All those in the court felt great grief when they found out that Bandemagus had departed from court, and the king was much sadder because he loved and prized him greatly, and he said secretly many times that if Bandemagus lived long enough, he would be one of Londres's best men; and he later found out the reason why Bandemagus had left court, and said to King Pelinor, "We lost Bandemagus because we did not give him the seat at the Round Table."
"It grieves me greatly," said King Pelinor, "and I would rather that Bandemagus were in the seat than my son Tor; for God help me, he merits it more than twenty men I know here."
And King Pelinor said this of Bandemagus because he prized him greatly, and others who could be found there said other things, each one telling how it seemed to him, as he felt affection for Bandemagus. And after much speech by each of those who were there, and after King Arthur had heard what each one had to say, and understood that there was as yet no way to put Bandemagus in a seat at the Round Table as a remedy, he told everyone not to speak of it more, since at that time there was no remedy until another chance should come, and so everyone left this business alone. And the third day after that, the king went hunting in the forest of Camelot with hunters on horseback and on foot, and after they entered the forest, they found a great herd of stags and let the dogs loose in such manner that the hunt began, and King Arthur rode on a good horse, as did King Urian and Acalon of Gaula, the paramour of Morgaina; and those three began the hunt, for they left all their companions behind, because they were not as well horsed; and among all the stags there was one who was great and strong and lightfooted, and he did not tire until he had run a good ten leagues. Then the horses were so tired that there was no one who was not on foot save for those three, who continued the hunt until the hour of nones, and after the hour of nones the horses were dead. And King Arthur, when he saw himself on foot, looked about him to see if he should see any of his company, and saw no one but King Urian and Acalon, who were on foot like him, and he said, "Friends, what shall we do? Does it seem to you that we should stay here?"
King Urian said, "Let us go forward, since a great river runs near here, and since the stag is tired, with the great heat and its thirst it will drink so much that it will die, and we will find it dead."
King Arthur said, "Tell me: does it seem to you that our men are near us?"
"No, lord," said Acalon, "but far away, for they were not as well horsed as we were, and I know that their horses are very tired, and because of that they will not reach us today, for night is coming."
King Arthur said, "If night comes, we will go to one of my castles, which is two leagues from here."
Then they ceased talking about it, and went on foot to the water, and just as they arrived, they found the stag on the shore, which had drunk so much water that it could not hold it, and a hound near it had it by the throat, for none of the other dogs could arrive there, and the king got to the stag and killed it, and took a horn he bore and blew it so that the dogs would hear it and come to him; but they were so far away that they did not hear it, and they mangled the stag. And the king looked below at the shore, and saw a ship covered with a silk cloth, vermillion like scarlet, and it was covered on all sides so that not a bit of the wood appeared, save for what appeared of the oars near the water, and there were twelve oars, because the ship was quite large. When King Arthur saw the ship, he showed it to the others and said to them, "You see here a ship, and I do not know whence it has come, for those inside have troubled to hurry to us, and I know that they bring us some news."
"May God send us good news."
And they, saying this, the ship put in near them, and the king went to the end of it to see what was inside, and when he went to the entrance, he found an arras of silk hung there, so that it could not be seen, if one did not enter. And he then called his grandees and said to them, "Come, and we will enter and see what there is in the ship, for I do not want to see it without you."
They left what they were doing and came to the ship, and entered, and it seemed to them greater than before, since they saw that it was so lovely and so richly adorned with cloths of gold and silk, that it seemed to them that they had never seen anything richer or more beautiful. And while they looked at all this, twelve damsels came before the king and knelt and said to him, "Lord King Arthur, you are welcome. Now we wish no more from all the richness of the world than to have you with us, for we know that you may not depart from us today, for it is so late that you cannot get to any lodging in time; and we will serve you as well and richly as could be done in the place in the world where you would now most like to be; and we beg you to grant us this by the faith you owe to all knights."
