FOR MY FIRST CHAPTER ON CHARLEMAGNE’S PALADINS CLICK HERE
MAUGRIS (AKA MALAGIGI) THE ENCHANTER, freed from his undersea prison by Princess Angelica of Cathay, arrived back in Paris to rejoin Charlemagne’s court. Angelica had liberated him only on the condition that he trick Reinold, the Paladin she loved under magic compulsion, into visiting her enchanted island so she could continue wooing him.
Within a few days, Maugris engaged Reinold in conversation about some of the Paladin’s past adventures and upon Reinold confessing that he longed for even more daring escapades the enchanter asked if he was sure that was what he wanted. Reinold replied in the affirmative and Maugris asked him a second time. Again the answer was yes, so Maugris asked a third time and no sooner had the Paladin again said yes than the enchanter cast a spell on the warrior.
Reinold was teleported on board a magical ship which sailed along with no crew. After a search of the vessel had convinced Reinold that he was the only person on board, the Paladin noted that the ship was putting in at an island before it.
This was the mystical island which Angelica had conjured up via spells from Maugris’ book of Magick. Reinold went ashore and explored the place. The isle was roughly 24 kilometers long and half again as wide. Lush trees and well-maintained grass covered the island and at its western end Reinold saw a palace made of marble.
The drawbridge dropped across the moat and a beautiful serving girl emerged from inside, inviting Reinold to enter. She told him that the magnificent structure was called Joyous Palace and led him around its exquisite interior.
In a garden with a fountain the serving girl had the Paladin sit down to be entertained by musicians and beautiful dancing women. Despite his continuing apprehension, Reinold was becoming intoxicated with his surroundings. At length the warrior was told that a banquet was being held in his honor and he was led into a dining hall.
Four of the dancing women sat at the table and shared his feast and his wine. When the meal was over, the original serving girl who had invited him into Joyous Palace returned and whispered in his ear “This castle and all that thou seest here are thine. The builder is a queen who hath built it for thee alone. She loves thee and she is the greatest beauty in the world. Her name is Princess Angelica of Cathay.”
At the mention of that name toward which the Waters of Hatred had filled him with hostility, Reinold bolted to his feet and raced away. He soon left Joyous Palace behind him and sought out the ship which had brought him to this island of the accursed Angelica.
Reinold roamed the entire island but could not find the enchanted ship. He continued searching for a means of escape, but at one point noticed a different building where he could have sworn that Joyous Palace had stood. This castle was built from gloomy black stones and seemed to be largely ruins. The exterior was decorated with human heads dripping red gore from the necks.
Fearless as ever, the Paladin entered the structure but as soon as he set foot over the threshold he fell through the carpeting into a vast pit. Above him, at the edge of the pit, appeared a hideous white-haired old woman. She told him he was trapped within Castle Altaripa and would never leave it alive.
The taunting old woman informed Reinold that at sunrise a creature from the bowels of the castle would enter the pit with him, looking for its breakfast. He would provide that meal to the monster. When the harridan left him to spend a long night awaiting his doom, Reinold tried every way he could to escape from the pit, but with no success.
At length, the sun began to rise, shining down through some of the holes in the decrepit castle’s roof. Reinold drew his sword Flamberge and waited for the promised beast to arrive. Presently, it entered with a roar and despite himself, the Paladin was shocked at what he saw.
The creature was larger than an ox and its body was a perverse mix of a boar and a serpent. Its ugly head had horns jutting out from its temples and its entire body was covered in scales of many colors. Poisonous gas and the stench of corpses poured from the monster’s mouth. The thing bared its claws and attacked Reinold.
After more than an hour of battle, the Paladin’s armor was half-torn from his body, but the creature’s scaly hide had only been dented by his many sword-thrusts – none had punctured it.
Presently a gentle voice from the edge of the pit ordered the monster to sit, and it obeyed, still hungrily eyeing Reinold. From above that same voice, which our hero now recognized as belonging to the hated Angelica, offered to free Reinold from the pit if he would at last return her love.
Still in the grip of an enchantment which made him loathe and detest the beautiful princess as surely as the enchantment she suffered under made her love and desire him, the Paladin replied only with curses and insisted he would rather be devoured by the creature before him.
Filled with selfless affection, Princess Angelica told Reinold that no matter how he felt, she still loved him, and valued his life. She tossed a cake to the hungry monster, which found to its consternation that its teeth stuck together the minute it bit into the morsel. It could no longer open its mouth.
Recognizing the opportunity which Angelica was providing for him, Reinold raced forward and began strangling the beast. After another lengthy struggle, the Paladin prevailed and the creature at last dropped dead.
Before departing Castle Altaripa, Princess Angelica tossed down a rope ladder for Reinold to escape the pit. At length the Paladin left the evil structure behind him, too, and was suprised to find the enchanted boat which had brought him into Angelica’s clutches was once more back in port.
With nothing else to try, Reinold stepped aboard the empty ship, which once again carried him off. This time he was permitted to leave the ship after it left him off somewhere in southern Europe, on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Sword in hand he set off on foot to find his way back to the court of the Emperor Charlemagne. +++
I’ll be examining more tales of Charlemagne soon.
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