Season 2, Episode 3: A Quiet Place
Hey everyone, I just wanted to take a moment to give an update on the show. I apologize for having gone dark for a little while, and I can’t blame anyone for being a little peeved with the absence. Anyway, I’m still alive (and thanks to everyone who reached out and asked exactly that!) and I still plan to continue the show. To be completely honest, I just simply got overwhelmed with what has been an incredibly busy period of time for me over here, and even though most of what I’m dealing with is very positive, with so much going on I have allowed social media, the site and the show to all go quiet for a few weeks. Believe me, I have been flagellating myself for letting my first love, this podcast, fall behind. It is my fervent hope that I have now come through this particularly busy time in my schedule, that I will get caught up and things will become smooth sailing once again. For what it’s worth, I’m going to go back to an every-other-week format for the foreseeable future - rather than every 10 days - so I can hit a regular timetable for you, as you deserve. I’d love to keep up a 7 or 10 day rotation, but until I can retire from day job and do nothing but this, well… For what it’s worth, it would also be nice to have proper library access back here in the UK. I feel like a kid who got to see the candy store, just to have the heavy door of COVID slammed in his face. Just like the other 7 billion of us, I’m looking forward to a vaccine, and normal life, and all of the goodness and promise of a New Year that is not 2020 just around the corner. Alright, enough of my excuses and wishes; let’s pick up where we left off and rejoin the story at the intersection of Chlothar II and Dagobert. Thank you for your indulgence and your continued listening; now, let’s return to the show…
Competence and ability are wonderful traits to have in a meritocracy. Talented, capable people, driven to succeed and imbued with a sense of purpose, have changed the course of history by their relentless desire to go further, to do more, and to be the best. One problem with being the best, however, is that by standing out, you can make yourself a target. And if you’re the best at something that you shouldn’t be doing… well, this can get you into a bit of trouble.
So it was for Dionysus, a Christian bishop sent to the Roman province of Gaul by Pope Fabian in the 3rd century. Dionysus went north into the pagan wilderness along with two of his closest friends, Rusticus and Eleutherius, to start the process of converting those who were unaware of the true Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, bringing these poor souls who were otherwise destined for the fires of Hell into their fold and the bliss of eternal salvation. These men were true believers, and they preached to their new flock with the fervor that only a true believer can bring to the table. It wasn’t long before their effectiveness began to draw crowds, then converts. It also wasn't long before the Roman authorities took notice of what they were doing. The _pagan_Roman authorities, the same strongmen who, in their hometown, were known for sending Christians into the arena with nothing more than their hands and their wits to fight off bears, lions, and other assorted wild beasts. In most cases, wits were good tools for people, but unfortunately, in the case of the closed arena, they were rarely a match for razor-sharp teeth and claws.
At any rate, Dionysus, et al, were doing a fine business for themselves, and continued their march through Gaul until they came to the Roman city of Lutetia. Some of the locals from that area told the holy men that the city had once belonged to a tribe known as the Parisii, but the Romans had long ago driven them off. The people had now fallen into the habit of fluctuating between calling the town by its given Roman name, and that of the former tribe; more often than not, they simply referred to it as Paris. Beyond Paris, locals in Gaul had a wickedly difficult time pronouncing the names of their new religious saviors; as a result, Dionysus found himself answering more and more to a new pronunciation: Denis.
Well, it didn’t take a tremendous amount of time for the Roman authorities to track down and capture three Roman Christians galavanting around in the middle of Gaul, adjacent to a Roman camp, holding Mass and giving sermons. It took even less time for the local authorities to find the three men guilty of being a nuisance and provocateurs, charges which carried only one penalty in these outlying provinces: death. As a way to show the people of Lutetia that real power resides in sharpened steel and not flowery words, the authorities marched the men to the tallest mount in the area and used that steel to make martyrs of them all. One by one they fell, their heads detached from their bodies in one swift and brutal stroke of the sword. This, the authorities figured, would put an end to the spread of this nonsense religion spreading in their land.
For authorities, there’s three problems with making martyrs. The first is that one can never be entirely sure as to when an execution is going to go that extra few steps from simple, state-sanctioned murder, into making someone more important than they already were. This leads directly to the second problem, which is that making a martyr actually goes quite a long way toward strengthening the murdered person’s message. After all, why kill someone if what they’re saying isn’t important? Martyrdom creates an interest in the subject and drives a curiosity as to what was being said that was so dangerous that it required the forfeiture of a life. Finally, creating a martyr gives like-minded people someone to rally around. And since the person has already been killed, they can’t be removed a second time. They become a symbol of something greater, and erasers and swords have no effect on them. And if you throw in a particularly saucy element into how a person was martyred or what happened in the wake of their death, a government can go from creating a dead man to creating a legend.
