|Almenar de Soria|
All photos in this post 2019 Jessica Knauss unless otherwise credited.
* * *Young Gonzalo sat astride his mount on the valley crest with his brothers, his tutor, his uncle, and both companies of troops behind him. The valley of Almenar opened out green beneath them, fragrant as the morning sunlight warmed the dewy grasses. A hundred head of cattle grazed lazily, surrounded by droves of bleating sheep, their shepherd perhaps resting, hidden among the brush. Young Gonzalo heard the animals' calls beckoning him.
"It's everything our uncle promised." A jackrabbit bounded between his horse's legs.
* * *
|The fields at Almenar|
|This way to Almenar! It's mind-blowing |
to see place names in real life when you've imagined them so passionately.
Salas de los Infantes, I imagined marching with my characters toward the fertile fields of Soria to take cattle and whatever loot they could find. I'm happy to report that Soria today matches the description in the excerpt above. It's resplendent with rolling farmlands and wild areas with much more possibility for cultivation than the rocky (though still beautiful to me) soil of Zamora.
* * *The opposite crest was swimming in the red, blue, white, black, yellow, and green banners of Moorish soldiers as they appeared to rise out of the ground, sending the cattle lowing in every direction. The fluttering obscured the men beneath the flags and made it difficult to estimate their number, but if their hill was as wide as the one from which he now looked, there could be as many as three hundred.
* * *
|Almenar Castle with the bridge over its moat, which is behind a locked gate|
|Photo 2019 Daniel Sanz|
|The town of Almenar comes right up to the castle.|
|Hermitage of the Virgin of La Llana,|
I'm glad the castle looms over the bucolic landscape today. The contrast between the peaceful fields and the manifestation of military power in stone reminds us of the battles, but also what so many were fighting for.
* * *The moment the brothers appeared once again at the entrance of the tent, the drummers gave a terrifying crash and the Moorish knights fell on them, surefooted even on the undulating slope. Gonzalo gripped his sword as his only lifeline and thrust outward, cutting and swiping at whatever he could. The Moors in charge of moving the dead and wounded took away a hundred soldiers within two hours. Gonzalo fought on two fronts: the fear rising from his darkest heart had to be beaten back at every turn, and the neverending troops had to be cut down.
. . . and still the soldiers kept coming, with fresh horses and undamaged shields. Their prey could hardly move enough to control their own hands, and most of them had broken their shields in half and lost either their swords or their close-range daggers.
* * *
becomes available again!
More adventures in Soria are available at my Facebook page (March 2019), but I've saved the best parts for future posts here!