Love, Gossip, and War
In Burgos, the Castilians turned out en masse; yellow and crimson pennons streamed, stark and glorious under the cold blue winter sky. The women had fashioned garlands of white and yellow – the colors of their king – pinning them in trains of daisy, lily, and wildflower. The roads to Burgos were flowing with carts and people, and even these came from as far as Barcelona and Aragon – delegations to greet the new king. The tramp of horses and soldiers – lances adorned with streamers and flowers – was augmented by the squeaking wheels of merchant carts and vendors. The aging Archbishop of Sahagún, though angry over the exile of Bishop Estaban Buega, came preceding a train of monks, and in his hands was a letter addressed from the Pope; the Grand Father in Rome was idealistic about King Sancho II leading a crusade against the Moors.
As for the king, the man prepared himself to review his army. This was highly important to help solidify his victory – to be at the head of his war machine, and to reflect glory and prosperity in might.
He made certain that his chief advisors were close by, in case now of a forgotten, important detail. It wouldn’t do to insult any of his hardworking provincials before the seat of the throne was warm. Sancho met with his armiger before moving out to the procession. The Campaedor was acting strangely – as aloof since the day he had returned from Zamora – and of this Sancho was concerned.
The king was adjusting his tunic and necklace – trying his best to look like a Caesar from the old days. The problem was the new material and his tailor: nothing fitted properly. The Romans had had a point with wraps, but the newer fashions left nothing to the imagination, Sancho thought.
“You should learn more of your father, Your Majesty,” Rodrigo said. They were alone in the reception hall for the moment.
The king turned and looked at him. “You would teach me a lesson in diplomacy, Rodrigo?”
“It would seem that you are bent only bleeding those around you, bludgeoning them for mistakes rather than nourishing loyalty. What is this thing I discover? You have the good Bishop of Burgos exiled to Granada?”
Sancho let his blood cool. The Campaedor’s insolence seemed to have increased since his return. “Why should you care of him?”
“He was my father’s friend.”
Sancho couldn’t believe his ears. “Your father is dead! My father is dead!”
“We shouldn’t forget our oaths, Sire.”
“That’s the trouble with you of late, Ruy Diaz: you put too much sentimentality on the past. We are the inheritors of the realm, you and I. We are the ones who now take reigns of empire and bring it to bear; I have no need for sentimentalities. The old men are gone.”
The Campaedor’s silence unnerved him.
Sancho continued: “You think I am a man without a heart. You forget that I allowed you your time at Carrión when my army was on Goblejara, and I did not force you then, as I know your moods. I love you more than any of my family, and would it I had you as my brother rather then the lot I do have; think of me not harshly, for I – like you – am a man of action. There are enemies to my crown, even if these enemies are my family. You liken me to Cain, as if I had malice for malice’s sake.”
“You have sent Doña Urraca a letter.”
“Ay – what do you think of it?”
Rodrigo smirked openly. The letter had been arrogant and straightforward:
Get thee gone from Zamora. I, in my wisdom, have decided to forgive thee of past indiscretions thou hast shown to my crown. I wish not to come at thee with threat of arms, for thou art my sister, and thereby the blood of my father and mother. Here, consider my command: I will grant thee the magnificent lands of Medina de Rioseco and all the Infantazgo from Villalpando to Valladolid, together with the strong castle of Tiedra. With these grants I promise to give thee four thousand coin in gold and a grant of two hundred annually from the Toledo paria. Thy brother, Sancho.
Sancho was proud of the letter. “Do you not think of me compassionate and clever? I do this even though she is a conspirator and a traitor, and will do nothing short of taking my right from me.”
“She will not fall for your offer, Sire.”
“The lands you grant her offer no strategic positions, and she will know your mind to take these possessions from her at your leisure.”
“You dare accuse – ”
“It’s what I would expect. Why not grant her leave to rule Zamora?”
Sancho – fuming – stood there with his outer vest upon his arm, speechless.
“I know her cortesé wouldn’t stand for it, not while they have a chance to retain their lands with her in Zamora,” Rodrigo said softly. “She has the services of clever nobles: Ansuréz, Derro, Jimenéz.”
“All dogs and traitors! This meeting you had with her bothers me, for I remember how you were friends years ago, and possibly lovers; yet, sometimes I think you keep things from me.”
The Campaedor stiffened. “You’d believe me a traitor, Your Majesty?”
