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THE NEXT MORNING, the 31 warriors who wanted to joust for the possession of Princess Angelica of Cathay donned their armor and rode together to the Fountain of the Pine. Angelica’s brother Argalia was awaiting them there.
With Maugris the Enchanter held captive by King Galafron of Cathay, as we saw last time around, none of the Paladins and Muslim soldiers knew that Argalia had the unfair advantage of a mystical lance which would unseat every combatant at its slightest touch.
Astolpho drew the first lot in our previous installment and so he was the first Paladin to face Angelica’s brother the prince. Argalia’s enchanted lance did its usual work of unseating Astolpho immediately upon contact. Astolpho was never noted for success with a lance, though he was deadly with a sword, so nothing much was made of him having been unseated.
Princess Angelica saved the fallen Astolpho from the jeers of the crowd by inviting him to share the pavilion with her, thus forcing one and all to treat him with respect.
Ferrau the Muslim faced Argalia next and he, too, was instantly knocked to the ground at the merest graze from the prince’s lance. Ferrau was not as complacent about his defeat as Astolpho had been. He drew his sword and challenged Prince Argalia to dismount and fence with him.
When the Muslim was reminded by the Emperor Charlemagne that every contestant had agreed the day of the challenge that this was to be a one-fall joust with no sword-fighting, Ferrau angily replied that no Christian emperor’s commands applied to him and he would do as he pleased. He threw so many offensive insults at Argalia that the prince at length dismounted and crossed swords with Ferrau.
Ferrau overcame Argalia and held his sword against the throat of the fallen prince, threatening to kill him unless he pronounced him the winner of Angelica. The prince complied, relying on the treacherous plan that he and his sister had developed, the plan which only the now-captive Maugris had discovered.
Princess Angelica boldy announced that her brother’s consent was not HER consent and she quickly put her enchanted ring in her mouth, thus turning invisible. As planned for such a circumstance she raced unseen to Argalia’s side and whispered to him that she would meet him in the Forest of Arden and ran off.
Argalia immediately threw himself onto his magic horse and rode off, unleashing its full speed, which exceeded even that of the wind. Ferrau was furious and mounted his own horse. He pursued the prince eastward in great haste. In his panic, Argalia had abandoned his enchanted lance, which Astolpho now appropriated to replace his own, which had broken against the prince’s shield.
The Paladins Reinold and Roland mounted their own horses, mad with their own lust for Angelica, and set out in pursuit of her and her brother themselves.
Charlemagne decreed that, though the villains from Cathay had decamped, the jousting would continue, with the remaining contestants now facing each other. Astolpho, wielding the lance which, unknown to him, had magical properties, triumphed over all comers and was declared the champion of the day.
Meanwhile, Reinold’s own horse, Bayard, was also mystically gifted as you’ll recall, and he had overtaken Ferrau, leaving him cursing behind him as he raced eastward in search of Angelica. In the Forest of Arden, Reinold came upon Argalia, who had dismounted to rest, since he was sure his horse had put him far ahead of his pursuers.
He had reckoned without Bayard’s own supernatural speed, but as Reinold looked down at the slumbering prince from his saddle, he felt too chivalrous to attack a sleeping foe and continued hunting for Angelica to the east.
Hours later Ferrau arrived on the scene. He, too, noted the still-sleeping Argalia, but in his fury he beheaded the sleeping prince for what he felt sure had been a huge deception played upon him. We’ll pick up from here next time. +++
I’ll be examining more tales of Charlemagne soon.
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