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0 Comments | Feb 17, 2010

Outrun the Devil – MSS – 2.21.10


1492 was such a surpassingly bountiful year in world history that it’s a bit surprising more fictional stories haven’t emerged from the period. In fact the original idea for this novel sprang from the idea that Columbus departing Spain for the New World at precisely the same time and place as Isabella and Ferdinand were expelling the Jews in the midst of the Inquisition seemed positively rife with dramatic opportunity. Consider some of the events taking place at this time around the world:

  • January 2 — Spain recaptures Granada from the Moors
  • January 23 — “Pentateuch” (Jewish holy book) 1st printed
  • March 31 — Queen Isabella of Castile and Ferdinand of Aragon expels Jews (Alhambra Decree)
  • April 8 — Lorenzo de’ Medici’s death on 8 April 1492
  • April 17 — Christopher Columbus signs contract with Spain to find the Indies
  • August 3 — Columbus sets sail from Palos, Spain for “Indies”
  • October 26 — Lead pencils 1st used

So this began as an attempt simply to highlight the tumultuous events going on in that part of the world around the turn of the fifteenth century, to educate readers a bit on the issues and people of the day, and to entertain along the way. And since the Inquisition was largely about persecution of Jews and Muslims, I adopted, fairly early, an additional goal of crafting a story in which characters from these two faiths actually worked together to bring about a satisfactory conclusion to whatever conflicts awaited them in the narrative. To that end, I fully expected to take significant fictional liberties with these historical personages. Only then an interesting thing happened.

After doing a good bit of reading and research, it turned out that two of the most fascinating “minor” characters from the period, Rodrigo de Triana and Luis de Torres, were in fact very much real and each pivotal in his own way to the broader story of Columbus and the New World. And given that there isn’t a terribly large amount of historical information extant on these two fellows, they too seemed rife for a fictional treatment. And so what you end up with here is a fictional account of the lives and coming together of Isabella, Ferdinand, Columbus, de Triana, de Torres, and inquisitors par excellence Miguel de Morillo and Tomas de Torquemada, all of them real, all of them fated to live, in these pages at least, through a series of fictional adventures that can only hope to reach the lofty heights that their real lives attained.

I should note as well that details of the period, both Inquisitorial and Columbian, are well documented and I have made liberal use of these documents throughout the otherwise fictitious treatment. In some cases raw historical documents and excerpts are embedded into the story for dramatic effect. In other cases I have recreated quasi-historical documents by paraphrasing and comingling sections of various records, transcripts, etc. into one. In all cases where historical documents have been used, they are cited as such in footnotes.

While Westerners like to fancy themselves superior in matters of morality and tolerance to the rest of the world, there exists an interesting counterpoint to the violence and cruelty attending the inquisition that propels the action of this story. Around the same time that Torquemada and his associates were wreaking havoc in and around Spain, halfway around the world in a small town outside Delhi, the emperor Akbar the Great, descended of a Sunni family, was filling his court with representatives of all religions and faiths—philosophers,, mystics, religious scholars, Sunni, Sufi, Shiite Muslims, Hindus, atheists, Jews, Christians, Jains, Buddhists and others. They spent their days debating and discussing the merits of each faith and belief system, while Akbar made explicit his tolerance of all faiths throughout his kingdom, outlawing persecution of any citizens for their beliefs. And while Akbar plays no role in this story, I mention his case here simply to reinforce the point that one cannot simply attribute the motives and actions of the Inquisition to the time or place of their occurrence.

Chapter 1

Seville – May 14, 1483

By his own authority[1],

To the distinguished, respectable, noble, magnificent councilors and all our beloved; and to the deputies, generals, viceroys, spokesmen or our central government, general justices, royal officials, bailiffs, justices, judges, municipal councilors, town magistrates, justices of the peace, prison wardens, and any other of our officials and subjects who exercise any office and jurisdiction, presently and henceforth, in any of our kingdoms and lands now and henceforth so constituted, and the deputies of those officials, and any other person to whom these letters shall come: greetings and affection.

Inasmuch as the Holy Father has been informed that there are many people in our kingdoms who have forgotten the proper health of their souls and follow Jewish and Muslim rituals and other actions deviating from the Faith, our Holy Father has ordered, with our consent and volition, that an inquisition be carried out in all our kingdoms to correct and regulate those who have committed the crime of heretical depravity.

Therefore we say, charge, and order you—under the risk of incurring our anger, indignation, a penalty of 10,000 gold florins, and the deprivation of your office if the contrary is done by you or any of your retinue—that you honor and recognize each one of the inquisitors and other inquisitorial officials and agents, according to their rank, estate, and condition. We further order you to give them all the help and assistance they need and request whenever they require it, when their need relates to the conduct of their office and to the carrying out of all the business that has to be done in that inquisition. Refrain from doing the opposite in any way, and do not consent or allow the opposite to be done, to the extent that my favor is dear to you, and that you do not wish to incur my anger, indignation, and the aforesaid penalty.

Given in Seville, May 14, in the year of our Lord 1483

I the King

October 17, 1483

It is a Friday morning, one like Seville has not seen since the spring. The sky above the town pulsates with a brilliant cloudless blue. The day is beauty almost painful to look upon, partly for its intensity, partly for the sadness of knowing that such a sky cannot possibly happen again in a lifetime. It is difficult to envision that on a day like this, Lope de Triana might well be responsible for the torture and execution of his wife Catalina.

Not that it will happen today, to give the man his due. These tragic events won’t actually come to fruition for another few weeks, as the Inquisition’s processes grind slowly if inexorably. But the groundwork, irreversible as time itself, is being laid this very morning in a cool gray basement chapel beneath Triana Castle. It is but two years since the officials of the Inquisition took control of the castle, almost immediately filling it to beyond capacity with suspects, including in recent weeks both Lope and Catalina. With the papal edicts and subsequent royal appointments of 1480, the first two official inquisitors, the Dominican Friars Juan de San Martin and Miguel de Morillo, had wasted no time in getting down to the business of identifying, arresting and questioning as many conversos as they could lay hands on. These conversos, crypto-Jews, were a real and present threat to the provinces that had only in recent years been drawn at last together with the joining of Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella of Castile and Leon. The queen’s personal confessor, the Dominican Fray Tomas Torquemada, Prior of the convent of Santa Cruz, had done a thorough job of convincing the royals of this threat, and had been instrumental in convincing His Holiness Pope Sixtus IV of the need to undertake desperate measures to mitigate the threat, a state of affairs that threatened the newly merged state and, ultimately, the Holy See itself.

