sergio back by his shirt. Then he tiptoes to David and just stands in front of him. Somehow it seems that his presence doesn’t scare David as much as Sergio’s. When he smiles and reaches out to David, David even takes his hand.

“You don’t need to worry, señor,” Xavi says softly. “I’ll take care of him.”

“Thank you,” Villa says and heads to the stairs.

“But, señor, don’t you need...” Xavi starts.

“I’ll take care of myself, thank you,” Villa says. “All I need is... two days of sleep.”

Xavi and Sergio watch him wobble up the stairs and exchange worried glances. Xavi then turns to David and takes him around the shoulders gently.

“Let’s go,” he says. “A warm bath will do you good.”

“I should let señor Fàbregas know...” Sergio says.

It is clear to Xavi that he mainly wants to get out of the house because he can’t bear to see David in that state, and maybe he really needs Francesc to calm him down. Xavi just nods and can see that Sergio is grateful for it.

~ ~ ~


The room is dark, except for one candle burning on the table next to the bed. The light still cannot reach the corner where Sergi is sitting, and he is grateful for it. He’s said every single prayer he knows. He’s told his beads at least three times. He has no more strength to move or to think. It feels like he could fall asleep in every moment, but he’s afraid to close his eyes.

“I know you’re here, my lord,” Marc says suddenly, his eyes still closed.

“How do you know if you can’t see me?” Sergi whispers.

“I can feel you,” Marc breathes out. “I could always feel you.”

Sergi gets up and follows the flame of the candle. Marc watches him, his eyes feverish. For a moment, Sergi even feels guilty for opposing the destiny, for letting him suffer.

“You think I’m angry?” Marc asks like he can read his mind. “Because you didn’t let me die?”

“You’re under my command,” Sergi says. “There will be no dying without my permission.”

Marc smiles weakly.

“I’d...”

“And stop talking. It’s an order.”

~ ~ ~


When the horseshoes sound on the stones, Francesc immediately knows it’s Sergio. Nobody rides horses in such a manner. Sometimes Francesc wonders how anyone even lets Sergio come close to the poor animals.

He walks out and looks at Sergio who jumps off the horse and Francesc has never seen an animal look so grateful.

“They’re back!” Sergio blurts out without even greeting him. “Villa and David!”

“Take the poor horse in the stables first, will you, Sergio?” Francesc asks with an amused smile and leans over the wall nonchalantly.

“You’re not even surprised?” Sergio gapes at him.

“Not nearly as much as you are, it seems,” Francesc says. “And be careful, Cristiano and Fábio are sleeping in the stable. Cristiano might attempt to rob you if you walk in there.”

“That’s fine, first, I have nothing he could take, and second, I’d punch the ridiculous face of his,” Sergio grins.

He takes the horse to the stables and shoots a warning glance at Cristiano who peeks out from Isco’s former habitation. Then he comes back to the house.

“So,” Francesc says and pours wine into two cups. “How are they?”

“Villa looks like he’s all right,” Sergio made a face. “But David... he looks worse than when he first came to us.”

Francesc sighs and drinks almost all wine in his cup.

“Lady Sara had a good plan. And Fernández wouldn’t let anyone go just like that. I think that if she didn’t try to kill the Duke of Tarragona, maybe even the regent wouldn’t take the matter seriously.”

“I hope they hang that wicked woman!” Sergio growls.

“Don’t be stupid, Sergio, they don’t hang women. Leave alone women like Lady Sara.”

“But they should!” Sergio snaps.

“I’ll go to see Villa tomorrow... or the day after tomorrow, I forgot...”

Sergio raises his brows.

“I have to visit my fiancée tomorrow,” Francesc sighs. “She’ll be a mess when she finds out her godmother is in prison.”

“If only she could join her there,” Sergio mumbles and gets up.

“Where are you going?” Francesc asks.

“Well, I thought I’d go back, to see if...”

“So late?” Francesc raises his brows. “Didn’t you say Villa was all right? He won’t miss you tonight.”

“But you would?” Sergio grins.

“I would certainly miss you very much,” Francesc nods.

~ ~ ~


Ander Herrera barely moves in the bed when the arm around his waist pulls him back.

“Where are you going?”

“I can’t even move now?” he chuckles.

“Not without me knowing about it,” Iturraspe says. “And not while Llorente’s accomplice is somewhere out there.”

“There are ten guards behind the door, and other fifteen outside under the window,” Herrera objects.

“Twenty,” Iturraspe corrects him.

There are also Iturraspe’s greyhounds in the room, guarding their master’s sleep. As much as Herrera loves his fish, he has to admit that the pair of goldfish in the glass bowl wouldn’t do much to protect them if anything was to happen, but Iturraspe insisted that they were for good luck, so they counted as a contribution to the safety of the room.

“You know, I’ve been thinking...” Herrera says then and shuffles closer to Iturraspe. “Do you really have to...”

“Behead Llorente?” Iturraspe asks. “Yes, I do have to. Because I don’t want to have thirty guards, five greyhounds and two goldfish around me every night so that I could sleep. And with Llorente, this is exactly what I’d have to do.”

~ ~ ~


Xavi keeps the reassuring smile on his lips all the time, even though he feels like crying. He prepares a hot bath and washes the dirt, sweat and blood off David’s body. He gives him his own clean clothes and prepares a herbal infusion that calms nerves. He also makes some porridge and sits at the table, reminding David to eat it slowly because David looks like he’s ready to wolf it down.

He really doesn’t know what he should say. But David looks quite fine without him saying anything.

Xavi practically tucks him in the bed and then opens the window to make the air less stiff.

“I’ll let the candles burn,” he says.

David turns his head and looks at him.

“Xavi?” he asks quietly.

Xavi secretly breathes a sigh of relief because before, he even doubted David remembered who he was.

“What?”

“Would you stay here tonight?”

Xavi smiles and sits on the chair next to the bed.

“Of course,” he whispers. “I will.”

~ ~ ~


Fernando Llorente thought that there was nothing scarier than the loneliness of the prison cell, where only the thought of his execution accompanied him. That was until Ander Iturraspe in person walked in.

There are dark circles under his eyes and his hair is messy, like he couldn’t care less about his appearance. It kind of gives Llorente the feeling Iturraspe would be able to kill him with his bare hands. After all, it is said that mad people have unusual strength.

“I can’t believe that I let someone like you protect my land, my palace, my own life!” Iturraspe barks at him. “I’d do better if I put my greyhounds in charge! They are at least faithful!”

He circles around Llorente like it’s him the prisoner, lets out a short hysterical laugh and then looks at him.

“Is there anything you have to say?” he asks.

“Not much,” Llorente says. “Only that I... meant well.”

Iturraspe turns to him, but instead of yelling at him he nods gravely.

“You know, I was thinking about just having you beheaded quietly,” he says. “But now I decided that I won’t. I’ll do it publicly.”

He walks to the door and turns back one last time, a nasty smirk on his face.

“If you meant well, you have nothing to be ashamed of.”

Chapter Text

Sergi is still half-asleep when someone knocks on his door. He startles and runs his fingers through his hair in a desperate attempt to look at least a bit more presentable. His fingers get stuck in the curls and he swears in a manner not suitable for a duke.

“Come in!” he calls.

Lieutenant Tello walks in. It’s a painful reminder of Marc’s absence, and even Tello seems not to feel at ease.

“My lord, Lady Anna is here,” he says.

“Lady Anna?” Sergi exclaims. “What is she doing here?”

“She’s just arrived, with her suite and also the servants.”

Sergi shakes his head in bewilderment, then walks out of his room and goes to the hall. His sister smiles when she sees him.

“How is he, brother?” she asks while embracing him.

“I don’t know,” Sergi whispers and looks at her. “I think he would say still breathing.”

Lady Anna gives a small smile and pats him on the shoulder.

“And the woman?”

“She’s locked up,” Sergi says. “I talked to her yesterday. She seems to have no regrets.”

“I will see to it that she will regret it a great deal,” Lady Anna growls. “Is the regent here?”

“I think he’s gone today.”

“Never mind,” Lady Anna says. “That the woman is still allowed to see the sunlight only proves that he is not capable of taking measures. I’ll take it to a more capable person.”

Sergi just blinks.

“Who?”

“The King,” his sister says calmly. “But I’ll have tea first.”

~ ~ ~


Daniella looks on the brink of a hysterical fit when a man with a Portuguese accent tells her that her fiancé couldn’t come to see her because of a very important meeting.

“But... what is more important than seeing his future wife?” she almost shrieks.

“My lady, even señor Fàbregas looked very upset when he was told he needed to cancel your meeting,” the man says in a soothing voice. “He asked me to give you this as a small consolation.”

He hands over a wooden box and steps back. Daniella opens it and her face lightens up. There is a golden necklace with a heavily decorated cross.

“Señor Fàbregas said that he had failed to give you a present for the occasion of your baptism,” the Portugese says. “It was delivered to him only yesterday, the jeweler took longer than expected.”

“Tell Francesc that it’s beautiful,” Daniella says. “And that I’m not angry with him... but I am still a bit sad as I miss him. Tell him that I hope we will see each other soon.”

The Portuguese nods and bows before walking out of the house.

When he turns the corner, Cristiano jumps out of the shadows.

“Why did you have to give it to her?” he whines. “We could have sold it.”

“And señor Fàbregas would strangle me,” Fábio makes a face. “It was ugly as hell anyway, nobody would have bought it.”

“True,” Cristiano sighs. “I haven’t seen anything as hideous as that in a long time.”

~ ~ ~


Francesc walks in Villa’s office and looks at his friend who is sitting in one of the armchairs, looking into the fireplace absently.

“You look good,” Francesc notes and grins.

Villa gives him an exasperated look.

“All right, I was joking,” Francesc stops grinning. “You look terrible.”

“You should see David,” Villa sighs. “If I saw Casillas or that woman, I swear I’d kill them with my bare hands! What a plot they put together!”

“At least you were acquitted,” Francesc says.

“I wasn’t,” Villa whispers.

Francesc puts the cup back with such force that a bit of the red liquid splashes onto the white damask tablecloth.

“What?”

“My case was suspended,” Villa says and looks at him. “Do you understand it now? I’ll never be free of them anymore! They can come back whenever they want and take us back there, they’ll keep watching me, watching us, and everyone will gladly be of great help to them! Maybe Casillas and Carbonero wanted me at the stake, but what they achieved is even worse! They built a wall between me and David that I can’t climb over without having us both ripped apart by guardian dogs!”

“Don’t tell me you are going to be a coward now,” Francesc narrows his eyes. “When the boy was so brave for you.”

“Brave?” Villa lifts his head.

“He nearly drove Negredo mad,” Francesc chuckles. “Jordi told me.”

Villa shakes his head in disbelief. When he saw David outside the prison, he didn’t even want to imagine what he went through. That he actually won against that beast Negredo is beyond Villa.

“And the worst thing you could do now would be to reward him with your ignorance and cowardice,” Francesc says. “Go see him. Fernández is not hiding in your house to see your every move.”

“I almost believe that he is,” Villa sighs. “But fine. I’ll try to man up.”

“Perfect,” Francesc says and taps him on the shoulder. “I’ll need you to hold up my morals soon.”

“When?”

Francesc cringes.

“When I get married.”

~ ~ ~


Sergi only remembers Javier Manquillo in the afternoon. He hopes that the boy is still alive after all the time.

When he walks in the inn room, though, Manquillo jumps up so quickly that Sergi concludes he is feeling quite well.

“Where is my lady?” he demands, his eyes wild and voice desperate. “What did you do to her?”

“Your lady is under arrest,” Sergi says in a flat voice. “Awaiting her trial.”

Manquillo gulps and his shoulders sag, like all the courage he had gathered suddenly evaporated.

“You are free to go, there is no need to hold you here anymore,” Sergi says.

Manquillo sinks down on the chair behind him and shakes his head.

“I don’t want to go anywhere,” he says and looks up at Sergi. “And if she’s to die, I want to die with her.”

Sergi keeps looking at him for a while with something akin to admiration.

“I will pass your wish to the regent, then,” he says finally and walks out of the room.

~ ~ ~


Francesc folds his arms when he comes home and sees Isco and Álvaro standing in the courtyard.

“Oh well,” he says. “Welcome home, I guess.”

“Señor, I...” Isco starts.

“You stole my dagger and my horses, threatened Lady Sara that you’d kill her, then you chased down some Moors and made pacts with the Duke of Tarragona, I already know that,” Francesc says. “I’m tempted to have you whip this naïve, stupid child, and then have him whip you because you’d both deserve it!”

Álvaro shoots Isco a worried glance, but Isco apparently knows Francesc better because there is a smirk on his face.

“Well, of course I won’t do it!” Francesc exclaims. “At least Lady Sara will get what she deserves, thanks to you!”

“I hope she will, señor,” Isco nods.

“Oh, and you’ll have to throw Cristiano and Fábio out of your place if you want to stay there,” Francesc says.

“That I already did,” Isco says.

“How did you know I’d take you back?” Francesc frowns.

“Oh, señor, I know you,” Isco grins. “You acted the same after I threatened lord Casillas.”

Francesc just shakes his head and heads inside the house. Álvaro looks at Isco apprehensively.

“Would you?” he asks.

“What?”

“Whip me. If he asked you to do it.”

“Sure,” Isco shrugs.

Álvaro just gasps.

“But I’d be gentle,” Isco grins.

“Liar! You can’t be gentle with a whip!”

“Shall we try?” Isco prompts and starts running towards the stables.

“We shall, on you!” Álvaro yells, and runs after him.

~ ~ ~


Sara is pacing around the room she is being kept in. This impotency is driving her mad, but she forces her mind to work. The walls might keep her in, but they can’t stop her.

