Chapter 27:

How the wife of Ebron and her son came before King Arthur to ask mercy on her husband's lands and for him to make her son knight

The author says that after King Arthur cut off the head of Ebron the Laggard for what he had said about Morgaina his sister, the wife of Ebron, thinking that her lands might rise against her, came to him and said to him, "Lord, I beg you to let me hold the land my husband held from you, so that I can defend myself with it against any who wish to do me evil."

The king said, "It pleases me and I grant it."

She said, "Many thanks, Lord; but I ask still more of you."

The king said, "Ask what you wish, for if it is something I can give you, you will have it."

"I ask you," she said, "in reward for all the service I can do you, that you make a youthful son I have knight before you go from here; for God gave you such grace and such goodness, that it seems to me that no knight made by your hand could be anything but good; and because of this I want you to give my son the honor of knighthood, for since his father was as good a knight as you, lord, you know that the son cannot err in being so."

The king said, "I know it, and I wish to do what you beg of me."

"Many thanks," she said. "Now you have made amends for the great loss you forced on me in the death of my husband."

Then the lady had her son, whose name was Brius, come before the king, and he was a very handsome youth, but he had a fierce countenance like his father. The king asked him, "Do you want to be a knight?"

"Lord," he said, "there is nothing in the world from which I should take greater pleasure."

"You will be one on the pleading of your mother," said the king, "and God grant that chivalry will be well served by you."

His mother said, "Amen."

That night the king commanded the squire to hold vigil in a chapel which was there, and he made him knight the next day, and he departed from there with his company, and the new knight stayed with his mother. And as soon as the king left there, Brius made a promise to his mother whence much grief and much damage came to many ladies and damsels; for he promised that because his father had lost his head because of Morgaina, that he would never find a lady or damsel to whom he would not do all the evil he could. And he kept this promise while he lived, for he afterwards killed many women with his own hands and dishonored them, and if his father was very fierce and evil and of great cruelty, the son was no better, but worse.

And King Arthur returned to Camelot, and found King Urian and Morgaina there. And those of the court were very grieved because they did not know any news of the king, and many good men went to seek him in many places. But when they saw him come, they were very happy, and he told them how he had killed Ebron the Laggard, and all said that it was a good kingly deed, and they had it written in the book of the adventures which were begun anew in that time. And the Knights of the Round Table had put in writing by the command of the king and Merlin all the adventures and knightly deeds which had come to Great Britain in the time of King Arthur.

This completed, another adventure happened, that Bandemagus was imprisoned in the castle of Urian, who was Ebron's father, and was held prisoner all that day, since no one looked for him in the prison where he was, which was a very white and lovely room. And there was a damsel there, daughter of the lord of the castle, who felt great pity for Bandemagus, because she saw him to be so young and handsome, and she said it would be a great deed of charity if she could liberate such a young knight from peril. And that damsel had the key of the room where Bandemagus lay. And as soon as she had the leisure to speak with him, she went to him and asked him who he was, and he recounted all his deeds to her, which did not diminish him in the slightest, and afterwards he said to her, "And you, damsel, who are you, who asks me of my deeds?"

"Lord," she said, "I am the daughter of the lord of this castle, and the knight you killed was my brother, but you killed him to defend your life and not by your will. And because I see that you are still a child, I feel great sadness for you, since I know that today or tomorrow your death will come, for my father and those who are here hate you. Think what remedy you will undertake."

The knight said, "Certes, damsel, I do not know. I put my hope in God, for if God wills me to die here, no one can save me, and if He wills that I escape, I will escape; since the things of this world go thus, as God wills."

"God help me," said the damsel, "I feel sorry for you and I feel great grief at your death."

He said, "By God, madam, if you feel grief at my death, you can show it to me, since I know you can take me out of here."

And she said, "If I take you out of here, how will you repay me?"

"By God," he said, "as you will, since I would do anything I could to be free, for I know that I cannot escape from here save by death, because all those here wish evil upon me; and God knows that the death of the knight grieves me as if he had been my brother, and I would not have killed him if I had not had to, for if I had not killed him, he would have killed me."

And the damsel said, "I will liberate you, if you grant me a boon."

"Certes," he said, "if you liberate me from here, I will give you what you ask of me, if it is something I can and should give; and I will tell you more, if you do as you say: not to ask any explanation for what you ask of me, even if I receive injury from it, knowing the signal mercy I expect to receive from it to be much greater."

When the damsel heard this, she said, "Know, sir, that I will not ask anything of you which will be difficult for you."

