COURTYARD, PORT OF SPAIN, TRINIDAD
Swords flashed and clanged in a rapid blur of steel. Luis de Guerra jumped back and disengaged from his opponent, but kept his sword poised, ready to block any new attack. He was at the centre of a sun dappled courtyard, a discordantly peaceful space lined with lush green plants.
He was faced by a burly man with a thick black beard and leering grin: his older brother, Angel de Guerr. Tanned and barrel chested, the older man strutted about with what Luis thought was almost cartoonish swagger. Angel let out a hearty laugh. “Too much for you, eh? Need a rest?”
Luis wiped the sweat from his baby face. His chin was tipped with a faint, scraggly beard he’d been trying to grow to give himself greater gravitas, but without success. His indignant eyes glared at Angel out of soft, boyish features, as if demanding justice. “You wish.”
Angel smirked like the jovial sadist he was, and he straightened up out of his fencing crouch. He was richly but, Luis noted, slovenly dressed. Wealth without rigor, as their father might say. Angel was the eldest son, four years older; always been bigger, stronger, and more experienced. He’d never let Luis forget that, a fact which Luis resented. He suspected his brother kept Luis around just to have someone to bully. An audience for endless braggadocio.
As a point of contempt, Angel gripped a flask of amontillado in his free hand. He took a sloppy swig while keeping one eye on Luis. Half on. Taunting. Daring Luis to pull a fast one.
Luis held his position. He’d already fallen once for this trick.
Angel lowered the flask. “Piss, you’re hopeless. Drunken monkeys fence better, little brother.” And, of course, he emphasized the word ‘little’. Luis gritted his teeth.
“I’ve never lost to a drunken monkey.” Luis flexed his knees and snap swirled the sword tip. Ready. Eager. “Defend yourself!”
“Ha! Hardly have to.”
“You underestimate me. So!” Luis lunged. The swords flashed and blurred and clanged again. Luis’ gambit was easily turned aside.
Angel laughed again and he jauntily turned to three sultry ladies, prostitutes Angel had on retainer, who lounged at the courtyard edge. He only dared have them around while their father was away, which had been the case for the last month. During that time, Luis has gotten to know them more than he’d have liked. There was Hermenia, the cunning red headed Basque; Genova, the sycophantic follower from Barcelona who laughed like a hyena at all of Angel’s vulgar jokes and reaped the reward in the form of jewelry; and the mysterious Celestina, who had the bearing of a noble woman and the milky white breasts of a seductress. Angel gave them a lecherous, toothy grin, displaying his gold teeth.
“Show him your tits!” Angel barked.
Their cheeks aglow with rouge, the trio laughed and wrenched open their corset tops, allowing bosoms to spill out.
Luis blushed red and gaped.
For a second.
It was enough.
Angel deftly slipped under Luis’ guard, thwacked him on the waist with the flat side of the sword, hooked a foot, and tripped Luis, who sprawled onto hot red cobblestones.
“Damn it, Angel,” blurted Luis, turning over and glaring up at his brother. “What was that? Of all the dirty, low, underhanded tricks. Tricks! Gave my knee a twist, you know.”
Angel rolled his eyes. “Stop whining, little brother. You sound like a woman.”
Luis heard a curse from the shadows: he spotted a dark figure slouched against the wall leading to stables. Arms crossed. It was Esteban the Moor, servant and slave and now personal trainer. Esteban shook his head in disapproval, causing Luis to feel a wave of shame. He’d not been utilizing the advice he’d been given effectively.
The ladies giggled at Luis’ expense.
“You like, little boy?” cooed Hermenia, glancing down at her bosom.
Luis ignored her and sat up. He couldn’t look. His cheeks were burning crimson.
Celestina bit her lower lip. “So shy. You know, he’s kind of cute.”
Angel glowered at her, and strode around Luis, placing himself between him and Celestina. “Isn’t he? Like a puppy. All concerned with right and wrong and love and God. Studying to be a priest. He reads. Me? I act.” He sneered. “Oh, stop dawdling, brother. Up! Up! You have more lessons to learn. Your Moor pet isn’t doing the job.” And he thrust out an open hand.
Luis shook his head. “Not… that’s not true. If you fought fair, I could beat you.”
“Whine, whine, whine.”
Luis took Angel’s hand. Half way up, Angel let go, and he fell flat on his ass to uproarious laughter.
Angel spread his arms. “Fighting isn’t fair, Luis.” And he winked. “Remember that.”
Luis got up on his own and dusted off his pants. “I have The Devil for a brother.”
Angel took another swig and grunted. “Saint Nick has nothing on me.”
“His ass isn’t as fat.”
Angel’s grin vanished and a scowl appeared. “Don’t push me, you little–”
At that moment Don Rodrigo de Rivera marched into the courtyard, regal and immaculately garbed in armour and burgundy raiment. He scanned the courtyard with sharp, dark eyes that missed nothing.
“Father!” bellowed Angel with enthusiasm. “You’re back. Welcome!”
Rodrigo raised an eyebrow. “To my own home? I should think so. I arrived three nights ago by yacht. I’ve been staying at the church. If you’d been paying attention as you were supposed to, rather than having picnics and getting drunk, you’d have damn well known that.” He turned to Luis. “Stop sitting there like a school boy. Get up.” Rodrigo’s baleful gaze fell upon the prostitutes, who lowered their eyes and submissively covered their chests. They seemed to shrink into themselves. Rodrigo grunted and crooked a finger at his sons. “Come! There is much to discuss.”
Don Rodrigo spun about on a heel and strode out.