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Production, Editing, Engineering, and Sound Design by Tanner Campbell
Music composed by Nico Vettese and others*
Art by Paolo Puggioni
The Uncle, The Prior, and Francisco voiced by Owen McCuen
Pepe Voiced by Tanner Campbell
Special thanks to Jessica Rainville
Special thanks to Mark Coutu
Special thanks to Fred Greenhalgh
*as licensed from various royalty-free library sources
You've been very patient while I've been in the studio creating today's story, and I'd like to thank you for that. Those of you who heard my check-in on Friday know that the story you're going to hear today took a lot of work to bring to life - just about 65-hours to put a number to it - and a fair amount of money, just under $1000 in total. These hours and this money went towards custom music production, music licensing, voice talent, soundfx libraries, foley content, and cover art (art which you won't get to see until next Friday when Paulo Puggioni - an artist who has worked on Star Wars, Game of Thrones, and a number of other well-known movie and television franchises, and whom I am very fortunate to have developed a working relationship with - finishes it).
Before we start it is important that I prep you for the story and take a few minutes to explain to position we - you and me - find ourselves in.
First and foremost, this episode should be listened to on a pair of headphones. The sound design in some spots is subtle, and you'll want to be able to hear everything. Playing this in your car won't bring you the same experience as a pair of decent headphones will. I've listened nearly a dozen times on a mix of Sterling brand reference speakers, a $30 pair of Logitech desktop speakers, a $500 Klipsch Three II hifi speaker, a pair of AKG K240s and K52s headphones, apple airpods first gen, and a corsair gaming headset, the mix holds up fine but the point is you need to be able to really hear the details to appreciate everything that went into producing this "podcast episode" - and I feel almost uncomfortable calling it that because I feel as though what I have done here has transcended the label of "podcast episode" and is very much boarding on "audio drama" or "immersive experience" - it's not 100% there, but this is only my first try at something this grand.
Second, if you've heard the show before you know that I own a small recording studio in South Portland, Maine. It's a cozy studio, less than 300sqft (really) and located within a co-working space. I produce podcasts and audio books for a living. The studio gnerates around $120K of annual revenue and after operational overhead and other costs I pay myself about $40K a year - it's a humble living, but it's the living I want to make.
In order to pull this off, I woke up at 3am for 2 weeks and completed all my client-related post production work between 5am and 12noon. Then I'd work from noon to 5-ish, go home, be in bed by 9, and do it again the next day. On the weekends I gave a full 8-hours dedicated entirely to this the story you're getting closer to hearing. I don't point out the effort that went into the story you're about to hear in order to impress you or to paint myself as some sort of podcasting martyr - I point it out so that you can believe without hesitation the next thing I am about to say: this level of production isn't sustainable without your help.
I can't work a 3am to 6pm days, 5-days a week, just because I enjoy creating these stories and am passionate about preserving them. I can't sacrifice every weekend I have, to turn out two of these a month just because I really want to. I've got hikes to go on, I've got the love of my life to spend time with, and I have a dog who needs at least 5-hours a week of nose boops and belly rubs. The only way I can continue to produce at this level is with your help, and that help will need to come in two forms: financial and advocative.
Today's story is from an 1887 book entitled Legends and Popular Tales of the Basque people - a 250 page anthology of basque folklore and legend that you've certainly never head before - and was collected by Mariana Monteiro. Who is Mariana Monteiro? Who knows. I can't find a Wikipedia entry with her name on it, nor can I find a photo, but I can find a number of books and works bearing her name. If she hadn't written this book, you wouldn't be hearing this story today, and yet she seems entirely forgotten. Today's story is a link to her, a link to her work, and while it is certainly not the only one, it's likely the only one you've discovered. And now that you have, you know her name, and now you'll know the story of Roldan's and his Bugle Horn, and of Pepe and Francisco and their fight with the man-eating bear that plagued the village of Roncesvalle and the mountains of Navarre in the winter of 1829.
But what if I hadn't found it? What if I hadn't taken the time to transform it into what you'll now hear as an immersive experience full of excitement and suspense? And what if you weren't here to hear it? If a story dies in the woods and no one is around who knew it existed in the first place, does it make it into the archives? Did it ever exist at all?
