Chapter 19:

How King Arthur slept with his sister through the error of not recognizing who she was, and had a child with her whose name was Mordred, through whom all the land of Londres received great harm, as will later be said

Some days later, after this lady had been much courted, an agreement was reached between her and him that the king would set up a very rich tent in the plain, like a pavilion, and there he would secretly come to see her, and so it was done. And while the people were deeply asleep, the queen awoke and saw a great light from an angel, who denounced the sin she committed against God, in that he who was with her was her relative and very important, and "because the time to come will show you the fault you do now, and I will declare no more." So the queen was astonished and awoke Arthur with many tears, who was frightened by what the queen had heard, and later she returned to her country not as happy as she had been when she came. And later, the next night, the king dreamed a dream in which it seemed to him that he was in the richest chair in the world, and there was before him a great people of all ages so that he marveled whence such a great people had come, and having them all about him, he saw that a great serpent came out of him, and so strong in semblance that he had never heard tell of such, and it flew throughout the entire realm of Londres in each part. And in all the places it went, it burned all there was there, so that neither place, nor city, nor village, nor castle remained that it did not burn and destroy, and after it did this, it came to those who were with the king, and attacked them and ate them, and went for the king and fought with him strongly. But, in the end, in short order the king killed the serpent, and it remained mortally wounded.

The king felt great fear from this dream which had awakened him, and was very uneasy, and felt such great grief that he did not know what to tell himself, and thought about it the entire night.

And in the morning, when he arose, he heard mass and went to his lodging with a great company of knights and other men. And he had dressed to go on the hunt, and they prepared him very quickly, and they set out. And the king rode on a very good horse, and he dressed in huntsman's clothes, and they rode until they arrived at a very high moutain, and as soon as they began to climb it, the king happened upon a very great stag, and left the dogs to go after it, so that in a little time he left his company more than two leagues behind, in such manner that he did not know where they were.

And the king pursued the stag so fast that the horse could not stand it, and fell with him, and, from exhaustion, stayed on the earth. And when the king saw himself on foot, he did not know what to do, since his men were far away, and the stag went at such a pace that it was lost to his sight, but he said that he would choose to go after it on foot, until his men arrived, when they would give him a horse; and the king went so quickly after the stag, that he got tired and sat down by a fountain to rest, and as soon as he sat down, he began to think about the dream. And as he thought, he heard the barking of dogs, as loud as if there were twenty or thirty dogs, and he thought they were his, and he raised his head and saw a very great beast coming, so deformed that no man had ever seen any form like it. And I will tell you of its figure, for it had the head and the neck of a sheep, white as snow, and the forefeet and hind feet of a dog, black as coal. And it had the body of a fox. And the beast came to the fountain and began to drink, and after he had examined it closely, he crossed himself and said, "In good faith, I now see the greatest marvel I ever saw, for I never heard tell of a beast as deformed as is this one; it is strange in front and in back, for I hear and recognize that it carries inside itself living spawn that bark like dogs."

And he said to himself that it was a great marvel. So did the king talk to himself. And when it began to drink, the beasts which were inside fell silent; and after it drank, they began to bark just as they had before. And the beast of the fountain left. And the king examined it as long as he could see it, and he was so shocked by this marvel that he did not know whether he was awake or asleep. And it went at such a great pace that in a short time he neither saw nor heard it, and he began to think more than before, and while he was thus thinking, a knight came to him, and said to him, "Listen, you knight. What are you thinking? Tell me if you saw the deformed beast which carries the barking of dogs inside it."

The king said to him, "I saw it just now, and it cannot have gone more than a half league."

"Ah, God," said the knight, "how discontented I am! For if my horse had not just died on me, I would have achieved it and completed my quest, for I have chased it for more than a year."

"What?" said the king. "Have you chased it so long already?"

"Yes," he said.

"And why?" said the king. "Tell me, if you please."

