The Spaniard and the Man in Black

Posted on February 1, 2012

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The Spaniard peered over the rocky cliff face. His brown curly locks framing his chiselled, worn face flowed softly with the updraft. Nothing but blue sky and white clouds behind, his long hair and tall, lithe frame gave him the appearance of the iconic Christ, returning from heaven to gather the faithful. His long-sleeved shirt was beige; humble yet dignified. Twelve sewn-in eyelets from chest to collar held a thin brown cord, loosely laced only on the bottom four. He wore a dark brown vest laced with similar cord. Hanging from his brown leather belt was a leather scabbard, housing a sword. Its hilt a work of art, the maker obviously took great pains to design the intricately detailed diamond studded iron basket. Its pencil-thin bars swirling and flowing, surrounded the perfectly smooth carved horn of the segmented and knobbed grip.

With accented words, he called out, “Hello there!” to the man who was determinedly but slowly climbing the thousand foot cliff. The climber’s attire, from his hood and mask tied about his head, to his leather gloves and long riding boots, were all black as onyx. Below him were the sparkling sapphire waters of the sea and the vast expanse he climbed to get where he now perched. Looking up slowly and glaring at the Spaniard, the Man in Black halted his climb, irritated. In response, the Spaniard gave a quick friendly wave and called out, “Slow going?” The Man in Black, cheek already pressing against the rock once again, looked up a second time and replied curtly, “Look, I don’t mean to be rude, but this is not as easy as it looks, so I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t distract me.” Understanding the slight rebuke, the Spaniard nodded, closed his eyes and gave a short considerate wave of his hand as he called back, “I’m sorry.” “Thank you,” grunted the Man in Black, as he turned his attention back to the treacherous cliff face.

The Spaniard turned casually and stepped away from the edge. Sunrise from this vantage point revealed serene taupe clouds hovering motionless before the papaya-coloured skyline, transforming into midday’s light blue. Various shades of green mould grew scattered across the half decaying walls lining the edge of the cliff. Sparse foliage had pushed and emerged from between small crevices in some of the rocks. Nature was slowly taking back this crag whence it was stolen. Remnants of a once foreboding cliff top fortress were scattered about, now only a haunted shell of some long since faded empire. A thick rope was wound taut around a squat knobby boulder, the end of it laying limply to the side, cut and frayed. The Spaniard drew his sword with his right hand and tossed it to his left, then advanced on an invisible opponent in practise for the sword fight he would soon have with the Man in Black. He swiftly lunged forward, then blocked. He was looking forward to a good duel and hoping the man on the side of the cliff would prove a challenge. The practise session was over as soon as it began and he tossed the sword back to his right hand, replacing it in its leather holder.

Impatient, he turned and walked back to the edge to check on and hurry the progress of the Man in Black. He leaned over and again addressed the struggling climber, “I do not suppose you could speed things up?” “If you’re in such a hurry,” the Man in Black said sternly, clearly quite annoyed by this Spaniard’s importuning,  “you could lower a rope or a tree branch or find something useful to do.” The Spaniard pointed toward the man and nodded in agreement. “I could do that. I’ve got some rope up here. But I do not think you would accept my help, since I am only waiting around to kill you,” he mentioned, wolfishly. The Man in Black briefly broke eye contact, thinking, before nodding and admitting, “That does put a damper on our relationship.” For the first time, as he looked up at the Spaniard, the stark contrast of his piercing blue eyes was revealed against the black of his outfit. “But,” the Spaniard declared, pointing, pushing for the stranger to trust him, “I promise I will not kill you until you reach the top.” He bent over further as he said this, looking his future opponent directly in the eye. The air delicately blew his hair back with the same playful attitude he was trying to portray. The Man in Black, looking up at the man above him, replied dubiously, “That’s very comforting. But I’m afraid you’ll just have to wait.” He gave a small, tight-lipped smile afterward.

The Spaniard, now standing erect, simply looked down his nose at the man, impatient and irritated, confessing, “I hate waiting.” Even before he finished saying this, he had turned, frustrated, away from his conversation partner. A split second later, he turned back around, his eyes bright and full of hope, and proclaimed, “I could give you my word as a Spaniard.” The Man in Black, continuing his arduous climb, grunted, “No good. I’ve known too many Spaniards.” His words were forced out as he struggled to pull himself upward, trying to make it to the top on his own. The Spaniard raised his eyebrows and turned up his hands, asking, “Is there any way you trust me?” “Nothing comes to mind,” the Man in Black immediately replied, pausing his ascent and looking up intently at the man who wanted to kill him. With clenched jaw, he shot up a sardonic smile.

Suddenly, the Spaniard’s countenance changed to an intensity not seen before. His eyes reflected depth as he steadily fixed them on the man below. His lips, no longer curled up in lightheartedness, now turned down slightly, expressing new seriousness. Unblinking, he solemnly declared, “I swear on the soul of my father, Domingo Montoya. You will reach the top alive.” His gaze of conviction lingered after he finished his words.

The Man in Black, immediately convinced by the earnestness of this vow, told him simply, “Throw me the rope.”

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