When once the youth had been made a knight by the sultan of Babylon, and had slain the black king, he set off by himself in quest of other adventures, desiring greatly to see the world. For the next few years the young man wandered from court to court, fighting giants and delivering enchanted damsels, till at last his feet led him to a kingdom where Rosiclair his brother happened to be.
Now Rosiclair was scarcely a whit behind the Knight of the Sun in manly deeds, and not long before had done such good service to the king of England that Olive, the king’s daughter, had, at her father’s bidding, clasped a collar of gold around his neck, and held out to him a crown studded with jewels. Rosiclair bent gladly to receive the collar, and then taking the crown from the hands of the princess he placed it on her head.
‘Lady, I am evermore your knight,’ said he.
This tale and many others had come to the ears of the Knight of the Sun, and he longed to see his brother again, and to break a lance with him in good fellowship, but some time had yet to pass before they met, and then it fell out in this wise. After the combat in the lists in London, where Rosiclair had cut off the arms of the giant Candramarte, the giant’s daughter had brought him by her wiles to the island in which lay her father’s castle.
No sooner had he stepped on shore than the damsel pushed off, crying as she did so to her brothers and their knights to avenge the giant’s wounds. In a moment all the little island was alive with men, whirling lances or swords or axes above their heads, and all pressing forward to the spot where Rosiclair awaited them. Luckily he had time to place himself with the sea at his back, so that he could not be attacked from behind, and, covering himself with his shield, stood ready.
Never was there such a dreadful fight, and Rosiclair seemed to have a hundred arms, and to be able to strike fifty ways at once. He hardly knew himself what he did, so great was the stress of battle, but hour by hour the ground slowly reddened round him, and there looked to his dimming eyes to be fewer men in front. But by this time his strength was fast failing him, and he felt he could not hold out much longer. A mighty blow from an axe made him reel, and well-nigh fall; another such, and he would be rolling on the sand among the dead men lying at his feet. Suddenly the upraised axe flew from the hand of the giant in front, and with a cry that echoed through the island he fell backwards on the shore.
Rosiclair was still too hard beset to turn and see from whom help had come, but he took fresh courage and his sword no longer hit so wildly as before. The other sword was even stronger and surer than his own, and soon the few men who were left alive ran off and took refuge within the gates of the castle.
Then the two knights looked at each other.
‘Who are you, and whence do you come?’ asked Rosiclair. ‘I owe you my life this day.’
‘I am called the Knight of the Sun,’ replied the other; ‘this shining star upon my breast has given me my name. And I come from wandering over the seas in a little boat that just holds me and my horse. I descried you from afar, and hastened to your help. Of a truth, it is the noblest fight that ever I saw.’
Now, when Rosiclair had seen the emblem of the sun on the new knight’s breast he wondered if this might indeed be his brother. But being warned by his mother not to hold converse with strangers concerning private matters, he began to tell of the fight with Candramarte in the lists of London, when a cry from the sea caused them both to turn. On the prow of a boat stood the giant’s daughter, pointing with her forefinger at the bodies which lay upon the shore.
‘O cruel and bloody wolves,’ she called, ‘the ocean will give me the pity which I have been denied both by heaven and earth. And the god of storms will avenge me.’ With that she jumped into the sea, but, instead of sinking, was held up by the waves. This the Knight of the Sun beheld, and, forgetting the evil she had done, jumped into his boat, and pushed off to her aid before Rosiclair had time to get in after him. However, the Knight of the Sun was never able either to reach the damsel or to return to his brother, for a furious wind sprang up, which drove him before it, in some direction that he did not know.
In his hurry to reach the side of Rosiclair, the Knight of the Sun had forgotten to place his oars in the bottom of the boat, but just left them loose in their holes, so that they had floated away; now he had no means of directing his course, but was forced to go wherever the waves took him. For many days he drifted past the shores of strange countries and saw from afar the gleam of white cities, but though he fain would have landed, he could not, but was bound to remain where his adventure carried him. At length, to the joy of his heart, the boat stopped of its own accord on the beach of a beautiful island, and the young man once more felt soft grass under his feet, and heard the sound of trickling streams. Close by was a forest, and from between the bushes peeped the heads of little goats and tiny deer, all gazing with wonder at the stranger. From the look of the place it was plain that seldom indeed did man come to disturb their lives, and the Knight of the Sun felt he must go further inland if he wished to meet with any adventures. So, breaking through the creepers which hung from tree to tree, he struggled on bravely, and at last the trees grew less thickly, and he came out upon a wide open space in front of a big castle.
