These are the legends about Charlemagne and his Paladins, not the actual history, so there will be dragons, monsters and magic.
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MANDRICARDO AND THE ARMOR OF HECTOR – Last time around in the Tales of Charlemagne and His Paladins we left off with Ruggiero searching the Forest of Arden for Bradamante, the female Paladin in white armor, with whom he had fallen in love. They had become separated while fighting some of the Saracen soldiers invading Charlemagne’s realm at the time.
Elsewhere, Mandricardo, son of Agrican, King of the Tartars, and a man whose destiny was linked with Ruggiero’s, was on a quest of his own. Mandricardo sought to kill the Paladin Roland as revenge for Roland having killed his father in our previous installments.
Mandricardo had spent his life in drinking, gambling and mercenary work, never attending to his father’s kingdom. Upon hearing of King Agrican’s death at the hands of Roland, the wayward young man was sobered into seriousness. He armored up, grabbed a sword and shield, then set out for revenge on his father’s killer.
In his travels, he came across a splendid tent pitched beside a fountain. Upon entering the tent, Mandricardo met a beautiful (of course) young woman, who told him that when he set out on his revenge quest, it meant that he was ready to fight for his heritage – the fabled armor of Hector of Troy.
The woman informed Mandricardo that the armor was in the castle of her mistress, a fairy woman who had been trusted with guarding the armor until a genuine descendant of Hector came to claim it. Mounting their horses, the woman and the vagabond prince rode to the fairy woman’s castle.
Mandricardo fought the mounted guardian of the keep, eventually overcame him, and then was accompanied inside by the mysterious young woman. Once within the castle walls, an earthquake shook the ground amid enchantments which shut and locked every door.
The woman beside Mandricardo now revealed that she herself was the fairy woman whose castle this was. There was no going back. He must now perform a series of tasks to acquire Hector’s armor or die.
In an interior courtyard of the enchanted castle was a field of wheat with a tree growing at its center. The fairy commanded Mandricardo to harvest all of the wheat and then uproot the tree. Our hero began slashing down the wheat with his sword, but each stalk that fell transformed into poisonous snakes which tried to kill him.
For hours the warrior fought his way through the wheat field, hacking down stalks and then slaying the serpents that the stalks turned into. At last, he reached the aforementioned tree, sheathed his sword, and threw his arms around the trunk to attempt uprooting it.
This effort shook the branches of the tree, and each leaf that fell transformed into a bird of prey and attacked Mandricardo, so that his efforts were once again prolonged by the need to slay deadly creatures every so often. At long last the tree was uprooted and wind came rushing from the resulting hole in the ground.
The wind drove away all of the deadly birds, but before Mandricardo could catch his breath, a large serpent emerged from the hole and wrapped itself around his body, dragging him down into the depths. The warrior overcame the serpent and, after beheading it, regarded his surroundings.
The young man saw that he was in a room with gold and silver walls. On an ivory bier was the suit of Hector’s armor. The fairy woman was seated on a nearby throne, and after congratulating Mandricardo on his victories, she had ten women with no faces help the warrior into the armor.
All that was missing now was Hector’s sword, Durindana. When Mandricardo inquired about it, the fairy woman informed him that this was part of his next quest. The sword Durindana, as we know from earlier installments, had come into the possession of the Emperor Charlemagne, who had given it to none other than the Paladin Roland upon his knighting.
Mandricardo now set out after Roland with a double reason for wanting him dead.
I’ll be examining more tales of Charlemagne soon.
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