I want to continue producing these stories in the fashion you are about to hear because I believe it is important work. I'll need your help to make that possible, so please stick around after the story to find out how you can be part of preserving these important parts of human culture.
Today's story, again, comes from the book Popular Tales of the Basque People, collected by Mariana Monteiro in the late 1800s and published in 1887 by Fisher Unwin Publishing, London. It is titled "The Bugle Horn of Roldan" and links to the original text can be found in the description of this episode. The text was not altered in anyway, and some of the language will reflect the time period. Please remember to wear headphones or listen on high quality speakers - this is not intended for listening in the car. I hope you enjoy it, and I'll see you on the other side.
When I heard this legend for the first time I was a youth. The circumstances which preceded and followed its narrative deserve to be mentioned, although they have no relation to the legend itself, but they were of such a nature that they will never be effaced from my mind, and I think will impart a greater interest to the tale.
The winter of 1829 was one of the most severe seasons known in this century. In Spain, snow fell all over the country, and even in the southern provinces, where a fall of snow, is quite a phenomenon, seen perhaps once in a century, the ground was covered by deep beds of snow, to the great amazement of their happy dwellers. But naturally where the rigour of the winter was felt more keenly was in the Basque Provinces. The roads from town to town and from valley to valley were impassable, and many houses were buried beneath the snow for days. The few travellers who were compelled to traverse the mountains encountered fearful dangers-of being lost in the drifts, or of falling into chasms, or, in truth, of being attacked by packs of famished wolves which, forsaking their usual haunts in the woods, prowled around the habitations.
On this occasion I was in Goizueta, a town of the mountains of Navarre, enjoying the delicious hams of the country which supplied the table of my uncle, the curé of that place, who was an indefatigable huntsman. The great snowstorm, which fell without intermission, did not permit us to leave the bounds of the dwelling-houses, and we eagerly awaited the weather to break up a little to enable us to go to the neighbouring mountains to hunt the deer and wild boars which abounded.
At the beginning of January the sky began to clear up, and one evening, as we were consulting together on the practicability of starting on the following morning, a stalwart Basque presented himself as the bearer of a letter from the prior of the monastery of Roncesvalles. This letter was addressed to my uncle, and in it the prior besought him in the name of their long friendship to come and pay a visit to the abbey, and bring a good pack of hounds to hunt an enormous black bear which had appeared in the neighbourhood, and which was devouring every living creature it could find.
At daydawn on the following morning we started for the abbey to the number of fourteen huntsmen and twenty dogs, the pick of the bloodhounds and mastiffs of the mountains of Navarre. At nightfall of the subsequent day we reached our destination, after traversing the. picturesque valley of Baztein, the bounds of Eugui, and the plain called the Prado de Roldan, the water and snow reaching in many parts nearly to our waists.
On reaching the Abbey of Roncesvalles we were received by the prior and his monks, excellent men whose lives were passed in tranquil magnificence.
When I descried the lofty towers of that monastery, and beheld the strong walls which surrounded it--on seeing the houses of the inhabitants of that small town grouped around the immense extent of the monastic dwelling, it seemed to me that I was transported to other ages; and to my imagination, carried back seven centuries, the whole rose up before me as the work of a still more remote age--in one word, I found myself in the Middle Ages.
And in truth this idea was reasonable enough when I looked at our pack of hounds, on the robes in which we were dressed, on the two monks who had come forth to receive us, and on beholding the group of country people who attentively examined us, and saluted respectfully the venerable prior who was bestowing his blessing upon them with a benevolent fatherly smile, and whom the people loved as a true father. In truth, their affection for him was well merited, as they never had recourse to him in their troubles or difficulties without being relieved and comforted.
The massive doors of the monastery closed upon us, and we traversed the immense cloisters, preceded by servants bearing torches of pitched tow to light the way to the roomy, comfortable cell of the prior, where we could rest our wearied limbs and dry our soaked garments.
All this was a new scene to me, and I derived an immense pleasure in giving full play to my imagination, and allowing full scope to the ideas which continually presented themselves.
