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.*
The camp was formed, but the artillery was yet on the road, advancing with infinite labor at the rate of merely a league a day, for heavy rains had converted the streams of the valleys into raging torrents and completely broken up the roads. In the mean time, King Ferdinand ordered an assault on the suburbs of the city. They were carried after a sanguinary conflict of six hours, in which many Christian cavaliers were killed and wounded, and among the latter Don Alvaro of Portugal, son of the duke of Braganza. The suburbs were then fortified toward the city with trenches and palisades, and garrisoned by a chosen force under Don Fadrique de Toledo. Other trenches were digged round the city and from the suburbs to the royal camp, so as to cut off all communication with the surrounding country.
Bodies of troops were also sent to take possession of the mountain- passes by which the supplies for the army had to be brought. The mountains, however, were so steep and rugged, and so full of defiles and lurking-places, that the Moors could sally forth and retreat in perfect security, frequently swooping down upon Christian convoys and bearing off both booty and prisoners to their strongholds. Sometimes the Moors would light fires at night on the sides of the mountains, which would be answered by fires from the watch-towers and fortresses. By these signals they would concert assaults upon the Christian camp, which in consequence was obliged to be continually on the alert.
King Ferdinand flattered himself that the manifestation of his force had struck sufficient terror into the city, and that by offers of clemency it might be induced to capitulate. He wrote a letter, therefore, to the commanders, promising, in case of immediate surrender, that all the inhabitants should be permitted to depart with their effects, but threatening them with fire and sword if they persisted in defence. This letter was despatched by a cavalier named Carvajal, who, putting it on the end of a lance, reached it to the Moors on the walls of the city. Abul Cacim Vanegas, son of Reduan, and alcayde of the fortress, replied that the king was too noble and magnanimous to put such a threat in execution, and that he should not surrender, as he knew the artillery could not be brought to the camp, and he was promised succor by the king of Granada.
At the same time that he received this reply the king learnt that at the strong town of Comares, upon a height about two leagues distant from the camp, a large number of warriors had assembled from the Axarquia, the same mountains in which the Christian cavaliers had been massacred in the beginning of the war, and that others were daily expected, for this rugged sierra was capable of furnishing fifteen thousand fighting-men.