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Book Of Merlin, And The Coming Of Arthur - XV

( Originally Published 1907 )

WHEN the knight saw him lay so on the ground, he alighted, and was passing heavy, for he weened he had slain him ; and then he unlaced his helm and gave him wind; and so, with the truncheon, he set him upon his horse, and betook him to God, and said, he had a mighty heart, and if he might live, he would prove a passing good knight. And so Sir Griflet rode to the court, whereas a great moan was made for him ; but through good leeches he was healed, and his life saved. Right so came in the court twelve knights, and were aged men, and they came from the Emperor of Rome, and asked of King Arthur truage for his realm, or else the emperor would destroy him and his land. "Well," said King Arthur, "ye are messengers, therefore may ye say what ye will, or else ye would die therefore; but this is mine answer : I owe the emperor no truage, nor none will I send him; but upon a fair field I shall give him my truage, that shall be with a sharp spear, or else with a sharp sword, and that shall be within these few days, by my father's soul." And therewith the messengers departed passingly wrath, and King Arthur was as wrath as they, for in an evil time came they then, for the king was passing wrath for the hurt of Sir Griflet. And by and by he commanded a privy man of his chamber, that, or it be day, his best horse and armour, with all that belonged to his person, that it be without the city or to-morrow day. Right so on the morning, afore day, he met with his man and his horse, and so mounted up and dressed his shield, and took his spear, and bid his chamberlain tarry there till he came again. And so King Arthur rode but a soft pace till it was day, and then was he aware of three churls which chased Merlin, and would have slain him. Then King Arthur rode unto them a good pace, and cried to them, "Flee, churls!" Then were they afraid when they saw a knight, and fled away. "O, Merlin !" said King Arthur, "here hadst thou been slain for all thy craft had I not been." "Nay," said Merlin, "not so, for I could save myself if I would, and thou are more near thy death than I am, for thou goest toward thy death, and God be not thy friend." So as they went thus talking, they came to the fountain, and the rich pavilion by it. Then King Arthur was aware where a knight sat, all armed, in a chair. "Sir knight," said King Arthur, "for what cause abideth thou here,—that there may no knight ride this way but if he do joust with thee? I rede thee leave that custom," said King Arthur. "This custom," said the knight, "have I used, and will use, maugre who saith nay; and who is grieved with my custom let him amend it that will." "I will amend it," said King Arthur. "And I shall defend it," said the knight. Anon he took his horse, and dressed his shield, and took his spear; and they met so hard, either on other's shield, that they all to-shivered their spears. Therewith King Arthur drew his sword. "Nay, not so," said the knight ; "it is fairer that we twain run more together with sharp spears." "I will well," said King Arthur, "and I had any more spears." "I have spears enough," said the knight. So there came a squire and brought two good spears, and King Arthur took one, and he another; so they spurred their horses, and came together with all their might, that either break their spears in their hands. Then King Arthur set hand to his sword. "Nay," said the knight, "ye shall do better, ye are a passing good jouster as ever I met withal ; for the love of the high order of knighthood let us joust it once again." "I assent me," said King Arthur. Anon there were brought two good spears, and each got a spear, and therewith they ran together, that King Arthur's spear all to-shivered. But the knight hit him so hard in the midst of the shield, that horse and man fell to the earth, wherewith King Arthur was sore angered, and drew out his sword, and said, "I will assay thee, sir knight, on foot, for I have lost the honour on horseback." "I will be on horseback," said the knight. Then was King Arthur wrath, and dressed his shield toward him with his sword drawn. When the knight saw that, he alighted for him. He 'thought it was no worship to have a knight at such a vantage, he to be on horseback, and that other on foot, and so alighted and dressed him to King Arthur, and there began a strong battle, with many great strokes, and so hewed with their swords, that the cantels flew in the fields, and much blood they bled both, so that all the place where they fought was all bloody, and thus they fought long, and rested them; and then they went to battle again, and so hurtled together like two wild boars, that either of them fell to the earth. So at the last they smote together, that both their swords met even together. But the sword of the knight smote King Arthur's sword in two pieces, wherefore he was heavy. Then said the knight to the king, "Thou art in my power, whether me list to save thee or slay thee, and but thou yield thee as overcome and recreant, thou shalt die." "As for death," said King Arthur, "welcome be it when it cometh, but as to yield me to thee as recreant, I had rather die than to be so shamed." And therewithal the king leapt unto the knight and took him by the middle, and threw him down, and raised off his helm. When the knight felt that, he was a dread, for he was a passing big man of might; and anon he brought King Arthur under him and raised off his helm, and would have smitten off his head.

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