The Cid Book 1 Chapter 3

Chapter III

Taking His Toll in Flour


Of course, the Lady of the House was more consoling to her son’s pride than what his father had been. To her, men were much like dogs in the pack, treating each other of rank rather than of blood and kin; one needed to be above the other. Doña Teresa withdrew from her bed after pacifying the needs of her lord and husband, just so she could look in on her fine young man.

Rodrigo may be many things in his youth, and even thus fiery in foolish boyhood ambition, but his mother still felt that he needed her comfort. Grown men may shy from their own mothers after a time, stating they need no more the warmth of their madre, yet they seek solace in their wives to become so in the end. And Rodrigo was still yet a boy. He may swing a sword and he may ride faster than many of Don Diego’s good wards, but Rodrigo was still a boy – Teresa thought nothing more of it.

For her, time often stood still, for she was not as busy as her husband and there were many servants in the house that looked to matters. Remembrance was now one of Teresa’s most easily come skills, and she could remember almost the day Rodrigo had last suckled from her breast, and thereon passed beyond her care of natural mothering. That had been so long ago – and more so than it came to her nostalgia rather than actual years. Boys did grow quickly. And Rodrigo was her only son, her only child. And he was her son, and though she would have liked to have given her lord more of the same, fate had not been so kind. Or perhaps it had been. She did not know.

Rodrigo had been so much hers, in those days long ago when he had sprung from her womb. When the boy was birthed, he’d come out silently; and it took the midwife, Maria, a hard smack to make him stutter and take his first breath. Even then they all saw a strange consternation on his infant face, as though he was confused why anyone would cause him harm so early in his life.

“He breathes,” whispered Maria, and that seemed good enough for her. Doña Teresa had held her charge in her arms. His father had been absent, out slaughtering enemies of Castile. The mother had wrapped her baby – this glorious new face for Castile – and held him close to her breast. The infant stared at her silently – not a cry from his lips. He seemed to be either in awe of his mother or bewildered of his gift of life.

“Rodrigo,” his mother said. He was born in a good hour, and even then she knew he was to be both life and death.

Doña Teresa had taken with her shawl to keep her warm from the coolness of the passageway and the slippers on her feet protected her from the chilled stones while upon errand to see her boy. He yet slept within the walls of his parents, though there were many who sought for him to leave hearth and home behind. There were those, including her husband, who would see Rodrigo married as quickly as possible, even before he had earned his spurs. Teresa’s northern kinsmen, the House di Oviedo in Asturias, were the main contender: Rodrigo married to their daughter, Jimena. Clamored more of Rodrigo’s servitude was the bishopric at Valpuesta where he often journeyed to read books and to learn the Law. Rodrigo in the clergy! It seemed now a joke in the gloom to her Ladyship, yet Rodrigo was a smart boy. Smarter than he should be. Even Prince Sancho had made a bid for Rodrigo to become one of his grooms, and it was an offer that Don Diego was considering seriously. Time was drawing nigh for the boy to become a man, and spare his parents more of his burden. Yet, his mother would fight this, for she was not in the mind of her husband and lord. Rodrigo would stay home.

Suddenly a pain in her lungs made her cough. The illness was worsening. Doña Teresa coughed again with her fist at her mouth, and when she pulled it away, saw speckles of blood upon her knuckles.

Don Diego would not have Rodrigo a clerk as to mind the books or to bless sinners. Many a lordship may aspire so, especially if the gambit was a bishopric; and this a great prize, for bishops were scant in King Ferdinand’s lands. Diego was not a pious man. He went to the Faith and the Blood as an ox driven by a cruel master.

In the bare glow of the sconce, her Ladyship came to the door to her boy’s room and she opened it gently. She couldn’t see but blackness inside. For some reason she didn’t think he was there. She fetched a candle and went inside to prove one way or another, and found herself glad that Rodrigo was indeed there, face buried in the pillow. But his body lay awkward, as though he’d thrown himself haphazardly upon the mattress, his arms tight at his sides and his legs jutting over the end. He made no sound with mouth muzzled and face hidden. Teresa wondered how he breathed. Then, becoming mother, she nudged him and pushed him awake. Rodrigo moaned incoherently but somehow, between wakefulness and sleep, adhered to her command to right himself. Then at last he lay on his back, his mouth open and his breath now clear. He didn’t snore save for a slight snork! at the outset.

She sat on the mattress beside him, watching him. How quickly they are and they were to be, these children, Teresa thought. On fire to become adults. Oh but be careful my son! Cherish youth and innocence while one may. There were horrific adult realities in the world.

There had been a cheating: sleep and the lateness of the hour had stolen her a moment to speak with him. Rodrigo so sorely needed guidance at times. He was practically a ruffian without it.

