|Disclaimer: The characters -- Tessa Alvarado, Marta, Colonel Montoya,
Captain Grisham and the Queen of Swords -- are copyrights of the producers,
Fireworks Productions and Paramount. No infringement or revenue is intended.
The story plot is original and ©2000 Maril Swan.
by Maril Swan
"In readings, Card 6 often refers to a relationship that is based on deep
love — the strongest force of all. The relationship may not be sexual,
although it often is or could be. More generally, the Lovers can represent
the attractive force that draws any two entities together in a relationship
— whether people, ideas, events, movements or groups.
"...The Lovers can indicate a moral or ethical crossroads — a decision point
where you must choose between the high road or the low road. This card can
also represent your personal beliefs because to make such a decision you
must know where you stand. Following your own path can mean going against
those who are urging you in a direction that is wrong for you." —Joan
Another exciting day in Santa Helena, Montoya thought wryly, as he stared
out his window at the dust whirling in the hot dry air of the pueblo street.
I could almost wish the Queen of Swords would make an appearance, just to
relieve the boredom. What an incredibly dull place!The brilliant sun on the
pastels of the adobe buildings, the colours of the flowers and vines, the
animation of the folk in the plaza, all were lost on him, as he sunk further
into ennui. Even the thought of his accumulating wealth could not uplift his
spirits today. He drew in a long, deep breath, letting it out slowly. How
did I ever end up in this dreary backwater of Spain?
As Montoya was about to turn from the window, a wagon pulling up across the
street caught his eye. Senorita Alvarado and her Gypsy woman, he thought,
without much interest, as he observed the young woman getting down and
giving some orders to her servant. She is having the devil's own luck
keeping her hacienda, Montoya thought with bitterness. Nothing seems to
shake her enough to make her go home to Spain. Not even the death of her
lover. She clings to that place like a limpet. He grimaced at the thought of
her. Almost as much of an nuisance as the Queen, he fumed, observing her
youthful exuberance as she strode away.
The señorita went up the street and out of sight, leaving Marta with the
wagon. The woman reached behind her to pick up a basket and then stepped
down, heading for the market. Her easy grace and confident stride attracted
Montoya's attention as he watched her wandering through the market stalls,
searching for produce. His eyes narrowed and an idea formed. He smoothed his
beard abstractedly as he considered this plan, and smiled to himself.
Suddenly, the day seemed brighter, and he hummed tunelessly as he put on his
tunic, checked his image in the mirror, and went out into the street.
Unconscious of being observed, the Gypsy woman picked over the fruit and
vegetables, haggling with the vendors as she filled her basket. A hand
reached for her basket, taking its weight off her arm, and she turned
swiftly, her mouth dropping open when she saw who had accosted her.
Recovering quickly from her surprise, Marta said, "Buenos dias, Colonel."
Glancing down at his hand on her basket, she gave him an annoyed glare.
"Let me take that for you, Marta. It looks heavy," he said in his most
charming voice. His hand brushed her arm, raising the hairs as if a cool
wind had blown across her skin. She felt her pulse quicken and looked away,
confused. Pulling the basket from her arm, he slung it over his own, smiling
knowingly at her, his pale eyes searching hers .
"I can manage, Colonel. Please do not trouble yourself." Marta tried to
retrieve her market basket, but Montoya steadfastly hung on to it. Resigned,
Marta said, with asperity, "Well, if you insist. I have only a few more
things to get before my mistress returns. She does not like to be kept
"All the more reason for me to help you, Marta. How about some of these
grapes? They look very fine."
"We do not buy them, Colonel. We grow them," she said in irritation. The
woman searched the street for some sign of Tessa, some rescue from this
unwanted company, but for the time being she was stuck with him. What does
"Of course. How foolish of me." Montoya regarded the woman with a
speculative gleam in his eyes, a look Marta found disconcerting. "I have
been somewhat remiss in getting to know you better, Marta. I have observed
you for some time and wish we could become friends." He smiled
ingratiatingly, and added, "Perhaps you would join me for dinner sometime...
soon." His eyes never left her face, the look warming to an intensity that
made her want to flee.
