Author's Note Author's Note: This is a Spain Campaign on H/H. Im skipping the first couple decades and getting into the story of the Revolution. The Prologue is kinda giving some background, it'll fill in more as the story progresses. It'll be more Character oriented in future chapters. The timeline is also missing some details, tried to keep it more relevant for the future storyline. Pictures in future posts.
The Black Shirt Rebellion
Young and Energetic, Ruben Aragon has found himself living in Madrid as he had always hoped when he was a young boy. With his Father missing and an old childhood friend in the Armada he has somehow made a life for himself working as a woolcomber in Urban Madrid. His senile employer often spends most his time fighting with himself, leaving the shop to be ran by the young Ruben himself. The Gabaldon Family which owns the shop and lives in its upper floors is extremely grateful to have Ruben with them, as he is now the closest the family has to a Man of the House. The Gabaldon daughters are especially interested in his attention, which he often keeps on the tasks at hand. Six years after being left with the Gabaldon's he now sees that there are still life choices to be made. Ones that will change his fortune and the history of a Nation. His struggles and triumphs are recorded in this story.
Timeline of Spanish Events 1702: Spain enters war with Morocco. Cherokee tribesman harass Spanish Colonials in Florida.
1703: Carlos II signs Alliance with France releasing Flanders from Spanish Occupation.
1707: Louisiana engages Spanish Colonial Forces in Florida bringing war. France cancels its alliance with Spain but refrains from entering any war.
1710: Spanish Forces capture Algiers. Cherokee Assaults drop to an all time low after the Invasion of Georgia. Spanish Forces capture Lower Louisiana. The Kingdom of Spain signs alliance with the Italian States. Enters war with Venice.
1714: New schools opened in Baton Rouge and Palermo. Moroccan assaults on Gibraltar continue to no avail. King Carlos II endorses cross border raids into Venice from Lombardy
1715: The Ottoman Empire and Kingdom of Spain sign new Trade Agreement and Military Alliance. Spanish Forces enter Texas.
1717: Carlos II, King of Spain, dies leaving no direct Male Heir. Queen Luisa Isabel is Crowned. The Austrian's back their own successor and Declare War in Dispute of Luisa Isabel's claim to the crown
1721: Military Crackdown begins in Naples. Tunis falls to Spanish conquest.
1722: Clamor for Reform spreads from Naples to Spain. Amidst victory in the America's New Spain completely aligns itself with the Kingdom of Spain.
1723: Black Shirt Rebels surface in Naples. Queen Luisa Isabel orders the dispersion of rebels. Queen Luisa Isabel sanctions the use of Privateers on Austrian Trade Routes.
1725: Morocco is conquered by Spain ending 23 years of War. Seminary opened in Algiers to help combat the rampant religious unrest. France requests Alliance with Spain and is signed.
1726: Patriotic Fervor sweeps Madrid amidst Reformist demonstrations in the America's and other European holdings.
1728: Queen Luisa Isabel dies, Carlos III is crowned King of Spain. Spanish National Prestige continues to rise in spite of Domestic Struggle.
Once upon a Time in Madrid.... Confetti filled the air, cheers and the thunderous roar of applause was deafening for anyone out celebrating the Crowning of their new King. Ruben Aragon could care less if he could hear, the sheer level of celebration encompassing the city was far more than enough to keep him out. He had just turned 17 and was too young to enjoy the last coronation. His father was one of few Spanish locals that had developed a distaste for the Royal Family, and was disapproving of his sons enthusiasm. Chasing him through the streets was not the way he wanted to spending his day. "Ruben! Ruben!" He stretched his arm out at full length, narrowly grasping the back of his young son's shirt. He gave it a small jerk back to him, "Listen boy, we're in town for work not the coronation." He released the shirt and continued on his path, weaving through screaming peasants towards a local shop. Ruben's eyes continued to wander up and down the streets, there weren't near the king, however the Noble's we're preaching to the gathered crowds keeping the excitement alive.
"God Bless King Carlos III!" Screamed a man of distinguished dress from the balcony of the shop. The nearest portions of the crowd let out their own scream of approval. Ruben followed his father into the shop, which was nearly empty except for the owner whom hunched over the counter. "Vicente! How good it is to see you!" The owner walked around the counter, now grinning from ear to ear as he approached Vicente. "Juan," He grinned and reached for the man's hand. "How is Teresita and the Children?"
"You can ask them yourself! Jose is screaming from the balcony and his mother is trying to teach the girls to be reserved." Juan let out a bellow of laughter, then turned his attention to Ruben. "And you boy? Not out in the streets celebrating?" Seconds before Ruben could open his mouth his father interjected, "So I have more wool for you. I assume you'll be paying the same?" Juan looked back to Vicente. "Oh yes, same pay. However perhaps I could interest you in lending me your son for the summer. With Jose joining the Armada, I fear it may be hard to keep the shop running. I need a woolcomber and Ruben has the experience I could use."
"Don't care to hire a local boy?"
Smiling Juan shook his head, "I've experimented with the boys here. No work ethic, all they talk about is politics. Every one of 'em thinks they're the next adviser to the King." Vicente looked to his son, "Well I suppose if you give him fair wage I could spare him."
"Excellent! Ruben why don't you join Jose upstairs, while your father and I handle business?" Without a word Ruben made his way for the Balcony.
