The nameless squire of the Duke Trason D’Auge, called (in italian) the “Sciarra”, an ancient and no longer used word meaning: “ the Wrangler”, after receiving, by his master, a loud and generous series of heavy slaps, was imprisoned.
The Duke was looking for a scapegoat to save his honor, seriously crippled after a blatant and shamefully poor show in the open field and single combat against the powerful and gifted Saracen champion, Roboan.
So he found as a reasonable way to escape the shame and guilt to blame his squire. Nobody talked about the accident anymore, as the witnesses of the event were not persuaded at all by the version given by the cataphract and cruel feudal lord.
Everybody took it for gospel anyway, even considering that the Duke had a temper, hands like millstones, and he was extremely violent. In addition, aside from the shameful episode, he had always been brave and fearless, it has to be said.
The unknown squire was hurriedly handed over to the jailers, who were of the type to be crooks and thugs, without a minimum thread of pity. Five of the worst villains that were available in the Holy Land at the time, maimed, crippled and suffering, and therefore more prone to cruel mockery and to enjoy the suffering of other humans.
After reviewing the case of the squire, in consideration of his young age and slender structure, they decided to toss him into one of the giants’ cells.
“You’ll be fine!” They said as they carried him to his destination: “In the company of one of the giants or Cyclops. They are increasingly alone, though not because of us, when we get the chance to do so, we do not leave them without fellow-prisoners, but rather because they get tired soon and devour them.”
While telling the facts, they all were laughing loudly: “Of course we help them to take the anthropophagous decision by halving the amount of food we give to them… but after all, they will immediately start eating also yours, and between dying of starvation or dying feeding someone else, there is not a big difference.”
It was not true! There was a difference, but the prisoner did not think too much about it; he was terrified by his fate, and he was trying to figure out what would happen. After a long walk, they ended up in a strange place in the desert, a large cave from which you could see the horizon outside. Embedded in the rock floor, there were narrow grates, but not so wide as to permit a man of not exaggerated proportions to pass through.
A lousy soldier, with his face terribly disfigured by war wounds, received from who knows which unfaithful swine, opened the grate with difficulty, and the other four grabbed the teen squire, each taking a limb. The one who was holding the lever needed to open the grid said: “Here below there is a Cyclops, a pagan unbeliever who lived by force, killing anyone he came across with his hunger, or those who annoyed him. In a strange twist of fate, he was beaten in a fight by the first champion of France, or the second, I don’t remember. This incredible stroke of luck occurred during one of his “high class deeds”, when they will make a toast to some of those slutty ladies they love. While he was unconscious, they slipped him here below, in a deep bubble in the rock, and they sealed it with mighty chains. You’ll see that they carried him so hastily, they left his big cleaver hanging on him. He will not get out of there anyway! In the other nine bubbles in the rock, there are characters as cruel and arrogant as this one, all are at least two, if not three Friesians tall, uncivilized and arrogant.”
“Have fun!” chorused the others.
The squire, for fear, struggled desperately. The five were all laughing as they tried to slip him into the opening by his feet, but the terror increased the strength of the unknown squire so much that he was able to resist, despite his young age and lack of prowess. Indeed, the four who handled him enjoyed themselves, wasting time to flout the fear of the poor guy by giving him false hope.
There in the cave, near the ground, it was cool compared to the desert, but at some point, everyone started to sweat a lot from any effort, and got tired quickly. Finally, the squire was turned upside down and slipped into the hole head first, then the grating was closed underfoot by jumping on it, pushing the poor guy well down the narrow vertical tunnel. The five soldiers began to laugh and jest, seeing how he clung to the wall of the tunnel with his hands and knees. He was trying not to fall immediately below into the cell occupied by the Cyclops.
“Hang in there as much as you like, it will never be enough!” said one of them, while another pulled out his knife and slipped the blade in the square holes of the grate to the hilt, looking for some part of the leg to scrape with it. They continued for a while, using the hook to push him down, but that was not necessary, he would have ended up inside the cell anyway sooner or later.
Slowly but surely, he would fall from the tunnel eventually, exhausted, making a flight of a few feet that he ought not to do with the muzzle. Too bad for him!
The five went away, after pissing, whoever was in need of it, into the grate, and some long quarter of an hour later, the muscles, tense to breaking, of the squire would give up, and he ended up falling through the hole into the cell.
In the fall, he smashed his nose! The blinding pain made him swear, while he held his face with his hands and tried to peer into the place in search of the real problem of his current situation, which was not bruises to his elbows and knees and a bleeding nose.
