Finally they departed with thinned numbers and scant spoils. Heribert was hailed as savior of the region, just as other champions, notably the great Count Odo at the siege of Paris, won similar successes elsewhere on a larger scale. The vikings had departed, but Heribert's tower remained. So began the castle of St. Heribert had taken possession ostensibly as the king's "man," claiming some royal commission, but as the power of Charlemagne's feeble rulers dwindled, Heribert's heirs presently forgot almost all their allegiance to their distant royal "master.
Once erected, the lords of those castles were really little princes, able to defy the very weak central authority. To capture a considerably less formidable fortalice than St. Aliquis implied a tedious siege, such as few kings would undertake save in an emergency. The result was that ere A.
The person they genuinely feared was the local Duke of Quelqueparte, another feudal seigneur with more followers and more castles than they. Partly from prudence, partly from necessity, they had "done homage" to him, become "his men," and as his vassals rode to 7 his wars.
The dukes, in turn, full of their own problems, and realizing the strength of St. Aliquis, seldom interfered in the fief, save on very serious occasions. The barons of St. Aliquis therefore acted very nearly like sovereign princes. They, of course, had their own gallows with power of life and death, waged their own personal wars, made treaties of peace, and even coined a little ill-shapen money with their own superscription. In the recent centuries, however, the barony had changed hands several times.
About the lord had the folly to refuse his ordinary feudal duty to the Duke of Quelqueparte. The latter roused himself, enlisted outside aid, and blockaded and starved out the castle of St. The unfortunate baron—duly adjudged "traitor and felon" by his "peers," his fellow vassals—was beheaded. The duke then bestowed the fief, with the hand of the late owner's niece, upon Sire Rainulf, a younger son of a south-country viscount, who had visited the duke's court, bringing with him an effective battle-ax and fifty sturdy followers.
Sire Rainulf, however, died while in the First Crusade. The reigning duke next tried to give the barony to another favorite warrior, but the son of the late baron proved himself of sturdy stuff. He fought off his suzerain and enlisted allies from Burgundy. The duke was forced, therefore, to leave him in peace. Presently, about , another baron died, survived 8 only by a daughter.
Her uncles and cousins did their best to expel this poor lady and induced the suzerain duke to close his eyes to their deeds, but, fortunately, the new baroness had been very pious. The influence of the great St.
Bernard of Clairvaux was exerted, thereby persuading King Louis VII to warn the duke that if he could not protect his vassals "the king would do justice. He left two sons, Garnier and Henri. Sire Henri, the younger, lived at the inferior castle of Petitmur, went on the Fourth Crusade , and perished in the fighting around Constantinople ere the French and Venetians sacked the city.
Garnier, the elder, received, of course, the great castle. It is well said by the monks that the blessed feel joys in paradise all the keener because a little earlier they have escaped from the pangs and fires of purgatory. Certes, for all laymen and clerics on the St. Aliquis fiefs, there was purgatory enough in Baron Garnier's day to make the present "sage" rule of Baron Conon seem tenfold happy. The late seigneur ruled about twenty years, filled up with one round of local wars, oppression of the small, and contentions with the great.
Baron Garnier was assuredly a mighty warrior. His face was one mass of scars and he had lost an ear. Plenty of landless knights and wolfish men at arms rioted around his donjon.
His provosts and foresters knew how to squeeze the poor of the seigneury, and by this income and by the ransoms from numerous captives he was able to rebuild the castle of St. Aliquis according to the first military art of the day. But his sins were more than the hairs of his grizzled head.
Having taken dislike to his wife, and the bishop refusing an annulment, he kept the poor Lady Ada mewed up in one chamber for years, and, according to many stories, loaded her with chains and spared not tortures, until in mercy she died. However, he had plenty of less regular consorts. The castle courts had swarmed with loud women, the favorites of himself and his familiars, and with their coarse, unacknowledged brats. No pretty peasant girl's honor was safe in those parts. As for the prisoners—after Messire Conon came into power it was a marvel the quantity of human bones, gnawed by the rats, which they took out of the lower dungeons, as well as how they released four wretches who had been incarcerated in the dark so long that they were blinded.
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Needless to say, the compartments of the gallows never lacked their swinging skeletons. Women still hush their squalling children with, "Be silent—or Baron Garnier will get you! Yet with all these deeds this baron affected great hospitality. He kept a roaring hall, with ready welcome for any cavalier who enjoyed deep drinking and talking of horses, women, falcons, and forays; and a good many seigneurs found his alliance useful.
So he continued his evil ways until praised be Our Lady of Mercies he came to a fit end. Thrice he had been excommunicated by the bishop. Thrice he had been readmitted to ghostly favor, thanks to large gifts toward the new cathedral at Pontdebois. Then he let his men murder a priest who was traveling with a precious chalice. So he was excommunicated a fourth time. While in this perilous state though boasting that he would soon make his new terms with the Church his companion in sin, Suger of the Iron Arm, quarreled with him over their 10 cups and ran him through with a boar spear.
The baron lived just long enough to see Suger hewn in pieces by his comrades. Then he died priestless, of course, and unabsolved cursing God and crying piteously for help from the devil. Christians cross themselves when they think of his fate hereafter. Garnier left no legitimate children. He was on very cold terms with his brother's widow, the Lady Odelina, who was rearing her two sons and daughter at Petitmur; but Odelina had faced her brother-in-law down and clung tightly to her own little fief.
She had given her children a "courteous" and pious education, and induced a neighboring seigneur to take her eldest son, Conon, to "nourish" as his squire, and rear to be a knight. At length came her reward. The youth was knighted by the Count of Champagne three weeks before his evil uncle perished.
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Then the suzerain duke was glad to have St. Aliquis pass to so competent a vassal as young Sire Conon. This is a bare suggestion of the contentions, feuds, and downright wars of which the barony has been the scene, and yet St. Aliquis has probably been freer from such troubles than most of its neighbors.
Although this castle is the center of Baron Conon's power, it is by no means his only strong place.
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He has three other smaller castles besides Petitmur, which will go to his brother that he sometimes inhabits, but which he ordinarily rules through castellans. In the twenty-odd villages upon the fief there are some ten thousand peasants whom he governs through his provosts. Aliquis banner and otherwise contribute to the baron's glory.
That seigneur himself is likewise "advocate" secular guardian of the neighboring Abbey of St. Aliquis—an honorable post involving delicate dealings with the lord abbot. Also, a few leagues away lies the "good town" of Pontdebois. The baron, as will be explained, has very important relations with that city. In addition he "holds" of the bishop there resident some farms with hunting and fishing rights.
For this inferior fief he does homage, of course, not to the Duke of Quelqueparte, but to the Bishop of Pontdebois. Some years previous, when the duke and bishop were at war, the baron was obligated to send twenty knights to fight for the duke, but also six to fight for the bishop. The Scriptures warn us against trying "to serve two masters"; but the baron happily made shift to keep the two contingents of his little array from engaging with one another until his two overlords had made peace!
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