Jose hadn't moved from the edge of the balcony, he didn't care to turn around when Ruben came out either. He was far too busy enjoying the festivities outside. Ruben looked to see Teresita, Jose's Mother, sitting calmly next to her two daughters. Maria Anna, the eldest of the two was dressed like an aristocrat's daughter, her beauty was Queenly and she was only fifteen. Next to her Isabella, only 10 herself, was dressed equally as frivolous. Upon seeing Ruben join them, Isabella jumped from her seat throwing herself around him. "Ruben! Its been so long! How are you?" She squeaked with excitement. Before he could answer, Teresita and Maria Anna had risen to their feet with smiles. "Isabella let him go! He just got here and already he can't breathe." Teresita separated them and gave him a kiss on the cheek. He gently grasped Maria Anna's hand, kissing the back of it.
Finally broken from his trance Jose turned and let out another scream, "RUBEN! So good to see you again! Can you believe it? Another Coronation while we're young! Come over here, you have to see it from here!" After asking how Teresita was doing, Ruben joined his childhood friend on the edge of the balcony. The sight was truly awesome. From their height and angle you could see every corner of the street and square. The mob of citizens had become so dense Ruben found it hard to believe they were ever able to walk through it.
Ruben and Jose exchanged stories, caught each other up on their Family status and continued to joke and gawk at women in the streets. Jose shared his dreams to join the Spanish Armada(Navy) and was obviously incredibly loyal to the Monarchy of Spain. Ruben didn't see a military life for himself, his father wouldn't have it. However when he was with Jose, his mind expanded into the dream world he had made for himself. He was a distinguished soldier and rising politician when he would dream, something that he knew would never be true for his reality.
After Hours of chatting and cheering from the balcony of the Shop, the crowds slowly began to thin until there was but a few drunkards roaming the streets. Vicente and Juan emerged from the downstairs and joined the lively group outside. "So we have come to an agreement," Vicente looked at Ruben. "If you are willing son you can stay here with Juan and Teresita to help work over the summer." Isabella let out another squeak of excitement. Ruben smiled and he looked to Jose, who was already grinning. His eyes moved to Teresita and Maria Anna both smiling and watching him for his answer. "Absolutely father." Vicente and Juan shared a smile then shook hands. "I'll be on my way then," Vicente walked over to his son. "Conduct yourself as an Aragon should. Be courteous and respectful and write once a month. Understood?"
"That's my boy."
Ruben shook his head vigorously. He let out a yawn and slowly crept out of bed. He reached his hands into the bucket of water in the corner of the room, splashing himself several times. Standing in the doorway he slowly began to put on his shirt. He was 23 now, six years passed since his father had left him with Juan Gabaldon and his family. Six years had passed since he last saw his own father. When he slept he would dream like it was yesterday when he arrived. Everyday he opened his eyes was again having to realize the hard truth that befell him. Maria Anna and Isabella lived with their father still, Jose had joined the Armada six years ago and wrote constantly. Ruben had taken it upon himself to run the shop as if it was his own. Juan was aging and had limited physical capacity. This is what Ruben's life was, and little did he know what it would become....
Chapter I - An Unlikely Return
"Absolutely, we can have it to your estate by morning," Ruben scribbled several notes while the customer gave him directions. Writing was a talent the young Ruben had never taken for granted, even seeing it as his own mental escape. Juan would wander into the room several times a day, never really coherent. He'd give small grunts or go into a rant about a fictional conversation, he was clearly began to fall deeper into his own illusions. Maria Anna, always attracted the town boys to the shop leaving Ruben to chase them off in Jose's absence, she would giggle innocently as if she hadn't noticed they were there to see her. Teresita and Isabella spent most of their days cooking the meals and keeping the shop presentable.
"Isabel," called Ruben. "Isabel!"
"My name is Isabella!" she shrieked back. "OK," Ruben glanced at her with a smile, "Bella, come here." she returned the smile and walked over to him, "What?" she asked, as if she had been pulled away from some important engagement. Ruben handed her the paper, with the patron's order. "Take this to your mother and tell her to send for the boy she knows."
"What boy?" Ruben rolled his eyes,
"The boy down the road at the stables. You know who I'm talking about and she'll definitely know. Now go." Isabella grabbed the paper and pranced away disappearing up the stairs.
After Ruben showed the patron out, he shut the door, grabbed a broom and began cleaning up for the night. He wiped the counters, re-stacked the wool and just before he was ready to go upstairs for dinner he heard a knock at the door. "We're closed!" He began to approach the door, the knocks continued. He pulled the door open, "We're clo-" he stopped in surprise. "JOSE!" He smiled and wrapped his arms around. "It's good to see you! What are doing back? Shouldn't you be in the Caribbean?" Jose stood their silent, the look on his face was solemn. He hadn't wanted to be back yet, that much Ruben could tell. "Well," he pulled his hand around. Ruben's eyes locked onto it in an instant. "Your hand, its...its.."
"Well almost anyways. What happened?" Before Jose could answer Teresita and his two sisters blew past Ruben wrapping all of their bodies into one enormous hug. The screeches of excitement were too much for Ruben and he made his way upstairs. He'd hear the story later.
As he opened the door to the upstairs dining room he could see Juan already gorging himself with all the food he could eat. Ruben smiled, just behind him Teresita was already hollering up at them. "JUAN! JUAN! Your son is here! Did you hear me? Jose's home! My baby's home!" They burst through the doors, thrusting Jose in before them. Juan looked up from his plate and paused for several minutes. Ruben quickly turned and left the room, he didn't care to see their reunion. He himself still unsure if his own father was even still alive.