Sancho studied him a moment, wondering what would be the best words to form. He sufficed with: “I would not believe you a traitor if every man, woman, and child in Castile would stand and point accusing fingers. But you are a man prone to moods and by this sometimes quiet. I believe you hold things a’back to somehow manipulate my judgments – though it isn’t an act unbecoming my other advisors.”
“Two people taught me that prudence was a virtue: my mother, and the bishop you exiled.”
“Prudence!” Sancho laughed. “I thought perhaps you shy, Ruy Diaz! Prudence does not become a man of action – not a man who would, upon his own mettle, take a rope and hang a traitor. Not a man who would kidnap my brother at point of truce! It’s decisive acts like that which endear you to me, for you are a man who does what needs to be done and would gladly take reward or consequence.”
The knight turned away, with nothing more to argue. Sancho stepped forward and placed a gentle hand on his Campaedor’s shoulder, hoping that familiarity may accent his words.
“Again, I am not without compassion. Though I am bent on hanging my sister, I will spare Alfonso. I will, upon this counsel you’ve given me, exile him to Toledo – though I feel such an act will come back to haunt me. If it does, I feel secure that I have you by my side.” Sancho had had dreams before on how it would be as king and have his best friend there with him, to guide and counsel and to lead his fist when necessary. The contradictory moods of Rodrigo were becoming harder to judge, and thus the man harder to wield as an instrument of the crown.
What really bothered Sancho was that everyone seemed to be concerned about his own reason. While making love to his mistress that morning – Florinda – the king had been beset with her concerns. Lying naked between the sheets, the soft suppleness of her skin reason itself to forget such, Florinda had told him that he placed too much on himself. And it seemed at once strange for her, considering how meek she was.
“How so?” Sancho had asked her. Making love to Florinda hadn’t affected the king with ease, because his mind was far away. He remembered thumping the firm mattress of the royal bed with a fist as he spoke to her.
“You would put to field yourself than have someone like Don Rodrigo or Don Garcia commanding; pounding things in place with your own hand, Your Majesty.”
“I see, and suddenly you have counsel?”
The Lady of Zamora had become silent. They’d known each other less than a year, and Sancho had come to the idea he didn’t really love her. Still, her blonde locks and her hazel eyes intrigued him in ways no mere Spanish woman may, and, besides, her father in the north had considerable gains. It would do for a good match between them.
His father had given him much advice, but Sancho recalled the bit he liked most: keep your realm with both fists.
“How do I look?” He asked now his armiger who was standing by the east aperture overlooking the Grand Courtyard. The noise rose and fell out there, a relentless crescendo of merriment and bustling activity.
Rodrigo didn’t turn around. “You look good, Sire.”
“Oh! I see! You have been gifted by God with eyes in the back of your head,” Sancho decided, striding over to the aperture. “Don’t worry! I believe you, my Campaedor! How else have you won so many battles for me?”
Rodrigo sniffed. “What is that smell?”
The king sniffed too. “Ah! The cologne! It was a gift from Florinda.”
“It smells, well – flowery.”
Sancho sniffed again, his brows turned down. “You think it may be a little feminine?”
The Campaedor shrugged. “I would probably have passed on it, Your Majesty. But, if it pleases you…”
There was another discomfort for the king: the breeches he had had tailored were far too tight, and his crotch was bothering him. He moved and twitched about, pulling downwards to release his manhood from the grip. No matter what he did, something pinched or crammed.
After a moment with a curious Rodrigo watching, the king, frustrated, told his armiger to fetch Garcia Ordoñéz from the corridor.
“Here I am – king of these lands further than I can see,” Sancho mumbled to himself, left alone briefly with the crowd noise from the aperture, “and I am not master of my own breeches.”
The Triple Crown was a better fit, and though uncomfortable with everything below the waist, Sancho – flanked with two of his nobles who had now rejoined him – stepped out into the cold sunlight and beheld the multitude.
The idea of reviewing his soldiers placed a deep pride for the king. The civilians had moved back to the sides of the courtyard, providing a clear path from the inner bailey to the postern gate; the troops would move in, pause for salute, and then move out. The courtyard was far too small to enjoy everyone at once, and though the king had given thought of having the parade on the field of tourney, he wanted to take advantage of the height of the Ward Tower for better view.