In Denis’ case, legend status came when the holy man, now minus a head and lying in a spreading pool of his own blood, suddenly placed his hands underneath himself and pushed his body up from the ground. In front of those who had swung the sword and the adherents of his new brand of religion, the body of Denis, as the story went, calmly walked over to where its head had rolled and picked it up. Denis then, in an act of defiance to his Roman captors, proceeded to walk off of his own execution site at the summit of the Mount of Martyrs. No one moved to stop him, and who could blame them? Anyway, Denis walked, and he talked. He sang praises to the Lord and gave a sermon to his new congregants as he walked away from his oppressors, the words of which were delivered from a mouth held at the midsection of the cephalophore’s torso. He proceeded for two miles before he finally fell a second time, and when he did his people quickly buried the body and created a shrine to honor this amazing man and his miraculous act.
Fast forward 200 years, and the shrine of Denis had fallen into disrepair. Lutetia/Paris had grown a little bit since the days of Denis, but it had yet to catch on as any type of major hub. The Romans were doing a lackluster job of governance at this time, what with all of the infighting going on in their capital, and on top of that there was a roving tribe known as the Huns running about on the loose in Gaul, and well… people just didn’t have time to keep up an old burial site. That is, _most_ people didn’t have time. Fortunately for Denis, his actions and his sacrifice were not forgotten by a woman named Genevieve. This remarkable woman was known for her strong Christian faith and devotion, but she became even more famous when the Huns that I just mentioned had come riding toward Paris just to be turned away by God’s intercession, an intercession prayed into existence when Genevieve locked herself and the womenfolk of Lutetia into a church to pray the Huns away. The men of Lutetia were frantic to run off and leave the city open for plunder, but when they were put in the position of running off without their wives and daughters, most stayed. Attila brought his Huns near to the city, and seeing it still guarded, chose to ride on in search of easier prey. Well, given that Genevieve was now the “Protector of Paris” and she had a penchant for Denis, it was only a matter of time before people began helping her in the task of cleaning up the old memorial to the man who had preached _sans tête_, building a larger shrine over top of the small one that had been erected by those early adherents of their shared Christian religion.
Fast forward again, this time just shy of 150 years. The forested lands around Lutetia, fully known as just Paris now that the Romans have fully fled from Gaul, have crept up around the Shrine of Saint Denis, obscuring the structure that is once again falling into disrepair. Still, the Shrine exists. Had Genevieve not expended as much time and effort as she had, it is entirely possible that the small initial monument could have been fully absorbed back into nature. This larger structure now lay in a land ruled by Kings rather than Emperors; these Kings fought with one another for supremacy, and the borders of their lands were in constant flux. Here, in the year 620, Chlothar II of the Merovingian Dynasty has taken control of the situation. His son, Prince Dagobert, is partial to Paris and the lands around the city. He rides through the forests regularly on his hunts, and it is here, on this day, that Dagobert spots the largest stag he has ever seen. He gives chase to the beast; it does its best to outrun its hunters, crossing the river to throw off the scent of the dogs and to slow the speed of their attack. Still, the size of the beast betrays the animal, and it’s easy for these experienced hunters to track it, spot it, and maintain their pursuit of it.
After an hour of pursuit, the stag is nearing the end of its energy. It wants nothing more than to lie down, but it knows that if it does so it will be captured and killed. At that moment, the beast is coming into a clearing before a small building, and as if called from something inside, it approaches the structure and walks through its doorway. The inside of the building is cool and dark, with only a few slivers of light intruding into it from the outside world. These shafts of light fall onto a spot at the front of the shrine, an altar. The stag, following an innate pull toward this, walks to the front of the building, places its front hooves onto the table, and then heaves the rest of its massive body into place. The beast is calm. It knows it is safe. No one will chase it any further now. No one will attack. It can finally lie down and rest, without fear.
