The generals, called to a makeshift meeting under a singed awning,
batted away the flies that were swarming around the camp, feasting off
"Your Majesty, we have lost for this season," one of the generals
said gently to her. "It is not a matter of pride nor of willingness. We
have no tents, we have no shelter, we have been destroyed by ill luck.
We will have to go back and provision ourselves once more, set the siege
again. Your husband" -- he nodded to the dark, handsome man who stood
slightly to one side of the group, listening -- "he knows this. We all
know this. We will set the siege again, they will not defeat us. But a
good general knows when he has to retreat."
Every man nodded. Common sense dictated that nothing could be done
but release the Moors of Granada from their siege for this season. The
battle would keep. It had been coming for seven centuries. Each year had
seen generations of Christian kings increase their lands at the cost of
the Moors. Every battle had pushed back the time-honored Moorish rule of
al Andalus a little farther to the south. Another year would make no
difference. The little girl, her back against a damp tent post that
smelled of wet embers, watched her mother's serene expression. It never
"Indeed it is a matter of pride," she corrected him. "We are
fighting an enemy who understands pride better than any other. If we
crawl away in our singed clothes, with our burned carpets rolled up
under our arms, they will laugh themselves to al-Yanna, to their
paradise. I cannot permit it. But more than all of this: it is God's
will that we fight the Moors, it is God's will that we go forwards. It
is not God's will that we go back. So we must go forwards."
The child's father turned his head with a quizzical smile, but he did
not dissent. When the generals looked to him, he made a small gesture
with his hand. "The queen is right," he said. "The queen is always
"But we have no tents, we have no camp!"
He directed the question to her. "What do you think?"
"We shall build one," she decided.
"Your Majesty, we have laid waste to the countryside for miles all
around. I daresay we could not sew so much as a kamiz for the
Princess of Wales. There is no cloth. There is no canvas. There are no
watercourses, no crops in the field. We have broken the canals and
plowed up the crops. We have laid them waste; but it is we that are
"So we build in stone. I take it we have stone?"
The king turned a brief laugh into clearing his throat. "We are
surrounded by a plain of arid rocks, my love," he said. "One thing we do
have is stone."
"Then we will build; not a camp but a city of stone."
"It cannot be done!"
She turned to her husband. "It will be done," she said. "It is God's
will and mine."
He nodded. "It will be done." He gave her a quick, private smile. "It
is my duty to see that God's will is done; and my pleasure to enforce
The army, defeated by fire, turned instead to the elements of earth and
water. They toiled like slaves in the heat of the sun and the chill of
the evenings. They worked the fields like peasants where they had
thought they would triumphantly advance. Everyone -- cavalry officers,
generals, the great lords of the country, the cousins of kings -- was
expected to toil in the heat of the sun and lie on hard, cold ground at
night. The Moors, watching from the high, impenetrable battlements of
the red fort on the hill above Granada, conceded that the Christians had
courage. No one could say that they were not determined. And equally,
everyone knew that they were doomed. No force could take the red fort at
Granada; it had never fallen in two centuries. It was placed high on a
cliff, overlooking a plain that was itself a wide, bleached bowl. It
could not be surprised by a hidden attack. The cliff of red rock that
towered up from the plain became imperceptibly the walls of red stone of
the castle, rising high and higher; no scaling ladders could reach the
top, no party could climb the sheer face.
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