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Serena and the Knights of St. John (Part 5)

For the next two days, the galley zigzagged through the Mediterranean. Although there was no trace of the renegade boat, nobody ever doubted Serena's story. They knew how easy it was for a small vessel to escape.
True to his word, Jerome looked after Serena like a big brother. She soon opened up and told him how the pirate Dragut had abducted her mother and thousands of others from Gozo, Malta's sister island, and sold them into slavery. Her mother's master was a kind man and let her bring up Serena and even teach her the Maltese language.

Yet, when Serena was ten, he sold her to a rich merchant in Tripoli, who gave the girl to his elderly mother. Two years later, when the conflict between the Ottoman Empire and the Order of the Knights of St. John escalated, the merchant thought it safer to send his mother back to Istanbul.

Jerome's life was entirely different. The son of a nobleman from the Provence in France, he'd been sent to Malta three years earlier at the age of twelve. The Order of St. John had strict rules. Jerome's family wasn't of high enough standing for him to become a knave and later a Knight of St. John. Yet, as a so called Serving Brother, he was enjoying an excellent education. Once that was completed, he would be free to either return home and take over his father's estate or remain in the order as a Serving Brother.

At last, the Knight Captain decided to abandon their search. They were coming dangerously close to Ottoman shores. Better to return and report to the Grandmaster. He had to know that an important message was on its way to Sultan Suleiman.
(To be continued)