Morillo was no friend of Torquemada, seeing the Prior as ambitious and overbearing, but he was politically astute and realized all too well that he owed his new position to the Prior’s good graces. There was talk even that His Holiness might go so far as to appoint a single Inquisitor General to supervise all the kingdoms of Spain. With two years of experience and a successful track record of finding and prosecuting these false Christians, these apostates, Morillo himself might aspire to such a position. He would require Torquemada’s support however if that were to come to pass. So far he had done an excellent job of identifying the conversos, and an even better one of securing confessions. His only source of frustration was that they were all small fish—merchants, craftsmen, no truly prominent citizens who would have been in position to draw together the entire converso community of Seville. Surely such individuals existed. These families could not be carrying out their heretical rituals and practices independently. There was organization and Morillo was determined to unearth it. It was only a matter of time and determination, for the inquisition had hundreds of suspected heretics jailed here in the castle and elsewhere around Seville.

The man before him seemed a particularly promising start. After six weeks in the cold and damp of Triana Castle’s deepest cells, the suspect, haggard and weak, appeared ready to speak at last. The man, Lope de Triana, was a fabric dealer with a shop not ten minutes walk from the castle that coincidentally bore his family name. Both the man and his wife Catalina had been in Inquisition custody for a month and a half, having been named by numerous acquaintances under the duress of their own questioning, secure in the knowledge that their testimony would not be associated with their names. And this was a critical element of the process that Morillo and San Martin had employed to such good effect in their work of these past weeks. No one who came before them had knowledge of who had testified against them, nor what specifically had been said. It was a chain reaction that had made Seville a city under siege these past two years, a place in which everyone was watching everyone else, a place where the slightest grievance or offense was met with the threat of one being turned in to the officials of the Inquisition. It had worked so well that the capacious prison cells of the Castle Triana had overflowed in less than three months and accommodations had had to be found elsewhere. For while the list of potential suspects was endless, the officials equipped to conduct the interrogations were few and their time limited. In order to speed things along, Morillo and San Martin have trained numerous secretaries, officers, and deputies to help oversee the various proceedings and provide all of the necessary transcriptions and documents attending each prosecution. Two of these individuals sat on either side of Morillo now as lifted his eyes from the pages before him to gaze in what he hoped was suitably intimidating fashion on the wretched figure seated before him.

“First things first, Senor Triana,” he said, rising slowly, pressing his small hands upon the long wooden table that separated the two men. <Describe Morillo and his clothing in greater detail> The scribe to Morillo’s right noted every word with great diligence. “As we have been through this before, you will know as well as I how things proceed.”

Except that Lope Triana, though he had been here twice before, had provided precious little direct information of value to Morillo, either concerning his own accusations or those of his relatives and neighbors. As it had become common practice for the accused to attempt to gain leniency by accusing their neighbors, Triana’s reticence had been discomfiting to the friar. In past sessions, the man had listened quietly, offered only laconic responses to Morillo’s questions and accusations, even maintained eye contact much of the time, which the priest had found almost unnerving, given the complete deference and fear shown him by nearly all suspects to this point. It was as if the man had no concern whatever for his fate. After two day-long interrogations and two additional sessions of repeated water torture, Triana had admitted nothing, almost dared Morillo to convict him and send him to the secular authorities for execution. Morillo was increasingly convinced, with each session, that this was a man with something to disclose, a man who could lead them to the real converso leadership in Seville. Morillo needed another approach and he had hit upon it in conferring with his colleagues the previous evening. Each interrogation began with the reading of the accusations against the prisoner. Since most were interrogated multiple times, they had heard the accusations often as well. Morillo turned to the notary on his right and nodded slowly and somberly. The man rose and read.

“Very Reverend Lords, I, bachiller Miguel de Morillo, chief prosecutor of the Holy Inquisition in the very noble city of Seville and its diocese, appear before your reverences to accuse Catalina de Triana, wife of Lope de Triana, fabric merchant, of Seville. She has received the holy sacrament of baptism, lives with the name and reputation of a Christian woman and calls herself such, and enjoys the privileges and liberties that Christians enjoy. But with contempt for the Holy Mother Church, with disdain for the Christian religion, and in great offense toward Our Redeemer Jesus and condemnation of her soul, she has heretically and apostatically followed the Law of Moses and its rites and ceremonies. Once before she pretended to confess some things to your lordships and was reconciled to the Church; she publicly abjured those errors and heresy, especially the observance of Mosaic Law. Then, postponing the fear of God, in condemnation of her soul, she returned, like a dog to its vomit, to commit the very errors she had previously abjured[2].”

The notary paused at this point, as he had been advised by Morillo prior to Triana having been brought into the interrogation room. The Chief Prosecutor was keen to see what reaction he could elicit from this man when he heard his wife’s arraignment transcript read aloud rather than his own. Perhaps if he would not contribute to the process to save his own immortal soul, he might do so in the service of his spouse’s. What followed was fifteen seconds of utter silence that reverberated from the heavy stone walls. Triana made no sound, but kept his eyes riveted to those of the clerk, who, following but five seconds, shifted his gaze to Morillo’s questioningly. The prosecutor nodded without satisfaction and the clerk continued, reading for another five minutes the litany of heretical charges against Catalina de Triana, a list that bore a striking resemblance to that of Lope himself, and, for that matter, to the great majority of defendants brought before the Inquisition.

In every case the accused were former Jews who, having been forced into baptism at some earlier date, thus making them conversos in the eyes of the church, were deemed to have never sincerely converted and to be continuing their adherence to Mosaic laws and traditions. In nearly every case, the evidence against the accused had come from close friends, neighbors and family members who had been intimidated or tortured into making accusations against the people they knew and lived with. And in no case would the accused know who had spoken against them, though many reasonably and correctly inferred that their case had been brought by any associate they had crossed in any way in the past. Some accused close associates out of fear, others out of hatred or vindictiveness. In either case, the result was the same. Once the charges had been levied, they were taken as fact and it was up to the accused to refute them convincingly. The choice for the accused was a grim one—confess to the accusations and put yourself at the mercy of the prosecution, which for the lucky ones meant reconciliation to the church and likely loss of some or all of one’s possessions, or refute the accusations and risk torture, conviction and relaxation to the secular authorities, relaxation being a euphemistic term employed by the church to signify guilt and physical punishment, most frequently excommunication and burning in public ceremonies known as auto’ da fe. Occasionally confessors were shown mercy through the expedient of being strangled to death before their bodies were burnt in the same ceremonies.

“Senor Triana,” Morillo began, rising again from his seat and walking around to the front of the table, “you have no doubt heard from your relatives and associates that the majority of those we…interview in these sessions are women. Do you know why that is?”

“It is entirely clear, Lord Prosecutor.” Lope Triana spoke quietly but firmly, mustering all of the dignity he could from his low straight-back chair. He had to raise his head toward Morillo in order to look him in the eye, but he made a point of doing so. This man is afraid, Lope told himself. He is afraid and he does not entirely believe in the cause he pursues. If my case is lost, I can help my friends by making this man less sure of himself. And yet he is crafty as well. He seeks to get to me through Catalina, and to her through me.