At the entrance of their king, trumpets from every quarter blew, shattering the steady crowd noise. Sancho, assaulted, forced himself not to cup his ears. Still, they trumpeted and blasted in glorious blaring, forcing the heavens to resound, and the rising crescendo of the crowd offered no relief. Forcibly grinning, Sancho held up his hand – not to salute his people – but to shut everything up. The gesture was not understood, and at the movement, the blaring and cheers escalated.
“Will you tell them to stop?” Sancho shouted above the blaring to Garcia Ordoñéz. The knight stepped over to the side and drew a hand across his throat. The trumpets stopped abruptly, and it took a good minute or so before the crowd decided to immerse themselves in a dull roar. “Good,” the king said, moving his legs a bit to ease his discomfort. The king let a few more minutes pass, and then whispered to Rodrigo to signal for the army to move. As soon as the armiger held up a hand, the trumpets blared again, painful in the king’s ears. Yet, this time, they came to an abrupt end as the first of the houses came into the inner bailey.
The standard presented was three golden lions on a red field: the House of Ruiz. Don Pedro, still ailing since the day he left Carrión in his cousin Rodrigo’s care, had found strength enough to ride at the head of his darkly-clad cavalry. The aging noble paused in good form, and gave a bow to the king.
“Ahh, Ruiz,” Sancho said, pleased. He gave the noble a consenting nod. “He’s doing well.”
Rodrigo cleared his throat. “He’ll probably be dead in a month, Your Majesty.”
“His lungs are filled with fluid. I advised him not to come and to have Ramón lead the house.”
“There’s Ramón, leading the lighthorsemen,” Sancho said, pointing as the Ruiz standard moved on. “It’s good to see both of them.”
The next house bore a purple and crimson banner. The company was, as the majority of those present that day, made up of riders. The glint of their heavy chain and domed caps caught the sunlight.
“Di Pamplona,” mentioned Sancho as he nodded. “He’s a good fighting bishop!”
“He lost a thousand dinars gambling this year,” Rodrigo said.
“He’s a man of God!”
“And a man of the dice.”
“Really?” Sancho didn’t like the idea that the bishop was a gambler: too much of the realm’s gold passed his hands. “Remind me that I need to talk to him.”
A white and red-striped standard came into view, moving confidently in the wake of the Bishop di Palencia. It was a Leonese house.
“Who is that?” Sancho asked.
“House of Campo Belo.” Rodrigo thought a moment. “Don Miguel.”
“Oh! I remember seeing his standard at Goblejara,” Sancho said, nodding his head at the Leonese. “Son of a bitch killed my best ward.”
In contrast came a standard that was yellow-striped on a black field; it reminded Sancho of a bumblebee. “Di Oña.”
Rodrigo shook his head. “Not anymore. House of Ramirez di Gormaz.”
“What do you mean ‘not anymore’?”
“His mother disinherited him after improper advances toward his sister.”
Sancho’s mouth opened. “Really. That’s not Christian, ay.”
“Not substantiated, but that’s the gossip.”
The king smiled. He liked gossip. “Well, at least he wasn’t making advances to his brothers.”
Rodrigo shrugged. “We can’t be sure of that either.”
“I’m surprised at you. Where do you get all this information?”
“I keep my ear to the ground, Your Majesty.”
The king looked at Ordoñéz for confirmation.
The other knight nodded. “I took my letters with Oña,” Ordoñéz said. “Ramon was very affectionate to many of the younger boys.”
“He is not all homosexual, if he’s been after his sister.”
Ordoñéz gave the same shrug Rodrigo had. “No, I just think he likes everything.”
“Ay. Horses, goats, day-old bread. Anything.”
“You don’t say,” Sancho breathed. “Still, a good fighter.”
Ranks of heavy horse moved in then, led by a standard of a cross of white lilies on a blue field. Sancho was ready for this.
“House Alvaréz,” the king said aloud for Rodrigo’s benefit. “I see your grandmother is willing to ride in her carriage with her son, Don Blasco and his wife.”
“Doña Maria is one of those people who keeps living,” Rodrigo said. “When Don Nuño died at Graus, I thought it would be too much for her to bear.”
“But Don Blasco is looking well.”
“He is ten years my mother’s junior.”
“Good looking cavalry,” the king said, nodding deeply to the dame and her formidable entourage. The horsemen often complimented the private part of Rodrigo’s own troops of Bivar.
The next standard was Leonese: a wheeling hawk on a brown field – surrounded by a laurel. “House Campostela,” Sancho said. “I am surprised to see them and a many good Leonese force here today – I thought they would be cowering in Zamora.”
