Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Rescue (11): Into the castle

Miravet, night of 28th August 1713

Mireia watched with a mixture of sadness and relief how the Spanish corporal was quietly reduced by Barceló's men, at the abandoned poultry where the man had naively followed her. The girl was still amazed at how easily she had managed to seduce the poor boy who, so drenched in happiness as he was, had even naively cared to warn his own comrades he'd be off duty for some longer than usual. Inside the small poultry, the young soldier had answered in a trembling voice to each of the questions Barceló, Copons and Canals whispered to him, while old Albesa kept staring at him, while intimidatingly playing with his knife. They had all the answers they would: exact location of Aragonese troopers and officers, internal layout of rooms... Everything, except for the captured standards. Terrorized, the man admitted not knowing anything on that subject -although most obviously he'd gladly agreed to tell them anything they would.

Mireia noticed the discrete negative sign Barceló had addressed to Albesa and relaxed, glad that the young Spanish soldier saved his life for this time -because the boy was making her remind her own dead boyfriend. While Canals was dressing in the soldier's uniform, Barceló told her: -Wait for us on one of these muleta boats. If we're not joining you before dawn ... well ... let's do what you think most appropriate.

Climbing the castle's outer bailey was an easy and quiet job, but the inner wall showed quite a number of hazards instead. The men had to climb it under the deepest silence, taking care not to alarm the sentinel in the nearby. Old Albesa almost lose step and remained for an instant with his feet suspending in air while clinging desperately to the rope, under the alarmed glance of Copons, who was waiting for him at the battlements. When all four men finally had managed to climb on top of the wall, then the guard house door suddenly opened. The soldier had no time to react, that Copons had already crossed his throat with a quick movement. The others had to hold the inert body to avoid it falling down the stairs, and closed the door again.

It was agreed that Canals would cross the door first, clad in his Spanish soldier uniform. While descending the stairs down to the guard house, he managed to control his nerves -not without a huge effort- and entered the room with an adopted naturalness gesture, hoping that anyone noticing would take him for the just silenced soldier. He looked around with an air of indifference and counted five soldiers sleeping. A sixth one was seated at a table, back to him -apparently writing. -¿Mucho viento, ahí afuera? (="much wind, out there?") -he asked to Canals, without even turning to look at him. Such were his last words. Then Canals went back to the staircase, brought his finger to the lips to indicate silence, and with a gesture invited the Catalan squad to join him.

After having silenced forever the sleeping soldiers, they took a key lump and discretely opened the door leading to the corridor communicating the castle courtyard with the stables yard, and took a quick look to the whole. Everything was calm and silent, lighted by only two torches close to the refectory entrance. They could identify the door of the room where the Aragonese prisoners were held, as well as the guard posts around the yard, and then Barceló said: -Let's go first to release Lanuza; we'll need him to put some order among his men. This will be done by Canals, Copons and myself; meanwhile, you Albesa take all the weapons you find at the guard house, load and have all them stored at hand, for giving them to the Aragonese men as soon as they're released.

Wearing his borrowed uniform, Canals resolutely crossed the courtyard toward the refectory where the Spanish troop bedrooms had been enabled, controlling himself not to directly gaze at any of the guard posts. Once in front of its door, he took the key lump and introduced one of the keys in the lock -praying not to mistake it. The key slid smoothly in the lock with just a slight metallic click, and Canals waited for an instant. No reaction from the inside.

He afterwards went back to the guard house, where Barceló and Copons were dressing themselves with Spanish uniforms too. The three men slipped again in the courtyard towards the keep, where they presumed to find the officers' rooms. Behind, Albesa was covering them from the guard house lintel, with a couple of loaded muskets close to him. However, the Catalans had not raised any alarm so far, so that they arrived in place with no setback. He slipped the musket barrel through the door ajar, aiming at the sole sentinel he had in sight, looked askance at the second musket he had by his side, ready to fire -and waited for a while he judged to be an eternity.

1 comment:

Bluebear Jeff said...

So far, so good.

-- Jeff