"That one is the noble lord of this fortress," I thought to myself, as I looked at the prior, who was seated close to the hearth upon which burned huge blocks of wood; "further on are his principal men; we ourselves are. the retinue of the other feudal baron, coming to form some alliance with his neighbour. I, the shield-bearer, the one who removes the hood from the favourite falcon, the one who holds the bridle of the horse of the lady of the castle, he who carries the shield and the standard of its lord on the day of battle. This one--his ranger, he who arranges the hunt, who sounds the Alhali when the noble deer dashes out of its cover; this other------"
My soliloquy was interrupted by the ringing of the bell which announced that supper was ready. We all rose up on hearing the welcome sound, and departed to the private refectory of the prior. Another surprise awaited me in harmony with the thoughts which had been suggested to me by the scenes before me. A table of colossal dimensions groaned beneath huge haunches of venison and quarters of wild boar smoking in great dishes of pewter. Further on were dozens of trout in bright copper caseroles. Large flagons of yellow sweet Peralta, of red Tudela wine and cider, flanked this enormous supper. It was truly one of those Homeric suppers the memory of which has reached even down to our days. Yet, in spite of the abundance of food, the haunches and quarters and dozens of fish were fast disappearing, and the dishes remained empty as though by enchantment; wines and liqueurs also were consumed with incredible rapidity, and I must confess that I was one of those who most contributed to their prodigious disappearance.
During supper the whole conversation turned on the object of our journey, and the prior informed us that the bear we had come from such a distance to hunt was so formidable an animal that no one dared to venture far from the dwellings through fear of being devoured.
"We shall bring you that bear to-morrow," said my uncle, who awaited the coming hunt with all the impatience of an enthusiastic huntsman.
"Be careful what you do, my friends," replied the prior; "I am told that it is an enormous animal, very agile and exceedingly ferocious."
"Believe me, you need have no fear; and I promise you that his skin shall keep your feet warm this winter," rejoined my uncle.
"Would to God you did destroy him! for I assure you that there will be many to thank you, since the poor carriers and muleteers are quite cowed with the beast who persists in following them."
"Towards what part is the animal more frequently seen?"
"On the road which leads to the gate of France."
"What! on the path of Roldan?"
"Yes; it is about that district that he has been seen."
"’Tis well; now, gentlemen, let us retire to rest, as it will be necessary to rise early to-morrow."
The prior recited the Benedicite, and the servants appeared with lights, and each guest betook himself to the room assigned to him. It was eleven o'clock, for the supper had lasted long. My cousin Francisco and myself occupied a small apartment which had two long, narrow windows, from which could be descried a portion of the neighbouring forest.
I could not resist gazing on the weird scene before me: the moon was illumining with her cold white beams the landscape covered with snow, and not the smallest .cloud could be perceived on the horizon to obscure her pure light. I opened a window and stood contemplating the spectacle before me. If on reaching the monastery I had formed to myself the illusion that I was visiting one of the feudal castles of the Middle Ages, full of pages, ladies, and knights, that illusion began to assume a greater reality the moment I found myself at the Gothic window. In front of me lay a vast field mantled by hard snow, which beneath the moonbeams appeared like a spotless white carpet, the congealed icicles glistening in the moonlight as though the ground were studded with brilliants, topazes, and emeralds Further on, half hidden by a slight mist, could be seen the houses of the town of Burgete. To the right rose up the lofty peaks of the Iru and other mountains which form that severe cordillera, until they were lost in the deep blue of the atmosphere. To the left the scene was still more surprising. Immense aged oaks, pines of many years' growth, stripped of leaves, could be seen moving their snow-laden tops at the weak breath of the icy breeze. Their black trunks stood out in relief against the white background of the snowy plains, while their gigantic branches appeared like the unearthly arms of some colossal phantom.
In the midst of the sepulchral silence of night, broken only by the distant noise of the running streams, my ears perceived some unfamiliar sounds, which, though weak and far distant at first, began to swell; and that singular sound which had so struck me continued to increase--was it an illusion? Perchance it was. My heated imagination conjured up before me that heroic combat of the armies of Charlemagne against the dwellers of the mountains of Navarre. I heard the clashing of lances, the neighing of the horses, the pelting noise of stones as they struck the steel armour of the horsemen, the whizzing of the arrows as they flew across the air, the cries of the conquerors, the sighs of the wounded, the groaning of the dying; the cause of this unwonted noise was duly explained!
