Christmas time through Twelfth Night is the time of year that Balladeer’s Blog covers tales of Charlemagne and his Paladins. These tales are the legends, not the historical accounts of the real Emperor Charlemagne and his court. FOR MY FIRST CHAPTER ON CHARLEMAGNE’S PALADINS CLICK HERE
THE PRINCESS OF CATHAY – The previous installment’s reference to a tournament prompted a lot of readers to ask for a full-blown tournament story from the tales of Charlemagne. As always, I listen to you readers, so here we go.
During the brief period of Charlemagne’s Peace, when he was not at war with any of the other powers in the known world, the Emperor held a magnificent tournament. With no war currently raging between the Franks and others, participants from all over came to Paris for the event.
Even Saracens from Muslim-Colonized Spain competed in the jousting and enjoyed the feasts. During one such feast, the court was surprised by a visit from four 10-foot tall giants who bore a divan. Beside the giants and their burden walked a Paladin in exotic, unfamiliar armor. Upon the divan sat the most beautiful woman ever seen by any of those present.
The woman’s black hair was adorned with jewels and her clothing was of the finest kind. She and her Paladin were permitted to approach Charlemagne’s throne and present themselves. The woman identified herself as Princess Angelica of Cathay. The man in armor was her brother, Prince Umberto.
NOTE: In many medieval legends such as this, “Cathay” does not refer to the actual location in northwest China but to a mythical city-state which supposedly existed in some non-specific location to the East of Europe. This fictional Cathay combined qualities of Europe and the Far East.
Princess Angelica presented the challenge she and her brother brought with them – Prince Umberto would joust with any of the armored warriors gathered for the tournament. He would meet them one by one by the Fountain of the Pine.
If Umberto won, every man who lost to him would be her brother’s prisoner. If any man should defeat the prince, then they would have Angelica for themselves. Every man there, from the oldest to the youngest, desired the princess and were considering accepting the challenge.
Maugris the Enchanter (also called Malagigi) used his magic to determine that Angelica was lying in some way and threatened to cast a spell on her. The Emperor Charlemagne, however, thinking with his man-parts, gave his permission for any of the men assembled to accept Umberto’s challenge. The princess and her brother then withdrew along with their giants, to rest for the night before the next day’s jousting.
Among Charlemagne’s Paladins and the Saracen Muslims present many volunteered to face Umberto in battle. So many wanted a chance to win the Princess Angelica that the Emperor decreed that all of them would draw lots for the order in which they would face the visiting prince.
The Paladin Astolpho drew the first lot, followed by the Saracen Ferrau, then Ogier the Dane, Reinold and even Charlemagne himself. The 31st and last competitor to have his name drawn was the storied Roland.
That night, Maugris consulted his book of enchantments, on whose pages he could conjure up any information he needed. He learned that Angelica had lied when she said that her brother was named Umberto, when his real name was Argalia. King Galafron of Cathay had sent his son and daughter to be the ruin of the men in Charlemagne’s court.
Maugris further learned that Argalia rode a magical horse which ran faster than the wind and was armed with an enchanted lance which unseated any foe it touched in combat. Thus prepared, the devious Prince Argalia could defeat everyone he jousted with the next day and would take 31 warriors – including the Emperor himself – prisoner with him back to Cathay.
Not trusting the mens’ lust, which might make them unreasonable again, Maugris did not reveal any of this to his fellow Paladins (yes, he, too, wielded a sword and often fought on horseback). Instead, the Enchanter went with his book to the tent of Princess Angelica and her brother near the Fountain of the Pine, intent on ordering them to flee lest he reveal their dishonesty to Charlemagne.
First he cast a spell to make the 4 guarding giants fall asleep, then another spell to make sure Angelica and Argalia were asleep, then he entered the tent. To his surprise, the princess wore a ring which made her immune to all enchantments, even those as potent as his own. She was awake and immediately put her ring in her mouth, which caused her to turn invisible.
Next, Angelica screamed her brother awake and with an invisible ally beside him, Argalia managed to bind Maugris with enchanted silk cords. The wicked woman next plucked the Enchanter’s precious book away from him and read aloud a spell which summoned four fiery red demons with wings.
The princess ordered the demons to fly Maugris to her father’s court and then return to Hell. The infernal quartet obeyed and before long the Enchanter stood bound before King Galafron. The King had Maugris imprisoned in a gigantic sea shell under the nearest sea. Deprived of all light and with no ears to hear his enchantments Maugris would be unable to escape that dank prison.
Meanwhile, back in Paris, Charlemagne and 30 of his Paladins little dreamed the fate that Angelica and her brother had planned for them. +++
I’ll be examining more tales of Charlemagne soon.
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