Like a serpent's eyes, Marta thought, bright as jewels, attractive and
deadly. In spite of the hot sun on her bare shoulders, she shivered with
dread as those cold eyes held hers, mesmerizing her with the mystery in
their pale depths. She did not want to remain near him — the aura of evil
disturbed her — but something seemed to have hold of her. What does he want?
She broke the spell by looking away quickly, as her cheeks flushed with
anger at his invitation. "It is hardly fitting that you should ask me to
dine with you, Colonel. We both know why it is impossible. I am just a
servant. What could you want with me, other than the obvious? And I will not
become anyone's mistress, and shame the Alvarado family. Now, I must go."
Marta snatched the basket and was about to turn away when Montoya held her
back with a firm grip on her arm. He lifted her hand to his lips, and gently
turning it over, traced a kiss across her wrist, keeping his eyes on hers
without wavering. A lazy smile spread over his face as he watched the flame
leap into her eyes, a flame of passion.
She stumbled back, raising her hand to strike, then remembered who he was,
the power he wielded. Instead, Marta reached into a pocket of her gown and
withdrew two coins. "I have something that belongs to you, Colonel." She
showed him the coins he had given her as a bribe to influence Tessa into
returning to Spain. "We have no understanding. We never did." With that, she
dropped the coins in the dust at his feet and tried to move past him.
He cut off her retreat and said, "There is something between us, Marta. You
know it as well as I."
She shook off his hand and hissed, "If you touch me again, there will be
something between us — a knife!" She took the basket and hurried back to the
wagon, her breathing as ragged as if she had run miles, her mind in turmoil
as she put the basket in the back. Tessa strolled up and was about to speak,
when Marta said urgently, "Get in the wagon. We are going home."
"Why? I'm haven't finished my business yet." The young woman squinted up at
her companion, already on the wagon seat and preparing to leave. "What's
wrong, Marta? You look upset."
"Get in or I leave you behind!" Marta snapped, unlocking the brake and
picking up the reins. Seeing no alternative, Tessa climbed up beside her.
The older woman whipped the horses and turned the wagon in a narrow circle
across the street, nearly throwing Tessa off the bench. In a cloud of dust,
the wagon sped out of town.
"Now will you please tell me what this is about?" Tessa asked, frowning as
she looked at the flushed, angry face of her guardian. "What has upset you
"Montoya!" Marta spat.
"What about Montoya? What has he done?"
"He asked me to dinner, then kissed my hand," Marta said, her voice an angry
Tessa collapsed back onto the wagon seat, laughing so hard she nearly fell
off. "The scoundrel!" she cried, gasping for breath. "Turn the wagon around,
Marta! I'll call him out for that." She fell to giggling hysterically, as
each glance at Marta's face brought on a new gale of merriment.
"You may think it's funny, Tessa. But what do you think he wants?" Marta
asked, with an angry sidelong look at Tessa.
"Well, Marta, you're older than I am, so I shouldn't have to explain it to
you," Tessa replied, exploding with laughter once more.
"Besides that. What if he suspects you're the Queen of Swords and hopes to
get information from me?"
"Don't give him any,"she chuckled. Sobering, Tessa realized her amusement at
Marta's expense was causing the other woman more distress. She took her
hand, patting it affectionately. "Marta, you're making too much of this.
Ignore him and he'll leave you alone. Don't let him get to you."
But he had already gotten to her, Marta knew. The long dormant fever in her
blood had been awakened, and she could still feel the skin on her wrist
pulsing where his lips had been. Why am I drawn to such a man, she wondered
desolately. His darkness and danger? The possibility of redeeming whatever
good still exists in him? She sighed heavily and thought, the Fates are
playing with me — a cruel joke it is too.
"I knew it was too peaceful, Marta. Montoya is always at his most dangerous
when he is quiet. These last few weeks have been almost dull without him
stirring things up. Now I know what he has been up to." Tessa sat back from
her gardening, and pulling off her gloves, set down the trowel. The roses
and other plants surrounding the villa had revived under their care, as the
two women worked to restore the gardens to their former beauty. Tessa stood
up, stretching, and looked over their handiwork. She glanced at Marta with a
satisfied smile. "You were right about the garden, Marta. It will be
"I always keep my promises," the woman answered with a quick hug for her
ward. She frowned slightly and asked, "What about Montoya?"