I was about to close the window and retire to rest when I heard truly a clear ringing cry, penetrative--a cry which was echoed by the adjoining rocks and chasms, this cry being repeated and prolonged and echoed over and over again.
"Francisco!" I cried, "tell me what this means?"
My cousin awoke up, and at that moment the weird sound was repeated.
"Oh!" replied, rising up and approaching the window, "I know what it is. It is Roldan, who is blowing his horn, asking for help."
"And who is this Roldan?" I asked.
"Do you not know? Well, he is one of the twelve, peers of France who died at the boundary," he replied, going back to bed.
I could not help bursting out laughing, but Francisco grew very wrathful at my incredulity, as he was a firm believer in ghosts, phantoms, and apparitions.
"You unbelieving Jew!" he cried, in anger; "is that all they teach you at the universities? Are there no witches? Do you not believe that the spirits appear of those who have died and were left unburied? Go to "Aquelarre" on some Saturday night, and on the next morning you will tell me what you have seen; go now, this very moment, to take a walk in that wood which lies before us, and I promise you that ere you have walked fifty paces you will meet with Bassa Jauna."
"Come, cousin, do not take it so to heart," I replied, as I am in total ignorance of all that passes here."
Five minutes later I was in bed and fast asleep.
When the first rays of the dawn were touching the tops of the mountains which surrounded the monastery, the pack of hounds were gathered in the wide courtyard, their barking awaking the huntsmen. The yelping of the impatient dogs, the blowing of the hunting horns, the voices of those who had risen early, produced such a din, that I was forced to rise against my will and descend to join them. My uncle the cura, with his merry, happy face, breathing health, through every pore, was awaiting us surrounded by huntsmen and followed by the prior, who did not cease to enjoin us to be careful, and to take ever precaution against being suddenly assailed by the fierce beast we were going to encounter.
We joined the group, and bade the prior farewell, his parting words being, "Now, boys, keep together, and above all aim right; may you have a good day's sport; and now I shall go and celebrate mass."
Within a quarter of an hour after leaving the monastery we had lost sight of its walls, and had interned ourselves in the forest. We divided the party into couples, the better to scour the forest. We formed a wide semicircle as in guerilla warfare, and placed the dogs between the distances. In this way we proceeded to search high and low, leaving no defile unexplored, nor rock or mountain unscoured--but all in vain. The bear did not show an appearance, nor could we find the smallest trace which could afford us any clue to its haunts. In this bootless search we continued until three
o'clock in the day, when it was judged prudent to return to the monastery before the night, should overtake us, wandering about those solitary places covered by snow and frost.
I was exceedingly tired from ascending and descending the rocks and mountain parts, as I was little accustomed to this kind of exercise, and my hands were raw from grasping the thorny bushes and briars when scaling the rocks and climbing up the hillsides. I threw myself down, resting against a rock; Francisco sat down by my side, and Tigre, our good dog, lay at our feet licking my hands. The other huntsmen were preparing for their return home.
"Come," I said, "let us drink a draught of wine, and then tell me something about Roldan's bugle-horn."
Ah my cousin replied, in a grave tone, "if you had passed whole weeks as I have, in the forests and woods, with no other companion but a dog and a gun, you would then know a great many things which you know nothing of. Get up and follow me, since you still wish me to tell you something concerning this French knight, and I will tell you what I have heard, but it must be related on the very spot where that brave fell and died."
I rose up, and we both proceeded to the eminence pointed out by Francisco. Nothing more grand could be imagined than the view commanded from this eminence;
the virgin luxuriance of the Basque mountains, with their trees of immense height, their huge broken chasms and rocks contemporary with the creation, their tops covered with the snows of centuries, and the torrents below of turbid waters which have been flowing on from the beginning of the world. The heights on which we stood was a broken point, and on the opposite side to this division there was a huge gap, and this opening is the boundary or gate which divides it from France.
We reached the spot where Roldan died, and from whence, it is said, he still blows his horn. It is related that whenever the blast of his horn is heard the rocks fall to pieces, the mountains catch fire, and homesteads disappear by fierce storms.
