Yusef was born in Paderne on 8 December, the day of our Lady of Conception.
The only child of a primary teacher and a travelling salesman, he felt the absence of his father from an early age. His mother tried to restore harmony to the home, but Yusef learnt to deal with the absence of his father, seeking refuge in Paderne Castle where he spent hours pretending to be a Moor, defending his land from invaders. His dark complexion and hair made him look like an Arab, and from when he was very little everybody used to call him the little Muslim, which filled him with pride. He even changed his name to the Arabic form.
He simply loved the stories that his mother would recount about the Castle and the legends of the Enchanted Mooresses, young female Muslims who had been bewitched so as to guard the treasures abandoned by the Moors who had been expelled from the Castle. They would appear alongside springs, rivers, caves and fortress ruins, singing and combing their long hair, blonde as gold or black as the night, with a golden comb and promise untold treasures to those who would free them from the spell.
When Yusef was 5 years of age, he met Rita, singing and picking poppies as she played near the Castle. Rita was the same age and had moved to Paderne that very day, with her mother. Yusef felt that he had found his own Enchanting Mooress from the legends that his mother used to tell him.
Ritas mother had come to Paderne with the aim of finding a person, as Rita had explained to Yusef, and had moved into an old house near the Castle. Since that day, Rita and Yusef became inseparable.
The two children would meet almost every day in the Castle, and Yusef felt himself becoming ever more attracted by his redheaded Mooress. Yusefs mother realised that her son was in love, despite his young age, and let the little Rita visit her house, even while distrusting her mother, who was not seen with good eyes by the people of Paderne. Everybody spoke of Ritas mother as the woman who practised fortune telling or witchcraft.
One day, while they were bathing in the stream near the Castle, Yusef and Rita found a cave and decided to explore it, and ended up getting lost inside. The disappearance of the two children made the people of Paderne worried, and they organised search parties to try and find them. Two days went by. Finally, at the end of the second day, Yusef and Rita turned up, to the relief of everyone, but they never told anyone what had really happened. They had found an underground passage that led inside the Castle. In the Castle enclosure, almost opposite the Chapel, there was a very deep cistern that was thought to be blocked, but was actually the start of a subterranean passage that provided a way out to the bank of the stream. This became their common secret. They swore they would never reveal it to anyone and made a blood pact. As far as the people of Paderne were concerned, they had only wandered off from the castle and had got lost in the undergrowth and had been unable to find their way home.
After the scare of losing her son for two days, and noticing the wound on Yusefs hand (caused by the pact he had made with Rita), his mother decide to forbid him from meeting Rita. Yusef tore his hair out, crying and imploring his mother to let him see his Enchanted Mooress. But it was Ritas mother who decided to take her daughter to Yusefs home to try and persuade his mother to allow contact between the two children once more. Yusefs mother could not take the suffering of her son any longer, and had just wanted to protect him, so she ended up giving in. Yusef asked his mother to trust him as she, besides Rita, was the only person that he loved. Whenever they were able to, Yusef and Rita would run to the Castle and spend many an hour inside it, without ever telling anyone the secret of the cave.
Yusefs father would show up on rare occasions, and he did not have much patience for his son. But with Ritas companionship, Yusef got used to living without him.
And so five years passed by, until the day when, to Yusefs despair, Ritas mother decided to leave. And she did indeed leave Paderne, leaving Yusef devastated
But Rita had asked her mother to allow her to say goodbye to her friend so they arranged one last encounter in the Castle. When they left, Yusef ran after the car taking the two of them away until he could run no further. As a ran, he waved and shouted the name of his Enchanted Mooress
stating that he would never forget her and that he would have to bring her back to his castle
as he saw the car disappearing into the distance and leaving behind just a cloud of dust.
Yusef got sick, and for two weeks was in a feverish and delirious state, with the doctors unable to do anything. His desperate mother prayed and begged our Lady of Conception, the patron saint of Portugal, to help her son get better and save him. Yusef got better, but after such a torment he was never the same again.
One year later Yusefs father returned home once again, after a prolonged period of absence. But he started drinking with increasing frequency, and Yusef experienced an atmosphere of violence in his own home. His mother tried to avoid his presence at these times, but Yusef tried to protect her from his fathers aggressivity and ended up becoming part of it. Until one day, when one incident would mark him for the rest of his life. When defending his mother from his fathers aggression, he was hit by a broken bottle, which struck him on the left eye and which left a scar that was to remain with him throughout his life.
When he was 15 years of age, Yusef killed his father. Trying to convince him that he had found treasure in the Castle, Yusef led his father into the enclosure. Yusef had dug a hole near the Roman bridge which crossed the stream and which instead of holding treasure would become his fathers grave.
When he returned home, Yusef told his mother that she was free and that she could finally live in peace. His shocked mother promised not to tell that to anyone. And on that day, the people of Paderne learnt that Yusefs father had decide to leave once more, but this time, never to come back.
