Chapter 1 - Young Diego Gets His Hands on Tizona
The ride from Albarracín had been an
especially hard one for young Martin. The dust and summer
heat had been unrelenting for this entire leg of their
journey. His simple tunic, soaked in sweat, clung to his
body, chafing with every move of the horse. The surrounding
hills, mostly brown with only a few scrubby bushes, seemed
equally beaten down by the infernal heat.
There was not even a breeze to bring relief. By lifting one
hand to shade his eyes and squinting into the glare of the
afternoon sun, he could see his lord, Rodrigo, up ahead. As
usual, the massive knight sat upright and proud on his
warhorse showing no sign of the terrible weariness felt by
Directly behind Rodrigo rode the knight’s tall,
seventeen-year-old squire Diego. Although also clearly
suffering from the heat, Diego was doing his best to imitate
his hero-lord by sitting up straight and pretending he felt
no discomfort. Martin had no interest in such pretense. He
just closed his eyes and wished for their destination for
the night to appear around the next bend.
A short time later, to his complete surprise and relief, his
wish came true as the town of Cuenca appeared ahead, perched
atop a hill surrounded by steep cliffs. Soon, Rodrigo was
surrounded by a small crowd of town dignitaries, and
arrangements were made to accommodate his company of
soldiers and servants.
“Mouse!” The commanding voice of Diego made Martin wince.
There was work to be done and Diego would make sure it was
Martin who did the bulk of it. As page to his lord Rodrigo,
fourteen-year-old Martin was little more than a servant. The
bigger, older, and more experienced Diego outranked him in
every way and took advantage of that fact at every
“Mouse!” Diego repeated. “See to the horses.” So few words
for so much work, Martin mused as he slid off his horse and
nodded toward Diego, acknowledging the order. Gathering up
the reins of the three horses, Martin wearily headed for the
stables. It was not until after the horses were unsaddled,
fed, watered, and groomed that Diego reappeared.
“Where did you put the saddles and gear?” he demanded.
Martin gestured toward the tack room where he had neatly
arranged the baggage. Frowning, Diego made a show of
inspecting the piles.
Then from Rodrigo’s saddle he unfastened the strap that held
the magnificent sword called Tizona. Reverently he pulled
the gleaming blade from its sheath. Turning it to reflect
the fading light, he admired the famous weapon. As he gazed
at it, his eyes narrowed and he clenched his jaw in a fierce
expression. Then with a mighty swing and thrust, Diego
charged out of the tack room and began fighting a ferocious
battle with an imaginary adversary.
“I don’t think Lord Rodrigo would appreciate your using his
prized sword as a toy,” Martin said simply. As squire, one
of Diego’s duties was to care for his lord’s weapons and
armor, which was yet another task he usually handed off to
Martin. Diego turned and lunged toward Martin, the point of
the razor-sharp blade ending up inches from Martin’s chest.
“This is no toy, Mouse!” He brought the tip of the sword up
to just under Martin’s chin. “This is Tizona, the sword of
El Cid! It is the sword of a great knight as I shall soon be
“Perhaps,” replied Martin calmly. “But you will have to earn
such a reputation. Remember, the title, ‘El Cid’ – the Lord
– was given to Rodrigo by his enemies out of respect. He
didn’t get it by dispatching imaginary foes …or pages.”
Diego’s fierce expression disappeared and he lowered the
weapon. “True enough,” he said wistfully, “But my time will
come.” Holding the sword once more up to the light he said,
“I do wonder exactly how many men this sword has slain.”
“Too many, I suspect,” Martin mumbled as he turned his
attention back to the horses.
Diego, returning to the tack room, took a few more practice
swings with the sword, returned it to its sheath, and then
gathered up the sword and several other items to take with
him to Rodrigo’s quarters. “You will stay with the horses
tonight and guard the rest of the baggage.” he commanded as
What neither boy noticed was that one of Diego’s swings in
the tack room had nearly severed a strap on the side of Lord