“There are only a few there, Your Majesty.”
“You think that the majority of them are loyal then to my new crown?”
“As loyal as many Castilian houses, no doubt. When you sit, they will come to you and offer their loyalty. You’ll see.” The Ceremony of Obeisance would follow the parade in which every noble under the Triple Crown will kneel before the king and offer his or her loyalty.
“I have not seen one Galician.”
“You exiled more than half of Garcia’s cortesé, a few are in Zamora, and some have taken up Leonese banners.”
Sancho frowned. “I like it better when Galicians are Galicians.”
More banners passed, the majority Castilian, though some were vibrant and honorably Leonese. The king couldn’t remember them all, and Rodrigo and Ordoñéz had to intervene at times to remind him. There was much left to do, and Sancho had to consider the needs of Leon. For the last month after capturing his brother, Sancho had immersed himself in restructuring Castile; many men had fallen at Goblejara, and there were voids and concerns of his homeland that the king wished to consider first.
Charters had been hastily issued to restore order in Leon, but the new king had done little to make a journey to what was once his father’s seat; nor had he given much to visit Alfonso who languished in chains. When any of his advisors pressed him, Sancho often told them that he was young and full of strength; there was much time to put to order everything under his crown.
As they watched the procession, a black banner – void of any sigil – came up. There were ranks of footmen, but there was no man leading them – only a woman, dressed black as her standard, with her scarves blowing in the cold breeze, rode in a carriage before them. She had them pause and she looked up at the Castilians on the balcony of the Ward Tower without any other motion.
Her sad, cold face intrigued Sancho. He asked, “Who is that?”
“That is Jimena di Oviedo,” Rodrigo said. “You do not know your own cousin? She is the last daughter of Don Diego Gormaz.”
“Oh,” the king said, reflecting. “She has not been married? My own cousin carries no sigil of her house?”
“She is in mourning.”
“Where are her sisters?”
“Married, betrothed to other houses.”
“She is the only thing left of her father’s name?”
Sancho nodded at her. “Funny, she looks so different here – I should have known the moment I saw her.” In fact, Jimena’s mother was the daughter of King Alfonso V of Castile, the brother of dead Ferdinand. “I’ll have to give her plight thought, as she is of my blood.”
“There are many things that need thought,” Rodrigo pointed out, watching the black-clad woman and her entourage pass.
“She’d most like to draw a dagger on you, Ruy Diaz,” Sancho said with a smile. “You bested her father and clove his head.”
“I sent it to her.” As grisly as it sounded, the whole knight had to have been delivered for burial, and the ransom for him had been great; Rodrigo owned now two warhorses and a stately set of chain armor.
“You would marry her and take those lands,” Sancho said.
“I’ve given it thought.”
“That is, if she is forgiving. Funny,” the king reflected, “I remember her as a vixen. She’ll most likely take away your manhood in the moment of love, and mount it over the hearth.”
Rodrigo didn’t say anything.
Along with the head of the hapless Don Diego, the Campaedor had taken liberty to send a message to court the Lady di Oviedo, but – as Sancho’s suspicion – the woman was not friendly. Her reply to Rodrigo’s formal letter to meet with her was with only three words: I hate you.
As good looking as everyone seemed to believe him to be, and as a prominence fast gaining ground, Rodrigo didn’t have luck when it came to courting maidens. Unknown to him, the women of the realm often spoke of his dashing exploits and his comeliness, yet somehow they would cower and hide when he came into view; only strong women as Doña Urraca, or the ones without clan – as Elorna the handmaid – seemed interested. Both were out of reach in one way or another, and the Campaedor’s sexual conquests were not as prolific as Sancho’s, or even his rival Don Garcia’s for that matter. Rodrigo thought that the Doña Jimena would be good character to accept him, but she seemed bent only on sitting in black on a seat of hatred.
Sure, he could have the king arrange something between them – but Rodrigo was shy of her. Any other knight, he reasoned, would certainly step in and take the woman after slaying her father; it was common. Doña Jimena would have little choice, because as degrading as it could be, a woman bereft of her standing and house was more a commodity as a horse or mule. Yet, Rodrigo remembered his own mother and father, and how they had loved each other. The Campaedor did not want to live in a house with a woman who hated him.
