On the horizon, beyond the watermill nearby the Guadalquivir River, there is a ghostly abode that bespeaks a Moorish tale. It is a tale about the ancestral secrets of the Palace of Alcázar that have remained insoluble mysteries of centuries long ago. Remarkable tales of the earlier rulers of Romans and Visigoths have predominated the inherent lore of Southern Spain, but there is a Moorish folklore and Arab history that had always fascinated the Andalusians of Córdoba. Amidst the narrow cobblestones of the old Jewish and Moslem Quarters is a palace that was once a fortress to antecedent conquerors of the city. It is an extraordinary palace, where innumerable legends and myths were born, and where this incredible tale began in the year of 1810, during the French occupation of Spain.
My name is Rémy Barrineau, and I was one of the daring and loyal soldiers of the Infantry Army of the Emperor Napoleon. I had arrived to the city from the south of Córdoba, where I had been sojourning along with my regiment in Granada. We were sent to Córdoba to guard the city, until more reinforcements from Málaga would arrive. I had seen the majestic wonder of the Palace of the Alhambra in person, but the Palace of Alcázar was entirely of a peculiar nature and composition respectfully. Upon my entrance into the palace, I beheld an architectural ensemble that had a solemn representation within its exterior façade. The palace originally was to be a garrison for our troops, until the other troops arrived into the city, but there was another location found to house the men temporarily, until the troops from Málaga arrived to guard the palace. Once inside, the stately refinement of its interior arrangement was displayed. The beauteous and ample gardens and royal courtyards that maintained a Moorish existence reflected instantly, a multicultural and envious period of time in Spanish history. I had been given direct orders by my commander in charge to be the nocturnal sentinel of strict vigilance over the palace, whilst our stay in Córdoba was determined afterwards.
Inside the grounds of the palace, we stared at the plentiful cypress trees in the gardens and the soothing baths near the courtyards. The Gothic vaults, the Múdejar patio, and the Baroque chapel, were defined with an arresting precision. However, there was a haunting vestige of its unique nature, and that was the imposing towers that were once a 17th-century prison, for the accused individuals of the dreadful Spanish Inquisition. The four towers that overlooked the Palace, with the flourishing lavender blooms nigh the fountains and pathways had Gothic features that enhanced its arcane history. The colourful Roman mosaics and the Roman sarcophagus were revealed, in one of the original Towers with the ogival ceiling designed, and the massive walls of the palace were aligned accordingly, below the adjoining towers that triumphed over the city masterfully. They were once the impenetrable towers of the successors of Abd ar-Rahman and the Islamic Caliphate of Córdoba, who ruled the city with superb dominion and prestige.
The men had been properly fed afterwards, by the local women who were gnathonic Gypsies. They were loyal only to the lords, who paid them handsomely for their service. The women then danced flamenco, as Gypsy men played the guitars and sang passionately. The soldiers were allowed to carouse for a few hours, whilst others patrolled the area of the Calahorra Tower and the immemorial Roman Bridge of the Guadalquivir River. There was a significant presence of numerous soldiers along the capacious circumference of the magnificent Mosque-Cathedral, and the area situated by the Campo de la Verdad and the vast Plaza de la Corredera. At first, it had appeared that the majority of the local frondeurs were defiant and rebellious in acceptance of the Emperor, but the resistance to our presence was minimal in velitation upon our arrival. We could not expect total submission from the Andalusians, but the inverecund nobility had assumed French authority of the city.
After the festivity, the merry revelers of the swasivious Gypsies departed, along with the rest of the enlivened regiment. I was then all alone in the palace, and was instructed to maintain keen vigilance of the night with utmost caution. It was evening by then, as I had begun my hour to patrol the exterior and interior of the palace in earnest. There were multitudinous thoughts in my mind that emerged gradually, as I stood before the grandiose palace with my musket in hand. I heard every active noise that reverberated attentively, as I observed everywhere around the palace. At around midnight as I was standing before the front door to the entrance of the palace, I noticed a queer reflective light had shone from one of the top towers above.
