High History of the Graal; Perlesvaus
Here the story is silent of the kingdom, and
of King Arthur and Messire Gawain that remain in the castle to maintain and
guard it until they shall have garnished it of folk. Here speaketh it word of
the knight's son of the Waste Manor, there whither the brachet led Messire
Gawain where he found the knight that Lancelot had slain. He had one son whose
name was Meliant, and he had not forgotten his father's death; rather, thereof
did wrath rankle in his heart. He heard tell that Briant of the Isles had great
force and great puissance, and that he warred upon King Arthur's land, insomuch
as that he had already slain many of his knights. Thitherward goeth he, and is
come to where Briant was in a castle of his own. He telleth him how Lancelot had
slain his father in such sort, and prayeth him right courteously that he would
make him knight, for that right fain would he avenge his father, and therefore
would he help him in the war the best he might. Briant made much joy thereof,
and made him knight in right costly sort, and he was the comeliest knight and
the most valiant of his age in Briant's court, and greatly did he desire to meet
with Lancelot. They marvelled much in the land and kingdom what had become of
him. The more part thought that he was dead, albeit dead he was not, but rather
sound and hale and whole, had it not been for the death of Queen Guenievre,
whereof the sorrow so lay at his heart that he might not forget it. He rode one
day amidst a forest, and overtook a knight and a damsel that made great joy
together, singing and making disport.
"Ah, damsel," saith Lancelot,
"Which is the way to the castle whereof you speak?"
"All these have made assay whose heads
you see hanging at the door, but never might none of them remove the sword, and
on this occasion were they beheaded. Now is it said that none may draw it forth,
unless he that draweth be better knight than another, and needs must he be one
of them that have been at the Graal. But, and you be minded to believe me, fair
Sir," saith the knight, "You will go elsewhither, for ill lodging is
it in a place where one must needs set body and life in adventure of death, and
none ought to be blamed for escaping from his own harm. Sir, the castle is right
fell, for it hath underground, at the issue of a cavern that is there, a lion
and a griffon that have devoured more than half a hundred knights."
Lancelot is entered into the hall, and findeth
knights and damsels at the tables and playing at the chess, but none did he find
to salute him nor make him cheer of his coming save the lord only, for such was
the custom of the castle. The lord bade him be disarmed.
Lancelot saluted the damsel and made great
cheer, and when they had eaten in hall, forthwith behold you, the damsel where
she cometh that Lancelot overtook in the forest with the knight.
The daughter of the lord knew these tidings
and was right sorrowful thereof, for she thinketh never more to have joy at
heart and he shall be slain in such manner. She sendeth him greeting by her own
privy messenger, as she that loveth him better than aught else living in the
world, and so biddeth and prayeth him be garnished of his arms, and ready to
protect his life, for that her father is fain to smite off his head.
Lancelot armed him toward daybreak, and had his sword girt, his shield at his neck, and his spear in his hand. So he entered into the cavern, all shamefast, and the brachet followeth after, that he deigned not to carry, and so cometh he to the place where the griffons were. So soon as they heard him coming they dress them on their feet, and then writhe along as serpents, then cast forth such fire, and so bright a flame amidst the rock, as that all the cavern is lighted up thereof, and they see by the brightness of light of their jaws the brachet coming. So soon as they have espied her, they carry her in their claws and make her the greatest cheer in the world. Lancelot passeth beyond without gainsay, and espieth, toward the issue of the cavern, the lion that was come from the forest all famished. He cometh thither right hardily, sword drawn. The lion cometh toward him, jaws yawning, and claws bared, thinking to fix them in his habergeon, but Lancelot preventeth him and smiteth him so stoutly that he cutteth off thigh and leg together. When the lion feeleth himself thus maimed, he seizeth him by the teeth and the claws of his fore feet and rendeth away half the skirt of his habergeon. Thereupon Lancelot waxeth wroth. He casteth his shield to the ground and approacheth the lion closer. He seeth that he openeth his jaws wide to avenge himself, and thrusteth his sword the straightest he may into his gullet, and the lion giveth out a roar and falleth dead. The damsel, that had come into the cavern, heareth that the lion is dead.
Lancelot issued forth and so cometh into the
orchard beside the forest, and wiped his sword on the freshness of the green
grass. Thereupon behold you the damsel that cometh.
"Ha, God!" saith the damsel,
"How am I betrayed, sith that I am parted from the best knight in the
world! Lancelot, you have done that which never yet no knight might do! Now am I
grieved that you should escape on such wise, and that your life hath been saved
in this manner by me. Better should I love you mine own dead, than another's
living. Now would I fain that you had had your head smitten off, and that it
were hanging with the others! So would I solace myself by beholding it!"