This castle was quite different from any he had seen, either in Babylon or in the other countries he had visited. It seemed to be made of nothing but towers, and every tower had a steep pointed roof, so high that you would have thought it reached up to heaven itself. In the tower nearest him was a door of shining steel, and on top of a row of steps above it was a column, from which hung a horn of ivory edged with gold. Under the horn some words were cut deep into the column, and mounting the steps the knight read:
‘This is the castle of the peerless Lindarasse, whose door will never open save to him who blows the horn. Yet let him beware who seeks to blow it, for if the door should open he will find it is guarded by fierce and cruel porters, and his life will pay for his rash curiosity.’
The Knight of the Sun laughed out at the thought that any such threats could stop his going wherever he pleased, and, seizing the horn, blew so powerful a blast that the sound rang through the whole island. In an instant the gates of steel burst open, and between them stood a giant with an iron club in one hand, and in the other a chain which was fastened round the neck of a serpent. Now in all the world there was no serpent more horrible than this, for it did not wriggle along the ground as serpents generally do, but advanced erect, its head higher than a man seated on a horse, while it trailed besides a tail ten feet behind it. At the sight of the young man it lashed its tail so violently that the earth trembled as if with an earthquake, while its forky tongue darted in and out with a deafening hissing noise.
The few knights who had dared to blow the horn had been so frightened at this terrible creature that they had stood as if frozen, and thus the giant killed them with his club without any trouble. He, of course, expected this knight to behave like the rest, but to his surprise the young man remained quietly where he was. Then the giant dropped the chain and the snake began to mount the steps, opening its mouth wide enough to swallow a man and showing its long and yellow fangs. The Knight of the Sun swung his sword in the air and let it fall on the serpent’s neck with a force that seemed as if it must have severed its head from its body; but to his amazement the weapon bounded back as if it had been made of wood, though the snake was for the moment half stunned and was unable to throw itself on its prey. However, in another moment it had reared itself high and was preparing to fling itself forward, when the knight leaped behind the column and from its shelter struck again at the serpent’s head. This time the horrible creature sank to the ground, though the sword glanced off harmlessly without penetrating its skin; but it became more angry than before, and glided rapidly towards the column, hoping to seize his enemy in his gaping jaws. The giant meanwhile stood planted, club in hand, at the bottom of the steps, ready to receive the young man when the serpent should have done with him.
It was not long before this happened. The Knight of the Sun was so intent watching the movements of the head of his horrible foe, that he forgot everything else till a violent blow from the serpent’s tail cast him to the ground and sent him rolling down the steps to the place where the giant stood. Before he could raise himself, the iron staff had split his helmet in pieces, and, as it seemed, his skull with it. Luckily for him, the giant felt sure he must be dead, and thus the knight was enabled to lie still for some minutes till his senses and his strength came back to him, and, springing to his feet, he snatched his sword from its sheath and sent half of the giant’s body flying one way and half the other. But before he was able to rejoice at having slain one foe the serpent was upon him for a second time. The knight had proved that the sword was useless against it, so seizing the club of the dead giant he struck such a blow that its head fell in pieces.
Then he took the ivory horn, and entered the door of the first tower. As soon as the Knight of the Sun reached the second tower, he found it was shut by a door of steel, just as the first had been. He sounded a blast on his horn, and the door flew open with a grating and horrible noise, which might have filled the heart of the bravest with terror, and another giant stepped forth, no less horrible to look upon than his brother, with a club in one hand and a huge chained lion in the other. The great beast was larger than any bull that ever was seen, and each of its nails was as long as the foot of a man. Directly its chain was loosed, the lion reared itself up and sprang upon the knight, who awaited it as calmly as if it had been only a sheep. But after the fight with the serpent the attack of the lion seemed quite easy to parry, and, without pausing till they came together, the young man turned nimbly aside and felled him to the earth with the iron staff. After that he turned to meet the giant.