He granted it, which made them very happy, and they went to him and took off the hunting clothes he wore and gave him others which were very rich. And they did the same to King Urian and to Acalon, and began to bring candles, and put so many through the ship on one side and the other that there was great light there, and this they did because the night was very dark. And when the king had rested a little, two damsels came who gave him water for his hands, and the same was done for his two companions, and they took them to a table and gave them to eat so well and richly that the king marveled where they could have gotten the meal so quickly and at such an hour; since certainly they were so well served that they could not be better, and they rested there very willingly. When they had eaten, they spent a good hour in speaking of this and that, until it was time to go to bed.
The damsels took the king and put him in a bed which was in the middle of the ship; and certainly, there could be no more beautiful couch in Camelot than the one which was there, and they did the same for the others, and it happened that they slept then, since they were tired from the travail they had borne that day. In the morning, when they awoke, there was no one who was not frightened, for each found himself without the others in such a strange place that there was no one of them who did not lose his memory, so that they could hardly know who they were. And King Urian found himself in Camelot, on his own couch with Morgaina his wife. And King Arthur found himself in a black and very dark bed, near a stone; and there where he found himself, he found himself with twenty other knights in great irons, and they made as much dole as if they were to die that very hour. And Acalon found himself in a greatly overgrown grove full of trees, so near a fountain that there was no more than a palm's breadth between him and the water, and the water ran from the fountain through a silver mill-wheel, and fell into a great marble bowl, so that that water went by design to a high tower which was near the bowl. And when Acalon awoke and found himself near the fountain dressed in the clothes which the damsels had given him, he took it for such a marvel that he began to cross himself, and said, "Holy Mary! How can this be, that last night I lay down next to the king my lord, and now I find myself near this fountain, dressed in these clothes which the damsels gave me? Ah, God! Where is my lord King Arthur now, and King Urian, and where have I been taken and enchanted, and my lord as well? The damsels brought us here by their good seeming, and they deceived us by their good words, and I am more grieved for my lord than for myself, for I know that he has been deceived as I am."
And Acalon made great dole, and examined the fountain and the trees, and cursed the tower and whatever he saw in the world, and said, "Ah, Lord God! If You were to labor at my will, You would confound all the damsels in the world, so that no man would ever be brought to dishonor by them. Certes, I believe, if I am delivered, that I will never find any other such treachery nor disloyalty in the world."
Then he was so angry and felt such great grief that he did not know what to do, and said that he would never again do honor or good to a damsel, but would do her dishonor every time he could, "for never were men dishonored as we were. And I do not believe that this was anything but a plan of the devil who appeared to us, so that it was not a boat; and I believe that they were the servants of the devil, to serve us so well, for all the damsels in the world could not have served us so well as we were served."
So did Acalon complain, and he was so angry that he could not have been angrier. Then he looked and saw a small and stocky dwarf before him, with black hair and a great mouth and small nose, and a great chest. And when Acalon saw him, he said, "Truly did devils bring me here."
And when the dwarf came to him, he greeted him and said to him, "Sir Acalon, you are welcome. And Queen Morgaina sends me to greet you, since tomorrow at the hour of tierce you must fight with that knight of whom she told you news the last time she spoke with you in private, and so that you believe me, I have signs for you here."
Then he gave him King Arthur's good sword with its scabbard; and he recognized it then, and was happier than before, because of the news he had heard of her he loved so much, and he embraced the dwarf and said to him, "Dwarf, you are welcome. And when did you see Queen Morgaina?"
"Sir," he said, "not long ago."
"Dwarf, tell me if I am near Camelot."
"Sir," said the dwarf, "you are two days away from it."
"And how did I come here? Do you know?"
"No," said the dwarf, "save that I know it is part of the adventures of Great Britain and the enchantments of this land."
And he said, "I know and believe that I was enchanted, for never did I or any other man hear tell of an adventure as marvelous as this one was. But tell me: do you know who that knight is with whom I must fight?"
The dwarf said, "No, save that it is a knight of this land, who dwells here near one of his castles, for he did us much evil up to now. But from now on, if God wills, after you have won this battle, he will not dare to say a thing to us which will grieve us, nor take away our rights."
"And when must the battle be?" said Acalon.
"The battle is to be tomorrow," said the dwarf, "after the hour of prime, in the field which is here."
