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Serena and the Knights of St. John (Part 7)

"She's the only survivor of a shipwreck. A merchant sailing ship. Its captain blew it up to conceal the escape of messengers on the way to Sultan Suleiman. She's Maltese but has never seen her home country. Her mother was abducted into slavery by the pirate Dragut."

"Praise the Lord!" somebody in the crowd cried and pushed to the front.

Several other onlookers nodded and made the sign of the cross.

"Praise the Lord," the man shouted again. He was wearing blue baggy trousers, a long brown overcoat and a dark red turban.

"That's Paul," Jerome whispered into Serena's ear. "He came here years ago. People say he, too, was the victim of a shipwreck. Although he doesn't dress like the locals, he's converted to Christianity and has discarded his Muslim name."

"How interesting," said Serena. She couldn't help disliking that man who made such a show of himself.

Paul was about to repeat his cry but Count Manducas interrupted him, "That'll do, Paul."

Serena hid her not very ladylike smirk behind her hand.

"What's your name, child," the lady addressed Serena.

"Serena, my Lady."

"What are your plans now you're in Malta? Do you have somewhere to stay?"

"I don't know, my Lady. All my mother's family were killed or abducted with her. As far as I know, I don't have anybody here."

"You poor thing!" The Lady turned to her husband. "Antonio, just the other day our cook complained she needed more help. Why don't we take Serena in?"
(To be continued)