"He has levied a new tax, this time on livestock. The peasants who can't pay
are being kept in the prison, then taken to work on a new road that will
adjoin el camino reale. They're being driven like mules or worse. Of course,
the tax is illegal, and I'm sure none of the gold ever goes to Monterey. It
just lines his pockets." Tessa's troubled look vanished, replaced by the
determined expression Marta had grown to dread. The Queen of Swords would
Marta tried a valiant smile, but it was forced. "What are you going to do,
Tessa?" she asked anxiously.
As the younger woman opened her mouth to speak, one of the workers rushed
onto the verandah toward them, his face flushed from running. "Señorita
Alvarado," he panted. An older man with a fringe of white hair around his
bald pate, he looked like an old monk. His face was wizened and creased, his
dark eyes shaded by a generously overhanging brow. "On your land, patrón" he
Tessa glanced quickly at Marta. The surprise and delight on her friend's
face made Tessa laugh. "Where are they, Ignacio?" Tessa asked urgently.
"Take us to them! Come on, Marta. Let's go and meet them." Her cares
forgotten for the moment, she was an excited young woman with the prospect
of some fun ahead of her, as she raced toward the stable to get her horse.
The tantalizing scent of something delicious cooking wafted on the breeze,
telling them they were nearing the camp. Topping a small rise, the trio of
riders gazed down upon the gitano camp with its circle of six colourful
wagons enclosing the campfires from which the savoury aroma emanated.
Unnoticed as yet, they watched the activity in the camp for a few minutes.
Marta's face softened with remembrance as her people went about their work
and play. The strains of a guitar floated up to them, and she noticed the
player leaning against a wagon wheel, strumming. The sound of voices carried
on the air, the accents and language of the Rom. She smiled at Tessa, each
remembering the secret they shared — the year Tessa lived with Marta's
people, the gitano.
"You can go back now, Ignacio," Tessa said to the old peon. He nudged his
donkey into a joggy trot, not having to be asked twice, his superstitious
fear of the Gypsies goading him into a hasty exit. Tessa laughed lightly,
watching him go. Turning back to the camp, she said, "Do you think they'll
mind us intruding, Marta?"
"Of course not. It will be an excuse for a fiesta. And as you remember,
Tessa, any excuse is good enough." Marta chuckled with joy as she nudged her
horse down the slope toward the camp with Tessa following.
Several men gathered together while the others in the camp stopped what they
were doing, nervously watching as the riders came closer. Marta called out
in her own language, "Greetings, brothers and sisters!" A babel of voices
rose in welcome, and the women were soon surrounded by the people, their
faces grinning with delight.
Sliding off the saddle, Marta introduced herself and Tessa. "Señorita
Alvarado owns this land,"she explained, gesturing to her mistress.
"But you are welcome to camp here as long as you like," Tessa added.
Their leader, a swarthy middle-aged man somewhat shorter than Tessa, bowed
and said, "I am Léon, and we welcome you to our camp, gracious lady. We
accept your hospitality. Thank you. We need some time to repair our wagons
and earn some money. Is there a town nearby?"
The women exchanged a worried glance. Tessa said, "There is a town, but I
don't think it is somewhere you would want to go. It's a dangerous place
Léon laughed shortly. "What place isn't dangerous for the gitano? But come,
join us for a meal. And tell us how you came to be in this part of the
The afternoon passed quickly in the camp as the gitano entertained their
guests with food and their warm hospitality. Toward dusk, Tessa became
restive, and Marta knew what was on her mind. She must put away the guise of
the genial señorita, and take on the mask of the Queen of Swords.
Tessa arose from a group of women, and said, "I must go back to my villa
now. There are matters I must attend to." Marta began to rise too, but Tessa
stopped her with a hand on her friend's shoulder. "Stay here a while longer,
Marta. You won't get this chance again soon. I'll come back later tonight."
Marta took Tessa's hand and pressed it fondly. "Be careful," she whispered.
