Chapter 36:

How Merlin and the Damsel of the Lake departed from the court and went to Great Britain, and what happened to them in the road

In the morning, Merlin departed with the damsel and two knights and four squires, and the knights were the damsel's relatives, and they already knew that there was nothing in the world that she hated so much as Merlin; and it took them four days to arrive at the sea, and they traveled them in a little space. And when they arrived at the sea, they entered a ship, and they had good weather and passed into Great Britain. And when they left the ship, they mounted their horses. Merlin said, "Let us go toward the kingdom of Gorra, since there we can find what we seek."

One of the knights then said, "If we go toward Gorra, we will have to pass through Great Britain by the Perilous Mountain."

"That is true," said Merlin, "for the right road is through there."

They traveled all that day in peace, since nothing was found that a man ought to have put in a book. And the next morning, they departed from a castle and traveled until the hour of tierce, and they arrived at a large and lovely plain, and there were not many trees in it save for two large and marvelously lovely elms; and those two trees were in the middle of the road and there was a cross between them; and there were a good hundred sepulchres around the cross, and near the cross there were two such lovely and rich thrones, that they were fit for emperors to sit in, and there was an alabaster arch on each one, just as a canopy, so that neither the sun nor the rain could damage them, and on each throne there was a good man seated with his harp in his hand, which he played when he wished, and they had so many other instruments around them that it was a marvel. And when Merlin arrived near them he stood still and said to the men who were with him, "Do you see those men who are in those chairs with their harps?"

"Yes," they said.

"You have not seen such a marvel in a long time. Know that the sound of those harps is of such virtue that no man or woman save those who play them can hear them (unless they are marvelously enchanted) without losing power in all their limbs, so that they fall as if dead, and lie on the earth as long as the harp-players wish."

When they heard this, they were very frightened to hear such a great marvel as Merlin said; but some of them said among themselves that they could not believe that it was as he said. The blame for this lay in the ill-liking which they felt for Merlin because of the damsel who went with him, because she was their relative; but Merlin, who understood them well, said, "I wish also to tell you that much evil has come about because of this enchantment: if someone passes by here with his wife or his paramour, if she is beautiful, the enchanters lie with her before he who brings her, and afterwards they kill those who speak with her. And these enchanters have kept these customs a long time, and many good men have died because of it already, and many good ladies and damsels were dishonored; but if I know anything of enchantment, never again will good man nor lady nor damsel receive grief from them."

Then he stopped up his ears as best he could, so as not to hear the sound of the harps, and did as a serpent which lives in Egypt and is called the asp does, which puts the tip of its tail in its ear and stops it, and puts its other ear in the dust so as not to hear the enchanter's conjuration. Thus Merlin did when he got to the enchanters, for he feared to be enchanted, and he was so fortunate that their enchantments could not harm him; but they did such great ill to the damsel and the others that they fell to the ground as if dead and were unconscious a long time. And when Merlin saw the damsel lie there thus, his anger was far from small, and he said, "Certes, friends, I will avenge you in such a criminal manner that those who come after us will always speak of it, and because of you those who passed by here and were enchanted by whatever enchantment will gain."

Then Merlin did such enchantments of his as he knew would be worthwhile in such a thing, and went toward the enchanters, and as soon as he got to them, they lost their knowledge and the power of their limbs, so that a child could have killed them, if he had enough strength, and they could know nothing while they looked at Merlin, and neither of them could use his art at all. And when Merlin saw them so, he said to them, "Ah, evil and wicked men! If someone had done this long ago, he would have done a great deed of charity, for you have done many ills and treacheries since you came to this land; but from now on your evil and treachery will rest."

Then he returned to the damsel and those who were with her, and did what he needed to disenchant them, and they returned to their senses just as they had been before, and he asked them how they were.

"Sir," they said, "we felt great fear and all the trouble that the heart of man can imagine, for we clearly had among us the princes and servants of Hell, and they tied us and bound us so brutally that we had no power to do anything, but we thought we were dead in body and soul."

"Do not be troubled," said Merlin, "since when these men escape from my hand, they will be such that no Christian will ever receive harm from them."

Then he had two great caves made, one on one side of a tree and the other on the other side, and after they were made, he took one of the enchanters just as he was on his throne, and put him in one of the caves, and the other in the other, and he took much sulfur and lit it, so that from the foetor and the great heat the two enchanters were killed. Then Merlin asked those who were with him, "What do you think, sirs? What sort of vengeance have I taken on these enchanters?"

They said, "It is great, by God, and we believe without doubt that never will men hear of this vengeance without blessing you for it."

