Chapter 35:

How Merlin and the Damsel of the Lake departed from the court to go to the house of her father the King of Northumberland

And when they departed from Camelot, they traveled so far each day that they got to the sea and entered a ship, and God gave them such prosperous weather that in a few days they had entered Little Britain, and they passed through the land of King Ban of Benuyt; and if Merlin had not been with them, they would have run a great risk, for the war between King Ban of Benuyt and King Claudes of the Wasteland made no one sure of passing through there safely. And on that day they went to lodge on a high and marvelous cliff, and that castle was one of the strongest known to man in all the land, and it was called Temble. And King Ban of Benuyt was not in that castle then, but was at another place near there, where they held the land against Claudes; but the queen his wife, whose name was Elena, was there and she was one of the most beautiful women there was in Little Britain and the best lady in the eyes of God and the world. And she and her husband only had one son, one year old; but he was the handsomest child of his age in the world, and those of the house called him Lanzarote, but his baptismal name was Galaz. And Queen Elena, as soon as she recognized the damsel of Urberlanda, was very pleased with her and received her very well.

This Urberlanda of which I speak, is the kingdom of Urberlanda which is between the kingdoms of Norgales and Gorra, for this Urberlanda is in Little Britain, and the other in Great Britain.

Queen Elena was very pleased, as I already told you, and the damsel ate with her, and she made her a great feast. And after they ate, she had her son brought in, so that the damsel could see him, and when the damsel saw him, she examined him well and said, "Certes, he is a handsome child. If you live to the age of twenty years, you will be he who has no peer among all others."

And Merlin and all the others laughed at this word. And Merlin came to the damsel and said, "He will live more than fifty years, but in no time will he be praised for beauty as for knighthood, and you may well believe that neither before nor after him will there be another such knight as he."

And she said: "Blessed be God, who allowed me to see such a child," and she kissed him more than a hundred times.

And she who raised him, picked him up and took him to his room. And the queen said to the damsel, "Damsel, we have a great need for this my son to be better than he is, since we are always at war with one of our neighbors."

The damsel said: "What is his name?"

The queen said: "Claudes of the Wasteland, and he is the most evil man in the world, and may God give me such vengeance that my heart will be content; and never have I hated a man as I hate him."

"Lady," said Merlin, "you will hate him even more, but a time will come, before Lanzarote dies, in which Claudes will not have even a palm's breadth of inheritance in this land, but he will depart poor and vanquished from the field and will flee to another land."

And the queen said: "If I should see that day, I would be content, since there is nothing I hate so much, for he makes me turn poor."

"Do not worry, lady," said Merlin, "for this will all be just as I say."

"May God make it so," she said, "since I would be happy so."

So spoke Merlin about Claudes, and afterwards it all came true, and the queen never asked who he was, since she never would have believed that Merlin would come to that land. And in the morning, when the damsel heard mass, she rode away and departed from Temble, and her company with her, and they traveled so far, that they arrived at a small pasture-land, which was the most beautiful one for its size there was in France and Little Britain, and its name was the Pasture of the Valley, because the greatest part of it was in a valley. And when they arrived at it, Merlin said, "And would you like, madame, to see the Lake of Diana of which you have often heard tell?"

"Yes," she said, "it would please me greatly, and there could be nothing of Diana's which I would not willingly see, because she loved the knowledge of the wild beast and the hunt during her life, just as I do."

"Let us go," said Merlin, "and I will take you."

Then they went through a valley, until they arrived at the Lake of Diana, and it was large and rather high up. And Merlin said, "You see here the Lake of Diana."

Then they went forward, until they saw a great stone, and near the stone was a marble sepulchre.

"Damsel," said Merlin, "in this sepulchre lies Faunes, Diana's lover, who loved her wholeheartedly, and she was so villainous to him that she had him killed by the worst disloyalty in the world. And she gave him such a reward for the great love he felt for her."

"And is it true," said the damsel, "that Diana killed her lover thus?"

"It is true," he said, "without doubt."

"Tell me how it was," she said, "because I want to know."

"Willingly," he said, "I will tell you. In the time of Virgil, a time before Jesus Christ came to the land, Diana loved the hunt of the wild beasts above all things, and after she had gone hunting through all the lands and mountains of France and Britain, she found no place which pleased her so much as this one, and she stayed here, and had her houses built on this lake, and in the daytime she went hunting, and at night she returned here. And she lived in this manner a long time, so that she did nothing but hunt and take stags, until a son of a king which this land had whose name was Faunes loved her for the great beauty he saw in her, and because she was so good and lively and light and enduring of labor, since no man could suffer such travail on the hunt as she. And he was not yet a knight, but a handsome and clever child, and she loved him so that she promised him her love on the condition that he should part from his father and choose no company but hers; and he promised her that and stayed with her, and she with him for love of him, and because this place pleased her, she had her rich and beautiful dwelling built on this lake, and Faunes was as one lost, and he left his father and his friends and all the other companies for love of Diana, and he lived with her a good two years. And she loved another knight, who found her hunting just as Faunes had, and that knight was called Felis, and was poor and of low lineage, and was knighted through goodness of arms. And he knew that Faunes was Diana's lover, and said that if he found him there, that he would do him some dishonor. Then Felis said to Diana, "`You love me well, just as you say?'

