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other, encountered with the noise of thunder, and so great was the
shock that each knight was borne from the saddle. Swiftly they
gained their feet, and, drawing their swords, dealt each other
great blows; and thus they contended fiercely for some while. But
as he fought, a great wonder came upon Arthur, for it seemed to him
that his sword, that never before had failed him, bit not upon the
armour of the other, while every stroke of his enemy drew blood,
till the ground on which he fought was slippery beneath his feet;
and at the last almost his heart failed within him, knowing that he
was betrayed, and that the brand with which he fought was not
Excalibur. Yet would he not show aught of what he suffered, but
struggled on, faint as he was and spent; so that they that watched
the fight and saw how he was sore wounded, marvelled at his great
courage and endurance. But presently, the stranger knight dealt the
King a blow which fell upon Arthur's sword, and so fierce was the
stroke that the blade broke off at the pommel. "Knight," said the
other, "thou must yield thee recreant to my mercy." "That may I not
do with mine honour," answered the King, "for I am sworn to fight
in this quarrel to the death." "But weaponless thou must needs be
slain." "Slay me an ye will, but think not to win glory by slaying
a weaponless man."

Then was the other wroth to find himself still withstood and, in
his anger, he dealt Arthur a great blow; but this the King shunned,
and rushing upon his foe, smote him so fiercely on the head with
the pommel of his broken sword that the knight swayed and let slip
his own weapon. With a bound, Arthur was upon the sword, and no
sooner had he it within his grasp than he knew it, of a truth, to
be his own sword Excalibur. Then he scanned more closely his enemy,
and saw the scabbard that he wore was none other than the magic
scabbard of Excalibur; and forthwith, leaping upon the knight, he
tore it from him and flung it far afield.

"Knight," cried King Arthur, "ye have made me suffer sore, but now
is the case changed and ye stand within my power, helpless and
unarmed. And much I misdoubt me but that treacherously ye have
dealt with me. Nevertheless, yield you recreant and I will spare
your life." "That I may not do, for it is against my vow; so slay
me if ye will. Of a truth, ye are the best knight that ever I
encountered."

Then it seemed to the King that the knight's voice was not unknown
to him, and he said: "Tell me your name and what country ye are of,
for something bids me think that ye are not all unknown to me." "I
am Accolon of Gaul, knight of King Arthur's Round Table." "Ah!
Accolon, Accolon," cried the King, "is it even thou that hast
fought against me? Almost hast thou undone me. What treason tempted
thee to come against me, and with mine own weapon too?" When Sir
Accolon knew that it was against King Arthur that he had fought, he
gave a loud cry and swooned away utterly. Then Arthur called to two
stout yeomen amongst those that had looked on at the fight, and
bade them bear Sir Accolon to a little hermitage hard by, and
thither he himself followed with pain, being weak from loss of
blood; but into the castle he would not enter, for he trusted not
those that held it.

The hermit dressed their wounds, and presently, when Sir Accolon
had come to himself again, the King spoke gently to him, bidding
him say how he had come to bear arms against him. "Sir and my
lord," answered Sir Accolon, "it comes of naught but the treachery
of your kinswoman, Queen Morgan le Fay. For on the morrow after we
had entered upon the little ship, I awoke in my chamber at Camelot,
and greatly I marvelled how I had come there. And as I yet
wondered, there came to me a messenger from Queen Morgan le Fay,
desiring me to go to her without delay. And when I entered her
presence, she was as one sore troubled, and she said to me: 'Sir
Accolon, of my secret power, I know that now is our King, Arthur,
in great danger; for he lies imprisoned in a great and horrible
dungeon whence he may not be delivered unless one be found to do
battle for him with the lord of the castle. Wherefore have I sent
for you that ye may take the battle upon you for our lord the King.
And for greater surety, I give you here Excalibur, Arthur's own
sword, for, of a truth, we should use all means for the rescuing of
our lord.' And I, believing this evil woman, came hither and
challenged the lord of this castle to mortal combat; and, indeed, I
deemed it was with Sir Damas that I fought even now. Yet all was
treachery, and I misdoubt me that Sir Damas and his people are in
league with Queen Morgan le Fay to compass your destruction. But,
my lord Arthur, pardon me, I beseech you, the injuries that, all
unwitting, I have done you."