Outside of the shrine, Dagobert and his hunters have tracked their quarry to this spot. One of his companions calls out, “He seems to have gone inside…” Dagobert agrees with the man. It’s a curious thing, for a stag to enter a building, what with the horns and all, but that doesn’t discourage Dagobert. He sends his hounds to the door to suss the animal out. These are fine dogs, trained killers who the Prince has taken on dozens, if not hundreds, of hunts. They walk to the shrine with their teeth bared to finish their business and tackle their quarry, just as they had finished so many others. And its for this reason, their experience, that what they do next shocks Dagobert so much: they sit. The dogs refuse to pass beyond the lintel of the shrine, crying when any of the hunting party tries to force them. One dog even tries to bite when a soldier attempts to pick him up and throw him in. Something is dissuading these dogs, but no one can tell what it is. Finally, the Prince himself decides to take matters into his own hands. He dismounts his horse and heads for the door. No matter how the stag got inside, he fully expects to end the confrontation here and now. It was a good chase the animal gave; it can die happy in that realization.
Dagobert enters the shrine, his blade unsheathed. Particles of dust hang in the air, freshly stirred by the movement of the stag striding down the aisle of the shrine and the animal’s steady breathing from his spot in the middle of it. Despite the dust and the low light, Dagobert can sense that something more was at play in this building than was evidenced by the ruins. Something important had once been housed here, something deserving of respect. He unconsciously returns his sword to his side, as having a weapon in hand in this place feels like an affront to God. He’s not sure why he feels that way, yet somehow he knows he in a holy place. Several more strides into the shrine, and he is finally able to see what has become of the stag. The beast, large and magnificent, has come to rest on the pile of stones that had undoubtedly once served as an altar. The animal is breathing heavily, still trying to recoup its breath from the long chase, but otherwise looking no worse for the wear. Dagobert comes closer; despite having been this man’s quarry for several hours and over a length of miles, the stag looks to have no fear of him at this moment. The animal knows it's protected in this holy ruin; Dagobert knows it as well.
A soldier burst through the door at that moment, bow drawn at the sight of his master standing so near to an animal which, if it were to charge with its impressive rack, would almost certainly impale the prince. “Stand aside, m’lord, and I will finish the hunt.”
“Put down your weapon,” Dagobert responds, firmly yet without anger. He is wrapped in an overwhelming sense of peace, a moment shared with the stag. He has been led here to discover something, and this animal had been the vessel used to draw him to the altar. Its job done and, now rested, the animal begins to rise.
“Go out,” Dagobert commands of the soldier, “and let everyone present know that they are not to harm this beast. Any man who does so will have committed an offense to both God and his Sovereign. Let it go free.”
The stag seems to understand that the words being said were being said for him. Happy to now take his safe passage, he lowers his head and begins to walk down the aisle of the shrine. As his rear hoof pushes off from the altar, a stone slips out of place and down onto the ground. The stag passes before Dagobert as he proceeds down the aisle of the shrine, then he passes out of the door and into the thickening evening. The soldiers outside, hunters all, must overcome their instincts to obey their prince’s order as the stag steps into their presence and raises its head to its full height. Realizing the moment was ending and its time to claim its safety running short, the stag turns to the woods and bounds off into the tree line, disappearing from their sight like a spirit dissolving into the ether.
Inside, Dagobert looks about to see if anything in the building might give him more insight into what has just occurred. He is not long in looking when he steps toward the altar and notices the word written their, obscured when he first entered but now laid bare by the movement of the stag’s hoof as he stepped down from the altar and left the building. When Dagobert sees it, he understands at once God’s plan and all that has happened; more importantly, he understands what needs to happen next. On the stone below the altar, one man’s name had been carved to mark his final resting spot and his sacred remains. He had come to this land to bring Christianity to the people, and now his name directs Dagobert to continue his mission.
The name, carved into the altar and uncovered by the stag, was none other than “Denis.” It was this spot at which the martyred Saint had fallen nearly 400 years prior, and where Dagobert was now led to rebuild the Church in his name. This was the spot that would forever connect the legacy of France’s pagan beginnings with the future of the country yet to come.
This is _Thugs and Miracles._
Season Two, Episode Three: A Quiet Place
Alright, welcome back, or more appropriately I should say, welcome back to me. I apologize again for the disappearing act, and can only promise to not have it happen again soon. I _have_ in fact waited to get back into the saddle until such a time as I knew I could deliver new episodes on a regular basis, so… we shall see, right? If you’re listening to this a few years from now and all you notice is that I’m talking about is some grand length of time away, well, feel free to disregard. But for those of you still stuck in 2020 - you poor, poor wretches still caught in this interminable year - and especially Jayme, Trevor, Stephen Dijulius and Marco Cappelli, all of whom reached out to me to find out why new episodes had fallen by the wayside, well, mea culpa.
