It was a hard climb. Brambles scratched my bare legs, and a rain of pebbles scattered under my feet, making me lose my footing on innumerable occasions. At least my ankle was heeled now, and walking didn’t hurt anymore.
Though the sun was long past its zenith, even in my sleeveless dress soon I was sweating. Yet, in those brief moments when the sun hid behind the clouds, the air cooled rapidly, a warning of the night ahead. I didn’t need the reminder. I knew that this high in the mountains the night would be cold, even now in the summer, and that I must reach the camp before nightfall.
I wasn’t worried though. I still had time. Enough time to make it to the cave and down to the old village, which I guessed would be close to the camp.
I wasn’t worried either about getting lost either. I knew these mountains. Not the trees and the bushes and the animal trails I sometimes crossed, but the broader picture. I recognized the shape of the slope I was climbing, the changing outline of the mountain range that enclosed the valley to the north, and the naked wall of white limestone on the mountain across when I finally reached the outcrop.
But the place itself––a wide ledge that had been hidden till then behind the rocks ––I didn’t know, and the cave I had expected wasn’t there. Instead a gnarled oak sprung from the face of the mountain, and it was under its heavy branches, I saw the tomb for the first time. It grew from the earth in the middle of the expanse, seeming as much a part of the mountain as the granite from which it had been carved.
I hesitated for a moment, breathless from the climb, in awe of the majesty the place commanded. It was one of these places where the wind comes to die, and the air, forever still, remains warm in the winter and cool in the summer, fragrant with the perfume of early spring. In my world, they are usually found deep in the forest in ancient oak groves. And for my people, they are sacred.
I stepped onto the ledge, with the reverence I would upon entering a temple, the rustle of the dry heather under my shoes the only sound to break the silence. The soil, I realized when I came closer, had been excavated around the tomb that now reached up to my waist. Several scenes had been carved around its sides and on the slab that closed the monument, the prone figure of a knight emerged from the stone.
Eyes closed, his hair loose over his shoulders, he was dressed in a tunic that fell down to his knees and boots tight against his calves––the way noblemen dress in my world. A king. He was a king I knew, even before I saw the circlet on his forehead and the pommel of the sword he held over his chest. The pommel with three lines entangled in the shape of a mountain. The design of the House of Montemayor. My father’s House
Carmen Ferreiro Esteban