Book II Chapter 12

Chapter XII

Words with the King

 

Upon Goblejara, wildflowers bloomed where once blood and steel scoured the field, and a flood of butterflies flitted and a flock of sparrows dug in the earth for seed.  A warm wind came to Carrión, and there kissed the bustling streets and the repaired buildings of its citizenry.  Ice had withdrawn to the pressure of spring from the field of Llantada, where once Sancho had come with his Campaedor and laid waste a thousand men.  The nights were still fringed with chill, and the wanderer or bold traveler dared not to tarry in that place, as they were superstitious of angry spirits of the fallen.

Though it had been over three months since the capture of Alfonso at Goblejara, the revelry hadn’t ended at Burgos.  Everything sat as it always had, spinning slowly as the apex of a top, and Sancho had done nothing but drink and eat and fornicate in celebration of his victory.  His cortesé, following in their king’s lust of self-indulgence, remained aloof of state.  They congregated in groups of inebriated men focused on cruelty and pleasure, and thus cruelty and pleasure of itself to give them pride.

No one was above it, not even Rodrigo, who, between offices, wandered in and out of Burgos with a drink in hand.  His return from Saragossa had been soberly noted and the paria accounted, and this established enough for the king to know that every coin had come to the treasury and not to his armiger’s hand.  Not that Rodrigo would be guilty of such embezzlement, though there were times he had thought about padding his own pocket now and then – everyone did.  There were yet those who would whisper in the king’s ear of Rodrigo’s liberties, if at all.  However, as Sancho was fiery and rash, and sentencing often harsh if he felt slighted, not even the Campaedor felt confidence enough in their friendship if Sancho had found a bit of this gold missing.  The coin came to the king’s coffers, and sat there, with the aging See of Palencia, Bernardo, leering over it as a hawk.  Nothing transpired over the realm’s budget that he did not notice, and he made fast the Campaedor to understand that if a coin was missing, then heads would roll.

Speaking such of the Clergy, Rodrigo enjoyed a letter from his friend, Bishop Buega.  The latter had found solace enough in his exile among the heathen in Granada, though he walked a thin line not to anger his new benefactors of religion.

 

I am at odds often my son (he wrote), how the Moors conduct themselves.  They are, of good account, most tolerant of my priests.  We find ourselves beset in conducting our congregation among the few Christians hereabouts, though there are these who live in good stead under the shadow of Moorish walls; as a tread now to step softly.  They confound our ringing bells on the Sabbath, and think no other than to offer temptation of their wares and foods to our brethren in time of Lent.  I can hardly suffer the cry of their alfaqui from his perch on their slim towers at the set of day or one of their holidays.  It seems the Jews have yet better place among them, as there are no less than seven of their synagogues here.  Many Christians would suffer a Moor than a Jew, I think, for the Moor is a polite breed – though of Satan – and the Jew given more to fleecing gold.  It is to the Jews I owe now half a debt of my coffers, as they bank to deprive the other communities of gold.  There!  I am sorry, I am not as happy as I suspect!

God teaches us above all things to tolerate even heathens, but I cannot suffer a Jew.  If Christ himself their king, I cannot look them in their faces as they hold out a hand and a scale for their gold!  They are dogs.  One such dog is a man named Sebastian.  An evil, squint-eyed Jew if there ever was one.  He holds the lease even upon my modest chapel, and he and his dirty Jew ruffians stand outside of it – even on the Sabbath – with their scales demanding rent!  God forgive them as He does my impatience.

I find it a sad thing that we must put fire and blades to Moors when the evil Jew is allowed to drain us of our blood.

I wish you to know that your name is known here.  The Moors have great respect for you, though I understand it little; they have it upon account your fair-play.  I wish I could see you again, son of Diego!  One bit of advice: count upon friends in unexpected corners.

Buega in Granada, Year of Our Lord 1071.

 

The letter, in the end, made Rodrigo depressed.  He gave thought to burdening Sancho with acquittal of the good bishop, and though the king had been away from his counsel since coming back from Saragossa, Rodrigo decided it was best to sober and offer business.  Had Sancho heard of the Campaedor confounding Alfonso’s sentence?  If so, the king had said nothing of it.

Before he left the company of his men, rumor of Don Garcia’s vexation over Rodrigo became roundabout discussion: the men were given to drunken talk, and to the challenging of hostility.

Jorge Valléz, standing among his colleagues with his arms stretched up over his head as a supplication to the Divine, said, “On one hand, m’boys, consider the right of Don Harelip.  The man stands there thinking he is the shit of King Sancho!  He comes on as if a leper and outcast of the king, and whines when his plans are astray.  He would take fight with anyone he deems remotely responsible, and chiefest would be our sweet Campaedor!”  Valléz turned around to address his commander, who sat to the side with a crooked smile on his face.  “And here, our beloved Don Rodrigo!  If perhaps not so taken by the spirits, would be right to take on Don Harelip and smote him a blow!”

“He is too drunk and in good humor to smote Don Harelip,” said Ramón Hernandéz, leveling a shaky finger at Rodrigo.  “Our Campaedor cannot lift a sword while drunk!  Oh, be as it may a lance, perhaps, on noble (belch) Bavieca!  And thus enough…oh!  I want to take a piss!”  The knight struggled to his feet, even while pulling down his breeches.  He then staggered to the window and stood up in it, his manhood tight in his fist.  “I want to bet,” Ramón shouted over his shoulder to his friends, “that I can take a piss on the streets of Burgos without falling off.  Ay?  Say you?  Two doblas?”

“I’ll bet three your penis freezes off,” Don Sisnando Davidéz parlayed from his seat.  When a few of the other men jumped up to steady the drunken Ramón, he shouted for them to pull away.  “Let the fool drop if he may, and in the morrow the goodwives find him stiff and cold as a flagpole!”

Ramón, his free hand holding a bottle of wine, shouted, “Cans’t I water that rut of weeds there?  See?  Five doblas!”

“You got that bet,” joined Valléz.

“Wait-Rodrigo!  Ay, I’ll bet you double that if you can hit it if this swagger misses,” Don Sisnando said.  “Ay, Ruy Diaz?  You got piss enough?”

The Campaedor, still smiling crookedly at their fun, dropped the letter from the Bishop and pulled himself to his feet.  He swept his short hair back with his hands and staggered to the aperture.  “If this mule misses, and his penis not long and good aim!  I stand!”  Rodrigo helped himself up on the ledge with Ramón.

“I cannot hold,” the other knight said, releasing himself, “ahh!  It’s cold.”

The men watched Ramón urinate in serious fashion.

“He almost missed the street!”  Shouted Don Sisnando.  “I cannot believe anyone has that bad an aim.  Good you are not an archer.”

“Shut up!”  Valléz said.  “It’s the Campaedor’s turn.”

“I cannot even see the weeds,” Rodrigo muttered, his exposed manhood turning into ice.  When Valléz snickered he wasn’t going to help him aim, Rodrigo let it go.

“He hit full!”  Don Sisnando observed in triumph.  “You can see the weeds!  Don’t give me that.”

“I can’t see a damned thing, the night’s too dark – but I’ll take victory.”  Rodrigo, finished, fell back to the chamber.  “Don Ramón, get your mule-ass from there before you drop off!”

The knight shrugged.  “I was just thinking if Ordoñéz may have good aim.”  He jumped down from the aperture, visibly shivering and his manhood safely returned within his breeches.  “What would you say if combat with that man would be decided on the best aim of piss rather than blades?”

“Then men would give even more thought to their manhood,” Rodrigo said, and everyone laughed.  “Ay, a woman from here would be better aim than Ordoñéz.”  The joke inflamed them.

“That Rodrigo had him shaking on that street in Cardeña!”  Ramón said, laughing.  “Alvar Fañéz told me they came close to blades.”

“I have seen Ordoñéz fight, and by that he hasn’t fallen.  What of his fight with Don Alejandro in the midst of battle with Leon?”  Jorge Valléz was no longer in good cheer.  “Were it I the king, I would have hung Ordoñéz.”

“You know well the fight between those two,” Ramón said.

“Don Alejandro would be avenged by his sons.”

“They are not old enough,” Rodrigo muttered.  He hadn’t liked the king’s non-committed sanction of Ordoñéz, and many knew that the vendetta had nearly cost them the fight at Goblejara.

“And he was quick to put blame upon Don Rodrigo for almost losing that fight!”  Valléz pointed out.  “Why haven’t you, Ruy Diaz, taken him to the field for that slur on your honor?”

“What say you, Rodrigo?”  Don Sisnando asked.  “Would you have taken his head that day?”

The amused grin vanished from the Campaedor’s face.  There was debate within that he had done justly, for crossing the king and Don Garcia were not matters borne easily.  Don Garcia, though most often quiet, would be enough to threaten Rodrigo in arms or the king’s ear.

He sufficed to say, “Don Garcia did as he thought best.”

“It is good you are of mind of Don Garcia, Ruy Diaz,” a voice from the doorway startled the men.  It was King Sancho, and he seemed at once not in tolerant mood for their company; he had come in quietly, and no one knew how long he’d been standing there.

The knights either knelt or fell to their faces in obeisance, all except Rodrigo who was too drunk to do either.

“What say you, Don Rodrigo?  Are you of mind to walk with me?”

The Campaedor suddenly let out a loud belch, at which he raised a hand to his lips to stifle a snicker.  “I am sorry Your Majesty.  I am too drunk to speak of Ordoñéz, (and whispered) Don Harelip.”

The knights of his command giggled like errant schoolboys.

“Are you then of mind to walk with me?”  The king pressed, unsmiling and unamused.

Rodrigo made an awkward movement of bowing before his liege.  “I will walk with you to Hell, my Lord King!  It seems we are headed there anyway these days.”

            “There was a time of our youth when we sat in the field and blew grass pipes,” Sancho reflected thoughtfully.  They had come to the gardens of the barbican, where Florinda – Sancho’s mistress – had given herself to hobby.  There was still some patches of spring snow on the ground here and there, glowing in the light of the half-moon.  “Do you remember?”

“Ay,” Rodrigo muttered.  “I remember that Alfonso joined us, and the grass made his lips big.”

Sancho frowned.  “It is always difficult, Rodrigo, to do what you think is right.  Today I had a delegation of merchant houses that feel suffering that Zamora has no market for them, and all the time I am thinking how my sister holds her gate fast to us.  Yet,” he whispered suddenly as he stopped to look at the moon, “I had a dream the other night how you and I were blowing grass pipes.  My sister was there with us, and as I blew, my lips gushed blood.”

Rodrigo didn’t say anything.  His head was still spinning slightly from drink, and the king had smothered his mirth.

Sancho suddenly said, “Why did you challenge authority over Don Garcia?”

“He can be a fool at times and needs guidance.”

“He was well within his rights to accost those Moors.  They were a party to see King Sancho in Navarre, and may be a conspiracy to my crown.”  The two Sanchos were cousins; it seemed that royal families loved fighting among themselves more than foreigners.

“Don Garcia had no more mind for your crown than taking their baggage,” Rodrigo said, looking away.

Sancho placed a hand on Rodrigo’s shoulder, pulling him about.  “Is this some argument for morals, Rodrigo?  To check Don Garcia on your suspicion of his morals?  I care little about justice for Moors.”

“They are men, like you and I, and perhaps subject to careful consideration.”

The king, suddenly angry, stepped in front of the Campaedor.  “Consider this, Don Rodrigo!  Of late it seems you are in mind to make decisions in my stead, o’er much that concerns you little!  I have watched this, and this is poor and sad notice – ay.  Perhaps it is because you are not a’field, commanding an army, and thus idle your mind takes on measures unbefitting your station.”

“My King,” Rodrigo began, but Sancho cut him off.

“Did you think me senile to the words whispered of how you let loose my brother?”

Rodrigo pulled back soberly.  “As it was I fulfilling my duty to your crown.  We came upon Juan Vasquéz and offered to assist him.  For some reason he refused and came at me with naked steel.  I – in fear of your brother being injured by some malice on Vasquéz’s part – took it upon myself to ensure his safety.  My duty is to be certain your oaths are upheld, Sire.”

“You were to take a northern route to Saragossa!”

“As did I.  Yet, I felt it best to take the southern way back not to draw the eyes of Navarre or bandits.  What luck that I came upon Vasquéz as I had.”  There was no fooling themselves – the men knew the truth of the matter.  Rodrigo sought to maneuver the king’s wrath and have them both save face.  It was not easy – Sancho was spoiling for a fight.

“I had wanted you to take the northern route.”

“Fate only, Your Majesty.”

“Why do you test me?”

Rodrigo blinked, thinking that the king was actually going to admit his breaking the promise and ordering Alfonso’s death.  “I-I only had my greatest thoughts for Your Majesty.  If I have done wrong, then I place my head before you.”  The Campaedor got on his knees and bowed his head to the stones.

The king obviously didn’t know how to handle this moment.  He had probably thought about it – but the situation had turned his wrath around.  For a few awkward moments the king just stared at Rodrigo’s head.  Then Sancho reached out tentatively and touched the brownish locks.

“Ay – then, it couldn’t be helped.”  Sancho sighed.  “Get to your feet, Ruy Diaz.”