Moving on from that… so, yes, we just covered a 400 year period in our opening story alone, and I’m sure you may have noticed that the theme music only came on about 20 minutes into what’s a 30 minute show. I chose to do things this way this week because this was an opportunity to really highlight just how the mythology of France and the origin stories of the country really come into play all the way to the modern day. And this isn’t the first time we’ve seen that happen; you may recall that early in Season One when I talked about Childebert that one of the major finds in his tomb were a number of jewel-encrusted golden bees. This symbol of the Merovingians was discovered by Napoleon, and when he needed a symbol to display to the world that he was a new Emperor, rooted in the history of the French but not beholden to the Bourbon’s fleur-de-lys, the symbol of these first Kings made a triumphant return.
However, the case of Dagobert is different, not in the sense that the symbols didn’t begin with the Merovingians, but in the sense that the particular symbol that Dagobert is about to oversee the construction of lasted from his reign all the way to the present day. Unlike the bees, which were buried and rediscovered centuries later - over a millennia, in fact - the cathedral of Saint Denis has been at the heart of Paris in some shape or fashion ever since it was “rediscovered” by Dagobert during that fortunate 7th century hunting trip. In fact, the monument continues to recreate itself to this very day, with work having been slated to recreate the north spire of the cathedral starting just this year - work that could well take more than a decade to complete.
Construction of Saint Denis as we know it today began sometime around 1135; this leads to the question: “Didn’t Dagobert die long before that?” Well, yes, he did. While Dagobert didn’t create the church that we see today, he _did_ take the important steps of endowing the site with his royal blessing _and_ he started the tradition of burying the royalty of France there when he himself was laid to rest in the church that stood on the site of the current Cathedral. The site itself has become a focal point for France across the centuries. According to a passage from the _Life of Saint Eligius_:
“At Eligius' request, and for reverence to the holy confessor Martin, King Dagobert forgave the whole census that was released to the royal tax gatherer from that church and confirmed it by a charter. Thus the church claimed the whole use of the fiscal cens from him so that in that town even today it is decreed through obliging episcopal letters. Above all, Eligius fabricated a mausoleum for the holy martyr Denis in the city of Paris with a wonderful marble ciborium over it marvelously decorated with gold and gems. He composed a crest at the top of the tomb and a magnificent frontal and surrounded the throne of the altar with golden axes in a circle. He placed golden apples there, round and jeweled. He made a pulpit and a gate of silver and a roof for the throne of the altar on silver axes. He made a covering in the place before the tomb and fabricated an outside altar at the feet of the holy martyr. So much industry did he lavish there, at the king's request, and poured out so much that scarcely a single ornament was left in Gaul and it is the greatest wonder of all to this very day… the great and famous king Dagobert died and was buried in that same basilica of St. Denis under the arch in the right side. ”
Just as an FYSA, that last bit about the works of Eligius being “the greatest wonder of all to this very day” was penned in the early- to mid-8th century, so the content is a tad out of date. We do know, however, that the site was pretty splendid, and given Dagobert’s presence there, it held more than its fair share of supernatural strength. We shouldn’t be surprised in any way that this church would become the final resting site of the royals, and to this day relics from Clovis to Louis XVIII rest there. Note that I say “relics” though and not “bodies”; the Revolution came along and made a Royal mess - pun intended - of the Church and the remains held inside, and there’s a long story for another day just insofar as what the Revolutionaries did with their former Kings and Queens. Well, when everything finally settled down a bit, the Crown went out looking for what was left of the bodies that had been taken and the bits and bones that could be found were brought back into the Church and sealed in a crypt, so we can still say that St Denis is the resting place of the monarchy. Those at rest just are not doing so under the elaborate sculptures they had had made to mark their final resting spot for eternity.
