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
“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
“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
“Then all we have to do is follow these tracks,” Diego said
excitedly. “Then we’ll find our 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
“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
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
“Do not worry,” he called to her. “We mean no harm to your
family. They will return safe.” She waved back.