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Peace with Spain was signed in February 1720. In late April its news arrived to the West Indies, so all the Navies got allied against the common foe – pirates, making their trade more difficult to survive. Which side are you on?

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Port de Paix dwellers



The inhabitants of Port de Paix, a French colony, are now busy with celebrating Saint Jean d'Ete and a wedding among the highest nobility. Time for everyone who happens to be in Port de Paix to know them better… and to add your personal flavour to the holiday!

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 Mother And Son, att. Concha and Chepo
Sol Galvez
 Posted: Oct 21 2016, 12:12 PM
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Captain of the "Rising Sun"

Posts: 399


Date: 28-th - 29-th of June 1720
Place: Guaicanamar, Cuba


Sol had volunteered to sail to Cuba with ”Hermione” and the load it had got in Tortuga. They had taken enough delay with the princess kidnapping, then with the festivities. It was better to allow more time together for the newlyweds, and he knew that Chago felt better if he didn’t leave Mincho and Chepo the only ones in charge. Besides, in all honesty, he felt he was getting crazy to sit idle in Tortuga while those crewmates who weren’t so widely known in town tried to get some answers about the ship and its robbers. He needed to sail away, to get some action, to get preoccupied by something else. He also hoped to persuade the crew of Hermione into making a one day detour too, along the coast of Cuba, to visit his little godson’s family.

The decision proved to be lucky, as in the second day of the trip, they had been confronted with the first more serious storm of the season. Assuming that the seasoned sailors would have managed alone to sail the storm, the sloop’s course had been changed by the high winds and without a re-charting of the route (what he did, but Mincho and Chepo couldn’t have done it) they might have sailed forth until landing on Florida coast.

The goods got unloaded in Havana, early in the morning, where don Javier took care of their selling, like he usually did since he got to remain ashore. The ship remained in the harbour, under Mincho’s care, while Chepo and Sol went to Regla with a merchant ship leaving for Spain, whose captain wanted to pay for a mass to Virgin Mary of Regla, the patron saint of sailors, like most of them used to. There were enough dangers in the Bahamas Channel, in the ocean and even when seeing the coasts of Spain, not to ask for this protection.

Mincho and Chepo had told Sol that was the way Chago was always doing too - spending most of his time in Cuba in Guaicanamar. In the opinion of Sol's sworn brother, his most important role as ship captain was everywhere except in Havana. That was why don Javier had still a share in the ship profit.

The time at anchor in Regla had lasted less than two hours for the ship, but for Sol it took a few minutes to get ashore and go to greet his and Chago's adoptive mother.
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 Posted: Oct 24 2016, 03:42 PM
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CONCHA ITALERA, healer


San Pedro was as great a festival in Regla as San Juan, or even greater, given that the sergeant major Pedro de Aranda was the one to bring the icon of Saint Mary of Regla here, and the Marquis of Real Proclamación, don Pedro Recio de Oquendo, who owned all the land around, gave to the pilgrim Manuel Antonio, born in Perú, the piece of land needed for the construction of the hermitage dedicated to the Holy Virgin of Regla.

As for the coloured people who celebrated their saints with different, whispered names, Saint John the Baptist was the equivalent of Osun, and his eldest son, Oggun, was the equivalent of Saint Peter (or Santiago the Apostle, or San Rafael or San Miguel, all warrior saints). One more reason to stretch the carnival celebration for a whole week, like it was done everywhere in Cuba. And Concha Italera had a role in the celebrations in Guaicanamar… well, beyond the role of the monks of Regla in leading the morning processions, of course. The two sides of the celebration, the white and the coloured one, were distinct, still with enough convergence points in merrymaking.

The rice harvest in whole Cuba was helped by San Juan, as well as the cattle fair in Havana (as far as she knew – in Santiago and other places, big cattle fairs were taking place too at this time), where the bullfights, the cock fights, the horsemanship displays and contests were the attraction of the crowd. Ajiaco was boiling in the pots during the whole week, as it was the traditional dish of this carnival.