"Certes," said the knight, "I will tell you the truth. We know that that beast is to die in this land at the hand of the best knight of my lineage. Therefore I wanted to know the truth, whether I am the best knight of my lineage; therefore I followed that beast so long, and I do not say it to praise myself, but to know if I am that which people take me for."

"Certes," said the king, "you have told me enough, and now you may go when you please."

The knight said, "I will not go on foot. If I can, I will first wait for some knight God will send here, who will choose to give me his horse."

As they talked about this, a squire arrived on a fast horse, seeking the king, and as soon as the king saw him, he said to him, "Squire, dismount at once, and I will go after a beast who went through here."

"Ah, sir," said the knight, "do not do so great a villainy as to go after my beast, which I have chased for so long; but do as a courteous man would: give me that horse. For if I lose that beast through your failure, the shame will be imputed to you, and the damage to me."

The king said, "Knight, since you have gone after it so long, you should leave it, and stay here now, for I will follow it for you as long as God gives me honor and life, if it please you."

"What?" said the knight. "Do you want to take by force what I have chased for such a long time up to now, with great travail?"

Then the knight rode against the squire and knocked him off his horse, and mounted it before the king could mount it, and said, "Knight, I do not thank you, and now I go after my beast, and believe that if I see a place where you are praised, I will reward you only because I found out that you wanted to achieve my quest, for I take you to be a foolish and caitiff knight, and not one who could achieve such a high deed."The king said, "You can tell me what you please, and I will listen to you; but, certes, if I find you today or tomorrow, I will show you my sword, for it should cut you down to size."

The knight said to him, "Do not take on a deed of such magnitude, for if you want to find me, I always ride on this quest for that beast."

The king said, "I promise you I will not be happy until I know by right trial, if it please God, which of us is the better."

The knight said, "When you want to find out, come to this fountain, and know that, if you are here a day, you will find me here, for there is no day I do not come here."

The king said, "Now you can go, for I do not want to know more of your deeds."

So the knight left that place and went after the beast. And the king told the squire to go for another horse, and the squire went where he expected to find the company.

So the king stayed there thinking about all the adventures he had seen, and as he was thus thinking, Merlin came in the semblance of a fourteen-year-old child, and recognized the king, and as soon as he saw him he greeted him as if he had not known he was the king. And the king turned his head and said to him, "Boy, may God bless you."

And Merlin said to him, "I am a child of a foreign land, and I marvel why you think so much, for it seems to me that no man who was worth anything, should think so hard about anything he could find counsel about."

The king examined the child and marveled at what he said and that he had heard him speak so wisely. And he said to him, "Boy, I think that no man, save God, could know what I am thinking."

The boy said to him, "Certes, you think about nothing I do not know, nor do you do anything I do not find out. And I tell you that your fear is light, for you saw nothing in your dream which could not please God, and if you saw your death in dreams, you should not be scandalized, for we leave the earth to return to it, and therefore we receive life to receive death."

When the king heard this, he was more frightened than before, and the boy said to him, "What are you afraid of? The more you hear me speak, the more you will marvel, since, if I want, I will tell you what you dreamed last night."

The king said, "In good faith, if you say it, I will take it for a great marvel, greater than anything I have seen today."

"Then I will tell you," said the child, "and thus you will have something to think about."

Then he recounted his entire dream to him.

And the king crossed himself and said, "You are not a man, but truly a devil, for with the wit of a man you could not have known such hidden things as you have said."

The boy said, "Just because I told you this, you cannot with reason say that I am a devil and an enemy of Jesus Christ; but I will prove by right that you are a devil and a great enemy of Jesus Christ, and the most disloyal knight in the kingdom, for you are sacred and anointed, and in possession of that lordship which Jesus Christ in his grace gave you, and you did such great treachery that you slept with your sister, wife of your vassal, and she is pregnant with a child who will soon do great evil to this land."

Then the king responded very ashamedly, and said, "You are a thoroughgoing devil, and this cannot be at all, for I have no sister, and neither you nor anyone else can know more of my doings than I do."

And the boy responded to him, "Truly, I can know more about your deeds than you, for I know who your father was, and I know your mother and your sisters; although it has been a long time since I saw them, I know that they are well and in good health."

