The plan of King Ferdinand was to lay siege to the city of Baza, the key of the remaining possessions of the Moor. That important fortress taken, Guadix and Almeria must soon follow, and then the power of El Zagal would be at an end. As the Catholic king advanced he had first to secure various castles and strongholds in the vicinity of Baza which might otherwise harass his army. Some of these made obstinate resistance, especially the town of Zujar. The Christians assailed the walls with various machines to sap them and batter them down. The brave alcayde, Hubec Abdilbar, opposed force to force and engine to engine. He manned his towers with his bravest warriors, who rained down an iron shower upon the enemy, and he linked caldrons together by strong chains and cast fire from them, consuming the wooden engines of their assailants and those who managed them.
The siege was protracted for several days: the bravery of the alcayde could not save his fortress from an overwhelming foe, but it gained him honorable terms. Ferdinand permitted the garrison and the inhabitants to repair with their effects to Baza, and the valiant Hubec marched forth with the remnant of his force and took he way to that devoted city.
The delays caused to the invading army by these various circumstances had been diligently improved by El Zagal, who felt that he was now making his last stand for empire, and that this campaign would decide whether he should continue a king or sink into a vassal. He was but a few leagues from Baza, at the city of Guadix. This last was the most important point of his remaining territories, being a kind of bulwark between them and the hostile city of Granada, the seat of his nephew's power. Though he heard of the tide of war, therefore, collecting and rolling toward the city of Baza, he dared not go in person to its assistance. He dreaded that should he leave Guadix, Boabdil would attack him in the rear while the Christian army was battling with him in front. El Zagal trusted in the great strength of Baza to defy any violent assault, and profited by the delays of the Christian army to supply it with all possible means of defence. He sent thither all the troops he could spare from his garrison of Guadix, and despatched missives throughout his territories calling upon all true Moslems to hasten to Baza and make a devoted stand in defence of their homes, their liberties, and their religion. The cities of Tavernas and Purchena and the surrounding heights and valleys responded to his orders and sent forth their fighting-men to the field. The rocky fastnesses of the Alpuxarras resounded with the din of arms: troops of horse and bodies of foot- soldiers were seen winding down the rugged cliffs and defiles of those marble mountains and hastening toward Baza. Many brave cavaliers of Granada also, spurning the quiet and security of Christian vassalage, secretly left the city and hastened to join their fighting countrymen. The great dependence of El Zagal, however, was upon the valor and loyalty of his cousin and brother-in-law, Cid Hiaya Alnagar,* who was alcayde of Almeria--a cavalier experienced in warfare and redoubtable in the field. He wrote to him to leave Almeria and repair with all speed at the head of his troops to Baza. Cid Hiaya departed immediately with ten thousand of the bravest Moors in the kingdom. These were for the most part hardy mountaineers, tempered to sun and storm and tried in many a combat. None equalled them for a sally or a skirmish. They were adroit in executing a thousand stratagems, ambuscadoes, and evolutions. Impetuous in their assaults, yet governed in their utmost fury by a word or sign from their commander, at the sound of a trumpet they would check themselves in the midst of their career, wheel off and disperse, and at another sound of a trumpet they would as suddenly reassemble and return to the attack. They were upon the enemy when least expected, coming like a rushing blast, spreading havoc and consternation, and then passing away in an instant; so that when one recovered from the shock and looked around, behold, nothing was to be seen or heard of this tempest of war but a cloud of dust and the clatter of retreating hoofs.
*This name has generally been written Cidi Yahye. The present mode is adopted on the authority of Alcantara in his History of Granada, who appears to have derived it from Arabic manuscripts existing in the archives of the marques de Corvera, descendant of Cid Hiaya. The latter (Cid Hiaya) was son of Aben Zelim, a deceased prince of Almeria, and was a lineal descendant from the celebrated Aben Hud, surnamed the Just. The wife of Cid Hiaya was sister of the two Moorish generals, Abul Cacim and Reduan Vanegas, and, like them, the fruit of the union of a Christian knight, Don Pedro Vanegas, with Cetimerien, a Moorish princess.
When Cid Hiaya led his train of ten thousand valiant warriors into the gates of Baza, the city rang with acclamations and for a time the inhabitants thought themselves secure. El Zagal also felt a glow of confidence, notwithstanding his own absence from the city. "Cid Hiaya," said he, "is my cousin and my brother-in-law; related to me by blood and marriage, he is a second self: happy is that monarch who has his kindred to command his armies."
With all these reinforcements the garrison of Baza amounted to above twenty thousand men. There were at this time three principal leaders in the city: Mohammed Ibn Hassan, surnamed the Veteran, who was military governor or alcayde, an old Moor of great experience and discretion; the second was Hamet Abu Zali, who was captain of the troops stationed in the place; and the third was Hubec Abdilbar, late alcayde of Zujar, who had repaired hither with the remains of his garrison. Over all these Cid Hiaya exercised a supreme command in consequence of his being of the blood-royal and in the especial confidence of Muley Abdallah el Zagal. He was eloquent and ardent in council, and fond of striking and splendid achievements, but he was a little prone to be carried away by the excitement of the moment and the warmth of his imagination. The councils of war of these commanders, therefore, were more frequently controlled by the opinions of the old alcayde Mohammed Ibn Hassan, for whose shrewdness, caution, and experience Cid Hiaya himself felt the greatest deference.
The city of Baza was situated in a great valley, eight leagues in length and three in breadth, called the Hoya, or Basin, of Baza. It was surrounded by a range of mountains called the Sierra of Xabalcohol, the streams of which, collecting themselves into two rivers, watered and fertilized the country. The city was built in the plain, one part of it protected by the rocky precipices of the mountain and by a powerful citadel, the other by massive walls studded with immense towers. It had suburbs toward the plain imperfectly fortified by earthen walls. In front of these suburbs extended a tract of orchards and gardens nearly a league in length, so thickly planted as to resemble a continued forest. Here every citizen who could afford it had his little plantation and his garden of fruits and flowers and vegetables, watered by canals and rivulets and dominated by a small tower for recreation or defence. This wilderness of groves and gardens, intersected in all parts by canals and runs of water, and studded by above a thousand small towers, formed a kind of protection to this side of the city, rendering all approach extremely difficult and perplexed.
While the Christian army had been detained before the frontier posts, the city of Baza had been a scene of hurried and unremitting preparation. All the grain of the surrounding valley, though yet unripe, was hastily reaped and borne into the city to prevent it from yielding sustenance to the enemy. The country was drained of all its supplies; flocks and herds were driven, bleating and bellowing, into the gates: long trains of beasts of burden, some laden with food, others with lances, darts, and arms of all kinds, kept pouring into the place. Already were munitions collected sufficient for a siege of fifteen months: still, the eager and hasty preparation was going on when the army of Ferdinand came in sight.