She kissed him lightly upon the brow to let him wander his dreams alone. He was for all time his own man, and that day at the Square proved it. But it was just the beginning.

“Is it just?” Pancho Bruno asked Domingo deSoto. The merchant had met with the town master at first light outside his home near Bivar where the great windmills cast shadows along the road to Burgos.

“Ay, just? What would be more just, Bruno?” DeSoto said. “You weigh the actions of a meddling youth whose father hasn’t taken a strap to.”

“No,” Bruno told him, scratching his balding head. He was often thoughtful and busy-minded, so the millers had been hesitant to take him into confidence of their plan. “Perhaps we could take it up with our lord, and let him know our minds for trade. He cannot keep a deaf ear to sound business, as it would profit him. I have known Don Diego for a long time; I understand his pain.”

“His pain be damned, Bruno.”

“Yet you would let a Navarrese dog sit over us? That, to me, is desperation for a glint of gold. Have you not more gold now than your house has had ever? Why not bide time yet, and Don Diego may open trade with Navarre. Even now the king and the bishop have taken ear to this, and they will make Don Diego listen. Our lord will not go against the advice of the king and the court.”

“You forget that a dog can be chained by his master; and you forget that Don Diego has already taken such a stance. The see has given Don Diego a free hand to mind these affairs.” Actually, the bishop did little to interfere with the decisions of his knights when it came to their own fiefs. Don Diego had been – and always will be – the final authority over these matters; the Lord of Bivar answered to no one other than the tax collectors of the Bishop of Burgos.

There was no more argument over this. Pancho Bruno knew that DeSoto was set in the plan, though the wounding of his son by Garcés was bitter meat. Therefore they spoke of other things, but the talk eventually came back to the Square and the Moor and what Rodrigo Diaz had done.

“We should have had him in the dirt,” DeSoto decided.

“Not with his father coming on! Don Diego would have flayed everyone if his son had been hurt.”

“That boy is a meddler. He needs to be dealt with.”

“Ay – I agree. I don’t see how this could be done with Don Diego yet hale. Besides, if our lord is removed, his son would be taken away.”

“He could inherit this land and then woe to us.”

“Not so – if the king and the princes take with Garcés’ claim.”

“The king cares little and the bishop is in Burgos.”

With this, Pancho Bruno had to take his leave for he was on his way to Leon and Domingo deSoto on his way to the stores. The town master waved at those on the street who recognized him, and some of these were children idle from the fields and playing; and some were goodwives.

Domingo deSoto’s son, Paulo, had survived the wound inflicted by Garcés, but the town master realized that the merchant council had made a pact with a devil. It would have been easier for them to bring in a neutral Castilian rico-hombre like House Cardéñas or House Láine; but Don Diego was popular among his friends. No – thought deSoto – it had to be Garcés.  Besides, Prince Alfonso favored the Champion of Navarre, and if the Ubierna Valley were ceded to the young Infanté after the division of Ferdinand’s realm, so much the better.

The millers, for the most part, sighed relief. Don Diego would – they believed – take the rash Rodrigo in hand; but the damage remained. The boy was nefarious: something had to be done about him.

Don Diego Láiñez was in the outer nobility, lesser to the rico-homés, of which the established castes of the kingdoms called an infanzón. Don Diego was a smart and clever lord, having gained an ear to the Royal Family. Many of the rico-homés caste suffered this; but none would be so quick to depose the son of Láine Nuñez, the hero of the Battle of Pamplona.

The sun was hot as deSoto came to the stores where yesterday he had faced the Moor and Rodrigo Diaz. The memory stung him sharply. He was alone, for his assistants were now at the mills, turning flour. DeSoto took back the latch and let himself in, pausing long enough to look at his girth. The town master didn’t like fat, and here he could pinch folds at his waist. His wife had remarked how healthy he was – and his children were as fat – but deSoto believed age and gristle not becoming a man at the height of his power.

It was dark in the stores for such a bright morning. The town master turned up a lamp just to get inside; here there were sacks of flour and whole grain side by side in rows on the dirt floor. The rats had been at the stores, it seemed; deSoto could see where the flour had spilled from the gnawed corners of the sacks. It was no use fighting the rats – they always won the grain in mighty numbers greater than the armies of Castile. Besides, deSoto wasn’t too alarmed, for these stores were meant for the masses of the valley and not for the king. They would suffice.

Damn Pancho Bruno, he thought. If the merchant was feeling remorse, then he could step out of the plan. Some men were blind to what justice was, even though Garcés was a dark angel and deSoto hated him. Yet Garcés was good business and business drove coin. And damn now that Rodrigo – the insolent whelp!

He surveyed the stock with a sniff.

Ay, the livestock of the Moor had been a tempting prize, though the town master had his share of goats. They could have confiscated the herd and sold the lot – and damn the Moor! He smiled – there would be other times after they had dealt with Don Diego!