And when the king heard this, he was very comforted, but he decided to test whether the boy was telling the truth, for he took him for a diviner. And he said to him, "If you can tell me this for certain about my father and my mother and my sisters, and of what lineage I am come, you could not ask for anything I could obtain which I would not give you."

The child said, "Promise it to me on your honor as a king, for if you do otherwise, greater evil will come to you than you could think of."

"I promise it to you," said the king.

Merlin said, "Then now I will make you certain that you are the son of a king and a queen, and your father was a good knight in arms."

The king said, "Is this true, that I am of so great a stature?"

"Yes, without doubt," said Merlin.

The king said, "If it were true, I would not rest until I had all the world in my power."

"Certes," said the boy, "you should not wait for that, for if you are like your father, you will not lose what is yours, but will gain much."

The king said, "What was my father's name?"

The boy said, "Uterpadragon, and he was the lord of this kingdom of Londres."

"Then," said the king, "I cannot fail to be a good man, for he was so good a man that no evil son could come from him, if it was not by some marvel; but I can hardly believe that I was his son."

And the boy said, "I will make you believe before this month ends, so that all will know for truth that you were the son of Uterpadragon and Iguerna."

And the king said, "You tell me of marvels and I cannot believe you, for, if I was his son, I would not have been raised by such a man as he who raised me, nor would I have been so unknown to the people as I am. And he who raised me told me he did not know who my father was, and you, who are a strange boy, say that you know the truth better than he who raised me until now."

The boy said, "If I am not telling you the truth, do not give me anything of what you promised, and be sure that I will keep the sin you committed with your sister as secret as you yourself. However, although I love you very much, I will not keep it secret as much for love of you as for love of your father, who loved me so very well, and I him, and for all I did for him, and he for me."

The king said to him, "From today on I will not believe a thing you say, for you are not of an age to see or know my father, if he was Uterpadragon. Therefore I beg you to go from here; since your lying is so obvious that you want to make me believe all this as truth, I do not want your company, which seems a bad thing to me."

When the child heard this, he pretended that he was very grieved, and left the king, and went into a very dense thicket, and changed his childlike appearance and turned into the semblance of an old man of eighty years, so skinny that it seemed he could hardly walk, and went dressed in a fur, and so he went back before the king, and greeted him as if he did not know him, and told him twice, "God save you, sir knight, and give your thoughts a good end, for it seems to me you are not very happy."

The king said, "Good man, may God do so, for, certes, I need it badly; and come, sit by me a little, if it please you, until a squire of mine comes who is near here."

Then the old man sat down to talk with him, and they began to talk about many things, and the king found him so wise and prudent as he talked with him, that he was amazed.

Then the old man said to him, "Sir knight, why are you so thoughtful now, for so it seemed to me when I arrived here with you?"

And the king said to him, "Good man, never have so many marvels come to a man of my age as I have seen today in only a little time, as much in dreams as in reality. And I most marveled at a child who came to me just now, and told me things that I believed no man knew save me."

"Lord," said the good man, "do not marvel, for there is nothing so covered that it will not be discovered. And if anything be done underground, the truth would be known on the earth, and in God's name, sir, do not be sad, nor so thoughtful, and tell me what is wrong, and I will take the doubts you feel from you."

The king examined the old man, and it seemed to him he was wise, and that it would be good to tell him some of his doings, for he would keep them secret. Then he began to recount his dream, and told him all he saw of the Barking Beast, and how the knight had taken his horse.

"Lord," said the old man, "I will tell you the truth about this dream. Know that you will receive much bad luck and much grief from a knight who is engendered but not born, and all this kingdom will be destroyed by him. And the good knights you will see in your time, will be lost and confounded, so that this land will be waste and desert, by the evil workings of that sin."

"Certes," said the king, "this will be a great harm, and it would be better for that caitiff person to die as soon as he is born, before such evil happens because of him; and since you tell me so much you must know who is to be born, so I beg you to tell me, and as soon as he is born I will have him burned."

