The Meeting Of Huon And Oberon King Of The Fairies





In the days of the emperor Charles the Great there lived two young men

named Huon and Gerard, sons of the duke of Bordeaux and heirs of his

lands. Now by all the rules of chivalry they were bound to hasten to

Paris as soon as their father died and do homage to the emperor as their

liege lord; but, like many other youths, they were careless of their

duties, and put off the long and tedious journey from day to day.



This conduct was particularly foolish, because there was present at the

emperor's court the famous earl Amaury, who, rich though he was, coveted

the estates of the duke of Bordeaux, and whispered in the ear of his

master that the young men were rebels and traitors. By this time Charles

was old, and his mind, as well as his body, had waxed feeble; the crown

was too heavy for him, and he was thinking of resigning it to his son

Charlot. So Amaury cunningly represented to him that he must summon the

young men to his court without delay, and then himself plotted with

Charlot to waylay and kill them. But, though they made their plans with

great care, fortune was on the side of Huon and Gerard, for they

defended themselves so bravely that, though they were taken by surprise,

Gerard only received a slight wound, while Charlot was slain by Huon.



When Amaury returned to Paris with these dreadful tidings, the emperor

was beside himself with anger, and ordered Amaury to fight a duel with

Huon, who was the elder of the two, and bid him take heed not to spare

him. As Huon was young and slight, and Amaury one of the strongest men

at the court, neither the emperor nor the earl ever had a moment's doubt

with whom the victory would lie; but if Amaury was more powerful, Huon

was quicker on his feet, and before long he had stretched his enemy dead

upon the ground.



The emperor was watching the fight from a window of his palace, and his

anger at the triumph of Huon was so great that it very near killed him.

Still, as the duel had been fairly fought, he dared not punish Huon, and

he was forced to content himself with sending him on a mission to the

king of Babylon, knowing well the perils which would beset him on the

way.



The small vessel in which Huon sailed for Jerusalem met with so many

dangers that oftentimes the young duke thought that he would be dead

long before he had touched the shores of Palestine. Thrice they were

attacked by pirates, who were hardly beaten off; twice such terrible

storms arose that they were almost driven on the rocks, and once they

had much ado to avoid being drawn into a whirlpool. But somehow or other

they escaped everything, and Huon was safely landed on the holy soil

with his uncle Garyn and a few followers.



* * * * *



He was at first so thankful to be on dry land again that he felt as if

his journey was already over, but he soon found that the worst part was

yet to come. Leaving Jerusalem behind them, the little band entered a

desert, dreary and boundless as far as they could see. Hunger and thirst

they suffered, and death felt very near them, when at last they reached

a tiny hut, before which an old man was sitting. At the sight of Huon,

thin and wasted as he had grown, the old man broke into sobs, crying

that his face was like unto the face of the duke of Bordeaux, whom he

had known when he was young.



'Thirty years have I dwelt in these deserts,' said he, 'and never have

my eyes lighted on the face of a Christian man.'



Then Huon answered that he was indeed the son of the duke of Bordeaux

whom he had known in his youth, and while they rested each man told his

tale.



'It is indeed good fortune that guided you here,' said Gerames when Huon

had ended his story, 'for without me and my counsel never would you have

reached the kingdom of Babylon. There are two roads which lead to that

great city; one will take you forty days, and the other fifteen days,

but if you will be ruled by me you will travel by the longer.'



'And wherefore?' asked Huon, whose body was still sore from the

hardships he had suffered, and whose ears had been tickled with the

tidings of the soft couches and lovely gardens of Babylon the Great.



'The short way leads through a wood which is the home of fairies and

other strange creatures,' answered Gerames, 'and in it dwells Oberon,

the king of them all, in stature no higher than a child of three years

old, but with a face more beautiful than any worn by mortal man. His

voice is softer and his words more sweet than we are wont to use; but

beware of listening to them, for should you speak to him one word, you

will fall into his power for ever. But if you hold your peace think not

to escape that way, for he will be so wroth with you that he will cause

all manner of tempests to spring up, and a great and black river to rise

before you. Fear not to pass this river, black and swift though it be,

for it is but a fantasy, and will not even wet the feet of your horse.