Tessa responded with a quick return squeeze to Marta's hand and then,
striding to her horse, mounted and rode away. Marta watched for several
minutes as the rider disappeared, the enjoyment of the day dimmed by what
might come in the night. She was shaken from her reverie by a gitano woman,
Lucia, whose florid and weathered face grinned as she said, "Marta, you are
far away." Lucia laughed, a throaty infectious sound, making Marta smile.
Lucia looked off in the direction Tessa had taken, her face serious. "Marta,
you should stay with us. You belong with your people, not with the payos.
Why be a servant when you can be free?"
"I am free. I can leave if I choose. But I must follow my destiny... and
that of another," Marta said.
"She doesn't need you. She is rich. Soon she will marry one of her own kind,
have babies. What will you have? When will you begin your own life?" Lucia's
maternal feelings were aroused by this younger woman, one of their people,
who seemed lost among the payos.
Marta laughed softly, patting Lucia's arm. "This is my life," she said
gesturing widely at the land. "It is all I want."
Their conversation was interrupted by the strumming of a guitar as the
player, a young man, stepped into the light of the campfire. His fingers
began a rapid-fire cascade of notes, and the strings flashed like lightning.
His handsome, boyish face was concentrated on the music, almost oblivious to
the shouts of praise and encouragement of the others. He finished with a
flourish and a wide grin. Somewhat abashed, he bowed to Marta and offered
her the guitar with an encouraging look. She shook her head and said, "I do
not play the guitar, and certainly not after such a performance. Play
The guitarist, Rodrigo, began a folk dance tune, and soon the camp rang with
music and laughter, as the gitano gave themselves over wholly to the
celebration of life, wherever they might find themselves. Marta danced to
exhaustion, finally falling down again beside Lucia, who refilled her wine
cup. Marta's face was flushed with enjoyment as she said to Lucia, "It has
been so long. I had almost forgotten there could be so much joy."
Léon stepped forward with his violin and offered it to Marta. At first, she
was reluctant, but then arose and took the instrument. "I haven't played in
a long while," she said to the group. "My uncle Tonio taught me when I was a
girl. Here is a tune he wrote." Tucking the violin under her chin, she
stroked the strings tentatively, evoking some awkward squawks at first,
raising a few chuckles, including her own. She closed her eyes and let her
body remember as the tune wove through her mind and into her hands. A
sonorous, sad melody flowed from the violin, and Marta sighed with pleasure
as she recalled the many times she had played this tune for her own people
in Andalusia. When melody ended, Marta tried to return the instrument to
Léon, but he said, "That was beautiful, Marta. Perhaps you could teach it to
me. Please, play us another."
Marta searched her memory and then smiled, striking up a lively folk dance
they all knew, and soon they were clapping and dancing again. She returned
the violin to Léon and returned to sit by Lucia.
"You belong with us, Marta." the older woman said. "Your soul is here, with
your people. How lonely you must be among the payos."
"I am not lonely at all, Lucia, but I do miss this," Marta whispered,
glancing around the camp, watching the dancers.
Rodrigo began a flamenco tune, and the gitano, their blood fired by the
music and wine, clapped and shouted as a man and woman began to dance.
Others joined them, and Lucia said to Marta, "Go and dance with them. I am
too old, but you are still young. Dance while you can." Timidly at first,
Marta went toward the dancers, who welcomed her with wide smiles. Then she
let the music carry her into that realm where nothing existed but the dance,
and gave herself up wholly to flamenco.
Exhilarated, Marta dropped beside Lucia once more and drank some wine. She
realized she was getting light-headed. Looking up, she noted the position of
the constellations, and said, "It is getting late. I must go back to the
villa." Guiltily, she remembered that Tessa was somewhere out there in the
dark, perhaps risking her life, perhaps in trouble, while she was here,
having a fiesta with the gitano. She should have been back by now. Where is
she? Marta thought in alarm.
"Stay the night with us, Marta. It is dangerous to ride alone in the dark.
Your mistress knows where you are. Go back in the morning when it is light,"
Lucia coaxed, but Marta arose and began to make her farewells. One of the
gitano men saddled her horse and led it over to her. Mounting her horse,
Marta trotted out of the firelight and into the night.