The groan and shudder of the door interrupted his thoughts.

“Gonzalo, get you to the mills,” the town master said, thinking it was one of his sons. “No – wait. I want you to take some of this grain with you.”

“I am not Gonzalo,” a sharp, youthful voice sounded from behind. DeSoto turned around.

“Rodrigo Diaz!”

“Ay, it’s Rodrigo.” The son of Bivar possessed a strange grin on his face, but his smile wasn’t borne of amusement: he was girt with a sword. “You didn’t think we were finished just because my father rode into town to break our fun?”

DeSoto composed himself from shock and held out his hands. “What more would you want from me, Diaz? You took your just due from us yesterday. Was it not the full tax?”

Rodrigo chuckled dryly. “Oh now, that anything your millers and your house gives as ‘full.’”

“Did you not count the gold yourself?”

“Ay, but that’s not the pit of my concerns.”

“You’re a boy. What makes you the law of the land, ay? We answer only to your father, not you!”

The son of Bivar advanced a step with his eyes gleaming, and the town master backed up.

“You’re alone here, Rodrigo. I could call to my sons,” DeSoto warned, his voice quivering.

“Your boys are at the mills, old man. You think to threaten me? I could dice your lot.” The young heir looked around. “Ay, you have good stock here. I can’t believe your millers have been slow in business.” He sniffed. “Yet I have concerns more of the hidden gold I drew out from your coffers and ledgers. Something worms in my breast that something is not right here.”

“Your father –”

“My father is far away, you pig. I can’t help but to think you have designs to fatten your larder. What trouble were you giving to the Moor? You wanted his livestock, I’ll warrant.”

DeSoto winced at being called a “pig.” Still, the older man decided it was best to keep his mouth quiet rather than risk the youth’s ire. It may be best to be humble before Don Diego’s son until the footing was better.

“So, deSoto, you are still short in your dues. What gold do you yet hide in your fat folds?”

“We gave you all, Rodrigo Diaz.”

“None you say? Then I will take my toll in flour.”

“You are alone here, Rodrigo!”

The youth shook his head. “No, I have friends outside. You would think me foolish not to have friends? Now get away and I’ll take the flour.”

“I will take this to your father!”

“Ay, so you will. Now get back, dung-face.” Rodrigo whistled and two of his father’s grooms entered the stores to help take the sacks. DeSoto stood away, wringing his hands as he watched the men gruffly take their due and left little in their wake.

The town master followed them. “Ay! You cannot do this! How do I know this isn’t for your personal gain, Rodrigo Diaz?” All of the sacks were thrown onto the back of the cart, and one of the grooms pushed the man away as he went to the reins.

Rodrigo, now on his pony, turned about to confront deSoto. “You are worried over my integrity, ay? You’re lucky I heed as much to the law of the king and not tie you to a stump for a week, or strap you in front of your family.”

“You are a bully! You are not the king’s man!”

“We are all the king’s men, deSoto.”

The town master stood before the cart, his hands out to stop the grooms from driving.

“Get away,” one of the grooms snarled, raising a crop.

Rodrigo rode up. “Ay, ride him under, the old fool.”

The town master moved aside and Rodrigo laughed at him as he and his men rode away.



(C)Copyright 2001 by M Cid D’Angelo



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The Cid Book 1 Chapter 2

Chapter II

A Mist on the River



When the turn of the season came, and the leaves of autumn changed the lush green of the valley to a chromatic pallet, Don Diego came home.

The road from Leon twisted upon itself as it rounded the knobby hills, and as he came out of the turn, the lord could see the glint of the sun on the far river – a beacon on the long road. From the villa, one could look out upon the meadows and see the gleaming River Arlanzon itself, cutting its way through the land southward, where it would eventually join in a natural marriage with the River Duero and swathe themselves into a torrent of majesty through north-central Spain until emptying their union into the sea beyond.

The people of the Ubierna were river people. They spent much of their lives living upon the banks, and it was not a surprise that Don Diego’s millers did good business there, garnering a high trade. It had always proven a burden to get the just tax from them, considering they were the ones who had the power to dam the rivers and the power to distribute bread to the folk. They often fed upon this power to win lobby at the court of the Lord of Bivar, and when that mattered little, they could petition the crown itself, as much of their feed went to the king’s armies. Even Don Diego’s lord, Count Estaban Buega, the Bishop of Burgos, sometimes found his own hands tied with such matters.

That day, Don Diego came home to his loving wife, Teresa. She was pleased to find him in her arms, and the light of her blue eyes soft and reminiscent of the young maid he’d taken to wife twenty years before. Tall, proud, she was a raven-haired woman of the north, and her face was handsome and chiseled, cut from alabaster. She had been ailing as of late, but they kissed passionately – as a loving couple may – in the alcove entrance where the master had entered. His porters waited patiently as their lord and lady greeted each other.

