Author's notes: Thanks for all the lovely reviews! You have all inspired me to come to a perfect ending which will be concluded in the next chapter! I had been struggling with an ending and now it is complete and I have you to thank! So without further ado...
Chapter 4: Poisoned
He clutched his chest. He scrunched his face in pain.
"What can I do?!" She was frantic. She grabbed his horse's reins and guided them to a brush, where they could hide and rest for a bit. She slipped to the ground and went to Diego's side. "Diego? Please. Talk to me?"
He only grunted and groaned. He then chuckled through the pain, "I never thought it would end this way."
"Don't you dare talk like that," Moneta said quite firmly.
Diego slid off his horse, but his legs went numb. Moneta caught him before he fell to the ground. She used all her strength to guide him to a spot where he could rest. She let him down gently and leaned him against a large rock. His breathing was short. She inspected the wound. It was turning purple and was spreading across his chest.
She smoothed back his hair. She could not go for help. She did not know if Don Alejandro and Bernardo were searching for him, by then it would have been too late. It was too far from the pueblo or the mission where he could receive the proper care. She said a silent prayer.
"Diego," tears formed in her eyes as he stroked his hair. "Please. Don't die." Her lips quivered.
"Shh…" he pressed a finger to her lips. He then took her chin between her fingers. "It's all right."
She lowered her head and pressed her lips upon his.
"That was very nice," Diego half smiled.
"Is there nothing I can do?"
Diego closed his eyes. He was quiet for quite some time. Every once in a while, his face flinched; fighting the pain. His eyes suddenly opened; there was a flicker of hope in his eyes. He looked directly at her. "There is a witch doctor, in the hills, not far from here. The Indians go to her for healing. She might have a cure."
"A witch doctor?"
"Medicine woman." Diego corrected as he tried to stand. Moneta quickly pulled him to his feet. He used what little strength he had left to hoist himself onto the horse. He could feel the poison spreading throughout his body. His limbs were growing numb by the minute. It was becoming harder to breathe which meant he had to grab for short spurts of air. It was more apparent to him that he would die.
Not ten minutes later, did they stop in front of a small cabin. There was an owl hooting outside and crows cawing at the night. Moneta could feel the spookiness in the air and she shivered.
Moneta dismounted and went to Diego. He was drenched in sweat and barely conscious. She flung his arm over her shoulder and pulled him off the saddle. His legs gave way underneath him and she tripped and fell to the ground. "Diego? Please. I can't carry you." She did not have any strength left.
His eyes rolled back and his body went limp.
"Diego!" She shook him violently, "Diego!" She ran to the door and pounded on it, "Please! Please! Help me! Please oh please be home!"
The door opened and an elderly woman barked, "What do you want?! The hour is late!"
"My friend was poisoned! We need a cure! Please! He is dying!" Moneta's voice was two octaves higher.
The elderly woman looked past Moneta to the man on the ground. She could not pass up an opportunity like poison. She waddled to the man on the ground and bent over. "He's convulsing."
Moneta had noticed too that Diego's body jerked periodically. "What does that mean?"
"The poison has entered into his veins and will soon reach his heart."
"No!" Moneta cried.
"Help me take him inside." The elderly woman pulled the man by the lapels and sat him up. She then slung an arm over her shoulder and began picking him up. Moneta could not believe how strong the woman was. They dragged him inside and laid him down on a cot. "My granddaughter will be returning shortly with more supplies. But I can make do with what I have here." The woman went over to a table filled with jars, plates and jugs each holding some herb, spice, item, or device. "He seems familiar. It is not hard to forget such a handsome face."
"He told me of you like you've helped him before."
"Always the young ones getting into trouble these days," the woman rambled to herself as she mixed some powders and liquids together. "My granddaughter makes trouble for herself always in town. Then with the men she meets. Ah," the woman tsked then brought over a bowl with some green paste. She opened his shirt and inspected the wound, "It does not look good."
Moneta could not believe that. "What can I do to help?"
"You can rub this on his chest over the infected area." She handed the bowl to Moneta thusly, went back to the table then returned with something in her hand. She opened Diego's mouth administered a substance. "This will dissolve and hopefully fight against the poison."
They both looked at him when his breathing became labored and increasingly difficult. Moneta could not help but cry, "He cannot breathe."
The witch doctor pushed Moneta over to one side and propped back Diego's head. "This will open his throat and allow more air to enter his body. Now start applying that to him." She barked.
Moneta obeyed and gently covered the infected area with the green paste.
The next hour was the longest hour. Maya Montoya, the granddaughter, had returned with more supplies and helped her grandmother mix all different concoctions. Moneta had wondered how Maya knew Diego. It was obvious that she knew him. Maya had walked in and when she saw Diego, she instantly smiled. Then when she was updated on his situation, she immediately helped her grandmother.
Moneta was never told what was in the medicine but told to apply this, apply that.
"Now, all we can do is let the medicine work," the old woman said.
"How long will before we know?" Moneta asked.
"When he wakes up," the old woman concluded then turned around and began to mix a couple more things. The old woman then put a bowl on the ground with some bones resting inside. She poured a black liquid around the bowl on the ground then lit it. There was a green flash followed by smoke with a pleasing odor. The medicine woman then began to chant silently on the ground, putting different things in the bowl and repeating the actions.
Maya could see Moneta's concern and sat next to her by the cot. "You are very pretty," Maya smiled.
Moneta could not believe that compliment in the state she was in but replied, "Gracias."
Maya noticed Moneta's bewilderment with her grandmother. "She is calling on the spirits to help your friend. The smoke with its odor will be breathed into his body and fight the poison."
Moneta attempted a smile. "When you came in, you seemed to recognize him."
Maya smiled and looked down at Diego's handsome face, "He is a gentleman among all gentlemen. He paid for my supplies when the clerk in town would not accept my gold nuggets. He believed in me – he believed they were real."
Moneta leaned her head and furrowed her brow, "There is gold in California?"
Maya became hesitant. She whispered, "The Indians in the fields gave us those nuggets in return for my grandmother's help. That is all I know, Senorita." Maya looked at Diego again; a soft expression appeared on her face, "Are you and he together?"
Moneta thought for a moment, "I do not know."
"Do not let him get away. He is the most humane being, not to mention handsome too." Maya grinned sheepishly.
The medicine woman had finished her prayers and approached the cot with something in her hands, "Spiders web." The woman covered the web over the infected area. "Keeps the infection away."
Maya took Moneta's hands in hers, "He will be all right, Senorita. My grandmother is a miracle worker. He will wake up."