Book I: Ramon Berenguer de Barcelona
Chapter IV: The Moorish fury
November 14, 1068 – Lleira
Sometimes things just didn’t quite work out as you expected. Pedro Berenguer just found that out the hard way this campaign. Earlier that year he had taken Albarracin from one of the petty sheikhs bordering the Duchy of Barcelona. The campaign had cemented his reputation as knowledged tactician, expanded the Duchy to the Ebro-river. This had emboldened his father to start campaigns agains the Emir of Zaragoza later that year, after the men-at-arms where finished with the harvest. At first the campaign went very well. His father had won a victory near the city of Zaragoza and was laying siege to the city at this very moment. His father had just made one fatal miscalculation: that the mighty Emir of Toledo would stay out of the conflict. Emir Yahya al-Ma’mun Dhu’l-Nun had intervened and two columns of his host had crossed the Ebro already. One column was besieging Albarracin at the moment, while the other one, led by the Sheikh of Valencia, was marching towards Barcelona. Barcelona, the city where Estefania, pregant with their first child, was waiting for them. Pedro Berenguer wouldn’t allow the Sheikh to reach the city. He would stop him here at Lleira.
Pedro entered the tent where the nobles whose troops he would lead where waiting for him. The best troops of the Duchy where at Zaragoza, serving his father. Pedro would have to make do with the men from Lleira themselves. The venerable Count Ponç d’Empuries brought the men of Empuries with him, while Ermengol de Barcelone-Urgell and the men from Urgell where present too. Between them there where 2000 men gathered. Problem would be to let all of them serve under his command. Count Ponç was an old man, almost 69 years of age. His age made him unsuited to serve at the battlefield, yet still he demanded to command the right flank, as the most senior noble present. The other problem was that brat Ermengol. He was just twelve years old, but already had the nasty habit of questioning his every descision. Pedro sighed, he had the feeling that the battle would be won or lost in this tent instead of the field of battle.
“Count Empuries, Count Urgell, I thank you both for arriving here at a moments notice.”
“Not like we have a choice, someone has to act while your father is away to furfill his wild ambitions.I swear this war will lead us all to ruin.”
The old count Ponç was quick to lose his temper, he knew that. Pedro bit his lip and let the old fool rage on. Estefania had told him often that sometimes this was better than simply shouting back.
“Has he even considered our position? A small Duchy taking on Al-Andalus! Might I remind you that Pride is one of the Seven Deadly Sins! It are our Counties that will pay in this world, but surely your father will pay in the next!”
“It doesn’t have to be this way old fool.” It looked like young Ermengol tired of the old counts rage too.
“Shut your foul mouth you whelp, your presence here already insults me. Do not make me take further steps.”
Ermengol de Barcelona-Urgell, Count of Urgell. Already one of the more influential nobles despite being a 12 year old boy.
“If you would simply use those old ears to listen for a while you might hear a plan to save your county. Both Urgell and Empuries lay in easily defendable terrain. We simply pull back, and let the Moors try to campaign in the Pyrinees this winter. Before they make any inroads, the Duke can bring his men to mop up the frozen army.”
“But that would require us to give up Lleira and even Barcelona to the Moors boy! The Dukes pride got us into this war, but we are still obliged to defend the people entrusted to us by the Lord Almighty.”
“You can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs. All the knights and able man from Lleira and Barcelona are under arms at the moment. And let us not forget that peasants are born to suffer anyway.
Besides we can afford to wait while the Emir of Toledo cannot. My sources tell me that both the Emirs of Badajoz and Seville are quite upset. Toledo’s campaigns threaten to upset the balance of power in Al-Andalus.”
Pedro was surprised by Ermengols quick mind but also shocked by the absolute ruthlesness. He knew one thing for sure, as the heir to the Duchy it was his divine duty to defend the people of Barcelona.
“Enough. Count Ponç, my father is fighting to regain rightfully Christian lands, I will not allow you to slander his name or bravery. Ermengol, we will not let the people suffer by abandoning them. As a noble of the realm you too are responsible for their wellbeing. We will stand against them here, at Lleira. The Moors may have the advantage in numbers, but they are severely lacking in cavalry. We on the other hand have plenty of knights. If we time our charge right, we can crush the Moors between infantry and cavalry, just as we did at Albarracin.”
“Bah, a fool like his father”. Old man Ponç grumbled, but Pedro knew he would support him. The man was too stubborn to give up Barcalonese lands to the Moors. He was more surprised by Ermengols reaction. The young boy didn’t show any reaction to his retort, he just stared right through Pedro with those cold emotionless eyes of him.