Doña Teresa spoke first. “He is here, he is up and above.” Meaning the battlements. Their son often brooded up there alone in the shadows when troubled.

“Rodrigo? He has spoken to you?”

She shook her head, and her dark tresses were darker, somehow, in the glow of the sconces. “He came in silently, but I heard from one of the servants he’s passed above.”

Don Diego groaned and stepped inside his house, the familiar flickering shadows on the stones at once, foreign to him. He had been absent for two months now, on errand of the king, and the home he had longed for seemed more remote than the time he’d been gone. Of his knights, all had long since parted to their homes in the valley, and his wards bedded down. Slowly he walked into the foyer, taking in the badges of their families’ tapestries with an appreciative eye.

That moment was broken now, for he closed his eyes as his wife embraced him from behind. He felt her slim body against his back, her lithe arms tight underneath his own arms, fastening warmly and assuredly on his chest. At his bidding, the porters moved away, closing the massive oak doors behind them as they went.

“I was worried over you,” he whispered. “You were ill when I left.”

She said nothing; though in her eyes he could see a dullness within; that her illness had not passed away. She would keep secrets from him, and after years of their marriage, Don Diego knew that it was best at times not to press her. He was … afraid, somehow, to know the truth of matters. He kissed her and she him; and they were one.

Don Diego loved his wife upon the carpet before the fire, her light gown open and pushed aside for his eagerness, and their union in wedded bliss as he took her still half-clothed in his riding garments. It was the sort of lovemaking Teresa preferred, in her desires. She was a rough one and a fun-loving one; there was no place sacred for lovemaking. In the stables? Ay! In the bed? Ay! In the twilight grotto, and the open starlit fields … ay! Don Diego blessed his stars for marrying a woman like his Teresa.

The lord lustfully finished, quick as his nature, but it was a union long missed in the home. Yet at first he did not part from her, but remained therein, studying her eyes and her pale face and thinking how much he loved her. He did love her, much more than he had ever said, or so he believed. A man may always feel that way when he thinks he has failed the woman he loves.

They held each other, warmed by the flickering fire; the hearth a welcome end to matters of the cold road and the troubles of the king.

“What could be the problem?” Doña Teresa wondered aloud suddenly. Her husband thought she was talking about his lovemaking, and a pang of uneasiness assailed him. Yet, he noted that she was staring up at the dark, vaulted arches – the heights above.

“You mean with Rodrigo?”

She moaned a soft “yes” that was barely audible of the crackling of the fire. Don Diego respected her for she was not a foolish woman, and he asked her counsel many times when he was bothered. The warmth of her naked thigh on his loins made him feel the lingering residue of arousal, but he was too tired to press the issue more. He told her that there had been a fight with the millers in Bivar, and Rodrigo had done something to warrant it. It had to do with a Moorish goat merchant.

“When did you see him?” She asked.

“This day, as I came riding up the road from Leon. A rider brought news to me that a disturbance was amiss in Bivar, and such I went to see. And there, in the midst of the throng was our Rodrigo with a flash in his eyes and a sword in his hand.”


Don Diego shook his head slightly and gave her a wink. “Rest your fears. There was no great fight with blood and steel, as you would think to see him standing there. He had had a tussle with the millers, and had suspected they had been holding out in their taxes to the Bishopric.”

“So, that is it, then.”

“Ay, yes. As the long and short of it. I find it more troubling he would find such an interest in the millers’ money ledgers than chasing the farm girls.”

“He is much like his father,” Doña Teresa whispered, her head on his chest. “I fear his temper.”

“Ay? His temper?”

She nodded. “He is moody – the servants are wondering if he has it in with spirits.”

Don Diego thumped his fist on the carpet. “They think what? Spirits? The boy is absolutely pious. He would not drink if I were to sit on him and force his lips open.”

“Still, he is detached.”

“He is just dreamy. He’s a good son.”

“Yet his moods are strange. He goes from one extreme to another.”

“And that is strange?” Don Diego moved on his side to look at her. “He is a young man developing conviction. I was not so different.”

“He needs to balance his emotions. People are afraid of him; he is…unpredictable.”

“Let them be afraid then.”

She let the matter rest, though it was clear Doña Teresa was closer to their son than her husband was. It seemed a fact that of late, to becoming less. She was staring at her husband quizzically, a unique look on her brow that made her eyes very attractive.

Now, looking at his wife in the gentle glow of the hearth, Don Diego saw that his son took after her more, and he found it interesting and warm, though he would have liked it better the other way around. Besides, the temperament of the youth was given more to her line than his, for young Rodrigo was far more thoughtful and contemplative than anyone on his side of the family.