Rodrigo did so, but he didn’t look his king in the eyes.  The two men knew each other’s thoughts, and they knew the breaking of the promise.

“Why did you set upon Don Garcia?”

“As I’ve said, he had misunderstood the situation of the Moors, thinking they to be bandits.”

“You were upon his land.”

“I did not take out steel or challenge him,” Rodrigo said.  “I merely reminded him I was the king’s armiger and that these men were now in my company.  He kept their baggage.”

“The discussion out here in this garden is not whether there should be consideration of morals of Moors or anyone.  I am now placing a command for you to take to field and bring thus a force to my sister.  I want you to have her surrender, or you will take her city by force.”

Rodrigo nodded.

Sancho sighed, taking his infuriated eyes from his armiger, and searching the shadows with them.  “I’ve noticed that since your return from her weeks ago, you have fallen thus complacent.  Do not fall into dragging your feet of this affair.  I am growing sorely tired of having my rightful claim thwarted.”

“Again does my king think of me traitorous?”

“All I know is that you have had long words with her, and once your hearts were soft.”

“They still are, Sire.  These feelings have nothing to do with the Triple Crown.”

“You would admit it then?”

Rodrigo held out his hands.  “I admit it freely.  How does this constitute treason?  I love your brother Alfonso as well.  I remember our times when young together.  Does Your Majesty remember how we were one in the saddle and our thoughts far away from these political morals?”

“Your ‘feelings’ as they are may threaten my claim.”

“There has never been conflict.”

“Yet you rode a southern route from Saragossa.”

Rodrigo’s eyes turned dark.  The king wouldn’t let the matter drop, and this placed everything they were in jeopardy.  Sancho had wanted his brother killed – Rodrigo had thwarted it.  The Campaedor would have liked to point out the many times he had saved Sancho’s crown – times that the king seemed reluctant to remember.

“As only fate, Sire.  You said yourself it couldn’t be helped.”

The king smirked.  He was looking at the garden.  “Then my brother is safely in Toledo?”

“As far as I could see.  I let him ride alone.”

“Alone?”

“I had to bring in the paria.  I had no men to spare and Vasquéz’s men were suspect.”

“Then he could have ridden to Zamora.”

Rodrigo shook his head.  “No.  It would not have helped him.  He rode to Toledo to honor your sentence.  Though your enemy, Alfonso has always been fair.”

“I will dispatch a letter immediately to make certain.”

Rodrigo bowed.  “I’m sure Your Majesty will find he is there.”

“For your sake, I hope so.”

“Ay, Your Majesty.”

“Ay, then,” Sancho told him.  He took another deep breath.  “It is cold out here, and I am in need of a drink.  Are you hale enough to take a drink with me?”

Rodrigo studied his liege for a moment, and then replied, “Drink for drink, your Majesty.”

Yet they were men as dark to each other as the night around them.

*

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The Cid Book II Chapter 11

Chapter XI

The Moors from Seville

 

Juan Vasquéz, knight of Castile, rode south with his men.  They came nigh under the shadow of the hills of Langa, following a winding tributary until they came up a subtle rise and saw the River Duero cutting its way west before them.

Here the rise gave out and the riders followed it – no longer at hard gallop because their horses were tired and they still had a way to go.  Vasquéz pulled up to let his men file pass, so he could check on his royal prisoner, Alfonso of Leon.

The exiled king was bound to his steed, his head bowed – perhaps dozing.  Vasquéz moved alongside of him.

“Your Majesty would like to drink?”

Alfonso gave the knight a brief look.  “No.”

“Come now, we’ve been at hard ride now since the dawn.”

“I’m not thirsty.”

The knight took out his canteen and swigged in the royal presence, his glittering eyes never leaving his prisoner.  They had taken a course directly south from Burgos to elude Leonese eyes and also to hoodwink Rodrigo Diaz.  King Sancho had taken other advice to have Alfonso escorted to his fate without the Campaedor knowing; Diaz would not have been cooperative to know that Sancho had had other plans for his brother than what had come of his talk at Zamora.

Even Alfonso, whom had not the privy of the king’s council hall, seemed to know that plans had changed.  He too had expected Rodrigo Diaz to escort him to his exile in Toledo, but with only Vasquéz and the royal guard in presence, things seemed to have taken a darker tinge.  The escort was riding out of Castile and into the frontier – but no longer taking the road to Toledo.

Vasquéz was uneasy since he took the road, because he knew that the king had changed counsel and that the Campaedor was out of the advice.  Betraying Don Rodrigo in conscious was often harder to do than the king.

The knight ordered his second, Raul Ruiz, to force their prisoner faster, and then Vasquéz moved ahead.  He had twenty riders with him, but they would be short work if caught by Moorish raiders.  There was rain on the fields ahead, beyond the river – they could see lightning smiting the ground.

“We had best be on the other side,” Ruiz advised.

“Ay – head toward the village.”

“The bridge could be flooded out.”

Vasquéz pointed.  “Get to the village.”

The riders came hard gallop now, passing under the twisted trees.  The wind was beginning to blow hard now, whistling through the corrupt branches.  The thatched homes on the outskirts had been already tightly closed up – so there was no one to greet them as the riders came by.  Vasquéz wondered if they should make the bridge before the storm did or hold out; the king had been succinct that the deed be done to Alfonso as quickly as they may when they left Castile – and waiting possibly another day would be too long.

Better to have done with it, the knight thought.  After all, he could throw the body in the river after weighing it with stones and no one the wiser.  It was best not to have witnesses, for most of the company knew nothing of the king’s order; they believed they to escort the man and then give him unto his own devices after the frontier.

Vasquéz ordered his men to head toward the inn.

“What of you?”  Asked Ruiz.

“I will take the king’s brother over the bridge and to the frontier myself.”

“Are you mad?”

The knight shrugged.  “The wind is up, ay.  If the bridge goes out it will not do to lose twenty of His Majesty’s soldiers.”

“There’s no need for it – we’ll wait until this blow breaks.”

“It may be too long for it to break.”

“Then a few of us will go with you.  A little rain and chill can’t hurt us, ay?”

As it turned out, most of the men wanted to ride on with Vasquéz.  The knight Vasquéz compromised, he ordered five to come with him and the prisoner and the rest to seek lodging.

From here the road was already muddy from previous rain, and the passage slow going.  During the dry season the land was choked with dust, and when the rain came the land eroded and the banks of the river became hard to define.  The road itself was in disrepair, so the company had to make its way slowly to the bridge.

“Would you not afford me a shelter for one last night?”  King Alfonso mumbled, barely audible over the wind.

“King Sancho demands us to be rid of you as soon as we may,” Vasquez told him coldly.

They came upon the cobblestones to the bridge now, the prisoner on the horse before them.  Suddenly there appeared several horsemen on the far side, shadowed by the moving clouds.

“Halt!”  Shouted the leader.

Vasquéz came around with his sword drawn.  “Get you gone in the King’s Name!”  He took in a breath: the horsemen he confronted were the Campaedor’s guards, and astride his famous steed, Bavieca, was Rodrigo Diaz himself.

“Put it down, Juan Vasquéz,” the Campaedor ordered, leveling a lance, “as I am your commander and by God’s Grace will command you again, release your prisoner to me.”

“We travel in the name of King Sancho.”

“No longer as I relieve you of it.”

Vasquéz, suddenly wishing his men had rode up with him, boldly came forward.  “M’lord Rodrigo, would I grant your order – but I have in my care the king’s own brother.  I cannot release him even unto you.”

“That is sore news, Juan Vasquéz, for if you do not, then your blood will be upon this very bridge.”

The other man looked around at his own men who were not in spirit to fight their beloved Campaedor; and this feeling itself wasn’t lost in the heart of Vasquéz himself.  “If I do not carry out the king’s will, Don Rodrigo, then my blood will be upon other ground.”

The Campaedor’s voice did not waver.  “I absolve you of this order, Juan Vasquéz.  There is no consideration, as I will be the one to face the king’s wrath.”

The knight looked hesitantly at his prisoner and then at his men.

“Release your man,” Rodrigo said.

Vasquéz charged suddenly – sword out to catch the Campaedor off-guard.  Rodrigo caught the rider with his lance, the end shattering away as it compacted the armored breastplate and the sternum above.  Vasquéz’s horse didn’t stop – and its rider was caught in his saddle and wasn’t thrown; the force knocked the lance from Rodrigo’s hands and the knight had to pull back as the other rocketed past.  For a moment, Vasquéz seemed unhurt with his back them, but he at last fell forward and his horse took a wandering gait.  There was a slight rumble of thunder in the heavens.

“Get him,” Alvar Fañéz – Rodrigo’s second – ordered one of their riders when it was apparent the others offered no fight and Vasquéz was dead.

Rodrigo himself rode up to the bound king.

“Well met, Don Rodrigo,” Alfonso said, but he wasn’t smiling despite his rescue.

The Campaedor took out his dagger and cut the leather thongs around the captive’s wrists.  The exiled king rubbed his hands.

“What do you suppose to gain from my release?”

“Justice.”

“Justice you say?  You have very strange thought of it when it comes to disobeying the orders of your King Sancho,” Alfonso said.

The Campaedor frowned.  “Even the king can be mistaken in dispensing justice; as it is a mortal sin to condemn your brother to death and shun the sacred oath of your father.”

“Would you think yourself a holy man, Ruy Diaz?”

“I do this for it is just – and you have always been a just man, Don Alfonso.”  Rodrigo watched his men bring back the slumped Vasquéz and his horse.  “I put a good man down today.”  The rain suddenly became harder.  “I suggest that Your Majesty get to the road and ride hard out of Castile.  The storm will pass in good time, but you’ll have a lonely go to Toledo.”

Alfonso nodded and spurred his horse forward.  “I won’t forget this, Ruy Diaz.”

The Campaedor said nothing; his men parted and let the exiled king his way.  After a moment, Alfonso had come to the other side and made hard gallop and soon was gone.

            After a week, the days grew warm and the sky friendlier.  Rodrigo took in the king’s men and they rode out of Langa and toward Burgos where the Campaedor would face Sancho.    Rodrigo had been leading a train when he’d come across Vasquéz and his men.  The Campaedor had had no thought at first that King Sancho had changed his mind of his brother’s fate; the knight from Bivar had been ordered to escort the annual paria from Saragossa as usual.  The train had come upon the worn eastern road from Saragossa, filled with gold for the coffers of the united realm.  Two hundred Castilian knights, adorned in the yellow-white of their liege, escorted forward of the train, and five hundred footmen bearing the standards of Burgos and Saragossa, followed in rank behind.  The footmen were a mix of Christian and Moors, partly granted of the emir, al-Moctadir.

Yet once Rodrigo’s out-riders had seen Vasquéz and the king’s guards out with an escorted prisoner, the Campaedor knew the king had broken faith with his earlier promise; Sancho had wanted Alfonso done with and without Rodrigo’s knowledge.

King Sancho was very good at organizing delegation of his nobles, and though often brash and quick to wrath, strategy and administration was not lost upon him.  What was his most concern was the annual paria from his Moorish neighbor, and placing his most trusted lieutenant responsible for assuring it would come – and protecting it en route – had been at little debate.  Sancho had said once that Rodrigo was worth a hundred men, but the Campaedor had modestly smiled and said he was good only as one man – the rest was up to God.  As for that, being the king’s armiger was not an easy position to enact and hold.  For one thing, the army was his to command – and this meant every garrison and soldier from Pamplona to Santiago del Campostela was under his direct supervision – and his king was still at war, though Alfonso and Garcia deposed.

Rodrigo was also the enforcer of tribute.  This meant that he had to choose the forces and means necessary to ensure the united realm’s treasury remained full, though he had assistance from others who may have special interests themselves, such as the Archbishop Bernardo di Palencia and twenty merchant councils.  He was, of course, also the Campaedor – the king’s champion.  Though no one challenged that moment Sancho’s rule, Rodrigo had to keep himself in good form for combat, and had taken upon himself to schedule a tourney to be held in Leon that year.

There was a multitude of military considerations the man from Bivar had to oversee, and paramount of these was keeping his army trained and ready for threat.  Though Doña Urraca still remained independent of the yoke of her brother, Sancho considered her a going concern not meant for quick decision.  Besides, administrating Leon and Galicia had proven formidable.  The king had his hands full, and every one of his lieutenants was flung about the united realm just putting the basics of order in place, and enacting the power and law of the king.  With the exception of Zamora, King Sancho now enjoyed the expanse of a kingdom that his father once ruled, and by all means, he was going to keep it tight.

Though thinking their ride now more uneventful save for the rescue of King Alfonso, the men had little thought they would be needed again.  Rodrigo often considered himself a law in his own hands, and wasn’t found wanting in dispensing what he believed was justice.

Passing now south of Cardeña, Rodrigo and his cousin – Alvar Fañez di Minaya, who had taken Francisco the Younger’s stead – decided it best for them to ride ahead of the train with their lighthorsemen, and do scouting.  The company was in good spirits, and the weather now warm for their enjoyment.  Alvar suggested they bring their hawks next year, so that they could take time in the rabbit-rich fields.

“Next year the paria will be heavier,” Rodrigo said, thinking about Sancho’s newly-instated pressure on Navarre.  “I wouldn’t think that things will lay the way they are now.”

