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part nine.

Part nine
London, England
The storm came without warning. Later, the English sailors would hail their Queen who, they declared, had summoned the will of God to deliver their victory. God clearly favoured Protestantism, which was why he sent the storm to make the Catholic Spaniards flee. The Church of England, headed by the Supreme Queen Elizabeth of England, was the one true path to God. Not even the Pope would dare challenge her again.

The suspiciously sudden storm broke up the fighting between the two nations, although the battle had already been steeped in England’s favour; the galleons, slow and heavy, were outnumbered by the smaller, faster and more easily manoeuvrable English ships. The great thunderstorm was the last straw; the English were playing the home field so they could shelter in their docks, but the Spanish had nowhere to go and had to brave the dangerous waters. They couldn’t head south through the channel back to Spain because the English ships were still blocking it, so the only way they could go was up through the North Sea. The English only stopped harassing them once they reached Scottish waters, where it was evident that they were unfit to return. Tail truly between its legs, the Armada sailed around the coast of Scotland and down past the extremely dangerous and unpredictable seas around Ireland. By the time it returned to Spain, it was a scene of utter defeat and in no shape to pursue a war – even if Philip was up for one. Strangely, he appeared to have refocused from foreign affairs to internal and no longer wanted anything to do with the English. As far as the latter were concerned, they had well and truly won not only a war between nations but also a war between religions. Protestantism was hailed as superior to Catholicism.

Spanish tragedies did not end with the loss of ships. The valiant commodore Lord Mallos had died at sea when he refused to abandon his sinking vessel. A captain always goes down with his ship. He was hailed a war hero and given a magnificent funeral attended by the King himself. That grave lies empty.

He waited a week before making his dramatic reappearance; Aura was alone in her bed-chamber, peeling off her clothes in anticipation of sleep, when he materialised in a puff of green smoke. She wouldn’t give him the pleasure of coughing or showing concern or relief.

“It’s resolved,” she informed him, modestly wrapping a bed-sheet around herself. “Francis has been proclaimed the hero of the hour and Elizabeth is steeped in the adoration of the masses. She is having a special portrait painted. Everything is back to normal.”

“Good,” he said absently, plucking the bed-sheet away. He’d timed his entrance perfectly so that he’d arrive while she was stripped to her underwear, and he didn’t intend her to get off so lightly. “And yes,” he added softly in answer to the question he knew she was too proud to ask, “Poppy is fine – or at least, as fine as she can be in that place. Hmmm,” his arm stole around her waist, “do you dance?”

“You’re distracting from the issue,” she told him sternly as he began to slowly manoeuvre her around the room in easy circles. “Philip won’t give up.”

“He’s found a new hobby. Torturing Spanish Protestants.” That grin was a little too sincere.

“And what about you? I heard how the great Lord Mallos died in the service of his country. Just like you to fabricate yourself into sainthood.”

“I’m bored of noblemen,” he took her hand and spun her round. “Self-proclaimed elites never have anything interesting to say to one another. I think I’ll take myself off to the New World for a bit; apparently there are lots of savage humans who run around naked. Care to join me?”

His hands were a little too far down her back. Aura casually shifted them back up before responding. “Elizabeth is a fascinating woman. I intend to stay in her court for as long as possible.”

“With Drake.” He pressed her close and rested his head on her shoulder. “One day…” the whispered tease trailed off as he melted away into nothingness.

    • part ten. -
    • epilogue -

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