"`It is true,' said Diana, `and I love you more than any man in the world.'

"`From this,' he said, `no good can come to me; for although I love you very much, I would not dare to come to you, for Faunes is powerful, and as soon as he found out, he would have me and my lineage destroyed.'

"`This,' she said, `you need not fear, nor need you stop coming because of it.'

"`Certes,' he said, `I will not come to you, if you do not leave him.'

"`I cannot,' she said, `rid myself of him while he is alive and well, for he loves me so very much that there is nothing in the world which would make him part from me.'

"`And certes,' said Felis, `you must rid yourself of him, or else you and I are quits.'

"And Diana loved Felis so much, that she would have done anything for love of him, and she thought that she would have Faunes killed in some way, by poison or some other means." And with this determination he spoke no more.

And he noticed the building which was there, and began to say, "This sepulchre you see here, was here then as it is now, and it was full of water because of the property of the rock, and there was a bell on top of it. There was in that land then an enchanter whose name was Damefori, who enchanted this water, so that all wounded men who drank of it were healed and well.

"And after this it happened one day that Faunes was wounded from a wound a boar gave him, and Diana, who thought of nothing but his harm and his confusion, as soon as she found out he was wounded, had the water taken from the sepulchre, so that he would not find there the water to cure himself. And when he arrived and did not find the water, he felt great grief and said to Diana, "`What shall I do, for I am very badly wounded?'

"`Do not fear,' she said, `since I will remedy this well. Undress yourself and wait in this sepulchre, and I will cover you with this rock, and I will throw herbs in through a hole which the rock has, and the herbs have such great virtue, that you will then be healed, as soon as you suffer a little heat from that in which the herbs were cooked.'

"And he, who did not think that she wished him ill, threw himself naked into the sepulchre, and the rock was then put over him, which was so heavy that he could not get out if it was not raised for him. And as soon as he was inside, Diana, who thought entirely of his harm, had much lead melted, and she poured it in that hole in the sepulchre, and he was then killed. And then she said to Felis, "`I am quit of Faunes, which you so doubted I would manage.'

"And she told how. And when Felis heard the treachery Diana had done, he said, "`Certes, all the world should hate you, and no one ought to love or prize you, and I will not either.'

"Then he took Diana by the hair, and drew his sword, and cut off her head, and then threw her head and body into the lake; and because Diana was thrown in there, and because she had lived there so willingly, this lake is called, and will be called while the world lasts, the Lake of Diana.

"Now I have told you," said Merlin, "how Diana killed her lover, and how the lake was called the Lake of Diana."

"Certes, Merlin," said the damsel, "you told everything to me very well; but tell me: What became of the houses which were built here?"

"Faunes's father destroyed them," said Merlin, "when he found out his son had been killed there."

"He did wrong," said the damsel, "since they were built so marvelously in a place so good, and there was great pleasure in them, so that may God not help me if I leave here until there are houses made here as good as ever, if such can be made by men, in which I will dwell while I live; and I beg you, Merlin, in the name of the love you bear me, to work at it."

And he said that he would do it, since she begged it. And so Merlin for that reason began to build houses near the Lake of Diana. And the damsel said to those who had come with her, "Lords and ladies, if you wish to stay with me, it will please me greatly. I tell you this because I wish to stay here the days of my life, in such manner that each day I will go hunting and return here."

And those who were there, who heard this, were her relatives and they responded, "If staying here pleases you more than going to your father, we will stay with you, since we would not dare go to your father without you."

And she said that staying there pleased her, "and I tell you," she said, "that I have as much gold and silver that Merlin gave me as we could spend in our lifetimes." Then Merlin went to seek stonemasons and carpenters throughout the land, and had houses and palaces built near the great stone so lovely and so rich that there were no others like them in all of Little Britain, neither for king nor for prince.

And after this work was fulfilled, Merlin said to the damsel, "Now this dwelling will be worthless to you if I do not make it so that no one will see it, save those who dwell inside it."

