Howard Pyle's King
Arthur and his Knights
Book II Part I Conclusion
Now shortly after that combat betwixt King Arthur and Sir Accalon the news thereof was
brought to Queen Morgana le Fay, and the next day thereafter she heard that Sir Accalon
was dead, and she wist not how it could be that her designs could have so miscarried. Then
she was a-doubt as to how much King Arthur might know of her treachery, so she said to
herself, "I will go and see my brother, the King, and if he is aware of my treason I
will beseech him to pardon my transgression." So, having made diligent inquiry as to
where it was that King Arthur lay, she gathered together her Court of knights and esquires
and went thitherward.
So she came to that place upon the fifth day after the battle, and when she had come
there she asked of those who were in attendance what cheer the King had. They answered
her, "He is asleep and he must not be disturbed." To the which Queen Morgana le
Fay replied, "No matter, I am not to be forbidden, for I must presently see him and
speak with him." So they did not dare to stay her because she was the King's sister.
So Queen Morgana went into the chamber where the King lay and he did not waken at her
coming. Then Queen Morgana was filled full of hatred and a great desire for revenge,
wherefore she said to herself, "I will take Excalibur and his shield and will carry
them away with me to Avalon, and my brother shall never see them again." So she went
very softly to where King Arthur lay, and she looked upon him as he slept and perceived
that he had Excalibur beside him and that he held the handle of the sword in his hand
while he slept. Then Queen Morgana said, "Alas, for this, for if I try to take
Excalibur away from him, haply he will awake and he will slay me for my treason."
Then she looked and perceived where the sheath of Excalibur lay at the foot of the couch.
So she took the sheath of Excalibur very softly and she wrapped it up in her mantle and
she went out thence, and King Arthur did not awaken at her going.
So Queen Morgana came out from the King's chamber and she said to those in attendance,
"Do not waken the King, for he sleepeth very soundly." Therewith she mounted her
horse and went her way from that place.
Now, after a considerable while, King Arthur awoke and he looked for the sheath of
Excalibur, but he perceived that it was gone, wherefore he said immediately, "Who
hath been here?" They in attendance made answer, " Queen Morgana le Fay had been
here and she came in and saw you and went her way without waking you." Then King
Arthur's heart misgave him, and he said, "I fear me that she hath dealt treacherously
with me from the beginning to the end of these adventures."
Whereupon he arose and summoned all his knights and esquires and mounted his horse for
pursuit of Queen Morgana, although he was still passing sick and faint from his sore
wounds and loss of blood.
Now, as the King was about ready to depart, Vivien came to him where he was, and she
said, "Lord, take me with thee, for if thou dost not do so thou wilt never recover
Excalibur his sheath, nor wilt thou ever overtake Queen Morgana le Fay." And King
Arthur said, "Come with me, damsel, in God's name." So Vivien went with him in
pursuit of Queen Morgana.
Now, by and by, as she fled, Queen Morgana le Fay looked behind her and therewith she
perceived that Vivien was with the party of King Arthur, wherefore her heart failed her
and she said, "I fear me that I am now altogether ruined, for I have aided that
damsel to acquire such knowledge of magic that I shall have no spells to save myself from
her counter-spell. But at any rate it shall be that King Arthur shall never have the
sheath of Excalibur again for to help him in his hour of need."
Now at that time they were passing beside the margin of a lake of considerable size. So
Queen Morgana le Fay took the sheath of Excalibur in both her hands and swung it by its
belt above her head and she threw it a great distance out into the water.
Then, lo! a very singular miracle occurred, for there suddenly appeared a woman's arm
out of the water and it was clad in white. And it was adorned with many bracelets. And the
hand of the arm catched the sheath of Excalibur and drew it underneath the water and no
one ever beheld that sheath again.
So the sheath of Excalibur was lost, and that was a grievous thing for King Arthur in
after time, as you may some time read.
Now after Queen Morgana le Fay had thus thrown the sheath of Excalibur into the lake,
she went on a little farther to where was a very lonely place with a great many rocks and
stones lying about upon the ground. And when she had come to that place she exercised very
potent spells of magic that Merlin had taught her. So, by means of those spells, she
transformed herself and all of her Court and all of their horses into large round stones
of divers sizes.
Then in a little while came King Arthur to that place with his knights and esquires,
and he was exceedingly heavy of heart, for he had beheld from a great distance how Queen
Morgana le Fay had thrown the sheath of Excalibur into that lake.
Now when the King and his Court had come to that spot the damsel Vivien called out upon
him to stop and she said to him, "Lord, dost thou behold all those great round
stones?" "Yea," said the King, "I do see them." Then Vivien said,
"Lo! those stones are Queen Morgana le Fay and the Court who were with her. For this
magic that she hath done to change herself and them into stones was a certain thing that
Merlin had taught her. Now I myself know that magic, and I also know how to remove that
magic at my will. Wherefore, if thou wilt promise to immediately punish that wicked woman
for all her treason by depriving her of her life, then will I bring her back unto her true
shape again so that thou mayst have her in thy power."
Then King Arthur looked upon Vivien with great displeasure, and he said, "Damsel,
thou hast a cruel heart! Thou thyself hast suffered no injury at the hands of Queen
Morgana; wherefore, then, wouldst thou have me slay her? Now, but for all thou hast done
for me I would be very much affronted with thee. As for her, I forgive her all of this,
and I shall forgive her again and again and yet again if she sin against me. For her
mother was my mother, and the blood which flows in her veins and in my veins cometh from
the same fountain-head, wherefore I will do no evil thing against her. Let us return again
whence we came."
Then Vivien looked upon King Arthur very bitterly, and she laughed with great scorn,
and said, "Thou art both a fool and a dotard," and there-with she vanished from
the sight of all.
And after that, because King Arthur had rebuked her for her wickedness in the presence
of others, she hated him even more than Morgana le Fay had hated him.
Some time after that, King Arthur heard how Merlin had been beguiled by Vivien, and he
sorrowed with great bitterness that Merlin was lost unto the world in that wise.
So endeth the story of the passing of Merlin.