King Arthur was filled with wrath against the Queen, more for the
wrong done to Sir Accolon than for the treason to himself. In all
ways that he might, he sought to comfort and relieve Sir Accolon,
but in vain, for daily the knight grew weaker, and, after many
days, he died. Then the King, being recovered of his wounds,
returned to Camelot, and calling together a band of knights, led
them against the castle of Sir Damas. But Damas had no heart to
attempt to hold out, and surrendered himself and all that he had to
the King's mercy. And first King Arthur set free those that Sir
Damas had kept in miserable bondage, and sent them away with rich
gifts. When he had righted the wrongs of others, then he summoned
Sir Damas before him, and said: "I command thee that thou tell me
why thou didst seek my destruction." And cringing low at the King's
footstool, Damas answered: "I beseech you, deal mercifully with me,
for all that I have done, I have done at the bidding of Queen
Morgan le Fay." "A coward's plea," said the King; "how camest thou
first to have traffic with her?" "Sir," replied Damas, "much have I
suffered, first by the greed of my younger brother and now by the
deceit of this evil woman, as ye shall hear. When my father died, I
claimed the inheritance as of right, seeing that I was his elder
son; but my young brother, Sir Ontzlake, withstood me, and demanded
some part of my father's lands. Long since, he sent me a challenge
to decide our quarrel in single combat, but it liked me ill, seeing
that I am of no great strength. Much, therefore, did I desire to
find a champion but, by ill fortune, none could I find until Queen
Morgan le Fay sent word that, of her good will to me, she had sent
me one that would defend my cause; and that same evening, the
little ship brought you, my lord, to my castle. And when I saw you,
I rejoiced, thinking to have found a champion that would silence my
brother for ever; nor knew I you for the King's self. Wherefore, I
entreat you, spare me, and avenge me on my brother." Therewith, Sir
Damas fawned upon the King, but Arthur sternly bade him rise and
send messengers to bring Sir Ontzlake before him.

Presently, there stood before the King a youth, fair and of good
stature, who saluted his lord and then remained silent before him.
"Sir Ontzlake," said the King, "I have sent for you to know of your
dealings with Sir Accolon and of your quarrel with your brother."
"My lord Arthur," answered the youth, "that I was the cause of hurt
to yourself, I pray you to pardon me, for all unwitting was I of
evil. For ye shall know that I had challenged my brother to single
combat; but when word came to me that he was provided of a
champion, I might not so much as brook my armour for a sore wound
that I had got of an arrow shot at me as I rode through the forest
near his castle. And as I grieved for my hard case, there came a
messenger from Queen Morgan le Fay bidding me be of good courage,
for she had sent unto me one, Sir Accolon, who would undertake my
quarrel. This only she commanded me, that I should ask no question
of Sir Accolon. So Sir Accolon abode with me that night and, as I
supposed, fought in my cause the next day. Sure am I that there is
some mystery, yet may I not misdoubt my lady Queen Morgan le Fay
without cause; wherefore, if blame there be, let me bear the
punishment."

Then was the King well pleased with the young man for his courage
and loyalty to others. "Fair youth," said he, "ye shall go with me
to Camelot, and if ye prove you brave and just in all your doings,
ye shall be of my Round Table." But to Sir Damas he said sternly:
"Ye are a mean-spirited varlet, unworthy of the degree of
knighthood. Here I ordain that ye shall yield unto your brother
the moiety of the lands that ye had of your father and, in payment
for it, yearly ye shall receive of Sir Ontzlake a palfrey; for that
will befit you better to ride than the knightly war-horse. And look
ye well to it, on pain of death, that ye lie no more in wait for
errant knights, but amend your life and live peaceably with your
brother."

Thereafter, the fear of the King kept Sir Damas from deeds of
violence; yet, to the end, he remained cowardly and churlish,
unworthy of the golden spurs of knighthood. But Sir Ontzlake proved
him a valiant knight, fearing God and the King and naught else.




CHAPTER V

HOW THE SCABBARD OF EXCALIBUR WAS LOST


Now when Queen Morgan le Fay knew that her plot had miscarried and
that her treachery was discovered, she feared to abide the return
of the King to Camelot; and so she went to Queen Guenevere, and
said: "Madam, of your courtesy, grant me leave, I pray you, to
depart." "Nay," said the Queen, "that were pity, for I have news of
my lord the King, that soon he will return to Camelot. Will ye not
then await his return, that ye may see your kinsman before ye
depart?" "Alas! madam," said Morgan le Fay, "that may not be, for
I have ill news that requires that immediately I get to my own
country." "Then shall ye depart when ye will," said the Queen.

So before the next day had dawned, Morgan le Fay arose and, taking
her horse, departed unattended from Camelot. All that day and most
of the night she rode fast, and ere noon the next day, she was come
to a nunnery where, as she knew, King Arthur lay. Entering into the
house, she made herself known to the nuns, who received her
courteously and gave her of their best to eat and to drink. When
she was refreshed, she asked if any other had sought shelter with
them that day; and they told her that King Arthur lay in an inner
chamber and slept, for he had rested little for three nights. "Ah!
my dear lord!" exclaimed the false sorceress; "gladly would I speak
with him, but I will not that ye awaken him, and long I may not
tarry here; wherefore suffer me at least to look upon him as he
sleeps, and then will I continue my journey." And the nuns,
suspecting no treachery, showed Queen Morgan le Fay the room where
King Arthur slept, and let her enter it alone.

So Morgan le Fay had her will and stood beside the sleeping King;
but again it seemed as if she must fail of her purpose, and her
heart was filled with rage and despair. For she saw that the King
grasped in his hand the hilt of the naked brand, that none might
take it without awakening him. While she mused, suddenly she espied
the scabbard where it hung at the foot of the bed, and her heart
rejoiced to know that something she might gain by her bold
venture. She snatched up the empty sheath, and wrapping it in a
fold of her garment, left the chamber. Brief were her farewells to
the holy nuns, and in haste she got to horse and rode away.

Scarcely had she set forth, when the King awoke, and rising from
his couch, saw at once that the scabbard of his sword was gone.
Then summoned he the whole household to his presence and inquired
who had entered his chamber. "Sir," said the Abbess, "there has
none been here save only your kinswoman, the Queen Morgan le Fay.
She, indeed, desired to look upon you since she might not abide
your awakening." Then the King groaned aloud, saying, "It is my own
kinswoman, the wife of my true knight, Sir Uriens, that would
betray me." He bade Sir Ontzlake make ready to accompany him, and
after courteous salutation to the Abbess and her nuns, together
they rode forth by the path that Morgan le Fay had taken.

Fast they rode in pursuit, and presently they came to a cross where
was a poor cowherd keeping watch over his few beasts, and of him
they asked whether any had passed that way. "Sirs," said the
peasant, "even now there rode past the cross a lady most lovely to
look upon, and with her forty knights." Greatly the King marvelled
how Queen Morgan le Fay had come by such a cavalcade, but nothing
he doubted that it was she the cowherd had seen. So thanking the
poor man, the King, with Sir Ontzlake, rode on by the path that had
been shown them, and presently, emerging from the forest, they were
aware of a glittering company of horsemen winding through a wide
plain that lay stretched before them. On the instant, they put
spurs to their horses and galloped as fast as they might in
pursuit.

But, as it chanced, Queen Morgan le Fay looked back even as Arthur
and Sir Ontzlake came forth from the forest, and seeing them, she
knew at once that her theft had been discovered, and that she was
pursued. Straightway she bade her knights ride on till they should
come to a narrow valley where lay many great stones; but as soon as
they had left her, she herself rode, with all speed, to a mere hard
by. Sullen and still it lay, without even a ripple on its surface.
No animal ever drank of its waters nor bird sang by it, and it was
so deep that none might ever plumb it. And when the Queen had come
to the brink, she dismounted. From the folds of her dress she drew
the scabbard, and waving it above her head, she cried, "Whatsoever
becometh of me, King Arthur shall not have this scabbard." Then,
whirling it with all her might, she flung it far into the mere. The
jewels glinted as the scabbard flashed through the air, then it
clove the oily waters of the lake and sank, never again to be seen.

When it had vanished, Morgan le Fay mounted her horse again, and
rode fast after her knights, for the King and Ontzlake were in hot
pursuit, and sore she feared lest they should come up with her
before she might reach the shelter of the Valley of Stones. But she
had rejoined her company of knights before the King had reached the
narrow mouth of the valley. Quickly she bade her men scatter among
the boulders, and then, by her magic art, she turned them all, men
and horses and herself too, into stones, that none might tell the
one from the other.