After several long minutes of re-union Jose went out to bring Ruben back for their meal. As they all sat around the Table, Juan for the first time in two years, said a short prayer and thanked God for the return of their son. Usually dinners were in absolute chaos. However for Jose's return everyone was in line. Full table manors and bags of questions for Jose. Ruben was quiet for the most part, the only question he had was how Jose had come to lose three fingers. After dinner Ruben saw his chance out on the balcony.
"How'd it happen," he asked as he walked up behind him. Jose turned to look at him, then looked back into the streets. "I miss this, you know" Jose started. "Just standing out here. The wretched smells, you miss them most when you're out there." His lip quivered, "you smell things you never want to smell again."
"Like melting skin," he responded quickly, never breaking his gaze from the streets. "I've seen and smelled things that will scar you." He looked at his hand, "I don't know how it happened. All I remember was loading the cannon and hear a loud...a loud something. I woke up in New Andalusia, s'pose I have the Dutch to thank for this."
"It's good to have you back Jose. This family has been completely mad without you." Ruben stopped staring at him and rested his forearms out on the balcony. Maria Anna came out shortly, standing in-between them.
"You know you can't possibly stay out here forever," she grinned to her brother. "Eventually you'll have to tell Isabella all your stories....."
Chapter II - Disperse Ye' Rebels! Missing three fingers left Jose with limited use as a laborer. It was because of this Ruben had him working the counter and sweeping the floors. Easy tasks, but at least now they could enjoy the company of one another. Ruben often spent time combing wool and purchasing more from locals outside the city. Everyday the door opened with a man trying to sell his wool apart of Ruben would jump, hoping that he would see his father opening the door. Jose often kept his hand out of visibility when customers would come in. He was incredibly ashamed of his hand. One morning a young girl had came into the store trying to find her father. Jose had offered to help the girl look for him down the street and he mistakenly offered his injured hand. As he stretched out to grab her tiny fingers the girl shrieked, "NO! Keep that away from me!" Tears of terror immediately poured down her face. Embarrassed Jose withdrew his hand, thrust it into his pocket, his face burning Red as he ran into the back. Shortly thereafter the girl's father appeared in the doorway. After explaining to the man what had happened to make his daughter cry, he gave Ruben several coins before leaving, "For your troubles."
Jose spent hours sulking in the back, Ruben decided not to disturb him, and simply began his juggling act of running the shop alone. Dinner that night was awkwardly silent, everyone aware of what had happened earlier in the day. Jose excused himself from Dinner early and went outside to the balcony. Ruben joined him shortly, they both stood there silently for several minutes. "I should've let them cut the whole thing off," commented Jose, finally breaking the Silence. "Why would you want that?" replied Ruben.
"If they did that then I wouldn't have to carry this deformed stub around."
"Its not a deformed stub, you still have your thumb and pointer."
"Oh yes, a lot of good they'll do me!"
"You can still write."
"I hate writing."
"You can still point someone in the right direction," Ruben grinned.
"Of course this is funny for you, your not missing any fingers." Ruben chose not to respond, but rather continue looking out into the Streets. Maria Anna joined them outside shortly after.
"Did you hear?" she asked. "Hear what Maria?" Retorted Jose.
"About Naples," she paused for an answer. Jose let out a sigh, "What about Naples, Maria?"
"Thirty two people were killed!"
"What!?" Ruben and Jose exclaimed together as they turned their full attention to her.
"Thirty two people were killed for Protesting outside of the school in Palermo. Ma'Ma says they became very violent with the scholars. The mob had all walked out of the workshops across Sicily and Naples in protest to the Crown. They tried burning the school in Palermo down and the King personally authorized the shooting." Ruben and Jose, both dumbfounded could only stare in silence.
The following day Teresita was in uproar, screaming at Juan, but not because of anything he had done. "King Carlos III!? He's not my King! He thinks because of a few protesters in Naples that he can tax all of us! I'll march down to his Palace myself and give him a piece of my mind!" Juan, as usual simply sat there staring at the Fire, while his wife cursed about. Isabella and Maria Anna were always interested in what their mother was yelling about, and would camp outside the door, as they did now to eavesdrop on the tirade that they were forbidden from hearing. Jose and Ruben could hear the shouts and hollers from upstairs but rarely paid attention. There was far too much work to be done at the shop to be concerned about Teresita's gossip.
"You know I heard that King Carlos plans to raise the taxes even higher," informed Jose. "They say if the protests continue, anywhere that we're all gonna pay for it. Everyone except the nobles of course. The King needs them." Jose kept talking, Ruben kept working. He gave no response, as he didn't care. It was life, the King could do as he pleased and to Ruben there was no sense in getting worked up over something you couldn't change. Business that day was slower than usual, and the following week they virtually had no customers. Juan kept himself busy, so that he wouldn't have to listen to his wife rant and rave anymore and the Gabaldon Sisters were going about the streets on their mother's orders to discover any recent news.
It wasn't long before they reported back to their mother. Giving news of riots in Milan and an outright rebellion in Naples where over one hundred more were killed in city streets by the King's Infantry. The rebels that had begun organizing in the Naples countryside were quickly dispatched with hardly any casualties inflicted on the Royal Infantry. The Garrison in La Florida was routed by Cherokee rebels, and the schools in Baton Rouge were destroyed by another group of Tribesmen that have begun trying to starve out the garrison in Louisiana. The King's response was increased taxes to help finance the campaign in the America's.
