Bayko Baron 45

 

'ELDORADO'

The settlement at San Ignatio on the Caya Rio. Like all Spanish missions the church is built for defence as much as prayer, though here the Franciscans, unlike their Jesuit brethren down on the coast, win their converts by example rather than force.

Into this paradise crashes the Regimento Irlanda...

... and with them Governor Don Lardo.

Having heard whispers that he is to be replaced after the Castelbranco fiasco (See - 'Auto De Fe') Don Lardo is determined to take one last throw at making his fortune while he can. Like many before him he has heard the tales of 'Eldorado' the Golden Man. Unlike them, Don Lardo siezed and tortured the native that told him the tale until he had precise directions. 

The mission indians are rounded up, their livestock commandeered for transport, the men conscripted as bearers, the women taken as hostages, the brothers ignored.

The expedition strikes off down a long forgotten trail

While the soldiers struggle with the heat and the claustrophobic forest...

....Governor Don Lardo supervises the bearers 

But the intruders have not gone un-observed, Yaruro tribesmen are already shadowing their progress

Nor are they the only ones, ever eager to thwart or profit from their enemy Calico Jack Chinless, The Baracudda and RobRoy McChickenNuggets are even now approaching San Ignatio 

After a week of impenetrable underbrush the trail-blazers uncover an ancient Toltec sign-post, proof enough that they are still on course. 

And sure enough the next morning the foliage gives way and suddenly there before them, its city and people long gone, rears the temple of Tezcatlipoca

Energised by the prospect of profit Don Lardo leads the way, drawn forward by the faint glow of something in the darkness

Problem - how to get a nine-foot tall piece of gold down to ground level, without losing days rigging pulleys, winches and 'A' frames?

But even as the last golden clang ends in a dull mossy thud... a lethal whisper and the agonised scream of two stricken men signal that the Yaruro are displeased

Abandoning his stores, his wounded and all but his litter-bearers, Don Lardo heads for home! 

The Yaruro take care of the wounded, while a feathered chieftain climbs the steps and summons the faithful to revenge

The musicians set a brisk pace, hoping their noise will hold the tribesmen at bay as the column scurries back down the trail

But every few miles brings another sudden flurry of lethal arrows from the greenery and the musket volleys they fire back seem to make no difference. By the second day they have stopped firing at all, a waste of precious time, as is tending to the fallen.

Meanwhile back at San Ignatio the garrison commander, spotting the pirate cannon, has realised that immediate attack  before they are unloaded is the only option and is holding them at the quayside...

Until the flank attack of RobRoy 'The Celtic Corsair' and his maroons, unloaded further downstream for just such a necessity, destroys all resistance in a moment

With the result that when Don Lardo and his exhausted survivors finally stagger out of the jungle they are met with ramparts instead of refuge

With the courage of desperation the Irlanda launch into an assault. Against the pirates ragged musketry it might even have suceeded; but the sudden, bloody discovery of the cannon, even though only one fires because Father Ambrose won't let the women helping on the other commit murder, tears their remaining morale to shreds in a single blast of canister

The Yaruro emerge to deal with the fugitives and sieze Don Lardo then fade back into the forest

Hurrying forward to deal with their arch-enemy the pirate chiefs find a lone Yaruro waiting. They understand not a word of his jabber, yet get his message perfectly - and the wagonload of golden gee-gaws left behind will ease their disappointment 

A week on and many of the mission menfolk have been led home by the Yaruro. The skirl of a pibroch rises over the jungle as the pirates raise a roar and the villagers raise a chorus of 'okumalifaythfool'.  Already 'spliced' in pirate law as 'Calico Jack' and 'The Baracudda' the pair have decided to take advantage of a friendly priest, and so, 'Do you, James, 9th Baron Chinless, take Ethel, spinster of this... mission?' 

While back at the temple of Tezcatlipoca, Don Lardo is also intimately involved in a ceremony of re-dedication

 

 

 

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