She stops in the middle of one of her endless rounds and smiles. The she walks up to the door resolutely and bangs on it.

“Guard!” she yells. “Guard!”

The door opens a few moments later and one of the regent’s guards appears.

“What do you want?” he asks, after checking that she is not dying nor is there a fire in the room.

“I need to talk to the regent. Or at least to someone who is in charge of me... staying here. It’s urgent.”

The guard hums and closes the door again. Sara sits on the bed and waits. When she hears the key in the lock, she stands up and adjusts her clothes. The man who walks in is not the regent, and it sort of offends Sara, but she composes herself quickly.

“I’m Jordi Roura, the regent’s aide-de-camp,” the man says. “You wished to speak to me.”

“Yes,” Sara says. “It’s a very delicate matter, though.”

Roura doesn’t look impressed. Sara clears her throat.

“I don’t know for how long I am supposed to stay here, but the conditions are insufferable!” she says.

Now Roura looks positively shocked. He looks at the soft bed, food on the table and fire in the fireplace.

“Oh, of course,” Sara says when she notices it. “It would be more than enough for a prisoner. But not enough for a lady!”

“I don’t understand,” Roura says.

“Señor,” Sara sighs. “You are a man. I don’t expect you to understand, but believe me that I simply cannot do some things alone. I can’t take off my corset without help, for example, and just tell me, am I supposed to ask the guards outside for help? Or my hair... do you think that it’s possible to brush it without help?”

Roura is already dumbfounded.

“So what are you asking me for?”

“Just a maid!” Sara says. “She wouldn’t need to be on hand all the time, she could come just in the morning to help me dress, and then in the evening to help me get ready for bed. I believe I’m not asking for so much. Just for some dignity. Because forcing me to sleep in the corset is worse than any torture.”

Roura clears his throat like he wants to say something about real torture, but then he nods.

“I will see what can be done about it.”

“Thank you,” Sara says. “I knew you’d understand.”

~ ~ ~


Sami gives Sergi a nod when he walks in. The room smells of herbs and alcohol. When Sergi makes a few steps towards the bed, Marc opens his eyes and to Sergi’s relief, the feverish glint is gone from them.

“Why did you do it?” Sergi whispers suddenly, unable to hold the question in any longer.

“Do you remember when you decided to climb that rock in Reus and didn’t know how to get down?” Marc asks.

Sergi smiles nostalgically.

“Martín made me do it,” he says. “He boasted with having climbed that rock many times, and how could the future duke be afraid of doing something an escudero did many times, right? What a way to trick me. Of course he never climbed it.”

“I still can’t believe that you did,” Marc smiles. “It was almost impossible. And to get you down was even more difficult.”

“If it wasn’t for you, I think I’d be still sitting up there,” Sergi nods.

“My commander had me flogged because I left the unit without permission,” Marc says. “And all I could think of was that I’d do it again. I’d always risk my life if it was for your safety.”

Sergi gasps.

“You never told me that...”

“Because you’d feel guilty,” Marc nods. “Just like you do now. When there’s no need. What is a dozen of lashes compared to your life? What is one wound compared to it?”

“A lot,” Sergi says, just when Marc breathes out: “Nothing.”

~ ~ ~


The door to Sara’s room opens and the guards let in a girl in a maid’s uniform. She curtseys to Sara and then lays a basket on the table.

“What is your name?” Sara asks.

“Melissa, my lady.”

“All right. Now listen, Melissa. I don’t need you to brush my hair, I can do that myself.”

“Then what...” the girl starts.

“I need you to be my eyes, my ears and my mouth,” Sara says and stalks to her. “If you do it well, I’ll reward you. If you don’t, I’ll make sure the next time you walk in this room, you won’t leave it alive. Do you understand?”

The girl looks terrified. Sara looks at the basket on the table and scowls at the hairbrush, clean nightgown and a bottle of rose water it contains.

“Next time, you’ll bring me some ink, a quill and some parchment,” she says. “Be careful and disguise it well. The guards mustn’t suspect anything. Is it clear?”

Melissa nods and looks at Sara like she is possessed by the Devil.

“And now help me with the corset,” Sara says. “Before I suffocate.”

 

Chapter Text

Sami is just leaving Marc’s room, accompanied by two guards, when Sergi appears. He motions for the guards to stay back and looks at Sami.

“Tell me the truth,” he says.

Sami looks him in the eyes and folds his arms.

“You are asking me to tell you the truth... in the voice of someone who doesn’t want to hear it.”

“I need to hear it.”

Sami nods thoughtfully, one hand running over the smooth surface of the door.

“He will live,” he says then. “But it will be a long time until the day comes when he can pick up the sword again and protect your life like he used to. If that day ever comes.”

“Thank you,” Sergi breathes.

“You look happy,” Sami states, and there is surprise in his voice.

“I am happy,” Sergi says. “Why shouldn’t I be?”

“Where I come from, a soldier would rather die.”

“I believe Marc has also other things to live for,” Sergi gives a small smile.

“Then he’s a lucky man,” Sami gives a small smile, bows to Sergi and leaves with the guards.

 

~ ~ ~


Sara is circling the room, cursing under her breath. Finally the key sounds in the lock and Melissa walks in.

“Finally!” Sara exclaims. “Do you have it?”

Melissa nods and lays a basket on the table. Hidden under a hairbrush and clean shirts, there is ink masked as perfume bottle and a quill is tucked inside one of the shirts. Finally, Melissa pulls a roll of parchment from underneath her skirts.

“Clever,” Sara praises her and sits at the table.

Her hand flies across the parchment, because she has already put the words together in her mind a thousand times. When she’s done, she hands the letter to Melissa.

“Now listen,” she says. “You can’t entrust anyone with this, and you mustn’t be seen with it. You’ll deliver it at night. Just slip it under the door.”

“But to whom should I deliver it?” Melissa asks.

Sara leans back in her chair.

“To Iker Casillas,” she says.

 

~ ~ ~


David wakes up with a start. When his eyes adjust to the light, he thinks that he‘s still dreaming.

David Villa is sitting on the edge of his bed.

“Good morning,” he whispers.

David scrambles to a sitting position, focusing his eyes on the familiar face. Villa looks less tired than the last time he saw him, the shaven face and clean clothes definitely helping a lot. There’s a faint smell of lavender oil that Xavi keeps in the kitchen more for curing headaches than for cooking.

“Good morning,” David says, searching Villa’s face for explanation.

No matter what used to be between them, Villa is still the master of the house and this is the servants’ room. It’s no place for him to be.

“I see you’re feeling better,” Villa smiles.

The bruises on David’s hands are almost gone and he looks like he’s put on a bit of weight, after all of Xavi’s efforts.

“I am,” David says quietly and then looks Villa in the eyes. “Sometimes, there, I was starting to believe that you were only a dream. That you weren’t real. That I was never saved, and I would never be.”

“I’m not a dream,” Villa says softly. “But I didn’t save you. I didn’t protect you enough. On the contrary. You protected me.”

“When your life is worth nothing, it’s easy to protect what is worth everything for you,” David smiles bitterly.

“Your life is not worth nothing.”

“So what is it worth? Two hundred reals? It was worth nothing to them. To the people who speak about love in your churches and punish it by death in the shadows. You know, I thought my old master was the cruelest person in the world, but he... he never punished me for love. Me and Kun, he... he never cared. He used to say that what us savages did in the dark was not his nor God’s business, for he didn’t care and for there was no God for us. No, the world I used to live in, the world I thought was hell, it was actually better than this one. Being free to love was worth the hours in the fields, it was worth the pain, the scars on my back and the mark on my wrist. Because there was at least some freedom.”

Villa closes his eyes and takes a deep breath before daring to look at David again.

“I’m sorry,” he whispers. “I wish I knew how to set you free. But in this world, I’m as much of a slave as you are.”

 

~ ~ ~


Francesc is desperately trying to keep the smile on his face while walking down the street with Daniella. He can already feel the muscles in his face starting to ache.

“We could have taken the carriage,” he says. “Don’t your feet hurt, my dear?”

“No,” Daniella smiles at him. “It’s such a beautiful day. And if we took the carriage, nobody would have seen my handsome husband-to-be.”

Francesc grins even wider, while Daniella’s grip on his arm tightens.

“Francesc? I have a strange feeling. Like... like someone is watching us!” she says.

“Isn’t that what you wanted?” Francesc chuckles.

“No, I don’t mean... It’s... There is a strange man watching us, over there!”

Francesc follows the direction in which she is looking, and then almost rolls his eyes. A familiar face is peeking out from behind a keg full of fish. Sergio.

“Don’t worry, my dear,” he says and puts a protective arm around Daniella’s waist. “It must be some fool.”

He speaks the words loudly enough for Sergio to hear. Sergio grins at them and scurries away, disappearing among the people rushing to the marketplace.

“I’m glad that he’s gone,” Daniella says.

“Me too,” Francesc nods, fighting the urge to laugh. “Me too.”

 

~ ~ ~


The courtyard is full of people surrounding the wooden scaffold. Markel is trying hard to suppress the memories of his own almost-execution while attempting answering all of Iturraspe’s nonsensical questions without annoying the man. And Iturraspe is already in a grumpy mood.

“Why is the swordsman French?” he barks at Markel. “I don’t like French things!”

“Because we don’t have a swordsman,” Markel replies patiently. “Since you only hang people.”

“But why does he have to be French?”

“Because the French are the best in this,” Markel says. “You wouldn’t want this execution to be messy, would you?”

“A part of me is saying that it could be interesting,” Iturraspe grins. “But you are right. Llorente used to be the captain of my guards, so it would demoralize the army and all that.”

Markel just smiles politely, hoping that the matter is solved by that. Iturraspe looks around contentedly and then frowns again. Markel says a quick prayer in his mind.

“I hope he behaves,” Iturraspe mumbles. “They told him to behave, right?”

“Um...” Markel scratches his head. “I’m not sure that you can tell someone to behave during their own execution. Or, I mean, you can, but I suppose that they sort of... won’t care. Because what worse could happen to them?”

“Oh, I can think of a thousand things that could happen if this isn’t a decent execution,” Iturraspe states calmly.

Markel says a longer prayer in his mind and tries to think of a way to discreetly warn Iraola that Llorente’s neck isn’t the only one in danger.

Only then the drums sound and Iturraspe rubs his hands together like an excited child. Ander Herrera, who’s been contented to pretend that he didn’t exist, slumps lower in his seat.

Llorente’s attitude is the closest possible to what Iturraspe probably meant by “behaving”. He climbs the scaffold with relative composure and faces the crowd with a slight smirk. Especially when the ladies sigh that it’s always the handsome ones that have to die.

“Any last words?” the swordsman asks.

Iturraspe giggles at the French accent.

“Just get on with it,” Llorente growls.

He kneels upright on the wooden planks and accepts the blindfold. Iturraspe moves to the edge of his seat while Herrera whines quietly and tries to slump even lower without being noticed. The swordsman raises his sword and Father San José discreetly steps back while still mumbling prayers. Finally the swordsman swings the sword. Markel realizes that it can’t end well a second before it really happens. The sword slips and a few ladies in the first lines shriek when blood splashes on their robes.

“Bloody Frenchman!” Iturraspe swears.

Luckily before he can order the execution of another people, Ander Herrera next to him faints and falls right in his arms.

 

~ ~ ~


Iker Casillas is having dinner when a servant appears in the dining room and bows to him.

“What?” Iker barks, a piece of chicken flying out of his mouth.

“My lord, this just came,” the servant says and lifts a letter. “It has your name on it.”

“Who delivered it?” Iker frowns.

“We don’t know, my lord,” the servant shrugs. “Someone slipped it under the door, knocked and ran away.”

Iker throws the rest of his chicken on the plate, wipes his hands on the napkin and takes the letter from the servant. When he sees the handwriting, his hands start shaking. He knows Sara’s handwriting well enough.

There is no seal, so he just unfolds the piece of parchment and starts reading.

Dear friend,

You maybe think that you are safe now, but let me remind you that what I did I didn’t do only for you, I did it 
with you. The Villa affair was maybe my doing, but what about Fàbregas’ servant? I think the judges will be interested when I tell them that you were well present to the deal with the Moors. I will be more than happy to tell them who paid for their horses and who tied the rope around the boy’s feet, if it spares me as much as one day of imprisonment.

But you are my friend, Iker. My dear friend. I can’t, and I don’t want to believe that you would abandon me in this delicate situation. You see, I am almost powerless from where I am. Even getting the letter to you was very difficult. But you still have the power to get us both out of the worst. I can talk my – our – way out of the Villa affair. It will be simple as we both know that even though my witnesses were fake, I wasn’t wrong in my accusations. I will be held responsible for hurting the soldier, but what is hurting a soldier against violating a papal bull?

The only way out is that nobody will be able to tell precisely how it all happened. The word of the Duke of Tarragona must be the only thing standing against us, and even if I don’t find a way to discredit him, without evidence we will have a great chance to get out. However, if the boy tells the judges all about my sleeping draught, the trick with the fan in Fàbregas’ house and the conspiracy with the Moors, you will end up on the gallows and me on the stake. I hope you’ve understood by now what you must do, but as you’ve never been a quick thinker, I’ll say it clearly to you:

The boy must die.

S.

Iker drops the letter on the table and gulps down the rest of his wine. He sits in the dining room until the candles burn out and the darkness swallows the ink words now burnt into his mind.

Chapter Text

“This was the worst execution I’ve ever seen!” Iturraspe yells at Markel and Iraola. “I should order that swordsman to behead himself!”

He seems to be toying with the idea for a while, but then the door to one of the bedrooms opens and a doctor comes out. Iturraspe immediately forgets about the swordsman.

“So?” he barks.