The festival continued, though, beyond San Juan's procession, the serenades for all the people named Juan, Juana, Batista and Batistina and the parade of the musicians singing and playing for the saint, in the streets of Havana, as well as in the square and on the shore of Guaicanamar, where the fires were lighted, images of the saint were surrounded by candles, flowers and fruits, and the people danced and sang, showing their reverence to Osun in their own ways. Some people were crossing from Havana to Regla, in boats adorned with coconut bunches, flower branches and flower bouquets, also bringing musicians with them, mixing with the locals celebrating their own way.

During the upcoming days, up to San Pedro, the parade people, with or without musical instruments, were colourful masks which set aside the celebrations in Cuba from the others in Spanish-speaking areas: angels, devils, Gypsies, tigers and the giant dancing snake that some called Tarasca. And it was wonderful that Sol came now, right in time for Tarasca's dance. Too bad Chago wasn't with him, since Oggun was his protector, as well as those named Pedro.

She was sure that taking part in the festivities, especially in the burial of San Pedro, would play a part in healing his soul a bit more. She knew that, no matter how successful the encounters with Oshun and Yemaya last time he was here, the sickness of the soul was prone to relapses. And she could see for herself, from the first glance at Sol, that he looked worse than the first time Chago had brought him here.

"Welcome! I am glad to see you, but may I ask what has happened with Chago? I am worried for him. I haven't seen him since early April and Chepo had told me that he had been wounded in early May. Have you seen him?" she asked, really concerned.

It wasn't like Chago to avoid coming to Guaicanamar… or sailing his ship, if he could, the old healer thought. Something had to be wrong, even if her shells didn't show it.

This post has been written by ELENA
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Sol Galvez
 Posted: Jan 2 2017, 11:19 PM
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Sol was accustomed to see the celebrations unfolding. In many places the holidays were lasting from San Juan to San Pedro. In Veracruz and especially in the rural area where the Viscount's hacienda was located, it was no different. He had liked seeing its specific colours and masks, however, as these didn't resemble to what he knew.

He also knew he would have expected this question from their adoptive mother. If he had respectfully kissed her hand, as if she were his own mother he was waiting the blessing from, she wanted to see both of them, not only him. It was logical that if Chago was with them, he wouldn't have missed greeting Concha first.

"He had been wounded, indeed, in the thigh, but now he is recovered. He is in Tortuga and he asked me to use all my persuasion to bring you with me for a week or two, to meet his new wife. He will be the one to bring you back. And he said he is sure you are curious enough to travel to Tortuga, especially that you will meet that friend of ours we have both talked you about."

He had said from the start most of what needed communicated. Maybe as brusquely as he had been asked, however accurate.
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 Posted: Jan 4 2017, 08:04 PM
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CONCHA ITALERA, healer


It took more than usual news to surprise an italera. Nevertheless, Sol had succeeded it. She regretted that Chago couldn't be here now, with them, as he was Oggun's son and the ceremonies would benefit him a bit more than Sol. If he suddenly got married (her imagination, corroborrated with various juicy tidbits she had heard here and there in her more than fifty years on this Earth, envisaged some scenarios how it could happen) it was understandable he wouldn't want to leave his new bride alone yet.

"I recommend you first to sit down and tell me your news in detail, until the ajiaco bowl I am putting for you cools enough to be good to eat. Then, I'll send you to church, to pay your hommages to Santa Virgen de la Regla, and to the party, exactly how you have been taking part on Easter here. Get involved in the snake dance, play, sing and dance for San Pedro and pray for the healing of your soul, because I can see you look more troubled than when you have left," she stated directly, while actually pouring him a bowl of the rich traditional stew she was preparing for the feast.

The perspective for herself to go to Tortuga was alluring for an old woman who hadn't travelled farther than the pilgrimage to San Lazaro del Rincon, on the other side of Havana, until meeting Chago, who had taken her to Cobre, to the voyage of her life… There was no pilgrimage place in Tortuga; but if Chago invited her warmly, and sent Sol after her, it meant he really wanted her to come by and bless his home how only she knew to do it. And how could she resist? Not to mention that she was really curious to meet the woman who had succeeded to get Chago to commit to her and not cry for his late Hermione anymore.

