Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Chapter 130 [part 2 of 5]

[How Amadis and Grasandor reached the Peak of the Enchanting Damsel, and what happened to them there.] 

[The ruins of Larisa Castle in Argos, Greece. Photo by Ronny Siegel.]

Now the story says that Amadis and Grasandor left on a Monday morning from the great Island of the Vermilion Tower, where the mighty giant named Balan was lord. And Amadis asked Nalfon, Madasima’s majordomo, to give him one of his men to guide him to the Peak of the Enchanting Damsel. Nalfon said he would be pleased to do so, and if he wished to climb the peak, it was a good time to do so because it was the coldest part of winter. And he said if Amadis were to order Nalfon to come with him, he would gladly do so.

Amadis thanked him and told him it would not be necessary, and he would let him do as he had already been ordered, for a single guide would suffice.

“In the name of God,” the majordomo said, “and may He guide you and help you in this and everything else ye undertake, just as He has done until now.”

Then they bid each other goodbye, and the majordomo went on his way to Anteina, and Amadis and Grasandor sailed out to sea with their guide. They traveled fully five days at sea and did not spot the peak, although the weather was very favorable. On the sixth day in the morning they saw it rising so high that it seemed to touch the clouds. They sailed until they were at its foot, and they found there a ship at the shore with no one in it, which surprised them, but they believed that someone who had climbed the peak had left it there.

Amadis said to Grasandor:

“My good lord, I wish to climb up that peak and see what the majordomo told us about, if it is as he said, and I ask you, although ye may be anxious, to wait for me here until tomorrow night when I should be able to come here or make some signal from up there about how I am doing. And if at this time or on the third day I do not return, ye may believe that my situation is not going well, and ye may decide to do what ye most please.”

Grasandor told him:

“I am very sorry, my lord, that ye do not consider me someone whose courage is sufficient to withstand whatever confrontation it may face, even death, especially finding myself in your company, for your excess courage could very well supply whatever I lack. Whether this expedition may go well or badly, I wish to be a part of it.”

Amadis embraced him, laughing, and said:

“My lord, do not take what I said that way, for ye know very well that I am a witness to the fact that your courage is sufficient. If ye please, then, it shall be done as ye say.”

Then they ordered that they be given something to eat, and it was done. And when they had eaten enough for such a great climb on foot, for it was impossible by horse, they took all their arms except their lances and they began hiking up the path, which was carved into the rock all the way to the top, but which was very difficult to climb. And so they went for a great portion of the day, at times walking and often resting, for it was very laborious due to the weight of their weapons and armor.

Halfway up the peak they found a house like a hermitage made of stone, and in it an image like an metal idol with a great crown on its head of the same metal, and it held a great gilt square of that metal at its chest, which it grasped in both hands as if it was embracing it. On it were inscribed some very large and well-made letters in Greek that could easily be read, although they were from the time when the Enchanting Damsel was there, which was more than two hundred years earlier.

The damsel was from the city of Argos in Greece and the daughter of a man named Finetor, who was wise in all the arts, especially in the ones regarding good and black magic. She turned out to be of such a subtle ingenuity that she embarked on learning those arts and succeeded in such a way that she mastered them much better than her father or anyone else had in those days. And she came to dwell on that peak as has been told. The way she did that, this story shall not recount because it would be too prolix and would stray too far from our purpose.

When Amadis and Grasandor entered the hermitage, they sat to rest on a stone bench in it, and after a while they stood to look at the image, which seemed very beautiful. They studied it for a long time and saw the words, and Amadis began to read them, for while he was traveling in Greece he learned how both to speak and read Greek, and he was mostly taught by the doctor Elisabad when they were traveling by sea, who also taught him the language of Germany and other lands, which he knew well, for he was wise in all the arts and had traveled to many provinces.

And the letters said:

“In the time when the great island shall flourish and shall be ruled by a powerful King, and the island shall rule over many other kings and famous  knights throughout the world, there shall be united as one the height of arms and the flower of beauty who in their time shall have no peer. And from them shall come he who will pull the sword with which his order of knighthood shall be fulfilled, and the mighty stone doors shall be opened that enclose within them the great treasure.”

When Amadis had read them, he said to Grasandor:

“My lord, did you read those words?”

“No,” he said, “because I do not know the language in which they are written.”

Amadis told him everything they said, and they seemed to be an ancient prophesy, and he did not think it would be fulfilled by either of them in that adventure, although he believed that he and his lady Oriana might be the two who would engender the knight who would accomplish it, but he said nothing about that.

And Grasandor told him:

“If ye cannot do it, for ye are the son of the best knight in the world who in all his time has held and maintained the greatest height of arms, and of the Queen who from what I have heard was one of the most beautiful in her time, a long while will pass before it is fulfilled. So let us climb the peak and see and test everything there. If it is a strange thing for others to accomplish such a great adventure, it would be much stranger if ye were not to do so. And if that were to happen, I would see what no one has been able to see in your time.”

Amadis laughed deeply and did not respond, but he realized that what he had said meant little, because neither the skill of his father at arms nor the beauty of his mother came close to equaling that of himself and Oriana. And he said:

“Let us climb, and if it is possible, we may reach the top before nightfall.”

Then they left the hermitage and began the laborious climb, for the peak was very tall and steep. It took them so long that before they reached the top, night overtook them, so they had to remain beneath an overhang, where they spent the entire night speaking about past events and mostly about their beloved wives, whom they held in their hearts, and the other ladies who were with them. And Amadis said that if he were not afraid of the anger and rage of his lady, when they climbed down the peak they should go to help Sir Cuadragante, Sir Bruneo, Agrajes, and their other friends.