"Certes," said the old man, "no infant of our Lord will die because of me, no matter whether he will be a sinner or his end will be evil, and while he is a sinless child, it would be disloyalty to kill him; and know that I hold myself to be a great sinner against God, but I would not want an infant who merits no ill to receive death by my counsel. And do not beg me about this, for I will not do anything."

The king said, "Then it seems to me that you say that because of one sole knight this land will be lost, and its people killed. It would be better that this knight alone, through whom such evil luck is to come, should be killed, so that so many do not die."

"That is the truth," said the good man; "his death would be worth more than his life."

And the king said, "Therefore I tell you to tell me when or out of whom he will be born; for, through revealing him, the land would be protected, and through hiding him, it will be lost."

"That is true," said the good man, "for anyone who is on the side of the land; but, if the land gains by this, I lose a great deal, for I would lose my soul, and because of this I will not tell you; for I want to save my soul more than your honor or the kingdom."

The king said to him, "Then tell me. When will he be born, or in what place?"

And the good man began to laugh and said, "Through that, you think to find him? Certes, it will not be so, for it does not please our Lord."

The king said, "I think I will find him, if I know the hour of his birth and the land where he is to be born."

The good man said, "Know that he will be born the first day in May, in the kingdom of Londres."

And the king said, "If this is true, I will ask no more of you."

And the good man said,

"It is true, without doubt."

The king said to the old man, "Respond to what I will ask you. Tell me of that beast I saw, the most deformed that I ever saw or heard tell of. And it carried beasts or dogs which barked inside it, and it seems to me that it was a dream, for it seemed to me that no voice could come out of any thing born from the womb of its mother."

And the good man said, "If you marvel at it, you are quite right, for doubtless it is a marvel, as much to see as to hear."

And the king said, "Tell me what it is now."

The good man said, "It is a marvel of the Holy Grail. I cannot tell you more, for a better man than I will tell you."

"And who is that?" said the king."He is not yet engendered," said the good man, "but he will be soon, and that knight you saw who went after the beast, will engender him."

The king said, "What do you know about it?"

"I know it well," said the good man, "and I even know about the dislike there is between you and him."

And the king said, "Tell me now. What knight is he?"

And the good man told him, "You will know him quite well if you try him at jousting, and I will not tell you more of him at this time. The barking of that beast, which you do not know the truth of, you cannot know until he who will be born of that knight will make you understand, and his name will be Percival of Wales, and he will be such a friend of our Lord, that He will give him his virginity so marvelously that he will be put in the earth in the same state in which he left his mother's womb. And that knight will have the truth, so that he will be able to tell you the truth about that beast, but before then you may not know the truth so completely. But I will tell you one part of it for love of you. Know that Idomenes, who was king of this kingdom of Londres, which now has the name England, had a very beautiful daughter, who knew much of the seven arts, and loved to study the art of necromancy because she loved the world, and fell madly in love with one of her brothers, who was a tall and handsome prince and had promised his chastity to God. And this prince's name was Galaz, and because he did not want to do what she wanted, she had her father imprison him, for she told him that he had forced her and she was pregnant by him; and she lied, for the devil who deceived her showed her all that, for he told her that if she slept once with him he would make her brother love her, and she did it and lay with him, for he appeared to her in a fountain in one of her father's orchards, where she often went to sit, and appeared to her in the form of a tall and handsome man, and so the devil lay with her many times, and she was pregnant by devils. And when her father saw her pregnant, he asked her how it had happened. She said, just as the devil had taught her, "'Lord father, know that my brother Galaz forced me.'