In the darkness, a small luminary was lit, and shone with delicacy and care. On one side, sitting on massive and disproportionate legs, there appeared a terrible gigantic shape, with a skin that looked as tough as that of African rhinos, scaly and greenish gray, hands the size of the rocks of a mangonel, and probably of similar power, and a beard that seemed also to be green.
The squire saw him, he was resting his elbows on his knees and his hands on the axe, and was curiously scrutinized by a single and tremendous circular eye stuck in the front, in the middle of a terrifying bestial head.
He stood shyly and decided to treat the jail mate with courtesy in order to be considered nice: “Hi-hi, I’m Chi-Childeric, the former squire of that son of a bitch that is the Duke d’Auge, at your service, sir! It seems that we will be fellow prisoners…”
The Cyclops did not seem at first a madman incapable of speech and thought. He answered! Of course he was not familiar with good manners, but he said: “I am the Mighty Tlamumus, the Great Cyclops with superb power. Hello, small Chichilderic the squire.” Childeric did not correct his name.
“We’ll keep each other company!” Said the Cyclops in a good mood, with his cavernous voice: “I am almost always alone! But sometimes I’m glad to have a chat with someone. Look at that!” and he pointed to a corner of the cell that the young man had not noticed yet. There was a pile of remains of human bones. There were not too many. The squire knew immediately that enough of them were missing to make it impossible to reconstruct all the skeletons entirely, and probably they had been eaten by the Cyclops. The heads were at least a dozen, but femurs and ribs, they were just too few…
“Those were my fellow prisoners, they are all dead! The fact is that here life is difficult, my dear Chichilederic, the place is unhealthy, people die soon, because it’s cold, damp, there comes not the light, eh! You see! Not everyone can withstand long as the powerful Tlamumus!”
Childeric avoided revealing that the version of the story the Cyclops was giving to him was not entirely convincing.
“But tell me” he said, again, the Cyclops: “what news from the outside world?”
“Do you want to know who is winning the war? The infidels!” said the young man rapidly. Then he thought that probably the Cyclops was a sympathizer of the “infidels”, considering where he was, and he ought not talk that way, since for the “infidels” the others were “infidels”.
“No!” said the giant: “I do not care about the war, I’m not interested in politics, and even less in foolish contention and the quarrels between who defends this or that divine scoundrel! We, the Cyclops, we are stronger than the gods! Tell me about the sun and the wind, that I miss so much!”
Childeric’s blood immediately boiled in his veins, listening to the way the giant was speaking about his true God, for which he was ready to give his life alongside his knight and lord, and that … but then he thought that he would give his life alone now, and that some replies, such as: “If you’re so strong, damn fool, why do not you get out of here?” would not have served well it that situation.
He said nothing and began to look carefully around the place. The trap door from which he had fallen was at a height of maybe three times his own. The giant, standing, could perhaps touch the trapdoor with his head, but he was not going to fit through it. The walls stood in a circle all around, solid, up to a lateral opening in the middle of the wall that was blocked by powerful intertwined chains.
“Not a great conversationalist, are you, little squire?!” said the powerful Tlamumus with a loud yawn.
“Have you ever tried to get out of here?” He asked, taking courage in both his hands and touching a theme that might have even irritated the strong beast.
“Impossible!” the other answered, and with a little spite. “An impossible task even for the mighty Tlamumus the Greek! The most powerful of the Cyclops, and gods!”
“But you’ve got a nice ax that must weigh at least two hundred pounds, if it fell on me even by the handle, it would kill me easily…”
The Cyclops shook his head sadly: “Nothing to do, my slender squire! The walls are of ferrous stone, for the most part naturally hard and way too thick …! And the chains have probably been made by some Cyclops, down in the foundries of Hephaestus, near my house, we are the best locksmiths! They are too well made and sturdy!”
Then he stood up, scaring the little squire, he stretched a bit some parts of the gigantic body, then grabbed the ax and hit the chains with a couple of incredible, powerful strokes. They made an infernal noise, tensed, but were not scratched at all.
“Do you know how many shots like these I gave in all this time? In the earlier days I gave thousands of them, then hundreds, now I do, well, yes, a couple a day, so as not to remain idle, but nothing happens.” And then he sat back down, bored.
Childeric looked puzzled at the “escape strategy” of the giant. He walked to the chains, looked carefully at the rings which were fixtures on the rock. He took in the whole arrangement: four rings on each side, of a greater width than those of the chain, which fixed to the bottom in the rocks, likely perforated the full length of the rock and were beaten hot on the other side. No leverage would have undermined them!
“You look pensive, my little guy!” Said the Cyclops intrigued: “I do not sledgehammer the walls at all, I would break the ax, I know it! If this is what you think I’d have to do.”