Grasandor told him:

“I would also wish to do so, but not at this time because since ye left Firm Island so precipitously and I in such a hurry came to find you, if we were to spend time there, we would cause great sadness and suffering to your lady, especially since she would not know that I found you. So I would prefer to go to see her before going anywhere that was not necessary. And meanwhile we will hear more news about the knights ye speak of, and we will be able to make a better decision. If they need our help, we can do so going with a greater company of men.”

“So it shall be done,” Amadis said, “and we should go by Prince Island, and there we should get a ship for one of your squires to take my letter to the giant Balan in which I shall ask him to send a message from his island to where Sir Cuadragante and the others are, so that at Firm Island, where we will be waiting, we will promptly be advised of what they are doing.”

“That would be very good,” Grasandor said.

So they remained below the overhang, at times talking and at times sleeping, until day came, when they began to climb up what little remained. When they reached the top, they looked all around and saw a very wide plain with many ruined houses, and in the middle of the plain some very large palaces, most of them collapsed. They immediately went to look at them and came to a very beautiful stone arch with a perfectly made stone statue over it of a damsel. In her right hand she held a quill made of the same stone as if she were about to write, and in her left hand, a placard with Greek letters that said:

“True wisdom is that which is of more use with the gods than with men, and other wisdom is vanity.”

Amadis read those letters and told Grasandor what they said, and he added:

“If wise men knew about the gift they receive from God in granting them so much of His grace that many other men might be ruled, advised, and governed by them, and if they wished to use their wisdom to take care to keep their souls away from that which could hinder their clarity and purity, as the Lord most high shall do in the world to come, how blessed would they be and how fruitful and useful would be their wisdom! But as our wicked inclination and condition generally makes us be to the contrary, we use the wisdom that was given to us for our salvation on things that promise us perishable honors, delights, and worldly advantage, which causes us to lose the other, endless, eternal world, just as this unfortunate damsel did who exhibited in these few words such great adages and doctrines. Although her judgement was gifted and endowed with all the most subtle arts, she knew how to benefit from and understand little of her great wisdom. But let us cease to speak more of this now, for wandering as they did in the past, we would go where they went. Let us instead continue on to see what happens to us.”

So they passed beneath that arch and entered a great courtyard where there were some fountains for water, and next to them there seemed to be what were once great buildings that were now in ruins, and the houses that were once around them no longer seemed to be homes, instead merely stone walls that storms had not been able to wear away. And between those buildings they found many caves sheltering dragons, and they thought they would not be able to find what they were seeking without some great confrontation. But it was not so, for none of the dragons nor any other thing stopped them.

So they entered the houses in front of them, holding up their shields with their helmets on their heads and their bare swords in their hands. Having passed through the courtyard, they entered a great hall with an arched roof, and the strength of the mortar and stone had protected it for so many years that they were able to observe much of its fine workmanship. At the end of that hall they saw some stone doors closed so tightly that nothing within could be seen, and where they were joined, a sword was thrust up to its hilt.

They immediately realized it was the enchanted chamber where the treasure was. They studied the hilt’s decorations carefully, but they could not determine what it was made of, so oddly was it fashioned, especially the pommel and the cross-guard, for what was the hand grip seemed to be of bone as transparent as crystal, and as bright and red as a fine ruby. They also saw on the right hand door seven letters deeply carved as red as fresh blood, and on the other side were other letters much whiter than the stone, and were in Latin, and which said:

“In vain will labor the knight who tries to draw the sword from here by his own courage or strength if he is not the one who on his chest bears the letters shown on the face of the other door, and which matches those seven letters bright as fire. For that man the sword has been protected by she who through her great wisdom came to know that neither in her time nor for a long time afterwards would come anyone equal.”

When Amadis saw this, he gazed at the red letters and immediately remembered the ones his son Esplandian had on the left side of his chest, and thought that because he would become the finest knight of all including himself, that adventure awaited him alone. He said to Grasandor:

“What do you make of those letters?”

“It seems to me,” he said, “that I fully understand what the white ones say, but I cannot read the red ones.”

“I also cannot,” Amadis said, “although I believe that I have already seen others like them, and I think ye have seen them, too.”

Then Grasandor looked at them more closely than before and said:

“Holy Mary help me! These are the same as the ones your son has, so he is granted this adventure. Now I tell you that ye shall leave here without accomplishing it, and blaming yourself for having created someone who is more worthy than ye are.”

Amadis told him:

“My good friend, when we read the letters on the tablet that the image held in the hermitage we visited, I thought about what ye have just said. And because I do not believe myself to be as good as what it says about he who will engender that knight, I did not dare to say that. Now these letters make be believe what you just said.”

Grasandor said, laughing and with good will:

“Let us descend from here and return to our companions, for it seems to me that in a certain way we are taking honor and victory from this voyage. Let that young man begin to ascend to where ye shall descend.”

And so they both left, enjoying each other’s company. When they had left the great palaces, Amadis said:

“Let us see if that enchanted chamber has some other place where by some artifice it could be entered.”

Then they walked around the part of the palace where the chamber was, and they found that it was all of one stone without any joint at all.

“This has been made to protect it very well,” Grasandor said. “We ought to leave it to its owner, so that in place of this sword that ye came to win ye do not leave yours that ye won with so many sighs and so much care and great affliction to your spirit.”

Grasandor said this because Amadis had won his sword as the best and most loyal lover in his time, which he could not have achieved without having placed his spirit in much fierce anguish, as the second book of this story relates.

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