A short time later, Yusef decided to leave Paderne to try and forget the ghosts of his past, and set off for London. His mother had given him the contact of a cousin, but Yusef never looked him up. Instead, he decided to find his own bearings and worked in a number of places. He sometimes called his mother, just to tell her that he was doing fine and there was no need to worry about him. One day, when coming back home from work, he heard a melody in one of the underground stations that caught his attention
a redheaded young woman was playing the cello, accompanied by a boy who was playing the recorder. Yusef could hardly believe it. It was Rita, his Enchanted Mooress. When she saw him, she broke out into a smile and embraced her friend. She was staying at her aunt Andreas house, a tarologist who lived in London. Yusef was so excited at meeting her again but waited for the two to be alone to tell his Mooress about the fate which destiny had reserved for him. And indeed that night, in a bar, Rita got to know of the hard reality which had been Yusefs life. And, both sad and shocked, she promised her friend she would be there for him. But Yusef wanted more, not just her friendship and support
he wanted her love. He could not understand that Ritas feelings did not match his own. No, it was not possible that his Enchanted Mooress had freed herself from his spell
Rita introduced Yusef to her aunt, who told her that she should free herself of him as soon as possible, otherwise something bad would happen if she continued to be with him. But Rita felt sorry for her friend, and kept on seeing Yusef every day. Yusef was jealous of Lázaro, Ritas best friend, whom she played with in the underground stations. Lázaro was not fully aware of Yusefs jealous until one day, in an argument, Yusef struck Lázaro and Rita was so frightened with his attitude that she stayed away from him for a time. Yusef looked for her and begged her to forgive him, saying he would never be violent again, but Rita avoided him and asked him to give her some time, while thinking over what her aunt had told her. Yusef accepted and respected the wish of his Mooress. At the end of a week, when he was looking for her once again, he received the sad news that Rita had left. It was the second time that he had lost his Mooress
Disorientated, Yusef demanded that Ritas aunt tell him where his Mooress was, but her only answer was silence. Revolted, he destroyed the reception room where aunt Andrea gave her readings. This was to be just the start of Yusefs terrible journey. His next steps involved robbery and prostitution. Yusef looked at everything as a question of survival. He was never to telephone his mother again, but his longing for her affection and stories was to be a constant throughout his life. After two years, and tired of the life he was leading, Yusef returned to Portugal.
When he arrived back at Paderne, he found his mother sick. Feeling remorse for having left her without news for so long, Yusef stayed by his mothers side and told her he would take care of her as she had taken care of him the first time he had lost Rita. In the castle, Yusef knelt in the small chapel, which had been a place of prayer, and cried and swore that he would do everything to help his mother get well. He would never leave her for so long again and would always take care of her. Yusefs mother got better. And Yusef felt that his God had heard his prayers. Whenever he could, Yusef would come back to the castle and pray in the small chapel. Sometimes he would find a curious tourist wandering around the enclosure, or a group of foreigners who had chosen the place to camp, and he would stay and observe them from afar, behind the walls. But these invasions increasingly bothered him, as he considered himself to be the Governor of the Castle. He ended up by scaring away some intruders who passed that way, furiously shouting war cries as he grasped a wooden stick that he wielded like a scimitar. People would run away scared, and when Yusef told his mother what he had done, the two laughed and his mother told him that he was the real Lord of Paderne.
One day, Yusef read the phrase Nights of the Enchanted Mooress on a poster. It was a four-day festival that was going to take place, where visitors could participate in a traditional Arab market, with street entertainment, exhibitions and Muslim cuisine. Yusef attended the festival, since the hope had at once arisen within him that he might find his Mooress. But instead he became enchanted with the brilliance of a dagger which an Arab was selling in a tent, along with various Islamic objects. Yusef held the dagger, and when the Arab saw him, he said that he had already met him
in another life! Yusef laughed, but the Arab approached him and stated that Yusef had an old soul in a young body. Yusef looked at the dagger and the Arab put his hands on his shoulders, and told him that he should take the dagger as a gift. Yusef was amazed at the offer and before he could thank him, he noticed a teardrop falling down the face of the Arab. Yusef then thanked him and left the tent. After watching various entertainment shows and visiting the exhibitions, he decided to see the Arab once more, but to his amazement the man had already closed up his tent. Yusef waited for some time, but the Arab did not come back. When he reached home, Yusef looked at the dagger and the details carved into it. Its exotic shape, with a hand-forged steel blade, fine materials such as wrought silver, jade, ivory and gold showed off the splendour and power of those who had once carried it. Now it was his. And from that day onwards he never let it go. He kept it tied to his belt on a silver chain.
After some time, Yusefs mother suggested that her son visit the capital to sort his life out, and while Yusef did not want to leave his mother again, he ended up agreeing. So he went to Lisbon to try and find a job, which was not easy. He felt lost in the middle of so many people, and although he visited some monuments, nothing compared to the Castle of Paderne. He loved churches, and went into almost all of them. He mainly chose those that had an image of his patron saint, our Lady of Conception, since she reminded him of his mother. But solitude once again darkened his spirit, and he wandered the streets of the city without direction, without money and without company. He did not want to worry his mother and when he telephoned, he told her that he was fine and that he would soon come and visit her. But he fell back into his old ways, which he called a matter of survival. And so he passed some months, until destiny once again showed him the whereabouts of his eternal Mooress.