Doña Teresa, by right, owned the lands of Bivar, not Don Diego – her husband. It was she who came from the strong and old Castilian family of Alvaréz; her father had had the honor of Rodrigo being his namesake, and he had been a strong supporter of King Ferdinand in the early years. Rodrigo the Elder still owned the strategic Castilian castle of Luna, north of Miranda de Ebro; his younger brother, the knight Nuño, at Amaya, close to Burgos itself.

“You’ve word from the king,” his wife suddenly decided.


“And of this you are troubled.”

“Ay.” Don Diego rolled on his back, looking up at the shadows. He was open with his wife of duty.

She summed it with a whisper: “Navarre.”

He could only shrug.   His wife nuzzled his neck, wrapping her arms tighter around him.

“You should sleep,” she said.

“There are things to take care of.”

“There are always things to take care of, m’lord.”

Don Diego sighed. “It wasn’t his place to deal with those millers. Mark me: there will be more to come of this.”

“He has a burning fire within. He doesn’t like the millers.”

“He should keep his head.”

“He isn’t like that,” Doña Teresa said, reminding him. “He is at the time, I believe, when a young man desires to do a great deal but doesn’t know what.”

“He came home from the court.”

The Lady of the House snorted. “Ay! He threw Prince Sancho off his horse.” When she said “Prince” she actually said, the Infanté.

“He didn’t displease the Family.”

“No! But the Infanté has a sore rear-end!” And the Lady laughed. Doña Teresa was just as bad as Rodrigo was; she had once been a notorious tomboy; she had been quick to ride and hunt as any of her brothers, and she was proud that her son was a formidable horseman. When she saw that her husband wasn’t smiling, she sighed. “You worry of his diplomacy.”

“He speaks his mind and that will get him into trouble one day.”

“He will mellow, perhaps, when he has a good woman,” Doña Teresa said.

Don Diego smiled, the glow of the fire making him look both devilish and saintly because of his thin goatee. “You would think me tamed by a woman?”

“Every man is tamed by a woman.”

“I am as I always have been,” he assured her.

“No. I am your civilization, m’lord.”

He was about to protest when the Lady of the House moved her loins gently against his manhood. Don Diego became silent. They looked at each other in the warmth of the hearth, the flicker of love in their eyes; some would whisper not a man and a woman could love each other more – it was unnatural.

The loving couple warmed each other again by the fire of their home, given now only to the pleasure of this love, and not by the events of the day.

Not long after, though he was tired and the thought of a warm bed seemed far more attractive than to climb the heights to the cold battlements that crowned his home, Don Diego gave a thought to finding his son and to rest the confusion of the day. The Lord of Bivar had yet to eat, but the strange new habit of his son spurred him away from the table, and he came up the stair into the night. The passageway here was dark and treacherous, and there were no wardens to watch or to call out to, so, Don Diego felt along the wall until he was in the open, and the light of the half-moon cut the shadows aside.

At once he caught the grandiose sight of his lands sleeping tranquilly in the crisp night of this first month of autumn. With a pleasure he hadn’t felt since his younger days, the provincial lord took in and savored what lay before him. It was, indeed, a haunted realm. It took on a mantle of fantasy, and with that, Don Diego felt as if his times were mist, and he was no longer who he was – that he might be one of the elder nobles of the Visigoths, looking out of his battlements for threat of barbarians.

He was indulging his son, and it would have been something his own father would have frowned upon. “Horse whip the boy,” Don Diego could almost hear the man’s throaty whisper on the night breeze, “make the lad know that it is you who are the master.” And the thought stung him suddenly, for it seemed as if such an action would be made more for a horse than a son. Don Diego’s father had been stern and grim, never smiling in all the years he had known him; there were memories of dark times of fear when he thought that his father, enraged by some childhood infraction, would seek him out with a studded leather strap and beat him into unconsciousness.

Yet those days were over, and Don Diego, weakened and humiliated perhaps by this, had long ago burned the studded leather strap. He had pledged to allow his own son to grow and to learn the world without the harshness of pain, to respect his elders out of reason and humbleness rather than fear. It was contrariness because Don Diego by rights nurtured a harsh temper that could only be squelched at times by violence. And now? What was this? His own son scorning his father’s authority in the Square of Bivar, before the assembly of merchants and the people?

Don Diego wondered, and he leaned on the battlement to look over the short brown grass below the walls. I am a weak man, he thought to himself, I am weak because I love my son.

“Do you know why this place is called Castile?” Rodrigo suddenly said from somewhere to his right. When Don Diego turned, all he saw was the young man’s shadowy form deep in the darkness from the watchtower. There was an almost imperceptible movement as Rodrigo crossed his arms. “Do you know?”