In the beginning, it was merely a fainting gleam that I mistook for a nightly reflection of the full moon, but the light had intensified. Then, I saw the vague silhouette of a stranger or intruder in the tower. The light was brighter than before, and the situation merited, my dutiful investigation of the tower. I immediately entered cautious but uncertain of what I would encounter upon entering the palace. Inside, the corridors and chambers were drear and obtenebrated, as I felt the cold air from the Guadalquivir River penetrating the interstice of the hollow walls easily.
I proceeded to head up the long and spiralling stairway that led to the location of the tower, with an uncomfortable anticipation of what I would discover afterwards. I had depended on the unwavering light from the flambeaux, and the waxen taper that diffused an odour of myrrh and frankincense and storax. There was a breathless suspense, as I walked timidly within the sober milieu. I had the presumption that a stranger was lurking in the palace and had been in the tower, where the light was seen. Perchance, it was nothing more than one of the innumerable torches or veilleuses of the palace that I had assumed, as the origin of the light. Was there an actual person there or was it a desperate wavenger that sought shelter mistakenly? Was it a remaining enlivener from the festivity that was besotted? The pending question would be soon answered, with a startling discovery and encounter.
When I arrived to the tower, the light was still flickering for some unknown reason. A certain sense of growing apprehension had entered in me, as I went forth. As I slowly opened the stridulous door, I discovered nobody inside the tower. However, the daunting presence of a dreadful skeleton was found shackled to the northern wall in rubiginous iron chains. It was apparent that I was in a tenebrous dungeon tower. The mucid and fuliginous chains had bore testimony to the wretched fate of the unfortunate devil, who had been left there as an abeyant and tortured soul, from the vestige of the epitonic days of the Spanish Inquisition. My instinct had caused me to suspect the nature of the identity of the skeleton, I had found in that hideous tower of aberration.
The only thing that could be interpreted as factual was the death of this anonymous person, but I could not state with absolute confirmation, who did the skeleton belong to. The horrible image of that ghastly sight of expiry had unruffled my stay in the palace. I had perceived from inside the tower, something or someone that was present, although invisible at the time. I was not fearful of the supernatural phenomena that were associated to ancient palaces or castles, because I was inured to European tales of quiveration. Notwithstanding, the discomfort I had was extremely noticeable and derivative of some inexplicable nature. The eeriness of the chamber and the discovered skeleton were sufficiently enough to exit the tower therewith.
When I had stepped outside, I was met by a mysterious woman, who stood before me so lovely and vivacious. The unidentifiable woman had naturally startled me, and I was confounded with her troubling presence in the palace. Her guise was of an illecebrous attraction I could not deny, but who was she? There was a natural charm she possessed, with her dark oval eyes that gorgonised, within an enchanted oeillade of a Moorish princess of the days of yore. She spoke not one single word, and perhaps it was because her native language was not French. For that reason, I addressed her properly in Castilian—hoping that she would respond to my query. After a few minutes of questioning her, she remained mute and unspoken. Was she deaf and could not understand my speech at all? Once more, I repeated my words in Castilian, and she said nothing. I had uttered a few common words of Arabic that I knew, but there was no reply from her. This was indeed disconcerting, since I had no form of expressive communication with her. I knew I had to know information about her, and what she was doing inside of the palace at that late hour. She was clothed in a plain black dress, and barefoot. My impression was that she appeared to be from the area.
I had devised in my thoughts, a sustainable manner how I could communicate with her, but I had noticed that she was drawn specifically to the frankincense of the wax taper, I held in my right hand. What was the motive for this peculiarity? I had attempted to convince her to at least stay the night, until the morning. As I stepped aside to investigate a sound that I heard coming from the other side of the palace, when I returned the stranger had disappeared. I checked the vicinity where she could be, and I checked as well, upstairs and downstairs. She was nowhere to be located, and I was perplexed with the abnormal occurrence. Had I been dreaming or had experienced, a hallucinatory episode of the late night wanderers known as immaterial ghosts? Whatever had transpired, I seemed to have succumbed to the transparency of the murky palace and its surreptitious superstitions unnecessarily.