And when he had heard this response he said, "I promise you as a loyal knight to do what you command me."

"I receive this oath from you," she said. "And I do wish to liberate you and I will tell you how. As soon as it is night, I will take you out of there, and will have two horses stationed near the gate of the castle, and after you are armed, we will ride and take the road, and after we are outside my father's lands, I will tell you what I wish from you."

"Many thanks," he said. "If you do so, I will be your knight forever."

"Be sure of it, if God does not hinder me."

Both agreed to this and Bandemagus was quite comforted. And she parted from him, and told him to rally himself well, and she worked hard to liberate him, for she was so content with him, and had him in her heart so, that she was madly in love with him. And that day the lord of the castle took counsel with his vassals over what to do with the man who had killed his son, whom he had greatly loved, as much as himself, and what death they should tell him to make the man die, "for I want those of the Round Table to know of the high vengeance I shall wreak on him, so that those who hear it will punish themselves wherever they are seeking adventures in the kingdom of Londres, as they usually do. And I want knights errant who ride seeking jousts and battles throughout Great Britain to be frightened by this deed."

And after he demanded this counsel, one knight arose and said, "Lord, the best counsel you could have in this is this: to cut off his head, and send it to King Arthur as a present, and send to tell him that in vengeance for your son whom Bandemagus killed, you will do such justice upon all knights errant who come to your land. And this news will frighten all knights errant, so that never will a single one come by here."

And the lord of the castle said, "This I take to be good, and I want to do it from first to last."

When the damsel heard this, she felt great grief, and went then to Bandemagus and recounted all of it, and he responded in fright and said, "Madam, what shall I do? For I see that I am a dead man, if you do not have mercy on me, and, in God's name, think about liberating me."

She said, "By God, I will do it."

After night came, the damsel, who had thought much that day about how to liberate Bandemagus, went to the room and opened it, so secretly that no one heard it, and she took him to a tree where she had two horses and all his arms, so that he lacked nothing, and she said to him, "Bandemagus, arm yourself now quickly and we will leave here, for after you are outside my father's lands you need not fear."

And he armed himself and she helped him. And they then rode and traveled until midnight. Bandemagus said to the damsel, "Now we can rest, since we are already outside your father's lands."

"I fear that they will come after us and reach us; and if they reach us, we will be in peril of death, and whatever effort we made would be lost; and because of this I think it good that we travel while the night lasts, and when it is day, we will be able to find some castle where we can go to bed and be safe."

And he said, "Damsel, you say best and we will do so. But I said that because I thought you might be tired from the road."

Then they began to ride as quickly as they could, and when it was clear day, and the sun was rising, Bandemagus said, "Madam damsel, do you know where we are? For I know nothing of this land, as God loves me."

"Nor do I," said she, "for I have never been here; but I know as much as to say that we have traveled a great distance and we are very far from my father's castle."

"I believe it," he said.

While they were talking, they looked to their right and saw an ancient hermitage which was near some trees near a cliff. And Bandemagus said, "Damsel, wait for me here a little while. I will go to that hermit to find out something about this land where we are."

And she said, "Go, but come back afterwards."

And Bandemagus went to the hermitage, and found that it was a monastery and he said to the friars, "Is there some castle or other place near here where I and a damsel who is riding with me could rest?"

"No," they said, "but five leagues from here there are other monasteries."

And while they were talking, Bandemagus looked at a cliff and saw a very dense forest, and it might have been about four short leagues from there, and he said, "Now tell me, sirs, whose that forest is that I see."

"That, lord," they said, "is the forest of Armantes, one of the greatest forests there is in Great Britain, and one of the wildest, and where men find the greatest adventures."

"By God," he said, "I have often heard tell of the forest of Armantes; but tell me now how I can go most directly to the mountain of Sangin."

And they said, "We know nothing of that mountain, for never did we hear tell of it."

"Ah, God," he said. "And how can this be? For I believed that it was near here, and now I am so far from it that the men of this land do not know anything about it. Now I do not know what to do."

Then he returned to the damsel and told her these news. She said, "Since we are so close, we have traveled four days' journey this night."

And he said, "What does it please you that we do?"

"By God," she said, "it would please me if we rested here, for I am very tired."

And he said, "Then let us rest in that chapel, for there is a good place there where knights errant lodge, and there we will take counsel on where to go."

"Lord," she said, "you say well."