When the lord of the castle knew it, he went into the chamber where his daughter was, and found her weeping, and thinketh that it is for the two knights that are dead. News is brought him that the lion is dead at the issue of the cavern, and thereby well knoweth he that Lancelot is gone. He biddeth his knights follow after him, but none was there so hardy as that he durst follow. The damsel was right fain they should go after him, if only they might bring him back to the castle, for so mortally was she taken of his love that she thought of none other thing. But Lancelot had her not in remembrance, but only another, and rode on sadly right amidst the forest, and looked from time to time at the rent the lion had made in his habergeon. He rideth until he is come toward evening to a great valley where was forest on the one side and the other, and the valley stretched onward half a score great leagues Welsh. He looketh to the right, and on the top of the mountain beside the valley he seeth a chapel newly builded that was right fair and rich, and it was covered of lead, and had at the back two quoins that seemed to be of gold. By the side of this chapel were three houses dight right richly, each standing by itself facing the chapel. There was a right fair grave-yard round about the chapel, that was enclosed at the compass of the forest, and a spring came down, full clear, from the heights of the forest before the chapel and ran into the valley with a great rushing; and each of the houses had its own orchard, and the orchard an enclosure. Lancelot heareth vespers being chanted in the chapel, and seeth the path that turned thitherward, but the mountain is so rugged that he could not go along it on horseback. So he alighteth and leadeth his horse after him by the reins until he cometh nigh the chapel.
There were three hermits therewithin that had
sung their vespers, and came over against Lancelot. They bowed their heads to
him and he saluted them, and then asked of them what place was this? And they
told him that the place there was Avalon. They make stable his horse. He left
his arms without the chapel and entereth therein, and saith that never hath he
seen none so fair nor so rich. There were within three other places, right fair
and seemly dight of rich cloths of silk and rich corners and fringes of gold. He
seeth the images and the crucifixes all newly fashioned, and the chapel
illumined of rich colours; and moreover in the midst thereof were two coffins,
one against the other, and at the four corners four tall wax tapers burning,
that were right rich, in four right rich candlesticks. The coffins were covered
with two pails, and there were clerks that chanted psalms in turn on the one
side and the other.
When Lancelot heareth that it is the Queen
that lieth in the coffin, he is so straitened in his heart and in his speech
that never a word may he say. But no semblant of grief durst he make other than
such as might not be perceived, and right great comfort to him was it that there
was an image of Our Lady at the head of the coffin. He knelt down the nighest he
might to the coffin, as it had been to worship the image, and set his race and
his mouth to the stone of the coffin, and sorroweth for her right sweetly.
Lancelot was in the chapel until the morrow
before the tomb. The hermits apparelled them to do the service that they chanted
each day, mass for the soul of the Queen and her son. Lancelot heareth them with
right good will. When the masses were sung, he taketh leave of the hermits and
looketh at the coffin right tenderly. He commendeth the body that lieth therein
to God and His sweet Mother; then findeth he without the chapel his horse
accoutred ready, and mounteth forthwith, and departeth, and looketh at the place
and the chapel so long as he may see them. He hath ridden so far that he is come
nigh Cardoil, and findeth the land wasted and desolate, and the towns burnt,
whereof is he sore grieved. He meeteth a knight that came from that part, and he
was wounded full sore. Lancelot asketh him whence he cometh, and he saith,
"Sir, from towards Cardoil. Kay the Seneschal, with two other knights, is
leading away Messire Ywain li Aoutres toward the castle of the Hard Rock. I
thought to help to rescue him, but they have wounded me in such sort as you
The lances were strong so as that they brast not. They draw them back to themselves so stoutly and come together so fiercely that their horses stagger and they lose the stirrups. Lancelot catcheth Kay the Seneschal at the passing beyond, in the midst of the breast, and thrusteth his spear into him so far that the point remained in the flesh, and Kay to-brast his own; and sore grieved was he when he felt himself wounded. The knight that was wounded overthrew one of the two knights. Kay is on the ground, and Lancelot taketh his horse and setteth Messire Ywain li Aoutres thereupon, that was right sore wounded so as that he scarce might bear it. Kay the Seneschal maketh his knight remount, and holdeth his sword grasped in his fist as though he had been stark wood. Lancelot seeth the two knights sore badly wounded, and thinketh that and he stay longer they may remain on the field. He maketh them go before him, and Kay the Seneschal followeth them behind, himself the third knight, that is right wroth of the wound he feeleth and the blood that he seeth. Lancelot bringeth off his knights like as the wild-boar goeth among the dogs, and Kay dealeth him great buffets of his sword when he may catch him, and Lancelot him again, and so they depart, fencing in such sort.