As the night had progressed, I began to feel the tiresome effects of the duration of the late hours and started to feel a quiescent lethargy overcome me. However, as my body was dozing in a profound state of segnity, I was awakened by the mystifying beingness of the mysterious woman anew. This time the woman was bare naked, as the warmth of her sultry bosom pressed tautly, against my chest tentiginously arousing, the volupty of a Virago that exceeded any casual empressement envisaged. I was marvelled and unsettled to see her over my body completely, in such a concupiscent and salacious act displayed, so overtly and intentionally. She had a subrident expression and naughty stare that exuded her sexuality, with a subdolous approach. She murmured in a very malacophanous tone words, into my ears that were incomprehensible. Nevertheless, I could not resist the immense charm and incantation that she wielded over my virility, within a facile manner exhibited.
This flaunting behaviour was an impregnable force of nature, I had never experimented with any woman before. I was ensorcelled by her seductive whims and caligyptous feature that I did not attempt to obstrigillate her advances towards me. I had failed to recognise the devilish purport she was concealing so effectively. The succulent osculations and gyrating movements of her haunch had penetrated the core of my passionate desires. We had continued the corporeal embrace that was unleashed precipitously, until I had opened my eyes and once more, she had disappeared into the cold draught that entered the exiguous crevices of the walls so unexpectedly. I rose to my feet drenched in a heavy sweat and excitement. Where did she go? Was this only a lascivious dream conceived in some iniquitous pleasure, I enjoyed tremendously? My sudden apprehension had increased even more, as the bewildering game of reality and surreality had tormented me with a vecordious duplicity.
The early hours of the morning had arrived, and I entreated that the incandescent rays of daylight illumined, so that the nightmarish encounters, with the pulchritudinous pucelle would abate anon. I could not erase the fidgety state of anxiety and impatience that consumed my mind uncontrollably. The unexplained phenomenon with the vanishing woman and the disturbing palace had unnerved me, into a heightened form of hysterics or mania. I could not stay in one place, and the vecordy had begun to affect my duties and task totally that I could not function as an operative soldier. My salubrious brain had yielded to the unstoppable pressure of the intractable provocations of the palace.
There was something more than a plausible mystic of the palace that I perceived, and the appearances of the woman were no coincidences. She seemed too real to be nothing more than a captious hallucination or an envisioned illusion I had conjured unwittingly. But was she only that, a deceptitious conjuration that formed the elaborate configuration of this palace? There had to be a rational relevance that would correspond to this unfolding mystery, I could not decipher accurately. The decisive factor was unveiling the consequential sequence of events that involved the manifestations of the anonymous woman. All I could surmise was an independent presupposition that was not reliable, instead an arbitrary compulsion. The contemplative notion of madness had stirred my subjective reasoning inadvertently. I had to placate my disquietude, if I was going to find ultimately, a deducible solution.
I remained downstairs and nearby the front entrance to the haunting palace, where I could be more observant of my surroundings and her possible whereabouts. How could I be firmly at ease, if the palace was a minacious spell full of ghosts or rakish spirits, who I did not know why they could be haunting me at leisure? To ponder on the terror of that contingent reality was to admit a fixation of obsession that surpassed reason. Immediately, I had thought of the dreaded tower, where I found the lone and horrific skeleton before. Perhaps, it was there in that dim dungeon of isolation, I would resolve this enigma.