And now that I have told you the ills that lie in that wood, I pray you

hearken to my counsel, and ride by the way that is longer.'



Huon paused before he answered. In sooth, Gerames' words had not

awakened dread in his soul. Instead, he desired greatly to meet that

dwarf, and to try whose will should prove strongest. So he answered that

it would ill become a knight, and the son of his father, to shun a

meeting with anyone, be he man or fairy, and it might be well for him to

take the short road, for many adventures might befall him by the longer.



'Sir,' said Gerames, 'be it as you will; whichever way you take I will

go with you.'



Then Huon and Gerames rode at the rear of their company, and entered the

wood where Oberon, king of the Fairies, abode. For two days they had

neither food nor drink, and Huon repented him of his journey and wished

that he had hearkened to Gerames, as perchance the other road might have

been easier.



'Let us all alight and seek for food,' said he; but at that moment,

Oberon, richly dressed, and covered with precious stones, appeared

before them. A magic bow was in his hand, whose arrows never failed to

hit the beast he aimed at, while round his neck was slung a horn. Now

this horn was unlike any other in the whole world, for one blast of it

could cure a man's sickness, even if he was nigh to death, or make him

feel satisfied if he lacked meat, or joyful though he was poor, or

summon whomsoever he wanted, if he was distant a hundred days' journey.



Seeing the doleful plight of the little company, Oberon blew the third

blast, and, behold! Huon and his companions began to sing and dance, as

if good fortune had come to them.



'Ah, what strange thing has come to pass!' cried the young knight. 'But

now I was like to fall from my horse from hunger, but in an instant I am

filled and wish for nothing.'



'Sir,' said Gerames, 'it is Oberon who has wrought this; but do not

suffer yourself to be drawn into speech with him, or you will rue it.'



'Have no fears for me,' answered Huon, 'I will be steadfast.'






He held his head very high when Oberon the dwarf came up, and begged

the knight to speak to him; but Huon only leaped on his horse and signed

to his men to do likewise. At that the dwarf waxed angry, and bade a

tempest arise, and with it came such a rain and hail that they were sore

affrighted. Many times Gerames prayed them to take courage, for these

were devices of the fairy king, and would not really hurt them, and as

long as they spoke no words they would be safe.



'Have no doubt of me,' answered Huon.



For a while they lost sight of the dwarf, and Huon vainly hoped that

they had beaten him off, and that they were rid of him. But in a little

time they reached a bridge which spanned a great river, and on the

bridge was Oberon himself. Fain would they have slipped past him, but

the bridge was narrow, and Oberon stood in the middle. Once more he

spoke soft words to Huon, and offered to do him service, but Huon held

his peace. Again Oberon was angered sorely, and blew a blast which

hindered the company from riding onwards, while four hundred knights of

his own came galloping up.



'Slay these men at once,' he cried, shaking with wrath, but their leader

implored him to spare them for a space.



'It will be time enough to kill them if they still keep silence,' said

he; and Oberon agreed that he would give them yet another chance, and

Huon and his companions rode hastily onwards.



* * * * *



'We have left him full five miles behind us,' said Huon, drawing rein;

'and now that he is not here to trouble us I will say that never in my

life did I see so fair a creature. Nor do I think he can do us any ill.

If he should come again, I fain would speak to him, and I pray you,

Gerames, not to be displeased with me thereat.'



Gerames' heart was heavy at these words, but he knew well the wilfulness

of young men, and he answered nothing. For fifteen days they rode on,



and Gerames began to hope that Oberon had given up their pursuit, when

suddenly he again appeared.



'Noble sir,' he said to Huon, 'have you resolved in good sooth not to

speak to me? I know all your past life, and the task set you by the

emperor, and without my help never will you come to the end of that

business. Therefore, be warned by me, and go no further.'



'You are welcome, sir,' answered Huon at last, and Oberon laughed for

very joy.



'Never did you give a greeting so profitable as this one,' he said, and

they rode on together.





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