Okay, we have gone down a tremendous rabbit hole here and if I don’t stop soon, I’m liable to get lost from where I want to go in this narrative. Don’t worry, however; I think I will definitely attack the story of the Revolution’s impact on the bodies of Saint Denis in greater detail in a true Rabbit Hole episode further down the line. For today, I would like to finish the way that we started: with a story. You see, there’s one last addendum to the story of Dagobert and the site of Saint Denis that needs to be told, and for what it’s worth, it’s quite telling of the relationship between Dagobert and his father, Chlothar II. You see, Chlothar hasn’t left the scene yet in our story, and his transition with his son becomes a critical point in the history in and of itself. With that said, let’s finish out today by talking about the time when Dagobert found himself hunted as if he himself were the stag, and when we return in two weeks, we’ll jump right in to talking about the actual history of Chlothar II’s last days and Dagobert I’s rise to power. Without further ado, let’s go back to the story:
Dagobert had loved the site of Saint Denis ever since he had come across it in his hunt of the stag. He had been struck with the beauty of the spot and nowhere else in his realm meant more to him.
However, he had come to find that he had less and less time to visit as he grew older and was drawn further into the business of statecraft as the heir to the throne. Still, the site continually entered his thoughts; it was his safe place, both mentally and physically. And he needed a safe place in both respects, given the regular threats he received from those who thought they could assert themselves over the young Crown Prince. One such person to try this was Duke Sadregisilius, the Duke of Aquitaine, a powerful warlord at the time and a close personal friend of King Chlothar.
One evening, Duke Sadregisilius had been sent to dine with the young prince and check in on his progress. He, the Duke, was to become his new tutor as Dagobert moved into the next phase of his adolescence, and had been handpicked by the King to see to the task of developing the Prince. The young man had grown considerably since the last time the Duke had seen him, yet the older man still felt it appropriate to speak down to him. Every time Dagobert heard the Duke refer to him as a “boy”, or “the boy”, as if he were not even in the room, he cringed. The duke, powerful both in his title and and his closeness to the King, was unbearable in his haughtiness and disrespect. However, the end of the meal was nearing; Dagobert could see an escape from this misery coming soon enough. It was then that the Duke asked, “Boy, what entertainment do we have in store after our meal?”
Without regard for his response, Dagobert blurted out, “If you call me boy one more time, our entertainment shall be to watch you whipped and tonsured.”
The two men locked eyes at this. The rest of the room went silent, trying to not be the first to be noticed in the midst of the much-raised tension. God forbid, some unfortunate soul in such a situation could easily be like that tall tree in the middle of a clearing in the midst of a summer night, struck down by lightning by just one stroke.
When no one spoke or moved for the next unbearable minute, it was Dagobert who finally broke the silence. Wishing to lower the temperature in the room and simply move on with the evening, he motioned to a servant to bring him a fresh glass of wine. When it appeared, Dagobert took a sip off, maintaining eye contact with the Duke the entire time that he did. He then motioned to the same servant to take the cup to the older man.
“Take this to our friend, the Duke,” Dagobert ordered. “Let him drink from the same cup as his prince and we shall once again be friends.”
The servant did as ordered, and brought the cup to the older man. He placed it before him, and then stepped away. The Duke, moving slowly, looked at the cup and then turned his eyes up to Dagobert. Grabbing the drink, he lifted it toward his new pupil in a toast. He smiled.
“We are not friends boy!” the Duke roared, his smile transforming into a mask of hideous anger instantaneously. He threw the mug against the wall and jumped to his feet.
“Guards!” Dagobert yelled. Six soldiers came running into the room, ready to carry out the command of their young sovereign. “Seize the Duke, now!”
The soldiers pushed forward, and in short order had the Duke held with his arms behind his back. “Your father shall hear of this!” he yelled at Dagobert.
“No,” Dagobert responded cooly. “What my father shall hear of has not yet begun. Take him to the courtyard and tie him to the post.”
Sadregisilius was led away by the guard, his feet barely touching the floor. Dagobert followed the group, taking his time. It was cold outside, and he was in no hurry to make the Duke’s time in the weather any shorter than necessary. When he finally arrived to the courtyard almost an hour later, the Duke was an interesting melange of colors: his face was red with anger, yet his body, stripped of the tunic covering his torso, had begun to turn pink and blue from the cold.
“Duke Sadregisilius,” Dagobert began, talking over the hoarse voice of the older man, “For your disrespect and your arrogance, you must be punished. Normally, I would order a man’s tongue struck from his head for speaking the way you have spoken to me. But, I am merciful, so I offer you the following punishment instead. You will be lashed 20 times, once for each year of my life. Each lash will help you to remember my proper age, and to know that I am no boy any longer. Once that is complete, you shall be tonsured. Then you may go on your way. You may go wherever you'd like, but you shall not be given any further comfort here.”