Sancho, as soon as he focused on his new Leonese subject houses, would be set to marry the obstinate woman to someone. Everything she had belonged to the king now, including the flesh on her bones, and there was no other man to dictate her fate; Rodrigo speculated that Doña Jimena would be handed to Ordoñéz or even Ramón Hernandez. The idea made him sneer, because he hated Don Garcia Ordoñéz, and for what reason truly was unclear between them. It was just one of those chances when two men found each other suspect as a dull unease in character, rather than action or word.
Anyway, the Asturian woman would be given to some man.
A long time ago, when he was just ten years old, Rodrigo had come to Leon with his family, and it was not unlike any other visit to the court; only this time, the family had spent time with the house Gormaz of Oviedo, and Rodrigo had been introduced – formally – to Don Diego’s five daughters. The eldest girl was fourteen, and for some reason, Rodrigo had been shy of her. She had dark red hair and flaming eyes, and she had filled out and looked like a woman. The sight of her frightened the youth somehow, making him feel inferior. The girl wasn’t particularly pretty, and lacked the depth of warmness, and she didn’t seem interested in a boy four years her junior. Velda – which was her name – became betrothed to a Galician house, and Rodrigo had been secretly glad their parents had never pressed a union between them.
Jimena had been two years old at the time they had met. Rodrigo – even on the day he saw her pass in black – could remember her running naked close to her mother, undaunted and fearless as she tried to grab a forlorn house dog’s tail. They had never talked, but had seen each other on occasion from a’far, though his own interest in her was never great until the day he killed her father. The only thing he knew about her social life was that she had been promised to a Moor once, but the pending wedding had not worked out for one reason or another. Christian-Moorish marriages happened infrequently, but it was not unheard of.
It was best to forget her, Rodrigo reasoned. Still, he was as lonely as any man without a woman, and he found thoughts for her creeping in. It was because he was lonely, he thought, and that knowing she was pretty and available and that by right should belong to him because of the field, made her desirable. Rodrigo hadn’t expected such terse words from her, however.
The processions went on and on, though in time ended. King Sancho became tired, but stayed out upon the veranda during the entire course. Then, when the last house had passed and the salutes given, the three men turned and went inside.
Yet trying to vindicate his emotions and confusion of Jimena di Oviedo, Rodrigo found himself in the guest chambers of the keep where she was visiting. In the sunlight that streamed in from a high aperture, the Campaedor stopped walking and wondered what he was doing there.
This wing of the palace was usually busy for the season, as there were many female visitors; however, for this strange moment, the entire corridor was empty, and Rodrigo could barely hear soft muttering of the king’s guests behind their closed doors. Even in the middle of the day, the corridor was gloomy, but Sancho’s porters had tried to brighten the place with sunny flowers and shiny fixtures of bronze. A long time ago, a Mozarab architect had applied his masterful work to the doorframes, and the arches had been repainted with stripes of blue and white. Though beautiful, the effect was out-of-place, for the rest of the wing was dismal and square and lacking of aesthetic qualities.
Nevertheless, the corridor was clean and fragrant. Rodrigo stepped lightly as he turned the bend to Jimena’s chambers. There was a servant at the far end, dusting the cobwebs from some of those bronze fixtures, and when she heard Rodrigo, the woman bowed and confronted him.
“M’lord,” she whispered hoarsely, her older face half-hidden with her bonnet, “no men are allowed…” And then thought better of it when she recognized who Rodrigo was.
“Which is the room of Jimena?” He asked, studying his option of three stout, wooden portals.
“M’lady is at rest,” the woman replied, suddenly on the defensive.
“I wish to speak with her.”
The servant pursed her lips and led him to one of the doors. She knocked gently on it, and Rodrigo fancied he heard muffled voices become silent.
“My Lady,” the old woman said, her voice still as hoarse, “a visitor.”
The door was unbarred diligently beyond, and suddenly the two in the corridor became confronted with a plain-looking handmaid whose eyes – for a moment – widened in surprise to see the visitor.
“The Lady is at rest – ” the handmaid began, but was silenced as Rodrigo pushed open the door and entered.
It was a good room, Rodrigo found himself thinking before fastening eyes on the subject of his visit. Sancho had granted his cousin a chamber that was positioned to catch the morning sun, and then the evening sunset; the room had been built in mind to protect the occupants from the harshness of the heat. Rodrigo thought it was far better than his own bedroom, in Bivar.
Jimena was sitting on the corner of her bed, the end post somewhat blocking her form, as she was knitting – or something – as Rodrigo thought. He liked the blue canopy, and the place smelled like the dawn.
