Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Chapter 69 [part 1 of 4]

How the knights with the dragon-insignia arms embarked for the Kingdom of Gaul, and how fortune placed them where their lives were put in great danger at the hands of Arcalaus the Sorcerer by trickery; and how, after they had escaped, they embarked and continued their voyage; and how Sir Galaor and Norandel happened to come down that same road looking for adventure, and what happened to them. 

 [Three kings portrayed in the Taymouth Book of Hours, made in England in the second quarter of the 14th century, now at the British Library.] 

King Perion and his sons rested in the forest for several days, and when they saw that the weather was good and the sea favorable, they immediately embarked on their ship, expecting to be in Gaul soon. But it happened otherwise, for the wind changed and made the sea rough, so they had to return to Great Britain, but not to where they had been but to another more distant place. After five stormy days, the ship arrived at the foot of a mountain alongside the sea. They had their horses and arms brought to shore so they could travel through that land until the sea became more calm and the wind blew favorably, while their men replenished the fresh water in the ship.

After they had eaten, they armed themselves, mounted their horses, and rode inland to learn where they had landed. They ordered the men in the ship to wait for them, and brought three squires with them, but Gandalin did not accompany them because he was well-known in those parts.

So as ye hear, they rode up a valley and found a plain at its end, and they did not travel far before they met a damsel who was letting her horse drink at a spring. She was richly dressed and wore a scarlet cape with golden buckles and loops to hold it closed. Two squires and two damsels accompanied her, and they brought falcons and dogs for hunting.

When she saw them, she immediately recognized the dragon insignia on their arms and came very happily toward them. When she arrived, she greeted them with great humility, showing with signs that she was mute. They greeted her, and they thought she looked very beautiful and felt pity for her for being mute. She came to the knight with the gold helmet and embraced him, and wanted to kiss his hands, and soon invited them by signs to come as guests that night to her castle. But they did not understand, and she motioned to her squires to explain, and they did.

They good will in her, and because it was very late, they went with her in good faith, and had not traveled far before they arrived at a beautiful castle. Believing the damsel was very rich, since she was its lady, they entered and found that the staff received them humbly, as did other ladies and damsels, and they all honored the mute damsel as their lady.

They took their horses and led them up to a beautiful chamber about twenty cubits above the ground. They had them disarm, brought them rich capes to wear, and after having them converse with the mute damsel and other damsels, brought them dinner, and they were well served. The damsels went to their rooms but soon returned with many candles and well-tuned instruments to give them pleasure, and when it was time to sleep, they stopped playing and left.

In that chamber there were three very rich beds that the mute damsel had ordered made, and they each placed their arms next to their bed. They lay down and slept very peacefully, as those who had done hard work and were fatigued.

But while their spirits rested, their lives did not, due to the dangerous trap they had fallen into, which may be justly compared to the things of this world. Know ye that the chamber was made with trickery, and it was supported by an iron  pillar like a threaded beam that could be lowered like a screw. It was enclosed by another wooden pillar, and the room could be raised or lowered from beneath by turning a steel lever around it, for the chamber did not have its own walls. So when they awoke in the morning, they found themselves twenty cubits lower than they were when they entered the chamber.

We could compare this beautiful mute damsel to the world in which we live, which seems beautiful to us, and without mouth or tongue flatters and praises us, tempting us with many delights and pleasures, and without a single suspicion we follow her and embrace her. We forget the anguish and tribulations in the place that is being prepared for us after we have pursued and enjoyed these things. We sleep with restful dreams, and when we awake, having passed from life to death – although we ought to say from death to life, for being everlasting – we find ourselves in a great pit, now far away from the great mercy of the most high Lord, and no redemption in any form awaits us.

If these knights had redemption, it was because they still had life, and while alive, no one however evil or sinful he or she may be ought to lose hope for pardon by leaving aside vile deeds and instead acting in conformance with the service of the Lord, who can give them redemption.

Returning to the tale of these three knights, when they awoke and saw no hint of light and heard the footsteps of the people of the castle above them, they were surprised, and they got out of bed and groped for the door and windows. When they found them, they reached through them and touched the walls of the castle, so they knew they had been betrayed and fooled.

As they felt great grief to see themselves in such danger, high up in a window of the chamber appeared a large, muscular knight with a fearsome face whose beard and hair had more white hairs than black. He wore mourning clothes and a white cloth glove on his right hand that reached his elbow. He shouted:

“Who lies down there in such an ill place? Due to the great harm ye have done me, ye shall find not restraint and mercy but cruel and bitter deaths, and even with that I shall not be avenged for what I received from you in the battle with the traitorous King Lisuarte. Know that I am Arcalaus the Sorcerer, and if ye have never seen me, now ye shall know me, for no one has ever done me harm upon whom I did not avenge myself, except for one man whom I hope to have where you are now, to cut off his hands as he cut off one of mine, if I do not die first.”