From where they were, the company could see the smokes of the city of Cardeña, and here the road became better in maintenance.  The riders came upon the remains of a camp a mile on, and Alvar wrinkled his nose in disgust, figuring on the former occupants as latrunculi – bandits.

“Imagine in Castile,” the knight muttered.

“Imagine anywhere these days outside of the south and Zamora,” Rodrigo said.  “Ho, take a look yonder!  We may not be in the presence of bandits.  Is that the banner of Ordoñéz?”

There was a large company of men at the crossroads.  Rodrigo called his own riders to pull in tight, thinking something amiss, and the Campaedor boldly galloped ahead with Alvar in tow.

It was whom he suspected: Don Garcia Ordoñéz.  The knight was on errand, it looked, in purpose perhaps to patrol the marches, and he had captured some Moors.  When the knight saw the Campaedor approach, he had his guard pull back to give Rodrigo a path.

“Well met, Don Rodrigo,” Ordoñéz greeted, but with his cleft mouth did not smile.

“Don Garcia,” the Campaedor said, looking around when he and Alvar had come into their midst.  There were several Moorish cavalry, pinned to the side by Ordoñéz’s heavy horsemen, and a scaffold had been erected in haste.  Upon the scaffold were three Moorish knights, each wearing the uniform and armor of Seville.  It was puzzling to see, because there was no blood on the dirt, and there were no bodies about that suggested a fight.

“Raiders,” Ordoñéz volunteered.

One of the Moors spoke in accent,  “We are a delegation to meet with King of Navarre: we are not raiders, m’lord.”

“We came from Cardeña this morning at the sound of blades,” Ordoñéz explained, positioning his mount between Rodrigo and the scaffold.  “When we got here we found these Moors not far from the gut of a house a league away.  They are raiders and bandits.”

Rodrigo moved about to see the faces of the Moors.  “Where is their baggage?”

“What does it matter?” Ordoñéz wanted to know.

“It would explain if they were raiders, if they had valuables of Christian homes.  Ay?  Did they not try to flee or give fight?”

“They did not, but surrendered when they saw the king’s banner.”

Rodrigo frowned and gave a look at Ordoñéz.  “Where is their baggage?”

“In my care, Don Rodrigo.”

The Campaedor didn’t like this.  It could be the truth that Ordoñéz had come against these men thinking they were bandits, but the stalwart dignity of the three knights on the scaffold somehow denied this; perhaps Ordoñéz and his men had at first come thinking the Moors as bandits, but cared little more now to just gaining their baggage.

“Without course, Don Garcia, I would grant them freedom to go on their way.”

Ordoñéz, the light in his eyes, pulled his mount back a step.  “You would think I a thief?  We have a course, and this is the gut of the house and the clash of blades.  Have them deny that, Don Rodrigo!”

The Campaedor moved closer to the Moors.  “Is it true there was a fight here?”

The knight who had first spoken addressed him calmly.  “There was.  As we came up the road, we saw a smoke.  We are not in good number, but my company found a need to investigate, and by our friendship to your king, we are obligated.  When coming into the clearing of the house, we saw raiders indeed at work.  We fought with them, but they were lightly-equipped and rode away; there was a lone Christian man dead in the house.  We decided it best to let this be, as we are foreigners and could be suspected of malice, yet as discreetly as we may pull away, we were beset of these soldiers of Castile.”

“You are from Seville?”  Rodrigo asked.

The Moor did his best to nod with the noose about his neck.

“Would you believe this to be true, Don Garcia?”  Rodrigo turned his attention to Ordoñéz.

“It could be, but there is little for their story.  They could well be the bandits.”

“They seem to be dressed too well to be bandits,” Rodrigo mumbled thoughtfully.  He had already suspected that Ordoñéz was given to keeping the baggage of the Moors, regardless of truth.  He cleared his throat.  “At times, Don Garcia, a man may listen to his heart rather than words, and though it is possible these men are guilty, they may be considered in favor.  What say you, Knights of Seville?  How would you sway my heart to listen to you?”

“We are men of Allah, and by the blood of our families, we say we are not bandits,” the same Moor replied, his voice steely and unwavering.

“Proud words to come from a Moor,” Ordoñéz scoffed.  “To think them justice of a Christian heart when a Christian man lies dead in his house.”

Rodrigo nodded.  “I stand by my feelings of this affair, Don Garcia.  These men on the scaffold are proud and I believe them with little more than their word.  Let them free.”

Ordoñéz regarded him incredulously.  “You are mad, Don Rodrigo!  And by what authority would you press me to do your will anyway?  These men are my prisoners, and by that to do as I wish.”

By this time the rest of Rodrigo’s lighthorsemen came riding up, and the Castilians pulled to the side of each other in anticipation of trouble.

Ordoñéz gave the Campaedor and his men a long look.  “You would take me by force?  A fellow Christian?  You would take the word of a heathen dog, to shed blood of brothers upon this crossroads?”

Rodrigo’s face was no longer thoughtful and soft, and a cold dark stare preceded his speech.  “I take these men from your custody, Don Garcia.  And by this I declare them in my protection; it will be by your own hand that blood be shed here at this crossroads.  I am the armiger of the king, and by that right authority granted.  Do you forget this rank I hold, Don Garcia?”  He was careful enough not to accuse Ordoñéz of coveting the Moors’ baggage.

“You are a hildago.  I will take this before the king, Don Rodrigo,” the other spat.  Ordoñéz called his men about and relinquished his own authority, and at once the ropes came away from the necks of the Moors.

Freed now of death, the Moors came to Rodrigo, the three men bowing before him, with their fingers at their breast; and as Ordoñéz and his men began to ride away, the Moors pledged.

“I am ‘ibn Salem Muhammad, Lord of Khazzár and second son of Seville,” the knight who had spoken from the scaffold introduced himself.  “These men with me are Fajiid Ra’suh, Lord of Cabra, and ‘ibn Mujahiid, Lord of Bega.”

“Those are powerful names,” Rodrigo said, “and you are far from the South.”

Ibn Salim smiled and bowed a second time.  “We will not forget this kindness from you, Don Rodrigo Diaz!  Rumor of your good name has reached many an ear since your young days.  A merchant of prominence once came to Seville, a long time ago, and by his account was given first the name of Rodrigo Diaz who would fight for the life of a Moor in the Square of his father.  And such this goat merchant rose to power as a house in Seville, and there given an ear to me.  But I have known of this for some time, but today’s deed was but confirmation, and I am honored to have met you in the flesh.  The conqueror of Graus, Llantada, and Goblejara!  How the innocence of young men can be given to prowess of might in later years!”

Rodrigo found himself smiling at this, though the memory of confronting the millers long ago in the streets of Bivar as mist to him for a good many years.  But the memory lingered still, and the Campaedor gave the knights of Seville a salute, and had his men pull about, though his grateful new friends begged he dine with them and take reward.  Rodrigo soon put himself humbly back to the road and the task at hand of Saragossa’s tribute.

*

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The Cid Book II Chapter 10

Chapter X

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:

 

Sister Urraca,

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.”

“Why not?”

“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.”

“Oh?”

“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.”

“Oh?”

“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?”

“Ay.”

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.

*

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“RAKSHASA”- ORIGINAL SHORT HORROR FICTION PUBLISHED IN CADAVEROUS MAGAZINE!

My short horror story, “Rakshasa,” has been published in Issue #4 of Cadaverous Magazine! Click the link below for a read and to see other great authors and artists!

https://cadaverousmagazine.wixsite.com/litmag/issues

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The Cid Book II Chapter 9

Chapter IX

The Lady and her Council

 

“I will kill Diaz,” Don Santiago confidently assured his cohorts, “I will kill him!”

“Sancho is not unassailable,” Don Pedro Ansuréz said, the surviving Leonese cortesé close around him.  He pointedly ignored his colleague’s outburst concerning Rodrigo Diaz; everyone wanted to kill the Castilian Campaedor.  “We should muster again – ”

“And to what, Ansuréz?”  The Infanta Doña Urraca wanted to know, her voice deep and resonant in the Red Hall of Zamora.  “It would take us months to gather what remains to us after Goblejara.”

Word had spread out quickly.  It was not long coming to Zamora, faster than the straggling Leonese army, and the Infanta’s men all shook their fists in the air and vowed that they would personally take the Campaedor down; the capture of Alfonso had been heinous – the established rico-homés shouted that Rodrigo Diaz was a ruffian who had no thought of decency.  An agreement had been made under banner of parley, consented to by King Sancho himself.  Yet, as the Zamorans screeched, they didn’t give thought more to the devices of the king, who did not honor himself the agreement of the field, and thus kept his brother in chains.

“Forgive me, mi Infanta,” Ansuréz muttered with a slight edge, “but I think you place too much on Diaz – I have said so before.”

“Ay!  Coming after the battle to kidnap our king!”  Don Santiago seethed.  He had come anew from Galicia to offer his services to Zamora, and now with Alfonso deposed, everyone rested on the fast strength of Doña Urraca to defy Sancho and the Castilians.

Anger was not lost on the Infanta, however.  “And you would think us unassailable, Don Pedro?  I have known Rodrigo for a very long time, and I know his heart and the place he keeps with my brother.  With his influence may we still barter to keep our position in Zamora without cost of war!”

The Zamoran noble brought his head up and regarded her coolly.  “Perhaps war is bitter taste for Your Highness.”

Doña Urraca stood up, her eyes flaring.  “Don’t cross me, Don Pedro!  This is my city – and by such the way to saving it or leaving it is my decision – ay!”

Her voice had an impact on the bickering nobles; even in chaos, the light of the Infanta’s ruling ring was enough to make them focus, whether woman or not.

She stood above them for a moment in the forced silence, glowering.  Then, when she had regained her composure, the Infanta sat down and closed her eyes.  “I’ve considered my diplomacy for the Campaedor.  It is not lost upon me that what I plan may be folly – yet, as we have discussed before – what force I have here in Zamora is lacking.  There is no confidence in me that I am warrior enough to bring the might of Leon to bear against Sancho.”  She opened her eyes, her deep voice calm as ripples on a lake.  “Whether Rodrigo Diaz used treachery or not, and Alfonso captured and to be killed, we must use all resources left to us.  My brother Sancho is dark-souled and easy to wrath, and he will gladly come with a fight.”

“And if it is folly to turn Diaz’s heart?”  Don Santiago pressed.

Doña Urraca took a breath.  “Then we will do what must be done, m’lords.”

“And to that – war?”

The Infanta looked away in thought, and her voice was weak: “Ay.  War, though war to me is last resort.  Too many things go wrong in war, even when victory seems complete.  So we could ask Alfonso, who now is in chains in Burgos.”  Doña Urraca gave attention to her two chief advisors.  “M’lords Fain and Gomez – you have been quiet through this affair, ay?”

After a cautious bow from his partner, Don Gomez spoke, “We have already considered this plan of diplomacy with Diaz.  This was what was laid ere Golbejara, and we remain thus in mind with Your Highness.”

Don Fain Jimenéz held up a hand.  “I am in advice that it will avail little, though I stand at service to Your Highness.  I believe that Sancho will not suffer to keep his sister in power when she still has power to take away from him.  You have said so of his personality, how easy he is to wrath, and there could never be friendship strong enough to ensure peace for Zamora.  No matter how Diaz perceives us and if he does manage to persuade Sancho to enter negotiation, it won’t be long ere a Castilian army marches here.”

The cortesé all grunted in agreement of his words.

“Sancho hasn’t indicated that any Leonese noble may yet retain his lands, now that the crown is passed over; we must consider that he will need to reward his own men who fought hard at Goblejara,” Don Pedro said.

“Yet, we are of mind to have Diaz account for this,” Don Fain responded.

“Using Sancho’s Campaedor is not taken lightly, for Rodrigo Diaz is a man of his own conscious.  How will we know he will be instrumental for us in bartering with the king?  Don Rodrigo has always been his own counsel to what he believes is just.  I for one still remember how he stood to clear his father’s name before King Ferdinand against the devices of the Family.  He stood there alone, with many who would have dismissed him or even killed him for his insolence!  How can you trust a man who holds his own counsel?”  Don Santiago pressed.

The Infanta thought about this a moment.  Then she said, “You weigh Don Rodrigo’s heart as you would a dog in the yard, I think.”

“Dog, ay.  He is purely arrogant, Your Highness!”

She shrugged.  “Perhaps, though arrogance keeps the heart a’light when all things go astray does it not? I, for one, felt that Alfonso’s gambit was foolhardy, and poorly advised.  Don Rodrigo insured that his king would not lose, using his own counsel and his own devices even if it meant placing his honor at stake.”  Doña Urraca looked at them all.  “There, it is out.”

“You would support that Castilian dog’s action, Your Highness?”  Don Santiago asked, shocked.

“I support honor and justice, and I see it in the soul of Don Rodrigo.  I understand why he did so.”

“Then you would give in to the dog because of your love for him!”

The words ignited the Infanta’s nobility.  Don Pedro Ansuréz pulled his blade free and shoved the insolent Galician back.  “You dare say such a thing?  I will take your head now, Don Santiago.”  The Zamoran wasn’t alone – the Galician suddenly met the ire of all in the room.