“Of course I know. You may think us heretics and infidels, but never think we are idiots. You believe that you are clever to target the women because your list of heretical Judaizing behaviors is largely built upon matters of the home, domestic actions or inactions—how the home is decorated, what is cooked and eaten there, what work is performed on Fridays and Saturdays, the things that you believe distinguish a genuine Christian from one of your heretics. This is your cleverness.”

“You are entirely correct, Senor Triana,” Morillo replied. “You are correct indeed and an intelligent man. Yet you speak however as if you do not believe in the irrefutable logic of this approach. Since you are feeling so candid today, is there another reason why you believe we focus on the women?”

Lope inhaled quietly and thought for a second about the wisdom of his course. By antagonizing these men he made his case worse. Yet if he also weakened their resolve, what was his own fate against that of his city, his state?

“Can you not guess it yourself, Lord Prosecutor?” he paused a moment looking for a spark of recognition in the prosecutor’s eyes. “You target the women because they are the weaker among us. And when your cause is a weak one, it is only weakness over which you can be victorious.”

Lope did not know what to expect from such a man. Morillo was not especially effusive. Yet he was clearly dangerous and had already left many dead and imprisoned of Seville in the two years he had been here. But what can this man do to me that he hasn’t already done or decided to do. My property is gone, but that is no surprise. It is, after all, the principal reason behind this entire campaign and has been since the appointment of the very first inquisitors. Seek out the Jews, the conversos. Persecute them. Take their wealth for the state. Use persecution as an excuse to abrogate all debts owed to them. All that remains is the complete expulsion of non-Christians from the state, and that is only a matter of time. There is no shame in this for me, for is not everyone in my family, everyone I know, already locked away in the same prison, subject to the same humiliation. What do I lose by returning a bit of the humiliation? My life? What is life mean in such a place as this? Lope, despite his tiredness, pain, and hunger, struggled and managed an almost cynical smile for Morillo, in response to which the prosecutor smiled back, lifting a finger and wagging it admonishingly in Lope’s face.

“You are an brave man, Senor Triana. You make this sad job almost interesting. It is as though you care nothing for yourself or your wife and daughter. Were you not an apostate, were you an honest adherent of our Holy Mother Church, we might almost be friends, Senor.”

“I generally do not make a habit of taking murderers as friends, Lord Prosecutor. And despite your assertions to the contrary, I am more of a Christian than you and your associates will ever be. Do you honestly think because you wear a robe and a crucifix, this makes you a Christian? Do you believe…”

“I BELIEVE,” Morillo shouted suddenly, almost leaping away from the table and putting his right index finger an inch from Lope’s face, “I believe you weaken your case with your loose tongue. I believe…” Morillo stopped for a moment, composed himself, stepped back around behind the table, whispering something quietly to the scribe and pointing at the last entry in the transcript. Moving his head subtly from side to side, the scribe made a gesture as though marking out some of what he had written. Morillo flipped one page and then another in the transcript of Triana’s previous testimony.

“I believe, Senor Triana, that you have a lot to say today. And because I am a generous man, an honest man, I am prepared to give you one final opportunity to be honest with me. I have no desire to see your daughter orphaned, either because her parents are imprisoned or worse. Both you and your wife have provided extensive answer to our questions in past interviews, and we have of course compared your answers to establish their veracity. I would like to review some of your answers and endeavor, honestly endeavor to find cause to release you. If, as you insist, you are a genuine Christian—converso, but Christian nonetheless—then all we ask is your cooperation in these efforts. We all have the same goal here, do we not? Do we not seek to get to the truth? And to eradicate the heretics and the apostates from our midst? Surely if you are as Christian as you say, this can be your only objective—you and Catalina.”

“Of course, Lord Prosecutor. Those are indeed laudable goals.” Lope adjusted his position in the chair, trying in vain to gain a bit of comfort. “But you waste your time in asking me again questions I have already forthrightly answered. Like you, I am an honest man, and there is no likelihood of my changing my answer.”

“True enough, Senor Triana. True enough. But if is as you say, if you are indeed an honest man—and why would I have reason to doubt you—then you will not mind corroborating your earlier responses. It will also help us to compare your views on these matters with those of your wife. As I’m sure you can understand, we would like to get to the truth of your situation so that we can move onto other cases. The list of those waiting is a long one.”

“I have no doubt that it is, Excellency, as your efficiency in imprisoning all of Seville is well known and much feared.”

“None in Seville have anything to fear from our office save those who have faltered in their holy Christian vows, those who continue to pursue the Mosaic path.And there are many, Senor. Many indeed.”

“That may be,” Lope said, taking his eyes from Morillo’s for the first time in minutes. “But there is nothing else I can tell you that will aid your cause, except that I am a loyal and law-abiding Christian. You waste your valuable time speaking further with me.”

Morillo rose again from his seat, returning back to the front of the table, gesturing again to the notary as he walked.

“It troubles me to hear your lack of cooperation with the efforts of this office. But as you wish. You force us to employ other methods to get our questions answered.” He nodded to the notary who proceeded to read from a new declaration, his voice echoing with authority from the stone walls.

“Given the circumstantial evidence and suspicions that result from the trial against Catalina de Triana, and the fact that she has been silent about the people who participated with her in the crimes of heresy which she has confessed, and because of other reasons that move us to ascertain the truth, as we are obliged to do for God and our consciences, we find that we must order her put to the question of torture. The torture shall be given according to our will until such time as she declares the truth about accomplices and participants in the said crimes. As well, let it be understood that if the prisoner should die or be injured or suffer heavy bleeding or have a limb mutilated during the torture, this will be their fault and responsibility and not ours, because they have refused to tell the truth. And so we pronounce and order by these writings.”

Lope turned his gaze back to Morillo, making no attempt to disguise his contempt, though he feared that his sudden fear would be the more apparent emotion. He had not seen his wife for the six weeks of his incarceration. He did not know for certain whether she too had been jailed before her questioning, though that now seemed certain.

“I said as much earlier. I say it yet again,” Triana raised his voice in a vain attempt to sound certain, authoritative. “You prey on the weak because both you and your cause are weak. Ask me your questions. Ask me one thousand times. As I have said, my answers will not change, for they are the truth. But ask if you have no more important use of your time. ASK!”

At this last exclamation, Lope actually endeavored to rise from his seat, but was immediately returned to his seat by the firm hand of a bailiff standing on duty behind him.

“A wise man after all,” Morillo offered with a sardonic smile. He reached behind him to receive a page from the notary containing responses to the standard collection of questions the inquisition was employing to convict all of its suspects.

“Tell me again, Senor Triana, when were you and your wife baptized?”

“It has been nearly two years, Lord Prosecutor. Catalina and I were baptized on the same day at the church of St. Anthony. It was just before Christmas, so yes, nearly two years.”

Morillo studied the page before him for a moment, nodding to himself before continuing.

“Senor, tell me if you would, about the decoration of your home.”

“I’m sorry, Lord Prosecutor. Decoration?”