"I would wish," said Acalon, "to be in the field now, since I cannot excuse myself from it."
He saw knights and ladies and damsels come toward him as he spoke thus, and they greeted him, and took him to the tower with great happiness and said to him, "Sir, you are welcome, for we greatly desired your arrival, and if we desired you greatly, with the help of God we have you; and blessed be God who brought you here, for we believe that by your coming we will be worth more, for our enemies will have peace with us, those who up to now made war on us and took away our rights."
So it befell Acalon then, because he was so fortunate at that time, whatever came to him afterward, because he fell among people who were very pleased with him, and they received him well and did him what honor they could; but it did not happen this way to King Arthur, for he was in a black and deep cell, and there were many people there he did not know, but he heard and saw them, and they made great dole saying, "Ah, death! Why do you not trouble to come to this place and remove these captives from wretchedness and misery and pain?"
And when King Arthur heard this, he was very frightened, so that he did not know what to say, for he understood that he had been brought there by enchantment, and he asked those who were near him, "What is wrong with you, and why do you make such dole?"
And they said to him, "What is this you ask us? And are you not here in prison, and do you not know the trouble we suffer night and day?"
"I know nothing of this trouble, for I have not endured it yet, nor have I seen much of it."
"Then when did you come here?" they said.
And he said that he knew nothing of how he had come there, nor where he was, nor because of whom, "but I believe that I am not far from Camelot, for this morning I departed from there to go here," and he recounted to them what had happened to him, and how the damsels had received him well and honorably on the ship "and, certes, I did not believe that they did it in treachery, but I take myself to have been enchanted, since they put me in the prison of another." When they heard this adventure told, they said, "Certes, there is strong and evil treachery here. Cursed and confounded be those who put you here, and had they put you in another place, and your death were not so near, it would be a great comfort for you; but they put you in a place where you cannot escape death."
"By God," he said, "this is the greatest disloyalty I ever heard tell of, for they brought me to death and I never merited it; but tell me where we are, and why we are prisoners and how we became so, and why we cannot leave."
"This we will well tell you," they said, "if you tell us your name."
"You cannot know my name, but I will tell you that I am of the court of King Arthur, even his favorite; but tell me what I ask of you."
One of them responded, "I will tell you. Know that we are two days' straight journey from Camelot, at the exit of the stronghold near the land of the duke of More, and we are here in a very lovely and well-appointed fortress, and this tower is called the Tower of the Cieda, and a knight whose name is Damas is its lord; and he is the most savage and the maddest knight there is now in this land; and he is no good knight, but a traitor, and he has his knights capture the knights who pass through here to go to adventures, and after they capture them, he has them put in prison. And he has a brother who dwells a league away from here, who is one of the best knights known to man in this land, and each one of them has his fortress and has his land which he forbids the other to enter; but they have near here a beautiful country house, very rich, at the entrance to this forest. And a year ago now great hatred came between them over this country-house, for the lord of this place, wishes to have it because he is richer and has more men, and he says that his father gave it to him while he was alive; and the other, because he feels that he is a better knight than the other, says that he will not have it from him if not by the sword in single combat, or by putting in another to fight for it. And he of this place says that he has plenty who would enter for him, but by fortune the fight will not be so soon, and he agreed to fight whenever he should find the other, and said that it pleased him. Then they challenged each other criminally. Both agreed to this before many good men of this land, and returned to their fortresses, and each was so angry at the other that they began a war, which never ceased afterwards; and he of this place, because he did not feel himself to be as good a knight at arms as his brother, began to beg the knights of this land to enter the field for him against his brother, but he never found anyone who chose to do so. Then he demanded counsel from one of his neighbors as to what he should do in this case. He responded and said, `In this I will give you good counsel, if you choose to take it. Knights errant still pass by here from the household of King Arthur and other places, and they are good knights and more accustomed to arms than others, and very valiant, for in no other manner would they dare to do what they do each day. And from today on, have all those who pass by here taken and put in prison, and I tell you that before you have twenty, you will find there someone who will willingly choose to fight the battle with your brother.' When he heard this, he felt great pleasure at it, and he then did just as his neighbor counseled him, and he put out knights to take prisoner all who passed by. And they did so, for never afterwards did knight pass by who was not captured. And I who tell this to you, was the first of these, and many others died in prison, and never was there one who chose the battle, but they all chose to die here rather than go out there to maintain the wrong side. For it would be wrong to arm themselves against the other to take away his rights; but it was so long ago that we saw that, that we are dying of hunger, so that now we would willingly choose battle; but he does not want to put us there, because he saw that we were starved from the evil prison and weakened of our strength. I have already recounted to you the truth of the deed for which we are here, and we make this great dole, as you hear."
