When the Christian host arrived in sight of this valley, a squadron was hovering on the smooth sea before it displaying the banner of Castile. This was commanded by the count of Trevento, and consisted of four armed galleys, convoying a number of caravels laden with supplies for the army.
After surveying the ground, King Ferdinand encamped on the side of a mountain which advanced close to the city, and was the last of a rugged sierra, or chain of heights, that extended quite to Granada. On the summit of this mountain, and overlooking the camp, was a Moorish town, powerfully fortified, called Bentomiz, considered capable of yielding great assistance to Velez Malaga. Several of the generals remonstrated with the king for choosing a post so exposed to assaults from the mountaineers, but he replied that he should thus cut off all communication between Bentomiz and the city, and that, as to the danger, his soldiers must keep the more vigilant guard against surprise.
King Ferdinand rode about, attended by several cavaliers and a small number of cuirassiers, appointing the various stations of the camp. Having directed a body of foot-soldiers to possess themselves, as an advanced guard, of an important height which overlooked the city, he retired to a tent to take refreshment. While at table he was startled by a sudden uproar, and, looking forth, beheld his soldiers flying before a superior force of the enemy. The king had on no other armor but a cuirass: seizing a lance, however, he sprang upon his horse and galloped to protect the fugitives, followed by his handful of knights and cuirassiers. When the soldiers saw the king hastening to their aid, they turned upon their pursuers. Ferdinand in his eagerness threw himself into the midst of the foe. One of his grooms was killed beside him, but before the Moor who slew him could escape the king transfixed him with his lance. He then sought to draw his sword, which hung at his saddle-bow, but in vain. Never had he been exposed to such peril; he was surrounded by the enemy without a weapon wherewith to defend himself.
In this moment of awful jeopardy the marques of Cadiz, the count de Cabra, the adelantado of Murcia, with two other cavaliers, named Garcilasso de la Vega and Diego de Atayde, came galloping to the scene of action, and, surrounding the king, made a rampart of their bodies against the assaults of the Moors. The horse of the marques was pierced by an arrow, and that worthy cavalier exposed to imminent danger; but with the aid of his valorous companions he quickly put the enemy to flight, and pursued them with slaughter to the very gates of the city.
When those loyal warriors returned from the pursuit they remonstrated with the king for exposing his life in personal conflict, seeing that he had so many valiant captains whose business it was to fight. They reminded him that the life of a prince was the life of his people, and that many a brave army was lost by the loss of its commander. They entreated him, therefore, in future to protect them with the force of his mind in the cabinet, rather than of his arm in the field.
Ferdinand acknowledged the wisdom of their advice, but declared that he could not see his people in peril without venturing his person to assist them--a reply (say the old chroniclers) which delighted the whole army, inasmuch as they saw that he not only governed them as a good king, but protected them as a valiant captain. He, however, was conscious of the extreme peril to which he had been exposed, and made a vow never again to venture into battle without having his sword girt to his side.*
*Illescas, Hist. Pontif., lib. 6, c. 20; Vedmar, Hist. Velez Malaga.
When this achievement of the king was related to Isabella, she trembled amidst her joy at his safety, and afterward, in memorial of the event, granted to Velez Malaga, as the arms of the city, the figure of the king on horseback, with a groom lying dead at his feet and the Moors flying.*