Stories that fly under a dark banner.

Miguel Velazquez and El Toro Del Plata

In the times when knights fought with windmills and holy men, there came word that the great silver bull, El Toro del Plata had been captured by the villagers of Benaojan in the province of Malaga. Back then there were still wild cattle, mountain lions, boar and deer roaming in the wild places between the towns. Not all places were known to people but as they grew in number and pushed at the boundaries of their world, the treasures and mysteries around them were found, discovered and diminished. On such a day, the Lobato family had sent out into the Guadiaro valley a group of men to clear the land for farming.

Surprised by the fieldworkers, Del Plata was caught entering the cave system, La Cueva de la Pileta. A runner was sent back to the farm and Emmanuelle, the eldest of the Lobato brothers rallied the villagers of Benaojan. Some have said it was divine intervention but what happened next set in motion one of the greatest secrets never to be told. At almost the exact moment the angry crowd arrived at the mouth of the cave, four large wagons carrying the eight foot iron fencework destined for the cliff tops of Parador De Ronda were passing along the valley road. The mayor took command of the situation, quickly and with the young men of Benaojan standing guard, the prison of Del Plata was built.

By the end of the afternoon, in the light spring rain that wandered inland from the Mediterranean, a huge ironwork gate was set firmly across the entrance, sealing the beast into the catacombs beyond. It was agreed that the capture should be reported through the official channels. Three of the fastest riders rode for Ronda ahead of the four wagons. It would be another 84 years until the Parador received it’s fences.

During the entirety of the day, nothing was seen or heard of the giant bull. By the time the sun had moved to the west, there were murmurs from some that there was no bull in the cave. Food was left and untouched until darkness fell and the same was repeated the next day and the next day.  Every morning, when the guards were changed, the food would be gone. The scrolls of Fath tells how on calm nights, the hooves and the snarls of the beast could be heard in the town’s plaza echoing through the winding tunnels of the limestone hills and amplified by the valley.

Indeed as officials from the town rode to Ronda and Officials from Ronda rode to Seville and from Seville to Madrid very little was seen of the beast by anyone, only heard in the darkness. Even the men who had spied its retreat from the fields had only seen it from a distance. Only in legends told on dark winters nights did most people know of the Silver bull, its eyes rimmed with red; it’s horns like giant elephant tusks. There were renderings of Del Plata in most of the public buildings in the region but many were more familiar with the stories of how it drove Las Camachas, the witches of Montilla off the mountainside, house and all.

In all of the surrounding area, only two men had ever been said to have seen the bull. Of the two, only one had lived to tell the tale and resided in a small tavern in Montejaque. Miguel Velazquez had been a merchant in his youth and travelled through the villages selling the wares he bought from Estepona. The news arrived in Montejaque that very same evening and, by sunset; Miguel had been loaded onto the back of a cart with other town elders unable to walk the distance. A great procession set off through the darkness of the night, singing songs of how Miguel would finally have his revenge. On the dawn approach to the mouth of the cave, across the dusty open ground, the singing stopped and the two white mares came to a halt refusing even under the whip to step another hands width closer to the dark doorway.

The Montejaque delegation stepped down somberly and ushered a confused and slightly drunken Miguel to the front of the cave. He staggered towards the gates where several villagers were hurriedly replacing the hay that Del Plata ate in the dark. As he arrived at the entrance, he tested the strength of the bars, squinted into the darkness of the cave and swung to address his new congregation.

“It was a rainy and cold day in April, twenty three years ago; I was riding to Estepona to trade fabrics at the market. With me rode my father, Carlos Velazquez II. Many of you here are old enough to remember him and his courage and tenacity. He was a lion among other men and never refused a challenge. We had climbed the hill road to Cortes de la Frontera and were rounding the bend to start the path down towards the town when we found our way was blocked. It was Del Plata standing motionless in the road, beneath his feet a large dog lay dead and mauled. Blood dripped from one of the bulls gigantic horns. We needed no other clues to what had just happened.”

Miguel sat down on a rock and mopped his brow.

 “My father and I stopped quite a distance from him and dismounted, not wanting to appear any more of a threat. Even my father was not hot headed enough to face this monster alone. Del Plata was the length of three stallions and taller again by as much as the statue in El Plaza del Toro in Ronda. His back was silver. It glistened like armour in the rain marking his massive shoulders as he lowered his head. His hot breath formed huge clouds in the cold air as he snorted like a dragon and he leveled his gaze not at me but at my father.”

He looked down at his hands, now shaking and now speaking in a quieter voice the people gathered closer to him.

“I was not afraid of the size of the animal. My father taught me when I was a young man that larger enemies made better targets and my bow was set and ready to fire at the slightest notice and my father’s sword was already half drawn. It wasn’t the size of Del Plata that rooted me to the spot that day. It was the eyes. Those red rimmed eyes told the story of that bull’s life and that story was rage. As it’s gaze settled upon my father, a wave of hate washed across us and I almost lost my footing. I looked from the bull to my father and I saw the life drain from him. He turned as white as fine winter snow. How could we fight against such malice? This creature held no other purpose than the destruction of men.”

“When my mother was alive, she would tell me stories of the Lion and the Bull battling eternally on the mountaintops and foolishly I would imagine myself fighting and defeating them both, bending them to my will and riding upon it’s silver back with the lion running at my feet, but this creature…

…This creature when it looked into my eyes I wanted to be that child again hiding under the covers when my father wasn’t looking. Scared of every shadow and imagined demon that came to haunt me in the night. There was no mercy in those eyes; nor understanding nor compassion. The only satisfaction that Del Plata understands is a carpet of men for it to walk upon! You too will understand this if you look into his eyes. You will see what I have seen.”

Miguel looked down to the ground with tears in his eyes. He pulled out a small alabaster cross from a leather cord around his neck, and examined it as he spoke.

“I have never forgiven myself for what I did that day, when my father whispered for me to run I turned without a word, mounted my horse and rode as fast as I could back down the track until I came to my home and then I kept going. I rode until the sun set and I could no longer see the road and when my horse lost its footing and threw me into a stream, I lay on my back in the water and cried and screamed until there was nothing left. They never found him and I never said goodbye or saw his final glorious moment. I imagine him now rising up to meet that beast but there are days when I wonder if it is just wishful thinking. For my father and the countless deaths that this creature has caused I swear an oath!”

Miguel spat on the floor in front of him.

“I will avenge you father! I will see this animal lay before me in your name. I will not falter this time…”

As Miguel stood with his fist in the air to proclaim his oath, he noticed that the delegation and the food bearers had begun to retreat away from him. He looked puzzled at their expressions of terror until he felt the hot breath on the back of his neck. As he turned around, his eyes met those of Del Plata. “Such Malice…” he proclaimed. His last words to the world as his drink and tobacco saturated body collapsed to the ground. Del Plata looked calmly down at his body beyond its barred prison and slowly turned back to the cave and vanished.

The story soon spread. Indeed it overtook the messengers from Malaga and reached the court. Tales of a demon sent to bring men to their knees reached the ear of the royal family and whispers spread about the significance. It wasn’t long before King Philip, taking the events as a test of his soul, sent word to the four corners of the world that a tournament would be held to find a champion who could tame and kill this demon. He would be the guardian of the common man and protector once again of the great nation of Spain. Since no one would even consider removing the bull to Ronda, the king decreed that a new plaza would be built in the Guadiaro valley. Men and tools and money were dispatched to Benaojan which soon swelled in numbers beyond its capacity. People from all over the world would come and stories would be told for centuries of the courage and the fall of the brave and the foolish.

Next Chapter

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