“It’s nothing serious, my lord,” the doctor assures him. “Some smelling salts were enough to wake him up. I would recommend a day of rest, and certainly wouldn’t recommend any... gruesome sights.”

Iturraspe looks almost embarrassed. He mumbles something that sounds like “thank you”, though it may as well be the doctor’s wild imagination, and then disappears in the room the doctor’s just left.

“Let’s hope his fish friend will cheer him up,” Iraola mumbles.

“You know what would cheer him up?” Markel looks at him. “If you finally managed to catch that rat, Muniain. Then he could execute him, without any Frenchmen, and he’d be satisfied.”

“I’m working on it,” Iraola says. “I have a few spies in the ports. He won’t be hiding away forever.”

“Spies!” Markel laughs. “That’s definitely an approach we couldn’t expect from Llorente.”

“Let’s hope it will keep my head on my neck,” Iraola sighs.

~ ~ ~


Lady Anna walks in the salon and sits in a comfortable armchair by the fireplace. Then she folds her fan and looks at her brother.

“Marc is feeling better, I assume?” she asks.

“How would you know?” Sergi frowns.

“You look like you finally got some sleep,” Lady Anna smiles. “I was already worried for your health more than I was for Marc’s.”

Sergi smiles weakly.

“Did you talk to the King?” he asks then.

“No,” Anna says. “Even better.”

“Even better?”

“I talked to the Queen. I believe there is nobody else in this country who’d be more outraged by a person deceiving the Inquisition, and dealing with Moors while violating a papal bull.”

“I can imagine,” Sergi nods. “Isabella is much more fierce than her husband when it’s about religion.”

“She’s more fierce than her husband in every aspect, brother,” Anna smiles. “She will write to the regent, so that he can’t just hush it all up. And she will have a talk with that Gabriel Fernández, personally.”

Sergi just nods appreciatively.

“Now tell me, brother,” Anna says. “That Moor. Do you really want to let him go?”

“I promised him,” Sergi shrugs. “How could I not keep my word?”

“It will not put you in a good light,” Anna notes. “Lady Sara will try to hold it against you. You accuse her of making deals with the Moors, while you do such deals yourself. I would think about it, if I were you.”

~ ~ ~


Villa lifts his head from the accounting book when he hears a knock on the door.

“Enter!” he calls.

The door opens and a familiar face peeks in, before David walks in the room, carrying a tray with food and wine.

“David?” Villa breathes out. “What are you doing here?”

“I am your servant, am I not?” David shrugs. “Servants aren’t paid for lying in bed all day. Some people might find it suspicious.”

“You are so much more than a servant,” Villa whispers.

David just smiles and lays the tray on the table. Then he looks at Villa.

“Are you worried?” he asks.

“A little bit,” Villa sighs and closes the book. “Money. My already bad reputation now got only worse, and it won’t help my business.”

“Didn’t you say that you were the only one moneychanger in this part of the city?”

“Yes.”

“Then people will have no choice, no matter what they think about you,” David smiles. “And I think in business, sympathies don’t matter more than money.”

“Where did you learn such things?” Villa smirks.

“From you.”

Villa would pull David closer and kiss him, but he realizes with surprise that his mind warns him off. Like there is suddenly something that wasn’t there before, something that tells him he should check if the curtains are drawn, if there is nobody standing at the doorstep. He hates himself for it more than he hates the people who instilled it in him. Then he reaches out and holds David’s hand in his.

“Señor!” Sergio’s loud voice sounds from the stairs then and Villa immediately lets go.

“Stop it, Sergio, don’t disturb...” Xavi’s scolding reaches their ears but Sergio is already standing in Villa’s office.

“I have interesting news!” he announces.

“What news?”

“You won’t believe it!” Sergio yells and David cowers unwittingly.

“What won’t I believe?” Villa asks.

“Carles Puyol is back in town!”

~ ~ ~


Ander Herrera looks like he’s seen a ghost and there is a wet cloth on his forehead, but he still smiles when Iturraspe walks in.

“I’m sorry, my love,” he whispers when Iturraspe sits on the edge of the bed.

“Sorry? For what?” Iturraspe frowns.

“For... causing you trouble or...”

“You didn’t cause me any trouble. That incompetent French bastard did,” Iturraspe growls.

Herrera doesn’t say anything, preferring not to think about what happened in the courtyard, and Iturraspe looks somehow guilty.

“Sometimes I think that I scare you,” he says. “And it scares me.”

“You don’t scare me, my love,” Herrera shakes his head. “You are a lord. The lords can only be gentle behind the closed doors, and that is where you are gentle with me.”

Iturraspe gives a small smile and then curls up next to him.

~ ~ ~


Sara’s letter has turned into ashes and the ashes have gone cold a long time ago, but Iker is still staring at the fireplace. What Sara wrote makes perfect sense, but the solution is still escaping his mind. He knows that the failed plan could bring him down together with her. The boy saw him there, in Sara’s rooms, he is sure about it. He remembers the moment their eyes met, remembers the dazed but accusing look the boy gave him just before he passed out. Getting rid of him before he can tell the judges that Iker was in the room is the only way out. But although Iker Casillas may be a lot of things, he is no assassin.

Then he gets up and opens the door to the hallway.

“Servant!” he yells.

One of the servants polishing the silverware runs to him.

“My lord?”

“Prepare me a horse!” Iker says.

“Now, my lord?” the servant blinks.

“If I wanted a horse prepared tomorrow, I’d tell you tomorrow. It will be ready before I change!”

He bangs the door behind him and goes to his room. There he changes into dark clothes and takes a cloak with a cape. He thinks of the times he had Fábio on hand to do the dirty work for him. Now he has to do everything himself.

The horse is ready when he comes out of the house. He makes sure he has a pouch with money and his dagger, and then rides out to the dark streets.

~ ~ ~


“Francesc!” Francesc’s father exclaims when he walks in the dining room. “I almost wanted to excuse you already!”

“I apologize for being late, Father,” Francesc says. “Work kept me longer than usual.”

He bows to Daniella and kisses her hand, then acknowledges Tanoukh as well. He exchanges amused smirks with Carlota and sits down. The servants start serving dinner.

“Are there any news about Lady Sara?” Daniella asks. “I still can’t believe that she is accused of such terrible things.”

“She is still awaiting trial,” Francesc says. “Don’t worry about her, my dear. You couldn’t have known she would do such things. She managed to trick everyone.”

“But it doesn’t mean anything regarding our wedding, does it?”

“No, of course not,” Francesc smiles reassuringly.

“Perfect. There is something I wanted to talk to you about, regarding the wedding,” Tanoukh says and helps himself to a piece of meat. “After the wedding, I suppose you are going to live in your house?”

Francesc takes his time chewing and swallowing before he answers.

“Well, that is what I envision. At least I haven’t had any other suggestions.”

“I would like to see your house, then,” Tanoukh says. “Just to know it is good enough for my daughter.”

“Papa!” Daniella hisses, blushing. “I am sure I will be happy anywhere we go.”

“I will be happy to welcome you in my house any time,” Francesc assures Tanoukh, earning his father’s approving nod.

“Perfect. Tomorrow afternoon, then?”

“Why don’t you come in the evening? You could stay for dinner,” Francesc offers.

“Well, that would be lovely,” Daniella smiles. “I will be happy to meet your household as well.”

Francesc imagines Daniella meeting the old cook, the cheeky Isco and overly educated Álvaro, and he already regrets his offer.

~ ~ ~


The tavern is buzzing with laughter, loud voices and the clinking of dishes. Iker looks around and grips his dagger tighter. This is one of the most dangerous places in Barcelona. When one walks in, there is a big chance it will be the last place he ever enters. But where else could he find the man he needs?

He sits at a small table in the corner and waits for the owner to approach him.

“Wine?” the man barks.

“I will have some, but it’s not what I’m looking for,” Iker replies, pulls out a gold coin and turns it around.

“Then what can I do for you, señor?” the owner’s voice gets lower and a tiny bit more polite.

“I am looking for someone who would do a certain job for me,” Iker whispers. “A reliable person with no remorse, able to keep his mouth shut. Do you know such person?”

The owner’s lips twitch in a nasty smile.

“If you wait for a moment, señor, I will find him.”

Iker nods and throws the coin at him. The owner disappears through the door behind the bar. A young girl in dirty clothes serves Iker his wine in the meanwhile, giving him meaningful looks he is desperately trying to ignore because he didn’t come to sleep with a fifteen years old peasant with chicken-pox scars.

Then a tall man sits opposite to him, looks at Iker with scary dark eyes and folds his arms.

“So you need my services, I’m told,” he says.

“Yes,” Iker says, trying hard not to look scared when he actually is. “There is someone I need out of my way.”

The man smirks and leans closer.

“What is the price you are willing to pay?” he asks.

Iker pushes the pouch with money to him.

“This, and another one like this after it’s done.”

The man weighs the pouch and nods.

“So who are we talking about?”

“It’s a servant,” Iker says. “He works in the house of Francesc Fàbregas. Tall, dark hair, dark eyes. Called Álvaro.”

“Not an easy task,” the man notes. “Fàbregas is the captain of the regent’s guards.”

“Yes, but the servant doesn’t sleep in the house,” Iker smirks. “He sleeps in the stables across the courtyard. With the groom. When it comes to it, if necessary, you don’t need to spare that groom.”

The man nods again and narrows his eyes.

“Do you have any special wishes?” he asks. “As for...”

“Be quick about it, that is my only wish. I don’t care if you strangle him, stab him in the heart or set the stables on fire, but leave no trace that could lead to me.”

“I am a professional,” the man growls. “I don’t leave traces.”

“Perfect,” Iker says. “Then we have an agreement.”

Chapter Text

Francesc makes sure for the last time that there is nothing wrong with the house before walking out. They are expecting Tanoukh and Daniella at any minute now, and seeing Isco and Álvaro poking each other and giggling doesn’t calm him down in the slightest.

“Keep to the horses, all right?” Francesc says to Isco. “Don’t approach the people.”

“No worries, señor,” Isco grins. “Álvaro will do all the nice talking.”

“Of that I am worried, too,” Francesc sighs.

The carriage stops in the middle of the courtyard. Isco goes to help the coachman unharness the horses, while Álvaro opens the door of the carriage and offers Daniella his hand. Her skirts are so big that she stumbles on the stairs and practically falls out of the carriage, right in Álvaro’s arms.

“My lady,” he bows to her when she’s standing safely on the ground, pretending that she graciously walked out.

“Captain Fàbregas!” Tanoukh’s voice resonates through the courtyard.

“Welcome to my house,” Francesc smiles, kisses Daniella’s hand and offers her his arm.

“It is bigger than I imagined,” Daniella notes. “Have you always lived here by yourself?”

“Yes,” Francesc says. “It used to belong to my grandfather, my mother’s father. When he died, I got the house and moved here. It certainly improved the relationship between me and my father.”

“No wonder!” Tanoukh chuckles. “You are both equally stubborn!”

They walk in and Francesc leads them to the dining room. Only when they arrive, he realizes that he has no servants that would push back the chairs and serve the meal, because he himself eats mostly in the kitchen and apart from the old cook, there is only a woman that comes to clean the house once a week. It’s not like Francesc is at home most of the time.

Before he can start apologizing, though, Álvaro sneaks in through the door and pushes back the chair for Daniella. He pours the wine in a way so elegant that even Francesc forgets himself and stares at him blatantly. Only when Álvaro is about to disappear through the door, he mouths a “thank you”. Álvaro just smiles, bows and disappears in the kitchen.

“It doesn’t look like a woman has ever lived in this house,” Tanoukh points out. “From what we’ve seen...”

“My grandmother died a long time ago and my mother married my father when she was very young,” Francesc explains. “But you don’t need to worry. Everything will be arranged until the wedding.”

“Perfect. I wouldn’t want my daughter to live in a place that looks like military quarters.”

“Papá!” Daniella frowns. “It is a nice house. And the servants are also very nice. I don’t see why I should miss anything here.”

“Well, at least I can be assured that this house is safe,” Tanoukh sighs. “There are more weapons than in the King’s arsenal, it seems.”

~ ~ ~


“Oh, finally!” Sara exclaims when Melissa comes in.

She taps her foot impatiently until Melissa pulls out the quill and parchment.

“My lady, wouldn’t it be safer to keep it in your room?” she asks quietly.

“You call this a room?” Sara barks. “And no, it wouldn’t. They can search my cell any time.”

She sits at the table and looks at Melissa.

“Are there any news?”

“Nothing interesting, my lady,” Melissa says. “People at the marketplace only speak of Carles Puyol.”

“Why?” Sara frowns.

“He’s returned from his voyages,” Melissa explains and then giggles. “They say he found nothing but good rocks to smash his ships against.”

Sara rolls her eyes and starts writing.

~ ~ ~


“Señor?” Sergio’s voice sounds from the hallway and in the next moment, Sergio peeks in curiously.

It’s been years since Villa has last opened the room in which his father used to store all the family treasures that were too hideous to display in the house, as well as family documents that were already too unimportant, and that one portrait of Villa’s great-aunt that would scare any guest to death.

But now Villa is digging deep in a chest standing in the corner and when he looks up, there is a spiderweb in his hair and dust on his sleeves.

“Are you looking for anything in particular, señor?” Sergio asks.

“No,” Villa barks. “I’m looking for anything with value, so that I could sell it and pay at least your salary!”

Sergio gulps. He had a feeling that Villa’s financial situation was getting worse, not only because the lost money he invested in Puyol’s journey, but also because there haven’t been any customers in over a month. As inconvenient as it was for them, they preferred to go to the other side of the city to exchange their money.

“What did you want?” Villa asks, closing the lid angrily.

