Monday, February 14, 2011

The Rescue (10): In Lion's Den

Miravet, 28th August 1713

Vicenç Canals smiled slightly when he re-started his way through the streets of Miravet town, alongisde with young Mireia. His explanations had apparently persuaded the Spanish soldiers he actually was the inoffensive priest he was disguised as, so that they had been finally allowed to cross the checkpoint. He mentally took note of the soldiers' furtive lascivious gazes at Mireia -such attractive might be a powerful resource in their favour, if wisely exploited... He smiled again to himself. They followed the main street, which runs along the Ebro river bank. Most of the town lied just above their heads, plastered dry stone houses sitting tightly close to each other against the rocky crags of a steep hill crowned by the imposing Templar castle. Canals noticed three muleta boats arranged close to a short ramp descending to water from the street itself, thus serving as a pier. "Ideal for a fast escape!" -he thought.

Mireia and Canals agreed time and place for a later meeting, before separating each on his own way. Mireia went to meet a candle maker she knew, while Canals got into the church with the aim to repeat his disguised actuation close to the local priest. He was pretty successful again and soon gained empathy of Mossèn (=priest) Sebastià, who invited him for a dinner and bed. During the lively conversation started after dinner, Canals performed skillfully and obtained from the naive priest a good amount of useful information on the castle garrison, through apparently casual questions amidst an unconsequential conversation. However, he wasn't satisfied enough yet. At midnight, after veryfing the priest was soundly asleep, he stealthily left the vicarage building and walked through the silent, dark streets up to the castle's external enclosure wall. That section was quite damaged and in poor condition, so he had little trouble to climb it up silently.

Just before dawn, Canals was in bed again. Some time later in the morning, he met Mireia as agreed and swiftly left the town for their comrades' hidding place, satisfied with the amount of information they had gathered.

Later in the morning, Lieutenant Barceló nodded thoughtfully while listening to the reports offered by Canals and Mireia: four soldiers at the cable ferry hut, another four at a road checkpoint, ten soldiers else patrolling the town... That meant there would be not less than thirty or forty soldiers inside the castle itself. The account was far from any flattering... However, he knew the numbers were not all that important, if everything was adequately taken into account. Thanks to the valuable informations gathered by Mireia and Canals, they now had a quite good idea on the castle internal layout, the location of the Aragonese prisoners and the Spanish troop bedrooms, as well as the distribution of guard posts all around the enclosure. However, there were some still unresolved important questions, such as the place where the Aragonese officers were held, or the location of the Spanish officers private rooms.

He stood apart for a while, in an effort to develop a plan. According to Canals assertions, the most secure path to the inside was through climbing up the outer bailey by its lower side -that one closer to the town itself. Afterwards, Canals would have to climb the inner bailey up to the guard post and throw a rope for the rest of the group... provided the sentinels in the guard post could be conveniently reduced to silence before. And then? Would the three muleta boats in town suffice for them to escape? Would they go to Tarragona? He forced himself to remember each of the the factors in their favor. A resolute and experienced squad, a surprised garrison, the logical confusion once alarm was raised, the grenades borrowed from the Tarragona armory... He knew that things might cease going as expected, sooner or later. If only things started getting worse after the Aragonese were already freed...

Canals' voice interrupted his thoughts: -It would be wise having a Spanish soldier at hand, to interrogate him... and having a Spanish uniform wouldn't be that bad, either. I believe there's an easy way to attract a soldier into our hands -and then he stared at Mireia with a disturbingly cunning smile in mouth.

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