"We'll talk later about me coming with you to Chago's house. How long does it mean I'd be absent from home? I need to make some arrangements for it."

Of course she needed to tell Goyo, the babalawos and other santeros about her trip. The ones who might have needed her, including pregnant women, as she was the midwife too, had to be explained whom to go to in her absence. She was not impossible to replace for a while, though. She could go across the sea if she had this opportunity... and couldn't this be considered, in a bit of a different way than the trip to Cobre, an initiatic trip?

Furthermore, she had heard all kind of things, good and bad alike, about that pirate den and debauchery place. It was time that she saw with her own eyes what was true and what was just a tall story.

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Sol Galvez
 Posted: Jan 5 2017, 12:28 AM
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Captain of the "Rising Sun"

Posts: 399


This was an invitation nobody who came straight from sea, hungry, could ever deny. Especially when the subject of the discussion, which name sounded unfamiliar to Sol, was there on the stove, smelling so good. He sat where he had been shown to and started his story, with glances to Concha and glances to the steaming bowl. The fact that he would go to church afterwards, and that he would get to party as well, had been understood by default. He simply nodded at those words.

"You are interested to learn more about Chago. He went to Kingston to the Peace Festival and got into a fight, protecting a girl he knew from some thugs. He got wounded to the thigh. A deep wound of a sharp knife, making him lose much blood. As he wanted to protect the girl up to seeing her safely home, he fainted at her gate. Her family brought him in and took care of him. Otherwise, he would have been arrested for fighting in the street. And we both know that he couldn't resist to another prison time."

Sol could understand this better, as he could relate. He couldn't endure one more round behind the bars either. He'd die or get crazy, and most likely so would his sworn brother. He continued, with a smile, as everybody had initially some difficulty in coming to terms with Chago's sudden marriage (which didn't entail a shotgun wedding how Concha had imagined it):

"Sometimes such stories end with a sudden realization that two people cared more for each other than they had believed before. So was his case. So he took her with him, they got married on the ship bringing them to Tortuga, and since she isn't speaking Spanish, he chose to buy a house and settle with her in Tortuga. Otherwise, I know he would have considered getting a home by your side, here."

Chago had confessed him this. But maybe Concha wanted to know more about the bride.

"I think they will be happy together. She is shy and a bit scared by all the changes in her life, but she was received well by all his friends. They got a wedding party on San Juan, and he couldn't just up and sail away the day after, so I offered to do it instead and bring you to him."

Sol was glad to hear that she was considering to follow the invitation and come with him.

"You'd bet on three or four weeks away," he said.

And since she would be there, among them, with Maribel and the others, she had to know the whole truth about them, and about his predicament.

"You will come to Tortuga, and if I am not telling you now, you will learn there anyway. Besides, whom can I trust more than my adoptive mother? I am Sol Picador, the pirate captain," he whispered, to make sure that the walls didn't have ears. "And most of the things you saw in the shells came true already. There are too many things to tell you right now, but I will try to pinpoint the main ones, and you are free to ask for details on which interests you more."

The summary was as brief as possible for now, as he got rewarded, finally, with the bowl of stew and some cornbread, so he started eating. Now Concha had an idea about Ayiana and how he had lost her, about the hunt for the slavers' ship and the ripples it provoked, about the repelled attack on the Rising Sun and his wound, about the trap ending with the villains seizing the ship and selling them to the Navies.

Every word pained him, still they had to be out. And maybe Concha would have an advice for him afterwards.
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 Posted: Jan 5 2017, 08:31 PM
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It seemed, indeed, that very many things had happened in the latest three months. Sol had an original style of telling them, but given how serious some of the events had been, this was fully understandable. At first, Concha kept silence, not knowing what to say as the news invaded her peace.

Chago was all right now, and this mattered the most. As for saving damsels in distress, Concha nodded understandingly. She had been one of them, six months ago, owing her life to Chago. And she got to be, by the will of the orishas, his adoptive mother. If she was as young as the woman he had saved in May, would she have succombed to his charms? She didn't think so, simply because her thinking was more realistic and more focused on the needs of the many, like any italera should be. However, for that girl it was understandable. And if she succeeded to help him heal the pain of mourning for a dead love, giving him a new purpose in life, the better.

