Toribio: is twenty years old and the hero of the story, together with his father Hernando. He lost his Visigoth mother, Goswinta, who died of the plague, when he was still a child. A Christian, he was educated at Amaya, at the court of his uncle Petro and aunt Teodosinda, by the monk Valerio. At the beginning of the romance he is given the Ruby Cross by the Apostle James and is instructed on his mission for The Third Event. A peacemaker with a sensitive and gentle spirit, he leads his stubborn father to Christian conversion before the end of the story.
Hernando: judge of Valle de Autrigonia and father of Toribio. At thirty-nine years of age, he is already regarded as getting on in years.
Valerio: is thirty-five years old and was born in Constantinople. A Benedictine monk, he was trained in Rome, Pavia and Toledo. He was Toribio’s tutor at Amaya, having Toribio in his charge from the age of thirteen. Since then, the two have become inseparable friends. Valerio is the constant companion of Toribio and Hernando for most of the story. After the Christian victory at Covadonga, he celebrates Toribio’s wedding and is appointed bishop to general acclaim.
Petro: duke of Amaya and the whole of Cantabria, about forty-five years old and a good Christian. He is the friend of Duke Pelayo, a Visigoth like himself, whose family had taken shelter at his court while they were being persecuted by old King Witiza (reigned 702-710). He had married his sister Goswinta to Hernando twenty years before, which makes him the brother-in-law of Hernando and uncle of Toribio.
Teodosinda: the wife of Duke Petro, about ten years his junior. She lives in the Domus Ducalis at Amaya, where she spends her time listening to music and, since she is illiterate, having the Latin classics read to her by more educated relatives. She gives birth to Alfonso while escaping from Amaya, as the city dramatically crumbles under the attacks of the Islamic artillery.
Pelayo: forty-two years old, is the military leader of the Visigoths and resides with his family in an old roman villa at Cangas de Onis, in the heart of Asturias. He is the son of Duke Fafila, who (according to legend) was killed by Duke Witiza for refusing to let him have his wife. Following Witiza’s coronation as king, Pelayo’s family had to flee from Toledo and took refuge at Amaya, at the court of Duke Petro.
Gaudiosa: the wife of Pelayo, about thirty-five years old. She had known Toribio’s mother since her stay at the convent of Santa Maria of Cosgaya, where Pelayo’s sister Verosinda was also educated nearly twenty years before. She treats Toribio as a son and encourages his love for her daughter Agasinda.
Fafila: Pelayo’s eldest son, seventeen years old. He eventually marries Froliuba and becomes King of Asturias on the death of his father (historical fact: in memory of his father’s victory at Covadonga, he founded the Iglesia de la Santa Cruz. The church still stands in modern Cangas de Onis).
Agasinda: Pelayo’s elder daughter, fifteen years old. She soon falls in love with Toribio. The pair make passionate love half way through the tale in the bell tower of an abandoned convent. Their fornication costs Toribio the loss of the Ruby Cross and the two are then be kidnapped by the soldiers of governor Munuza. Agasinda is taken into the harem of Munuza, while Toribio is imprisoned in Toledo. Agasinda reappears and rejoins Toribio on the shore of the mysterious Lake of Fate during the Battle of Covadonga, when the Ruby Cross is restored to him from its waters.
Ermesinda: Pelayo’s youngest daughter, only six years old when these events take place. One day she will marry Alfonso, son of Duke Petro, destined to become King Alfonso I on the death of his brother-in-law Fafila.
Verosinda: Pelayo’s sister, about thirty years old. She is the abbess of the convent of Santa Maria of Monsacri. According to legend, the Berber Governor Munuza lusted after her on account of her beauty. She, too, had known Toribio’s mother, Goswinta, when she was being educated at the convent of Santa Maria of Cosgaya. She wears a sapphire pendant in the shape of an eagle, given her by her grandfather. Rather then be captured by Munuza’s men, she commits suicide, while most of her nuns are raped and slaughtered. At the end, she rises from the waters of the Lake of Fate and hands over the Ruby Cross to Toribio.
Froliuba: only fourteen years old, but already something of an Amazon, skilled with bow and arrow. She is the daughter of Isilde and the Visigoth General Teodomir, who was killed by Oppa in the Battle of Guadalete.
Amagoya: grandmother of Toribio and mother of Hernando. A pure-blooded Vasconian, she is the niece of Momo of Pamplona, patriarch of the Vasconian people. Renowned for her wonderful oatmeal pancakes.
Momo of Pamplona: brother of Hernando’s maternal grandfather, who was a Vasconian. More than eighty years old, he is a real Methuselah for that day and age. He finally abandons his neutrality and arrives at the site of Covadonga with a huge army at the very last minute, when the Christians led by Pelayo are about to be defeated by the Islamic forces and, according to legend, the Holy Virgin appears on a mountain top.
Count Eneko: son of Momo of Pamplona and Count of Calahorra. Hernando takes a dim view of him, as he does of all Vasconians.
Count Sancho: an older cousin of Duke Petro, he is Count of San Emeterio (modern Santander). He rules over the Cantabrian coast and is very rich and avaricious. Initially envious of his cousin Petro, he eventually repents, changes his attitude and supplies the Christian soldiers with plenty of provisions from his personal stores.
Judge Aurelio: a nephew of Count Sancho and judge of Flaviobriga (modern Castro Urdiales). He never actually appears in the story, but we hear about him because of a long-standing dispute with the neighbouring jurisdiction of Hernando, caused by Count Sancho’s family favouritism.