Soon another week passed with no more than a handful of customers. Ruben and Jose now found themselves with plenty of time to wonder the streets themselves. They passed from shop to shop, some closed others entirely empty. The King's tax hike had a noticeable effect on the people. They found plenty of people preaching about the unfair taxes of Carlos III, but they would be hushed only after a short while by the patrolling soldiers. When they returned home, dinner was cooked, everyone was seated at the table and they were bombarded with questions. "What did you see? What did you hear? Did they try to frighten you? Are people in the streets?" Teresita would drill them for almost an hour before Juan finally stood and cleared his throat. Attention was immediately given as he began to say grace.
"Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts
which we are about to receive from Thy bounty
through Christ our Lord.
There was no more barrage of questions, now only silence as everyone began their meals. Maria Anna leaned close to Ruben and whispered in his ear, "Now you know how Isabella and I feel. We don't like to walk through town anymore." She smiled and leaned back finishing her meal. Isabella was the first done, then slowly everyone with Juan taking the longest. Everyone sat and continued small talk as they waited patiently for him to finish. Finally he stood and bowed his head again,
"We give Thee thanks, O Almighty God,
for these Thy benefits
Who lives and reigns, world without end.
The loud sound of an angry mob began to fill in the windows, everyone kept their heads bowed to finish the prayer. However soon the mob became louder, Juan stayed paused in silence for a moment, and cries could be heard filling the room. "We Need No King!" The sound of smashing windows drowned out the chants and cries of the mob. Juan continued his silence, and everyone began trying to look out a window without leaving the table. Soon the drums of the Army could be heard.
"Not even in Death will we rest till the King pays for his crimes!" Screamed one of the more vocal mob members. Wielding torches they began throwing them and stones at Government buildings and some of the nearby shops. As they came close to the Gabaldon shop the Army opposite stopped drumming and marching, the mob continued forward throwing stones at the soldiers. The commander screamed out "Disperse ye' Rebels!" They did not disperse. The noise became to loud to hear any more words. Soon gunshots burst out, everyone except Juan cringed.
Juan kept his head bowed and eyes closed. Another volley was fired, screams of terror were drowned out by the gunshots and soon silence overcame the streets. Teresita kept her head bowed and eyes pinched closed, tears streaming down her face. Dead silence, for some reason everyone remained seated at the table, holding hands in prayer. Juan had not finished their post-meal grace. After the drums were out of earshot he continued:
"May the souls of the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God,
rest in peace.
Chapter III - In God's Name, We Must Fight
Jose woke the next staring at the roof above his bed. He lay there still, lunch was approaching and he hadn't left his bed since the night before. Ruben was working furiously downstairs, to no purpose. With the tax hikes business had plummeted and after the night before no one was even daring to travel through the streets. King Carlos III was in outrage over the marches that were taking place across the Empire and had gone mad when Madrid was rocked by them. It was only six years since his coronation took place and patriotic fervor couldn't be higher. On this day however it seemed like an eternity since the Spanish flag was flown with pride, or since any spoke of King Carlos with favor.
Upstairs Maria Anna was trying to suppress tears, poorly doing so she refused to come downstairs. Teresita was sitting in her favorite chair staring at the fire. Hours ago she was screaming in terror off the balcony until Juan had forced her back into the house with Ruben's help. Isabella swept the shop floors repeatedly, they weren't dirty when she began, but like Ruben working made them feel as though the gunshots that rang through the streets last night had never happened. Finally Ruben couldn't do it any longer, he opened the door and stepped on the side of the road. Several bodies still lay strewn in the streets and soldiers marched up and down continuously. The City was under watch and soon would be on lock down. That much everyone knew. Ruben stepped out and walked over to one of the aging men dragging a body. "Need some help?" he asked. The old men simply gave him a look and without words Ruben knew the man could use it.
Ruben walked over and grabbed the legs. He pulled up and stumbled backward bringing the old man down with him. "Hey boy! I'll do it myself, your making this harder!" Ruben stood up, "I'm sorry, I tripped on...on..." he looked down and there he saw the last patron to ever step foot in Juan's store. He froze and his speech ceased. He stared down gazing into the man's still open eyes. He knew that people were killed everyday in defiance of the King but suddenly it hadn't become real to him until this moment. A man he knew, a man he spoke to had been killed. It was more real than ever now. The old man kept dragging the other body and Ruben simply walked off in a daze. "Thanks for your help...." the old man muttered sarcastically to himself.
As Ruben walked in Isabella stopped sweeping and stared at him. She could tell that something was different. "Wha- What happened?" she asked. Ruben's daze had a death grip on him. He didn't make a noise or even give her a glance. He continued walking, around the counter, up the stairs, into his room, past Jose's bed and straight to his. He laid on his bed facing up at the roof. Jose sat up and stared at him. Several minutes passed and he broke the silence, "You went outside didn't you? Thought you could help? But now.... Now you know what it is. This is like nothing you've ever experienced." Ruben laid silent. Jose jumped out of bed and darted out of the room. Ruben didn't break his gaze from the roof. Slowly his eye lids grew heavy, slowly he entered his night slumber. No dinner for anyone that night. No lunch for most. No one had any appetite everyone wanted to go to sleep and wake from their nightmare. Several days passed and Jose had yet to Return and Ruben had barely left his bed.
