Sadius, the nephew of the king of Asia, was greatly loved by his uncle. Galo, though a stranger to the court, was equally loved and bestowed with gifts. However, he was also secretly loved by the queen, who made violent assaults upon him, which he rejected.

Sadius, learning of his friend’s problem, went to see the queen, and sang her a praise song, many of whose lines played on the theme of chastity and its virtues. When he had finished he said, “There is only one in this court who I think I could describe as truly chaste.”

“And who is that?” asked the queen, fearing her secret was out. But Sadius put his fingers to his lips and indicated that he would not tell her. The queen insisted and, reluctantly, Sadius said, “It is my friend Galo, who could extract many favours from women if he wished but he has not been blessed with the gift of potency.”

The queen groaned inwardly when she heard that and could not get the problem out of her mind. Eventually she decided to find out if this sad fact was indeed true. She persuaded Ero, one of the palace ladies, to seduce Galo and find out if he was man or not and the lady did not take much persuading, for Galo was indeed a good looking young man. But, on the night the plan was due to come into fruition, the queen could not sleep, imagining what was happening in Galo’s chamber and she bitterly envied Ero on her quest.

She called Lais, her maid. “Do you know where Ero is?”

“She left late.”

“How was she dressed?”

“Like one who goes to meet her lover.”

The queen ground her teeth in jealousy and frustration.

At last Ero returned but the queen was not pleased to see her. “Why did you have to dress up for him?”

“I thought it right to please him and I must say it worked because I found him all the man I hoped him to be.”

The queen threw her slipper at the girl and now she hated Galo with all the strength that had once powered her love.

Soon it was the king’s birthday and a great feast was held. The queen noticed that, of all the court, only Galo wore a sad and distracted expression. It was the king’s custom, being a romantic soul, that, on his birthday, he would give the queen whatever gift she wanted.

“What is it to be this year?” he asked.

“This year I want a gift without a name.”

“You have it, so what is that?”

“I want you to make Galo confess the reason why, when all the court is rejoicing on this happy occasion, he looks as if he is at a funeral.”

“That’s not much of a gift.” said the king, uncomfortably. “Choose another.” But the queen insisted and all eyes turned on Galo.

He, meanwhile, was lost in a world of his own misfortune, unaware that he was the centre of attention until Sadius nudged him. When he became aware of the situation he begged the king to be let off from speaking.

“No, that’s what I want.” insisted the queen.

“Very well. Last year, on Whit Sunday, I was in bed, just recently recovered from an illness. I was determined to get up and regain my strength so I took my horse and let him take me wherever he wanted. He took me to a remote region and I was to realise that it was love that had led me astray.

“My horse took me to a marvellous town but it was absolutely deserted. I made my way to a mighty palace at its centre and there I found a maiden sitting under a tree in the palace gardens. I made to dismount but, weakened by my recent illness, I simply fell off the horse.

“But the maiden remained completely still. I knelt before her and offered her all the expressions of love that I could think of but, whatever I said, she did not answer. So I set to work to lay her flat and violate her modesty with an embrace. At this she cried out ‘Radius! Radius!’

“Now this Radius came out of the palace and ran towards us. He was a giant of unheard-of stature. Let the queen have pity on me lest the rest of my story bring me lasting shame.”

“No.” said the queen. “We must hear the rest of the story.”

With a sigh Galo continued, “This giant, though furious with me, had the courtesy to allow me to regain my weapons. But the fight did not go well for me and soon the giant had me up against a tree and set about abusing me before committing the coup de grace.

“Then another maiden rushed out of the palace and knelt before the giant, pleading for my life but the first maiden gave her a kick in the face. Still this second woman kissed the giant’s feet, even though her lips bled and begged for a year’s truce. The giant turned to look at his own lady for a sign and she, moved by the compassion of her sister, held up her hand for mercy on condition I agreed to return at the end of the year for another fight.

“That day has now come but I am still here. Nothing is now left to me but to seek out a quiet abode of shame.”

With that he rushed out of the room. The queen sat back in her chair. “There, we have heard Galo condemn himself of the crime of cowardice with his own lips. I wonder if there ever really was a giant or if it was simply his own fears that made it so.”

Galo rode some distance from the city and Sadius rode after him, for this was all part of their plan. When they had gone far enough out of sight, they dismounted and exchanged armour. Then Galo rode back to the court, appearing to be Sadius, distraught at his friend’s disgrace. He then issued a challenge to the giant declaring that Sadius would fight him instead of Galo, to remove the stain that had fallen on the court.

The tournament day arrived and when the company saw the giant they grew silent and pale. There was no doubt that this was a giant, larger than any man ever before seen in that land. The creature rushed at Galo and broke his lance on Galo’s shield while Galo’s lance killed the giant’s horse. Seeing this Galo leapt down from his own horse. “As you allowed Galo to regain his arms so I will dismount.” he said.

They now attacked each other fiercely with swords, while, in the stands, the queen bitterly reproved Galo for his cowardice that was putting his friend Sadius into such terrible danger. The king could do nothing but nod.

The giant feigned flight to draw Galo into an ill-judged attack but Galo was so fierce that the flight became real and he fell over his lady, knocking her over. Galo bade the giant rise. He rushed headlong at his foe, his great sword breaking on Galo’s helm. Galo stepped back to allow him to get another sword. “Honour is gained by valour, not by luck.” he said.

The giant’s servant rushed out with a large sword, even more splendid than the first. When the giant had it in his hand he made a great sweep with it, cutting off his servant’s head. “That’s for giving me my second best sword first.” he said.

Now the giant attacked again, cleaving Galo’s shield in two and cut into the knight’s armour. Galo realised that armour would not save him so he redoubled his blows, forcing the giant to retreat and again fall against his lady. The giant gave Galo a mighty down stroke, cutting into his mail shirt and helmet so that blood flowed down his chest. Then it was Galo’s turn to retreat. He saw the giant was becoming angrier and rash. He waited for the right moment and then, as the giant was recovering from giving him a mighty blow, Galo swung his sword up and cut off the giant’s hand.

The fight was over. Galo spared the giant any further blows and his lady and the court herbalists rushed to tend to the giant’s wound. Galo, however, refused to have his head wound tended. He left the tournament field for his quarters where Sadius and the maid who had saved him in the giant’s palace were anxiously waiting. Sadius and he changed back into their own armour and, while Galo remained with the maiden, Sadius, in the blood soaked armour, went to see the king.

The court was stupefied to see Sadius with an unmarked face. The queen, full of praise for his bravery and hatred for Galo, came with unguents but Sadius waved her away.

“None of those for me my lady. He who won the day wears the marks of victory.”

It was then that Galo entered, his face scarred with the wound given him by the giant. As the realisation of the subterfuge spread around the court everyone cheered. The king asked forgiveness for the injustice inflicted on him. The queen remained silent, plunged into confusion.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *