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How Bradamante Conquered The Wizard







Many of you will remember reading of the death of Roland, fighting

against the Infidels in the Pass of Roncesvalles. Well, there is another

book called 'Roland the Wrathful,' or in Italian (in which it was

written), 'Orlando Furioso,' telling of the adventures of the great

Paladin when he was a young man, and those of his friends. It is of one

of these stories about a lady named Bradamante that you are going to

hear now.



* * * * *



From childhood, Bradamante had loved all feats of arms, and her chiefest

joy was to mount the most fiery horses in her father's stable. She grew

up very tall and strong, as well as fair to see, and soon put on man's

armour, and began to take her part in tournaments, and it was rare

indeed that she failed to carry off the prize. In truth, it was not long

before her skill was said to be equal to that of Roland's cousin, the

renowned Rinaldo.



* * * * *



Of course so wise and beautiful a maiden had no lack of wooers, but

Bradamante listened to none, save only to the brave Roger, who had

quitted the Moorish court to seek adventures in the lands of Charlemagne

the emperor. But she kept silence as to her love, and was content to

wait till such time as Roger should think fit to claim her as his bride.



Suddenly the tidings came to her that Roger had vanished from among men,

no one knew whither. As was her wont, Bradamante heard, and said

nothing, but the next morning she sharpened her sword, and looked to

the fastenings of her helmet, and rode off to seek him if perchance some

ill had befallen him.



In this quest she met with some adventures of her own, but of these we

have no time to tell. Bradamante, we may be sure, did not linger over

them, but pushed on till she crossed a mountain, and reached a valley

watered by a stream and shaded by large trees.



On the bank lay a young man with his head buried in his hands and

seemingly in a state of deepest misery. He had flung his horse's bridle

over the branch of a beech, and on the same bough he had hung his shield

and sword. His looks and posture were so forlorn that Bradamante was

moved to pity, and he himself was nothing loth to confess his woes,

pretending the while to take her for a man, though he knew well she was

a maiden. He was journeying, such was his tale, to the court of

Charlemagne with a company of spearmen to aid the emperor in the war he

was waging with the Moorish king of Spain. In the company was riding a

damsel whom the knight had but lately freed from the power of a dragon.

The beauty of this damsel had fired his heart, and as soon as the

Infidel was crushed he hoped to wed her. But as they rode along by the

side of a rapid river a winged horse guided by a man in black was seen

hovering in the air above the troop. Swifter than lightning he swooped

down upon the maiden; the rider bent low and snatched her off her

palfrey, and was out of sight in the heavens almost before he knew that

she was gone.



'Since that day,' continued he, 'I have sought her through forests and

over mountains, wherever I heard that a wizard's den was to be found.

But each time it was a false hope that lured me on, and now my horse is

spent and not another step can he go, though at length I know that

hidden among yonder rocks is my captive maiden.'



'If it is there she lies, I will free her,' cried Bradamante; but the

knight shook his head more grievously than before.



'I have visited that dark and dreadful place,' he said, 'which indeed I

think seems more like the valley of death than aught on this fair and

lovely earth. Amidst black and pathless precipices stands a rock, and on

its top is a castle whose walls are of steel. It was built, so I have

since learned, by a magician, and none can capture it.'



'But did you see no man who would take pity on you, and tell you what to

do?' asked Bradamante.



'As I lingered, unable to tear myself away from that loathly prison,

there appeared a dwarf guiding two knights whose faces I had often seen

upon the battlefield and at court. One was Gradasso king of Sericane,

the other and more valiant was the young Roger.'



'And what did they there?' asked Bradamante, casting down her eyes.



'They had come to fight the wizard who dwells in the castle, so said the

dwarf,' replied the knight, 'and I told them my sad tale, and they

answered in knightly fashion, that as long as their lives should last

they would fight for the freedom of my lady. Little need have I to tell

how my bosom was rent as I stood aside waiting for the combat to begin.



'Each good knight was eager that the first blow might fall to him, but

it was Gradasso who seized the horn and blew a blast which rang through

the castle.



'In a moment there shot into the sky the winged horse bearing his

master, clad as before in black armour. He hovered for a little space so

high that even the eagle could scarcely have followed him, then darted

straight downwards, and Gradasso felt a spear-thrust in his side. The

knight struck sharply back, but his sword cleft the empty air, for the

horse was already far out of reach. Roger ran to staunch the blood and

bind up the wound, never thinking of what might befall himself. But, in

truth, how could mortal men fight with a wizard who had studied all the

magic of the East, and had a winged horse to help him? His movements

were so swift that they knew not where to smite, and both Gradasso and

Roger were covered with wounds and bruises, while their enemy had never

once been touched.