“Religious artifacts, images, that sort of thing. Your…others…have noted a dearth of Christian icons—crosses, images of the saints. Do you consider these worthy of display in your home, Senor?”

“Of course, Excellency. Without question. But our home is a humble one. We are not given to ostentatious displays. What we have…the cross of Saint Anthony and the cross of Christ…and, and others…we keep them in the bedroom where only my wife and I can see them. And, as you know, there is much theft in the city. It doesn’t do to have such important things out where anyone can see them. I’m sure you can understand this.”

“Indeed, Senor. You wouldn’t want icons so valued by your family to be stolen.” Morillo grinned vey subtly, lowered his head a moment, turned briefly and said something unheard to the scribe, who added an additional note to what he was taking down.

“And what of your workdays. I am most curious how you spend your Saturdays. You are a busy man, yes?”

Having been through the interrogation more than once, Triana knew well the lines of questioning that the inquisitors used to determine evidence of reversion to Mosaic practices. This man was clever though, deliberative in his interrogatories. It was not sufficient to know the right answers. There would be checks for consistency as well, both in his own answers and with respect to whatever Catalina might have told them, something he had no way of knowing.

“For the most part, yes of course. I am a busy man. I trade fabrics, as you are aware. Mine is a small shop, Catalina, my wife, she helps me during the week.”

“And what of Saturdays? It is said that you are not much for working on Saturdays.”

“Not true, Excellency. Not true at all. In my business there is always something to do. Even if the customers are not coming, there is plenty to keep us busy. But much of this takes place at home. Simply seeing no one in the shop means nothing. My Saturdays are for catching up, organizing things…the books, you know, financial considerations, orders to be made. It is all the two of us can do to keep up with it in truth, Excellency.”

And so it continued for the remainder of the morning. More questions, attempts to trip Lope up, on matters of home decoration, adherence to Sabbath days, observance of Christian versus Mosaic holy days. There was lengthy discussion about the family’s diet, pork, pheasant, leavened bread, what was or was not eaten on holy days. They talked of attending mass, knowledge of various prayers and sacraments. Hour after interminable hour it continued, all the while Lope having no idea what Catalina might have said in response to these same questions. All the while he imagining the worst, his Catalina, his daughter’s mother, tortured to elicit the answers they wanted to hear, to elicit a confession of heresy, apostasy. And if that happened, what then? This thing, this persecution, went potentially in many directions. There were some who said confess to anything they ask. They said doing so meant being reconciled back into the church. And whatever that meant in practice, whatever humiliation attended such a thing, surely it was preferable to the alternative, the one they had all by now either seen in person or at least heard of. The auto’ da fe, the burning. Lope pressed his eyes tightly closed for a moment, only half hearing the next question coming from Morillo.

No sense of time was possible during such questioning. Indeed, Lope had not seen the sky or the sun even once during the six weeks since he had been detained. If he wasn’t here being questioned by one of the prosecutors, he was back in his large cell which he shared with twenty or twenty-one (he’d lost count with new ones being added and old ones vanishing as quickly) of his fellow Sevillians.  But this day’s interrogation session had certainly lasted for many hours and Lope was exhausted, from the incessant questions, the discomfort of his position in the straight rigid chair, the near complete lack of sleep possible in the cell, the even more complete lack of nutrition provided to the prisoners. But say what you like about Morillo, the man had stamina. He had only just returned, for the fourth time that day, to the unceasingly interesting subject of Christian versus Mosaic dietary strictures, when there came an abrupt strident rapping on the door of the chamber. Lope started from his slumped position. Morillo stopped in mid-sentence, gesturing with great annoyance to the notary to attend to whoever it was that had the temerity to interrupt an interrogation of the Holy Inquisition. The man moved briskly to the door, opened it and whispered in what he hoped was a condescending tone to the interrupter. He then paused to listen to the faint voice that came from outside the door. As the faint voice continued, the notary turned slowly and gazed in Morillo’s direction. Nodding slightly, he pushed the door open fully and allowed the new man inside. He was dressed like a messenger and had more than enough sweat on his brow to show that he had been diligent in getting to Morillo as fast as he could manage.

“Excellency,” he blurted out, not caring to notice the prisoner seated in the center of the room. He stepped inside, paused to take a breath. “Excellency, you said to bring you news the moment anything was heard. The appointment, it has been received in Seville. It arrived only just now, written and attested by the queen’s own hand.”

Morillo, forgot entirely about his prisoner for a moment and turne to fully face the messenger.

“Yes, and what did it say?” Visions of grandeur immediately sprang unbidden into Morillo’s head as he imagined what he might do with the power to take the inquisition throughout the Spanish territories without hindrance.

“It is Torquemada the Dominican, Lord Prosecutor.”

“Yes, of course it is,” he replied with agitation, not yet getting what the messenger was trying obtusely to say. “Lord Torquemada is instrumental in recommending an Inquisitor General to his Holiness and to the Queen.”

“No, no,” the messenger replied, almost afraid to say the words for he knew of Morillo’s aspiration. “Lord Torquemada is the Pontiff’s choice for Inquisitor General. The mandate is his and his alone, your Excellency.”

The messenger stood, unsure what to do next, waiting to be dismissed or chastised, something, anything. Morillo stood, saying nothing, for what felt an eternity before turning and returning to take his seat behind the long table. He slid the notary’s book of inscriptions in front of him and pretended  to page through it for a few seconds, unsure how to react. He did look again in Triana’s direction and no one in the room said anything. After a minute of this uncomfortable silence, the prosecutor rose without comment, walked from behind the table, past the messenger and out the door without a word to anyone. Lope did not know what to make of the messenger’s words, but they did not sound like a positive development.

Chapter 2

October 31, 1483

Holding God Before Our Eyes:

We find that we must pronounce and declare that the chief prosecutor’s intention has been well proven, while the arguments by the party for Catalina de Triana have proven insufficient. Therefore, we are obliged to declare her a relapsed heretic and an apostate. She has incurred a sentence of major excommunication, and the confiscation and loss of all her possessions. We must relax her to justice and the secular arm, and we declare our judgment through these writings.

This judgment was given in Seville, October 30, 1483, by the lord inquisitors in the Plaza de Canisales in that city, acting as the tribunal, while standing on a wooden scaffold; this judgment was read in a loud voice in the presence of Catalina de Triana, Lope de Triana, her husband, Miguel de Morillo and Juan de San Martin, Friars of the convent of Santa Cruz and Prosecutors of the Holy Inquisition, Juan de Sepulveda and Lupe Fernandez, canons of Seville, and the magistrate Francisco de Vargas[3].


“I don’t know why they chose to release me. Part of me believes they did it just to continue the torture, to increase the pain of Catalina’s sentence. It makes no sense at all.”