Overhead a sickle moon hung amongst the stars, giving a scant light as Marta
rode back toward the villa. A warm breeze ruffled her hair and brushed over
her face like a sigh. Her heart was full, she was happy and a bit tipsy from
the wine. She began to hum the folk tunes she had danced to at the camp. The
horse twitched its ears, listening. "Are you criticising my singing? With a
voice like yours?" She laughed, and the horse shivered and pranced
The blackness of the night made strange shapes of the rocks she was passing.
The horse became increasingly anxious, whickering and blowing, its
nervousness infecting its rider as Marta gazed about warily. She noted
fearfully, as they approached a low ridge of rocks, that one of the rock
shapes looked like a horse and rider. Trying to calm herself, she looked up
at the stars and across the landscape, drawing in a tremulous breath. Coming
closer to the rock formation, the horse suddenly screamed with fear, rearing
and tossing her to the ground, then bolted in its fright. She got up,
hurling a string of Rom curses after the fleeing horse. A sound attracted
her attention. The rocks moved, and a horse and rider stepped out of the
darkness toward her. She looked around wildly for a place of escape, but she
was on an open plain with only rocks and scrub for cover. There was nothing
to do but wait.
Then a familiar voice said, "I suppose it is fortunate I don't understand
the Gypsy language. I'm sure those curses were colourful in the extreme."
Montoya chuckled as he urged his horse forward, then halted near Marta.
"Colonel Montoya," Marta said, almost relieved. At least it was someone she
knew, not a bandit. "What are you doing out here at this time of night?"
"I heard there were Gypsies in the area and was curious. I have never seen a
Gypsy camp and came out to see it."
"Did you bring the soldiers?" she asked, alarmed.
"No, I came alone." The Colonel dismounted and led his horse to Marta. "I
spent a very pleasant evening watching the dancing and listening to the
music." The wan light of the moon sparkled in his pale eyes, as he looked at
her with a disturbing intensity. "And I came because I knew you would be
here tonight. You were magnificent," he breathed softly. "On the violin,
such music, such fire. It makes my poor playing seem insipid by comparison.
Perhaps you would teach me to play in the Gypsy way?"
"I hardly think so, Colonel. Now, it is late and I would prefer my own
company. Please go." Marta glanced away, trying to avoid his eyes, trying to
quell the urge to flee.
He continued as if he had not heard her. "And your dancing, full of joy and
passion. Perhaps you have a little passion left over for me," he said,
reaching for her suddenly. He pulled her towards him, wrapping her in a
vice-like grip, and forced his lips onto hers. Taken by surprise, Marta
pushed and struggled, her own pulse hammering in her ears. Somewhere between
longing and terror, she was suspended as he held her captive. With a sob,
she felt herself giving way to the fever in her blood, then nothing mattered
but the moment and the man. She returned his kiss with a fiery passion that
shocked her. Suddenly a vision formed in her mind: a long rifle, an
explosion, and a man falling from a horse. As he fell, she saw his face —
With a hard, violent shove, she freed herself, and Montoya fell backwards
onto the ground. She snatched the knife from her boot as she screamed at
him, "Murderer! Assassin!" and like a tigress attacked with the knife.
Montoya tried to roll away, but she was on him, pressing the knife
inexorably toward his throat. His eyes widened in terror as he realized she
would kill him. All his strength seemed to desert him as he felt the knife
point touch his skin. She suddenly stopped her thrust and went rigid,
panting and gasping, feeling the point of a sword in her back.
A voice behind her spoke. "Woman, get off and drop the knife."
Marta turned slightly and saw a masked woman standing over her. "I am doing
you a favour," she rasped, "killing this snake. Let me finish him."
"Do as I tell you!" the Queen of Swords said harshly, prodding Marta with
the sword point.
Marta got up abruptly and threw down the knife. She was trembling with
violent emotion, her ragged breathing loud in the quiet night.
Montoya sprawled back and sighed with relief, touching the spot where the
knifepoint had penetrated his throat. Surreptitiously, his hand moved toward
his sword hilt, but Tessa noticed the movement and flicked her sword point
to his chest.