Jose came crashing into the room one night he was moving like a drunkard but had nothing to drink. He reached his good hand out and began shaking Ruben. "Wake up!" he yelled in a whisper. "You're coming with me," he said as Ruben's eyes began to open. He asked no questions, but simply followed him. The both crept past Juan and Teresita's room and entered the balcony. "Look," Jose said as they closed the door behind them. The streets were filled by candlelight. As they came closer Ruben could make out a hymn that was being hummed by them. The numbers were impressive, all around the neighborhood Ruben could see people stepping out of their doorways or onto their balcony's. The force gathered before them came quietly but was arousing everyone in their homes. At the helm of this massive force was a Priest. Ruben knew him well, Padre Estevan had come to their shop to remind Juan of his religious duties every Monday morning, after another missed service.
It had been over a week since the blood was spilled in this very same location that was now being descended upon by the faithful. Jose turned to Ruben, "I've been doing some lookin' around, and thought that you should hear what Padre has to say. It's going to surprise you." Ruben rubbed his eyes, "Why? Why is everyone coming here in the dead of night? It makes no sense."
"Ruben, the people I've been with this last week are Padre's followers. They have a message that must be communicated, if Papa went to Church this week he and mama would be out here too. Notice there are no soldiers in the square? There haven't been for three days now at night. The King thinks the killings last week sent a big enough message. He thinks we're all cowering in our homes. That's why Padre has called us here tonight."
The Hymns grew louder and surrounded them completely now. Ruben still couldn't believe how many people were here flocking the streets.
"My Children. Loyal followers of the Almighty God! We are gathered here today in remembrance of the Faithful departed. Those that were slain in these very streets a week ago and those slain across the Spanish Empire in Palermo, Southern Naples, Lombardy, Cuba and elsewhere. These men that have been killed have asked for only one thing. Fairness from the King. Fairness given to us by God and stolen by Carlos III. We cannot sit idly by and watch our Spanish brethren being murdered by the King so that he can fill his purse with our coin.
"Our Nation is under threat from enemies abroad. Enemies domestic. Our King cannot protect us, he chooses this. Our King cares more for his lavish dinners and extravagant clothes then our livelihood. This King claims God gave him his throne, but I am hear to assure you my children, that God did not ordain the death and famine that strikes our people. It is in the name of God that we must Fight! In the name of God we must take our country back! In the name of God we must depose this King Carlos III and let him be brought to Justice before the Almighty God and before the Spanish People!!" The crowd erupted in applause and cheers. "My God," was all that Ruben could say. Jose nodded, he felt the same. "War is coming to the King."
Padre continued, "Our brothers and sisters in Naples have begun wearing Black Shirt's in mourning of those lives lost in the Campaign for a Free Spain. I hope to see the same here in Madrid. Know this my children, this wont be easy. Many lives will be lost, the fighting will spread into the country side. But most importantly my Children know that we will win this battle. We will Free our countrymen. It is God's Will. Deus volt!" War was coming. Blood would be spilled and sides must be chosen. There was no avoiding it now. People couldn't hide in their homes and pretend like nothing was happening any longer. The Fighting would begin.
Chapter IV - A King Gone Mad
"What in God's name is happening!" King Carlos III roared from his throne. "Do these peasants forget their place? Does this priest forget that I AM protector of the faith ordained by GOD to rule?" He continued his raging and rhetorical questions, General Felix Martinez simply stood and listened. The King was well known to burst with rage and the court had become accustomed to taking his verbal abuse in silence. It would subside in time but not until after the throne room was trashed with expensive debris. The Hot Faced husky King degenerated his angry remarks into grunts and soon he settled for heavy breathing. As his temper wore down his speech returned to him, "General," he motioned for Felix. "Yes your Majesty?"
"Let these rabble know that there will be no tolerance for disloyalty." He sat in his throne again stroking his chin. "Find this Padre and burn him as a heretic. Maybe they'll understand then."
Felix's eyes widened, "Your highness, I believe it would be better to wait for an Inquisition of the Padre-" The King's face grew bright red again, he rose from his throne and stomped to the General. Towering above his King he made no attempt at eye contact, but stood silent and stared forward. "I did not ask for your beliefs! You will do as I command, or do you share the fate of the peasants that stand against me?"
"No you're Majesty, I am your humble and loyal servant." He stepped back bowing his head. "Good, now do it."
As the sun rose the next morning Jose and Ruben had long since left their beds. The shop downstairs was immaculate but empty. Juan, Teresita and their daughters had gathered for breakfast waiting patiently for the young men to join them. They would be wholly disappointed as time ticked away. Meanwhile Ruben and Jose had been kneeling before the crucifix in Padre Estevan's church. The Father was absent on this day, word had come from the local populace that he was hunted. Padre Estevan had fled the city, residing in a Monastery just outside of Madrid with regular riders bringing his word to the Church several times a day. Outside the church doors the marching of soldiers could be heard, as they were heard around the city. Jose and Ruben both rose from their knees falling back into the benches.
"General Martinez was recalled from North Africa." Jose said staring still at the crucifix. "For?" asked Ruben also staring.