Lope de Triana sat on a bench in the enclosed courtyard in the home of his brother, Vicente de Triana. He had been out of the custody of the inquisition officials for nearly a week, but had spent that week with no news of his wife’s fate. That terrible news had at last come earlier this morning in the form of an official clerical decree, read aloud in the time square, along with similar declarations about seventeen other prisoners. Immediate family of those being convicted were obliged to be in attendance and to listen to the heinous declarations, ostensibly as a bureaucratic requirement, more realistically as one additional means of spreading even further the general fear that had already quite effectively engulfed the entire city of Seville. Next to Lope on the bench sat Vicente, older brother and Lope’s only immediate family in the Seville area. There was family, a sister and some cousins, back in Ciudad Real from whence Lope had immigrated to Seville some twenty years earlier in search of better economic opportunities and to be closer to his brother’s family. In large part his plans and dreams had come to fruition. A thriving business, a well-established network of professional and personal contacts in and around the city, growing involvement in the governmental affairs of his neighborhood. But in the past two years he had watched helplessly as the officials of the inquisition had come to the city and his friends and neighbors had begun to get called in for interrogations, many imprisoned, their family wealth confiscated, some even tortured and executed. And now Catalina, his beloved Catalina, would be among them.

“I told her father that I would watch over her, protect her. Look what I have done.” Lope had not moved from the bench for more than five hours, had consumed no food, drank no water, despite repeated offerings from Vicente and his wife. He leaned forward, head in his hands, the crumpled remains of the official declaration still gripped tightly in his right hand.

“What can I do?”

Lope rubbed at his head, gripped his hair, did all he could to keep from weeping before his brother. He had tried, since the shock of the initial announcement, to maintain as much composure as he could manage. He had been released two days earlier by the officials in an identical ceremony in which his reconciliation to the church had been announced, along with the various penances he would be required to perform in the coming weeks. He would have to wear, for an indeterminate length of time, the sanbenito whenever he went out in public, its enormous red cross identifying him as a backslidden member of the church, but one now nominally accepted back into its fold. He had been allowed to keep his business and his home. He had thus expected, since the evidence against he and Catalina was more or less identical, that she would be released as well. Even as he had stood before the platform from which such declarations were read to the crowd each morning, he had imagined having her back in his arms, back in their home. Only then had come the awful words, read aloud to gasps from several in the crowd who knew the de Triana family. There was no explanation offered and Lope was torn apart inside wondering if his own words had been used to determine her fate. Many women were relaxed in this manner, the general theory being that as caretakers of the home, they were more responsible for the various indicators of heresy that the inquisitors employed so often to convict—the choices of food, the display of Christian icons, the choice of how much or how little to work on Saturdays. Ironically, the men were more often reconciled on the grounds that they had been corrupted by their wives who weren’t keeping adequate Christian practices in the home.

Vicente could think of no words of comfort, only placed his hand on his younger brother’s leg. “Her fate…” he murmured at last. “Her fate is in God’s hands.”

Lope leaped up distraught, turned to face his brother. “Her fate was in my hands…MY HANDS. And I…I have failed her.” Despite his best efforts at control, there were streaks from Lope’s eyes down through the dust that covered his face. He visibly trembled as he stood before Vicente. “Damn these animals! Damn them and their holy church and their cross and their pontiff straight to hell!” Lope turned and walked into the house.

Vicente had no words of comfort for his brother, at least none that appeared to be in any way effective. Both he and his wife Marina had done their best to offer solace in response to Lope’s awful but not entirely unexpected news. They had, as well, served as foster parents for Lope and Marina’s thirteen-year-old daughter Ines for the eight weeks that both parents were incarcerated by the inquisition. She was just nine months younger than their only child, a son named Rodrigo, and a good companion, even if it was under extremely trying and now tragic circumstances. Lope and Marina lived more than two miles away on the other side of Seville and the two families had not seen other as much as they would have liked, for all their closeness. All had agreed that for the foreseeable future Lope and Ines would remain there with Vicente and Marina. Vicente offered this out of a deep sense of familial obligation, and also, though it went unspoken, out of a deep sense of gratitude.

Vicente and Marina could as easily be in Lope’s situation. The entire family had strong but ancient Jewish roots in Ciudad Real. Their elders four generations earlier had been forcibly converted to Christianity and baptized in order to escape the sort of torment and persecution even now being meted out with such enthusiasm by the current inquisition. They had migrated south to Andalusia two generations ago in search of better economic opportunities.  And despite the general derision heaped on the converso communities of Seville, the family had nonetheless done reasonably well, Lope in his fabric business, Vicente as a potter and dishmaker. The fact that Vicente and Marina were not now enduring the same torments as Lope and Catalina could be attributed only to a combination of luck and the fact that neither Lope nor Catalina had brought the remainder of their family up in any of the doubtless tortuous interrogations to which they had been submitted these past few weeks. This was no small feat, as one of the principal strategies of the inquisition, and one of its most effective, was offering leniency to those convicted if they would but name family and friends who were also engaging in heretical judaizing practices.  It would have been easy and risk-free for Lope to attempt to gain mercy for his own family by simply implicating others, easy because convicts never knew who had testified against them. They could only guess, and most of the guesses tended to be associates who bore some sort of grudge for which they sought redress. Still, in the end, it might matter little. The inquisition’s sources and methods were proving extremely effective and thorough, and Vicente’s family might yet be targeted for questioning. But for now they had managed to remain free. Their business had suffered in recent months with the rapid increase in incarcerations and the renewed tendency of families to hunker down against the onslaught and keep a low profile. But what was the significance of reduced business compared with what others were enduring? Vicente groaned as he rose from the bench to follow his brother into the house.

Two days passed during which Lope said little but did what he could to help Vicente with his business, principally to keep his mind occupied. There had been no subsequent information from the inquisition officials concerning the date of the impending auto da fe’, during which Catalina’s fate would once and for all be sealed. Lope prayed against all hope that there might still be a reprieve, but he was allowed no access to her in the Triana Castle prison and he had no word as to her health or psychological condition. Even as he worked in the pottery factory, thoughtlessly stacking crates, loading wagons, and firing ovens, the thing he could not get out of his head was the thought that Catalina’s conviction was due to his own words, the testimony he had given during his many sessions with Morillo. If, as everyone now believed, the inquisition had a predisposition to find the women at fault, then any of his comments could have been used as incriminating evidence against her, particularly if his accounts of their home life did not precisely match hers. How had his accounts of their attendance at mass compared with hers? He tormented himself throughout the day with these thoughts. They stayed in his head when he tried without success to sleep at night. His only consolation throughout was the knowledge that Ines had not been caught up in all of this.