'Their strength as well as their courage began to fail in the stress of

this strange warfare. The blows they dealt grew ever wilder and more

feeble, when from off his shield which hung upon his arm the wizard drew

a silken covering, and held the shield towards them as a mirror. As I

looked and wondered, behold the knights fell upon their faces, and I

also, and when next I opened my eyes I was alone upon the mountain.'



'And Roger?' said Bradamante.



'Roger and Gradasso had doubtless been carried by the wizard to the dark

cells of the prison, where my fair lady lies,' answered the knight, and

he again dropped his head upon his hands.



Now the knight was count Pinabello, the false son of a false race, and

woe betide the man or maid who trusted him. But this Bradamante knew

not, and thinking that the end of her quest was come cried joyfully:



'Oh, take me to the castle, sir knight, with all the speed you may, and

I shall be beholden to you for ever!



'If you so desire it I will lead you there,' answered the knight; 'but

remember that I have warned you that the danger is great! When you have

climbed those walls of steel, you will find yourself a prisoner like the

rest.'



'I care nothing for that,' said Bradamante.



* * * * *



So they set forth, but it was not by the road to the castle that

Pinabello led the maiden. Wrapped in his gloom begotten of treachery and

hate, he wandered from the path into a wood, where the trees grew so

thickly that the sky was scarcely visible. Then a dark thought entered

his mind. 'She shall trouble me no more,' he murmured as he went; and

aloud, 'The night is at hand, and ere it comes it were well that we

found a shelter. Rest, I pray you, here a short while, and I will climb

that hill and see if, as I expect, there is a tower not far off where we

can lie. To-morrow we will proceed on our way.'



'Let me go with you,' answered Bradamante, 'lest you should never find

_me_ again, or _I_ the wizard's castle,' and, so saying, she guided her

horse after his.



Thus they rode for some way, when Pinabello, who was in front, espied

among the rocks a deep cavern with sides so steep and smooth that no

mortal could have climbed them. He jumped off his horse and peered to

the bottom, but no bottom could he see. Then his heart leaped at the

thought that now, once and for all, he would be rid of Bradamante.



'Ah, good knight, you did well to follow me,' turning to greet her, as

her horse came panting up the steep hill.



'A damsel lies imprisoned in that dark place, and it is foretold that

only a knight with a white mantle and a white plume in his helm can

deliver her. Now I think that you must be that knight, and if you have

the courage to go down into that cavern as I went, you will get speech

of her, as I did.'



'I will go right willingly,' answered Bradamante, and looked about her

for some means of descending into the cavern. Near the mouth was a stout

oak, and Bradamante cut off a branch with her sword and plunged it down

the mouth of the cave. She gave Pinabello one end to hold fast, and

lowered herself carefully into the darkness.



'Can you jump?' asked the count suddenly, with a laugh, and, giving the

bough a push, it fell with Bradamante into the pit.



But the traitor triumphed without a cause. In the swift passage down the

cave the branch struck the bottom first, and, though it broke in pieces,

Bradamante was saved from being dashed against the floor, where she lay

for a while bruised and shaken.



When she became used to the darkness, she stood up and looked around

her. 'There may be some way out, after all,' thought she, noting that

the cave was less gloomy than she had fancied, and felt round the walls

with her hands. On one side there seemed to be a passage, and going

cautiously down it she found that it ended in a sort of church, with a

lamp hanging over the altar.



At this moment there opened a little gate, and through it came a lady,

bare-footed, with streaming hair.



'O Bradamante,' she said, 'long have I awaited you, for Merlin, who lies

here, prophesied before he entered this living tomb that ages hence you

would find your way hither. He bade me come from a far-distant land, and

be with you at the hour when his spirit, though dead, should tell of the

glories of the race that will spring from you and Roger.'



'I am not worthy of such honour,' answered Bradamante, casting down her

eyes, though her heart beat with joy at the thought that though she and

Roger might be parted now, yet in the end they would be united. 'Let my

lord speak, and I will hearken to him.'



At that a voice rose from the sepulchre where Merlin had lain buried for

many hundreds of years.



'Since it is decreed that you shall be the wife of Roger, take courage,

and follow the path that leads you to him. Let nothing turn you aside,

and suffer no adventure to ensnare you till you have overthrown the

wizard who holds him captive.'



The voice ceased, and Melissa, the kind magician who went through the

world seeking to set wrongs right, showed from a book the glories that

would attend the children of Bradamante.