"For the Padre. For the movement. For us." General Felix Martinez was a tall slender man. Renowned for his conquests of Morocco and continued onslaught against the Barbary States. Victory was his forte as he had never been defeated in the field of battle. He was the third General to fight against the Moroccans in a 23 year war. The First General, Jose Calderon died nobly in battle as his army claimed victory in Gibraltar repelling a Moroccan assault. The Second, Carlos Nunez was assassinated as his army neared the capital of Morocco. Felix himself claimed victory over the Islamic horde and continued his fight eastward to a nominal enemy of Spanish trade. Six years ago Tunis fell and he commanded the Garrison until the week prior to Padre's midnight rally. The King grew cautious of rebellious peasants slaying hundreds to thousands in Southern Italy.
"What are we doing Jose?" asked Ruben, "The Greatest General in the Spanish Empire has been called here with the sole purpose of destroying this very movement. How are we supposed to win? How are we supposed to live?" Jose turned his head, he glared at Ruben. "How selfish are you?" he asked with a how-dare-you gaze. "Its not about whether we live or die, its about the freedom of our people from a Tyrant. It's about shops like my father's being able to conduct business again. It's about our brothers in Naples and Sicily who have given their lives for this very cause! The King cannot demand every cent of our wages! It's a crime against God!" before he could continue the doors burst open. Two soldiers held the doors open on either side as General Martinez glided into the room. His walk and demeanor demanding respect. He looked powerful. He looked unbeatable. He marched straight to the podium followed by fifteen more soldiers. He pointed to the back rooms and the confessional. As if rehearsed the men broke into two groups, twelve marching into the back rooms and 3 raiding the empty confessional.
Several moments of fruitless searching passed and the men returned, quietly shaking their heads. General Martinez turn to face the small congregation. "Padre Estevan is ordered by His Majesty, King Carlos III, King of Spain, King of Naples, King of Castile-Leon, King of Aragon, King of Morocco, Emperor of North Africa, Defender of the Faith, to stand trial for heresy and treason to the crown. Any citizen found hiding Padre Estevan will be shot on site and his home burned to the ground. Any citizen with knowledge of the Padre's whereabouts is hereby ordered to come forth and share their knowledge or be shot by Firing squad in the town square." He stood silently and scanned the benches for any motion. There was none. "Very well," he motioned to the men standing guards of the doors. They turned outside and gave a signal, an entire platoon of soldiers stormed in and began retrieving all of the Holy relics. "You are to leave this blasphemous house or be burned with it." He stood for several seconds as everyone suddenly began hurrying out of the church. Ruben and Jose hesitated, taking time to watch everyone quickly flee before leaving themselves.
As they stood outside they watched General Martinez and his entourage exit the church, the two soldiers guarding the doors shut them. A platoon lining the windows lit their torches and cast them through the windows and onto the roof. Martinez strode to his horse and mounted it. He watched as the church caught fire and re-ordered his men and rode off towards the palace once more. Ruben was in shock, the King was insane, setting a church ablaze and stealing all of the gold relics from within. Both Ruben and Jose stood in silence watching the church burn to the ground. A mob of curious Spaniards had begun to gather. No one uttered a word. Darkness was descending upon Madrid.
Chapter V - Six Months Later
Debris propelled through the air, miraculously not causing bodily damage. The boom was horrendous, Ruben's ears were muted to real world sounds, replacing them with a loud repetitive ringing. "My God!" shouted Jose, Ruben was oblivious to anything else he may had been saying. Everything was moving at an unreal and slow rate, he tried speaking, but no matter how hard he tried he could hear nothing. He couldn't even feel his vocal chords vibrate. Jose slapped him on the back, Ruben broke his trance, turning his attention to his old friend, now comrade. "Your Gun! ---- in line!" was all Ruben could make out by reading his lips. The ringing had gotten louder and louder until suddenly another explosion near him suddenly turned his ears back on. Shrapnel flew past them striking down several other black clad comrades of theirs. As he grabbed his gun and rose back to his feet he looked around to see the other rebels struggling to fall back into line. Guns randomly fired, no order what-so-ever in their shooting. Ruben peered back across the battlefield to see his opponents, Loyal Spanish soldiers to the crown. All of them in perfect form, shoulder to shoulder, firing row by row into the disorganized rabble that was Ruben's chosen cause.
General Felix Martinez sat atop his horse in the rear watching as his army did as he commanded. It was what he did best, destroy enemies to the Spanish Crown. Felix turned to his brigadier general, "Let loose the dogs of war." Dogs of war, was his pet name for his elite dragoons of which were always kept in reserve. They were fresh from beginning to end, only used to break the morale of his opponent and chase them from the battlefield or to an early grave. As the horn sounded, they drew their saber's and galloped into action. From the distance they rode it would take several minutes to hit the rebel lines. The sheer sight of them charging was more then enough for the less experienced men to drop their guns and run.
Ruben's entire unit began fleeing as he finished reloading. Jose fired his shot and turned to Ruben, "They're sounding retreat! Let's go!" with that he was already on the run. Ruben fired his shot, gripped his gun in both hands and sprinted behind him. The Dragoons smashed into the rear of the fleeing rebels slashing viciously at the backs of the men running. Slashing, stabbing and trampling, the dragoons pushed forward into the rebels. Their feet could only take them so fast, and it was never fast enough. Ruben and Jose stuck together breaking away from the general retreat and creating their own path to safety. Jose grabbed the back of Ruben's collar thrusting him downward, both of them stumbled down the hill, rolling to a stop at the base of a large tree. Both of them groaned as they stood up, not wanting to be spotted they decided to keep running deeper into the countryside. From their distance the screams could still be heard from their dying comrades. "That was the most miserable battle I've ever seen!" Ruben exclaimed. Jose himself was still trying to find the appropriate words to describe what just happened. Ruben continued, "Their lines never broke, not once! It took but two volleys and a couple cannon balls before we were completely out of it!" Ruben was still in shock, but overall not surprised, The men they were fighting were the pride of the Spanish Empire. They were the scourge of the Empire. The Regulars had training day after day, they had fought numerous battles in countless wars. Hardly any of the rebels had even fired a gun before today.