Don Diego shook his head.

Rodrigo sighed, but he didn’t move. “They call it Castile because it’s a land full of castles. It is a land at the heart of war.” The youth was quiet for a moment. Then, when the father thought he had finished speaking, the youth said, “I’ve read about it at the bishopric. There’s much blood here. I come up here to see the mist on the river. I like to think sometimes it’s the ghosts of all the knights who’d died here.” The youth pulled himself from the wall where he’d been at first, almost unseen, and suddenly in the light of the half-moon, Don Diego beheld the stern, handsome face of his young man. His eyes were sharp and steely, but though they seemed at once like those of a hunting falcon, around them a ring of gentleness and thoughtfulness buffered out the trouble his brows could weave. His hair was long and full, darkened by his mother’s line, and his face somewhat soft and regal – the portrait of an artist, and not one you would expect to swing a sword.

It was a few moments before Don Diego looked away to the river lands. “I do not appreciate that what you did at the Square today, Rodrigo.”

“And that, father? You would hear the words of the millers?”

“That is not what I mean,” the father snapped. “You pulled away from my service without my leave.”

“I was troubled.”

“No more troubled than you will be by my anger.”

Rodrigo dropped a stone from the wall and watched it vanish in the shadows below. “Is that what you came up here for? To condemn me? No welcome here from a father long a’field?”

“It seems I had greetings a’plenty for you when I arrived to Bivar.”

“And yet these are gone?”

Don Diego drew himself up to confront his willful son. “I’ve no need to answer to you, Rodrigo. We have a problem to sort out. You forget yourself and who you are.”

“And what am I, father?”

The question truly shocked him. Don Diego, clenching his fists, was confused. Was his son being sarcastic? Had something odd had crept into the youth’s mind, sickening him beyond reason? “You are my son. Nothing more.”

“Then by being your son, would you think that I had a duty to your estate?”

“Ay, that you do.”

“And that I, upon your absence, took it up to deal with those cretins of all men, those millers? To extract from them their just due?”

“I am not angered by that.”

“Yet it was because of that you came to Bivar directly? To confront me and to condemn my own authority before them?”

“You have no authority beyond that which I bequeath to you, Rodrigo.”

The youth gave a short laugh. “Then, you would say that I am not a man to deal with those who would steal from his own family? From an absent father?”

Don Diego could see where the youth was going with this. Rodrigo was good at words; he could put them on a checkered board and play a good round of chess with them. The older man sighed and turned his attention once again to the landscape. “You are angry with me because you thought I came to drag you back home by your ears.”

“Ay, that is what you did.”

The father smiled. “No, Rodrigo. I had no idea what was amiss in the Square until I saw you there standing with naked steel, above two wounded men.”

“You should have left me to deal with them.”

“And to that, Rodrigo? To maim them? To kill them? What infraction could they have caused to warrant this? They are the sons of powerful artisans – artisans of our county. If they had merely stolen a few coins from the table –”

“– And that is not what has happened!” Rodrigo snapped, nervously massaging his forehead. “Again, the ideal of money comes up when a sword comes out. No, I righted that wrong when I had them turn out their pockets in the streets in front of the masses they steal from.”


“Ay, that from the treasury of Bivar. They use the gold for some evil purpose.”

Don Diego was dumbstruck; not so much that his millers were corrupted, but that his son believed they were.

“I believe, father you are concerned over the other matter. The one about the moor.”

When Don Diego had found his son in the Square with his sword drawn, the fight had concerned the fact that the millers would not do business with a moorish goat merchant. As much as Don Diego could figure out, the millers’ sons had ganged up on the defenseless moor and were about to steal his flock when Rodrigo came upon them after auditing their books.

“Why defend the moor?” Don Diego asked.

“Justice.” The word was quick and full. Rodrigo had no doubts in his tone. “It is the law of the king.”

“And you feel you are to uphold the law?”

Rodrigo laughed again. “If the will of the land is unheeded, what lays then? Ay, chaos, anarchy. The world ends with people tearing the flesh away from another and drinks the blood.” The youth began to pace, his head down, his face hidden by the long dark locks of his hair. “It is a disease I think I have. I cannot stand to see something like that. The millers’ sons had every intention of killing him there in the street, though he protested justice in the name of King Ferdinand. Free trade between vassal states of Castile!”

“Even though the merchant was a moor?”

Rodrigo stopped and looked up, his eyes blazing. “Especially that! The moors of Saragossa are equal subjects of the king, by right and law able to have the peace of mind to deal openly with his other subjects. Just because one city is Christian and another is moor, does not separate the reality of justice.”

Don Diego, caught between the pride of hearing such conviction from his strange son, and fear that the youth was simply mad, cocked his head. “By the laws of Christendom, moors have little right to justice.”

