Saturday 18 January 2020

Pure Self-Indulgence

‘But Izzy, dear, be reasonable.’

‘Don’t you patronise me, you pusillanimous poltroon.’

‘But the strategic situation does not permit the castle to be relieved. It is not part of the plan. We proceed step by step, as we agreed. First, we do the near places, and then we hit the more distant ones when they are nearer. Castillo Al-Hambra is not part of that, not until at least two years hence.’

‘So, you are telling me that you refuse to go to the aid of these brave Christian soldiers who have risked their lives to take the place?’

‘Well, not refuse, Izzy. Obviously, they have done fabulously well and, when they return, I shall reward them handsomely. But we have to keep an eye on the plan, you see. Otherwise, chaos can ensue.’

‘I see. Tell me, then, O strategic oracle, whether Castillo Al-Hambra is on a strategic route between Granada and Malaga.’

‘Of course it is.’

‘And if we hold it, do we have a foot on the throat of the Nasrid kingdom?’

‘Yes, it would be a splendid coup; we would practically split the kingdom in two.

‘I see. Now, are you the commander of the army?’

‘Of course I am Izzy. And I am very proud of it. You know that. As fine a body of men as I could hope for.’

‘Good. And is the army mustered?’

‘Yes, we are fully operational. You got the report from the council, I believe.’

‘I did, Ferdie, yes. Is the army in supply?’

‘Yes, the magazines are full.’

‘Excellent. And is the money on hand to pay the troops and for the supplies?’

‘Well, you look after most of that, my, um, Isabel, my Queen. But I believe that we have sufficient funds.’

‘Finally, then, Ferdie, King and army commander, have you taken the Cross with the aim of kicking the infidels out of Spain, and have you received the Papal blessing so to do?’

‘Yes. And yes. But Izzy, where is this going? You know all this stuff.’

‘I’m just checking my poor womanly understanding, Ferdie. Tell me, please…’

‘What, my dear?’

‘Why the Hell are you still sitting here and not marching on Castillo Al-Hambra?’

‘Well, I have tried to explain, my dear….’ Ferdinand noticed that her foot was tapping on the floor. ‘I mean the plan….’

‘Ferdinand, King and army commander, if you are still standing there in five minutes time and not marching to the relief of Castillo Al-Hambra, there will be trouble. You will not be admitted to my bedchamber until you have retaken it.’

‘But what about the plan! That would be two years away…’

‘Furthermore, I have consulted with your mistresses and the other ladies of the court, and we will permit neither you, nor your commanders, access to our bodies until Al-Hambra is relieved and held.’

‘Izzy, in Lysistrata the women withhold sex until peace comes.’

‘I know. The women of Spain are doing it the other way around. Get on your horse and march. Come back a hero or dead, on your shield or holding it.’

‘But the shields are a bit small for that, Izzy. I mean, they are heart shaped, not hoplons.’

‘Get on with it.’

There was a pause. ‘Why are you still here?’

‘Oh. I’m just thinking about the orders and stuff. There is a lot to do. It will take a few days, you know, Izzy. We have to assemble the troops and the supplies, appoint captains, determine the march route, send out scouts. It all takes time.’

‘I know Ferdie. It is all a bit much. I have tried to help, you know.’

‘I know, sweetheart. But there are some things that women cannot get their heads around. We should be able to set off next week; maybe the one after.’

‘Well, Ferdie, my poor overheated brain has struggled with this, but let me tell you what I have managed.’

‘Go on, my dear.’

‘The scouts went out yesterday. The vanguard left at dawn. If you ride in the next hour you should be able to catch them before they cross the frontier. The main body leaves after the heat of the day has gone; the rearward tomorrow at dawn. I know you would want to travel light, so instead of your fifteen carts of personal gear I have restricted you to two mules, the other senior officers likewise. Don’t worry: I have done your packing for you.’


‘Your horse is saddled and your groom waiting in the courtyard. Your bodyguard is mounted and under strict orders not to permit any dalliance along the way.’


‘They will remove any part of your anatomy that causes you to delay as you ride.’

‘I am the army commander, you know.’

‘I know you are dear and don’t worry. All the orders went out under your name, with your seal upon them, as usual.’

‘But, how could that be. I’ve had my seal with me at all times.’

‘Of course you have, dear. But you were a little tired the night before last. I knew that you would want to get into action as soon as possible and save the garrison of Al-Hambra with all due alacrity, so I anticipated your wishes. Naturally, if you object to my activities you may, as army commander of the joint forces of Castile and Aragon countermand them, but then I, as Queen of Castile, will be forced to order the Castilian forces into the field to rescue their comrades from the place.’

‘I thought we had agreed that the army would be a joint venture.’

‘We did, and I should hate for you to break that agreement, my dear. So it would be better if now you would run along and relieve Castillo Al-Hambra. I promise I shall be terribly grateful when you have succeeded.’

‘Terribly grateful?’

‘Really, really grateful. As only a Queen can be for her returning hero.’

‘Oh. Well, I suppose I had better set out.’

‘Have a nice trip, dear.’

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