As they waited for the horrors of war to be out of earshot, Jose kept look out and Ruben kept running the battle through his head over and over. It made no sense how they could be so quickly dispelled with such little effort from the Spanish Regulars. He knew now that the only way they could win this war would mean becoming the super soldiers they just fought. This army of rabble could not stand toe to toe with the Spanish regulars in open battle. No they would need to train, or need to revise their tactics in order to become victorious. But how? How could Ruben himself be of any impact, he still a lowly man in the rebellion, more of a volunteer soldier than a committed rebel. When this war was over, if by some miracle the rebels had won, Ruben wouldn't be apart of the new government. No he would be back at Jose's shop combing wool, selling wool, buying fur. Nothing would change in his life other than the taxes he paid. The men that organized this rebellion that decided its tactics were not men of military nature, but men seeking their political office and their climb out of Spain's pits. Perhaps that was the problem. Perhaps that is what needed to be changed in order for this war to be won...
"Let's go! Back to the old mission!" yelled Jose once he felt it was clear enough to move again.
Both of them ran, ducking and dodging trees, stopping only when they thought an army patrol was near. Several miles through thickly wooded countryside until they returned to the old mission. Waiting for them Padre Estevan, the only man in the rebellion that paid much attention to the low men. "My Sons!" he outstretched his arms walking towards them, "The lord Jesus has spared you for our cause!" Both Jose and Ruben bowed their heads, then Jose proceeded to get the information he yearned for, "How many died father?" Padre Estevan brought his hands back together touching his fingertips and palms. "My sons, many of your brothers died. General Felix declared that no prisoners would be taken, and every man, wounded or surrendered was put to death. It is a brutal decree the King carries out. We won't know for certain how many men died or how many men deserted. All we know is without returning soldiers such as yourselves our cause is lost."
"Without training for the men we send to fight, our cause is lost father." Interrupted Ruben. The Padre nodded in agreement, "Father, we must not only train our men, but we can't be sending them out to stand toe to toe with this behemoth. The Spanish Army of Regulars is far too well trained and disciplined for us to be of any use against them right now. We have to strike them when they are not prepared, we have to stop their supply wagons we have to-"
"Abandon fighting war with honor?" intervened Sal Consuelo, current tactician of the rebels forces. Ruben turned back to him, "War is war. We are not fighting for our honor. We are fighting for our freedom, for our lives and for our families. I see no reason why we should follow the King's Rules of War, when it is the King we are trying to oust! When a man is strangling you, do you gouge his eyes and kick his cajones? Or do you wait for the proper time to re-engage in a fist fight?" Sal smiled, and then laughed walking away slowly. "Be here in the morning young warrior. You have my interest."
"Chapter VI - A Warrior's Rise The following morning Ruben sat in his bed as dawn was about to crack. Jose had slept soundly next to him, in a similarly uncomfortable makeshift bunk. Ruben rose to his feet, he hadn’t slept at all. ”What am I doing? Why in the hell did I have to say anything, if this doesn’t work…It HAS to work.” It didn’t matter how many hours between leaving Sal Consuelo’s sight had passed, he just couldn’t seem to break his thought process, stuck on his growing lack of confidence. Slowly Jose stirred, groggily releasing himself from the slumber he was in. “Oye, Capitán General, up early to plan the demise of your enemies?” he chuckled as he forced his feet to the floor, rolling his head around his shoulders. Ruben nodded, still with his back to him. “Jose, I don’t think I can do this.” Jose looked at the back of his head, he reached his good hand to the opposite shoulder rubbing it, “I’m a little sore too,” he chuckled, “but I promise you, these beds are still better than what you’d be sleeping on in a ship.” Ruben grinned and turned to him, “That’s not what I mean.”
“I know it wasn’t. I’ve heard you talk about this half a dozen times, your plans are good. They’re just not normal; you have to show them it’ll work. By God if I have to line up to get shot at again I don’t think I’ll be as lucky again.”
“Well if I’m wrong then we’ll all be dead.”
“There you go. Now you can’t be wrong, my mother would kill us both again.” They both laughed, making light of any situation was their strong point and they knew it’s the only thing that could get them through the war that has engulfed their once peaceful and prosperous country. “Well I expect I should find Sal,”
“Think he’s even up?”
“Doesn’t matter, there’s work to be done.”
“Ah now don’t tell me we’re going to have to wake up even earlier with your little scheme.”
Ruben smiled, “No Jose, you and I don’t sleep anymore. Not until we’re sleeping in the King’s bed.”
