[parts of the following scene taken from "Master & Pupil" written by Robert L McCullough]
Three Months Later
Diego could scarcely believe his eyes as he came around the corner of the tavern. He had been at the blacksmith's shop, having the shoes replaced on their carriage horses. The de la Vegas were certainly wealthy enough to have their own farrier but preferred to give their business to Tomas Zapata, the pueblo's smithy.
He had heard the familiar clash of steel against steel and a bit of panic had come over him. If someone was in desperate need of help, Zorro's things, including his saber, were safely hidden in the cave two miles away. He had left the horses and carriage with Tomas and had sprinted over to see what was going on.
And that's when he saw his old fight master, gleefully fending off three of the garrison's lancers. It took a moment for his brain to register what his eyes were seeing.
"Sir Edmund?" he asked. "What are you doing here?" They had received no letter, no note, no message at all, that the British knight who was both his friend and his father's, was coming to visit them here in Los Angeles. Diego wondered uneasily the why of Kendall's unannounced arrival.
"Defending myself," replied Sir Edmund with a grin splitting his freckled face.
Diego glanced over at Sergeant Mendoza, who also had his sword drawn, but for the moment was letting his lancers take on the skilled swordsman. "Sergeant, there must be some mistake," Diego appealed. "This is Sir Edmund Kendall, my professor from the university."
The stout soldier shook his head. "Even a professor must pay the traveler's tax, Don Diego," he stated officiously.
"Preposterous!" shouted the fight master as he parried two of the lancers's blades. "I'm a British knight!'
"And my men are highly trained lancers," retorted Mendoza.
Sir Edmund's smile grew even bigger. "Well then," he said, "we should have some fun." He took the hat from his head and threw it at the lancers, knocking them backward. One of the soldiers lost his grip on his sword and it landed at Kendall's feet. He kicked it up into the air at the astounded Diego who somehow managed to catch it.
Diego looked at the weapon in his hand as if it were a snake, poised to strike. Oh, Dios mio, what on earth was he going to do? If he fought as Sir Edmund clearly expected him to do, his masquerade as Zorro could be exposed. If he feigned ineptitude, he feared that his old teacher would scorn him.
Deciding a little contempt from an old friend was the lesser of the two evils, Diego awkwardly defended himself against the two lancers who came rushing at him while Sir Edmund took on the other three. After Kendall had neatly dispatched the last of them with a solid punch to the face, he spun around to watch as Diego, breathing a sigh of relief that the ordeal was over, tossed the sword into the dirt and surrendered.
His mentor was clearly bewildered at his actions. Diego felt a little ill as Sir Edmund's gaze seemingly tried to penetrate his mind. "Have you forgotten everything?" he asked incredulously. "You were the best student I ever had."
Diego gulped nervously. At least no one save him and Kendall knew just what subject the older man had taught him. He decided the best course of action was to get the fight master out of the pueblo as soon as possible. He brushed aside the blades pointed at him by the two lancers.
"Excuse me," he said politely, walking over to Sir Edmund. Reaching a hand inside his jacket, he felt around for the coins he kept in the pocket there. "Sir Edmund, I'll be happy to pay your traveler's tax."
"You can't be serious," the British knight retorted indignantly.
The sergeant stepped over to join them, sheathing his sword. "Excellent thought, Don Diego," he said with a smile on his round face. "There is no sense in anyone getting hurt. I would have hated to arrest this man."
Diego knew that Mendoza disliked arresting anyone, mainly because of the paperwork he would be then forced to complete. Suppressing a grin of his own, he dropped five pesos onto the soldier's waiting palm.
"Gracias." The sergeant closed his fist over the coins then turned away, marching over to the cuartel. Diego looked apologetically over at Sir Edmund, who was eyeing him inquisitively.
"You'll stay with us at the hacienda?" Diego asked, already knowing the answer. He turned to see a lone suitcase sitting in the dust in front of the tavern porch. "Is that all your luggage?"
The sword master nodded. "When a man reaches my age," he stated with a enigmatic smile, "he learns to travel light."
