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‘Slain or Brought to Christ’
The Sardonyx Stone #2: The Message from King Marsile, verses 8-10
“The emperor is full of joy;
He has taken Cordoba its walls shattered,
And demolished its towers with catapults;
His men have taken much loot,
Gold, silver and costly weapons.
No Saracen was left in the city
Who had not been slain or brought to Christ.”
-From the Tale Sung by Turoldus
The Spacious Garden
Charles the Great, King of Fair France, his beard white, his hair become wintry, sits in a spacious garden, beneath a pine tree, beside a wild thorny bush, upon his golden throne of State. He is fierce to look upon and people who do so fear him, anyone who seeks him having no need for a guide to point him out.
He and his companions are in the midst of an army of 15,000 men, many mercenaries. Knights sit on white silk brocade amusing themselves with games of backgammon. The wise old men play chess. Nimble young warriors practice fencing. These were men or war, warriors from youth to their last day.
The King’s companions are Duke Samson, Anseis the Fierce, Geoffrey of Anjou who is the King’s standard bearer and Gerin and Gerer as well. Foremost among the King’s companions is Roland, his nephew, and his own companion, Oliver.
Blancandrin, the Saracen lord, arrives at the head of nine mounted horsemen, all lordly messengers from King Marsile, bearing olive branches of peace, and expressing good will. After the ten messengers dismount, Balcandrin addresses Charles:
“May God, the Glorious One, who we must adore, protect you. King Marsile, the valiant, sends you this message: He has sought long for the faith that brings salvation and wants to make you gifts from his treasury, bears, lions, chained hounds, seven hundred camels and a thousand moulted hawks, four hundred gold and silver laden mules and fifty carts for you to haul the noble beasts away.
“You will have enough gold bezants to reward your hired soldiers well. You have been in this country a long time; you should return to Aix in France. To there, My Lord says, he will follow you.”
Charles stretched out his hands to God in heaven, lowering his head in contemplation. The emperor kept his head bowed. Not being a man of ill-considered words, he had the habit of speaking in a leisurely way. When he looked up his face was etched with menace, fearsome.
He regarded the messengers and, being the Emperor, addressed them in a body:
“You spoke well. King Marsile is my sworn foe. How can I place confidence in the words you have just spoken?”
Only Balcandrin replied, “He offers hostages. You may have ten, fifteen or twenty, as many as you choose. Even if it means his doom, I will send a son of mine, a noble boy, the best you will have. My Lord says he will follow you to your royal palace. At the great festival of Saint Michael of the Peril, he will take baptism in your sacred baths. It is his wish to become a Christian.”
Emperor Charles, King of France, who had ravaged Spain for seven long years, looked grimly at Balcandrin, obviously the mind behind the master that he had long striven against, and said, in a tone low and grim, “He may be Brought to God, yet.”
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