Don Santiago stammered, “I-I withdraw my words.  P-Please understand I am angry over Goblejara.”  He threw himself before the Infanta.  “Please forgive me!  I am a fool when quick to wrath!”

“Then keep your thoughts and words to yourself,” muttered Doña Urraca, not above ordering the fiery noble’s death.  “We need calm reason now that our might has left us.  Not one of you is to muster a force against the Castilians.”

Mi Infanta!”  Pleaded Don Pedro.

“Not until after I have spoken with Rodrigo.”

“King Sancho is moving on Leon as we speak!  He’ll be here within two months, Your Highness, to tear this city from you.”

“We have no army!”  The Infanta said.

“We could hold out a siege!”

Doña Urraca couldn’t believe her ears.  “To what end?  Time?  Time for what?  He’ll take us now or later.  We must try diplomacy.”

“Your brother hates you, Your Highness,” Don Pedro pointed out coldly.  “He wants nothing more than to have your head on a spit.”

The nobles all agreed.

“Of this I have no doubt, m’lords.  Yet we can still change the day and use our resources to turn Sancho’s ire.  Armies are expensive to keep a’field, and after blood has drowned the earth for years, the people grow weary.  My city is great in defense and would be much for Sancho to take – I believe we have room for negotiation.”

Her nobles looked at each other, and then reluctantly consented to her logic.

Doña Urraca nodded in satisfaction.  “Good.  It is settled for now, m’lords.”

            The cold winter days passed, and the Zamorans awaited the bidding of their new king, as Sancho had already sent messengers to them to lay down their fight or suffer siege.  Doña Urraca waylaid her older brother with words, stating that they needed to negotiate terms with Diaz, and thereby offer surrender.

On the day the Campaedor was due to arrive, Doña Urraca practiced what she needed to say to him.  Rodrigo had not assented easily to come, for he was suspicious of the Zamoran nobility and the chance that they may try to capture or kill him; the Infanta then sent assurance for King Sancho again that she would speak only of surrender if Rodrigo was the mediator.

Still confident that she still had some influence on her childhood friend, the Infanta paced the Red Hall, the hem of her conservative dress – Urraca had decided to look humble to make the knight feel pity – low enough to sweep the dust.  Her light reddish hair was tight in braids, pinned back with a light blue veil, accenting the large and sharp eyes that held the same color.  The Infanta wished to be as comely as possible, to remind Rodrigo he was an unmarried man and that she was an unmarried woman; she wished also to show him ease, that though she was powerful, she had her femininity.  Urraca had decided early on it was best not to show so much resistant force against the Castilian, for Rodrigo was not one intimidated easily by show of arms or strength, and she wanted to reaffirm their friendship, not threaten it.

Her cortesé still were skeptical to her plan of courting the Campaedor.  Doña Urraca, knowing this, had bidden them away from her meeting.  She had done her best appealing to their reason that it was far better to welcome Rodrigo Diaz to Zamora for talk, rather than having him come for battle.

She paced alone in her hall, going over her words she would say, folding her arms tightly and pausing in frustration when she could not find a proper term or phrase.  The time allowed Doña Urraca also to pray, which she did often.

I don’t know how to do this, she thought, and the weight of her doubts and fears bludgeoned her.  The Campaedor was intimidating; he was the most crucial part of her plan, and was unpredictable at best.  Doña Urraca drew on everything she remembered of him – and above all – when it came to finding his heart, she recalled that he was a man of justice and honor.  She would use that if she could.

“Would it be justice then for the moon to fall out of the sky and smash me as a bug on the stone,” the Infanta whispered to herself, “and by that ease the harshness of life.  Who isn’t happy who is already dead?”

“Your Highness,” she suddenly heard the stiff accented words of ibn-‘Ammar’s voice from the archway; and by that inconvenience she had given herself to praying for divine decision, and the Moor pressed unwelcomed.

She whirled around.  “I do not wish to be disturbed!”

The Moorish ambassador bowed respectfully.  “Again, Your Highness, I do not come without due urgency.”

“What is it?”

“I wished to let you know that even if your meeting with the Castilian does not go well, I have counsel from my master in Seville.”  Ibn-‘Ammar’s voice was like liquid metal, and its tone never wavered from the calm ripples it gave.

“What counsel, m’lord, can you possibly give me?”

“Do you believe that King Sancho would have his brother killed?”

Doña Urraca studied her visitor before replying, “That has crossed my mind.”

Ibn-‘Ammar bowed slightly with a thin smile on his lips.  “Then my master would counsel you first to have this Castilian barter a negotiation to keep King Alfonso alive – perhaps have him exiled.”

“I have already considered this.”

“That, Your Highness, should be the main importance of your meeting.”

Doña Urraca sighed.  “It is important, Ambassador.  My city, however – ”

“ – Is connected to this point of negotiation.”

“How so?”

“Keeping Alfonso alive will grant him a chance to return to his throne.”

“Of course!”  The Infanta wanted the man to come to his point.

“And,” ibn-‘Ammar continued, obviously sensing her impatience, “my master wishes you to know we will always be supportive and friends of Zamora.”

“You are saying Seville will back up a revolt against Sancho?”

The Moor bowed.

Doña Urraca looked away, contemplating her options.  There was chance that no matter anything, she would yet have to stand against her brother.

“The Campaedor is come,” ibn-‘Ammar announced.  Doña Urraca wasn’t aware when the Moor had gone.

            The Campaedor had come, and he hadn’t come alone.  There were a hundred Castilian cavalry in his wake, and they encamped on the hard cold ground outside the gates of Zamora in bright pavilions and tents.  They were a token force only, meant to show the Zamorans that the Castilians were serious in gaining the city.  They had three standards: Sancho’s Royal, Jorge Valléz’s blue and gold, and the Campaedor’s green and white lily.

It was plain that any treachery to Rodrigo would not be tolerated; Sancho would not give into threat or ransom of his alferez, and Doña Urraca attested to his safety.  The Zamoran cortesé, watching darkly from the battlements, grumbled as Rodrigo Diaz and his lieutenants came into the city.

Doña Urraca prepared herself, and sat quietly on the throne of Zamora, in the midst of the Red Hall, void of her servants and advisors; Rodrigo would come directly here.  Of course, the reception went beyond due her visitor; if he had been anyone else, then he would have partook of the hospitality of Zamora, and would have consented to meet with the Infanta in the days that followed his arrival.  But not Rodrigo Diaz – no.  Everywhere he went, he went directly to business, and once completed, he left.

She heard him in the bastion, she heard the heavy footfall of men on the steps; and though she was certain the Campaedor would come into her presence with his entourage, Doña Urraca would be alone.

The Infanta took a moment to smooth the folds of her dress, to take a breath and focus.  It suddenly occurred to her that meeting the Castilian alone would drive in that she had a set mind to what needed to be said; it may not go over well at all.

Well, she thought, it was too late to make corrections.

The Head Porter, Pepé, entered the Hall and bowed before his mistress.

“Don Rodrigo Diaz di Bivar, Your Highness.”

She nodded, consenting for her visitor to be shown in.  Her heart was leaping, and she wondered why – she was the power here in Zamora, not Rodrigo Diaz!

The Castilian entered – and he entered alone.

In the moment of his appearance, when the foolishness of nature rises in the thoughts of men and women, all Doña Urraca could think was that Rodrigo was better looking now than he had been years ago.  He was tall, and his body was not too large, though he was wearing a heavy riding cloak and leather ring armor from the field; he wore a brooch that fastened the dark brown cloak about his shoulders – a brooch of his house, and it caught immediately the torchlight.  The Campaedor’s reddish-brown hair was short and swept back, as if windblown that way, and his face was clean-shaven and angular.  His heavy boots on the stone made him appear stronger by the way they stamped.

Rodrigo Diaz bowed before her respectfully.  Behind him, Pepé closed the chamber doors, and the silence of the immense hall pressed in.

They regarded each other in the silence, until the Infanta decided to end it.

“I wish you could have rested before meeting with me, Rodrigo.”

The Campaedor smiled and shrugged modestly.  “I hope that my arrival has not placed you at inconvenience, Your Highness.”

“You are not weary from the field?”

“I find my mind sharp after a brisk ride, Your Highness.  Better to meet after the blood is up and the lungs not hungry for air.”

Doña Urraca nodded.  “I have been told you are a quick thinker, Rodrigo, and your strategy on the field more at the moment than at length of plan.”

“So be it,” Rodrigo responded modestly.

“You are of good health?”

“I am, Your Highness.  My thanks to you for mentioning it.”

The Infanta smiled at him, though her stomach was causing her problems.  Having him here was not easy, though she had given thought to every motion and every word she would do and say, and she had given much thought to what he would do and say himself, but her mind was not obeying.

“You are of good health?”  Rodrigo asked, breaking the awkwardness.

“Ay.  Thank you.”  Her smile faded a bit.  “Forgive me, I am thinking about how we parted last.”

It was a stormy day in Leon, years and years ago; an image of a younger Rodrigo, promoted to armiger under Sancho, riding forth to war at Graus.  That had been a time when the Father King was yet alive, and the House warm to his children.  There had been tugs of romance between Urraca and Rodrigo, as a young woman and a young man, and there was speculation that there may have been something more for them, but time can be cruel, and the days turn cold.  All the maids had liked him, one way or another, even the particular Infanta Elvira.

“You were wearing a white and silver gown,” Rodrigo said, and his memory of it idly thrilled her.  “You wore a tassel of silver scarves, and one veiled your face when the knights rode away.  You had an outer garment – gossamer of sorts, which took the light of the morning sun in a sheen.  We gave a kiss to each other.”

Doña Urraca found herself blushing.  “I was a young maiden before a handsome knight.  Would you blame me if a girl’s heart turns to romance at the sight of unblemished honor?”

The Campaedor smiled with her.  She wondered if he felt anything there, if they shared more than just a coldness of distant memory.  The Infanta was not unwise; she had spent time learning the contradictions of love, though in her youth it was spent with Alfonso.  Now that chapter closed, whether what the royal siblings shared as love or incest, and they were now of different hearts, though close of council and of compassion.  The royal women had little more than what was given to them, regardless of rank, and love was something that came unnaturally; while men of their station may choose, the women found it difficultly granted.  Even now she grimaced with the brief thought of what she had been with her own brother, for she was now of different temperament and so was he.  Though even now the confessional remained innocent of this transgression, and Urraca hoped that time would forget it altogether.

“I believe I was in love with you, Rodrigo Diaz.”

“And I you, my Doña Urraca,” the Campaedor disclosed, but a moment later and his eyes were no longer as soft.  “But you would not call me hither to speak of love, or of things long past that have died.”

The Infanta cocked her head.  “I don’t know, Rodrigo.  I may love you still.”

“Oh?  Would you think of rekindling passions borne of adolescence?”

“We were of mature mind when we parted.”

Rodrigo nodded and smiled again.  “Your Highness must remember it was she who turned away the knight unblemished of honor.”

“In those days I was given more to thought of my station and responsibility.  My father, though he loved you well, would not consider my hand to an infanzón.”

“He promised you readily to Garcia Ordoñéz.”

“And that day we will join still pending,” the Infanta said soberly.  “I would like to think you are jealous – would you be jealous, Rodrigo Diaz?”

“Any man who would lose Your Highness to any other would be as jealous,” the Campaedor said.

Doña Urraca beamed, thrilled and happy in spite of herself.  “It is good to hear, though I know you don’t mean it.  I have become fat and ugly.  Perhaps you have done well without consideration of me.”

“You are not those things, mi Infanta.  You are as beautiful as the day I saw you in your silver scarves.”

“And you are still charming, my Rodrigo.”

The pleasantness of the moment both didn’t want to drop, though the Infanta knew she had business to attend to, and Rodrigo – though charming and handsome – was someone not to trifle with.  He was more than dangerous; he was the key to her cause.

“Will Sancho consider negotiation in good stead, Rodrigo?”  Doña Urraca asked suddenly, breaking that moment.

“Is there any reason His Majesty will not?”

“He has not kept any agreement up until now.”

“The king keeps his own counsel, Your Highness.  He is king.”

“Than how can we negotiate a stance if he has no design or heart to keep it?  He has thrown aside our father’s oath, and he has dispossessed Alfonso and Garcia.  He has forced Elvira to give up what she has, and now he will come here to my city and demand it, though it was inherited of my father to me.  Why would Sancho do this thing?  I am a mere woman with a city inherited of law.”

“He is king, Your Highness.  He is granted of his own counsel, whether just or not.”

“Than you would give him consideration of his morals because of the crown upon his head?  He would not have this crown if he hadn’t taken to field against his brothers and sisters.”

“He is my king, and kings – whether now or in the past – are of mind to change the laws of those before them.  They become just, even if they act unjustly.  Such is a contradiction of the law of what we live by, Your Highness.  We are servants of the crown, regardless of who reigns.”

Doña Urraca blinked, her voice wavering.  “Would you consider a king just if he disinherits his peaceful brethren?  Would not a thief in the night be more apt to take the possessions of his family rather than a king?”

Rodrigo bowed.  “The difference is that here the king is the king, and by right he can take what he deems is his.”