“Well... señor Puyol is here,” Sergio says. “But if you don’t want to see him...”

“Why wouldn’t I want to see him?” Villa frowns. “I, unlike the others, don’t forsake my friends.”

He brushes the dust off his sleeves and walks out of the room.

~ ~ ~


The dinner is more or less a success. At least nothing embarrassing happens, the food is good and Álvaro continually charms Daniella so at the end of the meal Francesc almost thinks that she’d prefer to marry his servant. Unfortunately he is sure that both his and her father wouldn’t be happy about the idea of replacing Francesc with Álvaro.

“It’s getting late,” Tanoukh says then. “We should go.”

“I’ll tell Isco to get your carriage ready,” Francesc says.

“Thank you,” Tanoukh says. “I just hope our coachman can find the way in the dark. He doesn’t know the city very well yet. Also the streets aren’t very safe, as unfortunately my daughter has already found out.”

“Then you could perhaps stay here over the night,” Francesc offers.

Daniella looks hopeful, but her father shakes his head resolutely.

“Impossible. According to our customs, the woman cannot sleep in a man’s house if she is not married to him.”

Francesc just shrugs.

“Then I could tell Isco and Álvaro to show you the way... and also it will be safer if you have more people with you.”

“That would be perfect,” Tanoukh says and reaches for his cup of wine. “I’m glad to see that my daughter is marrying a reasonable man.”

~ ~ ~


When Marc wakes up, the room is empty. The Moor is gone, the priest hasn’t showed up since Sergi threw him out and Sergi himself is also nowhere to be seen. For the first time since he’s there, Marc feels hungry. It’s probably a good sign, but not good news when there’s no food in the room. He tries to call someone, but no one enters the room. And well, Marc never asks twice.

It takes an eternity for him to get up from the bed, but stubborn as he is, he refuses to give up. He needs to at least know if he still remembers how to walk.

The corridors of the regent’s house are quiet and mostly empty. Marc can hear the guards walking somewhere behind the corner, but there is nobody around. He doesn’t really know where he is heading because he doesn’t remember much from the house. But he guesses that the kitchen will be somewhere downstairs, so all he needs to do is to find some stairs.

He finds a staircase soon enough, but it’s not the one he’s looking for as it only leads upstairs. He remembers Sergi telling him where Lady Sara was held, in one of the tower-like rooms, and guesses that this must be the staircase leading to it.

Suddenly there are steps coming from the staircase and soon enough, a girl appears. She is looking over her shoulder like someone is chasing her, and in the next moment, crashes right into Marc.

For a moment his vision goes black from the pain. Then he looks at the floor and something catches his attention, something that wasn’t there before. A white quill with the tip still stained with ink.

It’s more or less instinctive, the way he seizes the girl by the wrists.

“Did you smuggle this into Carbonero’s cell?” he asks brusquely.

At least his professional voice suffered no harm.

“She forced me to do it!” the girl says, looking at him with fear. “Please, let me go!”

“What else did you smuggle in or out?”

The girl is close to crying already, even trying to escape his hold and it’s much harder for Marc to stop her than he’d ever imagine overpowering a girl would be.

“Please, if they catch me, they’ll kill me!” she whispers. “Please!”

Marc looks her in the eyes and takes a breath.

“I serve my lord, first him and only him,” he says then. “I’m sorry. Guards!”

~ ~ ~


Carles Puyol’s hair is even longer than usual and his face is more weather-beaten, if Villa can judge, but there is nothing different in the way he simply cannot accept failure.

“When I finally accomplish my goal, I will give you all the money back. First to you,” he says, reaching for a piece of cheese Xavi brought with the wine.

The plates are more poorly set now, but Xavi proves to be a magician and manages to cook delicious meals from cheaper ingredients, so Carles most likely doesn’t even notice that there is less meat and more vegetables.

“Don’t worry about it,” Villa waves his hand. “You are not the one who ruined me. Most likely, I just ruined myself.”

“I’ve heard about that... incident...” Carles says and looks at Villa. “What a disgrace, this Casillas.”

“Casillas was most likely just a puppet. It was Lady Sara Carbonero’s doing.”

“But he was behind the thing with Xabi. It’s awful. Do you have any idea where he is now?”

“Actually, I do,” Villa smiles. “He’s in Bilbao. And so was one of your ships, for a while.”

“One of my ships?” Carles frowns.

“Yes. Fernando's.”

“I thought the ship was lost in a storm!” Carles exclaims.

“It was. Then pirates got them. Then Lord Iturraspe got the pirates, and your ship. After some events irrelevant to your story, he sent them home. Xabi met Fernando there, and Fernando came to me afterwards.”

“But... but that means I still have two ships!” Carles breathes out and when he sees the glint in his eyes, Villa is almost sorry that he told him. “God, why didn’t Fernando reach out to me? I thought he was dead, and he’s just sitting in his house probably! Such a fool!"

Villa just smiles.

“I can see it, there is another journey already on your mind,” he says.

“You bet,” Carles smiles. “You bet.”

~ ~ ~


Sergi opens the door to Marc’s room with such force that it hits the wall.

“What was this supposed to mean?” he barks.

Marc carefully rolls to the side, in a way that allows him to look at Sergi and not to pass out from pain at the same time.

“The girl was smuggling Lady Sara’s letters out!” he says.

“Yes. That is one fact. The other fact is that a couple of days ago you were almost dead, and now you are wandering around this place, arresting people!”

“I didn’t arrest her, I called the guards,” Marc says sheepishly.

“I’ve heard that they didn’t have much work when they arrived,” Sergi snaps. “I’ve also heard what that Moor said about you almost passing out afterwards. Do I still have no reason to be mad?”

“You have all the reasons to be mad, my lord,” Marc whispers.

Sergi closes the door and stalks closer to him.

“If you as much as touch the floor with one toe, I’ll let the guards chain you to this bed,” he whispers.

Marc smiles somehow naughtily, as he does every time something Sergi says creates inappropriate images in his head.

“As you wish, my lord,” he says. “But truth is I only got up because I was hungry.”

Sergi blinks in surprise, and then something akin to guilt appears in his face.

“I care so badly for you,” he scolds himself in a half-joking manner. “I’ll have them bring you a whole pig!”

“Thanks, but a half will be enough!” Marc laughs.

Then he looks at Sergi.

“Do they already know who the letters were for?”

“No,” Sergi sighs. “They asked Lady Sara, but she laughed in their faces. And the girl was so scared that she didn’t utter a word.”

“Let’s hope they find out before it’s too late,” Marc sighs.

~ ~ ~


Francesc is slowly drifting off to sleep when terrible screaming rouses him. He jumps out of bed, grabs his sword and runs out. When he gets out of the house, however, all he sees is a figure in a cape fleeing through the passage.

He rubs his eyes to make sure that he’s not still dreaming, because it all looks too surreal. If the person was a thief, then why did they run out of the stables and not the house?

The screaming sounds again, now more like loud wailing, coming from the stables. Francesc grabs a lantern off the wall and crosses the yard. Then he enters the stables. The sounds are coming from Isco’s loft. After a moment of hesitation, he climbs the ladder carefully. When the lantern illuminates the scene, he almost falls back.

There is blood everywhere. Small drops, splashes and a bigger pool slowly reaching the edge of the loft. But what he sees is not what he expected.

On the bed, tangled in the bloodstained sheets, Fábio is sobbing uncontrollably, cradling Cristiano’s body in his arms.

Chapter Text

“This is awful,” Xavi whispers. “Awful.”

He takes another bloodied cloth from David and hands him a clean one, soaked in hot water. Fábio is quiet, not paying attention to Xavi nor David who is washing the dried blood off his skin and examining the cuts on his arms. He hasn’t said a word since Francesc brought him to Villa’s house, barely explaining what happened before disappearing again.

“What if the murderer wanted to get Cesc?” Sergio cries out.

“Yes, he’d be surely looking for him in the stables in the middle of the night!” Xavi rolls his eyes. “Sergio, would you make yourself useful once and bring some clean cloths?”

Sergio mumbles something about Xavi being insufferable, but eventually leaves the room. Xavi sighs and looks out of the window.

“I know that Sergio can exaggerate sometimes, but I really wouldn’t want the man who did it in our house now,” he says.

“Señor Fàbregas said nothing could happen,” David says quietly. “He wouldn’t bring Fábio here if it was dangerous.”

“You’re right,” Xavi nods. “Sergio’s moods are contagious sometimes.”

Sergio brings some clean linen cloths and leaves the room again. David turns to Xavi.

“Could you make some of your poppy tea?” he asks. “It would come handy.”

“Yes,” Xavi nods. “Of course.”

He takes the bucket with water and the dirty cloths and walks out of the room. As soon as the door closes behind him, David throws his arms around Fábio and pulls him close.

“If there’s anyone that can understand you right now, it’s me,” he whispers.

Fábio hides his face in the fabric of David’s shirt and sobs quietly.

“You don’t believe in God, do you?” he whispers.

“In your God? No. I tried, but it’s hard to believe in something that you don’t see. Our gods you can see,” David says and pulls back to look at Fábio. “Why are you asking?”

“Because I stopped believing in Him now,” Fábio says.

~ ~ ~


Isco and Álvaro appear in the courtyard when the sun is rising. They stop dead in their tracks when they see Francesc Fàbregas standing at the door of the stables with his arms folded.

“Where were you?” he shouts. “Where the hell were you?”

Álvaro and Isco exchange confused and worried glances.

“Well, señor, when we arrived to señor Semaan’s house, it was already late,” Isco shrugs. “So he offered us to sleep at his house, so that we wouldn’t have to go through the city again, as it’s dangerous.”

“And Fábio and Cristiano?” Francesc asks. “How come they were sleeping here?”

“They probably saw us going away,” Isco shrugs. “You know that Cristiano never asks... if he stole anything here, señor, I’ll...”

“Cristiano is dead,” Francesc says.

Álvaro looks at Isco and then at Francesc, like he can’t really understand what he’s saying.

“D-dead?” he stutters.

“Dead. Someone stabbed him to death in the stables, and hurt Fábio in the process. I saw the person running, and I went to the stables, but it was too late.”

There is silence for a long while.

“It could have been us,” Isco whispers then.

“It should have been us,” Álvaro says and looks at him. “Don’t you understand? Don’t you understand who’s behind this? Who wants us dead?”

Before Isco can answer, Francesc gives Álvaro a quick nod.

“But I’ve had enough. I’ve had enough of this!” he growls. “I will have no bloody assassins wandering around here!”

He takes a saddle and starts saddling his horse himself, because Isco’s hands are shaking so much that he is sure he wouldn’t even be able to lead the horse out of the stables.

“I don’t know what the regent is waiting for. Probably he wants to let that woman kill as many people as possible before he takes her to trial!” Francesc mumbles.

He gets on the horse and looks at Álvaro and Isco.

“Stay here,” he says. “If someone comes, take a sword and kill them. No matter who they are.”

~ ~ ~


Andoni Iraola and Markel Susaeta are more than worried when the guards standing by the door leading to the dining room announce their names and usher them in. When they see Ander Iturraspe poking his fork into an omelette and grinning mischievously, they actually panic.

“There you are!” Iturraspe exclaims and a piece of the omelette flies across the room.

One of his greyhounds catches it mid-air and gives its master a loving look.

“My lord,” Iraola bows his head.

Markel does nothing, only eyes Iturraspe mistrustfully. Ander Herrera is cutting his meat like the situation doesn’t concern him in the slightest.

“I got a message from Gorka Iraizoz,” Iturraspe says cheerfully. “He’s organizing a tournament.”

“What tournament?” Markel asks, suspicious.

“And you call yourself a knight!” Iturraspe rolls his eyes.

“No, you were the one to start calling me that,” Markel points out. “So you mean... jousting, swords and all that.”

“Yes!” Iturraspe exclaims, excited like a little child. “And I want to take part. It will be a revenge for the lost slug war!”

“Excuse me,” Iraola frowns. “Do I understand it right that... my lord is going to fight in that tournament?”

“Me?” Iturraspe raises his brows. “No. You are.”

Iraola looks like he wants to throw an omelette in his face, but he bows his head again.

“It’s a big honor, my lord,” he says.

“Yes, I think so,” Iturraspe says condescendingly. “I hope you will do better than Llorente did in that unfortunate war.”

“I will try my best,” Iraola nods.

“I probably shouldn’t ask for my own sake, but why am I here?” Markel asks.

“Because I need a few things arranged before the tournament, and you’ll take care of it.”

“What things?”

“I made a list,” Iturraspe says and snaps his fingers.

The old scribe rushes to him with a roll of parchment. When he unrolls it, it’s so long that it curls up at his feet.

“Perhaps you’d like to sit down?” Iturraspe smiles and offers Markel a chair.

“My lord is very kind,” Markel sighs and drops on the chair. “I’m listening.”

~ ~ ~


Xavi knocks on the door of Villa’s office, where Villa and Francesc are talking. When Villa lets him in, he lays a tray with food on the table and bows.

“How is that boy doing?” Francesc asks.

“He’s sleeping,” Xavi says. “David is watching over him.”

“Chasing away the tibicenas?” Villa smiles sadly.

“Yes,” Xavi nods and closes the door behind him.

“Why did you bring him to my house?” Villa asks when he returns to the table.

“I thought maybe you needed some excitement in your life again,” Francesc smiles.

“Lately there has been too much excitement,” Villa sighs. “But I certainly wouldn’t want anything to happen to you. If there’s anything I can...”

“I told you already, nobody is trying to kill me, Villa!” Francesc rolls his eyes. “Lady Sara is afraid of what Álvaro could tell the judges. She, or her accomplice, sent the assassin to kill Álvaro, and in the darkness he probably mistook Cristiano for him. They’re both tall and dark-haired.”