Gunderic: the Visigoth emissary of Duke Petro who arrives at Valle in the very beginning to invite Hernando and Toribio to join Duke Petro and Pelayo in the Asturias. At the beginning of the story, he tells the shocking tale of the battle of Rio Gades, where he had fought with King Roderic and General Teodomir on the banks of the River Guadalete. His account of this disaster is quite different from the generally accepted version of the story. He is later made a general and leads his troops in the defence of Amaya and the Battle of Covadonga.
Liuva and Teudiselo: Visigoth brothers, the right-hand men of Duke Petro. Liuva has lost an eye; Teudiselo is missing an ear. Two minor but reassuring characters, who prove loyal unto death on the battlefield of Covadonga.
Fruela: a young protégé of Toribio’s from the Asturian tribe of the Arcadeunians. He is eighteen years old but something of a coward.
Flavius the Roman: a Hispano-Roman guide, educated at the school for military scouts of Legio (modern León). He leads Toribio and company through the Meseta to Toledo and takes part in the defence of Amaya. He is an anachronism, the last Roman soldier of a now fallen empire, and sole survivor of a waning civilization.
The three Swabian counts: Ricimir, Filimir and Gildimir. The last surviving noblemen of the ancient Kingdom of Swabia (now Portugal). Very handsome with their bobbed hair.
The six Asturian chiefs: Xilo the Grey, son of Xinto, chief of the Luggonians (the tribe living in eastern Asturias ) and of the Peniian sub-grouping; Cilio, a Luggonian, chief of the Arnuminians; Abilio, a Luggonian, chief of the Abilicians; Milio, a Luggonian, chief of the Pembelians; Bartuelo, a Luggonian, chief of the Arcadeunians; and Naelio, chief of the Paesicians, the tribe living in western Asturias.
The nine Cantabrian chiefs: Virone, chief of the yellow Coniscian tribe; Talanio, chief of the blue Blendians; Tridio, chief of the amaranthine Salaenians; Turenno, chief of the purple Plentusians; Atia, chief of the black Tamaricians; Alia, chief of the green Avaraginians; Aluane, chief of the red Conganians; Origeno, chief of the ochre Organomescians; and Doidero, chief of the brown Vadinensians.
The twelve Visigoth swordsmen: Duke Pelayo’s lieutenants, who form his personal bodyguard. Their names are Anila, Aprila, Dunila, Neufila, Dadila, Brandila, Rikkila, Wadila, Sunnila, Murila, Beccila, Egila. In fact they are the twelve Apostles in disguise.
Tariq ibn Ziyad: A devout Muslim, aged around thirty, he is the Berber general from Tangiers who defeated King Roderic in the Battle of the Guadalete in July 711. He discusses the principles of his religion with Toribio, while the latter is his prisoner in Toledo. He later lays siege to Amaya.
Musa ibn Nusayr: a Syrian of the Lakhm tribe. Aged almost sixty, he is the Muslim governor of North Africa and Emir of Spain. He leads the invasion, assisted by Tariq and his son Abdul. He appears only in the end, directing his powerful army during the first part of the Battle of Covadonga.
Abd el Aziz: also known as Abdul. The son of Musa, he leads the invasion of Galicia and subsequently of Asturias, landing his troops at Xixón (modern Gijón). He later becomes governor of El Andalus (now Andalusia).
Munuza: a Berber, like Tariq, with whom he is on friendly terms. As governor of Xixón (Gijón), he helps the troops of Abd el Aziz to attack Asturias. Lustful by nature, he wants the most beautiful Visigoth women for his harem. He meets a horrible death at the end of the romance.
Luivigoto and Sunifredo: the former was the widow of King Ervigio, known as “the Greek” (reigned 680-687). In association with Count Sunifredo, and under the influence of Bishop Sisberto, in 692 she hatched a plot against King Egica (reigned 687-702). The pair were arrested. Sunifredo had his eyes put out; Luivigoto was incarcerated in a convent.
The repentant Queen Luivigoto appears as an extremely old nun in Verosinda’s Abbey and gives useful advice to Toribio.
Julian of Ceuta: the Byzantine count said to have provided the ships to enable Tariq’s Berbers to land near present-day Gibraltar. Apparently he was seeking vengeance on King Roderic for having raped his daughter Florinda while she was Roderic’s guest at Toledo.
The demon Sisberto: the “bishop” who was behind Luivigoto and Sunifredo’s plot against the old King Egica. He takes on the persona of Monofonso of Palencia.
The demon Jabalio: so-called because his face resembles that of a wild boar. He disguises himself as Kupraman, rabbi of the Toledo synagogue.
The demon Oppa: chief of the twelve demons and a key figure throughout the saga of the Gemmed Crosses. He is fat, always dressed in white, and carries a red staff. It would appear that a bishop by the name of Oppa (maybe a brother of King Witiza) really existed and tried to persuade Pelayo to surrender to the Saracens before the Battle of Covadonga. His aim is simply to find the Ruby Cross and alter the course of History in favour of Evil.
Sanctus Jacobus (Saint James) : Saint James the Great, one of the apostles of Jesus Christ, known to the Spanish as “Santiago”. His tomb was discovered in the 9th century in Galicia and the cathedral that now bears his name was erected to shelter his bones. Today Santiago de Compostela is visited by pilgrims from all over the world.