Aucassin and Nicolette

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Spoken: Story

Aucassin was in arms on his horse, as you have heard. My God! how he went well the shield that weighed on his chest and, on his head, the helmet and, on his left hip, his sword's baldric! The young man was big, strong, handsome, elegant, well-built; the horse he mounted was swift and lively, and the young man directed it right through the center of the door.

Do not imagine that he was thinking of reclaiming bulls, cows, or goats, nor that he exchanged blows with the other army's knights. Not at all! The idea didn't occur to him, but he thought of Nicolette, his sweet friend, so that he forgot his reins and all he was required to do. His horse which had felt the sting of the spurs, brought him to the heart of the battle and threw itself into the thick of enemies who, from all sides, put their hands on Aucassin, grabbed him, pulled away his shield and lance, brought him to the terms of a well-carried-out capture, and already they asked themselves what kind of death they would give him.

When Aucassin realized this, "Ha! my God," he said, "very dear Creator, aren't these my mortal enemies in the middle of taking me and who would greatly enjoy chopping off my head? But once my head is chopped off, I could never again speak to Nicolette my sweet friend who I love so much. Again I used a good sword and mounted a good charger full of vigor. If now, for love of her, I do not defend myself, and would she love me one day, would God never come to her aid!"

The young man was big and strong, the horse he rode was fiery in spirit. He took hold of his sword, and started to strike right and left, cutting helmets, nasals, shoulders and arms, sowing death around him, like the boar when dogs assail it in the forest, such and so well that he cut down ten knights and wounded seven, that he withdrew from the battle at a gallop and turned, sword in hand.

Count Bougar de Valence, who had heard it said that Aucassin his enemy would be hung, came out from that side. Aucassin could not help but see him: with the sword he held in his hand, he struck him on his helmet so hard it plunged into his head. The count, all stunned, fell from his horse: Aucassin took his hand, made him a prisoner, took him and brought him by the nasal of his helmet to his father.

"Father," he said, "here is your enemy who you have made war against for so long and caused so much evil: this war has lasted for twenty years; never before has anyone been able to put a stop to it."

"My dear son," responded the father, "you're just starting to achieve what you have to accomplish, and do not waste your time dreaming of follies."

"Father," responded Aucassin, "sermons aside, hold yourself to your promises."

"What? What promises, my dear son?"

"Come on! father, have you forgotten them? By my head, forget them if you like, I would not forget them, they are carved in my heart. Did you not promise me, if I took up arms and left for battle, that, if God brought me back safe and whole, you would permit me to see Nicolette my sweet friend so I could say two or three things to her? And if I had time to give her a kiss, you promised it to me, yes or no? These are the promises that I want you to keep to me."

"Me?" said the father; "would God never come to my aid, if I kept such promises to you! But if she were here, I would burn her at the stake, and you yourself should fear for your life."

"Is this truly your last word?" asked Aucassin.

"With the help of God, yes," replied the father.

"Truly," said Aucassin, "I am afflicted with seeing a man your age lying." "Count de Valence," he said, "have I indeed taken you prisoner?"

"My lord, that is the exact truth. What of it?" asked the count.

"Give me your hand," said Aucassin.

"My lord, I willingly do so."

And the count put his hand in Aucassin's.

"Promise me," said Aucassin, "that, for the rest of your life, you will never let a chance to cause my father shame and woe, on his body or his belongings, pass you by."

"My lord, I pray you," said the count, "do not mock me; tell me instead: all that you could ask, gold or silver, chargers and palfreys, furs of vair and grey, dogs and birds, I would give you."

"What?" said Aucassin, "do you remember, yes or no, that I took you prisoner?"

"Yes, my lord, I remember it," replied the Count Bougar.

"Would God never help me again," said Aucassin, "if you refused to take up this engagement and I did not immediately take off your head!"

"In God's name," said the count, "I promise you everything you want."

The promise made, Aucassin had him mount a horse, mounted one himself and escorted him until he could proceed with confidence.

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Translated from the French by: Kristen Lawson
Contributed by: Kristen Lawson