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To Escape His Doom
The Sardonyx Stone #1: An Adaptation of The Song of Roland
Anno Domini 778, Northern Spain
“Charles, King, our mighty ruler,
Has fought in Spain for seven long years,
And conquered that proud land down to the sea.
No castle there can resist him,
No wall or city remains to be brought down,
Except for Saragossa, upon the mountain.
There rules King Marsile, who loves not God;
A slave of Muhammed who beseeches Apollo.
He is unable to escape his doom.”
-From the Tale Sung by Turoldus
The Shaded Garden
King Marsile, whose stronghold was the mountaintop city of Saragossa, reclined in the ancient Greek style on a couch of blue marble. His entire army camped about the city, merely half the force mustered by Charles the Great, the Frankish conqueror, who has devoted the winter of his life to the subjugation of these God-devoted lands, seeking to bring them back under the pall of Christendom. Charles has spent his life as a tireless slayer of the enemies of his Faith, and Marsile senses the Frankish foot pressing upon his royal neck.
King Marsile summoned his head men, each of whom headed a contingent of his own warriors, which together comprised “his” army. He stated his belief that Charles was bent on their destruction, and that their forces were not sufficient enough to give battle. Furthermore, he did not believe that enough of the common people were loyal to his cause to order resistance to the Franks in the countryside with any hope of breaking down the invading army. Although he and his chief men practiced submission to God, and had since their grandfather’s time, the common people remained largely Christianized savages, and could not be counted on to resist the Christian invaders.
With his men gathered about for a council of war, he pleaded, “Counsel me, and protect me from the twin dooms of death and shame.”
King Marsile’s lords remained silent, shamefully consigning their leader to take the full weight of decision on his shoulders.
However, Blancandrin of the Castle of Valfunde, a brave man, renowned as the most cunning of his kind, hatches an elaborate plot and lays it before his king. He suggests surrendering to Charles, feigning conversion to Christianity, offering hostages, and paying off the invader, even offering to pitch the deception to Charles and give up his own son as a hostage. He swears by his right hand [strength] and his beard [wisdom] that such drastic actions are called for in dealing with a king as cruel and fierce as Charles, claiming that it would be better to have their sons beheaded in the royal halls at Aix, in France, than to suffer the loss of their lands, hinting that additional sons might be borne by their wives, but that conquest was irreversible.
The gathered head men agreed to the wisdom of Blancandrin’s plan, and Marsile sent them away with orders to take up olive branches as symbols of peace, saying, “I shall embrace Christianity, and become his slave. If he demands hostages, he will receive them.”
Blancandrin approved, “You will have an excellent pact.”
The plot of this story may well have inspired Robert E. Howard’s novelette The Scarlet Citadel, featuring a scheming sorcerer who essentially pitches Blancandrin’s plan.
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Add Comment
deuceJanuary 3, 2016 10:23 PM UTC

Cool post. While possibly an inspiration, REH never seemed to get that excited about Roland/the Matter of France. No stories or poems set during that period. However, there is a possible "Rolandic" inspiration by way of Harold Lamb's DURANDAL.

Glenn Lord wrote in the intro that REH almost for sure read the entire novel. Sir Hugh getting backstabbed by the Kothians...oops...Byzantines is very close to what we see in Howard's TSC.
responds:January 8, 2016 1:49 PM UTC

You area regular REH historian.

Thanks for checking out these reviews and adding to them.