The Squire's Second Tale
As the travelers rode on their way, they entertained, preached or just annoyed their accompanying persons with tales learned over the years. The young squire steered his horse at the front of the procession, fluting a tune that spoke of ardor to the ladies of the group. He guided his jaunty steed to trot behind his father, in between the prioress and the popular wife of Bath. Like many unpracticed storytellers, the squire leapt into a tale he had heard at a tournament without the slightest introduction.
He spoke to the ladies with a charming arrogance. "Cambalo was a great knight as well as Canace's brother, you see. He was a handsome man, revered for his passion in all manners, not just jousting., though he won a great deal of champions' mounts. Cambalo's skill at music was just as strong as his arm. If you have difficulty seeing the prince with your mind's eye, you need only look to me; I have been told I am a reflection of the hero in almost every way.
"At a banquet one evening, Cambalo heard the news of a king whose castle stood in the neighboring woods. It was a fairy king, a master of both white and black magic, that lived alone in his vast palace except for his daughter. It was said that he could take the form of animals, his favorite being a lion or an owl. The girl was the most beautiful of anything and any man that happened to see her was, at once, intent on making her his wife, no matter what his status currently was. The Fairy King became tired of the men he despised so much constantly begging to suit his beloved daughter and, for her own good, (or so he claimed) transformed her into a lowly sparrow.
"'No man will want her now.' The King said. 'She will remain mine forever.' However, the girl's beauty was too bright to be covered up and found a way to shine through her father's spell. Little did he know, for the King was partially deaf and not an adept critic of song, that the ugly sparrow had the angelic voice of a canary.
"Cambalo was so stricken by the tragic affair that he decided at once to rescue the Fairy King's daughter from her prison. He borrowed his sister's magic ring that would allow him to speak to birds, and then set out into the woods in search for the castle.
"After many long hours of wandering the empty trails (not once did the knight catch reason to believe there was a living beast among these trees) he sat to rest his sore self against a massive tree. To soothe his weariness, he took out his flute and began to play a light melody. With the airy tune came a sweet voice humming a harmony. It was slow and sad yet beautiful. Cambalo ceased his fluting to listen to the voice.
"'It is her! It must be!' He exclaimed. He removed Canace's ring from his finger and the humming he heard before was replaced by the song of a bird. Replacing the ring, he said, 'I am right in my assumption! There is no other bird in this wretched forest, besides. I must find her.'
"The prince scanned the treetops looking for sight of the bird but found nothing. He played a few notes on the flute to which the bird replied with her song. Cambalo listened to the sound of her voice and determined it came from behind him. When he turned, he noticed a strange formation in the trees that he hadn't seen before.
"They grew so thick here, no man would be able to squeeze between two. It was as if they were growing into each other, created a kind of gnarled wall. In fact, as Cambalo looked at it more, the grove seemed to resemble a building. Thick oaks stretched to the sky like towers decorated in moss and vines. Thin, flexible trunks and branches entwined to form spires and the leaves took shape of thousands and thousands of tiny green flags, waving in the breeze. It was evident that this was the Fairy King's castle.
"The sound of the girl's singing brought the prince's attention to a large hollow in a high tree. Skillfully, he climbed the branches and peered inside. The interior of the tree did not appear as he had expected. Instead, it seemed to be built like a room in any other castle would be. This particular room held nothing except for an ornate carpet on the center of which stood a black, metal birdcage. An ordinary looking little sparrow sat on a perch inside the little cage, still singing her lonely song. The plumage beneath her eyes displayed grey streaks that gave her the appearance of crying.
"'You sing of such melancholy. Why not rejoice?' asked the knight at the window.
"The little bird turned to him and said, 'I have nothing to rejoice in, sir. I am lonely and confined.'
"'Well, now you do. I have come to rescue you from your cage. I will take you back to my land.' Cambalo entered through the window and unlocked the door of the cage. The Fairy King's daughter flew out from her prison and alighted on a branch outside the hollow.
"'Good. My father will not look for me there; he refuses to set foot on human land; his magic does not work there. I am grateful for your help, but we must hurry, so my father does not catch us.' She warned.
"Cambalo ran through the forest with the rescued sparrow flying alongside him. When they reached the edge of the forest that marked the boundary of the two kingdoms, the curse was broken. Where the sad little sparrow had been was suddenly the most beautiful girl Cambalo had ever seen. The two of them were married soon after."
The squire gave no further ending or explanation as to why he chose this tale of romance to share. He merely began to ramble on about his poetry to no one in particular until he was interrupted by his father asking for him to be of use.