One day, when leaving a church near the pension where he was sleeping, he saw Rita passing by with her cello. Rita was taking large steps towards a group of people, and Yusef went closer to watch. In the middle of the crowd, Rita took out her cello from its case and began to play a symphony along with a group of musicians who accompanied her. When Rita saw Yusef, she stopped playing, asked permission from her colleagues to go to him. She embraced her friend, but felt that something was not right. Yusef was thinner, with long hair and a sad expression. But Yusef breathed a sigh of relief and hugged his Mooress, which for some moments turned out to be embarrassing for the two, since the group had decided to play a piece of music to commemorate the moment of their reunion. Rita asked him to wait for her, joined the group, and started playing once more. Yusef was fascinated with the way that Rita played, and deep down felt that this time he would never be separated from his Mooress. But little did he imagine that her heart belonged to another. Rita had fallen in love with an Archaeology student.
When Rita told him that he liked him as a brother, Yusef did not want to believe that and insisted that they should stay together. But Rita made it clear to him that she was in love with a boy she had not met, whom she was certain was her twin soul. This was like a punch in the stomach and left him breathless. Yusef separated from Rita but, without her knowing, followed her for a while, because he needed to see his rival with his own eyes. It was in fact at a party that the two met. Yusef witnessed everything, and each time the two were together, a feeling of revolt would take hold of him. Whenever he could, he would put pressure on Rita, telling her that he was her man, but Rita laughed and did not take this seriously, because she was falling more and more in love with the young Archaeologist. And not long afterwards the boy moved into Ritas house. Yusef could not stand the news, and after some failed attempts, and threats, he decided in the end to return to his home, to the arms of his mother.
Paderne would always be his place, and the castle was where he could encounter the peace that he so very much needed. His mother comforted him in his pain, as only a mother knows how to, trying to protect her son from the hard knocks of life. But she also started to realise that Yusef was increasingly becoming more and more distant.
Yusef spent hours at the castle, trying to recall those times as a child he had spent with Rita. And he remembered the pact that he had made with her after finding the cave. He used the dagger to mark the days on the trunk of an olive tree which grew inside the castle, near the Church. He no longer scared away the curious tourists who would show up there, now preferring to hide unseen in the shadows. And he remained still, just watching the curiosity of the visitors.
One May morning, a young couple appeared, while Yusef was resting in the castle tower. As he watched them get out of the car, Yusef was struck motionless by shock. He could hardly believe what he was seeing. Rita had returned to the castle
but she was not alone. She had decided to bring the Archaeologist. How had she dared appear with him in his own Castle? Yusef started to shake, and seeing them together near the small chapel, he felt like jumping down and repelling his rival from the Castle. But he remained motionless, watching, while Rita guided her companion inside the enclosure. The two embraced and when they kissed, Yusef cut himself on the point of the dagger, which he had in the mean time taken out of its sheath as if to defend himself from something. Blood ran down his hand, but the pain was nothing to that compared with what he was feeling inside. He lay down in the tower, turned to the sky, almost yelling with rage.
From that day onwards, the couples visits to the castle became more frequent. Whenever they could, they came south and spent whole days in the Castle, and even nights, which stoked Yusefs anger even more. He could not understand the reason why Rita had done that with him, and could not bear the idea of seeing both of them together in his Castle. It was as if a Knight had stolen his Mooress, and was now invading his territory! He could not allow that to continue, and he decided to take a stance. But tragedy once more took hold of Yusefs life. Far from the Castle, and after having followed them, Yusef and Rita had an argument and he lost his head and accidentally killed her. The archaeologist saw him, before finding Ritas lifeless body. Ritas death was a deep blow to him, and whilst he almost lost the will to live, the archaeologists fate was to once again meet that of Yusefs.
Three years later, when Yusef was entering an old church in Lisbon, the archaeologist recognised him and decided to follow him. But Yusef realised this, and while he did not know whom it was that was doing this, he managed to set up a trap for him. Inside a building undergoing repair work, Yusef caught him by surprise, and on discovering who he was, tried to finish him off, wounding him by stabbing him a number of times with his dagger. Then, leaving the archaeologist unconscious, he managed to leave the building without anybody recognising him. And convinced that he had finished with his rival once and for all, Yusef followed his destiny, little realizing that it would turn out to be an ironic one.
Whenever he could, Yusef returned to Paderne, to be with his mother, and also because he could not bear to be away too long from his castle. Until one day, when speaking to his mother on the telephone, she gave him the news that the Castle was being restored, and that some excavation work had been carried out by the Portuguese Institute for Architectural Heritage, and they had closed off the inside of the castle to visitors. Yusef could hardly believe what his mother had told him, and returned to Paderne the next day. He found the Castle sealed off, with access forbidden and some placards informing the public that an archaeological excavation was being carried out. Nevertheless, Yusef decided to go in, and after walking round the Castle, he climbed a wall to take a look inside. In the centre of the enclosure, near the small chapel, he could see Vicente, the archaeologist whom he had thought dead. The archaeologist had been chosen to carry out the archaeological excavations of Paderne castle.