The Cyclops was right, Childeric concluded. Then he asked a question: “Have you ever beaten chains in the way you showed me now?”
“Of course,” the Cyclops replied and seemed to be half proud and half irritated: “If my vast power astonishes you, there is no shame in it! You can say so! It is quite clear that you are admiring, but it is normal. Even myself, I am still surprised every time by my huge wonderful strength and the supreme blows that I can strike… ”
Childeric did not mean that. He pretended, a little too hastily, it was so, but then he said: “No, but it also occurred to me that if you strike on the central part of the chains, those stretching can absorb the blow, but maybe if you strike right on the fixed rings, well, those might eventually give in.”
The Cyclops did not like the little know-it-all who was explaining how things are… and what is to be done: “What can you know? You… who could not even raise my ax! How to use it?!” The suggestion seemed to the giant a silly one indeed: “Do not you see, you fool, that those rings are twice as big than the others! You have no eyes? Or are you missing your brain, small squire?”
It was necessary to be cautious with the giant: “Yes, you are right, but maybe then, if you give me a hand, as a good friend you are, maybe I could slip from where I came in and try to get out of here…”
Tlamumus laughed out loud: “Yes, of course, and then you will give me a hand to get out as well, right? Once you get out of here!”
“Of course!” replied Childeric with all gentleness and sincerity.
“You think I’m stupid!” the giant said, frowned.
Courage was the only way to save his skin, or at least prolong life: “Look Tlamumus, I am just trying to find a way to salvation for us both. If you’ve never tried it, maybe you can hit where I tell you, if you have good target…”
“Good target! Myself! With my ax! Good target, you say! I can open a nail stuck on a table in two, at with my eye closed!”
He appeared to be a bit thoughtful, but then he continued in the same mocking tone: “And where am I supposed to hit exactly, you genius?” He was intrigued, indeed, he had never considered the situation, since he was demoralized after seeing that the ax did not break the rings. With time he become depressed and given up.
“Please give a mighty blow right here, ok?!” The squire said, pointing to the exact spot where the intersecting rings attached to the wall: “But be precise, accurate, while I try to tighten the chain as much as I can … let’s see what happens!”
The giant was miffed, having to follow the ideas of another man, but after all, he considered, he had nothing to lose. No one would ever know anything about all that, unless they were successful, but then, the joy would be so much that… that would be something to consider in due course.
“All right! Why not! Let’s try!” was the answer. The two went to work: Childeric grabbed the chain with all his strength, and twisted it in order to lock the target, facilitating as much as possible the job of the fellow, and the Cyclops roared frighteningly and gave such a blow, so mighty and precise that the ax splintered, but the ring split completely and Childeric hit the ground with his ass.
“Yay!” They shouted in unison, then they laughed at the success and at their identical cry for joy.
“Bravo Chichilderic!” the giant said in the throes of euphoria: “Another three shots like this, and even if I have to forge my ax again, we will get out of here!”
The Cyclops was already making plans: “You know what we can do? We could make a company together, a joint venture: you are a keen observer, I can do whatever I want with all my might, we will embark in Antioch and take control of a ship. We will live by piracy, we will be rich, then disband the company, and so I will return to my island to live as a gentleman, and you, you, you will go whereeever you want! My friend!”
“Perfect!” Said the squire, happy to have made a new friend and have plans for a new life, as the former seemed to be doomed until the moment before.
They struck a few more blows and the opening was passable. In front there was Childeric, behind him, Tlamumus, barely fitting through the opening.
Once outside, Tlamumus was moved by the sight and feel of the wind and sunlight. They began to cross the desert in the direction of Antioch, but neither knew the route very well.
After a full day of walking, Tlamumus was very hungry. He reformulated, unilaterally and silently, the contract stipulated with Childeric. While the other was scanning the horizon in search of traces or leads to follow, talking and talking out of proportion, he gave him, from behind and unseen, such a slap that he instantly broke the neck bone of the squire, and then he ate him entirely.
He did not even take off his clothes, he left not even the skull, nor spit out the boots. He cut his head clean off and drank the blood to calm the desert thirst, squeezing his body like a water bottle, then he chewed the skull with his molars, very loudly, opening his mouth wide, and crushing the bone with a bit of effort and drooling. It sounded much worse than if it was weeks-old stale bread. The rest of him was more tender and juicy.
Tlamumus considered himself a good friend, having killed the fellow without ever being aware of his faith, and before starting to chew him. He felt a magnanimous god. He lived bullying, in brothels and taverns, long and happily.