* * *
The next day at the palace, the royal family were seated at the breakfast table when Rosalin and Antonio walked in and took her place. Viceroy looked at her mischievously. ‘Hello daughter. Did you have a good night?’ He asked with a sly smile on his face.
‘Well I knew that. After all Antonio’s my son. Wouldn’t have let his first night be spent sleeping.’ Saying this, the Viceroy broke into laughter. The others joined in. Rosalin blushed red with embarrassment. The Viceroy continued. ‘Daughter, now you are a part of the royal family. So act like one of us.’
‘Now if you will excuse us. Antonio, we need to talk.’ The viceroy got up and walked to his private study room. Antonio left his plate as it is and followed his father. In the study room, Marcos and important officials are seated around talking.
As Viceroy Fonseca and Antonio enter, everyone stood to attention. Viceroy Fonseca gestured at them to sit down. ‘What is the situation?’
One of the officials spoke. ‘Sire, another ship got attacked last night following the earlier one in the evening.’
‘Anyway to identify those pirates?’
‘No sire. We have a clue that they hide somewhere near the Coelho Isle during the day time.’
Another official broke in. ’We had sent one of our men in a small boat to check that isle. He is sure the pirates dock at the isle since he found some signs on human presence over there, though he is not sure if it’s them.
‘I see.’ Marcos said.
The viceroy turned to Antonio. ‘Son, I want you to take your best men and your best naval fleet to combat this challenge. Trace the pirates and give them a warning to give up. If they heed, good else bring them down.’
‘I’ll depute someone Pai.’ Antonio replied.
Viceroy looked at him. ‘No, I want you to lead. You are the best and with your new training, you will be a surprise for them.’
‘But Pai, I…’
The viceroy paced across the room. ‘I know son. I know. Only you are capable of leading the naval attack that will leave a lasting impression on the enemy. Now go and make arrangements to leave.’
Rosalin was out in the garden when Antonio broke the news to her. She sat still on the rock as she heard him say that he had to leave soon. A heavy silence followed. Antonio inched closer to Rosalin. He gently took her face in the palms of his hand. ‘I am sorry darling…’ Rosalin smiles reassuringly. ‘It’s ok. I understand.’
Early next morning, the cavalcade arrived at the quay and boarded the naval ships. Antonio was the last one to walk up the gangway. The crowd cheered the soldiers as they climbed aboard the ships.
In their room, Rosalin stood at the balcony overlooking the sea. In the distant, she could see the naval fleet on the horizon as it sailed across.
On the ship, a map was laid out on a table. Antonio and a few of his soldiers were pouring over it. Antonio charted out a route. ‘We take this route. Stick to it. We circle the enemy and force it to retreat. If not, we bring them down. No actions unless and until I give orders. Got it?’ Everyone nodded in acceptance. ‘Aye sir!’
For Rosalin in Antonio’s absence, life became a bore in the palace. She decided to visit her family and with the Viceroy’s permission, she set out. They were still a distant from the village. The pallbearers carried her in the palanquin across the street. Soldiers followed behind on horseback. Children followed it curiously. Elders stopped in their track and bow low in honor.
Inside, Rosalin seemed to be enjoying her newfound royal fame. She peeped outside. She saw Fr. Kane talking to a group of villagers by the roadside. They were standing in humbly with their hands folded as they patiently listened to Fr. Kane. She was surprised by the charm that man oozed. She could see they were the pagan worshippers and yet they revered this man.
She yelled out to the pallbearers to stop. The pallbearers stopped and gently lowered the palanquin. The soldiers stood at to attention. The villagers and Fr. Kane too stopped their conversation to look in her direction. Rosalin slowly exited from the palanquin and looked at Fr. Kane with a smile. She walked towards him. The villagers quickly bowed low as they greeted her. ‘Greeting your highness.’
Rosalin raised her hand to stop them. ‘Please call me by my usual name Rosa.’ She turned to Fr. Kane. ‘Hello Padre.’
‘Hello Senora. I am surprised to see you here.’
‘Well even I didn’t expect to be here. It’s just that without Antonio around, life is a bore in the palace. So I thought I’ll visit the village.’
‘Yes, I got the news about the pirates. Sorry that Antonio had to leave so soon after marriage.’
‘You don’t have to be sorry Padre. Neither am I.’
Fr. Kane gave her a long look. The villagers start to fidget nervously now that Rosalin was part of the royal family. Rosalin eyed them innocently, seemingly enjoying their nervousness. ‘Is everything alright here?’
‘Yes Senora. Everything’s fine.’
Rosalin looked hard at the villagers. They quickly bow their heads in fright. There was a long pause. She started to feel awkward. ‘Would you walk me to the village Padre?’
Fr. Kane looked at her. She gave him a sweet innocent smile. Fr. Kane silently turned to the villagers. ‘Meet me at the Church this evening.’
‘Yes Padre.’ The villagers quickly bowed before them and took a couple of steps backward and then turning around quickly disappeared in the opposite direction. Rosalin looked at their retreating back and broke into laughter. A faint smile appeared on Fr. Kane’s face as he saw her laugh innocently. She eyed his smile and stopped, a smile lingering on her face. ‘Don’t curb your God-gifted talents and let it go waste. Be generous with it. ’
The smile broadened on Fr. Kane’s face on hearing Rosalin repeat his very words. ‘That’s better.’ She then turned to face the soldiers. ‘You wait here.’ The soldiers hesitated and then seeing there was no other option, stood their ground as Rosalin and Fr. Kane walked towards the village. ’The village is still a long way. You sure you want to do this Senora?
Rosalin looked at him innocently. ‘Is there another option?’ And she burst out laughing. Fr. Kane smiled again. He softly asked her, ‘Something seems to be bothering you.’
Rosalin stopped in her track and turned to look at him, the smile still lingering. ‘Why do you say so?’
‘I can see it. You are unhappy about something. Somewhere deep inside you, you have a sense of insecurity that you are trying to mask with that fake laughter Senora.’
‘You are so sure about yourself?’ She paused. ‘No, I am happy, happy as can be.’
The two started to walk again silently. After some time, Rosalin broke the silence. ‘When I was a kid, I heard stories about fairies and princes. Of angels and ogres. As I grew up, I started dreaming of knights in shining armor. Of falling in love and marrying a brave soldier who would love me and protect me, be with me night and day…’ She slowly trailed off.
They continued to walk again in silence. Soon they reached the village. As they entered it, the villagers hesitated to approach her. She neared her house. Mrs Costa walked out and ran to her and embraced her. She then quickly yelled out for her cousin. ‘Marie, quick bring some salt and green chilies.’
Marie, one of the two cousins came running out of the house with the stuff and handed it to Mrs Costa. She quickly muttered some mumbo jumbo and with the salt and chilies clenched in her fist, she brought it down from over her head to her toe and then threw it on the street from over Rosalin’s shoulder to ward off all evil from Rosalin. Her other cousin had joined Marie and both stood staring in awe at Rosalin and her beautiful dress. Fr. Kane watched the scene amusedly while Rosalin stood with embarrassment. She knew Fr. Kane didn’t believe in this mumbo-jumbo.