Friday, May 30, 1650
“There was a great King, the last King of his kingdom, the great kingdom of the Po called Lombardy. This King was a powerful man, a ruthless man ... when there was a duke who claimed the right to this King’s kingdom, this King had the duke’s eyes put out, and his hands cut off, and his feet cut off. And then he did the same to fifty men who were the duke’s men, and a thousand other men besides were put to the sword, though they were not cut apart, for they were only common men. Such was this King’s heartlessness.
Now, the King had a beautiful daughter, whose voice was that of songbirds, and who’s skin was like that of the finest marble; she was a very uncommon girl, this daughter, and she had many suitors, both princes and other kings, who would marry this daughter and align their lands with the King of our story. They promised to give the King armies and navies that he might attack his neighbors ... and they promised to give the King riches, that he might build palaces and churches to the glory of God ... and they promised the King wisdom, that the King might grow wise and might live centuries longer – but the King spurned every offer, and denied every gift. And so the princes and kings of other lands went away and said to themselves, “This King must love his daughter, and that is why he will not part with her.”
Ah, but this is not so my friends, for the King truly felt nothing for his daughter. Though she might have the truest heart, though she might be the most beautiful woman in the world – and there were those who said she was – it meant naught to this King, except as the bargain he desired, a bargain that his children might own the world. For this King did desire to marry his daughter off – to none other that the greatest lord of Europe, the Emperor Charlemagne.
Charlemagne had never seen this daughter, but he had heard of her. He had not asked for her, and when the King of our story sent messengers to Charlemagne telling of the daughter’s perfect hands, and her perfect feet, and her perfect eyes, and her perfect lips, Charlemagne was not moved, and did not call for the daughter.
The King of our story would not relent. He built a great army, not with which to attack Charlemagne, or to attack his neighbors, but to wage war on his own kingdom, to gather together a great dowry, a dowry that would compel Charlemagne to marry the King’s daughter. Every soul in the kingdom was stripped of wealth, every coin, every jewel, every trinket and every ornament was seized. Hundreds upon hundreds were put to the sword by the king’s army, until at last the people relented and brought everything they owned of value to the King. And all this that was brought was gathered together and loaded onto a line of wagons that reached from the eye to the horizon. In this my friends, I tell the truth.
Now the King did not put his daughter at the front of this line, but instead he put her in the largest wagon, at the very end, that Charlemagne might see all the treasure the King was sending and his heart would be softened. And so the mighty horde began its way north, over the Alps, and into the empire of Charlemagne.
Now, while the King had waged war on his own kingdom, he had not thought about the Church, or what was due to God. When the good fathers saw the devastation that had been wrought upon Lombardy, they devised a plan. Charlemagne was a very holy man, and if it became known to him through what sins this daughter was presented, no amount of gold would soften Charlemagne’s good heart. So they sent a party of three men, who reached Germany before the King’s wagons. Very quietly and very cleverly they gave Charlemagne a dream, in which Charlemagne saw all that had passed, and all that was passing.
When Charlemagne woke, he gathered together his closest men and rode south – and in the mountains, he turned back the monstrous horde, and the daughter also, refusing even to look upon her. He refused her my friends, however beautiful she might have been, for what value does a woman have if a man must sell his soul to have her?
And Charlemagne leveled a great curse upon the gold, that it should be lost forever, and that whosoever came into possession of the gold would fall, and their kingdom with them.
Now, it is said that the gold never returned to Lombardy, that a great storm drove the wagons into the highest mountains and that every soul that had tried to bring the gold to Germany had perished, and the daughter with them. But there are those who say the gold must have returned to Lombardy, for the King was the last King of Lombardy, was he not? But where is the gold, my friends, where is it? For you may ask of every family in that ancient Kingdom, and they will recall none of it ever having returned ... and you can ask of every other kingdom, but they never saw any gold. And in the end, as we well know, when the King did fall, it was by the hands of Charlemagne’s army, and it was Charlemagne who was give the title Rex Langobardorum, the King of Lombardy. There are those who say Charlemagne took the gold, and the kingdom both – but we know, don’t we my friends. We know where the gold is!”
And at this Valerio points his finger to the highest mountain. “There, it is there! And woe to him that finds it!”