Dagobert turned to the guard brandishing the whip. “You may begin.”
With that, Dagobert walked away. He entered the castle as the first stroke of the whip connected, causing the Duke to cry out in pain. The sound brought a smile to Dagobert’s lips.
Several days passed, and the whole incident with the Duke was starting to quiet down at the Prince’s court. Dagobert was playing games in the late afternoon when a messenger arrived.
“Your Royal Highness,” he said, out of breath. “Your father, the King, is en route to see you. He is extremely upset by what he has heard that you did to the Duke of Aquitaine and will be here shortly to gain a full report from you.”
Dagobert went white at the message. He was unsure of how to respond, though everyone around him was clearly looking for some word from him. Finally, still speechless, the Dauphin walked out of the room. In his mind, he could think of only one thought: return to the shrine. It was the one place on Earth that offered him clarity of thought and an inner calm, and at this moment, he needed both.
It was after dark when Dagobert made it to the shrine. He had evaded his father and his father’s men, but he knew it was only a matter of time before they caught up to him. He didn’t know what to do or how to extricate himself from the punishment he knew his father had in store. Hell, his father had another son, Dagobert’s half-brother, in reserve if something should happen to the Dauphin; was Chlothar mad enough to kill? All of these thoughts swirled around and around in the young man’s head in a ceaseless loop, but after some time the fresh air from his ride, the peak of emotion from finding out about his father’s imminent arrival, and the lack of answers to his questions all combined to wear him down. Dagobert, with nothing else to do, walked to the front of the shrine and hauled himself onto the same broken table upon which he had once found the stag. There, he did just like the great beast. He closed his eyes, and he fell asleep.
The sound of voices awoke the Dauphin. He knew before he even opened his eyes that the end had come: what other voices would be out here if not those belonging to the soldiers under his father’s command? He sat up, prepared to take his punishment. He was not prepared, however, for what he saw.
Before Dagobert stood three men, all dressed in shining white. “Wh-who are you?” he asked.
One of the men stepped forward from the group. “We are the occupants of this tomb,” he said. “I am Dionysus, though many in these parts knew me by a shorter name: Denis. These are my friends, Rusticus and Eleutherius. All of us were buried here centuries ago following our martyrdom in the name of God, and here we have lied waiting for you.”
“What can _I_ do for _you_?” Dagobert responded incredulously. “I’m probably going to be joining you shortly, if you know my situation.”
Denis smiled. “We know your situation, Your Highness, and we are here to help you. But first, we need you to give us your word. If we help you, we need you to set forth from this time to remember us and honor our sacrifice in bringing the word of God to Gaul. We have fallen into obscurity and our shrine along with us. But because you see that the vileness of our tomb obscured our fame, if you promise to go forth adorned with the memory of us, then we can free
you from these straits, and in all things, with God’s help, offer you aid.”
Dagobert, uncertain of how these men could help him, but also without any other plausible options, agreed to their terms. If he made it out of the shrine alive then yes, absolutely, he would honor the men by glorifying their tomb. As soon as the promise left his lips, Dagobert awoke upon the shrine.
“I must have been dreaming,” he thought out loud. The men in white were gone, and now it was just him and the sun’s first rays. Moments later, he heard what he had feared all along: the sound of approaching hoofs. It sounded as if an entire army had shown up to reclaim the dauphin, as if a thousand men had been dispatched just to take him before the King. No matter the actual number, one man eventually came forward.
“Come out Prince Dagobert,” the man called. “Come out, and save us the trouble of having to drag you from hiding.”
At this, Dagobert nearly exited the shrine. He wanted no part in what was to come, yet he also did not want to end his time as a coward being dragged to his doom. He started down the aisle, then stopped. He remembered what the men in white had told him: they would protect him.
We shall see, he thought.
It quickly became evident to all that Dagobert was not going to leave the ruin in which he had taken refuge. This scenario had clearly been envisioned, as a small guard of crack troops were summoned to enter the building and take him out. There was nowhere to go, nowhere to run, so Dagobert simply waited for the the team of men to barge in and drag him off from the center of the shrine.
They exploded into the room with weapons drawn, clearly hoping to frighten and overwhelm the Prince with their presence and to take him without a fight. And they succeeded; Dagobert began to raise his hands as they came toward him, to offer them a sign that he gave no resistance.