"Treachery so soon, Montoya? I'm hurt — and after I saved your life too,"
she mocked. "Get up and get out of here, before I change my mind and let the
woman finish what she started."
The colonel staggered to his feet, glaring at the black-masked woman. "Why
did you save my life?" he asked, narrowing his eyes.
"If it was only your life I had to worry about, I would have let her kill
you." Tessa laughed shortly. "In fact, I would have helped her. You like to
quote Shakespeare. Here is an apt line from Julius Caesar: 'I fear there
will a worse come in his place.' I think that is answer enough, Colonel.
And," she warned, "if I ever hear you have molested this woman again, I will
kill you myself."
Montoya strode to his horse and mounted. He sent a questioning glance at
Marta, meeting a glare of such malevolence that he looked away quickly. He
smirked at the two women, and said to Tessa, "Don't think because you saved
my life, I owe you anything."
"When you get back to the pueblo, Colonel, I think you'll find you owe me
quite a lot," Tessa chuckled. The expression on Montoya's face changed into
alarm, and he spurred his horse into a gallop toward the village, followed
by the Queen of Sword's mocking laughter.
As soon as he was gone, Marta whirled on Tessa furiously. "Why did you stop
me? He deserves to die! It would end all your troubles."
"No, Marta. It would only be the beginning of many more troubles. I was
trying to protect you and your people. Consider how close we are to the
gitano camp. If Montoya was found dead, they might be blamed. And with
Montoya out of the way, Grisham would take over. He might bring the soldiers
into the camp and slaughter everyone. At least, Montoya is restrained
somewhat by his fear of the Spanish government; Grisham has no such fear. He
is a mad dog, and without Montoya's hand on the leash, who knows what he is
capable of? Is that the world you want, Marta?"
More composed, Marta bent and picked up her knife, turning it over in her
hands. "I wasn't thinking. My mind was clouded with dancing and wine."
"Your mind was clouded, Marta, but not by wine," Tessa said softly.
"What did you see?" Marta whispered harshly.
"Enough." Seeing the older woman turn away in chagrin, Tessa added, "I
wasn't spying on you, Marta. After leaving the pueblo, I rode to the gitano
camp. I didn't go in when I saw you weren't there; I just came this way
hoping to catch up to you. When I saw you with Montoya, I was going to take
another way home, then I heard you scream. I was afraid for you." Tessa
laughed shortly. "Then I was afraid for Montoya."
"I am so ashamed. How could I..." Marta turned and walked away quickly. The
younger woman caught hold of her friend's arm, forcing her to look in her
"Because you're human, Marta. You want to be loved, the same as anyone. The
same as I. Don't judge yourself harshly for that."
"But such a man!" Marta spat, shaking her head.
"Well, he is attractive, in his own way," Tessa jibed, digging Marta
playfully in the ribs.
"Attractive! Like a snake is to a mongoose!" Marta retorted.
"Remember, Marta, it is the mongoose that kills the snake. But not tonight."
Tessa yawned and stretched, then began to chuckle. "There is quite a
surprise awaiting our colonel when he gets back to the pueblo. Not only did
I release all the prisoners, but I was able to liberate enough of his gold
so that the peasants can pay their taxes. That is why I was so late."
Suddenly exhilarated, Tessa lifted her arms above her head, spun around in
pure delight, and said, "It was a magnificent evening, Marta! Such a thrill,
so much danger. I just barely escaped, but it was worth it to see Grisham's
face." She laughed in remembrance, not noticing the troubled expression on
She courts danger like a lover, Marta thought. Flirts with Death, staying
just out of his reach. How long before he catches up with her? Aloud, she
said worriedly, "Are you all right. Not hurt?"
"A cut and a few bruises, nothing to speak of." Tessa yawned again, and
added, "I'm tired, Marta. Let's go home. It's been quite a night." She
mounted her horse and helped Marta climb up behind. Turning to her friend,
she said, "To quote the Bard once more, 'All's well that ends well'."
Author's Note: The interpretation of the "Lovers" Tarot card came from Joan
Bunning's website, © Learning Tarot Online.
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