"Tell me, pray tell me all about this."
"Well, then, listen."
"There was in France an emperor or king who went on from conquest to conquest, working his way towards the North. In his incursions he was accompanied by some barons of his realm, who were exceedingly brave and daring, among the number being Roldan, and he was distinguished above them all, like the tops of a beech tree rising above the other trees of the forests. Wearied of always proceeding towards the North, where he only found snow and ice, he returned to his own kingdom, and, after making some preparations, he sallied out to conquer the South. Do you see that mountain
yonder, so high that its top is nearly lost in the clouds? From that mountain up to Elizondo nothing was seen but soldiers; the ground shook beneath the weight of that concourse of men covered with steel, at the head of which went Roldan. No resistance could we offer them because we were totally unprepared. They went on and reached Pamplona and conquered it; they spread themselves along the shores and they became the masters. Inebriated with such signal success, they returned to France, leaving their strongholds garrisoned. Nevertheless in that retreat there awaited them the punishment to their ambition. The whole army passed along that road covered with snow, towards where you are looking. The multitude of soldiers resembled a long serpent, whose head, led by the emperor, was concealed in Oleron, and the tail, at which stood Roldan, reached to the walls of the holy monastery of Roncesvalles. All the cliffs and chasms repeated the echoes a thousand times over, the noise of the songs, and the clamping of the horses' hoofs. Roldan had already reached to the summit of the pine plantation, which from hence looks as small as the lime tree; he was conversing cheerfully with his soldiers, when a horrible stampede was heard on the winds. They looked up in terror and saw huge masses bounding down the slopes in fearful leaps and awe-inspiring roar, and falling like hail on the troops, crushing them to the ground like so many reptiles."
"And what was that which was flying in space?" I asked, deeply interested with this picturesque narrative.
"Pieces of rock of the size of these we are sitting upon," he replied. "A fearful cry was heard in that defile. The troops mustered together, and with their shields endeavoured to offer an opposition to that shower of broken rocks, but the resistance was too weak to be able to repulse projectiles of this description. Their arms were broken, their bodies trampled, and men, guns, vehicles, and horses were crushed down, and, before many minutes had elapsed, all that road was covered over with dead bodies, broken corselets, and shields. Roldan was the only one who had been untouched by the missiles; he blew his horn asking for help, and the fierce, terrible irrinzi, or war-whoop, of the Basques was the response he received.
"All those mountain tops and heights were crowned, with Basques, who were hurling down broken rocks flying arrows, and even throwing huge balls of hard snow. They were commanded by Count Lobo. The count witnessed all this terrible slaughter, seated on the very spot which you are occupying. Roldan made strenuous efforts to reunite his men, and, by scaling the mountain sides, to cast the enemy from the heights. Several times did he reach as far as that break which lies two yards from your feet; but the trunk of a tree which rolled down the cliff, and other projectiles, arrested his venture.
"At length, wearied by so much wrestling, he formed a rampart with the bodies of his soldiers, and in this manner, behind this defence, he blew his horn and cursed his cousin the emperor. The sounds from his trumpet grew weaker and weaker, and as a last effort of his death agony he took his sword by the blade and cast it far from him. The sword struck this very spot, and was buried up to the hilt. The horn was silenced.
"Roldan died pierced by arrows, and surrounded by the dead bodies of his soldiers. His shadow, nevertheless, wanders about these solitary places; armed to the teeth, he is seen on the heights flinging down enormous rocks to obstruct the passage, the silent proof of his rout At times, when some catastrophe threatens the land, the sound of his horn is distinctly heard, announcing by those blasts the misfortune which is threatened. And when the anticipated calamity takes place, there are seen about these localities during the night long lines of armed men dancing to the measure of the strange music which their chieftain executes. Hapless indeed is the Basque muleteer who happens to pass at that moment."
"What happens then?" I asked.
"He will die broken to pieces against the rocks."
"So that, should these ill-omened fellows appear at this moment-------"
"We should be instantly killed," replied Francisco.
"Hum, hum! I am not afraid of the dead," I replied, smiling. "I am more impressed by the presence of two living men than by all the dead bodies of Roldan and his soldiers."