He sighs and reaches for a piece of cheese on the plate.

“But actually, I brought Fábio here because this is a safe place. You are a loner. And lately, people have been avoiding you. If there’s a place someone can hide, it’s here.”

“You are right,” Villa says with a bitter smile. “I am hiding here as well. It’s been weeks since I went out. I keep counting the money that’s escaping me, and I keep pitying myself.”

“Don’t worry about that,” Francesc waves his hand. “I’m always here if you need help. And people will forget eventually. But right now, we can make profit of this situation.”

“Of me being almost broke? How?” Villa frowns.

“Listen,” Francesc smiles. “I have a plan.”

~ ~ ~


“So she sent a letter to Casillas in which she ordered that boy’s murder?” Lady Anna exclaims and raises from her seat. “And the regent says that there was no way to stop her?”

“Maybe there really wasn’t,” Sergi sighs.

“Oh, please, brother, if they beheaded her in time, there would be no letters!” she dismisses him and walks over to the window. “I hope this will at least convince them that the trial has to be soon!”

“This is one more offense they have to examine,” Sergi objects. “It will most likely delay it even more.”

“Damn that woman!” Lady Anna mumbles. “I wish they at least held her in a common prison!”

“Why?”

“Because then I could send an assassin to rid us of her!” she says. “Such things happen in those prisons, don’t they?”

“Sister!” Sergi hisses. “Stop talking like that. I’d almost think I’m listening to her talking.”

“You are right,” Lady Anna sighs. “The trial will at least bring more shame upon her. Death would be more merciful.”

She turns back to Sergi and her face somehow softens.

“Well, go already! I can see you fidgeting like you’re sitting on my pincushion!”

“Where should I go?” Sergi raises his brows.

“Where your heart is calling you right now,” his sister smiles.

Sergi gets up. When he’s reaching for the handle, his sister’s voice sounds again.

“With that Moor... have you decided yet?”

Sergi turns around and looks at her.

“No. There’s plenty of time to decide.”

“Maybe less than you think,” Anna says with a serious face. “Give Marc my regards.”

~ ~ ~


Francesc heads to the back door when Sergio stops him in the middle of the corridor.

“I don’t want you to go back!” he announces and folds his arms. “I don’t care if you think the assassin wasn’t after you, I don’t want you to stay in that house alone!”

“I’m not alone.”

“Isco and Álvaro don’t count!” Sergio barks. “Isco is a fool and Álvaro wouldn’t kill a bug.”

“I can take care of myself, Sergio,” Francesc sighs. “Besides, you are no less foolish than Isco is.”

Sergio makes an offended face, but then laughs.

“At least it will keep that woman far away from you,” he says. “She will be too afraid to go to your house now.”

“Which will not amuse my father as much as it amuses you,” Francesc sighs. “But I’ll be glad if I don’t have to see her for some time.”

“And see me instead?” Sergio grins.

Francesc gives him an enigmatic smile.

“Who knows. Perhaps.”

“I’ll go get your horse ready,” Sergio says and heads to the stables.

The door of David’s room opens slowly and David walks out. He looks weary but there is some strange calmness radiating from him. Like all the drama unfolding around him makes him forget about all that happened to him.

“I’m glad to see you are again strong enough to fight off demons,” Francesc smiles.

“I wish I were strong enough to fight off people as well,” David says. “Compared to some, the demons look almost friendly.”

Francesc nods and runs a hand trough his hair.

“How is he?” he asks.

“He only has some cuts. It’s not of them that he could die.”

“Of what could he die, then?” Francesc frowns.

“Broken heart, señor,” David whispers.

~ ~ ~


Francesc finds Isco and Álvaro in the back of the house, huddled together in one of the tiny rooms for servants.

“Did you talk to the regent?” Isco asks as soon as Francesc walks in.

“I went to the regent’s house, but he wasn’t there,” Francesc says and sits on a chair. “I talked to the Duke of Tarragona instead. He explained to me how Lady Sara could even order your murder.”

Álvaro shudders at the words, but Isco folds his arms.

“Well, how? Is she allowed to stroll around the city?”

“She isn’t,” Francesc says. “She managed to smuggle out letters, and I know who they were addressed to. Her dear accomplice.”

“Casillas,” Álvaro whispers.

“Yes. I’m sure it was him who hired the man I saw at night. And if he finds out that he got the wrong one, he will try again.”

“Then what are we going to do?” Isco asks.

“There is only one way to keep you safe,” Francesc says and looks at Álvaro. “You have to die.”

Isco pulls Álvaro closer protectively, like Francesc is about to pull out a sword and decapitate him.

“I didn’t mean die for real!” Francesc rolls his eyes. “But Casillas has to think that you’re dead.”

“And how is that going to work? When anyone can come here and see that Álvaro is alive?” Isco shrugs.

“That’s why from the regent’s house, I went to Villa’s,” Francesc smiles.

“And what does señor Villa have to do with this?” Isco frowns.

“Everything,” Francesc grins contentedly. “We are going to exchange servants for a while.”

Chapter Text

Sergio’s face looks like the brightest star in the sky when Francesc is done explaining his plans.

 

“So Xavi and I are going to work in your house now, and Álvaro and Isco will stay here?” he assures himself.


“Yes,” Francesc nods. “But nobody must find out that they are here. Because Álvaro is dead and Isco is... let’s leave it up to people’s imagination.”


“What about David?” Sergio asks then, looking at David who is just sitting at the table quietly. “I’m just asking because I can’t get him to come out to the garden, leave alone your house.”


“David will stay here,” Francesc smiles. “It will fit our story perfectly. You are such a big mouth Sergio, so all you’ll need to do will be to go to the market and a few taverns and tell as many people as possible that you are now working for me, because Villa couldn’t afford to pay you anymore. He could only afford to keep David because...”


“Because he doesn’t have to pay me,” David says, eyes sparkling with amusement.


“Clever boy,” Francesc winks. “While I needed new servants because I lost my old ones. So now a warning for you two.”


He looks at Álvaro and Isco and frowns, mainly at Isco.


“You will not leave this house. No stupidities. No stunts, Isco. Be careful. After all this escapade, I don’t want to hear that Iker Casillas knocked on the front door and was greeted by you two!”


“If I opened the door to Iker Casillas, he wouldn’t be able to tell any stories anymore, señor,” Isco growls.


“May I have a say in this?” Xavi suddenly speaks up. “I’m not so sure that it is a good idea. For me, this is a very bad timing.”


“Why?” Francesc asks.


“I wanted to conserve pickles.”


Villa tries to keep a serious face, but finally fails and starts laughing. Sergio, however, looks offended.


“So you mean that pickles are more important than saving someone’s life?” he barks.


“Like you are going to be saving lives,” Xavi retorts. “I know very well why you are so happy about this plan.”


“Now, now, let’s not fight,” Villa says, glancing nervously towards Álvaro and Isco. “Xavi, I’m sure I can go without pickles...”


“I’ll do it,” David interrupts him. “Don’t worry, Xavi. I can take care of the kitchen. I’m not Sergio.”


Xavi looks a bit calmer while Sergio gives David an offended scowl.


“Fine,” Xavi says finally. “At least I know señor Villa will not die of hunger while I’m away.”


“But I’m going to round up nicely probably,” Francesc grins. “Not that I’m complaining.”


~ ~ ~


Ander Iturraspe jumps up when a pin pricks his skin. The tailor pinning his new coat pales.


“I am sorry, my lord, it won’t happen again, I swear!” he babbles.


Iturraspe purses his lips.


“And I swear that if it does, I’ll have all these pins stuck in your...”


“Ander Herrera!” the guard by the door announces in a booming voice.


“Oh, let him in!” Iturraspe says, eyeing the tailor mistrustfully when the man tries to pin lace cuffs on the sleeves.


Ander Herrera walks in, looks at Iturraspe in the silk lavender-colored coat, and starts laughing. The tailor pales again and the guards get ready to take Herrera straight to the gallows, but Iturraspe just sighs.


“Say it. I look like a fool.”


“No, my lord, you don’t,” Herrera giggles. “You look like a lady.”


Iturraspe shoots a murderous look at the tailor.


“But a very beautiful lady,” Herrera adds. “I would marry you at this very moment.”


“Take it off me!” Iturraspe barks at the tailor while Herrera sits on the sofa by the window. “I can’t go to Gipúzkoa like this! Gorka would die of hiccups!”


“Why don’t you wear black, my lord?” Herrera asks. “You look best in black. Nobody mocks a man in black.”


“Because it makes me look too skinny.”


“But, my lord,” the tailor jumps in, apparently happy about Herrera’s arrival. “If we use velvet, it will look fabulous! Not everyone can afford to wear velvet, but you with such a slender figure, you will look great!”


“Really?” Iturraspe thinks for a moment, taking in the flattery. “All right, then. But no lace!”


The tailor nods quickly and scribbles something at a piece of parchment. Then he lets his assistants gather all the material and leaves the chamber.


Iturraspe plops down on the sofa next to Herrera and closes his eyes.


“Is it so important? The tournament?” Herrera asks, running his fingers through Iturraspe’s hair.


“For me, it is,” Iturraspe says. “I know what you think, what everybody thinks. But what is between me and Gorka isn’t just about childish games and rivalry. The rivalry isn’t childish. There’s much more politics than meets the eye.”


“More politics in the color of your coat?”


“Oh. No. That is, indeed, childish rivalry. There are other things.”


“What things?”


“You know that I’m not the lawful lord of Biscay, and Gorka isn’t the lawful lord of Gipúzkoa either. They are just titles we claimed for ourselves, or rather that our ancestors claimed and we just keep pretending that this land belongs to us. But we are lords with the permission of the King.”


“And?”


“If the King wanted to, he could unite Biscay and Gipúzkoa, and there would be only one lord. And while I’m not a good friend of the King, Gorka is much more... tolerant. That’s why I need to watch my back. Otherwise, I could end up as a poor commoner.”


“I’d love you even as a poor commoner,” Herrera smiles.


“I know,” Iturraspe sighs and lays his head on Herrera’s chest. “I’d love you as a lord as well.”


“But I am a lord!” Herrera giggles. “Lord of the fish.”


“Of course you are,” Iturraspe whispers. “Of course you are.”


Herrera smiles and keeps petting Iturraspe’s hair until his breathing evens out.


“My poor lord,” he whispers then with a kiss to the top of Iturraspe’s head. “So many predators in your sea.”


~ ~ ~


Álvaro pushes the door to David’s room carefully. Fábio has his head turned away from the door and doesn’t move, even though he has to hear Álvaro.


“Fábio?” Álvaro asks softly.


Fábio finally turns his head, probably surprised that the voice doesn’t belong to David. Then he sits up.


“May I?” Álvaro asks, motioning to the chair standing next to the bed.


Fábio nods, his eyes not quite leaving Álvaro’s face. Álvaro suspects that Fábio keeps comparing him to Cristiano, keeps thinking whether they really resembled each other enough for someone to mistake Cristiano for Álvaro.


“I’m so sorry,” Álvaro whispers when he sits down.


“It’s not your fault,” Fábio shakes his head. “If we weren’t... I was telling Cris we shouldn’t... go there... but he...”


“It wasn’t your fault either. Just that you sleep at someone’s place doesn’t give anyone the right to... hurt you.”


“It was the only thing we knew,” Fábio says quietly. “We never had a home. Just places we slept at, and they changed so often that we could never get used to them. We didn’t have a home, we were nobodies. If we disappear from this world, nobody will know. Nobody will remember us.”


“But you remember him,” Álvaro says. “As long as you remember him, he’s not gone, not forgotten. You can’t disappear from this world because you are the last person that can say his name.”


“Saying his name hurts,” Fábio sobs.


“I know.”


“What have you done to deserve that?” Fábio asks and looks Álvaro in the eyes. “That someone wants to kill you?”


“I don’t know,” Álvaro whispers. “Bad things just like my company, I think.”


For the first time, Fábio gives him a small smile like he commiserates with him. Álvaro gets up slowly because he has no idea of what more he could say.


He walks to the kitchen, where David is quietly working at the table. The atmosphere in Villa’s house is different from the one he remembers from Xabier Alonso’s mansion – Villa keeps to his room most of the time, while Alonso was always all around the place, giving orders, preparing something, going somewhere, meeting someone. Also the absence of a lady of the house is apparent in the way the house is undecorated, although clean, but the small touches are missing – fresh flowers señora Nagore always arranged in the vases herself, embroidered pillows and tablecloths, the sweet scent of perfume. Álvaro closes his eyes for a moment, suddenly overcome by a feeling that strangely resembles homesickness.


When he looks up again, David is watching him somehow curiously. Álvaro makes a hesitant step.


“Xavi’s pickles,” David says and smiles. “I really didn’t know he had bought so many when I agreed to do this.”


“Can I help you with anything?” Álvaro asks. “It’s not like I’m a great cook, but...”


“If you can use a knife at least a little bit, it would help me if you could clean the rest of the pickles. I need to prepare the dinner.”


“Of course,” Álvaro nods and comes closer.


“You just have to cut off the ends,” David explains. “Like so.”


Álvaro looks at his hands, but suddenly something catches his attention. He takes David’s hand in his like mesmerized and turns his wrist to him. When he stares at the mark, David lets him, not ashamed nor offended.


Suddenly, there is a sound coming from the door and they both jump up. Isco clears his throat and raises his brows.


“Well,” David smiles. “I’ll go take señor Villa’s dinner upstairs.”


He puts a few plates on a tray and leaves the kitchen, followed by the lightning bolts from Isco’s eyes.


“So, we moved in here in the morning, the sun hasn’t set yet, but you are already holding hands with Villa’s servant!” Isco says, frowning menacingly.