“Than a king would be a thief.”

“A king is a king.”

The Infanta felt her blood rise, and her stomach became upset.  She had to calm down – she told herself – and she must walk a steady gait.

“What do you feel, Rodrigo?  Do you feel that what Sancho – whether king or not – has done is just?  Would you have dispossessed your own brothers and sisters, have you had any?”

“It would not have been my station to dispossess my brothers and sisters, had I them.”

“But – then – if you were of station?”

The Campaedor bowed again.  “My disposition is not in question, Your Highness.  It is the will of King Sancho to do what he deems necessary.  It is my king’s decision, not mine.”

“But would you not think it unjust?  As a human being under God?”

Rodrigo studied her a moment before speaking.  “I believe that God has little to do with the affairs of court, Your Highness.  I am a warrior, and I fight battles for the good of my king.  The motives are not mine to judge, though I may agree or disagree.”

“You will not find compassion for me, Rodrigo?  Can you not feel the anguish that I have?  Can you not lay down, for once, this loyalty and see the hearts of those around you?”

Rodrigo shrugged and held his arms out.  “What would you have me do, Your Highness?  If I lay aside loyalty, then what good is my word?  I am entrusted by God and king to do for justice and honor, and such is the reason I have the position I have now.  I cannot, on good conscious, lay aside my soul for mere compassion.”

“But compassion is what we have from God that separates us from animals!  It is our soul.”

“Then my soul becomes degraded, and my purpose uncertain.”

Doña Urraca leaned forward, allowing tears to come to her eyes.  “But it is not uncertain, Don Rodrigo!  You have the hearts of many people who would never question your purpose.  Will you not go to Sancho and persuade him to leave Zamora in peace?  We will never be a threat – how could we?  We would gladly negotiate tribute, if that is his concern.”

“Tribute is not his concern, Your Highness.”

“Then what is?”

“A united realm.”

“With that he dispossesses his siblings and disgraces his father’s name.”

Rodrigo shrugged again.  “He is the king.  There is no disgrace other than borne of his subjects.”

“You will not honor what we were to each other, Rodrigo?  Will you not remember also your years of teachings at the monastery of good will?  Will you not place wisdom in your heart rather than cold injustice?”

“I have no injustice in my heart, mi Infanta.  I serve the king.”

Doña Urraca sat back, the tears wet on her cheeks.  “If you cannot honor me and Zamora with that, will you consider a second thing?”

“I will consider it, Your Highness.”

“Will you go to Sancho and bargain for the release of Alfonso to exile?  With good heart, Sancho cannot murder his brother.”  The Infanta paused to wipe her tears with a scarf.  “Do you remember that day I honored you when you needed it?”

The Campaedor nodded.

“You were alone on the field against a man who would surely kill you.  No one felt you had a chance, and I alone favored you, Rodrigo.  Perhaps this means little to you now, as I am a mere woman and by that it seems men’s memories turn sour.  Yet, if I know you, Rodrigo Diaz, you have always remembered kindness.  Will you remember how I honored you against Garcés with my colors?”

“I remember, mi Infanta.”  Rodrigo looked at the stones at his feet.  “It is a memory greater than any I have known.”

“And with that, you rose to greatness as you are now.  Not because what I gave you was strength, but that I loved and honored you when you had none.”

“I remember.”

“Then, pray, go to Sancho and ask him to spare the life of his brother and exile him.”

The Campaedor bowed.  “Of this I will surely, though I say the king’s will is his own.  Brother killing brother is bitter meat, and thus will I honor your wish, my Doña Urraca.”

“If anyone could be heard by Sancho, then it is you, my beloved Rodrigo.”

The Castilian kissed her ring tenderly and parted from her, leaving the Infanta to mull over what remained.  What remained was not easy to digest, and Doña Urraca fell at once into despair.  Part of her fought that she must still stand strong in rebellion, that she must defy Sancho; and another part of her lamented that all things were hopeless.

She cried out for her wards, if not knowing what to tell them, at least to feel stronger by their company.

            “I know you think me rash, and my reason then unclear and perhaps unsound,” Don Santiago begged, tears in his eyes, “yet I believe what I request is justice and honorable!  I will at once challenge Diaz and lay him low, as they killed my beloved nephew on the field of Goblejara.  With the Campaedor’s death, Sancho and the Castilians would be too grief-stricken to take arms against us, and, if this be folly, at least it would keep them away from our gates longer while we bide time.”

The Infanta was not kind to the Galician.  She was tired of the court, and now burdened by her failure with Rodrigo to be patient with the boasts and advice her cortesé smothered her with.  No one, it seemed, wished to place diplomacy at forefront, and all were for rebellion and war.

“I will not suffer any fight,” Doña Urraca decided, “that will place my city more at risk.”

The Red Hall was filled with courtiers; all filled with one idea or another how to save Zamora from the Castilians.  The question was whether the cortesé would honor their Lady and keep her law, rather than marshal for fight anywhere.  The Leonese nobles who’d survived Goblejara were ready to fragment and splinter away, to take arms as necessary to protect their individual fiefs.

“Don Rodrigo did not guarantee Sancho would allow us to retain our domains?”  Don Fain prodded Her Highness, and for once she heard panic in his voice.

“We…did not discuss terms of peace,” Doña Urraca replied unevenly.

“Then there is nothing!”

“We go to war, my boys,” Don Pedro spoke loudly.  “Ay – we still have the greater force a’field.”

“And who would lead us?”  Don Santiago wanted to know.  “You?  I’d sooner be led to war by my dogs.”

And that was the main reason the Infanta’s forces were questionable against the Castilians.  Half of them were Galicians, at once more loyal to their deposed King Garcia than either Urraca or Alfonso; a great majority were Leonese who doubted fully the Infanta’s powers to unite them; and of course the remainder were Zamorans who felt overwhelmed by futility.

“Send Rodrigo Diaz back to Burgos with a word that we will not honor any devices of a Castilian king,” urged Don Pedro to Her Highness.

“This I will not do,” she told him.

The knight was exasperated.  “Your Highness, Your Highness!”  He begged, “Then what will we do?”

That was the question now put forth from every mouth before her, and Doña Urraca was hard-pressed for an answer.  More than once she glanced over at the silent and still form of ibn-‘Ammar, noticing that the Moorish ambassador watched with keen interest the proceedings.  He frightened her more than Sancho, as a serpent hiding in a field of reeds; the men who are most quiet are the ones who are the most dangerous.

Still, ibn-‘Ammar was always confident, and highly intelligent.  Doña Urraca never felt a need to underestimate him, and even if he would whisper advice that may be dangerous to hear, can she not trust a bit and sort out what may be best for her city?

“What have you to say of this?”  She boldly asked him.

The Moor bowed low, fingers at his breast.  “There are many paths to take, Your Highness.  Each must be considered in care, and not to be done rashly.”

“What do you care, Moor?”  Don Santiago stepped forward.  “Who hears the words of a Moor?”

Ibn-‘Ammar did not turn to face the man.  “Your Highness, would you think that war is fought more behind curtains and under tables than on the field?  Can we not consider that in options of war, there are devices to us that may be used to better our cause with little loss even if they fail?”

“And what would these options be, ibn-‘Ammar?”  Doña Urraca asked.

The Moor bowed low again.  “Before I continue, I request that everyone be of good spirit, and know that desperate times become desperate minds.”

“That is always a Moor – to speak flowery poetry when they should be slashing guts,” Don Pedro muttered.

Ibn-‘Ammar regarded the knight.  “We are not without teeth, Don Pedro Ansuréz, and remember that it takes pain and wisdom to learn poetry and art, even while ‘slashing guts’.”

“Speak your options,” Doña Urraca said.

“First you must be willing to take on direct means.”

“And these?”

“You must be willing to fight on several fronts rather than a united one, and take measures bold enough to dishonor you.”  The ambassador was smiling.  “Consider Don Rodrigo himself who uses whatever means necessary to gain victory.”

The Infanta cocked her head.  “You mean to say that we be ‘underhanded’.”

“Of course, Your Highness.”

The entire cortesé was outraged.  There were charges of honor and fair play, how many would lay down their lives rather than engage in shadowy acts.

“Do not take him seriously,” Don Pedro said, waving the ambassador away as if the latter was week-old cheese.  “Moors have no idea the Kingdom of Heaven, and for them, barbarity is the key to bliss.  ‘Ravage the fields and rape the people’, and by such gain prominence.”

“Ay!”  Agreed Don Gomez.  “Your Highness, if we stoop to the machinations of a Moor, than we will lose automatically to our own vices!  Here this man speaks of ‘cloak and dagger’, and we will perish if given to such tactics!”

The ambassador strode forward to stand in the midst of his enemies.  “You think of me and my people little account?”  He roared, pulling back his cape and showing his steel.  “I am a man of Allah and a man of my king.  I have fought hard on the field and have gained the Kingdom of Heaven.  I will fight any or all who would think me less than what I am – so as death is meant for me!”

Everyone was pulling out blades, and Doña Urraca stood up and screamed for her cortesé to be at ease.

“If there is one drop of blood in this hall, I will have the first man with his steel out hung!”  She shouted, looking at Don Pedro.  “By God, if it is you, I will be the one to pull out the plank.”

“He started it.” Don Pedro nodded at the Moor, but sheathed his anger anyway.

The Infanta pointed at each man in turn.  “Put your blade away,” she commanded.

Begrudgingly peace came back to the Hall, but the men still glowered at the ambassador.  Doña Urraca sat down once again, massaging her temples as she did her best to nurse the pain of a headache.         She said, “I was told by my father that leading a cortesé was not too unlike nursing errant children.  Be it that I a mother rather than a queen.”

“We will not follow the musings of a Moor,” Don Fain asserted.

Doña Urraca looked at her chief advisor.  “All day you have been telling me how we need unity, Don Fain.  You have begged me to consider any option that would provide us a front against the Castilians.  Now you would suddenly tell me what you would not do?”

“Anything besides from the lips of a Moor.”

The nobles all agreed with a round of yeas and nods.

The Infanta looked at the ambassador.  “Will you please tell me what you think is actually ‘underhanded’?”

“You should take whatever means necessary, Your Highness.”

“That is pretty vague.”  Doña Urraca shrugged and looked up at the ceiling.  “Before you told me we have the friendship of Seville.”

“You do.”

“And what does that entitle us, ambassador?”

“Just what I imply.  We will march a force here if necessary to provide defense.”  It was apparent that ibn-’Ammar didn’t like the idea of speaking bluntly, as he shifted in his stance.  “A full army – not a contingent.”

“If we openly defy Sancho.”

The Moor bowed.

“Alfonso had Moors at Goblejara,” Don Pedro pointed out.  “We still lost.”

“Because this ‘Campaedor’ used what Your Highness has called ‘underhanded’ tactics.”

The reality of what had happened dawned suddenly on the multitude: indeed, Sancho had been not only the King of Castile – he had been the King of Underhandedness.

*

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The Cid Book II Chapter 8

Chapter VIII

A Deed Less Glorious

 

Slowly the battered armies pulled away from each other, dragging back to opposite ends of the field.  There were no admissions yet of winning or defeat, and the kings retired to their own.

Sancho did not want to speak to Rodrigo – his alferez – and the Castilians favored separate camps.  There was talk of a second day of battle, and it was strong counsel in Sancho’s tent considering the proposal of his brother that Goblejara be the decision in their reigns.  The Castilian king suffered a leg to be cauterized where a Galician footman had punched a hole, and he relied heavily on Garcia Ordoñéz to give him advice on what remained to them on the field.

“We can form our ranks in better light, now that we could have another day,” Ordoñéz said, his blackened face still slick of sweat and blood.  “The only reason we could not win Alfonso’s banner was because of Don Francisco charging out; not to speak of Rodrigo Diaz.”

The king said nothing, favoring his wound.

“I don’t agree,” put in Don Sisnando.  His friend, Jorge Valléz had left to be with the Campaedor.  “Though Diaz came late to the field, the only reason Your Majesty was able to pull back for parley was because of the Campaedor’s horsemen.  I do agree, however, that we could put in another day’s fight.”

“He has the Burgundians in his camp, and they fought well today – though Rodrigo’s footmen came too late to make effect,” said Ramón Hernandez.  He had been a strong front in protecting the king’s guard with the Moors, and his casualties had been high.

“We should burn Rodrigo,” seethed Ordoñéz.  His feelings were not unfounded, because he had lost many men on the field himself, and there had never been much love between them anyhow.

“Ay, that infanzón,” muttered Don Lazlo di Oña.  Many other knights echoed this, but half of them did not; their erupted heated words, and some were offended by Lazlo’s reference to infanzóns in particular.

Yet, listening to them, Sancho held up his hand for silence, and then used that same hand to massage his forehead.  His head was splitting, and the pain in his leg was almost too much to bear.  He said hoarsely, “No, I will deal with Rodrigo.”

Ordoñéz threw his arms in the air, exasperated.  “If it were me late to the field, you would have had me castrated!   I would expect to have been castrated!  Why does Your Majesty keep him so dear to your heart?”

“Be it you as guilty to have swept against di Calahorra!”  Shouted Hernandez.

Swords came out.  It took some doing to cool the fire as Don Sisnando placed himself between the men.