When King Arthur and Sir Ontzlake reached the valley, they looked
about for some sign of the presence of the Queen or her knights,
but naught might they see though they rode through the valley and
beyond, and returning, searched with all diligence among the rocks
and boulders. Never again was Queen Morgan le Fay seen at Camelot,
nor did she attempt aught afterwards against the welfare of the
King. When she had restored her knights to their proper form, she
hastened with them back to her own land, and there she abode for
the rest of her days until she came with the other queens to carry
Arthur from the field of the Battle in the West.

Nor would the King seek to take vengeance on a woman, though sorely
she had wronged him. His life long, he guarded well the sword
Excalibur, but the sheath no man ever saw again.




CHAPTER VI

MERLIN


Of Merlin and how he served King Arthur, something has been already
shown. Loyal he was ever to Uther Pendragon and to his son, King
Arthur, and for the latter especially he wrought great marvels. He
brought the King to his rights; he made him his ships; and some
say that Camelot, with its splendid halls, where Arthur would
gather his knights around him at the great festivals of the year,
at Christmas, at Easter, and at Pentecost, was raised by his magic,
without human toil. Bleise, the aged magician who dwelt in
Northumberland and recorded the great deeds of Arthur and his
knights, had been Merlin's master in magic; but it came to pass in
time that Merlin far excelled him in skill, so that his enemies
declared no mortal was his father, and called him devil's son.

Then, on a certain time, Merlin said to Arthur: "The time draws
near when ye shall miss me, for I shall go down alive into the
earth; and it shall be that gladly would ye give your lands to have
me again." Then Arthur was grieved, and said: "Since ye know your
danger, use your craft to avoid it." But Merlin answered: "That may
not be."

Now there had come to Arthur's court, a damsel of the Lady of the
Lake - her whose skill in magic, some say, was greater than Merlin's
own; and the damsel's name was Vivien. She set herself to learn the
secrets of Merlin's art, and was ever with him, tending upon the
old man and, with gentleness and tender service, winning her way to
his heart; but all was a pretence, for she was weary of him and
sought only his ruin, thinking it should be fame for her, by any
means whatsoever, to enslave the greatest wizard of his age. And so
she persuaded him to pass with her overseas into King Ban's land of
Benwick, and there, one day, he showed her a wondrous rock, formed
by magic art. Then she begged him to enter into it, the better to
declare to her its wonders; but when once he was within, by a charm
that she had learnt from Merlin's self, she caused the rock to
shut down that never again might he come forth. Thus was Merlin's
prophecy fulfilled, that he should go down into the earth alive.
Much they marvelled in Arthur's court what had become of the great
magician, till on a time, there rode past the stone a certain
Knight of the Round Table and heard Merlin lamenting his sad fate.
The knight would have striven to raise the mighty stone, but Merlin
bade him not waste his labour, since none might release him save
her who had imprisoned him there. Thus Merlin passed from the world
through the treachery of a damsel, and thus Arthur was without aid
in the days when his doom came upon him.




CHAPTER VII

BALIN AND BALAN


Among the princes that thought scorn of Arthur in the days when
first he became king, none was more insolent than Ryons of North
Wales. So, on a time when King Arthur held high festival at
Camelot, Ryons sent a herald who, in the presence of the whole
court, before brave knights and fair dames, thus addressed the
King: "Sir Arthur, my master bids me say that he has overcome
eleven kings with all their hosts, and, in token of their
submission, they have given him their beards to fringe him a
mantle. There remains yet space for the twelfth; wherefore, with
all speed, send him your beard, else will he lay waste your land
with fire and sword." "Viler message," said King Arthur, "was never
sent from man to man. Get thee gone, lest we forget thine office
protects thee." So spoke the King, for he had seen his knights clap
hand to sword, and would not that a messenger should suffer hurt in
his court.

Now among the knights present the while was one whom men called
Balin le Savage, who had but late been freed from prison for
slaying a knight of Arthur's court. None was more wroth than he at
the villainy of Ryons, and immediately after the departure of the
herald, he left the hall and armed him; for he was minded to try
if, with good fortune, he might win to Arthur's grace by avenging
him on the King of North Wales. While he was without, there entered
the hall a Witch Lady who, on a certain occasion, had done the King
a service, and for this she now desired of him a boon. So Arthur
bade her name her request, and thus she said: "O King, I require of
you the head of the knight Balin le Savage." "That may I not grant
you with my honour," replied the King; "ask what it may become me
to give." But the Witch Lady would have naught else, and departed
from the hall, murmuring against the King. Then, as it chanced,
Balin met her at the door, and immediately when he saw her, he rode
upon her, sword in hand, and, with one blow, smote off her head.
Thus he took vengeance for his mother's death, of which she had
been the cause, and, well content, rode away. But when it was told
King Arthur of the deed that Balin had done, he was full wroth,
nor was his anger lessened though Merlin declared the wrong the
Witch Lady had done to Balin. "Whatsoever cause he had against her,
yet should he have done her no violence in my court," said the
King, and bade Sir Lanceour of Ireland ride after Balin and bring
him back again.