“We weren’t holding hands!” Álvaro snaps. “I was just looking at the mark he has. And if you want to know something, I was thinking about you.”


“About me? What about me?” Isco asks.


“I was thinking that... if you hadn’t saved me, I’d have such mark myself now.”


Isco’s face softens and he pulls Álvaro closer.


“Wait,” Álvaro whispers just before Isco’s lips can touch his. “What if someone sees us?”


“Villa’s servant? Even better,” Isco smirks. “At least he’ll know that you’re mine.”


“You’re insufferable,” Álvaro sighs and presses his lips to Isco’s.


~ ~ ~


Francesc looks out of the window to make sure that the gate is closed and there are no assassins wandering around the yard. Then he closes the shutters and takes off his coat.


When he turns around, there is Sergio standing at the doorstep.


“What are you doing here?” Francesc asks. “Are you afraid in your room downstairs?”


“Of course not,” Sergio snaps and plops down on Francesc’s bed. “But I’m worried about your safety.”


“My safety?” Francesc raises his brows.


“The assassin is still out there,” Sergio says. “So I’m sleeping here.”


“All right. I feel safer already. But you should be afraid.”


“Of what?”


Francesc stalks closer to him and brings his face inches from Sergio’s.


“Me,” he whispers.


~ ~ ~


Villa turns to the door when David walks in with a tray.


“There is one positive thing about Xavi being away,” he notes. “You don’t bring me an enormous amount of food.”


David smiles and lays the tray on the table.


“Is that the only thing you like about this game?” he asks.


“What makes me sad is thinking that it isn’t really a game,” Villa sighs and rubs his temples. “Soon it could be like this. Maybe I won’t be able to pay Sergio and Xavi anymore. Nor to keep this house. I will have nothing left.”


“Do you want to know what is the only good thing of being poor?” David asks and replaces Villa’s fingers with his.


“What?”


“That when you have nothing, you have nothing to worry about. Nobody can steal anything from you, take anything from you, because you just have nothing. You have only your life to keep.”


“Not that they don’t try to take it from you as well,” Villa sighs.


David doesn’t make a sound, but even with his eyes closed, Villa knows that he gives his little smile, reserved for things that are actually sad, but that he’s learned to take as the natural sarcasm of life itself.


“Do you remember your father, David?” he asks then.


The pressure and warmth on his temples disappear. Villa opens his eyes. David is looking at him with something akin to suspicion in his eyes.


“Why are you asking?”


“Because I want to know,” Villa shrugs. “I told you about my father, remember?”


David nods and sits on one of the stools before Villa can actually motion for him to do so.


“I remember him the way I remember the islands,” he says quietly. “I remember the tone of his voice and the smell of fire that stayed in his clothes and in his hair when he returned from the fields... when you harvest the sugar cane, you first set the field on fire, you know?”


“I didn’t know that,” Villa says softly, but David isn’t really listening to him. He is miles and miles away in his mind.


“I remember all this, but not his face. I was too young when he died.”


“What happened to him?”


“He died when he was defending our village,” David says and it’s like he comes back from another world when his eyes focus on Villa again.


“From who?” Villa asks, but he knows the answer already.


“The Spanish.”


“You are from one of the islands that resisted, then,” Villa states.


“Didn’t all of them resist?” David asks, a genuine surprise shining through the sadness in his eyes.


“No. Only four did, as far as I know.”


“I come from Tamarán,” David says, straightening his shoulders unwittingly. “The Land of the Brave.”

Villa frowns.


“Tamarán? Is that a name in your language? Because none of the islands is called...”


“It’s the biggest one.”


“Gran Canaria.”


“Gran Canaria,” David repeats. “That doesn’t sound like home.”


There is silence for a moment, something thick and yet fragile, like there are walls between them and then a simple touch can shatter them.


“I’ve learned not to look for home in places,” David says then. “No place will ever be my home. My home burned to ashes a long time ago.”


Villa closes his eyes for a moment.


“My father once said that one day I’d have nothing,” he whispers. “That with the way I lived, the way I cared about my heritage, I’d lose everything. I’m sure that if my father had another son, or maybe even a daughter, he’d disown me for the sake of the family. But he had no choice than to leave everything to me, and now his words are coming true. I’ll lose everything, and I don’t know if it is really my fault or not, but the outcome is still the same.”


David slides down from his stool and places his hands on Villa’s knees.


“Did you listen to me when I said that I don’t look for home in places anymore?” he asks.


“In what do you look for home now, then?”


“People,” David smiles. “And you are my home now. Not your house, not your money. You. I would never leave you, no matter what. So even if you’d have nothing, you’d still have me.”


Villa takes a sharp breath. Then he pulls David up and kisses him, and for the first time in ages, he doesn’t think of all the eyes that may be watching them, doesn’t think of God, doesn’t think of anything but David’s lips, and the peace it brings him is so great that he would give all the gold in the world for just a second more.

 

Chapter Text


Villa blinks into the warm orange light pouring in through the windows. For a moment he thinks that he forgot to close the curtains last night and a wave of panic washes over him when he realizes what could have been seen through the windows. But then he looks to the windows and sighs with relief. David is right there, pulling the curtains open, already dressed and smiling.

“Good morning,” he says. “I see nobody took you to Hell yet.”

“I have to admit that maybe Fernández sees less than he thinks,” Villa smirks.

“And because Xavi isn’t here, we don’t have to worry about him suffering a shock either,” David nods. “But I’ll have to look after breakfast probably.”

He opens the door and runs down the stairs. Villa smiles to himself and slowly gets out of the bed. Before he can wash his face, the door opens again and Isco storms in.

“Do you know what knocking is?” Villa asks and folds his arms.

“Oh, I...” Isco says and drops the tray on the table with a loud thud. Some milk spills from the jar right onto the slices of bread neatly arranged on a plate. “I’m sorry. I spend most of the time in the stables and the horses usually don’t want me to knock.”

“Do you mean that sometimes they do?” Villa raises his brows.

Isco just grins.

“Well... enjoy your breakfast, señor!” he blurts out and runs out of the room.

Villa just shakes his head and picks up one milk-soaked slice of bread.

“I certainly will,” he mumbles.

~ ~ ~


Francesc learns that having Sergio in his house can be a blessing and a curse at the same time the hard way. He likes to sleep in when he’s off duty, but Sergio certainly doesn’t approve of that. Francesc just groans when Sergio wakes him up by stomping around his bed and occasionally leaning in to bite Francesc’s earlobes or generally any part of his body peeking out from underneath the covers.

“Why the hell do you look so happy?” Francesc asks when Sergio just looks at him, beaming.

“Remember when you threatened you’d bring Álvaro here and do the things we did last night to him in front of me?” Sergio asks.

“And?”

“It pleases me that you can’t say it now.”

Francesc sighs deeply.

“But Álvaro also always tiptoes around my room when I’m sleeping, and doesn’t wake me up by almost eating me,” he says.

“He better don’t,” Sergio mumbles. “I’m going to the marketplace. And I’ll make sure to be loud and talkative.”

“That won’t be a problem for you, I’m sure,” Francesc yawns. “Well, I’ll go and have a look if Xavi made some breakfast.”

~ ~ ~


When Ander Herrera gets off the carriage and sees Gorka Iraizoz with his entourage, he understands perfectly why Iturraspe’s clothes were so important. This is a battle of expensive tissue, jewelry and embroidery, as well as of fancy weapons that Herrera doubts are really functional. In his eyes, Iturraspe wins, but he’s not really impartial.

“Who is this?” Iraizoz asks after the formal greeting, looking at Herrera who is almost hiding behind Iturraspe’s back.

“My water bailiff,” Iturraspe says calmly.

“Why do you need to take your water bailiff to a tournament?”

“Asks someone who brought his horse to the Holy Mass?” Iturraspe narrows his eyes.

Iraizoz laughs at the memory and it seems like he forgets Herrera after that. As they are passing by the tiltyard, Markel looks at Iraola, who watches the tournament preparations with no apparent enthusiasm.

“How do you see your chances?” Markel asks.

“Of winning the tournament, or surviving it?” Iraola looks at him.

Markel sighs deeply.

“I don’t want to scare you, but I think those two things are the same. Either you don’t survive the tournament, or you survive the tournament but don’t win it, and then Ander will kill you. So your only way to survive is to win.”

“Then I’d like to let you know that my last will is hidden in the chest in my room back in Bilbao,” Iraola sighs.

~ ~ ~


Sergi creeps in Marc’s room and closes the door quietly.

“I’m not sleeping,” Marc informs him. “Or well, I’m trying not to. After those potions the Moor gives me I always dream of awful things.”

“What things?” Sergi asks and sits at the edge of the bed.

“Last night I dreamed I had snakes crawling all over me,” Marc says and shudders. “Not my favorite animals.”

Sergi smiles and lets Marc take his hand and play with his fingers.

“You are worried,” Marc states. “What is it? Lady Sara again?”

“Not really, though it has a connection to her,” Sergi sighs. “The Moor, you know? I promised him that if he saved your life, I’d let him go. But if I keep that promise, Lady Sara can hold it against me. Or so thinks my sister.”

Marc nods and continues whatever game he’s invented himself with Sergi’s hand.

“I expected you to give me at least some piece of advice!” Sergi says with mild annoyance and looks at Marc who only grins.

“I told you already, I’m a soldier. I’m not the one to do the thinking,” he says. “Don’t you have other counsellors, my sweet Duke?”

“I do,” Sergi snaps. “My sister. Who is all for hanging the Moor.”

“And what if you don’t have to decide right now?” Marc smiles.

“What do you mean?” Sergi frowns.

“Well, let’s say that the Moor hasn’t saved me yet,” Marc shrugs. “And if he doesn’t manage to save me until Lady Sara’s trial, then whatever you do after it is your thing.”

Sergi keeps looking at him for a while.

“And you said that you weren’t the one to do the thinking?” he laughs then.

“Do I deserve a reward?” Marc raises his brows.

“Certainly,” Sergi nods. “Maybe I can give you a medal. Or make you a knight. Or...”

Marc rolls his eyes, grabs Sergi and kisses him.

“I like to choose my reward, my lord,” he grins when they break apart. “Though a knighthood doesn’t sound bad at all.”

“Too bad you could only have one reward, and you got that,” Sergi smirks. “So you’ll remain a commoner.”

Marc makes an offended face and folds his arms.

“When the snakes appear again, I’ll send them to your bed,” he says.

~ ~ ~


Sergio comes to the marketplace when it’s full of people already. It was his intention after all, and he’s glad that this time, Xavi can’t scold him for coming too late when the best food is already gone. Francesc has the essential things delivered to his door anyway, so this is only for the show.

He finds the busiest stand and looks at the meat briefly.

“Give me the best you have,” he says nonchalantly.

The merchant chuckles.

“Buying the fancy stuff now, Sergio?”

“Yes,” Sergio says calmly. “I work for señor Fabregas now, you know. So I don’t have to buy cheap anymore.”

“Oh,” the merchant says with interest. “How come you work for Fàbregas now?”

“Well, Villa couldn’t afford my services anymore,” Sergio shrugs and pretends like his services can only be paid with gold. “He could only keep the slave. Oh, and señor Fàbregas needed new servants after what happened to the old ones.”

“What happened to them?”

Sergio feigns surprise. “You don’t know?” he says and leans closer, whispering so loudly that probably the whole marketplace can hear him. “Somebody killed them.”

“What?” the merchant jumps up.

“Yes,” Sergio nods. “Stabbed them to death in the stables. Terrible. There was blood everywhere. Señor Fàbregas has seen some awful things, but let me tell you, even he was shaken.”

By that time a group of curious people has gathered around them. Sergio pretends that he hasn’t noticed.

“So, he asked me and Xavi if we wanted to work for him now,” he concludes. “Otherwise we’d probably end up on the street. Villa couldn’t even pay us our last wages.”

He hopes that Villa won’t kill him for spreading that rumor around the city, but it’s for the good of everything. Satisfied with himself, Sergio grabs the meat and leaves the marketplace.

After he’s gone, a man in a dark cloak looks around carefully and then heads in the direction of Iker Casillas’ house.


~ ~ ~


Villa comes to the kitchen when David is cutting some fruit and Álvaro is sorting herbs and hanging them on a beam to dry.

“Are you hungry?” David asks.

“No, thank you, I’ve already had... a bread porridge with milk or whatever it was that Isco served me,” Villa says.

“I’ll kill him,” Álvaro mumbles.

David laughs.

“Did you come for extras, then?”

“No,” Villa chuckles. “I need a letter to be delivered. And as things stand, only one person here can deliver it.”

David sighs deeply, but dries his hands and takes the letter from Villa.

“Who is it for?”

“Carles,” Villa says. “He lives at the other side of the city, close to the port. You can take a horse.”

“I can’t ride a horse,” David smiles. “But don’t worry. I’ll find the way. I’m more afraid of what you’ll have for dinner when I’m gone.”

“Don’t worry, Isco is not getting close to food anymore,” Álvaro says. “I’ll make sure of that.”

~ ~ ~


The dining room is lit with candles and the table is set with the finest porcelain. Gorka Iraizoz is carefully observing if the guests are impressed enough. So far, Iturraspe looks bored, Herrera is impressed to the point of being afraid to touch anything, Markel tries to look polite and Iraola, probably convinced that it is his last dinner, is shamelessly stuffing himself.

“I suppose the King has asked you for an army as well,” Iraizoz says when most of the food is gone, looking at Iturraspe.

“He did,” Iturraspe nods.

“And you agreed to give it to him?”

Iturraspe frowns.

“Why shouldn’t I?”

“Because you are not going to get anything in return,” Iraizoz says. “This one time we should stand together. You and I. Why should our people die for something that the King will then claim for himself?”

