Sunday, February 26, 2012

Parley?

Spanish HQ, 26th October 1713

In his tent, Marquis of Aitona stood right behind the desk table, as a staff officer gave way to his immediate subordinates, Duke of Popoli and General Bracamonte, accompanied by some colonels.

--And well? What news do we have? --he asked.

He soon realized his voice had been too authoritary, for he clearly perceived the tension expression in Duke of Popoli's face, who nevertheless answered promptly: --They're withdrawing. We haven't had the opportunity of a pursuit, because of lack of horse enough. Their dragoons' screen was too dense for our squadrons.

The Marquis sweetened his voice: --I understand. Thank you, Sir. Let's simply keep watching them from short.

The Duke relaxed expression, and then it was general Bracamonte who spoke: --As for Montblanc, the enemy have refused battle too, seeking refuge inside town instead. There are also no novelties from the rest of contacts made. "No han mordido el anzuelo", they haven't taken the bait anywhere. No battles this week.

--Fine. Please keep pressing them gentlemen, we must force them out into the open.

Officers nodded in silence. Then the Duke of Popoli spoke again: --there is something else ...Sir.

The Marquis perceived the Duke was finding it hard addressing to him as "Sir". He recalled his subordinate nobility rank was higher than his own. Bad omen, he thought, the man was still resentful for his substitution as the commander-in-chief: --Yes ...Sir? --he cautiously responded.

--Lleida town rebels --the Duke quickly responded--. We have kept rebellion at bay, but Lleida is far from completely pacified yet. Rebels have entrenched themselves around the City Hall.

The Marquis did not respond immediately. Lowering his sight, he then asked: --What chances do we have?

--Coria Regiment has just joined the 2nd battalion of León IR, who were on garrison when the rebellion broke out. We shall crush them soon.

--...at the cost of a bloodbath though --Marquis of Aitona objected--. And we can not afford it.

He chose to keep a long silence before saying what he had been thinking about. No doubt that would cause protests: --who is commanding our troops in Lleida?

--Monsieur Baron d'Asfeld, Sir.

--All right. Let's order him to parley with the rebels.

Officers visibly stiffened, but only Duke of Popoli dared saying what all were thinking: --Parley, did you say? His Majesty's orders were strict, Sir: diezmo de horca, gallows tithe to them.

The marquis already expected such reaction, so he nimbly responded: --An I'd willingly apply it, but I insist we can not afford it. We're running too short of troops for this, right now.

Duke of Popoli was about to protest again, but the Marquis cut him: --Shall Baron d'Asfeld ensure them we won't apply gallows tithe to the population, if the rebels agree to put themselves at King Philip's service, and their leader to be delivered to us under chains. By the way, who is their leader?

--One Maria Sauret, Sir.

The Marquis was stunned. Maria? A woman? Another woman in the rebels' ranks? What the hell was all that nonsense?

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