Frank Yerby’s First Adventure Of A Victim’s Guilt
The Spanish Crusade: An Assault On Islam
Episode Two: Peace of the Prophet
[Continued from Homepage]
It was a beautiful sunny day and Córdoba teemed with sights and sounds. The shopkeeper’s tents, selling everything imaginable, lined the streets. Córdoba attracted merchants from everywhere. Today the crowds were greater than ever, but not because of Cordoba’s merchants. People from all over Spaun came to Cordoba to watch the execution in the Great Square outside the walls of the Alcazar. Today Though he declines to attend, the emir has ordered the head of the Christian priest, Prefectus, hacked from his body for the high crime of blasphemy against Islam and its holy prophet, Muhammad, Blessed Be His Name! .The Lady Sumayla ordered her litter bearers and escort to take her to the execution. Yerby walked by the side of the litter.
Sumayla knew that she could not ignore Nasr’s instruction. “Yerby must tell us everything he knows about these events!” Nasr demanded. But it’s too soon.Yerby has to be brought along gradually. He has to be willing.,“Your contact with Yerby will only remain if he desires the contact, Abulafia had warned You must keep him interested. Past instructions in Jewish mysticism from Abulafia produced amazing results, but he warned that his instructions should always be followed, exactly. “Women have direct access to magical powers,” the Jewish mystic told her.“All women need do is to make the journey.” Sumayla made the journey on several occasions. But letting her enthusiasm get the best of her, Sumayla shared her knowledge with Nasr. It was the grand vizier who suggested that Sumayla summon Yerby.That was a big mistake, Sumayla thought to herself. That eunuch is going to ruin everything. So Sumayla decided to bring Yerby to the priest’s execution in order to interest Yerby in what was going on in Cardoba and tell them whether Prince Kamil would succeed to the emir’s throne as they planned, or would they all lose their heads?
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“So, Frank,” she asks,“is this your first visit to Córdoba?”
“No,”Yerby responds,“I have been here many times.”
“Yes, but not during the time of the Peace of the Prophet.” Sumayla wants to interest him in his surroundings.
“What?” he asks.
“Halt,” Sumayla cries out to her bearers. Smoothly all four of the massive Negro litter bearers come to a stop. Sumalya alights gracefully from her litter and instructs the bearers to return to her palace. With the princess’ guards forming a protective barrier, Sumayla continues, on foot, towards the Great Square in front of the Alcazar. with Yerby.
“This is much better, don’t you think?” she observes. Yerby nods.
“See over there,”Sumayla points to a set of single story one room buildings surrounding a open area. “That was Horeth’s copy house.” Yerby was noncommittal. “But you already
know that, don’t you?” The walking forces Yerby to concentrate on his surroundings. Cordaba’s exotic sights and sounds attract Yerby’s attention. Merchants’ shops and stalls boast wondrous pieces of jewelry and works of art. Weavers produce woolen and silken goods. Glass, paper and leather goods are everywhere in abundance. Exotic perfumes and incenses fill the air with pungent scents and smells. From one of the street tents, Sumayla offers Yerby candied figs and crunchy walnuts. They pass through the market area to where the towers of dazzling palaces present themselves above the Alcazar walls. The Alcazar, a city within a city, where the emir maintains four palaces commons, gardens, orchards, armorers and stables. The Great Square, in front of the Alcazar’s double gates, a wide, flat area, is now filled with thousands of onlookers and the roar of the crowd rises into Cordoba’s sun-drenched sky.
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Lady Sumayla’s retainers force the crowd to give way. In the seating area reserved for dignitaries, they spy Kamil. Sumayla’s son breaks away from a group of young noble-
“Some show, eh?” the young prince observes, nodding to Yerby.
“Good morning, Kamil,” Sumayla says, “I trust that you have been minding the emir’s affairs and honoring the trust he has placed in you.”
“You need have no concern on that matter, mother. I am the emir’s most faithful servant.” Kamil lies. He has just come from a secret tryst with Tarub.