Iturraspe bites his lip and then shakes his head slowly.

“I can’t.”

Iraizoz folds his arms.

“So you’ll send your men to Granada like slaughter cattle,” he states.

“You know that I can’t go against the King!” Iturraspe barks.

“Of course,” Iraizoz smiles with disdain like this is what he’s wanted to hear all along. “Of course you can’t. Because you sold your soul to the Devil for Bizkaia. Or should I say, sold your brother to the King?”

Iturraspe jumps up and for a moment it looks like he will throw his glove to Iraizoz, or jump over the table and strangle him. But then he just runs out of the dining room and they hear a distant sound of a door being slammed shut.

There is complete silence at the table. Then Herrera gets up and heads in Iturraspe’s direction, ignoring everyone else.

The room is almost dark when he enters it, the curtains drawn.

“My love?” Herrera whispers, looking around cautiously.

He more stumbles upon Iturraspe in one of the corners than he finds him. Then he lowers himself to the floor and touches Iturraspe’s shoulder lightly.

“My love, what...”

At the next moment, Iturraspe flings his arms round Herrera’s neck and starts sobbing hysterically.

 

Chapter Text

“Tell me what happened, my love,” Herrera whispers. “What did he mean?”

Iturraspe shakes his head desperately.

“You’re going to hate me,” he sobs, trying to hide in Herrera’s arms like he can hide there even from himself. “You’re going to hate me when I tell you.”

“No,” Herrera says and touches Iturraspe’s wet cheek. “No, look at me. Nothing you ever say or do could make me hate you.”

Iturraspe looks at him like he is afraid of being slapped in the face, but Herrera’s face is kind and peaceful like when he looks at the sea.

“The lordship has been in my family for decades, but it is not hereditary,” Iturraspe starts. “Which means that when my father died, I didn’t become the Lord of Biscay. It had to be confirmed by the King.”

He looks at his shaking hands like he can’t believe that they belong to him. Herrera takes them in his own hands and smiles encouragingly.

“So, when I was finally old enough to rule by myself, the King demanded a guarantee that I wouldn’t rebel against him, that even though I’d rule Biscay, if it came to something that would immediately concern the whole country, I’d stand by the King and obey him. He needed something that would keep me from disobeying him, and a piece of parchment wouldn’t be enough. So he asked for my younger brother.”

Herrera blinks.

“So the King took your brother hostage?”

“They call it a ward,” Iturraspe says with a crooked smile. “But in fact it means hostage, yes.”

“Have you seen him ever since?” Herrera asks.

Iturraspe shakes his head and gives Herrera a desperate look.

“I though it would be better that way, I...”

“Then how do you know that he’s still... alive?”

“Letters,” Iturraspe whispers. “The first two years they were cries for help. He was a little boy in a court full of strangers, mainly religious fanatics, the Queen’s bootlickers, and soldiers... I couldn’t even read them, I just threw them away every time.”

He wipes away the tears that continue to flow, and he looks like a little boy himself in that moment.

“Then they became shorter, less emotional, too formal. Like someone had to force him to write them, otherwise he wouldn’t bother,” he says and looks at Herrera. “He must have thought that everyone’s forgotten about him. And maybe they did. I banned everyone from speaking about him. I removed everything that could remind me of him. Not because I wanted to forget, but because I didn’t want to remember... and it’s not the same thing, even if it sounds strange. I love my brother. And if I do what Iraizoz wants me to do, no letters will come anymore.”

Herrera wipes off a stray tear that escaped from underneath his own lid.

“You know everything now,” Iturraspe says bluntly. “So if you... if you want to leave, you can.”

“Leave?” Herrera raises his brows.

“Leave me,” Iturraspe says. “I won’t behead you, I won’t look for you, I...”

Herrera smashes their mouths together to shut him up. The kiss tastes like tears and all the bitterness in the world.

“I’d rather have you behead me if I had to leave you,” he whispers.

~ ~ ~


Carles Puyol lives near the port, in a house that looks more like a fisherman’s hut. He clearly doesn’t spend much time there and doesn’t deem it worthy spending money on.

“You are lucky that you found me here,” Carles tells David, taking the letter from him. “I’m leaving tomorrow.”

“Another adventure?” David smiles.

“Still the same one,” Carles smirks. “Tell Villa I’ll bring him his money back this time. He has no reason to believe me, but I can feel it in my bones that this time is the right time.”

David nods and walks out of the hut. It’s getting dark already and he has to cross the whole city to get home. He heads towards the port, but the side alleys are confusing and it seems like it will take him forever to get out of there.

“Are you lost, boy?” someone asks.

David is indeed lost, but the voice doesn’t sound nice at all. Definitely not like a person that wants to help him. He turns around carefully. The man is younger than David imagined, with ginger hair and beard, green eyes glinting like a stray cat’s. His clothes are torn in places and are contrasting with shoes that look almost new. Without a doubt he stole those recently.

“Have any money?” he asks and stalks closer to David. “I could take you to your mother if you pay me.”

“He doesn’t really look rich, Illarra,” another man notes, emerging from the shadows.

“Well, that’s very unfortunate for him,” Illarra notes, poking David like he is trying to find out if he’s real. “He has a nice shirt, though.”

“Too bad it wouldn’t fit you, you ginger pig,” his friend laughs.

“What else do you have we could take?” a third voice asks. It belongs to a young man that somehow resembles Illarra, not with his looks but with the way he moves and acts. Like they’ve spent too much time together.

“I don’t have anything,” David says, lifting his eyes to meet Illarra’s. “Let me go.”

“I will, what would I do with you?” Illarra laughs. “If you were a girl, I’d have use for you, but...”

“But first we have to make sure you really don’t have anything we could take,” one of his companions says, grabs David and pushes him to the ground.

David covers his head before they actually touch him, because he knows that when they find nothing, the blows will inevitably come.

“Leave him alone!” someone says.

David looks up to see a beautiful white horse and for a moment he thinks of Iker Casillas, but this horse is different, its mane looks almost golden. David’s eyes go wide when a sword glints in the rider’s hand.

“I said leave him alone!”

Only then David notices that the man is not alone. More men on horses come out of the shadows.

“Oh, we were just joking, señor,” the leader of the band says, stepping back.

“Why is nobody laughing, then?” the man asks. “Did you steal anything from him?”

“Nothing, señor,” another bandit says. “His clothes wouldn’t fit a child.”

“Then get out of here before I change my mind and hand you to the guards.”

The band disperses before David can even blink. He dares to hoist himself up on his elbows when the man sheaths his sword and jumps down the horse.

The man holds out his hand, but seeing the most likely very expensive gloves he is wearing, David scrambles to his feet on his own, wiping the mud on his already dirty trousers.

“Where do you live? Or work?” the man asks.

“I-I’m a servant,” David blurts out. “Of señor Villa.”

“David Villa?” the man asks with certain surprise.

David nods.

“Then this is quite convenient,” the man says and turns to his suite. “Somebody take him on horseback. At least we’ll have a guide.”

~ ~ ~


Francesc hears the horseshoes clack on the paved yard and he looks out of the window. In the next moment he almost faints. He knows this carriage.

He kicks all the clothes scattered around under the bed and shakes Sergio awake.

“Wake up!”

“Why?” Sergio mumbles.

“Because you are in my bed and my fiancée is on the doorstep, you fool!” Francesc yells, regretting kicking the clothes under the bed because now he has to put them on.

He makes sure that Sergio is awake and trying to get out of the bed, and then he runs out of the room.

When he opens the door, there is not only Daniella and Tanoukh standing outside, but also his father and even Carlota.

“Tanoukh, Daniella!” Francesc says in a cheerful voice. “Papa, sister... What a surprise. Did anything happen?”

His father’s face turns red.

“You tell us, Francesc Fàbregas!” he shouts. “We haven’t heard from you in days! There are voices in the city that there was a murder in your house!”

Francesc sighs and quickly checks that the door to his bedroom is open, a sign that Sergio has already left.

“We better come inside,” he says.

~ ~ ~


Jorge is pacing around his room when the door opens without a knock and Lady Anna walks in. Her chaperone lingers on the doorstep but on Lady Anna’s sign she closes the door and stays outside.

“Lady Anna,” Jorge whispers, gripping the edge of the table in the last second so that he doesn’t fall on his bum.

“Forget everything you imagined when I walked in, and listen,” Lady Anna says and sits on a chair. “You said that Lady Sara would kill you if she got the chance, didn’t you?”

“Most definitely, my lady,” Jorge sighs. “I think she’ll rip me to pieces.”

“Well, then I have a deal for you,” Lady Anna says. “If you help me to finally bring her down, I’ll make sure that she won’t touch you. I’m offering you a job in Tarragona, and an asylum there.”

“That is very kind, my lady, but how could I help you?”

“Lady Sara made sure that the judges won’t hear about what she did from the people she did it to. But that doesn’t mean that nobody else knows about it.”

“But I... I didn’t know anything, actually, I just overheard her talking to Manquillo. That’s why I knew where the Moors were heading.”

“Exactly,” Lady Anna nods. “Which tells us that Manquillo knew everything. He was Lady Sara’s right hand, wasn’t he?”

Jorge nods slowly, but then he shakes his head.

“Manquillo is devoted to her. He even told your brother that he preferred to die with her. He won’t go against her.”

Lady Anna raises her brows and gets up.

“Well, then make him, if you want to save yourself. You know my offer.”

~ ~ ~


Villa runs to the door and opens it. He almost faints from relief when he sees David on the doorstep, smiling sheepishly. Then his eyes fall at the man next to David, his beautiful clothes, the sword and the horse stamping its feet impatiently behind him.

“Finally we meet, señor Villa,” the man smiles.

“Finally?” Villa frowns. “I beg your pardon, but I don’t know who...”

“I’m Sergi Roberto, the Duke of Tarragona,” the stranger says. “If I’m not mistaken, the victim of Lady Sara Carbonero’s plotting was you?”

Villa just gulps and bows.

“Your Grace,” he whispers. “I owe you...”

“You owe me a coin for giving your servant a ride,” Sergi smiles. “You shouldn’t send him to such dangerous places. I personally wouldn’t go to the port without having at least ten armed men with me.”

“It was very foolish from me indeed,” Villa nods. “May I invite you in?”

“You may,” Sergi says. “I needed to talk to you anyway. Luckily I ran into your servant. Luckily for both of us.”

He walks in the hall and looks around. Then he startles when Álvaro leaves the shadows of the corridor leading to the kitchen.

“You look very well for someone who is supposed to be dead,” Sergi notes.

Álvaro gives him a shy smile.

“Thank you, my lord,” he says.

“You are lucky that I don’t believe in ghosts, otherwise you’d see me run like a little girl. What is this comedy supposed to mean, then?”

“It’s a plan of señor Fàbregas,” Álvaro explains, looking over his shoulder at Isco who stalks closer to them. “It’s supposed to fool Lady Sara.”

“If it fools her at least as well as it fooled me, it’s bound to be successful,” Sergi says. “Can we talk in private now, señor Villa?”

“Of course,” Villa nods and motions to the staircase.

Álvaro hurries to the kitchen to find some wine, while Isco trails behind him.

“Don’t trip over your own feet,” he mutters. “Your precious Duke can wait a minute more.”

“Isco!” Álvaro snaps.

“I saw your eyes light up when you heard his voice,” Isco mumbles.

Álvaro only sighs exasperatedly and slaps Isco over his back.

~ ~ ~


Ander Herrera doesn‘t usually do much thinking because all he has to care about are fish, and he knows everything he needs to know about them already. But this time he is determined to find a way to help his love, whatever it takes.

He spent good two hours just holding and shushing him until Iturraspe cried himself to sleep. Even in his sleep his face looks so wretched that Herrera‘s heart aches when he looks at him.

He keeps wrecking his brain all night. Once the night makes place for the grey light, he gets up, tucks Iturraspe under the covers carefully and goes to wake up Markel and Iraola.

When they meet in the salon, Markel is yawning and blinking to get the sleep out of his eyes. Iraola looks like he doesn’t really know where he is and how he got there.

“We have to do something!” Herrera announces, leaning over a table like a general planning the strategy.

“About what?” Iraola asks.

“About Ander,” Herrera says. “He told me everything. About his brother and the King. And I realized that Iraizoz was right. The King can’t just snap his fingers and ask for whatever he pleases.”

“He can,” Markel deadpans. “He is the King.”

Herrera folds his hands, offended.

“Well, but if he had nothing to threaten Ander with, it wouldn’t be so easy for him,” he says. “And if we make sure that he doesn’t have it...”

“Wait,” Markel says when finally Herrera’s words start to make sense to him. “Do you mean...”

“You understand what he wants us to do?” Iraola frowns. “Because I really don’t.”

“Unfortunately, I think I understand,” Markel says. “He wants us to kidnap Ander’s brother.”

Chapter Text

 


Isco comes back from Villa’s office, throws the empty tray on the table and snorts.

“The Duke’s sitting there like he’s the King himself,” he says. “And he’s merely related to him.”

“I would mistake him for a king,” David smiles from the stove where he is preparing dinner. “I think noble heart doesn’t come with your name.”

“You picture him like a hero, but hell, he had ten armed men behind him and he was sitting on a horse. With a sword in his hand. I would take my chance against three street rats like that, too.”

“He’s so handsome, though,” David whispers like Isco’s words don’t even get to his ears.

“What?” Isco frowns.

“The Duke,” David says like Isco must be blind not to see it. “He’s like... he reminds me of a fresh summer morning, you know... when you walk out into the sun and you just smile to yourself.”

Isco snorts again.

“You should say this to Álvaro, I’m quite sure he’d agree.”

“Agree with what?” Álvaro’s voice sounds from the door.

