As regular readers of Balladeer’s Blog know, December is not just the month in which I cover umpteen versions of A Christmas Carol but also the month in which I look at versions of the tales of Charlemagne and his Paladins. These are the legends about Charlemagne, not the actual history, so there will be dragons, monsters and magic. Roland shows up in this story.
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THE SIEGE OF ALBRACCA – Princess Angelica of Cathay, in our previous tale, had failed to win the heart of the Paladin Reinold despite holding him at her enchanted isle for a time. Just as the escaped Reinold was even now trying to make his way back to the court of Charlemagne, Angelica returned to her father’s court in Cathay.
While she had been gone, the Tartar King Agrican (also called Agri Khan) had surrounded Albracca, capitol of the Kingdom of Cathay with his army and demanded the hand of Angelica from her father, King Galafron. The siege lasted for weeks, but in its early stages Galafron had managed to dispatch messengers to Circassia.
One lone man among those messengers survived to reach Circassia and ask its King Sacripant to come to the aid of Cathay. Sacripant, like every other male character in these stories (except Reinold) was captivated by Princess Angelica’s beauty. The king thus led his army forth, intent on defeating the Tartars and winning the hand of Angelica.
King Sacripant and his troops arrived at Albracca and attacked King Agrican’s forces. As the military campaign continued, each battle brought the Circassian army closer to being able to cut a path into besieged Albracca to stand with the city’s defenders.
At last, in the final push to penetrate into Albracca, the two kings, Sacripant and Agrican, happened to meet in combat while their troops battled around them. Eventually, Agrican wounded Sacripant, but his men managed to get him to safety as they all made it into the city of Albracca.
King Galafron had ordered the drawbridge opened to let them in, but when the barred portcullis was dropped, the fierce King Agrican was discovered to have entered the city along with the Circassian army.
Agrican was so capable in battle that he was able to fight off both Circassian and Cathayan warriors until his own troops could storm the city walls and enter Albracca with him. The Tartars drove both armies before them until finally King Galafron, Princess Angelica, King Sacripant and their surviving men fell back into the citadel of Albracca.
From there they held off the Tartars, who soon took to looting and plundering the city while maintaining a siege around the citadel. Princess Angelica tended to Sacripant’s wounds, then put her mind to the impossible situation.
Angelica recognized that their water and food would give out within days. They needed help, so she told her father that she would put her magic ring into her mouth again, thus turning herself invisible. She would then make her way to the Castle of Forgetfulness, where the Magick Tome she had stolen from Maugris the Enchanter told her she would find warriors mighty enough to save Albracca.
The princess did so, slipping out of the citadel AND the city itself. She then stole a Tartar horse and rode for the Castle of Forgetfulness, where Roland was one of the Paladins trapped there with no memory.
At the Bridge of Forgetfulness, Angelica removed the ring from her mouth, turning visible again. The fairy at the bridge offered her a cup full of water to quench her thirst, but, forewarned by Maugris’ book of magick, the princess refused that cup filled with the Waters of Forgetfulness and crossed the bridge with her memory intact.
Once inside the castle, she saw before her Roland and nine other warriors from around the world, all of them bereft of their memories and content to stay there feasting and drinking. Reading a spell from the Magick Tome she had brought with her, Princess Angelica restored the men’s memories to them.
As usual, her beauty impressed the ten warriors. She had no problem recruiting them to return with her to attack the Tartar army and save Albracca. With Roland leading them, the ten incredible men drove King Agrican’s men before them until the troops in the citadel could pour forth and help them.
The Tartar army was driven away, but in the chaos, Agrican had maneuvered Roland to a spot far from the city gates, near a fountain of water. There the two met in single combat, with Roland of course wielding his sword Durindana.
From there we get the frequently repeated trope from these tales – the two foes are so evenly matched that their battle goes on until nightfall, when they decide to call a truce until daylight. While lying there chatting before falling asleep, Roland and Agrican reveal that they are both in love with Princess Angelica, adding further fury to both men.
Roland tries to engage King Agrican in a conversation about religion, but the Tartar replies he and his kind follow no religion, but have heard tales of their gods.
When the battle resumed at daybreak, Roland eventually prevailed against his foe, mortally wounding him. Realizing he was dying and was therefore never to wed Angelica, King Agrican begged Roland to use the nearby fountain’s waters to baptize him in the name of “Him who died on the cross. May He who came to save all the world save me, as well.”
NOTE: The religious elements are baked into these old stories, as such elements are in the tales of countless cultures, so no freaking out, please.
Roland complied, baptizing the dying king to save his soul. ***
I’ll be examining more tales of Charlemagne soon.
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