The inquisition was by no means above interrogating children for information that could be used against their parents. It was well known that more than one adult in Seville had been given a long prison term or worse based on statements made by their own children or other young relatives. So far the children, Ines and Rodrigo, knew little of what was happening around them, though they had been told by their parents not to say anything to strangers they might encounter, most especially anyone wearing ecclesiastical clothing.  Fortunately the two children were past the age of complete uncomprehending honesty, that age at which they will say anything, parrot anything heard around the home. At least in their early teens they had a level of understanding as to the value of discretion, even if they did not fully comprehend the importance of that discretion. It was a dangerous life they led, outwardly keeping up the ways of the church by attending mass, baptizing their children, honoring the Eucharist, saying aloud prayers which even after generations, still carried no meaning for them. And then keeping the rituals of their forefathers in the home, observing holy holidays, days of rest, dietary restrictions, etc. It was a schizophrenic existence, but one endured by many of their friends and business associates, any one of whom could reveal the truth to the officials of the church at the slightest provocation. There way no way to know, no way to be certain. All they could do was talk to the children about what they should and should not say, repeat these cautions and hope for the best.

By mid-November, the warm southern Andalusian breezes had taken on a decided chill, and still there was no word of Catalina’s fate. Lope’s mien had solidified into something unmoving and unresponsive to most external stimuli. He would talk, but only perfunctorily. He would work about the house, but without enthusiasm or joy. In deed, the first time anyone in the household saw him manage a small smile was on the morning of Rodrigo’s fourteenth birthday. Lope felt no differently, but he did it for the boy and for Ines. The two children had become fast friends and they celebrated with verve and abandon that morning. There were gifts from family members—garments of the best fabric Lope could lay hands on, lovingly sewed by Marina. And then had come Ines, holding both hands playfully behind her back.

“Pick one,” she said laconically, wearing a green-eyed grin that had long-since captivated everyone in the household. “Go ahead.”

Rodrigo feigned great concentration, rubbing his as-yet-whiskerless chin with his hand. After a suitably lengthy deliberation, he pointed to Ines’ left hand, which she extended revealing nothing at all.

“Well that was predictable,” Rodrigo replied. “You leave me little choice in the matter. He gripped her right hand and drew it from behind her back.

“Be careful, you brute,” she said with a smile. “It’s very delicate.”

And it was indeed. There in the palm of Ines’ extended hand lay a sailing ship no bigger than a maple leaf. It looked to be a single carved piece, replete with three masts and sails open full to the wind. Rodrigo accepted it from her and cradled it gently in his own hands. It was of fired ceramic, painted in bright colors. Vicente, clearly in league with Ines on the project, stood in the corner of the kitchen grinning broadly.

“She carved it herself and fired and painted it as well,” Rodrigo’s father offered. She has quite a future as an artist, don’t you think?”

“She has indeed,” the boy responded. He leaned forward, taking care not to damage the gift, placing a gentle kiss on his cousin’s cheek. “You are a wonder,” he said. “Thank you so much.”

“I figured you are such a boat lover and all, and you aren’t likely to get near a real one for some time yet. Maybe this will tide you over.”

Rodrigo held the tiny ship up to the light, turning it, admiring the detailed etching along the hull, the bowsprit and fantail. There was even a tiny figurehead at the very front.

“And is the figurehead a self portrait then?” he asked playfully, peering at it with great intent.

“I am not so talented that I can render a self portrait just yet, especially not one so tiny. But if it makes you happy to imagine it, then yes, let it be me that guides your ship.”

“Rodrigo,” his father said, “Could you place that someplace safe? There is something else.” <move on to the gift of Ain Fir>

Move on to Rodrigo’s birthday and the falcon…

Chapter in which we meet Rodrigo and his family. Also we see Rodrigo receive the gift of the peregrine falcon as a coming of age thing. In this second chapter we talk also of Lope’s wife’s execution. Chapter begins with Lope and Rodrigo;s father commiserating over Catalina’s fate.

Meanwhile Rodrigo de Triana turns fourteen years old (born 1469). Show us some of his life and his relationship with his parents (who he will later betray accidentally).

Chapter 3

January, 1486 – Columbus beseeches Isabella for the first time for her support in his quest to journey to the new world. She is intrigued, but strings him along for a couple of years while her advisors consider the matter (argument – gold for use in freeing Jerusalem from the infidels). Discuss his frustrations, perhaps bitching to those around him in bars, etc. Show him arguing about earth’s circumference with colleague, talking through Ptolemy’s calculations vs. those of Marco Polo. Reference also al Farghani, Arabian cartographer. Talk about his desire to gain fame and title or himself and his heirs.

Previously he sought Portuguese support/patronage from Joao II in 1484, but was rebuffed.

Columbus’ wife (Felipa Moniz) had died around 1480 after giving birth to Diego.

Chapter 4

January 1492. Granada falls, ending the Moorish kingdom there.

Later in January 1492 – Columbus gets final word that his mission has been accepted.

March, 1492 – Alhambra decree issued expelling all Jews from Spain. Rodrigo (now 22 years old) and family discuss the implications. They have until July to be gone or face the decree’s death sentence.

Chapter 3a

Scene at de Triana (Rodrigo) household in which we see clear evidence of converso activity. Start section with “signs of Judaizing document. We want to establish here the important role of the Rodrigo’s uncle in organizing converso activity in Seville (consequence of his faith in general and his wife’s killing in particular). We could establish here as well the motivation for why later the Inquisition will be so keen on getting to the boy, i.e. only after they interrogate and release him and take his parents do they realize that the uncle has conspired t o send the boy with Columbus and to establish Judaism in the New World. This the Inquisitors must stop at all costs, so they send Morillo after him.

Chapter 4

April 1492 – The road from the small town of <small town outside Seville> into Ciudad Real is three miles of (modify to occur in Seville, where de Triana was born and lived)

Obtain copy of Capitulations of 14 April 1492, laying out what Columbus will be granted if he succeeds.

Obtain also the Letter of Credence carrying greetings from F&I to whatever potentates Columbus happens to encounter, e.g. The Great Khan of China, etc.

Description of Seville and the taking of the young man Rodrigo de Triana by the Inquisitor General’s minions. He is riding a mule into the city on errands for his father, a converso furniture maker/carpenter. (adjust bio per Wiki description)

Chapter 5

Early April 1492

Scene switch to Columbus and his efforts to recruit crew in Palos, including story of how the town came to owe F&I two caravels (smuggling conviction).

Rodrigo and Luis haven’t arrived in town yet (Still in Seville). We can make them last-minute additions to crew.

Chapter 6

April 1492 – Seville

I am and will ever be Ain Fir. My first name is eye or precious, depending on whom you ask and in what you believe. My second name is a sharp weapon, a truth that matters not at all what you believe. To the boy I am simply Ain. And the boy is the only thing. He is the reason. He is everything. So long as the boy lives, I live.

From this great height I see everything and nothing. I can see to the ocean, a full day’s flight away, a week’s walk for a man. I see below me the great grassy pastures of Granada, the tree-covered hill of Alhambra, and the stone citadel that covers its peak. I see the brick road that passes through the town and up to the hilltop. And the curving walkway upon which they carried the boy into the stone building. Nearly a mile above it all, I can glide for days if need be without effort, the breezes from the hill bearing me up. I could sleep in flight if I chose to, except that there is no sleep so long as the boy remains unseen. And if needed, in full stoop I can plummet faster than anything else on or above this earth. I can respond to his call, be at his side, in seconds.