“You would accuse me?”  Ordoñéz baited, his eyes blazing.

“Ay – I saw you take his head!”

The men came at each other, but it was the king who told them to stand down.  Sancho closed his eyes, used to Ordoñéz’s displeasure over Rodrigo’s friendship to the king.  His mind, however, was on the littered field of Goblejara, for he was more sorrowful of the quality of those dead than for the number.  He was glad that Mutamin and the Moors of Saragossa were in good health and ready to take battle again, and when he opened his eyes to look at the young heathen prince, the thought lingered that he should make another day against Alfonso.

Yet Sancho was not a fool when it came to command, and he knew that the Leonese still had good number and strength, though Don Diego di Oviedo was now slain.  His lords were, though exhausted and battered, ready to do his will, if it meant going back a’field.  The matter of Garcia Ordoñéz and Don Alejandro was something else.  The two had never been friends, and Ordoñéz now was guilty of placing the king’s army amuck and may have even cost them the battle.  Even now the knight looked away from his accusers, but Sancho didn’t know what to do.

The Moor, Mutamin, seemed more interested watching his breath fog the air.  He had volunteered to be of the king’s party to meet with Alfonso to discuss terms, of which Sancho would most likely concede his crown; and his nonchalance of the moment and what it may mean seemed untainted.

What to do to keep the company together?  And if so, this meant somehow taking a’field a second day.  Sancho had to deal with Ordoñéz, he also had to deal with the tardiness of Rodrigo Diaz.

When the call came up from Alfonso’s herald to speak terms, Sancho wrapped around himself a heavy coat, and joined Mutamin, Don Sisnando, and Ordoñéz to the field.  The Castilians brought with them a good contingent, to show they were considering fighting on.

Alfonso seemed unscathed of battle.  He was wearing a heavy gold-trimmed cloak over his mail, and his face was washed and his goatee neat and clipped, but the Leonese knights who joined him shown all signs of weariness.  His standard was untouched and bright under the waning winter sun, but there were bloody and torn banners of his provincials.

“Keep your distance, brother,” said Alfonso in tense voice, and contrary to his appearance was wary; he had seen how Sancho had dealt with their brother, Garcia, after his defeat.

“You would think me of dark design?”  Sancho asked, insulted.

“It would seem appropriate, considering your will.”

“And have I not come here with little guard about me to speak terms, and how I came to Goblejara to honor our agreement?”

“You have hardly been a man to bide your own words, brother,” Alfonso imparted with a venomous taint.  “How, after our father lay dying, you took up the oath to keep your sword in its scabbard – and then upon his death would you threaten the realms of your siblings.”

“And of this I am the only one guilty?”

“That, save for Garcia.”

Sancho coughed.  “Oh!  Garcia is a fool, and is in chains in Burgos!”

“Then speak now your honorable intention to keep your words this time, brother.  Will you cede the crown of Castile upon our agreement?  The option lays with you to fight tomorrow – if you wish to worse more of your men.  My army is still hale and given to fight, if you wish that.”

There were outbursts when the Castilians heard about the agreement, for it had been made in secret between the brothers, and hardly many knew of it.  Not even Rodrigo Diaz knew of such an arrangement, but he had not come to parley.

“Let me think on this for a few hours, as I need the counsel of my alferez,” Sancho said.

“The agreement has been made!”  Don Pedro Ansuréz shouted.  “Adhere to your own oath for once, Your Majesty.”

“You would call me little account?”

“I would call you a piss bucket.”

“Dog!”  Sancho cried out, and the whole company brandished swords.

“Hold!”  Shouted Alfonso.  “If my brother wishes to take counsel, so be it.  But I warn you: do not trifle with me longer.  I have been more than patient to deal with you.”

“You cannot take your brother’s words as they are.  Sire, take his lot now!”  Don Pedro urged his king.

“We will wait, brother,” Alfonso said.

The heralds parted and the companies returned to their tents.

Rodrigo came immediately to the king’s call for counsel.

He wanted to make good again their friendship; guilt was beginning to gnaw heavily on his soul, and he felt he could not bear the king’s displeasure.  When he entered Sancho’s pavilion, the full Castilian cortesé was present.

The battle-wearied provincials gave salutes to their Campaedor, praising his ability on the field and how he slew di Oviedo.  Even Garcia Ordoñéz drank to his rival’s health, he still wearing his bloodstained armor from the field.

Sancho was seated on a hard bench, his wounded leg straight, his armor off but a thick warm blanket of wool around him.  Rodrigo bowed before him, even as the lords around him clapped him on the shoulders in congratulations.

“I was concerned of your health,” Sancho said in his hoarse voice, “it does good my heart to see you well.”

“I was unable to bring my footmen up in time to strengthen Your Majesty,” the Campaedor replied lamely.

“You did well with your horsemen, though.  Ordoñéz surely owes you a debt of gratitude in taking on di Oviedo.”

Rodrigo grimaced.  “I believe that m’lord Ordoñéz would think little of me, considering I was late to the field.  I do not begrudge him this.”

“But I would have grievance,” the other knight said, his neutral, hairy face now fiery.  “I lost a good portion of my command because you were sulking in Carrión.”

The Campaedor regarded him coolly.  “I believe there was more to the folly on the field today than of my tardiness, m’lord.”

Sancho pulled the attention of his armiger away from dark waters.  “What’s done is done.  I don’t have a mind now to debate our missteps – though there were many factors that contributed.”  He gave a dark look at Ordoñéz that reminded the latter of Don Alejandro and his own deeds upon the field.

The cortesé grunted and nodded in agreement, though its members did nothing to point out the death of di Carrión’s boy at the start.  Sancho was easing now his pain of the day with a tankard of bitter wine, and the look in his eyes was not good or indicative he wished to discuss all matters.

“What is pressing is our situation, now that the field has been lost this day.  Should we give thought to a second, or agree to capitulate?”

“Capitulate?”  Rodrigo gasped.

“It is the king’s will,” replied Don Sisnando, “my men are beaten for the most part.  We cannot stand another charge of the Toledans.  We could, on counsel, retreat to Carrión and hold there for reinforcements. Don Alvar Fañez…”

“That would go against the agreement and honor of the king,” said Ramón Hernandez.

“What agreement?”  Rodrigo asked.

“You cannot trust the damn Leonese,” roared Ordoñéz.

“We must honor Alfonso’s word,” Don Sisnando said.

“What agreement?”  Asked Rodrigo a second time.

Sancho cleared his throat.  “What say you, Prince Mutamin?  Your father is a great diplomat and warrior.  What would he do?”

The Moor gestured with his arms out in supplication.  “It is best that brothers can trust each other, and honor agreements given between them.”

“You cannot seriously, my king, think of honoring Alfonso’s request of a pitched battle!”  Pleaded a shocked Bishop Bernardo of Pamplona – Rodrigo’s confessor.

“WHAT AGREEMENT!”  Shouted the Campaedor.

Rodrigo had always a strange effect on Sancho.  When men – charismatic or no – dared to sally a shout against the king and his lords at meeting, Sancho was harsh and quick to wrath.  However, when Rodrigo became impassioned, the king often retreated and became soft-spoken.

“I have an arrangement with Alfonso for this battle,” Sancho answered him, though his dark eyes shifted about nervously to be confronted.  “Our agreement came ere my army arrived to Carrión.  One battle between us – Ruy Diaz – my brother and I.  To the victor of Goblejara goes the Triple Crown.”

Don Rodrigo Diaz was thoroughly galvanized with the revelation.  His mouth dropped open, his eyes widened to where they seemed ready to burst from their sockets.  He pointed at Sancho and erupted.  “You will not cede your crown!  Not while I live will you honor this arrangement!”

Before anyone could protest, Rodrigo stormed out of the king’s pavilion with Ramón Hernandez and Jorge Valléz with him.

            Alfonso of Leon wanted a moment to get his head together; everything was going by too fast, and as his brother Sancho, his own cortesé had pulled around him.  Jubilation electrified the men, and they were ready for the Castilians to capitulate.  Even now, many were packing up their weapons and baggage, anticipating that all fighting was over.

The Castilians had lost many on the field that day, and if they dared a sortie – whether this night or tomorrow – Alfonso was confident that they would be defeated.  The death of di Oviedo was extremely bitter, however, and the Leonese king felt the sharp taste of it.

Alfonso thought how his brother often was saved by his Campaedor, and that day would not have been different than any other if Rodrigo had not arrived late.  The Leonese king didn’t underestimate the lucky Rodrigo; the knight was resourceful and competent as well as ever-fortunate.  To best him on the field was duty enough for any man.  There were other good knights in Sancho’s stead who were strong and smart too – and one of those, of course, had been Don Francisco.  The breaking of the Najérans had been the pivotal point of the battle, and the Leonese knew why the man had rushed out to meet them in fury.  They, according to good measure, gave the body of his son, Francisco the Younger, back to the Castilians in exchange for the torn body of the boy killed at herald.  And why had Don Garcia Ordoñéz attacked the Calahorrans, even in the heat of the fight?  It didn’t matter, of course, for it had benefitted the Leonese.

Alfonso no longer had taste for this war.  He had, from the day of the oath with his dying father, no designs on Castile or any other domain of his brethren.  Leon was hard enough to rule, and to combine now added realms to his belt were pieces hard to swallow.  He and his sister Urraca held these same thoughts.  Unlike Sancho – who enjoyed rumor of war – Alfonso possessed a sensitive side given more to diplomacy than swinging a blade.  He was a good fighter, though his mind worked as an economist, and the only thing that made him lust for power was the thought of gold.

Already his provincials were partitioning off the dominions of Castile among themselves, and he told them not to get comfortable with things not yet won.  Alfonso did not like to risk jeopardizing another war by divvying up the new realm to his own subordinates while turning cold to the Castilians still there.  He believed, in wisdom granted by his father, that the provincials of Castile were good stock, and to bring threat of dispossession to them would be enough to breach his conquest.  Besides, these men who had fought against him that day had been friends and loyalists at one time; they would be as loyal again to a new king, if that king was honorable.

The formation of the agreement to end hostilities after one battle had been solely Alfonso’s idea.  Who could benefit from ruling a hollowed and war-ravaged realm?  However, the temptation of defeating Sancho in surprise at Carrión had been too great; Alfonso had given in to di Oviedo’s plan, though now it mattered little, considering the battle had been fought as originally scoped.

Now Don Diego lay dead, and as the first cold stars of night sparkled like frost above them, the old knight now stared at them from an open coffin – ready to be taken back to his home.  Alfonso, having dismissed himself from his pavilion and his excited cortesé, went out into the night to watch those same stars and to think.

“King of Leon-Castile,” he whispered to himself, as though the title itself was borne of fate rather than the quarrel of errant children.  The royal ring on his finger felt heavier than usual, but he did not find it displeasing.

It had been an honorable fight, and the dead who littered the field had not died for folly, Alfonso reasoned.  He watched the porters and the soldiers move about the field, dragging the bodies of the fallen and stacking them like cordwood under the dark winter sky.  Here and there fires burned, defying the cold, and each like a huge firefly, reflecting the pale icy stars above.

“You seem discontented, Your Majesty” muttered the accented voice of Qadir behind him.  The Moor had come up unannounced, startling the king.  “You are in the dark.”

Alfonso turned his head.  The emir’s son was dressed still in his armor; a shiny chain shirt hidden for the most part by a decorative – yet sturdy – mail hauberk and leather cuirass.  He seemed untouched of battle, and that was expected because everyone knew that Qadir was not highly thought of as a warrior.

“Darkness for dark thoughts,” Alfonso said in Arabic.

“You are studying the constellations, eh?”

“That,” the king replied, looking away.  He felt annoyed: he hadn’t wished to be disturbed.

“My men did good on the field, I think,” the Moor said.

“Everyone did good, Qadir.”

“The Castilians are beaten, eh?”

“Ay.”

“You would believe they will not try for our standard again?”

“They are beaten,” Alfonso said, a little gruffly.  From where he stood, the king could see the fires in the camp of his brother, and for some reason he felt more somber than glee.

“Will you take his head – King Sancho?”

“No!”  Alfonso was appalled; Christian kings did not take the heads of their siblings.  The mere thought was barbaric.

Qadir sighed, his dark skin an extension of shadow, and his eyes were large like the cold moon.  “I would not let him live, as he is a man of action.  I would not believe him to hold true to your ‘agreement’ for long.”

“He will.”

The Moor shrugged humbly.  “If you say so, Your Majesty.”

“Why would you think otherwise?”

Qadir stepped forward to stand next to him and join the king’s view.  “Considering King Sancho’s spirit and his dishonoring the oath you took in Leon from your great father, the King.”

“He will be bereft of state – how could he muster a strength against me?”

“There are always opportunities for those who have a will for it, Your Majesty offendi.”

Alfonso thought about this a moment.  Sancho was not one to trifle with, and care must be given in deciding his fate; yet, was it God’s will to take the life of him, though it may be prudent to hold tightly to the realm?  Would Sancho continue to be a thorn in the side, even as Garcia of Galicia?

“I would kill all my enemies, Your Majesty, whether they are relative or not.  Especially if they were relative; they hold far too much in the hearts of others.”  Qadir’s voice became low to accent his words.  “It is good wisdom to believe that if Sancho had won this day, your head would be taken.”