Padre Estevan was usually awake before the crowing roosters, with his nose buried in the bible. Now he found himself awake, with his nose buried in hastily drawn maps of the surrounding area and reports of Royal troop movements. “I’m not a Capitan, Senor Consuelo. I am but a humble servant of the Lord and yet here I find myself; with you, in the House of God, with his devoted children, with these maps, and with a sinister agenda.” Sal opened his mouth to speak when Ruben caught his eye, “Ah the warrior from last night Padre.” Padre Estevan turned to see him, “My son!” Ruben cringed, remembering his own lost father, Padre Estevan was the only man that could say it with that same fatherly warmth that commanded attention and made you feel at home. “Senor Consuelo, since you have met this Soldier of God before, I should expect you to learn his name.” The father smiled, Ruben wasn’t even sure the Padre knew his name, as he was commonly referred to as my son. He opened his mouth to formally introduce himself, but was pleasantly interrupted by the Padre, “This is Senor Ruben Aragon of Madrid, he watched over the Gabaldon’s shop until recently.” The Padre smiled at Ruben allowing him to speak. “Yes Father, I am truly surprised you know so much,”
“Oh my child, I am the Lord’s Servant, I tend his flock until they are ready to rejoin their creator, my life is dedicated to knowing his children.” He smiled and turned to Sal, “But as a Man of God, I must be completely honest while I knew only your name before today, I have had a most enjoyable conversation with another of God’s Children, the very kind Maria Anna de Gabaldon.” The padre lowered his head pointing his hand towards Maria Anna, her elegant beauty now radiated through the room. She cleverly faced the wall when Ruben came in, hoping to surprise him. The Padre always willing to give elaborate explanations and introductions happy obliged.
Suddenly Ruben could feel the muscles around his mouth rebel against his commands, stretching themselves from ear to ear. “Maria, how did you know how to get here? How did you get here? Why are you here?” His throat seized choking on words, “I mean, it’s great to see you.” Maria Anna was wearing her full face smile as well, and giggled after watching Ruben choke himself, lost for the words to compliment her presence. “It’s great to see you too,” she giggled again. “I’ve known Father all my life, I knew about this place before you!” She giggled again. Ruben blushed, Sal interrupted “This is lovely and all but the Senorita was also telling us that she needed to see her brother?” he looked inquisitively at her. “Oh yes, I’m sorry Senor Consuelo.” Sal nodded looking at her as if he could push her out of the room with his eyes, not the typical look she would receive from men. “Well he’s just down the hall, I think he was going to eat. If your still here when I’m done Maria, I’d love to catch up.” She smiled, “Of course,” she told the Father goodbye and ventured down the hall in search of her brother. Ruben’s eyes followed, this time with his permission.
Sal cleared his throat to force Ruben’s attention back. “Ruben, now you talked about hitting the King in his cajones, correct?” Ruben was slow to respond his mind was thrown from its track of lacking confidence and was focused on the angelic Maria Anna that had left the room. “Ruben?” Sal asked again.
“Huh? Yes! Sorry yes, I believe that not only can we do it, but its going to be the only way for this revolution to survive. Father you know the losses we suffered yesterday, what you don’t know is that we were only fighting but a few minutes. We lack good rifles and great training. Half of my line broke with the first cannon roar. We need to train before we can hope to fight any battle to take Madrid.”
“Yes, Training is nice but you were telling me of your own revised battle plan yesterday were you not?”
“No, I was talking about hitting the Royals where it hurts. Their supplies, their armories. Their army marches openly and loudly, exposing themselves to ambush.”
“So you want to hide and throw rocks at the strongest Empire in the world?”
“The Romans were routed by inferior warriors with superior tactics. Romans marched like the Spaniards do, and if we fight like the barbarians did we will have our victory.” Sal let out a grunt, clearly he didn’t know what Ruben was talking about, not many Spaniards were taught these things. Ruben’s father however would refuse to let his son grow up without reading and would spend most of their earnings on books to fill the knowledge of his son.
“Ah, you are learned in the worlds past?” The Padre asked before turning to Sal, now flustered that the Father was able to point out Ruben’s superior intelligence. “Lo siento, pero es verdad.” Sal nodded, “If you say it is true father, then it must be. But still I will not force this entire army to learn your coward tactics until you can prove they work. You may choose whatever men will be willing to embark on your quest, though I don’t know that many will.” He grunted again looking Ruben up and down. “And?” Padre asked Sal, clearly already knowing what else, but wanting to purge the information from Sal for Ruben’s ears. “And you are now a Coronel. You will answer to the Father and Me. We’ll be watching.”
“Yes sir,” Ruben saluted and gave a gentle embrace to the Father before excusing himself from their presence. He immediately began a hunt for Jose, he was going to be the first he asked to join him. It was pure formality as they both already knew they were in it together. They were as close to brothers you could be without blood. He passed their makeshift mess hall, it was empty so he continued. As he approached the corner to enter the makeshift barracks, Maria Anna turned the corner, smashing their bodies together and offsetting their balance. “Oh I’m sorry sen-“ her eyes climbed up to meet Ruben’s eyes and then stopped. “Senor Guapo,” she finished now smiling. “Now that’s a smile to end a war.” He responded breathing harder as continued to look deep into her eyes. “Hopefully, for one man it will.” Ruben wasn’t sure how to take that. Had she meant him? What should he say? Before he could finish making his mind up Maria Anna embraced him, their mouths smashed together. They flirted around it for years but it took until now, until Ruben was immersed in a revolution with his life expectancy never longer than a single day. Not until they were miles apart and wouldn’t see each other for months at a time did they let themselves give in to their 6 year lust. Their hands explored eachother, Ruben’s eventually making their way low enough to lift her. Never breaking from their lip lock he lead them to his makeshift bed, luckily the room was empty, he hoped it would stay that way for a while.