The king said, "Then I do not marvel if the prison discomfits you, since what I see and hear has already angered me so much that it seems to me that I have been here an entire year, and I do not know how I will get out of here, or what will happen if I stay; but I tell you that if they make me choose between fighting or staying, that I would fight with the best knight in the world rather than stay here. And you were all children when you were told that you ought to throw yourself into adventure and upon the mercy of Our Lord; for, certes, I would prefer to die quickly than die a lingering death here."
So said King Arthur with great grief, because he saw himself dead and prisoner and in the power of another, whence he should not leave at his will, and he knew that his departure would not be a thing that the lord of the castle wished. And there they spoke much among themselves and about many things, and he told them all his adventures, and said, "I am not so grieved because of myself as for the others, for I fear that they are badly treated, worse than I, and very wrongly, for they never merited it." And they asked him who the others were, and he told them. And they said that it was a great pity about King Urian, since he was a marvelously good and loyal knight, but that they did not know the other one. And King Arthur talked of such things until the hour of prime. And then a damsel came to them who said to them, "How are you doing?"
And they responded, "Very badly, since this prison is killing us."
And she pretended that she did not know King Arthur, but she knew him very well, since she was one of Morgaina's damsels, and she said to him, "And you, sir knight, how did you come here?"
And he recognized her and said, "I do not know, damsel. But you, when did you arrive here?"
"I, sir?" she said. "What is this you say? For I never departed from here, nor went anywhere else, but I dwell here, as she who is the daughter of the lord of this place."
And he thought she did not know him and said, "Damsel, do not take it ill if I asked you that, for, certes, I thought that I had seen you in King Arthur's court, and because of that I spoke to you so boldly."
"My lord," she said, "you never saw me there, for I never went there; but, certes, I must tell you that you did not do to everyone according to his power or pleasure or will; for if you had done everyone's will, you would not be here now; and I tell you that the one who put you here has no great love for you, nor can he avenge himself on you better than to put you in this prison, and, certes, you are near your death."
"My death?" said the king.
"And that is the truth," she said. "Without doubt you are near your death; for never will you leave here if you do not swear to do all the lord of the tower may command you, and whatever his will may be."
When the king heard this, he responded, "And what," he said, "will his orders be?"
"I will tell you," she said. "If you have the heart and hardihood to fight for him with a knight of this land who did him wrong, and if you vanquish him, you will liberate yourself and those who are here from this prison. Certes, if you did no other knightly deed in all your life, you would be held marvelously good because of this."
When King Arthur heard these news, he said, "Tell me, damsel: if I take this battle and can win it, how will I be sure that he will liberate me and my companions from this prison?"
"You will be sure," she said, "for the lord of this place will swear it to you."
"I wish no more," he said, "save that the lord of this place swear that to me, for I am content to fight against a single knight."
And she then went to the lord knight of the tower, whom she found with another great company of people, and she told him what the knight had said to her; and the lord of the tower commanded that he be taken out of the prison, and they brought him before him, and the king, who was angry, turned scarlet, and he was great and robust and healthy, and well-complexioned in all respects, and so well made in the body that those who were there said that it would be a great pity for such a man to die in prison. And when the lord of the castle saw him and examined him, he said in his heart that if this man could not be worth something against one man, that he would never again believe anything he saw. And he rose and said to him, "You are welcome, sir knight."
