feet and ran through the undergrowth, holding high the King's standard and flag. I stood up too and ran forwards, aware of shots being fired on the far side of the encampment, where the darkness was dotted with flashes of harquebus fire.
'Forward for Spain! Attack! Attack!'
It was awkward running along the sandy bed of the river, and my legs felt like lead when I reached the other side, where a hawthorn hedge protected the livestock. I tripped over a motionless body on the ground, ran a few steps further, only to scratch myself on the spiny branches. God's teeth! There was now the sound of harquebus fire on our side too, while the silhouettes of my comrades rushed like a torrent through the tents. I caught sudden glimpses of lit fires, of terrified figures who either fought or fled. To the shouting of Spaniards and mogataces , reinforced by the thundering hooves of our horsemen charging in from the other side, was added the cries of dozens of women and children, wrenched from sleep, who were now emerging from their tents, clinging to each other or running to their menfolk, also barely awake, but who, in trying to protect them, fought desperately and died. I saw Sebastian Copons and others hurl themselves among these people, cutting and slashing, and I followed suit, wielding my half-pike and losing it at my first encounter, when I plunged it into the half-naked body of a bearded Arab who emerged from a tent bearing a scimitar. He fell at my feet without uttering a sound, but I didn't have time to recover my pike, because just as I was trying to, another young Moor, even younger than me, came out of the same tent, in his nightshirt, and started lashing out at me with a dagger, so fiercely that if he had hit home, Christ and the Devil would have been well served, and the people of Onate would have had one fellow countryman less. I staggered backwards, drawing my sword — an excellent galley sword,
broad and short and bearing the mark of Toledo on its blade. Fighting back with more aplomb now, I managed to slice off half his nose with my first blow and the fingers of his hand with my second. He was already on the ground when I delivered a third and final blow, slitting his throat with a backward slash. I peered cautiously inside the tent and saw a huddle of women and children in one corner, screaming and shouting in their own language. I let the curtain fall, turned and went about my business.
It was nearly over. Diego Alatriste kicked away the Moor he had just killed, removed his sword from the man's body and looked around. The Arabs were barely resisting now, and most of the attackers were more concerned with plundering whatever they could find — almost as if they were Englishmen. He could still hear harquebus fire in the encampment, but the screams of rage, despair and death had given way to the groans of the wounded, the moans of prisoners, and the buzz of flies swarming above the pools of blood.
The soldiers and mogataces were rounding up, as if they were mere livestock, women, children, the old, and any men who had thrown down their arms. Others were collecting any objects of value and herding together the real livestock. The women — their children clinging to their skirts or clutched to their bosom — were screaming and striking their faces at the sight of the corpses of fathers, husbands, brothers and children; and some, overwhelmed by pain and rage, were trying to scratch the soldiers, who were obliged to beat them off. The men were clustered together in a separate group; bewildered, bruised, and terrified, they squatted in the dust, guarded by swords, pikes and harquebuses. Some — adults and older men who were trying somehow to preserve their dignity — were shoved around or slapped in the face by the victorious soldiers.
The order, as usual, was not to kill anyone who could bring in some money, but this was the soldiers' way of avenging the half-dozen or so comrades who had lost their lives in the