Chapter 25:

How Nero, King Rion's brother, and his people battled King Arthur, and Nero was vanquished and his people taken prisoner

Nero made many admonitions to his people and made ten lines, just as King Arthur had, and in each one of them was many more people than in those of King Arthur. And after he had divided them into lines, he had three lines of knights ride in front, in the guise that they would join battle with those of King Arthur, and there a man could see lances broken in the jousting and horses running everywhere without knights, since there was no one there to take them, for there was much to be done there.

But those who were on King Arthur's side suffered much in the beginning, and if they had not been such good knights, they would lightly have been defeated; but they were lively and light, and most of them were youths of good age and ready to receive or vanquish death before they lost honor in battle. This made them suffer so much that day, that many of them were wounded and killed. And after the lances were broken, they put their hands to their swords on each side, and they began such a perilous and mortal battle that in a few hours a man could have seen the plain covered with dead and wounded, but still by force and hardihood those of King Arthur won the field, in a manner such that by force they forced the three lines of Nero to give up their swords. Those of King Arthur went to strike at the others who came to help them, which were another three lines, and in that advance many of those of King Arthur were unhorsed and wounded and ill-treated, for they were very few, and all would have been killed had Arthur not succored them with another four lines, but the others had many more men than did Arthur. And in such manner did both sides join battle, that if evil came to one, soon the others of his company succored him. And when the two brothers saw that King Arthur had entered the battle, they said, "We are greatly delaying ourselves. Now let us strike at our enemies, and we will attack in the rearguard where Nero is."

And then they ran against them and went to attack in the rearguard line in which Nero rode, and they jousted first with two knights, and thrust their lances through their bodies, so that neither shields nor other arms served them, and thrust them to earth, so that they had no need of doctors, and they broke the lances in that fall. And the two brothers put their hands to their swords, and began to strike great blows on the one side and the other, and both did such great marvels of arms that their enemies were frightened to see them; and if anyone wishes to know which sword Balin attacked with, believe that it was his own, not the one he took from the damsel; for that which he had taken, he never used to fight until he entered the field with his brother Balan and killed him unknowingly, as the second book of the Holy Grail will recount to you later.

This battle was on the plain of Carabel, and many good knights were killed there. King Arthur killed and wounded many with his own hand that day, and displayed to his enemies the goodness of his sword Excalibur; and many bought dearly his good edge, since before the battle was parted, he killed and wounded over forty knights with his own hand. And Sir Quia, his steward, did so well that day, that he won a good name, which endured a long time; and Ervis Reynel, who was a young knight, also did very well; but anything that he or any other knight did, all was for nothing before the Knight of the Two Swords, for he did so many well-known marvels wherever he was, that no one took him for a mortal knight, but for some phantasm, or some devil because of the ill-fortune he brought there.

King Arthur, when he saw this, examined what the Knight was doing, and said that he was not a knight like others, but a man born on the earth to destroy men. He said this to Griflet, who afterwards repeated it in many places. The battle was so bitterly mixed, that great slaughter was done upon all.

Merlin went to King Lot, and found him preparing to come against King Arthur, and he said to him, "Watch yourself before you do such great treachery as to go against your lord and brother-in-law, fighting for you and your people to keep you from being captives of others; and you wish to go against him and kill him to the best of your power, you being his vassal. See if this is not treachery and great cruelty!"

"Ah, Merlin," said the king, "if I hate him, it is no marvel; since he did the worst treachery that ever a king did to the great damage of all the high men in his kingdom. And he also had a son that God gave me killed; and because he was more powerful than I am, he did not stop to think that I was his brother-in-law nor that the child was the son of his sister. Now see if that cruelty was more than treachery."

"Tell me," said Merlin, "do you know that your son is dead?"

"Yes," he said, "for I know it truly; for he put him on the sea with the other boys. And because of this he will never have love or peace from me, but war in all the days of my life."

Merlin said, "You do wrong, for you do not know how long your life will be, and you ought not to tell anything but the complete truth. Know truly that Mordred, your son, is alive; and if you choose to leave this attack, I will show him to you, before two months have passed."

"This I cannot believe," said the king, "if I do not see it."

"Then what do you choose to do?" said Merlin.

And the king said that if God did not part from him, "I will not depart here without battle. And so I will avenge myself, if death does not hinder me."

Merlin said: "I tell you that if you go to the battle, you will be vanquished, and most of your men killed. And you ought to believe what I tell you, for you know for truth that you never found anything you heard me say to be a lie, and you will quickly find yourself in trouble if you do not believe me."

And the king said that there was nothing in the world for which he would leave off trying to gain vengeance against King Arthur that day. And Merlin said, "Then believe for certain that you will find such evil in this, that you will not be able to better it."

And while King Lot spoke with Merlin, his men granted Merlin's wish and said to Lot, "Lord, do what Merlin begs you, since no evil will come to you or others from his counsel."

And Merlin already knew that Nero was fighting with King Arthur at that hour, and that if Lot arrived in that season, that King Arthur would be defeated and vanquished. And Merlin detained King Lot with words, for he did not want more time than that necessary for those of King Rion to be vanquished; for if Arthur won that battle, he would know what counsel to take about King Lot. And for that reason he detained him as long as he could in speech until the hour of tierce, and this he did by enchantment; for after he understood that the battle was won, he wished for King Lot to go there, because he would die before he killed King Arthur, for he knew that one of them had to die that day.

And after the hour of tierce a man came to King Lot who said to them, "Lord, I bring you marvelous news. Know that King Arthur won the battle with King Rion; but, certes, believe that never did man see such a great nor such an evil battle, for many are dead on one side and the other, and many good knights of King Rion are prisoner there."