The Lady stood up and came around the bed, her light, plain gown dull and unimaginative, her hair – and Rodrigo was thinking that it was so black, as black until a sheen of blue somehow shone in it – was tied back casually from her oval face. This is where the chief lie was, in her face. Jimena had kind eyes, and a compassionate, pleasant face despite rumors of her character; perhaps she could beguile you to think she was meek, and take you off-guard, Rodrigo mused. She was petite, no taller than Rodrigo’s chest, certainly not like the graceful tallness of how his mother once was, and though her face was pleasant to look at, her nose was proud and prominent – people could not miss it.
“What are you doing here?” She demanded unceremoniously, though a meeker woman may have bowed and addressed such a visitor warmly.
Rodrigo, again confused from her behavior, just swallowed as he looked at her.
“Well?” She wanted to know, her hands at her side. “Are you going to stand there mouthless?”
“I wanted to see you,” the Campaedor said softly, when he couldn’t think of anything else.
Jimena studied him.
Rodrigo was thinking how many times he had been on the field, and how he had fought and befriended men and women, and had moved about in his relations with confidence. He had spent time with women, and thought he knew them in his fashion, and though he felt that he could stand the host of the stars if they fell from the sky, he was at a loss what to do about this woman.
“I-I wanted to greet you to Burgos,” he said.
She moved her arms. “Well, thank you,” she replied curtly.
“Your letter to me was short,” he told her.
Jimena nodded at her two handmaids, who took the command to leave. When the two were alone, the Lady spoke.
“You killed my father, Don Rodrigo. What do you suppose me to be? Grateful?”
Rodrigo tried to smile, trying to reach somewhere in his character for that man – he believed – within who was compassionate and wise; he found that all he could do was stare at her.
“Oh, I see,” she whispered. “You think that I am a trophy for your victory over my father. Since you cloven his head, his armor and gold not good enough, you would have possession of his unmarried daughter.”
“I…” Rodrigo didn’t know what to say.
“If you are finished ‘greeting’ me, I have other things to attend to.”
The Campaedor, insulted, suddenly rose to anger. “Who do you think you are, m’lady? My fight with your father had nothing to do with you.”
“It has everything to do with me!” She shouted. “You have destroyed his name, and by this I alone stand.”
“Your father was a good man, an honorable man,” Rodrigo said.
“He is now a man dead.”
“That is war, m’lady.”
“He was a friend of your family.”
“He was the enemy of my king.”
“I bid you leave.”
The Campaedor granted it: he turned around and stormed out, throwing his arms in the air and muttering to himself.
The problem here with Rodrigo – he felt – was that he had loved his mother, and could never be cruel enough to force a woman to be a conquest of ego, as such as fighting on the field would be. That was different. He was a warrior. Cleaving people’s heads was an end to justify the means, and by his prowess, thereby a divine hand of God. Even killing the woman on the bridge from Carrión had not been done because she was merely a woman; the Lady di Carrión had been an obstacle of battle. She had become a warrior to challenge his force, and thereby legitimate to suffer death.
It was a long time before he was calm again, and he reminded himself that he had more important things to do than bicker with a woman. Rodrigo pocketed his anger and confusion with Jimena, leading himself down into the bowels of the keep.
It was cold down here, and he had to rub his arms for warmth. When he approached the holding cells, he met two of the watch.
“Herberto, Gonzo,” the Campaedor greeted them.
“He has not eaten, m’lord, and demands to see the king,” the ward, Herberto, said.
“What’s new?” Rodrigo replied. “Take me to him.” Thoughts of his argument with the Lady still bothered him, and he found these thoughts hard pressed to put down.
King Alfonso was manacled to the wall in a small, barred cell with a narrow slit high above to let in the cold air from outside. His field garments had been replaced by tattered ones meant only for those men for the gallows, and the man was enveloped in a patch of midnight.
He barely looked up when Rodrigo peered through the bars.
“Good evening, Your Majesty,” the Campaedor said softly. Rodrigo still remembered how it had been the day the Castilians had come back to Carrión. The men of the realms had pulled away at dawn of Goblejara – confused of the turn of events – though there was joy in the hearts of the Castilians if buffered by wonder; it was shame that brought most of them to consider that the Campaedor had turned things around by the cloak of night rather than the prowess of battle. And though jubilant for their fortune for the most part, Sancho’s cortesé was torn over what they believed as fairness and ignobility. The Leonese host had not offered fight, as they left the field so as not to endanger their king, as their enemy took away Alfonso in chains toward Burgos.
