The Sun Over Breda - By Arturo Perez-Reverte Page 0,1

long blond mustache that I remember very well because he said something in Flemish, undoubtedly a lewd remark, to the young girl, and laughed aloud. And then suddenly he wasn’t laughing, because the thin peasant of the Ave Maria had pulled a dagger from his doublet and was slitting the corporal’s throat. Blood spurted out in a stream so strong that it stained my knapsacks just as I was opening them to distribute the well-oiled pistols hidden inside to the four other peasants, in whose hands daggers flashed like lightning. The plump corporal opened his mouth to raise the alarm, but that was all he could do, because before he was able to utter a single syllable, a quickly drawn dagger traced a line above the neck plate of his corselet, slicing his gullet from ear to ear. By the time he had fallen into the moat, I had dropped my knapsacks and, with my own dagger between my teeth, was scrambling like a squirrel up the strut of the drawbridge. Meanwhile the girl in the scarf, who had shed her scarf and was not even a girl but a youth who answered to the name of Jaime Correas, was climbing up the other side. Like me, he shoved a wooden wedge into the mechanism of the drawbridge and then cut its ropes and pulleys.

Oudkerk awoke as never before in its history, because the four with the pistols and he of the Ave Maria raced like demons along the bulwarks, stabbing and shooting anything that moved. At the same time, my companion and I, having put the bridge out of commission, were sliding down the chains when a hoarse roar erupted from the shore of the dike: the cries of a hundred and fifty men who had spent the night in the fog, in water up to their waists, and who now emerged shouting “Santiago! Santiago! Spain and Santiago!”—the traditional battle cry in praise of their country and their patron saint. Resolved to work off the paralyzing cold with blood and fire, they swarmed up the embankment with swords in hand, ran along the dike toward the drawbridge and the gate, occupied the bulwark, and then, to the terror of the Dutch who were scattering in all directions like crazed geese, entered the town, killing right and left.

Today the history books speak of the assault on Oudkerk as a massacre. They mention the “Spanish fury” at Antwerp, and maintain that the Tercio Viejo de Cartagena acted with singular cruelty that day. Well, no one said that to me, because I was there. It is true that those first moments were marked by pitiless carnage, but will Your Mercies tell me how else, with only a hundred and fifty men, one could take a fortified Dutch town with a garrison of seven hundred? Only the horror of an unexpected and merciless attack would so quickly break the spine of those heretics, so our men applied themselves to the task with the professional rigor of experienced soldiers. The orders of Colonel don Pedro de la Daga had been to start the raid with many deaths in order to terrify the defenders and force them to a swift surrender but not to begin the sacking of the town until victory was assured. So I will spare you further details and say only that the scene was a chaos of harquebus shot, yelling, and flashing swords, and that no Dutch male over fifteen or sixteen who encountered our men in the first moments of the assault—whether fighting, fleeing, or surrendering—lived to tell of it.

Our colonel was right: The enemy’s panic was our best ally, and we did not lose many men—ten or twelve, at most, counting both dead and wounded—which is, pardiez, few enough when compared to the two hundred heretics the town was to bury the next day, and bearing in mind how smoothly Oudkerk fell into our hands. We met the strongest resistance at the city hall, where some twenty Englishmen were able to regroup in some order. The English had been allied with the rebels ever since our lord and king had refused their Prince of Wales the hand of our Infanta María, so when the first Spaniards arrived in the town square with blood dripping from daggers, pikes, and swords, and the English welcomed them with musket volleys from the balcony of the city hall, our soldiers took it very personally. With gunpowder, tow, and tar, they set fire to