“He imprisoned Garcia, our brother.”

The Moor shrugged.  “Was he strong as you, Your Majesty?”

“You cannot give me counsel as this.  You do not understand the pact made before the Eucharist and the blessing of the Holy Father.”

“Was not the oath to King Ferdinand done as much?”

“Yes, but you do not understand.”

The Moorish prince smirked and looked away.  “What would you do to King Sancho?  Put him in chains in Leon?  In Oviedo?  In Burgos?”

“I will do what my conscious dictates.”

“And that you better conscious than he, Your Majesty.”

“I don’t…” There was sudden commotion on the far side of the field.  Alfonso, feeling the rise of adrenaline, began to retreat toward the safety of his pavilions.

There was no time.  Before the king could make twenty yards, a line of horsemen burst from the darkness of the trees.  Alfonso, shouting for his lords, saw one of the Galician sentries break free, but was mowed down by riders before he could make the safety of the earthworks of the Leonese camp.

Pedro Ansuréz was the first of the provincials out of the king’s tent, and he moved quickly to head off the riders before they could make it to the king himself.

“The Castilians!”  Alfonso shouted, a wall of horsemen closing off his escape.  He had no weapons with him, and the revelation of his folly made him pause.  In a moment the entire camp was surrounded by Castilian heavy cavalry, and as the Leonese knights gathered around to defend their king, the riders parted on one side to allow their commander through.

“Rodrigo Diaz!”  Shouted Alfonso indignantly.  “What are you doing?”

The Campaedor, lowering his lance to the face of the outraged king, demanded, “Yield to the crown of King Sancho.”

Pedro Ansuréz made for his sword, but one of the Castilians knocked him to the ground.  The moment was thick as the Leonese king and his helpless cortesé stared at their captors.

“Yield, Alfonso,” Rodrigo demanded again, coldly.

“Do not!”  Screamed Ansuréz from the dirt.

“Do so, King Alfonso!”  Rodrigo drove in, and his men came close about.  “I will have you dead now if you do not yield.”

Alfonso cast his head about, his heart pounding.  Before any of his outraged lords could offer more resistance, the king bowed.

The Castilians, grimly victorious, closed in to take their captives.

*

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The Cid Book II Chapter 7

Chapter VII

Goblejara

 

King Sancho mustered his Royal Guards without biding time for his forces to rally.  Most of them were already lost in the fray and more of a mind to fight, as waiting would prove to be a stronger defense, now that the king knew of his brother’s strategy.  Nor did he find good advice in his stalwart counsel – Don Francisco – who was now more apt to court death whether for him or against; and when Don Francisco saw the might of the Leonese cavalry on the field, and the death of the herald, Menendéz, his ire was kindled to madness, and he leaped forth with many riders with him.  With a cry, he was far out on the field, soon clashing with a heavy charge deep into the Leonese.

Seeing this set the entire Castilian center guard on fire, and they poured from their stations without thought of the king’s rally, the light of the drawing of their swords and their lances like flames in a field of reeds.  Swiftly they came, their roar like the host of angels in a thunderclap, charging over the plain without thought to what lay against them.  Inspired by Don Francisco, who’d donned his white helm and his banners were furious in the winter wind, the Najéran riders came full on and scattered the Leonese force before them.

King Sancho’s guard, being trained from many battles, hung back.

“Yonder there – see that wall of spearmen?”  The king told his banner-guard, pointing to their left flank.  “Send a message quick to Ordoñéz to rally his footmen!  If they follow that mad Francisco, we will be swept from the field!”

The young boy – as old as Rodrigo had been the day he had taken the king’s standard up — rode swiftly on his pony toward the pennons of Garcia Ordoñéz, which were now passing far in the front.  Before the boy could reach the outer circle where the straggling rear came up to reserve the men already fighting, he was struck by a way arrow and knocked down.

The king was speechless for a moment, staring at the fallen banner-guard with his mouth agape.  Composing himself, Sancho suddenly put on his helm and held out his lance for his guard.  “To me!”  He shouted, reining his horse toward the bristling spearmen, his knights struggling to change face and head now for their left.  “For Castile!”  Sancho cried and lunged forward with his riders.

The spearmen were in disarray, the forefront of them not seeing the sudden appearance of the king’s riders.  At the moment they were in scattered ranks, with their long pikes out and in and up – but not in the position to deter Sancho’s charge.  The first dozen scattered aside as flies in a stiff breeze, and the king slashed down at them with his blade, catching one in the back of his head as the man tried to run.  The second rank fell back, but the third – protected by the cushion of those in front – positioned their spears and gut the first two Castilian knights’ horses as they came through.

One of the fallen knights, Jarras Domingo, found himself pinned under his shrieking steed, bathed in blood as two footmen descended on him with their long knives.  King Sancho, hoping to save him, tried to break free of the tangle, but found he could not.  By the time he had gained the rise, a host of footmen came swarming up the other side to reinforce the spearmen, and the king’s guard was pushed back.

Suddenly, the air was filled with arrows.  Toledan horse-archers had ridden in behind the footmen, and the curved bows of the Moors let loose a hail of death over the retreating royal guard.  Sancho, holding up his shield to cover his head, heard the heavy thump of steel-tipped darts slamming hard.  Suddenly his horse screamed and reared, throwing him off and back, coming down on top of him as Domingo had his.  A moment later he was alone in the midst of his enemies, and by luck did the king drag himself from under his horse.

Alone, Sancho stood and fought hard in the front of the Galician footmen, and they, perceiving who he was, charged in to cleave him a lucky blow.  Sancho was hopelessly outnumbered, but he cared little, and the fire of his fight carried him strongly.  The first two footmen who gained the rise the king was on found themselves a ready foe, and both died quickly with slashes to their faces.

The third footman to gain the rise had lost his shield, so he swung at Sancho with his mace, and the Castilian king gleefully engaged.  Behind the combatants, the remnants of the Galician pike pulled back as Don Sisnando and his riders came at them, after a brief fall of Castilian arrows, and charging in at the side came Jorge Valléz who was shouting for everyone to protect the king.

It was good timing, for Sancho, weakening, found himself facing alone now the charge of the Galician front.  The king’s helm had been thrown off in the fight, but he had cut his enemy down and had fallen to a knee.

A Galician knight spurred his horse at the kneeling king, but Valléz was quick enough to breach the footmen and engage the rider.  With the respite, Sancho fell back, sweat stinging his eyes as he staggered.  Don Sisnando, holding the king’s right, supported Sancho as the Castilian footmen rushed the scattered Leonese.

“How fares Ordoñéz?”  The king breathed, wiping his forehead.

“They are in the thick,” replied Don Sisnando.  “The Najérans beat a bloody path through Alfonso’s center, and Ordoñéz was quick to follow Don Francisco.”

“Yon – there,” Sancho pointed to the field, “whose banner is that leading the Zamorans?”

“Pedro Ansuréz,” Don Sisnando said without looking.  “They brought up a siege train to take Carrión lest we fall back.”

“On errand of Urraca?  Were it she on the field I would make better sport to shatter them.  We will not fall back to Carrión.”

“Ay?  Even if they best the Najérans?”

“Even if God comes a’field,” Sancho muttered.  “My kingdom rides on this fight.”

“We may yet lose, if the Campaedor does not come.”

“We will not lose, Don Sisnando.”

The knight nodded, the cross on his breast turned by the dirt of the field.  “Ay – so be it, my king.”  Suddenly he looked up and behind Sancho.  “Ay – the whole front is in the thick!  Ordoñéz is smashing into Don Alejandro!”

Sancho whirled around.  It was true: Garcia Ordoñéz and his flank had turned in the midst of the fray to attack their own allies.  What little victory could have been one that early was now gone.

“Get him back!”  Shrieked the king, knowing it was too late.

            There was no stopping Don Francisco.

As he charged into the Leonese heavy cavalry, his own riders at his side, the old provincial punched his way through.  The front, at first bolstered by Alfonso’s footmen, pulled back, di Oviedo himself sweeping his northern riders around to envelope the enraged Najéran, but found stiff resistance as Garcia Ordoñéz and his archers fired point-blank into them from the side.

At once, Ordoñéz’s swordsmen came rushing in to provide protection for the now-exposed archers, and di Oviedo – overwhelmed – wheeled his riders about and pulled toward their king’s standard.

There was much blood there, near Alfonso.  The Leonese king had come with his guard, riding headlong into the hard-charging Najérans, and the collision was more than a typhoon; at first, the Leonese guard – bright and strong in clad mail, their ranks shining like a river of steel in the rising winter sun – hesitated to the king’s call.  Then, the world erupted in the center of the field, and the screams and cries of desperate and fighting men thundered as they met the caress of steel.

Before di Oviedo could reinforce the guard, it was swept away, and the banners of the houses of the Najérans drove deep into the Leonese host, pressing now the Toledo heavy cavalry who came up to support Alfonso.  The king himself was in dire straits, as was his brother Sancho on the other side of the field, and the man fought wildly from his saddle.  A rain of blows from his Najéran enemies forced Alfonso – shrieking obscenities – to fall back, his steed tripping over the fallen men of both sides.

Ever in the forefront, slashing with his blade, rode Don Francisco shouting out his son’s name, and even now, as the Toledo Moors came about, he would not be restrained.  He was making for Alfonso, but the guard was strong in that quarter, and he was pushed aside as his men cut themselves deeper into the Leonese.

“He will make the baggage!”  Shouted Qadir, the Toledan prince, and he immediately dropped behind his men, hoping that their numbers would save him.  The Najérans, focusing now their determination on the Moors, came in hard from their right flank.

Behind them, unlooked for, came Don Diego di Oviedo, who drove in behind the Najéran riders and scattered most of them.  Taking it upon himself, the Leonese champion hacked through toward Don Francisco, and there the two met in a grim melee.  Don Francisco, being in the majority of his men, had the advantage, and he vented his wrath on the other man.

Don Diego’s blade was turned twice off the Najéran’s armor, and he found himself hard-pressed to keep his shield up to parry the wild blows given.  Whether by some strange fate or by the hardness of his opponent’s armor, Don Diego’s sword broke in half, and he fell back.

“To me!”  Shouted di Oviedo, hoping that he could cut his way out of danger with his men, but onward came Don Francisco, slashing hard now with a rider’s mace; there was little the Leonese Champion could do but protect himself with his battered shield as he fumbled to gain his axe.

A sudden, powerful blow knocked Don Diego’s shield wide, and as he felt what might be the tramp of doom as Don Francisco backhanded the mace toward him, a volley of whizzing arrows from Ordoñéz cut into the air.  A black-feathered dart punched Don Francisco’s throat, stopping the man in mid-swing.  Two more arrows from the Moors behind the Najéran lord slammed into his back.  It appeared that in the confusion, Garcia Ordoñéz’s men had wheeled about into their allies – House di Calahorra and the Najérans.

Don Diego, caught in a moment of shock – watched Don Francisco drop his mace and fall sideways.  The Najéran’s horse, confused, bounded forward, dragging the knight askew until the man fell off entirely: the stirrups, burdened by the weight, snapped freely away.  Yet Don Francisco, gagging as he struggled to his knees, his gloved fingers raking at the arrow in his throat, fought to live; then a Moorish footman came from behind and hewed him with his sword.

The entire Najéran front fell away.  In charged the Leonese guard, with King Alfonso at their head, and the riders that remained were cut down before them as dying reeds.  Don Diego, rallying his cavalry, joined his king as he came against the stiffness of Garcia Ordoñéz and the men of Cardeña.  At once the Castilians pulled away from the tangle with di Calahorra’s men – but Don Alejandro was already dead.

Ordoñéz had no spear- or pikemen, so that front withered as they were set upon; Ordoñéz himself, mounted and ready, struggled to keep di Oviedo from breaching his swordsmen and thus gaining the unprotected archers.  The Castilian knew that they had no chance to win the day, now that the Calahorrans were scattered.  It was a good feeling he’d put his enemy, Don Alejandro, down, though.  And even if the king should know this – Ordoñéz was content.  The feud was over.  He faced now Don Diego in the fray.

In a strange moment where the two knights were merely surrounded by fighting men and not pressed, both knights shouted at each other.

“Ho there, Garcia Ordoñéz?  You mean to make my flank or my front– eh?  You son of a pissing whore!”  Don Diego taunted, the blood of Don Francisco still bright where it had splattered his surcoat.

“That and that!”  Shouted back the Castilian, and he charged as he could toward the Leonese guard.

“You took more of your own men in that fight!  You killed di Calahorra!”

“Ay – I’m going to kill you now, di Oviedo!”

“Pissing traitor!”

“Yourself!”

The two fronts surged and the knights came against each other.  They exchanged blows, but even though Don Diego was more experienced and confident, neither could gain advantage.

Just then, blaring through the cold air, and above the clash of metal and the shouts and screams of men, the trumpets of Don Rodrigo Diaz and the men of Burgos sounded from the Castilian rear.