“With the Duke looking like summer sun... morning... whatever,” Isco groans. “David is probably more in love with him than you are already.”

“Stop being jealous,” Álvaro says. “He saved our lives.”

“From Captain Bartra?” Isco chuckles. “Or the Moors? I saved you from the Moors.”

“He saved us from Lady Sara,” Álvaro deadpans. “Because we could just return here and she wouldn’t try to kill us, right?”

David clears his throat.

“Someone should take the dinner upstairs,” he says.

Isco makes a face and grabs the tray.

“I’ll go. I’m probably the last one in this house the Duke hasn’t bewitched yet.”

 

~ ~ ~


Francesc looks at his father nervously and clears his throat. Daniella looks frightened and even Carlota is nervous.Tanoukh and Francesc’s father look furious.

“So what is that nonsense about a murder in your house about?” his father barks finally.

“Unfortunately, it’s true,” Francesc says.

Daniella lets out a distressed cry and Carlota carefully checks if she isn’t about to faint. She states with mild disappointment that Daniella is still conscious, and turns her attention back to her brother.

“What happened?” she asks.

“Someone murdered my servants,” Francesc says and looks at his sister. “In the stables, he didn’t break in the house. He clearly wanted to kill them, not me.”

“But did you catch him?” Tanoukh asks.

“Papa!” Daniella cries out. “I hope you don’t suggest my fiancé should put himself in such danger, however brave he is!”

“He got away before I could catch him,” Francesc says. “I only saw him disappearing through the gate, and then I of course rushed to find out what happened.”

“So he is still wandering around the city?” Francesc’s father growls. “And you didn’t deem it necessary to inform us?”

“There is no danger, he didn’t want to kill me, nor will he go after anyone in this room, papa. Hopefully.”

Daniella probably pictures the murderer going after her because she finally faints. Tanoukh rushes to her while Carlota half-heartedly waves her with her fan.

“Of course I understand that... in these circumstances...” Francesc says, glancing over to Daniella. “It will be probably best to postpone the wedding.”

“On the contrary,” his father growls. “In these circumstances I think it will be best to have the wedding as soon as possible.”

 

~ ~ ~


David Villa looks at the Duke, who is studying all the maps on his walls with interest.

“May I have a question, Your Grace?” Villa asks.

“If I know the answer...” Sergi smiles.

“Why did you help me? You don’t know me. My reputation isn’t great. And yet you saved me from the Inquisition and started this crusade against Lady Sara. Why?”

“I’m afraid that if I answer you now, I could soon find myself in your place,” Sergi says and looks Villa in the eyes. “Let’s just say that I held a grudge against Lady Sara before you even got involved. Saving you was... a side plan. Officially.”

“I understand,” Villa bows his head. “What happens now?”

“She’s awaiting trial. We’re trying to bring her down, but...”

“Hasn’t she done enough?”

“Well, she deceived the Inquisition Tribunal, though she will probably say that her intentions were good. As we know Gabriel Fernández, he will likely intercede in her favor, just because he’s angry that you escaped from his clutches. We can’t charge her with murder because my Captain isn’t dead... and he’s just a commoner so nobody will care too much. The murder of Cristiano? We can’t prove it to her, she was already imprisoned and the letters are probably already burned. And what is one Portuguese thief to the King and the Queen? So the only thing we have against her are her deals with the Moors. And because of that I am really glad that Álvaro and Isco are alive.”

“I wish I could help...” Villa sighs. “But...”

“We’ll manage. All we need from you is to insist that you were innocent.”

“Well, I have no other option there, it seems,” Villa smiles bitterly.

“Now, Captain Fàbregas told me that you had some... financial difficulties because of this affair?” Sergi asks and looks at Villa.

“Unfortunately, my financial difficulties began a long time ago,” Villa sighs. “I invested in my friend’s voyages, and lost the money. That my reputation is ruined just added to it.”

“Still, Lady Sara and her accomplice should pay not just figuratively speaking. They should indemnify you for all the damage they’ve done to your reputation.”

“If it really happens, I’ll appreciate it,” Villa sighs. “But I don’t have much faith.”

“Oh, the times I didn’t have faith,” Sergi smiles.

Villa smiles bitterly.

“What could have made someone like you lose it?”

“Well, for example, I was almost forced to marry Lady Sara. God forgive me for blasphemy, but even Jesus Christ would lose his faith then.”

Villa starts laughing just as Isco walks in and lays the tray on the table, looking at the Duke with daggers in his eyes.

 

~ ~ ~


Iturraspe walks in the salon and looks at Herrera, Iraola and Markel in confusion.

“What are you doing here?” he asks. “I hope it’s not another conspiracy.”

Markel visibly pales, Iraola becomes nervous and Herrera laughs.

“Is conspiracy that’s meant to make you feel better still a conspiracy?” he asks.

“It is,” Iturraspe says and folds his arms. “But maybe I won’t chop your heads off for it. Maybe.”

“Perfect,” Herrera says. “And now, shouldn’t Andoni have breakfast? A hungry knight probably wouldn’t stand a chance in the tournament.”

“Wait,” Iraola says. “Are we still in the tournament? I had the impression that you wanted to go home as soon as possible, my lord.”

Iturraspe takes a breath, but Herrera jumps in before he can speak a word.

“Of course he doesn’t,” he says. “He wants to make Gorka Iraizoz feel as miserable as possible, which will only happen if you defeat Iraizoz’ champion. I’ll go and see what’s for breakfast. I’ll try to get them to prepare you fish. Fish are the food for champions.”

Everyone just stares with their mouths open when Herrera disappears through the door. Iturraspe then shrugs and returns to his room. Markel turns to Iraola.

“I thought insanity wasn’t contagious,” he says. “But it seems like Herrera lost his mind as well.”

 

~ ~ ~


It takes almost an hour until Francesc’s family (and future family, he thinks bitterly) leaves.Tanoukh and Francesc’s father practically agreed upon everything concerning the wedding without asking Francesc and Daniella about their opinions. Well, Daniella was in a fragile state, so there was probably no point in asking her anything, and Francesc, according to his father’s philosophy, wasn’t entitled to opinions.

Francesc enters the kitchen where Xavi is cooking dinner as discreetly as he can, and takes a bottle of wine from one of the shelves. He manages to finish the first cup when Sergio walks in and raises his brows when he sees Francesc hugging the bottle.

“My father’s just told me...” Francesc starts.

“I heard,” Sergio says.

Francesc doesn’t even have the strength to scold Sergio for eavesdropping. Mainly because Sergio looks even more devastated than he feels himself. Francesc sort of wishes Álvaro was there with one of the fatalistic opinions of his because Álvaro is the only person in the world who can make marrying a woman you don’t love sound like a thing everyone could enjoy.

“So you’ll marry her,” Sergio mumbles then.

“Well, I always knew I would,” Francesc says softly.

“Then what’s the matter?” Sergio shrugs. “Sooner or later, she’ll be your wife. You can as well do it now. I’ll go back to Villa’s house and everyone will live happily ever after.”

A ladle hits the bottom of the saucepan and Francesc almost jumps up.

“Need... togetparsleyexcuseme...” Xavi mumbles and runs out of the kitchen.

Francesc looks back at Sergio.

Nobody will be happy,” he says then. “I won’t be happy because I don’t love her. She won’t be happy because I won’t love her. You...”

“I won’t be happy whatever happens, because whatever happens, I still won’t be with you,” Sergio says.

Francesc sighs.

“If there was a way, Sergio...”

“Villa and David found that way.”

“And it almost cost them their lives,” Francesc notes.

“Yes. And you should have seen David, when the soldiers came into our house, or when they returned. He would die for that love gladly. So if they can, why can’t we?”

Admitting it is easier than Francesc thought.

“Because I don’t have David’s courage,” he says simply. “Because, Sergio, you fell in love with a coward.”

 

Chapter Text


Javier Manquillo has spent so much time contemplating his future and the way he may die after Lady Sara’s trial, depending on the outcome, that he already feels dead. When the door screeches, he doesn’t even make an attempt to get up from the bed, he just turns his head to see who it is.

“Hello, Manquillo,” Saúl grins. “We missed you.”

“Not really,” Óliver says.

“What are you doing here?” Javier asks.

“Jorge came to tell us that you were going to die,” Óliver explains. “We couldn’t miss the occasion to say our goodbyes.”

“Dying with Lady Sara has always been your dream, hasn’t it?” Saúl asks. “Would you like to share her grave as well?”

“Stop insulting her!” Javier shouts, finally waking up from his lethargy.

“Or what? You will tell her we did? I’m afraid that she won’t do anything about it this time,” Saúl dismisses him.

“Yeah, we’ve heard she’s locked up in some tower,” Óliver adds. “That should have been done so much earlier.”

“Like... the day she was born,” Saúl nods. “But we are here to make sure she doesn’t get out. More precisely, you are going to make sure she doesn’t get out.”

“No, I’m not!” Javier barks.

“You are going to tell them what she did, and all of it. Otherwise, us two and Jorge will tell her that you told the Duke everything. And we told him about Lady Sara’s plans to accuse someone of that disgusting thing that begins with an S, and that she has no money, so she will surely thank you for that!”

Javier pales.

“Why are you doing this?” he whines.

“Are you serious?” Óliver looks at him. “Do I have to show you my back or is your imagination good enough to picture what happened to it after she used her riding crop on me because I broke one of her favorite vases? After you ratted on me, by the way.”

“Seriously, the day she gets what she deserves will be the day we get wasted like never before,” Saúl says contentedly. “And that day is approaching.”

~ ~ ~


David opens the door and blinks in confusion when Sergio almost falls on him, obviously drunk.

“What are you doing here?” he whispers.

Sergio mumbles something and starts laughing. David rolls his eyes and closes the door. Sergio stumbles to the kitchen and falls on one chair.

“Be quiet, because if Villa hears you, he’ll kill you,” David says. “You’re not supposed to be here.”

Sergio starts inspecting everything on the table. After concluding that none of the dishes and bottles contain alcohol, he lays his head on the table and starts sobbing.

“What happened, Sergio?” David asks. “Where, and mainly why did you get this drunk?”

“Cesc is getting married,” Sergio sobs.

“I thought you knew that.”

“But now he’s getting married for real! Soon. I heard them today, they have everything planned, the old cow probably already has her dress hung in her bedroom! And Cesc told me he had to get married. He told me that he will give me up, because he’s not brave like you and Villa!”

“I think that he’s just as brave as Villa is, because he loves you,” David says softly.

“But Villa won’t ever give you up!” Sergio almost yells. “He won’t! For this house, for his name, for nothing! While Cesc... he’ll marry that witch and dump me because it’s best for his life, his career and his family!”

“Exactly,” David nods calmly.

“Exactly what?” Sergio stares at him with red-rimmed eyes.

“You’ve just said so many things that senor Fabregas has to lose. His career, his life, his family. How can you blame him for not wanting to lose them?”

“I love him!” Sergio shouts. “I can blame him because I love him! You’d blame Villa if he wanted to leave you for some old hag as well!”

“If it would mean he could keep his job, his money, his life and his family, I wouldn’t,” David says. “But his reputation is ruined anyway, and it’s not really because of me, he has no money anymore, he has no family left and all he has is his life, which he actually hates, so it’s not like he’s risking anything more than I am. Or that you are.”

“So you want to say that I have nothing to lose because my life is worth nothing, while his precious one is worth everything, right?” Sergio sneers and gets up from the table, making the chair tumble to the ground. “To hell with you! To hell with you all! Why did I even come here?”

He storms out of the kitchen, pushing Álvaro, who’s come with Isco to see what was happening, out of his way. Álvaro frowns and looks at David.

“Are you all right?” he asks.

“Yes,” David sighs.

“He pushed you!” Isco growls and looks at Álvaro. “I’m going to kill him!”

“No, you aren’t!” Álvaro says and pulls him back by the sleeve. “Because we’re not allowed to go out. What was is supposed to mean anyway?”

“Sergio found out that senor Fabregas was getting married,” David explains.

“Did he not know that?” Isco snorts.

“He did, but... it’s complicated. I’m really worried about him.”

“Well, in the state he’s in, he can as well get run over by a carriage or something,” Isco states.

“That, too. And he might say something somewhere, which can get in trouble more people than he thinks.”

“Damn,” Álvaro says. “What are we going to do?”

“I think we have to wake up Villa,” David sighs. “Let’s hope we will survive it.”

~ ~ ~


“I thought you were gone,” Gorka Iraizoz says when Iturraspe appears at the tiltyard accompanied by Iraola, Markel and Herrera.

“Before the tournament?” Iturraspe raises his brows. “It’s what I’m here for.”

He gives Iraola a pointed look and then goes to his seat. Herrera sits next to him and looks at all the contestants, the horses and weapons.

“But... they don’t have to kill the opponent, do they?” he asks in a small voice.

“No, they don’t,” Iturraspe says. “Although it’s much less fun if they don’t.”

Herrera just gulps and slides down in his chair. Iturraspe rubs his hands together.

“I hope Iraola cuts Gorka’s champion to pieces,” he growls.

“When have you seen Iraola cut someone to pieces?” Markel asks.

“I haven’t,” Iturraspe admits. “But there is a first time for everything.”

~ ~ ~


Lady Sara keeps pacing around her room. That her way of communication with the outside world, or well, with Iker, was cut, irritates her to the point of hating everyone even more. And with the trial approaching, she knows that she won’t have many more chances to turn the tables. She at least hopes that Iker did what she had asked him to do. If he did, she should be safe from the worst. But now that she has come to terms with being shamed for having lost her fortune and with the scandal tainting her name, the things she is afraid of are fewer. And her fear turns into rage.

Now all that she wants is revenge, she