“And no doubt they feel the other way around.”

“So, you were willing to kill our powerful artisans’ sons just so that a moor could barter freely in a Christian town?”

“I don’t know,” Rodrigo told his father, “I think that it is important. I was willing to endure the wrath of the whole town if need be.”

“That’s what you would have had, most likely.”

“Most likely.”

Don Diego, angry over his son’s nonchalance, slapped the young man across the face in a rise of emotion. Rodrigo, shocked, rubbed his cheek. The blow wasn’t harsh, but it had a little sting to it.

His voice quivering, Don Diego said, “You will not do such again. You will report to me any doings in my town and my lands, but you will not take a hand. Do you understand me?”

Rodrigo said nothing.

The Lord of Bivar studied his son for a few long moments in anger, though secretly pleased in some ways. Then, without a word more, Don Diego turned and made his way from the battlements.


(C) copyright 2001 by M Cid D’Angelo

A castle in Spain

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The Cid Book I Chapter I

Facta Ducis Vivent, Operosaque

Gloria Rerum.

  • Ovid, In Liviam, 265 A.D.

The Hero’s deeds and hard-won fame shall live.


Chapter I

Blood and Gold


Ghosts remain, tethered to those left behind, and for them life and death still exist. These ghosts scream through echoing corridors of endless reaches; they are forgotten and not forgotten in the contradiction of living and remembrance. With blood on his hands, a tide of scarlet that welled from the darkness and the lips of a thousand ghosts, Jimeno Garcés was satisfied.

The Navarrese champion rode under the cover of night, bearing no naked steel and enshrouded in midnight. His horse was loud at gallop, but he cared little for that, considering that anyone who may tarry on the road from Navarre would be but a pilgrim or perhaps a merchant, and not a cavalry soldier. King Ferdinand’s lords didn’t waste men on the frontier during times of peace, and neither did the Navarrese; yet it was best to travel as unnoticed as possible.

At once drifting clouds passed the waning moon and shone upon the barren fields leading to the river lands of the Ebro, and when Garcés checked his steed to a trot, the moonlight caught him and made the knight appear as a black wraith. He would have enjoyed this if he had known. The champion was full of purpose, given now to his quest of gold, and with thoughts of the warm glint of coin, he did little to remember the lights of home far away. His wife there waited for him with his bold sons and his sweet daughters. Even a man dark with cunning had someone to care for him.

There were men waiting to the side of the track ahead, mists in shadow under the moon. Garcés came to a stop, wary that they might not be who he supposed, for there were brigands about and others who would challenge the steel of the Champion of Navarre.

“Well met,” cried a young voice from the group.

“And you,” was Garcés’ reply. His hand strayed to the hilt of his sword. The knight told himself to wait. If these men were robbers, they would learn an agonizing lesson trying to take him, he thought. He wheeled his steed about impatiently.

“Garcés,” greeted another voice from the group. The knight recognized it as the town master of Bivar, Domingo deSoto.

“Do you have your due?” The Navarrese asked. There was a pause, a hesitation that immediately set Garcés uneasy. He didn’t think that deSoto would show up forgetting the gold from his millers, and of this they should all be mindful. The knight grasped his weapon.

“We were surprised you came alone,” deSoto said, leading the group toward the rider slowly. “You come alone; are you unafraid of the night?”

“The night doesn’t frighten me,” Garcés told him. “Ay, as much as that man who hides under his bed. You have my due?”

“We wished to discuss matters, m’lord.”

“There is no discussion: we are in agreement.”

“There will be trouble,” exclaimed deSoto.

The knight just stared dully at the men, thinking it would have been best to have sent his clerk, Alvarado, to take up this matter. Yet, even so, the knight hadn’t expected trouble from these men of Burgos. They and their ilk. When the four riders came up, Garcés was at ease for the moment. He at once recognized their faces and thought them little threat.

“It cannot be helped, for tomorrow is the day of dues,” deSoto said. “We have brought only a quarter of your said price.”

The knight frowned. There it was. His steed became fidgety and was milling about, and he had to check her to make her steady. She was of mind like much that of her master, and thereby wary herself. After a moment of silence, the Navarrese told them, “Hear this now: we are in agreement. I am to be paid fully. Not a half. Not a quarter. Fully.” His tone was flat and dangerous.

“We will be audited by Don Diego and the bishopric.”

“Do they suspect your treachery?”

DeSoto grimaced. “Treachery? Ay? You would call us – your friends – traitors? We wish only the chance for open trade with Navarre.”

“Even if it means killing your lord, Don Diego.”

“Ay, that,” put in the stubby merchant, Pancho Bruno. He was humbly upon a burro, wearing a rough skin cap and looking fat in the shadows. “Don Diego keeps the roads checked for trade because of his hatred for your house, m’lord Garcés.”