            It had not been easy for Don Rodrigo.  He himself didn’t understand his moody afflictions, only that when they seized him he became helpless.  The death of Francisco the Younger had not been the sole harbinger of his grief; something greater always haunted the deeper pools of his reason as Rodrigo struggled for sense of duty.  He knew that the king’s army had committed themselves a’field and were no doubt in dire straits.  A good many of the Burgos ward stood in Carrión still, itching for the fight but confused what to do while their lord lamented.

He did not like death for itself, though many of his colleagues thought little of it.  Everyone dies, whether by blade or blight, purpose or accident; they considered it cynical reasoning.  Yet seeing Francisco the Younger charging the Leonese alone had crushed Rodrigo Diaz – and the helpless despair that remained after knowing the life had been given solely for him had shocked his soul to the core.

Yet now many were dying, and would die more if he didn’t take a’field.

Once the Campaedor had gained his reason, and his fit had passed, he came out of the tent and looked upon his men who waited for his command.

“Where is Valléz?”  He asked Gonzalo Derro, his ward.

“Gone to field with the king.”

“And so has Don Francisco?”

“Ay, m’lord.”

The cortesé hadn’t counseled with him – they had gone to fight with the king’s ire and Don Francisco’s despair leading them.

Rodrigo looked around.  His men were girt and ready to move – they had been since the morning at the king’s call, but had remained because their commander had resigned to his tent.  Many were cavalry, and they mounted when they saw him.  The knight hadn’t wanted to move at all, so pitch-black his fear and mood; yet now, the folly of his fit now laid itself bare.

He looked at the eager face of Derro.  “To arms, then, Gonzalo.  Hasten ere the king is bested upon the field!”

The ward, excited, turned and shouted: “Knights!  Squires!  Wards!  To your banners – ay!”

Rodrigo went to relieve himself against the back wall of the stable, still wrestling with emotion; and it was a pain worse than what he expected from the scorn of his king.  About him, his men rallied themselves and gathered for the march, and they were for the field.  The Campaedor tried, as he left the wall, to gain strength from their excitement – but the darkness of Francisco the Younger’s death and the accusation of his father still drove deep.

Who cares what this day at the field will bring, thought Rodrigo as he waited for his ward to bring up Bavieca.  If this my meat, then have me die quickly.

The meat – as he figured – was bitter more than death; at least with death there was resolution of things, rather than the wounds borne of time, and this notion itself defeated fear of death.  Rodrigo gave confession freely to the Bishop of Pamplona who, himself, was girt for battle.

“God speed your courage, Don Rodrigo my son,” the bishop blessed him.

The Campaedor, now mounted, looked away at the gate.  “Can a man be fated as damned, and those things he touches damned?”

“That is the judgment of God, and as men we do what is best in our hearts while keeping the sacrament.”

“Yet keeping such, can a man be doomed from birth?”

Before the bishop could respond, Gonzalo came up.

“M’lord,” said he, shield and spear in hand, “we are ready to quit this place.”

“Have Burgundy move first, then have the host of Ubierna after them; we will cross the bridge and then ride with haste.”

“What of the footmen?”

“They shall go at good pace as they are able.  It is merely an hour march for them if they do so quickly, and have their leaders put fire in their shoes.  I would like to see the horse on Goblejara as soon as I may.  Your Grace,” Rodrigo looked at the Bishop of Pamplona, “can you bring up your men in good speed?”

“That,” The bishop said.

“Then by God, bring them up.”

The ranks likened to their trumpets, and with such a noise, came forth from the west gate of Carrión.  Banners moved in violet and brown and white; green and red and blue pennons fluttered in the stiff winter wind; the black sigils of Rodrigo’s horse from Ubierna and Burgos came to the front and the men now came at the bridge.

Rodrigo, coordinating his forces to move in good order from the rear, suddenly found his men stopped.  Gonzalo, the ever-informative, came riding back to him.

“Why have we stopped?”  Rodrigo demanded.

“The Burgundians have met a woman on the bridge – the Lady di Carrión.  She has found her husband’s sword and will not let anyone pass her; she has placed carts there to bar our way.”

The Campaedor sighed.

“She is full of fire and courage, and the men will not touch her,” continued Gonzalo, “and she demands that she will not let us go to the king while her son is yet captive.”

“You’ve done well in coming to me,” Rodrigo said.  At once he took a crossbow from a rider and made it to the ready, then rode briskly to the bridge where the woman stood defiantly.

She was a healthy woman, though older, that leader of the pathetic delegation of citizenry who’d petitioned the Campaedor those weeks ago for food, though she had forgiven them the death of her husband.  Since then, of course, the king had taken her only son captive, and the Lady di Carrión was not giving in anymore.  The sword she held had never seen much use from her husband, but she stood there with her hem up and her legs apart, both hands on the grip – the point of the blade at the lead of the Burgundians who stood there silent and confused what to do.

Rodrigo shouted for Bourdain.

“Why do you wait?  Go!”

The Burgundian knight shook his head.  “She is an honorable woman!  Such a passion to have her way, though the odds are against her.”

“Damn French,” muttered the Campaedor and he rode onto the bridge to confront the woman.

She stood her ground, her Spanish eyes blazing.

“Get off the bridge,” he ordered her.  He knew why she contested him – he had shown his sensitivity and weakness for the women and children of Carrión, and she believed Rodrigo would fold.

“You have raped my city, you have killed my husband and taken my son,” she shouted back at him.  “As long as I live you will not move across this bridge.”

He hadn’t known that the king had taken her son captive, but he shrugged.  “That is the king’s justice.  Now move off this bridge, foolish woman, and let us by!  I will take your life if you do not.”

“Then take it as you may, Don Rodrigo Diaz.”

Rodrigo studied her for a moment, then, brought up the crossbow and fired it.  The quarrel had a good aim: it whizzed through the air and slammed into her breast, knocking the woman off her feet and to the boards of the bridge.  Lady di Carrión – her white and gray dress bright scarlet from her blood, writhed in agony as her life passed away from her.

Rodrigo turned around and ordered the Burgundians to get moving.  Ranks of horsemen trotted by the dead woman, the forefront of the engineers pushing aside the capsized carts, all flowing like a river of death toward Goblejara.

            If anything, coming late to the field gave the Campaedor a good view of what lay against them.

It seemed that the Castilian center was nearing rout, as Garcia Ordoñéz was backing up against the combined swarm of Leonese and Toledans; there were no banners of Sancho’s cavalry, but the king was holding with his guard on the left flank.  There was no right flank, just littered bodies of what had once been spearmen of Calahorra, cut down by Moorish arrows.  Sancho’s own Moorish allies – the men from Saragossa – had rallied and held firm to the king’s side.  Though there was good fighting in that quarter, the Castilians were fast becoming a small island in a sea of foes.

The Campaedor’s trumpets blared and Rodrigo sent his heavy horse in to relieve Ordoñéz, and as he looked around the field – the knight was confused not to see the banner of Najéra.

“Where is Don Francisco?”  Rodrigo asked aloud.

Gonzalo shielded his eyes from the winter sun.  “There are few center horse, m’lord.  I fear they’ve been bested by di Oviedo near Alfonso’s standard.”

“You think?”  The Campaedor sighed, wondering what to do.  Already his heavy cavalry had spearheaded into the Leonese guard on Ordoñéz’s right flank, and to shore them, he sent in his lighthorsemen for a chance to get the Moors.  “We have to take their archers,” Rodrigo said.  “They are nothing but mounted lance in the center; the only reason Ordoñéz has not been able to break Alfonso is because of the Moors.”

“I don’t see anything of di Calahorra.”

“I don’t know.”  Suddenly, Rodrigo saw a gallant Leonese knight riding far from the standard, leading in a swarm of heavy cavalry on the beleaguered Ordoñéz.

Rodrigo sped on up the hill.

From here, he could see Alfonso’s center pushing the Castilian foot against the trees, and the frustrated shouts of his captains told Rodrigo that they were about to break.  He spurred Bavieca around, snatching a lance from Gonzalo.

“Who is yon knight?”  Rodrigo asked harshly, pointing the lance at the stalwart warrior leading the Leonese push.

The ward squinted his eyes.  “That is Don Diego di Oviedo.”

Rodrigo nodded.  “He is a good fighter, to be so old.”

“He is Alfonso’s champion.”

“He and his men are going to win the trees.”

“Ay.”

“We can’t have that,” Rodrigo decided.  He spurred his steed and began to charge full down the slope toward Oviedo and his men.  Behind him came his guard, with Gonzalo leading them, attempting to protect their lord; they were almost lost as the Campaedor gained momentum from the slide and collided headlong with Qadir’s spearmen.

Rodrigo had his wards take up his standard – the lily of his mother’s family and the green field of his father’s – and it was a sight familiar as the Castilians shouted as one when it came into view amongst them.

There was at once a tremendous crash of arms.  Rodrigo slashed and hacked his way with his sword, holding Gonzalo’s lance with his other hand.  The Moorish spearmen in the front ranks pulled away from his onslaught, and loud cries escaped their lips when they recognized him as Sancho’s armiger.  Taking heart from the sight of their commander, Rodrigo’s heavy horse – who had been pressed against the wooded copse – cried out and suddenly surged forward.  Qadir’s spearmen buckled, but held, though the first rank had easily been swept aside.

Seeing the change in the fight on his left flank, Don Diego immediately disentangled himself from one of Ordoñéz’s footmen and rode point blank toward Rodrigo.

The Campaedor saw him immediately, but could not pull away from the envelope of cursing spearmen who’d converged on him.  Feeling the ringing blows of their spearpoints on his mail, Rodrigo reared his horse to try to push them back, but they suddenly fell forward, pressing him.

Gonzalo, noticing di Oviedo’s charge toward Rodrigo, immediately saw opportunity to shine in his commander’s eyes.  He disengaged from the two footmen he’d been struggling with and galloped toward the Leonese champion.

The folly of his charge was made evident quickly, as Gonzalo came to realize that Don Diego was fully-equipped with lance, and all the Castilian had was his sword.  When he brought up his shield to protect himself, at the same time pulling away, Don Diego slammed hard into him, the steel point of the lance skidding across the shield and punching into the ward’s chest.

The impact was cataclysmic: the ward was thrown back from the saddle, tearing him away from his stirrups and shattering di Oviedo’s lance.  Without missing a beat, Don Diego wheeled about, pulling his sword free as Rodrigo charged on him.  With better luck than Gonzalo against lance, di Oviedo deftly parried the weapon aside as the Campaedor thundered passed in a blur of green and white.  The ride had taken Rodrigo clear, but he turned about, unsheathing his own blade.

The knights, oblivious of the fighting that raged around them, stared a moment at each other.  Then, after a revered salute from Rodrigo to his old friend, the Campaedor yelled and charged.

Blade to blade they clashed, the ringing of their weapons louder than the chaos that surged about them.  No words passed between their lips as they parried and struck at each other, and each blow fell wide or glanced aside.

Rodrigo, grunting with exertion, tried to push Don Diego back, rearing Bavieca. The Leonese champion, holding fast, avoided the hooves of his opponent’s steed and did his best to gain the flank.  The older man would have best liked to cut Rodrigo’s horse from under him, but Bavieca was now girt in protective mail taken from di Carrión, and besides, the Castilian was expert on horseback.

Suddenly, Rodrigo slashed as Don Diego pushed passed him, cutting into his side where the mail had been altered for riding.  The Leonese knight reined about, pain burning his wound; he struck out boldly and furiously, knocking the younger man back.  Rodrigo parried every blow that came against him, though he was hard pressed to do so, and he could do nothing to stop Don Diego from pushing him toward the danger of the Moorish spearmen.

Finally the older knight spoke.  He shouted as he spat blood from his lips: “You won’t take me this day, Rodrigo Diaz!  It was chance God placed you back in my path since I almost had your life years ago – outside the door of your house!”

Rodrigo hoarsely replied, “I was a boy on errand of my father.  Your horsemen killed my friend.  I will take your life this day, Don Diego.”

“Then come at me, Campaedor,” di Oviedo roared, and charged forward.

Don Diego’s blow went wide in an arc, and Rodrigo swiped inward, his blade slashing into the torn mail of his opponent and flicking a stream of blood as he pulled it away.  The blow from di Oviedo glanced off Rodrigo’s shield, and it had little strength in it.

With his blood staining his mail and tunic, Don Diego – in agony – followed the slow gait of his steed, his back to the Campaedor.  Rodrigo, still full of fire, came at him, and the Leonese champion parried another strike from behind as he did his best to turn about.  Rodrigo, sensing his opponent’s weakness, began raining blows in quick succession.  The sheer weight of his sword and the ferocity wore down the fading defense of Don Diego.  As the Leonese knight tried to raise a blow in answer, Rodrigo slashed around, catching the older man’s clavicle and cleaving a huge gash in his throat.  Don Diego’s head, holding on by his exposed spinal cord, slumped forward – the muscles no longer there to hold it.  The Campaedor rode up and clove the spine, sending Don Diego’s head flying from his body.  Head and helm fell heavily to the dirt as the body behind it fell askew on the saddle.

A rain of Moorish arrows put Rodrigo to flight as Alfonso and his guard came riding up.  By then King Sancho had put up his parley banner, having been worsted on the flank, and the day looked lost for the Castilians, though Rodrigo had come and the best Leonese warrior was now dead.

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