As always, from December 1st through Twelfth Night (January 6th) Balladeer’s Blog takes a look at some of the old legends surrounding Charlemagne and his Paladins. These are the fictional tales about Charlemagne, so there will be magic and monsters included.
THE ENCHANTED GARDENS OF FALERINA – We pick up from last time as the Paladins Roland and Reinold are separately heading for the Gardens of Falerina to free all the warriors imprisoned there. Reinold (at last reunited with his faithful steed Bayard) was on this quest on behalf of the beautiful Flordelis, whose true love Florismart is among the prisoners.
The gardens were inside the Castle of Falerina, which stood in the middle of a lake. The lone bridge leading to the castle was protected by Arridano, a mystically powered brute of a man who had to be overcome if one were to gain access to the bridge.
So far no one had been able to defeat him, and the captured arms and armor of all the men he had vanquished lay piled high on the lake shore as trophies. Reinold reached the bridge first and wasted no time in dismounting and attacking the ruffian, who wielded an iron mace against the Paladin.
Eventually the pair fell to grappling with one another and the bridge guardian held tight to Reinold and leaped with him into the lake. Once submerged the guard held an insurmountable advantage since he was able to breathe underwater and soon Reinold joined the other prisoners in the Gardens of Falerina.
Meanwhile, Roland, whose normal horse could not match the magical speed of Reinold’s mount Bayard, was still quite a distance from the lake. While riding through a forest he came across an armored soldier standing guard to prevent anyone from freeing a beautiful woman bound to a tree.
Roland inquired about the situation and the soldier informed the Paladin that the woman was a foul villainess who had been condemned to die of thirst bound to a tree. Roland demanded that she be freed but the soldier opposed him, saying the woman was guilty of many heinous crimes. The pair soon locked in combat, with Charlemagne’s nephew Roland easily slaying him.
Next, Roland freed the woman, who denied being guilty of any wrongdoing, and our hero resumed his ride to the Gardens of Falerina with the young beauty mounted behind him. The next day they encountered a fair maiden dressed in blue with gold trim. She rode a white horse and warned Roland and his companion that they were on the road to the Castle of Falerina.
Roland stated that he was aware of that and meant to storm the castle. The maiden warned him that it was too close to nightfall and that he should stay where he was now until morning. Next, the mystic maiden gave the Paladin a Magick Tome which included detailed schematics of the castle and its gardens.
The maiden (the tales don’t include the names of a LOT of supporting characters) told Roland that Falerina the enchantress had locked herself away in the bowels of the castle for days now. Falerina was using her magic to manufacture a sword that could cut through even the most powerful enchanted substances.
The mysterious woman further explained that Falerina had seen in the Book of Fate that the famous Paladin named Roland was intent on destroying her gardens and freeing the prisoners, prompting her decision to conjure up an indestructible weapon for her bridge guardian.
With that the mystic maiden and her horse disappeared. Faced with that evidence of her supernatural nature, Roland resolved to take her advice and travel no more until the next morning. He laid himself down to sleep after providing a meal for himself and his companion.
Overnight that companion proved to be as treacherous as the slain soldier had claimed. She rode off on Roland’s horse Brigliadoro and carried away with her the Paladin’s enchanted sword Durindana.
At dawn, Roland awoke and was furious at the way he had been fooled. He was still determined to invade the Gardens of Falerina, however, and tore off a branch from an elm tree to use as a weapon in place of his stolen sword.
Following the map and other instructions in the Magick Tome that the mysterious maiden had given him, Roland managed to reach the Castle of Falerina from the land side, bypassing the bridge guarded by Arridano. He was now directly outside the gated Gardens of Falerina.
As he approached the gateway entrance a fierce dragon emerged from hiding and attacked him. Roland’s armor provided him with just enough protection to survive against the creature until he was able to crush its skull through repeated blows from his elm branch.
With the dragon dead, Roland entered the gardens and the gateway door mystically clanged shut behind him, trapping him within. The Paladin was not alarmed and simply followed the map to a fountain in the garden. From there it was a short walk to a castle doorway and once inside Roland stood in the throneroom of Queen Falerina herself.
Falerina had blonde hair adorned with a golden crown studded with diamonds. She wore an all-white gown and held in her hands the enchanted sword which the mystic maiden had warned Roland about.
Such was Falerina’s vanity that she had not noticed Roland’s entrance as she was preoccupied with staring at her reflected beauty in the gleaming blade of the sword she had conjured up. Taking advantage of this opportunity, the Paladin struck, seizing the enchanted sword from Falerina and grabbing her by her hair.
He put the sword to the queen’s throat and told her that if she wanted to save her life she must free all of the prisoners in her gardens. Suddenly, all the glamour of the castle and its gardens vanished, replaced by the reality of crumbling ruins and nothing but wilted flowers and dead trees.
Falerina begged for her life and told Roland that she was nothing but a minion of the much more powerful Morgana, the Lady of the Lake. Morgana occupied the REAL castle in the center of the lake, while Falerina dwelt in this ruined old castle, its glamorous illusion serving as a trap for many intent on freeing the warriors held prisoner by Morgana.
Roland still insisted he would kill Falerina and then try to overcome Morgana. Seeing how determined the Paladin was, Falerina relented and agreed to advise our hero on how to reach Morgana.
I’ll be examining more tales of Charlemagne soon.
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