The fact that he had mentioned a marriage aboard the ship, not before leaving the town, meant, for Concha, that it wasn't how she had thought first. The couple hadn't been caught together by an angry father or brother and forced to get married in order to save the girl's reputation. He was better than this, and she felt a bit of pride for her adoptive son. And the fact that Chago had considered, albeit for one moment, setting house close to her, flattered Concha.

"I wish them all the happiness they deserve, and I am glad to come to visit them," she said, on a warm tone.

Even one month away from home wouldn’t be so much if she could be more useful elsewhere. Besides, if she didn't like it, she could stay only a week, not two. Sol had promised it to her.

"It is all right that he has a house of his own there, and another place to call home here, besides his real sister's on the Mainland, where I understood he couldn't go too often anyway. He wouldn't have been happy settling in this little village. More like in Havana, and there he wouldn't have been as close to me either."

She knew he wasn't born in a village and he wasn't made for the life in one. Visits were different. Visits were meant to be an enjoyable pastime, not catching roots there.

The shock that he was a pirate struck her for a second. She had heard about Sol Picador. Good and bad things alike, depending if the story was told by smugglers or by merchant ships. She had heard about him taking the treasure ship too. If she thought well, what she had seen in the shells about him being a leader, and what sort of a man he was, matched some of the rumours. By going to Tortuga, and watching him in his environment, she would learn better what was true and what wasn't. A child of Aggayu could go to extremes, still he didn't seem to be exactly that kind of man. She refrained from judging what she had just heard, compared to what she had already seen in his behaviour, and which were all good things.

"Your secret is safe with me, my son," she replied plainly.

Then she kept silent, listening carefully to the whole story he was unfolding for her. It was complicated, and parts of it were worth a sad ballad, exactly how Chago's story had been too. He had lost his love to slavery, and the revenge he had got on the slavers hadn't brought him any satisfaction. He had tried to follow all her teachings about honouring his saints and avoiding their anger, still he was in a predicament due to people who were working against him.

"The fight you have won and the trick you have fallen prey to are just steps on your path to balance. There will be another fight, after which you'll find the healing you are seeking. I told you, first you need to learn to be humble and patient. You haven't learnt this yet. The conflict which will lead you to healing, and to the third pilgrimage, hasn't happened yet. Your curse isn't over yet. It will end, though, some day, bringing change with it."

Maybe he knew it and maybe he was afraid of that change. It would come, though, at the right moment and not before.

"I'll read the shells for you again tonight or tomorrow. For now, go pray and go sing and dance. Forget what you can't change and let the saints the needed time to see what they can change."

This was what all the kinds of prayers were for.

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Sol Galvez
 Posted: Jan 8 2017, 12:56 PM
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Captain of the "Rising Sun"

Posts: 399


Sol liked the fact that Concha had accepted both to visit Chago and the news about his sudden marriage. She seemed to know him well enough to state that he would not have liked being confined into such a little village. Sol silently agreed with her.

"He will keep commanding the ship and coming to visit you," he said. "Just that now it was immediately after his wedding party and he needed some more time to settle in his new home. Katya is in an unfamiliar town, where only some people speak, more or less, a language she knows, English. And she had been through enough bad things in order to feel scared and shocked for a while, so she needs her husband's support."

Concha's reaction to the news that he was a pirate were even better. She didn't comment anything except making a promise to keep his secret.

"I knew it was safe with you. Otherwise I wouldn't have told you, and I wouldn't have accepted that you come to Tortuga," he replied, standing up and embracing her.

Sol listened to her words of comfort after having learnt most details of his misfortunes. He believed her, but he shuddered at the thought that lessons in humility were usually the strongest. He couldn't help thinking about Job in the Bible, who was given misfortune after misfortune. Job, by staying silent before God, stressed the point that he understood that his affliction was God's Will even though he despaired at not knowing why. And was Sol's situation much better now? Concha was pinpointing why, and she encouraged him that the curse will be lifted. Now, the silent question was what kind of change, but Sol had a hunch about it that, like in Chago's case, it would mean a change of trade.