Then he began to do his enchantments, and enclosed the houses so marvelously on all sides that nothing appeared there save water, so that whoever went around the outside would not know that there was anything to see there but water. And after he had done this masterwork, he said to the damsel, "Now your house is well arrayed, and know that no one can see it from the outside except its inhabitants. And if someone from your company wishes to show another because of envy or hatred, he will then fall into the lake and die."

"By God," said the damsel, "this building is very lovely and marvelous, and never did I hear of such a rich covering."

So Merlin stayed with the damsel, and loved her with such a great love, that there was nothing else in the world he loved as much, and because of the great love he felt he did not dare ask anything of her, so as not to anger her, and he still thought that he would arrive at some way to have her at his will; and he had already taught her so much necromancy and enchantment that she alone knew more than all the others who used these arts save Merlin, and no one could think of anything, nor make some lovely delight, that she could not do by enchantment; but with all that there was nothing in the world she hated so much as Merlin, because she knew that he contended to take her virginity, and if she could have murdered him by poison, she would have done so willingly, but she did not dare to because she was terrified that he would discover it, because he was a wiser man than others; but she had already enchanted him with what she had learned from him, so that she did everything she wished with him, and Merlin knew nothing about it. And one day Merlin was walking through the house, and he found a knight sleeping in the middle of the palace, and he was a relative of the damsel. And Merlin said, "Ah, God, how imperiled this knight is, more than King Arthur was!"

"And how was King Arthur imperiled?" said the damsel. "Tell me, in the name of God."

"He had today," said Merlin, "such great terror of death, that he did not believe he would escape nor would he have escaped, if it were not for the hardihood of Quia his steward, who killed two kings with two blows; and because of this King Arthur was free and his enemies killed."

"In good faith," said the damsel, "if you loved King Arthur as he loves you, you would not have let him fall into such peril, but you would have gone to his court, and never departed the court where he was."

"Certes," said Merlin, "I left him for two reasons: the one for love of you, since I love you so much that I could in no way live there without you, and the other because my fate tells me that as soon as I go there, I will be killed by treachery."

"What?" she said, "and you cannot guard yourself?"

"No," he said, "since I am already enchanted, so that I do not know who orders this death for me."

"You usually know," she said, "so much about the things which are to come, and now you are reduced to losing your wisdom?"

"Even now," he said, "I know a great part of the things which concern my life and death; but I am so crippled by enchantment of the things which concern my own protection, that I do not know how to advise myself, for I cannot undo the enchantments which are made without losing my soul. Certes, I would prefer to die by whatever way I must die, than to lose my soul."

The Damsel of the Lake was amazed at this news; but she was happy, for she thought of nothing as much as Merlin's death. And Merlin could not yet know anything of what she said and did, and she guarded herself well from him by necromancy. And it was not long after this that Merlin was at table one day, and said to the damsel who was near him, "Ah, Damsel of the Lake, if you loved King Arthur and knew what was ordered to his harm, it would not please you."

"Sir," she said, "it could well be, and I beg you to tell me what it is."

He said that Morgaina, Arthur's sister, "in whom he trusts greatly, took his sword with the scabbard and gave him a counterfeit which looked like it and was worthless to him. And he must fight with a knight tomorrow and so he is in peril of death, for his sword will fail him when he most needs it, and the other will wield the best knight's sword which can be had in the world, with such a scabbard, that the man who bears it will not lose even a drop of blood."

"By God," said the damsel, "there is ill fortune and a perilous hour here, and I would wish that you and I should go to where the battle is to be; for, certes, if King Arthur is killed in this battle, it will be the greatest shame that will come in our time."

"And believe that he will be killed," said Merlin, "if Our Lord does not have pity on him, and this will be because of a sin which I know he committed, after Our Lord put him in the heights he now enjoys."

And she asked him what it was and he said, "This I cannot tell you, since it concerns neither me nor you; but it requires that complete vengeance should be taken for great sins."

"You say true," she said, "and what I asked was foolish. But tell me if you can in some way prevent this battle, if there is enough time for us to go from here to Great Britain first."

"Yes," he said.

"And how many days would it take us to get there?"

"Twelve," he said.

"I beg you," she said, "to have the date of battle changed, and we will travel without rest until we arrive there, and I believe that King Arthur will not lose a thing."

"Certes, damsel," said Merlin, "there is nothing I would do more willingly than to go to Great Britain, if I did not fear death by treachery."

"Do not fear," she said, "since I will guard you just as I would guard my own body, for I love you more than any other man in the world; and I am right to do so, for you taught me everything I know, and all my excellence comes from you."

"Damsel," he said, "Does it then please you that we travel to Great Britain?"

"Yes," she said, "I beg you to go."

"I will go," he said, "since it pleases you; but I know that what I am doing is folly."

Then the damsel commanded some of her people to stay in her house, and others to go with her, and so it was done.