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The Last Knight of Altenahr
Only a few mouldering ruins now show where one of the proudest strongholds of the Rhine country, Castle Altenahr, once stood. A legend relates the mournful story of the last of the race which had lived there for centuries.
This man was a very stubborn knight, and he would not bow down to or even acknowledge the all-powerful archbishop, whom His Majesty the Emperor had sent into the Rhine country as protector of the church.
Unfortunately the bishop was also of a proud and unyielding character, and he nursed resentment in his heart against this spurner of his authority.
It was not long before his smouldering rancour blazed into an open feud, and the mighty bishop, accompanied by a large band of followers, appeared before the proud castle of Altenahr. A ring of iron was formed round the offending vassal's hold.
But its owner was not disturbed by this formidable array, and only laughed sneeringly at the besiegers' useless trouble, knowing well that they would never be able to storm his rocky stronghold.
The war-like priest saw many of his little army bleeding to death in vain. He was very wrathful, but nevertheless undismayed.
He had sworn a great oath that he would enter this invincible hold as a conqueror, even if the fight were to last till the Judgment Day; the lord of Altenahr had sworn a similar oath, and these two powerful foes were well matched.
Thus the siege continued for some months. The besieger's anger grew hotter, for every attack cost him the lives of numbers of his followers, and all his efforts seemed useless.
Already there was an outburst of discontent in his camp; many servants and vassals deserted from such a dangerous venture. Revolt and disobedience seemed on one occasion to threaten a complete dissolution of the besieging army, as a desperate attack had been again repulsed by the hidden inhabitants of the fort.
The bishop's allies urged the unrelenting man to desist from his merciless purpose, but he received their protests with a sneer: "When you leave me, my greater ally, hunger, will draw near. It will come, that I am sure of." Then followed an uproar of confused voices; mutinous troopers, now become bold by the wine they had taken, fell to brawling with their leader. The bishop's grim smile died away.
"Wait my men, just wait for one more attack," he cried in a powerful voice, "it will be the fiercest and the last," and with a dark face he turned and strode away.
Dawn was creeping over the valley of the Ahr. There was a great stir in the camp on the side of the mountain, and up above, in the castle of Altenahr, silence reigned round hazy pinnacles. Suddenly a flourish of trumpets was heard, and the drawbridge having been let down, the lord of the castle galloped forth on a milk-white charger, his tall figure towering over the animal, the feather of his helmet waving above his grey hair, and the first rays of the rising sun irradiating his steel armour.
Holding his steed with a firm grip, he raised his right hand to the shouting besiegers, signifying that he wished to speak. His Voice sounded far and wide.
"See here the last man and the last charger of all those who lived in my tower. Hunger has snatched them all from me, wife, child, comrades. They all preferred death to slavery. I follow them, unvanquished and free to the last."
The noble animal reared up at the spur of its rider..... a great spring, followed by a thundering crash, then the Ahr closed her foaming waters over man and steed.
A shudder seized those who were looking on. The dark countenance of their leader became pale as death, and he rode off without a moment's delay, followed by the curses of his mutinous troops.
Since that time the castle of Altenahr has remained deserted; no one dared to enter the chambers hallowed by the memory of this heroic defence. Thus it was avoided by mankind, till time gnawed at its walls and destroyed its battlements.Click to go to the next section of the Legends of the Rhine