That’s when it happened.
The men, these elite soldiers assigned to capture the prince, each began to fall to the ground, hands at their throats. Their eyes, to a man, had gone wild with panic and were bulging from their sockets. They began to thrash on the ground; to Dagobert, they looked like fish thrown upon the shore, gasping for air and flailing wildly for something, anything to help them.
“Leave here!” Dagobert yelled. “Leave this place and you may live!”
The men, mindless of their original mission, heeded the words of the Prince. Again to a man, each could be heard gasping and drawing in air at the moment they crossed the threshold of the shrine. Dagobert stood in disbelief, trying to make sense of how he was not in custody and still standing at the heart of the shrine. Surely his dream of the three old men buried in this spot was not actually real, right? Was he really protected by the holy men resting in the ground just a feet away from where he stood?
That question was answered swiftly, as wave after wave of man attempted to breach the sanctity of the shrine and to be the one who captured the King’s wayward son. Without fail, each of them lost his breath, fell to the ground, and then crawled for the safety and air available to them outside of the shrine. Dagobert couldn’t believe it; he really was safe! An hour had passed and not one soldier had yet come close to getting a hand on him. Now he heard the crowd stirring outside, and he began to see soldiers dropping to the their knees. That could mean only one thing: the King himself had arrived.
The King stood out in front of the shrine and called out to his son. “Dagobert, what is the meaning of this? How have you stopped all of these men?”
“Come inside, father, and I will tell you everything!”
With that, Chlothar entered. Of all of the things he had imagined seeing that day, of all the ways things could have gone, he had been completely unprepared for this: his son, dancing about in the middle of an abandoned ruin in the woods, apparently impervious to any who would try to take him by force.
“How…” the King began to ask. Dagobert quickly interrupted. Having forgotten everything that had led him to this point, he excitedly told his father about his dream, about the men in white and the promise they had made and delivered upon. He told them about the promise he had made in return, and how when all seemed lost they had followed through on their end of the bargain.
“Now it’s my turn Father. You have seen it with your own eyes the miracle that has happened today. We should go forth and do exactly as I have promised, enriching the shrine and bringing it back to glory!”
The elder man agreed. He could see the change in his son’s eyes since the last time they had met. Whereas before the boy had been idle and slovenly, this man before him looked excited and driven. He had a sense of purpose. He had become, overnight, a man ready to lead and to set the example.
Dagobert was ready to be a King.
CONCLUSION: Alright, we’re going to leave it there for now. We’ve had pretty much the full side of the story from the supernatural side of things; so how does reality compare? Did Dagobert decide to glorify the shrine of St. Denis based on a nocturnal conversation with a long-dead cephalophore, or did he do so because he wanted to commission a monument of his own as a way to stand out from the Royal crowd? When we get past that, we’ll also take a look at a few other things: who was the half-brother we mentioned in the story, the “spare” to Dagobert’s “heir”? And what _did_ happen with Chlothar II? He’s been a part of our story for what feels like an eternity at this point, so how did he eventually leave the scene? We’ll get into all of that next time.
OUTRO: Alright, as always, the music used for the show comes from Josh Woodward and includes his songs “Bully” and “Lafayette.” For a free download of these songs or hundreds of other great tracks, check out his site at joshwoodward.com. Notes on this episode, a list of sources, an updated monarchy/family tree, and also a list of other great history podcasts are all available online at thugsandmiracles.com. Be sure to sign up for our free e-mail list so we can keep you up to date with all things T+M and announcements on new shows. Speaking of email, you can write to us at email@example.com, you can hit us on Twitter at @thugsandmiracle (with no “s” on the end), or you can leave a comment on Facebook and Instagram at @ThugsAndMiracles. And yes, I promise to rejoin the world not just in podcasting, but also by going on social media. Now that the US election is over I’m hoping to be able to look at my feed once again and maybe see something more… different. Anyway, be sure to also check out the #TimeTravelTalks hashtag and account on Twitter, as well as HistoryPods.com and their associated Twitter handle, @podsofhistory. And if you haven’t already, I ask that you take a moment to head over to your podcast player of choice and leave T+M a rating. We'd appreciate it and would consider it an early present during the holidays!
Okay, once again, my name is Benjamin Bernier, and I look forward to seeing you in two weeks - I swear! - as we continue to explore Thugs and Miracles.