When I had entered the chamber once more, I noticed the solitary skeleton was still there intact, as the daunting reminder of the past that overshadowed, the history of its primary composition. I had often heard of glorious stories of palaces that held great rulers of the past, but none had compared to the unparalleled nature of the Alcázar. I had sensed the ominous presence of an unnameable stranger within the proximity, and I was not convinced it was the mysterious woman again. My anxious uncertainty had compelled me to hasten my reaction, and thus, I did. I attempted to step out, but as I facilitated that action, the door to the chamber tower had closed. Quickly, I hurried to open the tower's door, but was unable. It did not budge after several attempts. Something of an unusual nature had thwarted me, but I was obfuscated and desperation had instantly affected my judgment. My fruitless effort was in vain I had thought, as I struggled frantically to escape the dread of the tower. It was at that precise moment in time that I perceived a lurking maleficence in the palace surrounding me. I looked around me very agog and mindful of the parlous solitude of the chamber I was inside, and my mind was beyond the point of mere suspicion.
The imminent peril and terror were not a fanciful conjecture—for the tower was real. Yet, there was this surreal ambiguity and mystery that was an intrinsic attachment, to the inimitable nature of the venerable palace. Thereafter, I started to gasp for more air, as I had experienced a subitaneous anhelation that had increased my unsettling desperation. I felt the sturdy walls of the chamber suppress me, with a lethiferous effect and confinement that had triggered my maddening clamour for escape. Surely, someone outside of the walls of the palace would hear my voice and plea for immediate assistance. The echoes of my voice would reverberate sufficiently enough to be heard. I knew that one of the soldiers patrolling the vicinal streets would hear my desperate cry, but no one came.
Only the audition of the fluttering pigeons that congregated, within the niches of the tower was present. Everything it seemed that was practical was becoming an impractical dissimulation that was worse than any previous discomfiture experimented in the battlefield. I tried to assuage my angst with rational thinking, but the imprisonment had discommoded my mental faculties and its stability momentarily. I began to hear the awful squeaking sounds of the gargantuan rats that entered the palace, through the arterial passage leading, from the conduit nearby the Guadalquivir River. I was becoming extremely hypersensitive to the palpable sounds of the palace, and every howling and creaking noise I heard had altered my perception immensely.
The horrendous sight of the sole skeleton had left me aghast and caused my natural discouragement. The grim isolation of the tower was swiftly becoming, an unbearable consternation. As I made the attempt to regain my composure, I was discomposed with the presence of the skeleton rising to its feet unfastened. It headed towards me, as it had seen my presence, and there was absolute fright in my eyes. Had I witnessed the actual movement of a hoary skeleton or was my vision impaired by my hysteria? Was this an illusionary effect of my unnerving imagination that was beguiling me so devilishly? The dissipation of my physical strength was being affected as well, and the image of the skeleton advancing was too unimaginative, but it seemed not to be a figment of my active creation.
The ingordigious rats had penetrated the ruvid surface of the recesses of the walls, and the huge, fulvous roaches had entered through the same manner deliberately. The defunctive skeleton had transformed then into the seductive stranger, who had captivated me with her magic spell. I was completely shocked to see her standing with her beautiful physique, and her callipygian contour that were so tangibly erotic and apparent. She approached me and then slowly touched my face calmly, with her spectral fingers that felt, like delicate caresses of a woman that had expressed an amorous proclivity. As with the prior wanton act, she had utilised her persuasive charm to lure me, within her Fescennine licence and manipulation.
I thought I could oppose her explicit comportment, but I found myself absorbed in a rapid infatuation that was disrupting my sanity. She whispered my name, and the whispers amplified, with a harrowing and unadulterated passion. Her beauty then was converted into an arruginated guise of decrepitude. This wicked passion lingered and lingered, until she disappeared into the walls of the tower. My breath had regained its normalcy, but I was still confined in the chamber of the tower. There was no doubt in me that the mysterious woman was indeed a horrid phantom of the palace. But once more, who was she, and what had transpired to caused her death? The other urgent question was, why was she haunting me, since I was not her fearful executioner? I had perceived the answer to that incomparable mystery was to be discovered in the extensive history of the palace.