I await his reappearance here after peering into the tall citadel windows for some time. There is no one inside save for men in robes tending to whatever requires tending in such a place. Wherever they have taken the boy he is out of my view, and I do not like it one bit. The building looks like a dark and frightening place, especially for one so young and inexperienced in the ways of the world. The men who took him wore robes as well, robes like the men in the church now, except of a brighter hue. But they are not the same men. That much I can tell. I am not Ain for nothing. I can take a bat in dark soundless flight from a thousand feet above. I can certainly tell one human from another.

Chapter 7

April 1492 – Seville

It is cold in the basement of the citadel. Even blindfolded, he can tell this much. It was warmer than usual when they came for him earlier this morning, and the combination of sweat from the morning’s work and then the very different moisture of sudden fear is now turning to a chill on his bare arms and legs. He wears only leather sandals and a loose-fitting crude tunic, clothes meant for working. The place they have taken him is also a large enclosed one, a place with heavy stone walls of the sort that resonate with each footfall. No blindfold can mask this fact. Nor can the blindfold mask the distinct musty smell of a place where ancient volumes have been kept—kept and not particularly well cared for. He is someplace below ground level, and there is only one such place within riding distance of the time they have spent journeying, scarcely half a day. He thinks to object at the futility of their having covered his eyes, but thinks again. They have taken him for a reason and until he knows what it is there is little to be gained from antagonizing them. Still, it is possible as well that they could not be worse. It is that sort of time, and, truth be told, he has been anticipating this, has even taken steps to minimize the danger.

He knows things they do not know, and in this there is real danger to others. And there is no shortage of danger to himself as well, most especially from the things he does not know, but which they believe he does, things they are in all likelihood prepared to do anything to learn. Insisting to them that he does not know will not in the least make them stop trying. And he has one other thing that they do not know about, an ally who even now waits and watches high above this place. It is unclear what this ally can do in the current situation, but it has been equally unclear in many past situations, and always his friend has been there, many times indispensably so. It is a comfort simply knowing he is not alone.

The boy is guided, firm hands on either side, down a long stone walk, up a course of seventeen stairs, which transition at the top to stone of a much smoother cooler sort. There are distant voices, indistinct and unfamiliar, but at least three different ones. Within seconds there is the creak of an old door as it opens and then closes behind them. The voices are gone and the stone beneath his feet becomes rougher again. The echoes of footsteps have changed dramatically, from those of a high ceilinged place to those in which he can practically feel the ceiling only inches above his head. His companions do not say a word. If they are communicating, it is through gesture only. More likely, they are so familiar with their destination that no communication is needed. They have made this trip before, leading another like himself. Yes, many have likely come in. How many though, have emerged?

After several minutes navigating this narrow space, there is the creak of another door followed by the clank of something heavy and metallic being placed across it after their passage. The ceiling is high again, the air moist and cool. A hand against his chest gestures him to a stop. A voice he does not know murmurs something indistinct and there is the sound of his guides turning and walking away, though not far, for the door, at least the one through which they entered, makes no further sound. There are steps, softer steps made on finer shoes, and then the smell of someone who bathes every day, a smell as clear and unfamiliar to the boy as a spring flower carried into his father’s cow barn. A hand touches his head and the blindfold falls away.

There is not the expected shock of sudden light after more than an hour blindfolded, for the room contains little more of it than the cloth admitted. The room is rather like he’d imagined it from employing his other senses. It is walled with rough stone, gray like a gull’s belly, the same stone employed to such magnificent advantage in the cathedral that doubtless soars above his head. For surely the journey can have only ended here, the Citadel of Alhambra. Having ridden no more than forty-five minutes under his captors’ supervision, no other structure matches what his senses have perceived en route. And in a perverse sort of way it makes sense that they would bring him here. The awful work they do, of which he has heretofore heard only in hushed tones from unreliable sources, they claim to be of religious purpose. It is natural they would seize this place, or at least find it convenient for their work.

It is not a large room, roughly square, perhaps twenty paces along each wall, a ceiling he could nearly touch if he extended his arm upward, impossible now due to his bonds. The floor is stone as well, though of some unusual enormous single piece, rather than joined segments. There is only the single door through which they entered, and no windows, reinforcing his belief that they are well beneath ground level. There is a long table along one wall, behind which sit two men, neither speaking. One gazes in the boy’s direction while the other makes marks in a large bound volume. They are clothed identically, earth colored robes that bear unrecognizable markings along the bottom of each wide sleeve. It is not these men who concern the boy, but the one who stands before him, the one who released his blindfold, the one clothed so altogether differently from his associates. This is a man the boy recognizes, only not by sight but rather by the accuracy of the descriptions he has heard in recent weeks in his travels. Their words, invariably spoken in muted tones, have painted a picture so accurate he might have picked the man out at far greater distance than the two paces that now separate them. The man says nothing for several moments, perhaps allowing the boy to take it all in, the seated men, the one so clearly in charge of this affair, and the implements placed strategically around the room’s perimeter, implements with a distinctly familiar look to a boy raised around large farming tools. Devices meant for use during the time of harvest, not during a time of terror and intimidation. Some fall into this category – some are unusual and the boy does not recognize them though he correctly deduces their purpose, which at the moment is simply to strike fear into his heart, a purpose they have achieved with easy effectiveness. (Note: These would be mainly for effect, as the chief actual torture implements employed were water torture on a potro (trestle table) and pulleys used for shoulder hanging (ref. usage in Sistina for Savonarola).

But the man – the man is a head taller than the boy, and the boy is already taller than average for his seventeen years. He does not look up into the man’s eyes. He fancies himself brave for not allowing the man the satisfaction, though it is really fear that keeps his eyes averted. Only in that initial moment when the blindfold fell did he see the face, the pupils gray like a stormy sea, the almost genuine smile, as if seeking to confide, to comfort. Looking straight ahead, what the boy sees instead is a robe of far finer cloth than that of his associates, far finer than any he has seen so closely in his life. It is black and falls to the floor, covering the man’s feet, the fabric heavy so that it makes a slight dragging sound when the man turns and walks toward the table. He leans toward the man with the book, whispers for a moment into his upturned ear, gestures toward something on the page, before turning back to address the boy for the first time. They have been in the room for what already seems an eternity—though in reality but two minutes—and not a word has yet been spoken by anyone.

“De Triana, correct? Rodrigo De Triana.” He waits for any sort of acknowledgement, receiving at least a small wordless nod from the boy. Only four words so far, three of them his own name, and the voice is already one he will never forget, one he will later have no difficulty describing to his friends, though none will fully believe his description—a voice not especially frightening under other circumstances, confident, almost avuncular with a capacity for friendship and reassurance, part of what makes it so frightening now. It is deep though, and resonates from the walls of this place.