“That,” agreed deSoto, his voice calm. “We have no reason to stop trade with the Navarrese over a family dispute. It would be far better business to have you petition the king for this land and oust Don Diego and the Bivar Family.”

“Even now his son has shown interest in our dealings,” Bruno said.

“Not much for me to leave my home for the Ubierna. Sorely am I pressed to take this land in the stead of Diego, and thereby a hard gambit to win King Ferdinand’s favor.” Garcés chuckled. “You merchants and millers. Ay, such as governments unto yourselves. You try to seem as though you are just and loyal with your talk of ‘business’ though you are ready now to place a blade in the back of your lord. Yet I will honor our agreement to bring this about, ay, so you would know that such an ousting of Don Diego would be as good as to pour his brains out upon the dirt.”

“Then will you accept this trifle payment for now, m’lord Garcés, and we shall pay you twice as agreed upon the New Moon?” DeSoto asked.

Garcés held up a hand. “I did not say I am settled with this. I came here, miles from my home and alone. I have come in good faith instead of having you come to Pamplona, and now you say you do not have my due. That is sore tidings.”

“Only circumstance, m’lord.”

“Circumstance be damned. By God man! Who do you think you are dealing with?”

The merchants looked at each other, at a loss.

“There is no guarantee that even with your payment that King Ferdinand would allow me – a Navarrese – a chance yet to sit as lord of Bivar. Ay, with an army I could take it, but that would be more gold.”

DeSoto recovered, but he was unaccustomed to speaking before an armed man, and his frail voice was as a twitter in the night. “Castile will belong to the Infanté, Sancho, yet last month in Leon did Prince Alfonso praise the ideal of you here, as so long as you keep to your promise of placing the Ubierna in the hands of Leon! We are certain!” DeSoto was openly agitated with the knight’s arrogance; the townmaster was not a man familiar with indignity, regardless of the other’s rank. “He knows well your fight with Don Diego and the House Láiñez. You speak how we are to betray our lord Don Diego and you have said nothing about your betrayal of King Ramiro! Yet such betrayal would be as sweet to Ferdinand’s table, if he cared. You will be granted all the Ubierna Valley, just as long as you take care of Don Diego Láiñez. And what concern have you? You own some estates even in the heart of Leon. You – a Navarrese!” It was true: many lands were scattered about and owned by lords of other nations; allegiance only reflected upon who paid taxes to what crown and when.

The knight studied the merchants a moment, pondering their logic, if logic there be. He was not a friend of Leon-Castile, and he wondered if his gambit to own Bivar and the Ubierna Valley as well as Pamplona would be fit for King Ferdinand. With all this plotting, it was more likely his bid for the Ubierna would have to wait, for the old king to die and his children to inherit their lands. How long would that wait be, even if he did kill Don Diego? Garcés would lose Pamplona, he knew, and perhaps start a blood feud with Ramiro of Navarre. But then, considering what he had to gain with gold, his mind was put to ease.

“Is that your son, deSoto?” Garcés asked, pointing at one of the riders.

“Ay, he is my youngest, Paulo,” the townmaster said proudly.

“He is a healthy boy.”

“He is the image of his mother. A good match against Rodrigo Diaz, wouldn’t you think?”

“Rodrigo Diaz,” the cold voice of Jimeno Garcés echoed the name of Don Diego’s son. The knight lashed out with a small dagger, a flicker of keen metal in the moonlight, slashing the youth’s neck. In mouthless shock, the boy grabbed his welling throat and fell back off his mount. The merchants shrieked as the gurgling boy thrashed on the ground.

Garcés took the reins of the pack mule that held his gold from the stunned deSoto and turned about. “A little thing to remind you not to be trifling,” the knight told them as he trotted away. He ignored the shouts of outrage until he was out of earshot and into the night beyond.




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“The Roadrunner” Published by High Desert Journal

promo - High Desert Literary Journal

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Sam Shepard Passes Away

Sam Shepard has been one of my great mentors. Rest in Peace, my good fellow of the Arts.

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High Desert Journal to Publish “The Roadrunner”

I’m very proud and excited to announce that High Desert Journal will be publishing my new short story, “The Roadrunner” in their upcoming issue! The story is about an Apache man – a rock and roll musician who, after spending years in the world outside the Indian reservation – discovers that somehow he can never really come home again. Inspired by the true life stories of Native American friends I’ve known in the white world – it’s a poignant story of disquieted and unresolved pasts.



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Soon to be Published!

Adelaide Literary Magazine (2017)

I’m proud to announce that my short story, “Shadows in Empty Rooms” will be appearing in Adelaide Literary Magazine! I will let everyone know when and where they can obtain a copy when it comes out.

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