Kamil escorts his mother and Yerby to seats on velvet cushioned chairs under the shelter of a billowing umbrella. The crowd continues roaring, excited by their anticipation of blood. “From the looks of the crowd, people have come from as far away as Seville and Toledo,” Sumayla observes to Yerby.
“Yes, and many of them are Christians,” Kamil observes. “They might try to use force to stop the execution. The al-Khurs will certainly have their hands full today.”
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“Do you think we are safe here?” Lady Sumayla asks. The thought of a pitched battle between Christians and Moors makes her apprehensive.
“Don’t worry, mother,” Kamil confides. “In addition, to the al-Khurs, Nasr has a regiment of soldiers clothed in civilian garb mingling in the crowd. If anything happens that the al-Khurs cannot handle, the soldiers have orders to use as much force as is necessary.”
“But my son,”Sumayla says looking into Kamil’s eyes, “I do not care to be on a battlefield.”
“These screaming, yelling Christians are no match for the emir’s crack troops,” Kamil assures his mother. “But as you can see, the al-Khurs have everything under control. Don’t worry. Enjoy the spectacle.”
It was true. Squads of black-robed al-Khurs milled about. Parting the crowds, they beat and arrested anyone foolish enough to get in their way. If the al- Khurs arrested you, whether you be man, woman, boy or child, you would end up as a galley slave and the remainder of your short miserable life would be spent on the rolling green waters of the
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Mediterrranean Sea, chained to a heavy oar with your back being lashed to ribbons. Those arrested by the al-Khurs prayed for a quick death.
The cadi raises his arms and silences the roaring the crowd. “Inasmuch as the Christian priest, Prefectus,” the cadi solemnly intones, “publicly mocked Islam, our great and true belief, and has steadfastly refused to recant his blasphemy against Allah and His Prophet, Muhammad, let him now be put to death.”
With the cadi’s proclamation, the crowd roars out in one voice until the Alcazar’s walls seem to tremble. But, as quickly as the noise erupts, it dies away when the soon-to-be martyred priest utters his final words.
“I declare an anathema upon your Prophet and all his works!” Profectus’ feeble voice croaks. “My God will punish him for the many souls he has seduced into hell! Upon you, Nasr, apostate of the True Faith, castrate of the spirit as well as of the body, I cast my dying curse! You will not live to see today’s anniversary.You will join Satan, thy true Lord, in his sojourn of eternal pain. My blessings for all those who believe in the Lord
Jesus! And upon all those who follow that black devil, Muhammad, my curse! And now executioner, strike well!”
Once again, the crowd burst into a deafening roar as a gigantic Negro, stripped to the waist, holds a great steel blade in his mighty arms. In a fleeting second, the black giant whirls the scimitar in an arc. Knifing the blade downwards with ferocious power, the axeman aims his blow at the old priest’s neck. A stillness settles upon the square as the crowd. holds its collective breath. The blade slices downward and a swishing and cracking sound issues forth. The black-robed cadi reaches down and grabs Prefectus’ gory head.The eyes and mouth are still wide open, screaming now silent curses. The crowd explodes.
“Let’s get out of here!” Princess Sumayla says, her face pale with horror. Signaling her retainers, Lady Sumayla, Prince Kamil and Frank Yerby, retreat from the Great Square. A squad of al-Khurs clears their path.
“Did any of that seem familiar, Frank?” Sumayla asks.
“No, I don’t believe I’ve ever witnessed anything like that before,” Yerby replies. “What did that old priest do?”
“Daily, the Peace of the Prophet rains down blessings upon all the inhabitants of the Emirate of Spain,” Sumayla explains, “but Arian Christians, like Prefectus, blaspheme Islam, curse our Prophet and even ridicule the emir himself.
“Our imams and other religious fanatics have not been altogether innocent,” Kamil comments. “They have done their share to goad these Christians and provoke the situation.”
“Yet priests urge Arian Christians to assault the Peace of the Prophet,” Lady Sumayla responds. “So the emir must retaliate and execute some of these Christian fanatics.”