Fortunately the horses were ready and the smith had done Diego the favor of re-hitching them to the carriage. The two men rode to the hacienda in relative quiet since Diego knew that his father would want to hear everything Sir Edmund had to say as well.
"So this is California," said Kendall after they had traveled about a mile from Los Angeles. "It certainly isn't what I expected."
"No?" inquired Diego. "What did you envision?"
"Oh, I don't know," his companion said, "more trees. . . Deadly savages waiting to take our scalps." He chuckled then became serious. "At least the part about the armed soldiers harassing innocent people is true."
"Unfortunately, yes," Diego conceded.
"And no one does anything about it?" Sir Edmund asked a little heatedly. "Wasn't this the reason your father wanted you to come home before you completed your education? And does this Zorro fellow Alejandro has written to me about do nothing but wave his sword and talk about injustice?
"Zorro is only one man," replied Diego defensively. "He can't be everywhere."
"A bloody lot of good he does then," snorted Kendall. They lapsed into silence again the rest of the distance to the hacienda.
Don Alejandro was as surprised to see his old friend as Diego had been. "Edmund!" he shouted as the other man alit from the carriage. "What are you doing in California?" He didn't give Kendall a chance to reply as he embraced him with a near strangling hug.
"Do I have to have a reason to come and visit my good friends?" Sir Edmund queried as the elder de la Vega released him.
"No, no." Don Alejandro shook his head. "Come in, come in. You must tell us all about your trip."
"Well, the most exciting part was today when I arrived in Los Angeles," said the British knight with a smile once they were inside the hacienda. "A brigade sergeant tried to extort money from me."
Diego waved away his father's concern. "Oh, the traveler's tax," he explained. "I simply paid it."
Sir Edmund glanced over at Diego. "Most unnecessary," he stated. "You and I could have easily outfought those soldiers."
Don Alejandro started laughing; a little too derisively, Diego thought. "Oh, Edmund," said the old don. "You, yes. But Diego. . . "
Diego decided to jump in before anymore was said about his swordsmanship. "Do we have anything cool for Sir Edmund to drink? He must be parched after his journey."
"How rude of me!" exclaimed the elder de la Vega. "I'll get us some juice." He walked off in the direction of the kitchen.
Waiting under his father was out of earshot, Diego pulled Kendall aside. "May we keep tales of my fencing lessons a secret between us?" he asked earnestly.
Sir Edmund stared at him in confusion. "Diego," he began, "you should be proud of your skill with a sword."
"If word were to get out that I even studied under you," Diego said, shaking his head, "do you know how many young hotheads would try to challenge me?
It was the fight master's turn to shake his balding head. "You'd handle them with ease," he declared proudly.
"But then when would I find time for my scientific studies?" inquired Diego as he led Sir Edmund into the library. "Or to help run this ranch?"
"Here we are, gentleman," said Don Alejandro who came up to them holding two glasses of orange juice. Zafira appeared behind his father, carrying two more. "Sir Edmund, I don't know if you've met my daughter-in-law, Zafira."
"We've met," said Kendall tersely. "Once. In Spain."
"Si," said Zafira through tight lips. "We have."
"Oh, that's right," said the elder de la
Vega as he handed the glasses he held to Diego and Sir Edmund, oblivious
to the tension that filled the air.
Diego closed his eyes as he remembered the only time his sword master had met his wife. It had been at a charity reception to raise money for scholarships, about a week before their abrupt departure for California. He had taken Zafira around to meet all of his professors and she had been perfectly charming to them.
"And this is Sir Edmund Kendall," Diego said as he had introduced the British knight to his wife. "He's my. . ."
"I know who he is," she stated belligerently. "My brother has told me all about him."
"Indeed," said Sir Edmund warily. "What did he say about me?"
"That you're a Royalist through and through," Zafira said. "Even though your own king kicked you out of your own country for dueling illegally."
Diego had stared first at his wife then at his fight master. In the nearly four years that he had known the red-haired Englishman, Kendall had never confided in him the reason why he was living in Spain. But then, Diego rationalized with a shrug, he had never asked.