And the damsel, who was at his side, said:

“Good uncle, that youth there is the one who wore the gold helmet.” And she pointed at Amadis.

When they learned that he was Arcalaus, they felt the terror of death as well as surprise at hearing speech from the mute damsel who had brought them there. And know ye that this damsel was named Dinarda, the daughter of Ardan Canileo, and she was skilled at evil. She had come to that land to use trickery to kill Amadis, and that was why she had pretended to be mute.

Arcalaus told them:

“Knights, I shall have your heads cut off in my presence and sent to King Aravigo to make some amends for your disservice to him.”

He left the window and had it closed, and the chamber was so dark they could not see each other. King Perion said:

“My good sons, we find ourselves shown one of the great turns of fortune. We survived a battle where so many knights fell, where we experienced so many dangers, and where we emerged with so much fame and glory, but who would have thought we would be fooled like this by a weak damsel without language or speech? Truly, it may seem amazing to those who place their hopes in worldly and perishable things without thinking of how little they are worth and how little they should be valued. But to us, who have been tested many times by experience, it ought not seem strange or grievous, because our chief cause is to seek adventure, both good and bad, and we ought to take them as they come, using our effort to resolve them, and those we cannot we must leave to the most high Lord in whom power is eternal. Thus, my sons, leaving aside the great sorrow that our humanity brings us, you for me, and even more me for you, let us leave it to God to resolve this so we may be in His greater service.”

His sons, who held their father’s devotion as greater than the menace and danger they were in, were joyous when they felt the great strength within him. They knelt and kissed his hands, and he blessed them. And, as ye hear, they passed the day without food or drink.

After Arcalaus had dined and part of the night had passed, he came to the window where they were, bringing two lit candles, Dinarda, and two old men. He ordered the window opened and said:

“Ye knights that lay there, I think ye would wish to eat if ye had something.”

“Happily,” Sir Florestan said, “if ye were to order it given to us.”

He said:

“If that were my will, may God take it from me. But I do not wish to leave you with nothing, so instead of food I will give you some news. Know that today, after night fell, two squires and a dwarf came to the gate of the castle and asked about the knights with the dragon insignia on their shields. I ordered them taken captive and put into a prison below you. Tomorrow I will find out from them who you are, or I will have them cut apart limb from limb.”

Know ye that what Arcalaus said was the truth. The men in the ship were concerned that the King and his sons had not returned, for the sea was ready for sailing, and decided that Gandalin, the dwarf, and Orfeo, the King’s butler, should look for them. They had been imprisoned as Arcalaus had said. This news weighed heavily on the King and his sons because they were in grave danger.

Amadis told Arcalaus:

“I am very certain that after ye know who we are, ye shall not do us such ill as before, because as ye are a knight and have much experience, what we did to help our friends would not seem wrong nor unseemly to you, just as we would have helped you if we had been on your side. And since we did rightly, we ought to be regarded better and treated with more honor now, although in battle we deserved the opposite. But by keeping us prisoners and treating us like this, ye do us no courtesy.”

“Who are you to dispute this?” Arcalaus said. “The honor I shall show you is the same I would show to Amadis of Gaul if I were to have him here, for of all the men in the world, he is the one I wish the worst and upon whom I wish to avenge myself the most.”

Dinarda said:

“Uncle, although you will send their heads to King Aravigo, do not kill them with hunger. Keep them alive because that way they will suffer more.”

“If that is how it seems to you, niece,” he said, “that is what I shall do.” Then he said, “Knights, tell me which troubles you more, hunger or thirst.”

“Well, to tell the truth,” they said, “although eating were more primary, thirst troubles us greatly.”

“Then,” Arcalaus said to the damsel, “niece, give them a salt-pork pastry so they cannot say we gave them no succor for their need.”

And he left along with the others. The damsel had seen that Amadis was very handsome, and knowing the great deeds of chivalry he had done in the battle, she was moved to pity for him and the other men. She put a flagon of water and a flagon of wine and a pastry in a basket, lowered it by a cord to give it to them and said:

“Take this and keep my secret, and if I can, ye shall not suffer.”

Amadis thanked her sincerely, and she left. With that they ate, lay down in their beds, and ordered their squires to keep their arms in good condition, for if they did not die of hunger, they would not give up their lives without great cost to their captors.


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