She watches Yerby for any sign of recognition. So far there is none.
“Surely you recall this controversy, Frank,” she asks. “You are aware that these Christians claim that those executed by the emir are martyrs of the Christian faith.”
“They are martyrs,” Kamil says. “And now the emir has given the Christians their first martyred priest. Did you hear the curse Prefectus put on Nasr? I’ll bet that fat castrate is trembling in his slippers.”
“Somehow, I don’t think so,” Sumayla says. “Besides which, Nasr could not allow any blatant challenge to Islam pass. Otherwise it would have been his head on the executioner’s block.”
“They’re still martyrs,” Kamil persists. “They have a list of grievances and they want them heard.”
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Sumayla looks at her son. “Why do you persist in this stupid line of reasoning?” Kamil’s Christian belief and outlook comes between mother and son. “Oh yes, I must have forgot, Kamil, your father is Christian, isn’t he?”
“Yes, my father is a Christian,” Kamil returns his mother’s sarcasm. “He is also the emir’s honored confidant. The emir calls him his friend.”
“Friend or no friend, the emir will not allow these fanatical arians to disrupt the Peace of the Prophet. They will not be permitted to recite their list of real or imagined wrongs from their pulpits or in their Christian councils. The consequences would be disastrous for the emirate. Isn’t that right, Frank?”
“I really do not know,” Yerby replies. “This situation doesn’t have anything to do with me. I’m still trying to figure out how I got here ___ and why. I’m not religious and all this is just a bunch of nonsense to me.”
Sumayla needs to make Frank Yerby focus. “Frank, listen to me. What do you think is going to happen here? Do you believe these Christians will overthrow the emir?”
Just as they are departing the Great Square, a party of three distinguished gentlemen, one wearing a priest’s cassock and the others wearing the garb of Christian merchants, draws near. Kamil recognizes his brother-in-law. Garcia is married to Munia, the daughter of Alaric Teudisson and Kamil’s half sister. Kamil embraces Gracia each vigorously. “My brother, Garcia,” Kamil exclaims . “How are you?”
“Kamil,” Garcia says without any particular enthusiasm. Garcia hesitates, embarrassed by the chance meeting. Though the Goth displays courtly manners, inwardly he rages at having to associate with a Negro in public. The fool does not even have the decency to be discreet when we meet, God wot! Garcia murmers to himself. And Munia claims that this baboon was educated! Whether or not Nasr succeeds in overthrowing the emir, Garcia intends to see that Kamil dies painfully. The arian will enjoy watching this half-breed blackamoor writhing in agony when they burn him at the stake. But for now, Garcia is patient and endures this black touching and lavishing affection on him. Garcia is accompanied by the fiery touble maker, Father Eulogius and Alvaro, an ex-Jew and Christian convert. Observing the formalities, Kamil introduces each in his turn to his mother and Frank Yerby. Garcia and Father Eulogius are scandalized.
“Were you present at the execution?” Eulogius addresses his remarks to Yerby.
“Yes,” Yerby responds.
“Then you have witnessed a great event ___ the beginning of the end the rule of these black devils.”
“How is that?”Yerby asks.
“Long have I prayed for this vindication of the One True Faith!” Eulogius gloats.
“Though we are outnumbered, surrounded, corrupted and seduced by Muhammad’s subtle wiles, we children of the True God have long needed proofs of our righteousness. Today in the Square today we have seen God’s will in the martyrdom of Father Prefectus. If I could raise a crop of martyrs as brave as the good Father Prefectus, I could drown all these Moorish dogs in Christian blood. We’d bow our necks to the axe and accept their fiendish tortures until the truth of the One True Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ reveals itself to one and all.”
“How can you take pleasure in such a sad event?”Lady Sumayla asks. “Can the sacrifices you contemplate really be worth the paltry gains that you would win? You are already
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free to practice your religion without interference. What more do you want?”
“Lady,” Eulogius retorts, “I would think that you would rejoice with us considering all that you have at stake!”