When Kay the Seneschal seeth that he may not
harm him, he turneth him back, full of great wrath, and his heart pricketh to
avenge him thereof and he may get at him, for he is the knight of the court that
most he hateth. He is come back to the Castle of the Hard Rock. Briant of the
Isles asketh him who hath wounded him in such sort, and he telleth him that he
was bringing thither Ywain li Aoutres when Lancelot rescued him.
Lancelot is entered into the castle of Cardoil, and his wounded knights withal, and findeth the folk in sore dismay. Great dole make they in many places and much lamentation for King Arthur, and say that now nevermore may they look for succeur to none, and he be dead and Messire Gawain. But they give Lancelot joy of that he hath rescued Messire Ywain li Aoutres, and were so somewhat comforted and made great cheer. The tidings thereof came to the knights that were in the castle, and they all come forward to meet him save they that were wounded, and so led him up to the castle, and Messire Ywain with him and the other knight that was wounded. All the knights of the castle were right glad, and ask him tidings of King Arthur, and whether he were dead or no. And Lancelot telleth them that he was departed from him at the Palace Meadow, where he won the white destrier and the crown of gold there where the tidings were brought to him that Queen Guinievre was dead.
"Then you tell us of a truth that the
King is on live, and Messire Gawain?"
The knights are much comforted of the coming of Lancelot, but he is much grieved that he findeth so many of them wounded. Meliant of the Waste Manor is at the castle of the Hard Rock, and good fellow is it betwixt him and Kay the Seneschal. He is right glad of the tidings he hath heard, that Lancelot is come, and saith that he is the knight of the world that most he hateth, and that he will avenge him of his father and he may meet him. There come before the castle of Cardoil one day threescore knights armed, and they seize upon their booty betwixt the castle and the forest. Lancelot issueth forth all armed, and seven of the best of the castle with him. He cometh upon them after that they have led away their plunder. He overtaketh one knight and smiteth him with his spear right through the body, and the other knights make an onset upon the others and many to-brake their spears, and much clashing was there of steel on armour; and there fell at the assembly on one side and the other full a score knights, whereof some were wounded right sore. Meliant of the Waste Manor espied Lancelot, and right great joy made he of seeing him, and smiteth him so stout a buffet on the shield that he to-breaketh his spear.
Lancelot smiteth him amidst the breast so grimly that he maketh him bend backwards over the saddle behind, and so beareth him to the ground, legs uppermost, over his horse's croup, and trampleth him under his horse's feet. Lancelot was minded to alight to the ground to take him, but Briant of the Isles cometh and maketh him mount again perforce. The numbers grew on the one side and the other of knights that came from Cardoil and from the Hard Rock. Right great was the frushing of lances and the clashing of swords and the overthrow of horses and knights. Briant of the Isles and Lancelot come against each other so stoutly that they pierce their shields and cleave their habergeons, and they thrust with their spears so that the flesh is broken under the ribs and the shafts are all-to-splintered. They hurtle against each other so grimly at the by-passing that their eyes sparkle as it were of stars in their heads, and the horses stagger under them. They hold their swords drawn, and so return the one toward the other like lions. Such buffets deal they upon their helms that they beat them in and make the fire leap out by the force of the smiting of iron by steel. And Meliant cometh all armed toward Lancelot to aid Briant of the Isles, but Lucan the Butler cometh to meet him, and smiteth him with his spear so stoutly that he thrusteth it right through his shield and twisteth his arm gainst his side. He breaketh his spear at the by-passing, and Meliant also breaketh his, but he was wounded passing sore.
Thereupon he seizeth him by the bridle and thinketh to lead him away, but the knights and the force of Briant rescue him. The clashing of arms lasted great space betwixt Briant of the Isles and Lancelot, and each was mightily wrath for that each was wounded. Either seized other many times by the bridle, and each was right fain to lead the other to his own hold, but the force of knights on the one side and the other disparted them asunder. Thus the stour lasted until evening, until that the night sundered them. But Briant had nought to boast of at departing, for Lancelot and his men carried off four of his by force right sore wounded, besides them that remained dead on the field. Briant of the Isles and Meliant betook them back all sorrowful for their knights that are taken and dead. Lancelot cometh back to Cardoil, and they of the castle make him right great joy of the knights that they bring taken, and say that the coming of the good knight Lancelot should be great comfort to them until such time as King Arthur should repair back and Messire Gawain. The wounded knights that were in the castle turned to healing of their wounds, whereof was Lancelot right glad. They were as many as five and thirty within the castle. Of all the King's knights were there no more save Lancelot and the wounded knight that he brought along with him.