"Afraid of the living?" he replied, with a contemptuous sneer. "When I have my gun loaded I fear none who may stand before me!"
I was about to reply, and perhaps start a discussion, when we heard close to us the same strange noise and ringing cry which had reached us on the previous night.
"That is your Roldan, who no doubt is coming to tear us to pieces," I said, laughing, little thinking what was the actual cause of that cry.
But I was astonished to witness the terror and ashy pallor of the countenance of my cousin, who with finger on his lips was indicating to me to keep silence. Tigre had pricked up his ears, and was uttering sinister growls.
Suddenly Francisco cried, "I have lost my bugle-horn."
"What is the matter?"
"Why, look to the right; do you not hear?"
I could certainly hear the crackling sound of dry branches as they broke under the heavy muffled tread of some one slowly advancing, but I did not apprehend what it was.
"Is it, perhaps, Roldan who is approaching?" I asked, half convinced that this supposition might be a true one.
"Who knows? Silence! quiet, Tigre!" he whispered, menacing the dog which at once lay down at my feet.
The night was fast closing in, and the mists were descending from the mountains over the valleys. All at once throughout space resounded a ringing cry far more piercing than any we had yet heard, and on turning round in the direction from whence it proceeded, we beheld in astonishment a formidable black bear about thirty paces from us, and which stood still to look at us. When I saw him, I felt the blood freezing in my veins, and almost mechanically I raised my gun to aim but Francisco cried out, as he grasped my gun, to lower it. "Do not fire, else we are lost!"
The animal was slowly advancing, growling with pleasure on seeing his coveted prey so near to him, and which he felt sure of obtaining. The beast was a huge one, and his paws, with their sharp curved claws, were truly monstrous.
"Let us prepare for a hand-to-hand fight," said Francisco, on perceiving that the animal was beginning to agitate himself. "Were I alone," he added, drawing out his long woodman's knife-------
"What would you do?" I asked
"I would lodge a shot in his body, and then pierce him through with this knife."
"Shoot him then, and if you do not succeed in killing him I will fire also."
"It is impossible," he replied, "because, should I not kill him, he would attack us and although, were I alone, I could easily defend myself, yet I could not do so with you."
"Let us run for it, then," I said.
"Run from him?" he replied, looking at me from head to foot. "You are tired out, and before we should have departed twenty paces you would feel his claws clutching at your neck. No, let us do something else."
"Let us fight him to death," I rejoined.
The bear uttered a deep growl and dashed at us. Quick as thought my cousin leaped to the front and placed his body between me and the beast. The eyes of Francisco were gleaming with a strange light, his right hand grasped the long knife, and a feverish tremor betrayed his extraordinary resolve. That wrestling would have proved an unequal one, had not another combatant appeared on the field, when the bear was at a short distance from us. The dog Tigre, which had been hitherto only yelping and watching, now leaped on to the beast with the strength and agility of dogs of his breed, and, catching him by the neck, turned him over and both rolled to the ground. The rage of the bear was something terrible: he growled savagely, and set at the dog; but the latter, being agile and trained, parried the attacks of the beast with surprising skill.
"We are saved!" cried Francisco.
"Let us fire at him!" I said, preparing my gun.
"Keep quiet, for heaven's sake!" he exclaimed. Don't you see that, should we not kill him, he would turn his attacks from the dog and direct his fury towards us? Let us reserve our shot for the end."
Meantime the bear was vainly trying to catch the dog, but every time that he renewed the attack the dog would fly at him, and dig its teeth into the bear, forcing him to roar furiously.
My cousin then began to call at the top of his voice to summon the other huntsmen, if he could make himself heard by them, and they in their turn were already very anxious because we had not rejoined them. At last, after a quarter of an hour of anxious waiting, we heard the blasting of the hunting horns, the yelping of dogs, and the answering cries of our companions announcing their arrival.
When the bear heard all that noise he began to retire very slowly: we then fired two shots, and he disappeared in the wood. The huntsmen hastened up to us, nearly exhausted with fatigue, and fearful that some misfortune had happened to us.
"Pepe! Pepe! where is Pepe?" cried my uncle, in terror and out of breath.
"Here we are, uncle," I replied.
"Are you unhurt?"