The Lady Sumayla ignores the priests contemptious remark. Are there any truly well-kept
secrets in Córdoba? she asks herself. “Even so,”she continues, “how can you work for such evil ends when you have complete freedom of worship? Christians are not victims.”
“Our young Christian scholars delight in the poems and romances of the Arabs. They study the works of Islamic theologians and philosophers, not to refute them but to acquire an elegant Arabic style. Our most talented young Christian minds are being captured and held hostage because they know no other literature or language save Arabic.” Eulogius recites his litany of grievances. But in reality, the concerns of the Christians are always the same. The priests cannot tolerate not having the power of life and death over the Christian community.
“Furthermore,” Alvaro says, “we good Christians are forbidden to parade our sacred images in holy procession through the streets of Córdoba nor may we sound the bell to call worshippers to prayer.”
“The cadis offer insulting interpretations of our Christian faith,” Garcia adds, “but when we attempt to defend our faith we are threatened with death.”
“How often have we been stoned by children,” Eulogius continures,“ and spit upon by the mob because of our clerical garb?”
“The mobs that you are complaining about,” Sumayla reminds them, “are made up of your own children and grandchildren. Daily Christians lose converts to Islam. Not just your peasants, but your brightest and best Christian minds. No one is forcing them to convert.”
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A young Christian Goth from a noble fanily only needed to convert to gain access to the empire’s economic activity and it’s women, as well. “You Christians complain that your children are seduced by Islam’s luxury,” Sumayla says. “So you want to deny your people the happiness and prosperity Islam brings. Everyone knows what you Christians bring ____ misery and death. Christianity needs suffering, otherwise there would be no need for your priests and the promise of an afterlife.”
Kamil tries to mediate the discussion. “Don’t you know that this religious struggle is harming Christians as well as Muslims? Is that what you want?”
Alvaro replies. “Dogmatic intolerance has inflamed angry mobs on both sides with equal savagery.” He was right. Christians unfortunate enough to fall into the clutches of an Islamic mob, would end up being beaten, torn apart or even crucified. “Your emir permits these outrages.”
“On the other hand,” Lady Sumayla says, “Christians prowl the streets at night, evading the al-Khurs, in search of an unsuspecting and defenseless Moor to kill.”
Listening to the discussion, Yerby decides to comment, to both the astonishment and delight of Lady Sumayla. “Your tactics do seem a bit extreme, given the mild conditions under which you live,” Yerby observes.
“Extreme!” Alvaro shouts at Yerby. “You dare say we are extreme!” The raised voices attract onlookers from the waves of people now filtering back from the Great Square.
“Look,” one man cries, “it’s the blessed Father Eulogius. He’s challenging those black Moors.”
“We can’t let them get away with killing another priest,” cries another. The Christians charge.
Muslims are also attracted by the voices. “There’s more of those Christian infidels,” they cry.
Kamil looks at his mother. “We need to save this discussion for another time.” Grabbing her by the arm and signaling his mother’s retainers, Kamil steers her away leaving the Christians and the Moors to face each other. Angry words “infidel,” “heretic ” are fired back and forth. Zig-zagging through Córdoba ’s narrow streets with Garcia, Alvaro and the rabble rousing Eulogius close behind, Kamil and his mother pass into Cordova’s Jewish Quarter where Sumayla’s friend, the physician and mystic, Moses Abulafia, lives.
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“We will avail ourselves of Moses’ hospitality,,” Sumayla tells her son.
“I must return to the Alcazar.” Kamil responds. “I’ve been gone too long. We who work for at court are as much prisoners of the emir as all his other slaves and servants.” Embracing his mother as well as Garcia and nodding to Yerby, Kamil returns back through the Great Square and into the Alcazar.
“We, too, must take our leave,” Garcia says, bowing to Lady Sumayla. Then he along with Alvaro and Eulogius head back to Cordoba’s Christian Quarter.
Sumayla leads Yerby to the modest home of Moses Abulafia. Judith, the doctor’s plump wife, opens the door. Judith also serves as her husband’s nurse and pharmacist.