And the king, who did not want anyone to recognize him, bowed and seated himself at his feet; and he, who did not know him, suffered it and said to him, "Sir knight, I have near here a brother who does me much ill, and I am to fight a battle with him, one knight against another, and I was made to understand that you choose this battle with him if I remove you and your companions from prison, of which I will give you assurances, when this battle is won."
"Swear," said the king, "that after the battle you will free everyone."
Then the lord of the tower swore an oath on what had been said.
"Now I tell you," said the king, "to take all the others out of prison, since I will enter the battlefield at whatever hour you wish."
And the lord commanded them to be taken out of prison for love of him who took the battle into his charge, and they were taken out, and taken to the castle, enfeebled and very thin from the criminal imprisonment they had undergone. Then the lord of the tower said to King Arthur, "Friend, your battle is to be tomorrow. In God's name, think to guard your honor and mine."
The king responded well, "I will think more of myself than of you, and to do anything else would be dishonor."
And the knight, the more he examined the king, the more he was encouraged in his heart, for it seemed to him that he had never seen anyone more likely to accomplish such a great deed as that.
Here will this no longer be spoken of, and mention will be made of where this battle had its beginning. It has been said before now how much Morgaina hated her brother King Arthur above all men of the world, not because he had ever erred with respect to her, but because it is the custom of evil and disloyal people to hate good people always. And Morgaina without doubt hated King Arthur, because she saw that he was worth more than all those of his lineage, and if she hated King Arthur, who was her brother, she hated her husband King Urian just as much, so that she would have had him killed if she found a chance to do so without anyone's knowledge. But she loved Acalon her paramour from the heart, and never thought of anything else but killing her brother and her husband by force or by enchantment, or that by supplication she might make the high men of Great Britain take her for their lady. And she had plotted that there should be discord between those two brother knights who are spoken of above, and that they could have no peace save by battle. And she knew those two brothers and because of that knowledge one of them came to her and said to her, "Lady, I do not know how to find someone who will fight a battle for which I have set a time with my brother; and you, lady, can help me if you choose, and in the name of God, give me some counsel in this."
"Do not worry," she said, "since I will put in your prison and your power one of the best knights of the Round Table."
And this knight's name was Damas, whom she did not love as much as she did his brother, and she wished for this one to lose rather than the other, and therefore she gave him King Arthur in prison, because she believed that King Arthur was not as good a knight at arms as he really was. And just as this Damas came to complain to Morgaina, so the other brother whom she loved better came to her, and he was wounded by a wound a knight had given him, and could not heal as well as he would wish, and he begged Morgaina for the same thing his brother had and Morgaina said to him, "Do not be afraid, since I will shortly place a knight at your hand who will do your deed honorably, but be sure that you say nothing to anyone."
And he said that he would rather wish to be dead than to tell anyone. And because Morgaina loved this one more than his brother, she gave him Acalon, for she believed that he was a better knight than King Arthur, and she did this so secretly that Acalon did not know whom he would have to fight. And he had all confidence in the battle because of the good sword Excalibur, King Arthur's sword. This made him more sure of himself, and he was even more sure because he was a good knight at arms. And so that Morgaina could deceive King Arthur in all things, she had a sword made in the semblance of his, so that they looked so much like each other that hardly could one tell the one from the other, as it has been said above, and she gave that to the damsel to give King Arthur on the day of the battle; but Excalibur, his good sword, she sent to Acalon her paramour by a dwarf, to kill King Arthur her brother. And so it was, for the bad sword failed King Arthur, and if it had not been for the Damsel of the Lake, as it will be said later, he would have died; and Morgaina thought to avenge herself on her brother King Arthur through this battle, and this was great treachery, for she made Acalon her paramour swear not to depart from the field until he cut off the head of the knight with whom he was to fight, not telling him who the knight was, for if he had known that it was the king, he would not have sworn.
So had Morgaina set in motion a plot for the death of her brother, and she hoped for nothing but that his head should be cut off secretly, and she said to the ladies and damsels she sent there that she would make a queen of whomever should bring her King Arthur's head.
Here this is no longer spoken of, and the history will say instead what succeeded afterwards, and turns to speak of Bandemagus and the damsel.