"Yes, thank God; but had it not been for Francisco the bear would have torn me to pieces."
"Mercy upon us!" exclaimed all the huntsmen in one voice. "Have you seen the bear?"
"Yes, as surely as I see you!" I replied.
"Where is Francisco?" they asked.
At that moment we heard the report of a gun in the wood, followed by a fierce growl. We all ran towards the spot whence came the noise, and we found Francisco raising his gun to fire with the greatest coolness.
"I have wounded the beast," he said, as soon as he saw us coming; "if we follow the track the bear will be ours."
"But, gentlemen," said one of the huntsmen, "it is almost night."
"What does it matter?" replied Francisco, as he shouldered his gun and started in pursuit.
We all followed him, and on the snow we could plainly see the spots of blood from the wounded animal.
"He is certainly wounded," said my uncle; "therefore let us proceed cautiously. Pepe," he added, addressing me, "come close to me, do not linger behind nor separate yourself from our party."
"Come along with me!" cried Francisco, as he grasped my hand in an affectionate manner; "before the bear touches a thread of your coat he will have to tear me to pieces."
Deeply touched at this proof of his friendship I returned his grasp in silence The pack of dogs were leashed together, setting Tigre foremost, and we joined ourselves together in a close column, and, preparing our weapons, we followed for a considerable distance the track of the animal. The night quite closed in, but we were able to continue our search, thanks to, the reflection cast up from the whiteness of the untrodden snow. The footprints and occasional spots of blood from the wounded animal served as a guide, but on reaching a plain, encircled by high rocks like gradients in an amphitheatre, the trace of footprints and the drops of blood ceased. From this we inferred that the bear's den must be in some opening of the rocks standing before us, so we decided to encamp on the snow, taking all necessary precautions to spend the night in security and all possible comfort. With a quantity of dry branches we kindled a fire, fastened the dogs in couples, refreshed ourselves with food and wine, and settled to sleep. Some of the keepers took their turn to watch, and formed a sort of mounted guards. In spite of the piercing cold, somewhat modified by the heat of the fire, we soon fell fast asleep.
At daydawn we were up and commenced anew our search. We found deeply impressed footprints of the beacon the snow, and followed the track which led us to the further end of this natural amphitheatre of rocks. At the base of a high cliff we discovered an opening curtained by overhanging branches and much tangled growth, and none doubted that this opening led to the den of our enemy. We carefully examined the surroundings of this mountain, in order to discover whether there existed any other opening to this cave, but to our great satisfaction we found none. We then held a sort of council of war, to discuss the best means possible to dislodge the animal from his lair, and after some animated discussion the proposal suggested by my cousin was unanimously adopted. This was simply to place the huntsmen on the heights which surrounded the plain for safety, and the keepers with the dogs leashed together to stand at the entrance of the plain.
Then to collect some branches, pile them up at the mouth of the cave and set fire to them, and by this means smoke out the beast from his lair. We accordingly perched ourselves all along the heights of the rocks, and my cousin, armed with his long knife, and followed by some of the men carrying wood, gently approached the cavern, covered up the entrance with the branches, and set fire to them. My curiosity was at its highest point, and the eyes of all were fixed on the bonfire, which was beginning to cast vivid flames and dense columns of smoke. Francisco stood on my right, and the dog Tigre on the left. Ten minutes elapsed without anything taking place, and we were beginning to think we had after all missed our mark, when we perceived the ignited branches flying in the air, and scattered about on all sides under the vigorous kicks of the bear. He appeared on the scene uttering fearful growls, and casting fiery glances around at us. When the animal found himself enclosed within that narrow circle, his fury knew no bounds. He made towards the dogs, which were all let loose together, and a terrible fight ensued. The bloodhounds covered the bear with their tawny bodies; the beast lacerating all those he could bite at with his long teeth, and in a short time out of that rolling heap of bodies came forth indescribable cries of pain, and blood flowed. Thirteen dogs fell victims, either killed or wounded, in that fight, and the rest withdrew at the call of their keepers. The bear, now fairly exhausted, sat on his haunches, unable to move, his jaws wide open, and his tongue hanging out like a sheet of red-hot iron.
"Fire altogether!" cried my uncle, and five balls entered the animal's body.