“”Allow me to begin by apologizing for what may have been any ill treatment you received on your journey here today. I trust my colleagues have not caused you any undue inconvenience. I am sure a lad such as yourself has much to occupy his time on a fine day like today.”

The man faces him now from perhaps five paces away, leaning with seeming insouciance upon one corner of the table, while the man with the book continues writing, transcribing perhaps the conversation, if that is what this is. Other possibilities come to mind—interrogation, confession. The third man only sits and stares, silent witness to whatever this is. He has the look of someone who has seen many such conversations.

“I would be particularly interested in learning anything you might have heard about our activities here in Ciudad Real. There is a great deal of misinformation flying about and I fear we are the victims of a great deal of slander and vituperation. Who says these things does not matter. I am though keen to set the record straight, something you can perhaps assist with once we our business here is concluded. We mean no one in your village any harm. It is only the Lord’s work we have come to do. I’m certain you can appreciate that better than most.”

And there, the smile again, as if to instill confidence, equanimity. Why does this man, clearly powerful, feel the need to explain himself to a simple farm boy? It makes no sense. Perhaps part of the technique is to put one off their guard, confuse them with unexpected cordiality. The tall man gestures to the silent one who rises, lifting a small knife from the table, at which development the boy surprisingly feels no fear, for he lifts it like an implement rather than a weapon. He steps to the boy, reaches to his hands and deftly removes his bonds. The small fragments of rope drop to the floor as the boy rubs at his wrists with relief. There are empty chairs against one wall and the man gestures toward them. The boy obliges, grateful to place a small additional bit of distance between he and the tall man. He sits, still looking ahead and not at any of the others. There is a clay pot and cups upon the table and the silent man turns, pours a cup of water, hands it to the boy.

“Drink,” says the tall man. “It is a warm day. We will not keep you long. You will be home before the sun sets.”

“So tell me,” the tall man begins again. “What do they say of us in the village?”

Rodrigo sits in silence, still holding the half-filled water cup. He ahs of course heard plenty in the village, none of it good.

“Come now, there is nothing to be concerned about. We only want to understand how we are regarded. Surely people have opinions—your friends, your family.”

“Sir…” the boy begins, still forcing himself to look only at the floor. He does know of lofty titles. He has never laid eyes on a Priest, Monsignor, or Cardinal, though he has heard of these men, particularly in the past month. “I work in our village. I only rarely travel to the city. When I do it is only on matters of business. There is no time to engage in gossip. My father, he is a stern man.”

“Of this I have little doubt,” his interlocutor replies. “And he has raised a fine son, one who can be trusted with a business transaction or with confidential information. Tell me, for what reasons do you come to the city? How often would you say?”

The boy looks up, at least in the general direction of the tall man. He cannot make himself look the man in the eyes though. “I come each Friday to buy supplies and carry them back home. It is a busy time. There is little conversation other than business dealings.”

“And where is your home located, my son?” The man knows perfectly well where the De Triana home is located, but his is a task of confidence gaining, besides which one never knows what one can learn from a free-flowing dialog.

“We live two leagues north of the city. It is not a large village—perhaps two hundred people. Our family has lived there since my grandfather…came to this place.”

“And all of your family lives in the village with you?”

“I have an uncle here in the city. He is a tanner.”

The tall man turns to the man with the book and whispers again, flipping back a page. The seated man whispers something back.

“Enrique De Triana, is that right?”

The gist of this conversation is that the priest suspects Rodrigo’s father and uncle are non-converted conversos and in league against the inquisition and he is seeking collaboration from the boy before moving on his elders.


Describe the underground room where the inquisitors have taken him. Torture implements abound but they are not using them now. It’s just there to intimidate and get him to cooperate (which unfortunately he eventually will, i.e. give up his parents for torture and death.)

After the boy’s initial “interview” segue to Columbus, who is in the midst of being irritated that he can’t get a final decision out of Isabella. Throughout (for a while, we will switch between these 2 threads.

After this set of scenes transition to Columbus dealing with rejection by Isabella. Include a letter or two from her court, an another back home to his family whining about his lack of success after so many years of trying. Run parallel narratives between the Muslim boy and Columbus, whose paths will only cross later.

Chapter 8

May 1492 – Scene in which Rodrigo’s parents are taken by inquisitors and killed. He thinks they both die, but only his father and uncle do. Mother survives and will appear later in story. He learns, through some means tbd, that inquisitors are again after him, with worse designs. He flees home and hides elsewhere in Seville where he encounters Luis de Torres.

Meanwhile Columbus is in Palos getting together with Pinzon and hiring crew, obtaining final ship, stores, etc. He and Pinzon don’t exactly hit it off though. There will be two reps from the queen’s office on board (sovereigns). IN the end, an inquisition official will also make it on board, partly to keep after Rodrigo, partly to be the vanguard for inquisition efforts in the new world.

Chapter 9

August 1492 – The complete fleet and crew depart Palos. Discuss details of ships, crews, etc. Talk about the important people on each ship, including inquisition person who Rodrigo and Luis don’t know about. Who is on which ship?

Chapter 10

August 1492 – Talk about first part of journey to Canary Islands. Include some drama concerning Rodrigo, Luis and our clandestine inquisition official. Talk about broken rudder on the Pinta and suspicions concerning it. (the owner, Cristobal Quintero was not keen to have the ship make the journey).

Talk about CC shaving off leagues from the journey log so as to create the illusion that they were closer to home than they actually were.

Inquisitor nearly misses catching Columbus, but gets aboard at the last moment because of the broken ruder incident which causes Columbus to turn back for repairs.

Chapter 11

September 1492 – They depart Canaries and into the real unknown. Talk about the journey, crew anxieties, false sightings of land, sings of land (birds, clouds, flotsam, etc.). Talk about almost mutiny.

Insert periodic log entries into the narrative to give it veracity.

Chapter 12

2:00 a.m. – 12 October 1492 – They spy land or the first time (Rodrigo). He claims the 10,000 maravedis pension promised by the royals, but Columbus stiffs him out of it by claiming the prize for himself (dick).

Subsequent chapters will take place as they explore the various islands of the Caribbean, ending up in Hispaniola.

Chapter 13

Christmas, 25 December 1492 – Santa Maria runs aground off Hispaniola, creating impetus to start the colony there, Puerto Navidad. Salvaged timbers from ship used to build fort, guns from ship used to arm it.

NOTE: It would kind of cool if our inquisitor/spy guy gets his final come-uppance at the hands of the natives on the island.

[1] Paraphrase of transcript of letter authorizing the inquisition in Tarazona, 1484 (Lu Ann Homza book)

[2] Paraphrase of transcript of arraignment from the Inquisition Trial of Marina Gonzalez, 1494. Source – Homza.

[3] Paraphrase of the actual conviction decree of Marina Gonzalez, relaxed to the secular authorities in June of 1494. Ref. Homza, pg. 49.

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