I was a mere soldier and not some exceptional historian, but this history I was seeking was attached, to the intrinsic nature of the Andalusian palace that had an indisputable terror, within its tainted foundation. The darkness inside the chamber of the tower was even more an opaque and gloomy semblance of death and despair. The certain gleam of the fading moonlight that had shone was then accompanied, by the fainting gleam of the sun that was approaching, beyond the distant hills of the agrestic fields of Córdoba. My lucid intuition had recognised the meaning of that revealing impact, and what it meant. I do not know what occurred next had a logical explanation, but I can only expound through my assertion that the door of that chamber in the tower opened, by an unknown force present.
Slowly, the door creaked open, and I was able to leave and more importantly survive the hellish nightmare of the palace of horror alive—or so I had believed. Indeed, the developing signs of dawn were patent, but my phantasmagoria had not reached its destined completion. It was at that time, when I had simply walked out of that unforgettable chamber that I saw the irresistible tormentor of my carnal flesh for the final time. She was standing in the benighted entrance, as I gazed at her larmoyant eyes with alarm. They had changed into a chartreuse colour of disenchantment. The suspense and distrust had caused hesitation in me to react, and it affected my temperamental perspicacity. She appeared to be innocent, but I knew otherwise. I was totally aware of her variable capability of deceit and attraction. At first, she was stationary, as I stood before her. Then, for some unapparent reason she looked behind her and scurried past me to one of the lower chambers below. This was the last time I confess that I saw the mysterious woman of the palace. Her insidious and alluring image would haunt me no more!
However, another ineffable ghost of the palace had materialised, as I reached the lower chamber. This particular being I did not recognise, and was more horrific in nature than the mysterious woman. The ghost of an older man had appeared before me, dressed in attire that represented, a magistrate or inquisitor. Who was this dauntless ghost, and what did he want? I asked him who he was, and what did he seek. He stared into my eyes, with a fervent conviction seen in the rutilance of his eyes, and he uttered afterwards in Castilian the phrase of 'Maria, vos no puedes escaparte de mí!'
I understood his words to signify that he was calling on the mysterious woman, whose name I heard mentioned as Maria. Finally, the mysterious female woman was no longer a nameless apparition. The male ghost then went after her, as he sped past me in an unrestrained and stealthy motion. I immediately ran to the front door, as I attempted to leave the relentless madness of the palace. I had past the corridor and the gardens, until I had reached that front door with impigrity. I opened the door and stepped outside the grounds of the palace and ran to the nearby streets stupefied, by the haunting occurrences that I had survived on that memorable night.
The sequence of events that evolved was kept a secret by me subsequently, since I knew that the riveting episodes of displeasure would not be believable, and they would affect my credibility. I would be presumed mad or imbibed in my intemperance. Nonetheless, what I witnessed in the palace was without a doubt, an undeniable fact that my experience could attest candidly, with the ampliative addition of my analysis. The inimical presence was a definite confirmation of an unremitting mystery that was intertwined with the palace.
I had discovered consequently that the mysterious ghost was a Morisca by the name of Maria Medina, and the male ghost was the Mephistophelian inquisitor Alonso de Tamaron of the Spanish Inquisition. The poor Morisca, a descendant of the Moors of Al Andalus was arrested and charged with heresy. She was then interrogated and imprisoned in the palace, and she was left to die in that horrible, horrible chamber of that inescapable tower of eviternity. The unusual mystery that I was not prevalent to its information had revolved, around the rumours that the inquisitor Señor Tamaron had sexual liaisons with Maria Medina, who was a peasant within the villeinage. The deplorable act of her condemnation and doom that she received was granted no remission or reprieve. Maria Medina was forever trapped in that lurid setting of the putative lore of the city of Córdoba involuntarily. The insurmountable fear I experimented and that deathlike pallor she displayed of her tribulation and death remained, as an indelible memory. The inflicted souls of the dead are entitled a just course of action, when there are not impardonable sins. Accountability of the Spanish Inquisition must never be omitted, instead be exacted, with retribution on the pusillanimous acts of the inquisitors, who showed no poignant regret.