But how had Ricardo known, Diego wondered as he was once again aware of the hostility his spouse felt toward Sir Edmund as she glared at the other man as they stood in the foyer of the de la Vega hacienda.. And now that he thought about it, he speculated about the duel that his mentor had taken part in that had resulted in his exile from England. Had the other participant been killed? Had the man been someone important? Duels had taken place in Spain all the time and usually, the government rarely intervened unless someone of significance was involved. Diego imagined that it was the same in Britain.
"Now then, Señor," Don Alejandro said to Sir Edmund, breaking into Diego's musings, "you must tell me about life at the university. . . and about your chess."
Kendall chuckled at the elder de la Vega's challenge. Diego held up his glass of juice. "To re-acquaintance," he toasted.
His father and Sir Edmund touched their glasses to his. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed that Zafira was staring at their guest with an expression full of enmity. Then she turned her gaze to him and Diego wasn't surprised that he received the same look of hatred.
He only hoped she would behave herself for
the duration of Sir Edmund's visit.
Z Z Z
[parts of the following scene taken from "Master & Pupil" written by Robert L McCullough]
It wasn't until the next morning that Diego and Sir Edmund got a chance to cross their sabers together once again. Don Alejandro had gone into the pueblo to pick up a bottle of wine from Victoria at the tavern, a vintage that was one of their guest's favorites.
Zafira had gone off on another of her rides. Diego had no idea where she went when she rode off on horseback after breakfast nearly every day and he wasn't about to ask. To be truthful, he was glad of the respite her absence provided him.
It felt so good to hold his blade in his hand and take on a swordsman who actually tested his skill. He couldn't stop the laughter that rose from within him as his old mentor drove him backward. Diego bumped his back into a post that held up an awning in the courtyard. He quickly rolled to his left as Sir Edmund thrust at his chest. Using the post as a shield, Diego lunged out from the right side then his left before coming out from behind the post on and grabbing Kendall by the collar of his shirt and pretended to whack the other man's head up against the post.
Sir Edmund laughed, an impressed look on his face. "You've learned some new moves."
"Practice makes perfect," quoted Diego, wielding his saber cautiously, knowing that the cagey old fight master wasn't above striking while his opponent was distracted.
"Only perfect practice makes perfect," the Englishman corrected. He then raised his sword in a salute which Diego returned.
They battled on for several more minutes, both clearly enjoying themselves immensely. Kendall lunged at Diego, who easily sidestepped the move then grabbed the other man's arm and spun him toward the courtyard wall.
Sir Edmund ducked behind a nearby tree then emerged from it branches brandishing a dagger and wearing a confident grin on his freckled face. Diego darted his eyes around the courtyard and spied a rake leaning up against the wall. In an flash, he had snatched up the gardening tool, used it to press Sir Edmund's left hand which held the dagger up against the opposite wall, and brought up the tip of his saber, placing it on the British knight's chest.
"Very nice," commented Sir Edmund, his voice full of breathless laughter. "You did remember that lesson."
Diego grinned as he lowered his blade. "‘When truly threatened, use any weapon at your disposal'," he quoted. He set the rake back where he had found it.
"I'll want a rematch," the Englishman said as he slid his dagger back into the waistband of his trousers.
"It will be my pleasure," stated Diego as they began to walk across the courtyard toward the front door of the hacienda. "If you're going to be in Los Angeles long enough, that is."
Diego watched as a guarded expression came over his mentor's face. "Well, California is such a lovely place," Kendall declared in a tone that didn't quite ring true. "I might just want to stay forever."
The sound of hoof beats approaching the hacienda drew Diego's attention away from his old teacher for a moment. His eyes narrowed as he saw two men riding toward them. "What about your work at the university?" he asked, his gaze never leaving the riders.
"Oh, that's not really any problem. . ." Sir Edmund started to explain as Diego watched as one of the men pulled out something from behind him.
That something turned out to be a rifle. "Look
out!" shouted Diego as the sound of the gun going off filled the air.
He and Kendall ducked down below the low wall that surrounded the hacienda
as that bullet then another flew over their heads.
Z Z Z
"CADENAS DE AMOR" - CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE