L

A STORY OF LONGING FOR LISBON

Francisco watched with horror as the landing boats moved away from shore without them. Now they were stranded. This was how it was to end for the Great Dom Francisco? After all that he had been through in the name of Portugal, he was to be struck down by these ungrateful natives on some godforsaken beach on the tip of this Dark Continent.

The Khoikhoi were a proud people in their uncivilised, coarse way, with their strange way of speaking and odd clicking noises. He cursed his crew and their poor judgement. They needed the cattle for the voyage back to Lisbon, they could have traded with the locals, but why barter when they could take? Now the Khoikhoi were charging towards him, leaving his crew slaughtered on the land before him, and for once Francisco de Almeida had no escape.

He thought of all he had achieved. As a young man he had visited the other end of this continent and fought the Moors, he had conquered Granada in the name of Christianity, become a trusted advisor to King John II of Portugal and now secured Portuguese hegemony in India as commander and governor.

But what he thought of now was home, Lisbon, the first city of the empire. The grand streets and buildings, the ocean spray and the sweltering summers. In all the grandeur that he was accustomed to he thought now of his childhood, his mother sitting in the shade while he played with the other boys, pretending to be soldiers, wrestling and chasing, crying and laughing. How he longed for one last chance to see the bustling port, the fleet of trade and naval ships, the crowded markets and the glorious churches. He felt the pang of regret at having spent so much of his life away from home, exploring and conquering in the name of his country and his king.

He thought of his son, Lourenço. Had he felt this way two years earlier when he had been killed commanding the inferior Portuguese fleet valiantly at Chaul? Had he thought of his father, or of all that they had achieved for Portugal, or did he think fondly of Lisbon too, and the brief time he had spent being raised by his father there?

The old man drew his sword one last time, but before he could engage with the enemy a spear flew through the air, striking him in the chest and throwing him to the ground. He lay on the sand, breathing his last as the waves of the ocean lapped against his face. He tasted the salt water and dreamt of being borne home over the blue expanse to see Lisbon one last time.


Written as part of The A to Z Challenge 2018. Click HERE for more details of the challenge.

Each day in April we will visit a different town or city in the European Union, whose name will begin with the letter of the day – today it’s Lisbon in Portugal – for a story based on a theme also corresponding to the same letter.

Over the course of the month and 26 stories, we will visit all 28 member countries to complete a farewell tour before Britain leaves the political union next year, touching on the history, politics, culture and people at the heart of Europe.

For a full list of stories and places visited, visit here: THE A TO Z CHALLENGE 2018.

For more information on Francisco de Almeida visit Wikipedia.

57 thoughts on “L IS FOR LISBON, PORTUGAL

  1. A lovely dose of historical fiction. Fun fact: Almeida’s son was killed in a battle in India. Nice story, Iain. You’ve captured the last moments of a man about to die perfectly.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. There is a saying that it is in the final days of one’s life that a person always aches for his or her motherland. So many men and women get convinced of ideologies of a different hue and settle in foreign countries. During the cold war there were Britishers who were convinced of the communist ideologies and acted as spies for the USSR. They were finally given asylum in USSR but even these people were left aching for their motherland in the final days of their lives. Excellently written and brings out the feelings of a warrior and his love for his homeland in his final moments.

    L is for Lakshman Singh the Inspector who handled the case – #A2Z2018

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Debs, also a story of a country looking outwards, expanding its horizons, not drawing away. For all the problems with the days of colonising, empires and explorers, where would we be if everyone just decided to stay isolated?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Unfortunately we will never know. It is a certainty that those nations that did set out to explore and conquer, in hindsight, set about doing it in the worst way possible in most cases, with little or no respect for the indigenous people already living on those lands.

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    1. I think it is perfectly okay to feel like that, there is a lot to regret about the way Europeans colonised other parts of the world, with the benefit of hindsight it is quite easy to point out things they did wrong.

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  3. I’ve always wanted to see Lisbon, ever since I read Madeleine L’Engle’s The Arm of the Starfish series.

    Another great choice of setting (or secondary setting), even if the story’s sad. But of course colonialism is sad.

    @IsaLeeWolf
    A Bit to Read

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I was such a L’Engle addict as a kid. I even wrote her a letter; she sent a brochure showing the connections among her characters, which was a little anticlimactic.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Arti. It’s difficult to tell looking back if any of the colonisers were good people, if they were acting under orders, or were some of them actually nice to the local people they found. I wonder if a lot of them would just rather have just stayed at home!

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      1. It’s always the same story: a handful of power/money hungry people use the masses to fight and plunder etc. History is full of such aggressors. But, the sad fact is that it continues even to this day in the form of corporate monopolies and/or the mis-use/over use/abuse of limited natural resources.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Do we all not forget to smell the daisies in our busy life, in today’s date? A stark reminder that we should spare some time to self and not to rush ahead in life conquering new horizons. Life happens only once.
    As usual, a profound one Ian.

    Liked by 1 person

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