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The Sword

Chapter 5 - Diego and Martin Begin Unraveling the Mystery

By dawn Diego and Martin had resumed their search. Like the day before, their progress was slow and deliberate. They feared too much the possibility of missing the sword, and the consequences their failure might bring, to do otherwise.

For Diego especially, his future as a knight hung in the balance. Martin was more worried about how his father would react should Rodrigo dismiss him from his service. And neither boy wanted to even think about what it would be like to have to face the great El Cid again and tell him that they had failed.

It was early afternoon when they finally followed the trail into a green, bowl-shaped valley. In the lead, Martin brought his horse up short at an odd sight. More than a dozen flowers lay strewn across the path in front of them. “Look at this, Diego,” he said pointing.

“They’re flowers, Martin,” Diego replied sarcastically.

Ignoring Diego’s jibe, Martin dismounted and picked up several of the flowers. “They’re cut, Diego. Cleanly cut – mowed down with something very sharp. And look at how many!”

“You really think the sword was used to cut down those flowers?” Diego asked, now clearly interested.

“I can’t imagine what else could do this. It’s certainly a possibility.”

“If you’re right, then that means someone found the sword here. We must search this field very carefully.”

Diego dismounted, and both boys began looking for signs of the sword or whoever had found it. Martin was searching the lower part of the field when he came upon an area where he could see that the grass had been trampled by many small hoofs.

“Diego!” he called. “I think I’ve discovered who found the sword!” Diego came at a run.

“What?” he said breathlessly. “I don’t see anything. What have you discovered?”

“A shepherd,” Martin replied. “These little hoof-prints belong to sheep or goats. Someone was grazing a flock up here after the rain. If we find the shepherd, we may find the sword.”

“Then all we have to do is follow these tracks,” Diego said excitedly. “Then we’ll find our thief.”

“Thief?”

“Whoever it was took the sword, didn’t he? It doesn’t belong to him. I’d say that’s the definition of a thief.”

“I’d not be so quick to pass judgment, Diego. If you found Tizona laying in the grass, would you just leave it there?”

Diego didn’t reply. He was already jogging back to where they had left the horses grazing.

The flock’s trail was not hard to follow. It led them to a narrow, well-used road that gradually descended from the hills into a broad valley. Before long a fenced pasture containing a small flock of sheep came into view. A simple thatch-roofed house and barn lay just beyond. Diego urged his horse into a trot at the sight. Martin followed.

As he reached the house, Diego, in his best imitation of Rodrigo’s commanding voice, bellowed, “Hello! Anyone here? Come out!” Moments later, a tall woman, Martin guessed her to be around forty, emerged from the doorway, a young girl at her side.

The woman wore the long, ankle-length tunic and waistcoat commonly worn by peasants. Her long dark hair was mostly hidden beneath a shoulder-length cloth held in place with a patterned headband. The wide-eyed child beside her wore only a simple tunic. Both of them, Martin noted, although clothed in simple dress, were very clean and neat.

This was a Muslim family he guessed. Martin dismounted. Diego did not, preferring to remain in a superior position looking down on the woman and her child. He was the first to speak. “I must speak with your husband,” he demanded.

“He is not here,” she answered simply.

“Where is he, then?”

“He is not here,” she answered again. “What do you want?” Martin noted a hint of defiance in her voice. Diego was clearly irritated. “Your husband may have taken something that does not belong to him. I must see him immediately.”

“You cannot. He is not here,” she replied. Martin smiled to himself. This lady was going to have the better of Diego. She was as stubborn and unyielding of information as Diego was arrogant. Ignored by both of them, Martin left the two to argue, and wandered over toward the barn.

Soon he could hear the sound of children at play. Rounding the corner of the barn, he discovered two little boys, one a little older than the other. They each had a stick of wood and were happily engaged in a mock swordfight.

“Hello, young warriors!” Martin cheerfully called to them in Arabic. The boys stopped their game and looked at Martin curiously. He smiled at them and came closer. “Tell me about your game,” he said. Both boys smiled back at him.

A few minutes later, Martin returned to the front of the house where, as he had expected, Diego was still arguing unsuccessfully with the woman who now had a toddler clinging to her tunic.

“The woman won’t tell me anything!” he said as Martin approached. She’s obviously trying to protect her thief of a husband. We’re going to have to go in and search the house.”

“No, Diego, I don’t think that will be necessary. Her husband is not here and neither is the sword.” Diego frowned. He was not a patient person, and what patience he had was gone. “What are you talking about?” he sputtered.

“Her husband and oldest daughter, whose name is Zaina by the way, have taken the sword to Cuenca. They left this morning.”

“How do you know…”

Martin mounted his horse. “You just have to know how to ask – and who to ask. Let’s get going. The sword is waiting in Cuenca.”

Diego was indignant. “If they took the sword to Cuenca, he must be trying to sell it. I told you he was a thief.”

“My sources tell me they went to Cuenca to try to find the sword’s owner. How many thieves do that?”

As they turned to head back up the road toward Cuenca, Martin waved to the lady who still stood steadfast at her doorway.

“Do not worry,” he called to her. “We mean no harm to your family. They will return safe.” She waved back.

 
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