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Book Of Merlin, And The Coming Of Arthur - VIII

( Originally Published 1907 )

So, after the feast and tourney, king Arthur drew him to London, and by the counsel of Merlin the king did call his barons to counsel; for Merlin had told the king that the six knights that made war upon him would in all haste be avenged on him and on his lands. Wherefor the king asked counsel of them all ; they could no counsel give, but said, "They were big enough." "Ye say well," said king Arthur, "and I thank you for your good courage ; but will ye all that love me speak with Merlin? ye know well that he hath done much for me, and he knoweth many things ; and when he is afore you, I would that ye prayed him heartily of his hest advice." And all the barons said, "They would pray him aid desire him." So Merlin was sent for, and was fair desired of all the barons to give them the best counsel. "I shall tell you, sires," said Merlin ; "I warn you all, that your enemies are passing strong for you, and they are good men of arms as any that now live ; and by this time they have gotten four kings more, and a mighty duke also; and but if our king had more chivalry with him than he may make himself within the bonds of his own realm, and he fight with them in battle, he shall be overcome and slain."

"What were the best to do in this case?" said all the barons. "I shall tell you," said Merlin; "mine advice: there are two brethren beyond the sea, and they be kings both, and marvellous good men of their hands; the one hight (called) king Ban of Benwicke, and that other hight king Bors of Gaul, that is France ; and on these two kings warreth a mighty man of men, king Claudas, and striveth with them for a castle ; but this Claudas is so mighty of goods, whereof he getteth good knights, that he putteth these two kings for the most part to the worst; wherefore this is my counsel, that our king send unto the two kings, Ban and Bors, by two trusty knights with letters well devised, that if they will come and see king Arthur and his court, and so help him in his wars, that he will be sworn to them to help them in their wars against king Claudas. Now, what say ye unto this counsel?" said Merlin. "This is well counselled," said the king and all the barons. Right so in all the haste were ordained to get two knights upon the message unto the two kings. So were there made letters in most pleas-ant wise, according unto king Arthur's desire. Ulfius and Brastias were made the messengers, and so rode forth well horsed and well armed, as the guise was that time, and so passed to sea, and rode towards the city of Benwicke, and there besides were eight knights that espied them ; and at the straight passage they met with Sir Ulfius and Sir Bastias, and would have taken them prisoners. So they prayed them that they might pass, for they were messengers unto king Ban and Bors, sent from king Arthur. "Therefore," said the eight knights, "ye shall die, or be our prisoners, for we be knights of king Claudas." And therewith two of them dressed their spears, and Ulfius and Brastias dressed their spears, and ran together with great strength, and Claudas' knights brake their spears, and the other two held and bore the two knights out of their saddles unto the earth, and so left them lying, and rode their way; and the other six knights rode afore to a passage to meet with them again, and so Ulfius and Brastias smote other two down, and so passed on their way. And at the third passage they smote down other two; and at the fourth passage there met with two for two, and both *ere laid to the earth. So there was none of the eight knights but that he was so hurt or else bruised ; and when they came to Benwicke, it fortuned there were both the kings, Ban and Bors. When it was told the kings that there were come messengers, there were sent to them two knights of worship, the ore high Lionses, lord of the country of Payarne, and Sir Phariance, a worshipful knight. Anon they asked from whence they came, and they said, "From king Arthur of England ;" they then took them in their arms, and made great joy each of other. ut anon, as the two kings wist that they were messengers of king Arthur's no tarrying was made; but forthwith they spake with the knights, and welcomed them in the faithfullest wise, and said, "They were most welcome unto them before all the kings living ;" and therewith they kissed the letters, and delivered them straight. And when king Ban and Bors understood the le letters, then were they better welcome than before; and after the haste of the letter they gave them this answer, "That they would fulfil the desire of king Arthur's writing." And Ulfius and Brastias tarried there as long as they would, and had as goo cheer as might be made them in those marches. Then Ulfius and Brastias told the kings of the adventure of their passage of the eight knights. "Ha! ha !" said king Ban and Bors, "they were our good friends ; I would I had wist of them, they should not have escaped so." So Ulfius and Brastias bad good cheer and great gifts, as much as they might bear away, and had their answer by mouth and by writing, "That those two kings would come to king Arthur in all the haste that they might." So the two knights rode on afore, and passed the sea, and came to their lord, and told him how they had sped, *hereof king Arthur was passing glad. "At what time suppose ye the two kings will be here?" "Sir," said they, "afore Allhal!owmas." Then the king let purvey for a great feast, and let cry a great joust. And by Allhallowmas the two kings were coming over the sea, with three hundred knights well arrayed, both for the peace and for the war. And king Arthur met with them ten miles out of London, and there was great joy as could be thought of made; and on Allhallowmas, at the great feast sate in the hall the three kings, and Sir Kaye, the seneschal, served in the hall, and Sir Lucas, the butler, that was duke Corneus' son, and Sir Griflet, that was the son of Cardol ; these three knights had the rule of all the service that served the kings. And anon as they had washed and were risen, all knights that would joust made them ready. By when they were ready on horseback there were seven hundred knights ; and king Arthur, Ban, and Bors, with the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Sir Ector, Kaye's father, they were in a place covered with cloth of gold like a hall, with ladies and gentlewomen, for to behold who did best, and thereon to give judgment.

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