And when the king heard this, he was frightened, and looked to see if he could see Merlin to cut off his head, but he did not see him. Then he said to his noblemen, "Merlin has killed me; for if I had rode out this morning, I would have defeated King Arthur, and avenged my despite. Now I have retreated further therefore than I ever was, and never, while I live, will I have him at such an advantage as I had him this morning, and now I do not know what to do: for if I go to him, he will treat me as an enemy, because I did not do anything for him last night, and if I return to my lands, he will turn against me and destroy me."

Then a knight who was cousin to King Arthur said, "You can do nothing there save with the sword, and now go securely, since God will give us the honor of the battle."

"Let us go," said the king, "since I do not want to part from him without a battle."

Then he asked the messenger: "Now, tell me, are there many people with King Arthur?"

"Certainly not," he said, "and those who remain are tired and worn and most of them are wounded."

"Then let us go," said the king, "and let all strive so that after the first encounters none of them remains in the saddle."

And they said that they would do so, since it pleased him so. Then they formed their lines, and went against the host of King Arthur.

Merlin, after he spoke with King Lot, returned to King Arthur and found him wounded in many places, from many great and small wounds, and saw that he was disarming and said to him, "King, do not disarm yourself, for you still have work to do, and you see King Lot of Orkney with his noblemen and all his host coming against you, and look at the standards on that mountain, and see they are coming as fast as they can."

And the king said: "Ah God, what an evil contrivance! All this evil I believe to be coming because of my sin; and, certes, what I did against Our Lord will cost my men dearly."

And when the noblemen and knights heard this, they felt great pity and dole in their hearts for him, and said to the king, "Lord, do not be disconsolate and ride securely, since God will give you honor."

Then one knight, he who followed the Barking Beast, whose son was Perceval as it will afterwards be told, said, "Lord, your highness ought not to fear anything which may come, since my deeds and person are prepared to help you and the other good knights, and if all are such as you, whoever comes will endure only a short while."

The king said: "I beg you to tell me who you are, for I do not know you by the device on your shield."

And the knight said: "Lord, I will not hide that from you. I am that knight whom you saw follow the ill-formed Beast, and I came to help you because of the great goodness there is in you, although not because of any land I have from you. This you know very well."

"You will have," said the king, "as much as you want, for you well merit a great deal."

Then they moved their lines against the host of King Lot, and, after they had joined battle, many knights were unhorsed, for there were good men on the one side and the other. And they began their battle so mortally on the one side and the other, that a good thousand were killed that time, so hard and strongly was battle begun, and from a little after the hour of tierce it lasted until the hour of vespers; but if King Lot had not been as good a knight as he was, his people would have been defeated in short order. King Lot suffered so much in the thick of the battle, that he had to return to his men and rally them, so that those who saw him marvelled how he could suffer so much, and he began to do such acts of prowess and strike such blows, that there was no one there who did not feel great fear of him.

And when King Arthur saw what King Lot did, he said, "Ah God, what trouble and what a pity it is that such a man as this erred so badly, since his excellence is such that he ought to be an emperor!"

King Lot, who thought of nothing save how he could kill King Arthur, put his hand to his sword and went running toward him where he saw him in a great thicket. And King Arthur, who afterwards did not find himself prepared or in time to receive him, pulled on the rein and shielded himself as best he could against the blow which came against him; but King Lot, with the desire to strike him, erred and wounded King Arthur's horse very cruelly over the saddle-front, so bravely, that the point pierced through both shoulders, and the horse fell dead and King Arthur fell before him.

And the Knight of the Ill-formed Beast who was near King Arthur, when he saw him fall so, believed he was dead; and he felt great grief and said that it was a great pity, that never would those of the kingdom of Londres find such a lord again, and that he would avenge him if he could; and he went to strike at King Lot who did not recoil from him, and the knight wounded him so fiercely that the helmet did not benefit him nor could it save him, since he cut everything down to the throat and Lot fell dead to the earth. And when those of Orkney saw this, they were frightened, since they could not nor knew how to counsel each other, for they saw their lord dead, he in whom all their hopes to win the battle rested.

When the knights of the king saw him who had done them so much harm dead, they rallied and ran against those of Orkney, and they killed and unhorsed so many of them that they covered the earth. And those of Orkney left the field and began to flee, to save themselves if they could, and the others went after them, since they hated them mortally, and killed so many of them that they only survived at great pains. And so all those of Orkney were defeated, and that day they received shame, since it will always be retold how they were vanquished in the field, where they went against their natural lord. In this way did King Pelinor of Wales kill King Lot of Orkney; because Galvan, his son, when he was knight afterwards, hated King Pelinor mortally, and killed afterwards Pelinor's sons Lamarate and Drianes from that lineage, and he killed Agraval in the Quest of the Holy Grail, just as the author will say hereafter.

When the battle was won, all those of Orkney were dead or prisoner. King Arthur commanded all of his men to be taken up and commanded them to be thrown as one in a very deep cave, and had a church built there in which masses were always sung for their souls; but he gave nothing for all the other bodies, save that they were interred over those plains and in the mountains where they lay. But in the battle with King Rion it happened that the twelve kings that Rion conquered were all killed, and King Arthur had their bodies carried to Camelot, and had them placed in a church of Saint Augustine, and had each one's name written on his tomb; and King Lot, because he had loved him before, he had put in the middle of the city in a very lovely and rich tent, and had an honorable bier made, and had a church built in that place in his honor, which was much honored afterwards and will be while the world lasts, and gave it the name of St. John's.