"However," said Merlin, "believe, sirs, that I am still not content to do this to them, because of the damage they have done to people, unless this vengeance I do is well known, so that after my death those who come after me will see it."

Then he went to take four lids from those which were over the sepulchres of those who had been killed there, and he put two over each one of the caves, in such manner that those who passed by there could see by the fire what was in each one of the caves. Then he said to those who were with him, "This fire will endure as long as the kingship of King Arthur endures, and the day he dies, the fire will die. Another greater marvel will come, for the bodies of the enchanters will endure just as they are now, so that they will neither burn nor perish until King Arthur is killed, and this I do so that all those who come after me will know that I was he who knew the most about necromancy in all the kingdom of Londres. And, certes, if I thought I would live long, I would not meddle with such a thing; but I know that I must die soon, and therefore I did this, so that it would be a testament to my knowledge after my death."

"Certes," they said, "it may well be believed that you are wiser than all other men because of this and other things you have had done. Never has man heard tell of such a great marvel."

Then they departed from there and went on their way toward the Perilous Forest, and they traveled on its pathways until they arrived in Great Britain.

When Merlin departed from the court with the Damsel of the Lake, King Arthur remained in Camelot five days in great happiness, and once the five days were past he went to Cardoyl, a very rich and lovely city. And one day, while the king was with his noblemen, news came to him that the king of Ireland, the king of the Valley, the king of Salebren, the king of the Far Isle, and the king of the March had landed in his land with a marvelously great number of men, and were robbing his lands, and burning his villages, and had taken three or four of his castles toward Sereloyes.

When King Arthur heard this news, he was very angry and said that they came for their ill, and made ready to go against them. Then he sent for all his vassals, who went after him to the kingdom of Norgales, since he thought to find his enemies there; and after he had sent letters to each one, he departed from Cardoyl with what people he could command, and the noblemen who went with him said to him, "Lord, you should wait until your noblemen come, and the others you sent for; since, certes, if you go against your enemies with such a small host, you will not be able to endure them, for they have a great host."

And he answered, "How can you want me to delay thus, while my enemies are robbing my land, and burning it, and killing my people? Certes, I would ill guard the people God put in my hand if I did not impede the robbers and evil men, and, truly, I will never have rest until I go to them; and if I had only half the people I have, I would go against them, for in no other way would I show them that I should be their lord, if I did not remove them from the lordship of others with all my power."

This the king said to those who wanted him to stay, and he loved the queen so much that he could not go anywhere without her, and he said to her, "Lady queen, prepare yourself to go with me, and take all your damsels with you, whichever of them you wish to go with you."

When the queen heard this, she said, "Lord, your will in this will be fulfilled."

And the next morning, the king departed from Cardoyl with the host he could command, and his wife with him, and they rode toward the kingdom of Norgales, for there they knew they would find their enemies; and people came to him from all parts, riding on the road, and his men took trouble to arrive at the battle in time. And the king arrived in the kingdom of Norgales, and his enemies, as soon as they found out he was coming, took counsel on what they ought to do, for they feared greatly to join battle with him in the field, for they knew that he was a good and hardy knight at arms, and that his men were better trained to arms and more vigorous than other men. And one knight, who was brother to one of the kings, said, "I will tell you how we may defeat the host and the king very easily, in such a manner that you will lose few men, and you can have this done tomorrow, before the hour of prime."

They responded, "If you show this to us, never was better counsel given, and now tell us how this can be."

"Willingly," he said. "It is true that King Arthur camps here on the shore of the Ombre, at the entrance of the forest which is called Marsola, and there the king wishes to rest today and tomorrow, to wait for King Pelinor, who is to bring him a very great host from his land, and he believes that we do not know anything of his coming; and therefore it would be good for us to ride until nightfall, and bring half of our host, and let the other half stay here; so we will remain all night, and before the light comes we will be with him, and if we can enter among his tents before we find them armed, we will defeat them all. And this is my counsel. Now we shall see what you say."

"By God," they said, "this is good counsel, and there is nothing better we could do, if we are wise."

And they agreed upon this counsel, and chose among them which would go and which would stay. And they commanded those who were to go to prepare themselves; and after the five kings had eaten with the armies, they mounted and had their arms and shields brought, and they brought with them those who knew of this and whom they most trusted, and in such manner they traveled all night and did not rest. And when the light appeared, the king and the queen and all the host arose; and Galvan, and Quia the steward, and Giflete the son of Bron, went to the king's tents unarmed and wished to hear mass, and as soon as the king said to them that it would be good for them to don their arms, great shouts were heard throughout the host, and they said, "To arms! To arms!" for the five kings were already among them with their host, and they began to kill and wound them, for they found them unarmed, as men who did not fear what might come to them.