This time the battle was soon over, for the giant, like many very big people, was heavy and clumsy, and the Knight of the Sun stepped past his dead body to the third gate, which flew open at the blast of his horn. Behind it stood a fresh giant taller than the last, and all covered with thick wiry hair, that looked as if it would resist the keenest sword-blade which had ever been forged in Damascus. The young knight felt much more afraid of him than of the two tigers which he held on a chain, and which showed their teeth and snarled wickedly. But before long the knight had stretched them both on the ground, and summoned all his strength for the struggle with the giant.
This was much harder than any he had fought yet. The wiry hair turned the edge of his sword, and he felt he might almost as well try to cut through a fence of iron. Besides, in spite of his great height, this giant was much quicker of eye and of hand than the last, and several times the young champion was brought to his knees, though he rose again before his enemy could deal him a second blow. At length the Knight of the Sun noticed a place on the giant’s neck where the hair seemed less thick than on the rest of his body, and, dropping his sword, he seized his dagger and drove it home.
Thus, step by step, fighting giants and beasts every inch of the way, the Knight of the Sun at last reached the hall of the castle, where the emperor Trebatius sat by the side of the fair Lindarasse. The spells she had woven round him were so strong, that for years he had not only never been outside the castle walls, but had ceased to wish to see the world again. But, powerful though Lindarasse might be, the Knight of the Sun did not fear to meet her, as before he had left Babylon the wise Lyrgander had given him a ring, which preserved him from all enchantments.
At the entrance of the young man the fair Lindarasse looked up; she knew who he was and why he had come.
‘What is the matter, Wonder of the World?’ asked the emperor Trebatius, raising his head from her lap, where it had been resting.
‘I am a dead woman, my good lord,’ answered she, ‘unless you will slay me that knight who has forced his way into my castle.’
These words filled the emperor with fury, and the spirit awoke within him from its long sleep.
‘I will teach him manners,’ he said grimly, and stalked proudly to the gallery where his arms had hung for many a day.
Meanwhile the fair Lindarasse, who, in spite of her haughty bearing, bore a sinking heart, tried both by threats and soft words to persuade the Knight of the Sun to leave the castle.
‘Not till the emperor goes with me!’ he answered steadily. ‘You took him from his wife, and if you will not give him back to her I will take him.’
And Lindarasse ground her teeth, and held her peace for a few moments. Then she broke into tears and sobs, thinking to move him by these means; but this method fared no better than the other.
Thus were they standing when the emperor entered the hall, armed cap-à-pie.
Now the knight knew that Trebatius’s skill in fight had grown rusty from want of use, and that as long as he remained inside the castle the spells which the fair Lindarasse had woven round him would weaken his arm and confuse his head. So the youth refrained from striking, and with his shield and sword defended himself the while from the blows which the emperor dealt in all directions — for his hand no longer followed his eye. And all the while the Knight of the Sun stepped gently backwards, drawing Trebatius with him till, after twenty years, the emperor stood outside the walls, and the enchantment fell from him like a cloak. Then with a rush the remembrance of his wife, the princess Briane, came back to him, and in that very moment, though he knew it not, the fair Lindarasse fell dead in the place where he had left her. For, evil as she was, she had loved him truly, and felt that he had gone from her for ever.
So Trebatius was set free by his son, and became a man once more. And the two journeyed back towards Hungary, to the monastery where the princess Briane still lived. But on the road an adventure claimed the Knight of the Sun, so that the emperor alone stood before his wife, whose heart was almost broken with joy at the sight of him.
As for their two sons, the Knight of the Sun and his brother Rosiclair, who was also known as the Knight of Love, no such deeds had been wrought as were done by them since the days of Lancelot and the Round Table.
[L’Histoire Admirable du Chevalier du Soleil. Traduite de l’Espagnol par Louis Douet.]
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Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:57