"Thank you, mother. And yes, now that I have finished eating and I have your blessing, I'll go to church, then to the snake dance."

Fortunately the requinto jarocho was small enough to be worn across his back without taking much space.
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 Posted: Jan 8 2017, 01:45 PM
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Everything Sol was saying about Chago made sense. She remembered, though, that there was another man with them last time.

"Is that other man, Rowan, also a pirate from your crew?" she asked.

As for the promise to go to church, she had still to give him a few pieces of advice:

"You haven't been here for a few months, so it's right time to be generous. Bring white wine, aguardiente that you'll buy from the village's tavern, coffee, bread, pineapple, watermelon, seven blue candles and eight white ones, as well as seven white flowers for Santa Maria's shrine. You already know that there are vendors of candles, flowers and fruits near to the church. Have seven silver coins available too, to pay for the masses you have on your list."

They had done that road enough times together. Of course he knew.

"Tomorrow you'll take part in the burial of San Pedro, and you'll be mourning there, actually, your lost love, to get cleansed and healed. Tomorrow morning, when going to church, you'll bring seven green candles, plantains, tobacco, rhum and pomegranates."

She was the italera teaching him what the saints liked the most.

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Sol Galvez
 Posted: Jan 8 2017, 03:44 PM
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Now that she asked about Rowan, he sighed, as he had to give her some bad news about him too:

"He was a master gunner on a British Navy ship. More exactly, on the ship which saved us from the desert cay and brought us to Nassau. And it seems that somebody had recognized us in Nassau and told the Governor, who had scolded the captain, right after we succeeded to find passage to Port de Paix. As a result, Rowan, who had not hidden that he knew me and who had guarranteed for us that we were indeed stranded merchant sailors, not pirates, got kicked out of the Navy, and his mate got demoted back to common sailor. I don't know what he did afterwards."

Sol paid attention to Concha's advice, and he agreed with it. One had to be generous with the church and the saints, if wanting to have things go well in life. As well as they could go, at least.

"I will do everything as you have told me." he said simply.

He remembered the words Concha had told him when in trance, at the Easter celebration, about the importance of dances, songs and letting go of the past. He needed to rebuild, indeed, after the terrible storm which had turned his life upside down. And this included dancing his sorrows away, in order to receive protection and healing.
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 Posted: Jan 13 2017, 01:29 PM
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CONCHA ITALERA, healer


Concha was somehow surprised, but not much. After learning that Sol was a pirate, the fact that Rowan was from the British Navy wasn't such big news. She had seen the confrontation between Aggayu and Ochosi, and the fact that they parted in more or less friendly conditions. Now, learning that they were on opposite allegiances, just confirmed this.

"I had seen in his shells a part of this coming," she replied. "I reminded him not to forget that you two have eaten bread and salt together here. And he'll end better after this, you'll see." she smiled, as she had liked the man.

Perhaps Chago would meet him again, in one of his trips, and she'll have the opportunity to hear further good news about a man she had liked, Ochossi's son and the father of Amapola's baby - as she, the midwife, had learnt the first that Goyo's sister was pregnant, with Oshun's and Yemaya's blessings. This was a secret which would be well kept in the community, as children born following a guemilere were destined to a lucky life.

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Sol Galvez
 Posted: Jan 21 2017, 04:23 PM
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It was Sol's turn to make big eyes, but his only reply was bowing with respect in front of the wise woman, before leaving for church. He did as Concha had advised him to. He had lightened the candles and he had prayed, opening up to the Holy Virgin and confessing all his hopes and all his fears.

He felt alleviated when getting up and joining the serpent's parade dance in the street, towards the sea shore. The people were wearing colourful snake masks and they gathered into an undulating conga, in the mesmerizing rhythm of claves, congas and maracas. The cuatro llanero he had for the moment being instead of his usual guitar matched soon the song, while his body got caught into the dance.

