Saturday, February 19, 2011

The Rescue (12): Released!!

Miravet, night of 28th August 1713

From the gloomy shadows of the room where they were being held prisoners, Major Lanuza and another Aragonese officer heard a confused rumour, an odd cacophony of rubbing, blows and whispering before the door suddenly opened. Then a dimly glowing candle lit up the room -scarce as it was, it nevertheless sufficed to dazzle them. Confused and vaguely afraid, Lanuza had to blink several times before realizing the three figures he had in front, clad in Bourbon Spanish uniforms. Aware of his own miserably dirty, emaciated appearance, with a badly bandaged arm, he proudly straightened though, persuaded his time had come. He then recognized one of the men facing to him. Puzzled, Lanuza stood frozen for an instant, then he threw himself into the newcoming's arms: -Blasco...! Both men briefly embraced to each other.

Some later, while keeping his musket aimed to the sentry box, old Albesa could see five figures going out from the keep to the courtyard. Then, he believed to see the sentinel making a sudden movement to look into the courtyard. It was pretty dark out there, so that he could barely determine whether the soldier was embracing his musket or not. After a brief hesitation moment, he softly grunt and pressed the trigger. "Just for case", he thought. Blinded by his weapon's sudden lighting, he couldn't know if the target had been attained. He then picked up the second musket and ran out of the guard house, seeking a better place to fire upon the keep tower's sentry -who was the only one with a good angle to cover the Aragonese prisoners' location door, where Lieutenant Barceló was just running to. Albesa knelt and raised his musket and breathed deeply, while a lightning from the keep suddenly tore the dark, accompanied by a cracking shot. He could hear a whistle and the impact of a bullet just behind him, and then he fired again. Now he was able to see the target falling down.

This allowed the rescue team to distribute themselves in two different groups: Canals, Lanuza and the second Aragonese officer started struggling to open the dungeon's door, while Lieutenant Barceló and Copons took positions with their weapons ready, face to the refectory door. The Spanish soldiers in that room had already realized they'd been locked inside and started to try forcing their way through the door, using some kind of heavy furniture as an improvised ram. Albesa soon joined his mates and so did Canals too, a little later. Albesa begun preparing a grenade, with the aim to drop it through a window, but then the gate yielded with a crack under the ramming impetus. Barceló, Canals and Copons simultaneously fired their pistols and blunderbusses point blank, which were followed by a pandemonium of moaning and crying while Albesa finally got to lit the grenade fuse and threw it inside, amidst the first Spanish shots. He didn't wait for the explosion and prepared a second grenade, while his three mates fired a second point blank volley with their replacement pistols.

Both grenades detonated simultaneously in a single deafening explosion, that sent a cloud of debris and fragments outward. Taking advantage of the confusion produced, Major Lanuza had already armed some of his Aragonese troopers with the half-dozen ready loaded muskets stored at the guard house and, after a fast raid into the refectory to pick up some weapons else, he took initiative and launched all his men in a charge against the Spanish squad still holding the castle's main gate. Not all the Aragonese prisoners had been completely released yet, for many still showed badly cared wounds from Tivissa battle. As the garrison remnants had started opening a scattered fire from some windows and towers, Barceló chose to slowly group the released men under the corridor shelter, where a number of them devoted some minutes to load as many muskets and pistols as they could -while Lanuza was clearing off the castle main exit. Now the numbers were on their side, so they decided to leave the castle by the main road, to allow them moving the troop in good order and preventing isolated encounters with the town patrol -for the resulting skirmishes in the dark would unavoidably disperse and get lost many of them.

Hidden between two muleta boats, Mireia was distressedly watching the river street and the castle road, when she heard shots, moanings and a explosion. A little later, she could see the Spanish patrol rushing up to the castle. After a further while of distressing silence, she heard again some isolated shots followed by a closed musketry volley by the side of the castle road. Silence again. Slowly, she began distinguishing attenuated voices and rumours, and the shadows of a large group of soldiers emerged from the road amidst the dark, straightly running towards her hidding place. She sighed with relief when recognized Barceló and his fellows leading the troop.

They used all three boats, hazardly overloading them. To their backs, there were still some scattered shots, and they feared some kind of energic last reaction from the enemy. This caused the men to frantically paddle with everything they had at their disposal: oars, butts and hands. But no attempt was made to stop them from the town. King Philip's men had enough for this time. When the first boat went aground on the opposite river bank, it happened a sudden tension release. Men started congratulating to each other, amidst nearly hysterical laughings. While his men vented themselves by uttering insults and mockings to their enemies, Lanuza silently stared at the brightly starry sky, and smiled.

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