"King Idomenes imprisoned his son, and asked his daughter what justice she wanted done to him, and she told him to give his son to be eaten alive by dogs, and so Galaz was thrown to the dogs by his sister's sentence. And he made one prayer to God, and asked that devils bark like dogs in her womb because she lied. And after he was judged, she gave birth at her time to that monster you saw here, and it went into the wilds, since it seemed that more than a hundred dogs barked in its belly, and so it will live until the good knight comes whose name will be Galaz to kill it. And when Idomenes saw that he had killed his son wrongly, he understood that God had heard the prayer his son had made about the testimony his sister had given against him, and he returned to his daughter then and tormented her in such a manner that she told him how the devil had deceived her. Then her father did harsh and cruel justice to her because she had lied, and so Idomenes lost both his children through his bad luck."

The good man said, "Now I have told you one part of this business, more than I thought to."

"In the name of God," said the king, "I must definitely wait, then, if what you said is true."

And the good man said, "So it will be."

"And you," said the king, "are you sure of the things which are to come?"

"Yes," said the good man, "since God gave me this grace in His mercy."

The king said, "Since you are sure of the things which are to come, you ought to know those which are in your time."

"Certes," said the good man, "there is nothing done in my time I do not know."

And the king said, "Then tell me one thing which I greatly desire to know."

"I will tell you," said the good man, "for I know what you want to ask me."

The king said, "I have not yet said it. How can this be?"

And the good man said, "Now you will see whether I know what you want to ask me. Who was your father? For you believe that no one knows, since you do not know it; but so it is for those of the earth; everywhere all are in doubt."

And when he heard this the king raised his hand and crossed himself, and said to the good man, "I marvel at what you say, for I did not think anyone knew this, save God. Ah, by God! If you please, make yourself known to me, and tell me what your name is; and if it pleases you to stay in my company, there is nothing you could ask of me which is in my power or in my kingdom, which would be denied you."

And the good man said, "King, I am Merlin, the good diviner, of whom you have heard tell many times."

When the king heard this, he felt great happiness and awe, so that he could feel no more, and he embraced him and said to him, "Since you are he of whom all the world speaks, I will believe from here on whatever you tell me. And, by God, if you wish to please me, make me sure of what I now doubt."

"Willingly I will do it," said Merlin. "I tell you in truth that Uterpadragon is your father, and he made you in Iguerna, but she was not yet queen."

Then he recounted it all as it had been. And Merlin said, "When I found out that you were to be born, I asked you as a gift from your father, and your father gave you to me because of the great love he felt for me, and I for him."

And he told him how he had been given away to raise, away from the milk where he ought to have been raised. And when the king heard Merlin, he said, "You loved my father very much and he you, and you were very loyal to him, and you know my doings better than I or any man in the world. Counsel me how I can cover up my sin with the wife of King Lot."

And Merlin said, "If I show you how to cover up this sin, I would sin mortally, for three people know whom you love very much, so that they would first have to die, which I do not counsel you to accomplish; but, so that the people know that you are the son of Uterpadragon, I will work so that they know all of it for certain."

The king said, "I would not be as grateful for anything else in the world as for this."

And while they were there talking, some of the king's men who had gone hunting arrived, and came to where the king was, but they did not see him, because he and Merlin were under some very high cliffs which were there, and as they had walked all that day to seek the king, and had not found him, they believed he was dead. And one of them who came there, whom the king loved very much, and he him again, seeing that they had not found the king, dismounted and prayed to God to show them their lord, and what had become of him. And as soon as the king and Merlin knew of the people, they came out from the cliffs, and as soon as they saw them, the pleasure they felt was great.

And then the king mounted one horse and had Merlin ride another, and arrived at Cardoyl, and Merlin counseled him and told him what to do, and how he would know he was the son of Uterpadragon, and said to him, "I want you to send out all the noblemen and good men of yours there are in the city for three days' journey, so that eight days from this Sunday they are with you, and have them come to your court, and each one should bring his wife. And send for Iguerna to come here, and have her bring Morgaina with her, and after all are here, I will speak to them, and make them know whose son you are."

And the king was very grateful for it, and Merlin said, "Who do you think the boy who spoke with you today was?"

"I do not know," said the king, "but, from what I heard him say, I think it was you."

Merlin said, "It was I, and as today you were deceived, so was your mother, for I made your father seem like her husband when he slept with her, and so were you made."