The ranks of Castilian footmen had snaked toward Carrión, a winding river of battered and victorious men, reminiscent in those years long ago when these lands once belonged to the Goths. The sound of their tread was a constant beat of spirits now rejuvenated, and by their sides rode their commanders, and at the heads of the columns were their standard-bearers who held aloft their tattered and stained sigils; the spearmen held aloft their pikes as a forest, and the knights their lances – the gleaming of their steely points sparkling like a sea of morning glories; beyond this sea rode ranks of horsed knights and cavalry, and beyond this their carts and their wagons of baggage. When the Castilian army, depleted in good number, came upon the outskirts of Carrión three leagues from the field, the people had turned out to greet them.
Cries for their king echoed in the cold air, and their trumpets blared for his victory. King Sancho rode at the head of the first column, his armiger at his side, and the king had already donned the gold crown of his realm for the multitude to see. The seamstresses had repaired the Royal Standard, now fluttering in the stiff breeze of morning. Yet, as they drew nigh to the gate, the sky turned gray and the wind turned cold and hard. Soon, the gray clouds began shedding snow.
In their midst, the younger brother had been held fast to a huge post, the color of which had been tarnished a reddish-brown. Alfonso had been stripped of his helm and crown, and his short, curly red-blonde hair was a beacon to see for all eyes.
The scene remained vivid in the Campaedor’s mind, but somehow the luster worn off by sight now of Alfonso further humbled in his prison.
“You’ve come to gloat some, Rodrigo?” Alfonso whispered from the shadows. “Strange, I’ve been here a long time and haven’t seen you until now.”
“I am not here to gloat, Your Majesty.”
The deposed monarch chuckled lightly, but the sound was hollow and dull in echo by the wet and cold stones of his prison. “So, then, why would you come here? Are you of mind to see a cell you should be haunting, considering your deeds?”
“I have been just in my deeds, Your Majesty.”
“By your standards and a disgraceful king’s.”
Rodrigo would have gladly pointed out that history was tempered by those who win it, but he said, “I’ve come with good news.”
“Sancho is going to hang me today rather than tomorrow.”
The Campaedor gripped the rusty bars and wrinkled his nose at the smell of the dungeon; it was never a place for an honorable man to be, but he was uncertain if Alfonso’s words were because he wished for death himself, or that rumor of early execution was for Rodrigo’s benefit.
“I have visited a time in Zamora with your sister, and she has petitioned strongly for your release in exile.”
“I’m surprised she didn’t just have your head,” Alfonso muttered. “No matter, she had always a fondness for you.”
“I am sure the thought crossed her mind,” Rodrigo said. “She has not given in to King Sancho as yet, and still defies him from her city.”
For a moment, the prisoner was quiet in thought. He then said, “That’s to be expected. She, like me, wishes to hold onto what was rightfully given to us. Her petition to have me released is of good form.”
“She will only consider surrendering her city if you are spared.”
Alfonso chuckled again. “Oh! And Sancho is considering this? That’s not like him; he would as gladly have me dead and then break her walls – using my blood as grease for his catapults.”
Rodrigo shook his head. “No, Your Majesty. King Sancho has considered this very well, and is of mind to grant this.” The Campaedor told him of Sancho’s offer to Urraca for her city. “You will be sent to Toledo in the care of al-Ma’mun. The emir is of good advice to take you.”
“She will spit on that offer.”
“Yet the king’s compassion is real, even if she turns him down.”
“Then why doesn’t Sancho come here and say this!” Alfonso shouted. “I believe he is feeling guilty and hiding. I have not seen him since I came to Burgos!”
“He is busy of State.”
“He is busy consolidating his thievery.”
Rodrigo cleared his throat. “Your Majesty, if I was your advisor, I would humbly suggest you accept the kindness of the king now, for if you pocket your anger, you would be alive and breathing in a place very unlike this.”
“You are not my advisor, Rodrigo, and you are not a man of honor for me to consider such advice.”
The Campaedor frowned, but calmed a rise of emotions. “Your Majesty, I beg you remember that sometimes those clothed as your enemy have good intentions for you.” He made to go, but Alfonso called to him.
“Remember this – though I accept my thieving brother’s consideration – I will always enjoy the idea of nothing less than killing him.”
Rodrigo bowed, and then turned to walk away. He had nothing more to say.