The bear gave a tremendous leap on finding himself wounded; he reared on his hind legs, gazed upon the scene around him, and with desperate bounds, horrible growls, and grinding his teeth in a fearful manner, covered with blood and froth, he dashed in the direction where Francisco and I were standing to attack us. In order to reach to where we stood, it was necessary for the animal to clamber a cliff of about sixteen feet high, upon one of the crevices of which we had taken our position. The other huntsmen did not dare to fire through fear of wounding us; nor were they able to render us any assistance, as it was too late to prevent the attack or divert the beast. Meanwhile the bear was with surprising agility clambering up, and we almost felt the hot breath of his nostrils. The huntsmen were terror-stricken: my poor uncle endeavoured to encourage us with cheering words, while a cold perspiration overspread my face. I trembled from head to foot, and I knew not what to do. I turned towards my cousin, who gave me a grasp of the hand, and, turning deadly pale, murmured, "The bugle-horn of Roldan!" The critical moment had arrived. Flight was now impossible. The bear advanced, and had already raised his huge paws to pounce upon us. Francisco leaped forward, made the sign of the cross, raised his gun, took aim, and fired. I closed my eyes. A cry of joy resounded in that enclosed plain on seeing the beast roll over, down the broken cliff, and Tigre with him. Francisco uttered an irrinzi of triumph, and, swiftly following the animal, he leaped down and stuck his long knife into the breast of the bear.
Three hours later, we entered the walls of the monastery bringing the dead body of the black bear, the terror of the adjacent mountains. From his body was extracted about twenty pounds of fat, and his handsome skin covered for some years the prioral couch of Roncesvalles.
For a considerable time after this event I used to dream very frequently about Roldan's bugle-horn; and whenever I was troubled with these dreams I would awaken as in a fright and start up nervously, believing myself caught in the clutches of a black bear.
I'm biting my nails in anticipation that you enjoyed it as much as I hope you did.
If you want to see more of these, know that I want to produce more of them, and that if I can hold your interest and earn your support, I will produce more of them; two per month. I hope that this example, my first attempt at immersive storytelling, is enough to convince you, today, to take action to support the next one.
Right now, go visit www.mffpodcast.com/more and find out how to support this project and to help choose the next story I bring to life in this way.
A big thank you to Owen McCuen, who played the roles of The Prior, The Uncle, and Francisco. To learn more about Owen, visit OwenMcCuen.com. Thanks to Nico Vettese, who produced the primary theme music of the story; you can learn more about Nico on his website, wetalkofdreams.com. A special thanks to Mark Coutu and Jessica Rainville for their help in pulling some of the production elements together and for providing their feedback on various stages of the creative process. To learn more about Mark you can visit his website TheYellowVA.com and Jessica can be found at jessicarainville.com. Owen, Mark, and Jessica are each talented voice actors and I greatly appreciate both their mastery of their craft and their patience with this inexperienced director as he learns how to direct scenes - I look forward to working with each of you in the near future.
Another special thanks to Fred Greenhalg of Dagaz Media and Writer & Co-Producer of The Dark Tome, for his input on the post-production process and for his advice on future improvements and considerations. Fred, you are a mentor and the degree to which I appreciate your respect cannot be overstated. Thank you.
Deep appreciation to the texting community, which if you'd like you can join by texting "hello" to 207.501.3119, for their ongoing support and feedback during the creation and post production process. Especially to Matt, Alisha, Lindsey, and Katie.
Thanks finally to Soundsnap.com, Artlist.io, Sounddogs.com, Boomlibrary.com, and the BBC Sound Effects library at bbcsfx.acropolis.org.uk for curating such incredible sound effects and for making such wonderful libraries available to creatives like me by including podcasting-use language in your licensing terms. These last five are resources and are not in any way sponsors of my content, but they do make my content possible by existing as licensable premium libraries.
And thank you, dear listener, for being here, for appreciating what I create, and for giving me some of your time and attention. I know there are many podcasts out there which you could be listening to - that you chose mine is an honor and I will always do my best to be deserving of that honor. One last time, please visit mffpodcast.com/more to discover ways to support this project and to ensure its continued production. Thanks again for listening today and, until next time, take care.