Chapter 34:

How the king asked Merlin who the damsel was whose head King Pelinor brought, and asked him of other secrets, as follow henceforth

The next morning, King Arthur called Merlin while he was sitting in his great room, accompanied by many great men of his court, and said to him, "I beg you to tell me who the damsel was whose head King Pelinor brought."

Merlin said, "It pleases me, for I know that you will not reveal it."

"No, without fail," said the king.

"Know," said Merlin, "that the damsel was the daughter of King Pelinor, and was coming to your court to speak with him. And that knight who lay before her was her cousin, and he left his land to guard her until she got here. And because of this I said that he had gained as much as he had lost, for he had a son for the daughter he lost."

And King Arthur marveled and said, "Tell me, Merlin, if it please you, the meaning of what you said: `and you failed your flesh and blood, and your flesh and blood will fail you, and this will be the reason you die so soon.'"

"If I told you," said Merlin, "what I know, much ill could come of it. You are young and cannot keep it secret."

The king said, "You will tell me nothing I will not keep secret, nor will I disobey your command."

"No," said Merlin, "while I am with you; but when I part from you and you do not see me, you will know what a friend you have lost in me. Then you will wish you had given part of your kingdom to have kept me with you."

The king said, "I know that when you are dead, no man as wise as you will remain in the kingdom of Londres, nor one to do so much good, but no one can escape this; but tell me this I ask of you."

"I will tell you," said Merlin, "but on condition that you will never reveal it until it is done."

"I promise you that," said the king.

And Merlin said, "The word was this: `just as you failed your flesh and blood, your flesh and blood will fail you.' He failed his flesh and blood. This you know, because I recounted to you how he failed his daughter; and it will come one day, before twelve years have passed, that King Pelinor will enter upon a quest, and find the son of the dead king in a forest which I know well, and he will be in that hour wounded with many wounds, so that the son of the dead king will leave him so badly wounded that he will remain in the field as if half dead, and he will be unconscious from the hour of nones until the hour of vespers, and after he stays there that long, he will open his eyes. Then he will see two armed knights come toward him; the one will be Quia, your steward, and the other Tor, and Quia will flee before Tor, and Tor will go after him. And when King Pelinor sees his son, he will shout at him and say: `Tor, my good son, return, and do not stray willfully, but come back here, since I have need of you.' And Tor will hear him, but he will not believe that it is his father, but will think that it is said in mockery, and will pass by him, not even looking at him, and the king will stay there since he will have no power to move. And when it becomes night, the son of the dead king will return, just as ill-adventure usually comes to good men, and will recognize King Pelinor, and will cut off his head, since no other mercy will he have."

"Certes," said the king, "this will be a great harm, and if I could prevent it, I would, without telling it to anyone."

"You can prevent it just as much," said Merlin, "as you could prevent the child by whom this land is to be destroyed from living, and that he should not be saved from peril of the sea."

"What?" said the king. "And he is not dead?"

"No, truly," said Merlin, "but one of your noblemen is raising him with his own son, and guards him very well, and the children are the same age. And I will even tell you that he will kill him of whom I speak to you now after he is grown."

The king marveled and said, "Cursed be the hour he was engendered, for it is by force that he is to do evil."

The king said, "Then what will you tell me about the other baby boys?"

"I tell you," said Merlin, "that they are alive, and that they were in no peril at all, since a nobleman found them and took them into his court, and had them very well raised."

"And that evil child," said the king, "is with them?"

"No," said Merlin, "he is very far away."

So it was that King Arthur and Merlin spoke much about this and other things, and afterwards went to bed. Merlin went to one room, almost adjacent to where the king slept, and the king went to the queen.

And Blaise was in Camelot, and Merlin told him all the adventures as they had come, and a great piece of those which were to come, so that he could order his book well. And almost as soon as he had arrived, at the hour of vespers, Blaise departed from Great Britain, and Merlin came to the Huntress Damsel, she whose name was Niviana, and as soon as he accompanied her, he fell madly in love with her, for she was very lovely, and no more than fifteen years old, and she was very wise for her age. And she understood that Merlin loved her from the heart, and she was very frightened, and she felt fear of being dishonored by his enchantment or that he would sleep with her while she slept; but he had no will to do this, for there was nothing in the world which would make him grieve her. And so the damsel was in the court four months, and Merlin saw her every day, as one who loved her greatly from the heart; and when she saw that he received great grief from her, she said, "I will not love you in any way, if you do not promise me that you will teach me some of the enchantments you know, those I wish."

Merlin began to laugh and said, "There is nothing in the world I know that I would not teach you with a good will; since there is nothing I love so much as you."

"And since you love me so much," she said, "I want you to promise me that you will do nothing against me by enchantment, in any way that you believe would make grief or anger come to me."

And he promised her that. And from that time on the damsel accompanied Merlin, although not as if she felt anything for him; but he believed that she loved him infinitely, and that he would have her virginity, for he knew that she was still virgin. And he began to teach her so much of necromancy and enchantment that she knew as much as, and more of some things than, Merlin himself.

And in that season it happened that the king of Urberlanda, which bordered Little Britain, sent letters to King Arthur which said, "King Arthur, I beg you in the name of courtesy to send me Niviana with these my knights I sent to you, and I thank you very much for the honor you paid her and the good you did for her."

And when the king saw these letters, he went to the damsel and said to her, "Your father is sending for you. Do you wish to go or stay?"

"Lord," she said, "I wish to go, since he is sending for me."

"You say well," said the king.

"If he were not my father," she said, "I would want to stay here more than to go, for your court contents me greatly. Certes, lord, if I chose to stay away from my father's household, there is nowhere in the world I would more willingly stay than here in your court. Certes, I have great reason to do so; but since my lord father wants me to come to him, I must go to fulfill his will."

"This is best," said the king, "and I love you more for it."

And two or three days later, Niviana parted from the court of King Arthur to go to her land, which grieved the queen and her ladies greatly, for she had made herself loved, and that night Merlin came to her and said to her, "Madame, you wish to go?"

"Yes," she said. "And what will you do? Do you wish to come with me?"

She said this because she thought there was no way he would choose to go with her.

"Certes," he said, "you cannot go without me; there is no way in which I would not go with you to your land, and once there, if you wish me to stay, I will stay, and if not, I will return, since there is nothing in the world which would please you that I would fear to do."

And when she heard that he chose to go with her, she felt great grief, for she hated nothing in the world so much as him; but she did not dare to show it, and she pretended that it pleased her, and she thanked him very much because he had said that he would go with her. And in the morning, as soon as the damsel heard mass, she rode away, and Merlin with her, and he did not say farewell to the king, for he knew that the king would not let him go.