The same brass-tanned zamba who had stayed by his side for all his first visit to Guaicanamar, Nicolasa, had found him again, coming next to him and smiling him enticingly. She was wearing blue flowers in her raven black, slightly curly hair, adorned with a golden scarf and beaded golden bracelets. Sol was glad to see her not because he had missed her any moment when far away, because he hadn't, but simply because she was a familiar figure in a world full with unknown men and women.

Maybe, if he thought better, he would find a vaguely known face or two from the Easter celebrations, but now, exactly like then, he was focusing more onwards than outwards. As Concha had advised him, everything here could be used for his healing. Or, if reckless, for the opposite...

People were entering a sort of collective trance after a while of following the serpent's dance till exhaustion, and this was seen as nothing else than a communion with the saints. After hours of playing, humming the rhythms with his voice and dancing San Pedro's conga, Sol wasn't sure where he was anymore. Just that he didn't see, nor hear anything important in that trance. He only felt free, alleviated of any pain.

When they arrived to the sea shore, there were various games ongoing there. Some people from the neighbouring villages had horses and organised cavalcades of various kinds, including the game people were playing at fairs in rural Mexico as well, attempting to catch a duckling tied to a pole from horse run. There was also a slippery pole on Tito's fishing ship.

"You are a sailor, don't you dare to enter this contest?" Nicolasa tempted him with the slippery pole.

Sol was competitive enough not to let himself dared twice. He stripped down, ready to climb the pole. He had done it before, many years ago, in a different setting. He smiled to her and started climbing, in Nicolasa's encouraging shouts. Other women, children and men were encouraging the contenders. Sol was nearly taking the flag, when an unusual noise diverted his attention for a second. He didn't succeed to understand what the noise had been for, but he lost his balance and fell in the water, like many others before him, in the laughter of the gathered spectators.

A few ducklings were thrown among those who were still swimming near to the fishing boat, and Sol succeeded to catch one and keep it well, its legs in his fist, while returning triumphally to the shore and shaking the water out of him as if he was a wet dog. Nicolasa laughed, expecting probably to be offered the trophy, but she heard something else instead:

"Thank you for tempting me into doing this. Would I find you again when I return, after giving the duckling to Concha? Or would you come with me?"

The one who actually took the flag and received a piglet as a prize was Goyo, Concha's accolyte. And Nicolasa accompanied Sol, both enjoying being seen with him and knowing that La Italera might need her help with various things.

"Madre, I received it as a consolation prize after falling from the slippery pole, and I thought to bring it to you, in sign of gratitude," he said reverently.

"Goyo took the piglet," Nicolasa added, assuming La Italera wanted to know about her accolyte's victory.
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 Posted: Feb 1 2017, 02:59 PM
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Concha and other women had just finished with preparing some of the dishes of the day when Sol and Nicolasa returned with the duck. La Italera had time to muse about the news he had brought and how things had happened for the three men whose shells she had read. A new reading would have been necessary tonight for Sol, she decided.

Concha's lonely heart melted every time she heard Chago and, more recently, Sol calling her "mother". They had called, most likely, their deceased mothers mamá, making the difference and addressing their new, adoptive mother with a different reverence term, the one they would have used for a prioress or for a saint.

"Congratulations and thank you," she said, taking the little animal and telling to one of the women to bring it to the poultry yard, feed it and give it some water. "I'll take care of it tomorrow, to be prepared for San Pedro feast."

Her scrutinizing gaze turned to Nicolasa, and she asked the young woman in a whisper:

"Were YOU the one who told him to bring it to me?"

"Not at all, he had the initiative. And I came only to ask you what I can help you with," she replied promptly.

"Thank you very much. Go help Anita prepare the drinks for tonight."

It was a duck. Yemaya's favourite bird. It should be prepared in a certain way, and parts of it offered to Yemaya. He was protected by Yemaya, and it showed again. She might have to read coconuts or shells for him some time tonight. As for Goyo, he was protected by Chango. He deserved the piglet. There were signs in everything, for whom was able to read them.

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Credits. This skin was made by MORU specifically for BEFORE THE MAST and rethemed by MASCHA.
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