Miguel stepped out beside me. The man wore Spanish clothes but carried no supplies or weapons and a horse was nowhere in sight. Bloody scratches covered his arms and face. I searched the riverbank, expecting to see a canoe. There was none.

“Who are you and why are you here?” I asked.

The man struggled to stand. Exhaustion lowered him back to the ground. His scratchy voice cracked when he spoke. “I have come to speak with Governor Zúñiga in St. Augustine. Pray tell, how far is my travel?”

Seeing the terrible thirst in the man’s eyes, I took my canteen from my side, opened the spout, and offered him some water. Shaky hands lifted the container from my grasp. He drank in gulps.

“My friend and I are from St. Augustine. It is one league as the crow flies east.”

It was the man’s turn to study us. “You are from the stone Castillo? The fort, Castillo de San Marcos?”

We nodded.

The man bowed his head in silence; words too soft to hear passed from his lips. When he looked up again the creased lines in his face had softened.

“Then the Lord has answered my prayers. Native Indians loyal to England have been pursuing me for three days. My horse was injured, I have lost my weapons and supplies, and I have been running on foot through woods and swamp for many, many leagues. I have an urgent message for the governor. My talk with him is urgent. The lives of your people depend on it.”

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