In this story of Parzival, one of Arthur’s knights, I hoped to achieve a dark fantasy that honors the Lord.
“I will renew a tale that tells of great fidelity, of inborn womanhood and manly virtue…” Parzival by Wolfram Von Eschenbach
Parzival encountered many wonders during his quest to find the Grail and to know if the things of Faith are certain—great things under the sun. But of all of these, none could compare with the lonely Lady whose name he never learned. For a time, he even abandoned his quest in order to guard her when she walked at twilight in the Enchanted Wood beneath the snow-clad summits of Bavaria.
To remain near her, he camped on the side of the hill on which the Castle stood that was her dwelling place. It was the lair of an Enchanter, he suspected, for at times he heard strange music and a tumult of voices.
Securing his mount, he would descend to a rocky ledge overlooking the clearing in which she walked and watch her from leafy cover. Her hair lay loose over her shoulders and her feet were bare. Often, she paced as if in distress. A broach of garnets was pinned to the bodice of her gown with a pin of bronze, and when she sighed it seemed that she had been wounded by the pin and that the garnets were drops of blood. She seemed fearless, for although she carried no weapon, she did not run from wild creatures but observed them from hiding with a gentle smile.
Parzival watched over her with his sword at hand but did not approach her, for he had a wife, virtuous Condwiramurs, who waited at home for his quest to be done. And so, in his way, he kept faith with Condwiramurs while playing the angel for his unknown Lady.
He remained nearby until summer and one day was startled by sounds of merriment in the clearing. He hurried to the overlook. Lords, ladies, and servants – seated on blankets spread out on the grass – feasted there, his Lady among them.
As he watched, he realized that she had a Mistress and Master whom she and the others attended. How strange they were! Her Mistress wore a hat with two prongs like the horns of an Egyptian idol; her Master wore a robe stitched in gold with peculiar symbols that Parzival had never seen, even in all his travels.
From his lookout, what passed below seemed like a pantomime, then the wind swung around, and brought sounds ot talk and laughter. From this he learned that the Master was indeed an Enchanter – a Hexenmeister – whose spell must be holding the Lady at the Castle against her will. Parzival noticed how she drew back whenever her Mistress looked away and the Enchanter seized the moment to whisper to the Lady.
Parzival held his breath to hear her low reply, and like doves frightened into flight her words flew to him. With a hand on her broach with its pin of bronze, she said to the Enchanter, “Sir, do not speak to me in this way.”
The Enchanter stood, leveled his gaze at her, and strode off, while her Mistress gave her a look of scorn. Then these great persons, in their great robes, went away uphill with their courtiers at their heels.
The Lady remained behind, weeping. Parzival’s anger kindled—he must save her! Soon she grew calm then dried her tears. Looking up into a tree, she put her hands palm to palm with her fingertips to her lips and smiled at squirrels playing there. Then, gazing toward heaven, she sighed.
He jumped down and stood a short distance from her.
She smiled. Her face was young, but her dark hair was streaked with silver.
He remained where he was, remembering Condwiramurs and fearing to return the Lady’s smile or take a step closer.
She smiled more gently, as if understanding him. “God bless you, Knight!” she said. “I have seen you keeping watch over me. Only one hour each day my Master allows me a little freedom, and you have been the angel whom God sent to guard me and give me hope.”
He longed to shorten the distance between them.
She lowered her gaze and said, “Lord Jesus protect us!” Then she turned and walked up the forested hill toward the Castle.
Parzival’s gaze lingered on her retreating figure.
Someone stepped out of the shadows, a Hermit roughly-clad and bearing a staff.
He studied Parzival. “She is not for you or any man, Knight. She is a prisoner of suffering. And you? Do you not have a wife?”
Parzival’s face grew hot. “I have not broken any vow! Someone must help her!”
The Hermit leaned on his staff. “And why not you, you think? You know the answer better than I. Though perhaps, if it is God’s will, you may yet help her.”
Parzival returned to his camp where he paced and raged, and at last was still. Then he dressed and armed, taking as much care with his horse’s trappings, so that the two were arrayed all in crimson with ornaments of purest gold, articles he had won from a king he had slain, his own cousin, though he had not known this at the time.
Then he galloped his mount uphill between the trees toward the Castle, until the Hermit appeared on the path holding out the staff to bar the way.
The Hermit said, “Why do you ride against the Enchanter with only the arm of flesh to help you? For many days I have observed you and would not have believed you to be such a fool.”
“By my oath to defend the helpless, I must save her!”
“Though you may be a sworn knight, where the Enchanter is concerned you’re little more than a child.”
Parzival rode his mount around the Hermit, while the Hermit cried out to wait. But Parzival spurred his horse on all the more until he arrived at the Castle gates. Here, he shouted his challenge to the Enchanter to let his fair prisoner go.
Soon the gates opened, and the Enchanter’s Champion rode out in armor of dusky blue, on a dark steed dappled with silver. The two knights fought on the hilltop then down into the trees with great clangs and clashes of arms, while those from the Castle watched from its wall. They dismounted and fought till exhausted. At last, Parzival prevailed and killed the Champion, by pinning him to a tree with a lance, and in this way the man’s sins overtook him.
Again, Parzival rode to the gates and shouted his challenge. But a figure in a helmet with a crest of raven feathers limped to the wall, pulling the Lady along with him, and pushed her over the parapet.
Casting aside his weapons, Parzival hurried to break her fall, but was too late. Tenderly he cradled and kissed her while her life ebbed away. As he did, he noticed her broach was gone and her hand bloody.
The Hermit scrambled up to Parzival, gathered the weapons, and together they brought the Lady down to his hut in the forest, Parzival carrying her and the Hermit leading the horse.
As they walked along, Parzival spoke. “If I hadn’t remained here, she would be alive. When I abandoned my quest, I brought about her death.”
The Hermit answered, “She is free now.”
END OF PART 1