'To-morrow at dawn,' she said when she had finished and put away the

magic scroll--'to-morrow at dawn I myself will lead you to the wizard's

castle. Till then it would be well for you to seek of the wisdom of

Merlin guidance to overcome the dangers bestrewing your path.'



Next morning Melissa and Bradamante rode out from the cavern by a secret

way, and passed over rushing rivers, and climbed high precipices, and as

they went Melissa held discourse with Bradamante how best to set Roger

free.



'No man, however brave, could withstand the wizard, who has his magic

mirror as well as his flying horse to aid him. If you would reach Roger,

you must first get possession of the ring stolen from Angelica by

Agramante, the African king, and given by him to Brunello, who is riding

only a few miles in front of us. In the presence of this ring all charms

and sorceries lose their power; but, take heed, for to outwit Brunello

is no easy task.'



'It is good fortune indeed that Brunello should be so near us,' answered

Bradamante joyfully; 'but how shall I know him from other men?'



'He is of low stature, and covered with black hair,' replied Melissa;

'his nose lies flat upon his face, and his skin is yellow, as the skin

of those who come from the far lands beyond Scythia. You must fall to

talking with him upon magic and enchantments, but beware lest he guess

who you are or what your business, and lead him on till he offer himself

your guide to the wizard's castle. As you go, strike him dead, before he

has time to spy into your heart, and, above all, before he can slip the

ring into his mouth. Once he does that, you lose Roger for ever.'






Having thus said, Melissa bade Bradamante farewell, and they parted with

tears and promises of speedy meeting. Forthwith Bradamante entered an

inn hard by, where Brunello was already seated, and if she at once

marked him amongst other men he no less knew her, for many a time he had

seen her at jousts and tourneys.



Thus, both feigning, they fell into talk, and held discourse upon the

castle and the knights who lay imprisoned therein. 'Many an adventure as

perilous have I dared,' at length said Bradamante, 'and never have I

failed to trample under foot my foe. So, if our worthy host will but

give me a guide, I myself will challenge this wizard to deadly combat.'



But Brunello would suffer no man to be her guide save himself, and

together they climbed the mountain till they stood at the foot of the

castle. 'Look at those walls of steel that crown the precipice,' began

Brunello; but before he could say more a strong girdle was passed round

his arms, which were fastened tightly to his side; and in spite of his

cries and struggles Bradamante drew the ring off his finger and placed

it on her own, though kill him she would not.



Then she seized the horn which hung from a cord, and, blowing a loud

blast, waited calmly for the magician to answer.



Out he came on his flying steed, bearing on his left arm his

silken-covered shield, while he uttered spells that had laid low many a

knight and lady. Bradamante heard them all, and was no whit the worse

for the blackest of them.



* * * * *



Furious at his defeat, the wizard snatched the cover from the shield,

and Bradamante, knowing full well what was wont to follow, sank heavily

on the ground. At this the wizard covered his shield once more, and

guided his steed swiftly to where the maiden lay. After that, unclasping

a chain from his body, he bent down to find her. It was then that she

lifted her ringed hand, and there stood before her an old man with white

hair and a face scarred with sorrow.



'Kill me, I pray you, gentle lady,' cried he; 'yet know before I die

that my love to Roger has been the cause of these heavy woes to so many

gallant knights and fair damsels. I am that Atlantes who watched over

him in childhood, and as he grew to manhood he was ever the first in all

deeds of chivalry. So reckless was he, that many a time it needed all my

magic to bring him back to life when seemingly he lay dead. At length,

to keep him from harm, I built this castle, and filled it with all that

was beautiful, and, as you know, with knights and ladies to be his

companions. When everything was ready I captured Roger himself.'



'Now, take my horse and shield, and throw open wide the castle doors--do

what you will, but leave me only Roger.'



The heart of Bradamante was not wont to be deaf to the sorrows of

others, but this time it seemed turned to stone.



'Your horse and shield I have won for myself,' she said; 'and have you

lived so long in the world without learning that it is idle to war

against fate? It is fate which has given you into my hands, and it is

useless to strive against it. Therefore, lead the way to the gate, and I

will follow.'



They climbed in silence the long flight of steps leading to the castle;

then Atlantes stooped and raised a stone on which was graven strange and

magic signs. Beneath the stone was a row of pots filled with undying

flames, and on these the wizard let the stone fall. In a moment there

was a sound as if all the rocks on the earth were rent, the castle

vanished into the air, and with it Atlantes.



Instead, a troop of knights and ladies stood before Bradamante, who saw

and heard none save only Roger.





Next: The Ring Of Bradamante

Previous: How The Ass Became A Man Again



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