Then they went to the hermitage to lodge with the hermit, and he received them very well, and they rested there all that day, since they were very tired. And after it was night, Bandemagus asked the hermit if it had been a long time since any knights of King Arthur's household had come there. He said that Nabor of Gaunes, a companion of the Round Table, had passed by a short while past, and that his knights had told him that he was one of the good knights in Great Britain.

And Bandemagus said, "Certes, he is one of the good knights of the Round Table, of the household of King Arthur."

And the hermit said, "I will tell you even more. Not a long time ago Merlin the prophet passed by here, and he had a damsel from Little Britain with him, and he was going to the forest of Armantes to rest, and afterwards we found out that he dwells there now. We were told these news in the house of King Arthur."

Bandemagus said, "Since it seems that I am so close to him, I wish to go see him."

Then Bandemagus said to the damsel, "Since you have done so much for me, I ought to be your knight, and I will be, for you liberated me from death, and this life I live is because of you. And I tell you this because I must grant you a boon, whatever you ask of me that I can give."

"Lord," she said, "it is true, and I will ask it of you when it is the right time and place."

And Bandemagus was quiet about that. And afterwards he said to the damsel, "What does it please you that we do tomorrow?"

And she said, "Will I not ride with you until it is time for me to ask my boon from you?"

"All will be to your pleasure," he said.

And she said, "Toward what area will you go?"

And he said, "I wish to go toward the forest of Armantes, to seek Merlin the prophet, whom they say is there, and I would very willingly speak with him to ask him about my doings."

"Let us go," said the damsel, "for I will not part from you."

And they agreed to this. And in the morning they heard mass and departed from the hermitage and traveled until midday. And at that hour it happened that they found a knight who lay sleeping under a tree in a meadow, and he had his shield and his lance and his helmet by him, and near him his horse tied to a tree. And as soon as the horses saw each other, they began to neigh, and the knight who was sleeping awoke and sat up and laced on his helmet. And Bandemagus said to him, "Knight, do not fear, nor arm yourself for fear of me; but rest in peace, since I did not come here to fight with you."

"Nor I with you," said the other, "since you do not wish to; but wait until I am armed, since I do not want you to take me unarmed."

Then he raised his shield and took his lance, and after he was arrayed, he said, "Now I wish, sir knight, if it please you, to know who you are, and where you are going, and why you came to this forest all alone."

And Bandemagus said, "Since you wish to know my doings, I will tell you a part. Know that I am a knight of the court of King Arthur, but I am not of those of the Round Table, and I left there to quest for adventures anew; now it happens that my road took me to this forest, not because I wanted to come here, but because of chance which brought me here; and since it has happened thus, I wish to seek Merlin, who I was told was here, for I have a great necessity to speak with him."

"Certes," said the knight, "I have been here alone now for a year or more, and never have I left here, nor have I been able to find what I am questing for."

"And what are you questing for?"

The knight said, "This is something I ought not hide from you nor any other man. I ride seeking a knight who killed my father by treachery, and if I can find him and do not do all in my power to avenge my father, I should not take myself for a knight."

And Bandemagus said, "And how do you know that he is in this forest?"

"I know it," he said, "for I have seen him many times."

"Then why have you not fought him?" said Bandemagus.

"I would do so very willingly, if I could; but every time I find him, he flees from me, and because of my bad luck I have never reached him but that he has escaped me."

"This is no marvel," said Bandemagus, "since it usually befalls thus many times."

And so they left that topic. Bandemagus said, "Tell me if you know news of Merlin."

"Certainly," said the knight, "I saw him not six days ago, and a marvelously lovely damsel rode with him, and with another great company."

"God help me," said Bandemagus, "I greatly desire to see him."

The knight said, "May God allow you to see him, and me to find what I seek."

Then Bandemagus left the knight and his damsel left with him, and they traveled on the road in the forest until the hour of nones, and they were very tired because of the great travail they had undertaken, and the great heat that afternoon, and because they had not eaten that day. They looked before them and saw a small castle which was on a cliff, and it was lovely and strong, and a beautifully appointed tent was there, but it was not large, and near it was a horse tied to a tree by the reins, and on it was a shield hanging by the strap, and it had a silver lion painted on it, and on another tree a good twenty lances leaned. And as soon as the tied horse saw them, he began to neigh, and it was not long before a knight armed at all points came out of the tent, and when he saw Bandemagus he mounted his horse, and took his lance, and went to stop in the middle of the road. And when the damsel saw this, she said, "It seems to me, Bandemagus, that you are forced into battle. And what can we do? Must you not joust with him?"

Bandemagus said, "If I could depart this battle, I would do it; if not, I will fight, for I will only do what I ought for fear of any knight."