Thus it came to pass that, as Sir Balin rode on his way, he heard
the hoof-beats of a horse fast galloping, and a voice cried loudly
to him: "Stay, Knight; for thou shalt stay, whether thou wilt or
not." "Fair Knight," answered Balin fiercely, "dost thou desire to
fight with me?" "Yea, truly," answered Lanceour; "for that cause
have I followed thee from Camelot." "Alas!" cried Balin, "then I
know thy quarrel. And yet, I dealt but justly by that vile woman,
and it grieves me to offend my lord King Arthur again." "Have done,
and make ready to fight," said Lanceour insolently; for he was
proud and arrogant, though a brave knight. So they rushed together,
and, at the first encounter, Sir Lanceour's spear was shivered
against the shield of the other, but Balin's spear pierced shield
and hauberk and Lanceour fell dead to the earth.

Then Sir Balin, sore grieved that he had caused the death of a
knight of Arthur's court, buried Lanceour as well as he might, and
continued sorrowfully on his journey in search of King Ryons.
Presently, as he rode through a great forest, he espied a knight
whom, by his arms, he knew at once for his brother, Sir Balan.
Great joy had they in their meeting, for Balan had believed Balin
still to be in prison. So Balin told Balan all that had befallen
him, and how he sought Ryons to avenge Arthur upon him for his
insolent message, and hoped thereby to win his lord's favour again.
"I will ride with thee, brother," said Balan, "and help thee all I
may." So the two went on their way till, presently, they met with
an old man - Merlin's self, though they knew him not, for he was
disguised. "Ah, Knight," said Merlin to Balin, "swift to strike and
swift to repent, beware, or thou shalt strike the most dolorous
blow dealt by man; for thou shalt slay thine own brother." "If I
believed thy words true," cried Balin hotly, "I would slay myself
to make thee a liar." "I know the past and I know the future," said
Merlin; "I know, too, the errand on which thou ridest, and I will
help thee if thou wilt." "Ah!" said Balin, "that pleases me well."
"Hide you both in this covert," said Merlin; "for presently there
shall come riding down this path King Ryons with sixty of his
knights." With these words he vanished. So Balin and Balan did as
he had bidden them, and when King Ryons and his men entered the
little path, they fell upon them with such fury that they slew more
than forty knights, while the rest fled, and King Ryons himself
yielded him to them. So Sir Balan rode with King Ryons to Camelot
that he might deliver him to King Arthur; but Balin went not with
them, for he would see more adventures before he sought King
Arthur's presence again.

After many days' travel and many encounters, it befell that, one
evening, Balin drew near to a castle; and when he would have sought
admittance, there stood by him an old man, and said: "Balin, turn
thee back, and it shall be better for thee," and so vanished. At
that moment there was blown a blast on a horn, such as is sounded
when the stag receives its death; and hearing it, Balin's heart
misgave him, and he cried: "That blast is blown for me, and I am
the prize. But not yet am I dead!"

At that instant the castle gate was raised and there appeared many
knights and ladies welcoming Balin into the castle. So he entered,
and presently they were all seated at supper. Then the lady of the
castle said to Balin: "Sir Knight, to-morrow thou must have ado
with a knight that keeps an island near-by; else mayest thou not
pass that way." "That is an evil custom," answered Balin; "but if I
must, I must." So that night he rested, but with the dawn he arose,
and was arming himself for battle when there came to him a knight
and said: "Sir, your shield is not good; I pray you, take mine
which is larger and stouter." In an evil hour, Balin suffered
himself to be persuaded, and taking the stranger's shield, left;
behind his own on which his arms were blazoned. Then, entering a
boat, he was conveyed to the island where the unknown knight held
the ford.

No sooner was he landed, than there came riding to him a knight
armed all in red armour, his horse, too, trapped all in red; and


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