“My darling, daughter,” the old man exclaims when Judith ushers Sumayla and Yerby into his consulting room. Abulafia was old and careless about his appearance. His stained and spotted robes had been washed, but not in recent memory.The sparseness of the gray hairs on his head contrasted with the fullness of his great beard. But his eyes twinkled with merriment and he hopped about with the energy of a child. “Come in, come in.” Then seeing Sumayla’s companion, he asks, “And who is this fine looking gentleman?” The Jewish mystic eyes grow large. “You wouldn’t be Frank Yerby, would you?”
“Yes sir, I am,” Yerby responds.
“Oh my, oh my,” the old Jew cries. “This is unbelievable, unbelievable!” The Jewish mystic circles around the black author. “He actually answered your summons,” Abulafia asserts.
“Yes,” Sumayla replies. “He came of his own accord.”
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“Have you questioned him yet?”
“Well, Frank, how do you feel about being here?” the old Jew asks. “You do realize you are not in your own reality, don’t you?”
“Of course,” Yerby replies. “I’m just waiting …”
“Waiting for what?” Moses Abulafia replies..
“Waiting to wake up,”Yerby continues. “This is a dream, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” Abulafia answers, “it’s a dream ___ but a special type of dream.”
“How so?” Yerby asks.
“Sumayla summoned you ….”
“Sumayla summoned me?”
“Yes …and you came,” Abulafia replies. “You came of your own free will.”
“I did?” Yerby feels uncomfortable.
“But how can this be?”.
“You did it, yourself,” Abulafia explains.“Your own mind created bridges in time. And because they’re your creations, you have the ability to cross over any time you wish. All you needed was the desire and intent.”
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“I do not believe that this is possible,” Yerby replies. “People that accomplish these things require discipline and years of practice and I have neither.”
“Oh, but you do, my friend,” Abulafia said. “You have enormous discipline. That’s how Sumayla was able to call to you. You imparted that discipline to her. And since you were within hours of your death, you had no choice but to answer her.”
“Why did you summon me?” Yerby asks Sumayla.
We need you to tell us about the future , she began to say, but the Jewish physician turned mystic silences her. Abulafia knows that now is not the time for Yerby to reveal the future. “Tell me, Frank,” Abulafia smiles, “now that you are facing death, do you still believe there is no God?”
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“I don’t really know,” Yerby responds with a degree of honesty and humility he had not felt for many years.
“Frank,” Sumayla says, “there was another reason for your summons.”
“My summons?” Yerby flashes his annoyance.
“Yes, Frank,” Abulafia cuts in. “The Lady Sumayla summoned you at the request of Nasr.”
“It was not a request,” Sumayla broke in, “it was a command. Nasr wants you to tell us what you know about the outcome of our plans for my son, Kamil.”
“What is it you want to know,”Yerby asks
“Do you know why Nasr plots against the emir?”
“Of course! Nasr is one of those slaves who turns against his master.”
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“But why?” Lady Sumayla asks. “Al-Rahman is a kind and generous ruler. Nasr enjoys the emir’s confidence and trust. Nasr is the most powerful man in the emirate. Why would Nasr jeopardize his position, not to mention his life, in this mad scheme to destroy
“Because Nasr is a Goth,”Yerby explains.
“We already know that!”
“Did you know that he furthers the interests of King Alfonso II, the Arian Christian recruiting a Christian army.” Alfonso is summoning knights and soldiers from all over Europe to Asturias and the king’s banner.
There is a banging on Moses Abulafia’s door. Shouts and threats are exchanged between Lady Sumayla’s armed retainers and black-robed al-Khurs before Nasr’s police burst into Abulafia’s rooms. The al-Khurs captain gives Sumayla a stiff bow. “Forgive the intrusion, milady, but the Lord Nasr has ordered us to escort you and your
guest safely back to your palace. I am to insure that no harm comes to either of you.”
Read the next exciting episode of the Spanish Crusade