Howard Pyle's King
Arthur and his Knights
Chapter Second. How Sir Pellias Overcame a Red Knight, Hight Sir
Adresack, and of How
He Liberated XXII Captives From That Knight's Castle.
Now, after that wonderful happening, they journeyed continuously for a great while. Nor
did they pause at any place until they came, about an hour after the prime of the day, to
a certain part of the forest where charcoal-burners were plying their trade. Here Sir
Pellias commanded that they should draw rein and rest for a while, and so they dismounted
for to rest and to refresh themselves, as he had ordained that they should do.
Now as they sat there refreshing themselves with meat and drink, there came of a sudden
from out of the forest a sound of great lamentation and of loud outcry, and almost
immediately there appeared from the thickets, coming into that open place, a lady in woful
array, riding upon a pied palfrey. And behind her rode a young esquire, clad in colors of
green and white and seated upon a sorrel horse. And he also appeared to be possessed of
great sorrow, being in much disarray and very downcast of countenance. And the lady's face
was all beswollen and inflamed with weeping, and her hair hung down upon her shoulders
with neither net nor band for to stay it in place, and her raiment was greatly torn by the
brambles and much stained with forest travel. And the young esquire who rode behind her
came with a drooping head and a like woful disarray of apparel, his cloak dragging behind
him and made fast to his shoulder by only a single point.
Now when Sir Pellias beheld the lady and the esquire in such sad estate, he immediately
arose from where he sat and went straightway to the lady and took her horse by the bridle
and stayed it where it was. And the lad looked at him, yet saw him not, being altogether
blinded by her grief and distraction. Then Sir Pellias said to her, "Lady, what ails
thee that thou sorrowest so greatly?" Whereunto she made reply, "Sir, it matters
not, for thou canst not help me." "How know ye that?" said Sir
"I have a very good intention for to aid thee if it be possible for me to do
Then the lady looked more narrowly at Sir Pellias, and she perceived him as though
through a mist of sorrow. And she beheld that he was not clad in armor, but only in a
holiday attire of fine crimson cloth. Where fore she began sorrowing afresh, and that in
great measure, for she deemed that here was one who could give her no aid in her trouble.
Wherefore she said, "Sir, thy intentions are kind, but how canst thou look to give me
aid when thou hast neither arms nor defences for to help thee in taking upon thee such a
quarrel?" But Sir Pellias said, "Lady, I know not how I may aid thee until that
thou tellest me of thy sorrow. Yet I have good hope that I may serve thee when I shall
know what it is that causes thee such disorder of mind." Thereupon, still holding the
horse by the bridle, he brought the lady forward to that place where Parcenet still sat
beside the napkin spread with food with which they had been refreshing themselves. And
when he had come to that place, he, with all gentleness, constrained the lady for to
dismount from her horse. Then, with equal gentleness, he compelled her to sit down upon
the grass and to partake of the food. And when she had done so, and had drunk some of the
wine, she found herself to be greatly refreshed and began to take to herself more heart of
grace. Thereupon, beholding her so far recovered, Sir Pellias again demanded of her what
was her trouble and besought her that she would open her heart unto him.
So, being encouraged by his cheerful words, she told to Sir Pellias the trouble that
had brought her to that pass.
"Sir Knight," she said, "the place where I dwell is a considerable
distance from this. Thence I came this morning with a very good knight, hight Sir
Brandemere, who is my husband. We have been married but for a little over four weeks, so
that our happiness until this morning was as yet altogether fresh with us. Now this
morning Sir Brandemere would take me out a-hunting at the break of day, and so we went
forth with a brachet of which my knight was wonderfully fond. So, coming to a certain
place in the forest, there started up of a sudden from before us a doe, which same the
brachet immediately pursued with great vehemence of outcry. Thereupon, I and my lord and
this esquire followed thereafter with very great spirit and enjoyment of the chase. Now,
when we had followed the doe and the hound for a great distance - the hound pursuing the
doe with a great passion of eagerness - we came to a certain place where we beheld before
us a violent stream of water which was crossed by a long and narrow bridge. And we beheld
that upon the other side of the stream there stood a strong castle with seven towers, and
that the castle was built up upon the rocks in such a way that the rocks and the castle
appeared to be altogether like one rock.
"Now, as we approached the bridge aforesaid, lo! the portcullis of the castle was
lifted up and the drawbridge was let fall very suddenly and with a great noise, and there
immediately issued forth from out of the castle a knight clad altogether in red. And all
the trappings and the furniture of his horse were likewise of red; and the spear which he
bore in his hand was of ash-wood painted red. And he came forth very terribly, and rode
forward so that he presently stood at the other end of that narrow bridge. Thereupon he
called out aloud to Sir Brandemere, my husband, saying: Whither wouldst thou go, Sir
Knight?' And unto him Sir Brandemere made reply: 'Sir, I would cross this bridge, for my
hound, which I love exceedingly, hath crossed here in pursuit of a doe.' Then that Red
Knight cried out in a loud voice, 'Sir Knight, thou comest not upon this bridge but at thy
peril; for this bridge belongeth unto me, and whosoever would cross it must first
overthrow me or else he may not cross.'
"Now, my husband, Sir Brandemere, was clad at that time only in a light raiment
such as one might wear for hunting or for hawking; only that he wore upon his head a light
bascinet enwrapped with a scarf which I had given him. Ne'theless, he was so great of
heart that he would not abide any challenge such as that Red Knight had given unto him;
wherefore, bidding me and this esquire (whose name is Ponteferet) to remain upon the
farther side of the bridge, he drew his sword and rode forward to the middle of the bridge
with intent to force a way across if he was able so to do. Whereupon, seeing that to be
his intent, that Red Knight, clad all in complete armor, cast aside his spear and drew his
sword and rode forward to meet my knight. So they met in the middle of the bridge, and
when they had thus met that Red Knight lifted himself in his stirrup and smote my husband,
Sir Brandemere, upon the crown of his bascinet with his sword. And I beheld the blade of
the Red Knight's sword that it cut through the bascinet of Sir Brandemere and deep into
his brain-pan, so that the blood ran down upon the knight's face in great abundance. Then
Sir Brandemere straightway fell down from his horse and lay as though he were gone dead.
"Having thus overthrown him, that Red Knight dismounted from his horse and lifted
up Sir Brandemere upon the horse whence he had fallen so that he lay across the saddle.
Then taking both horses by the bridles the Red Knight led them straight back across the
bridge and so into his castle. And as soon as he had entered into the castle the
portcullis thereof was immediately closed behind him and the drawbridge was raised. Nor
did he pay any heed whatever either to me or to the esquire Ponteferet, but he departed
leaving us without any word of cheer; nor do I now know whether my husband, Sir
Brandemere, is living or dead, or what hath befallen him."
And as the lady spake these words, lo! the tears again fell down her face in great
Then Sir Pellias was very much moved with compassion, wherefore he said, "Lady,
thy case is, indeed, one of exceeding sorrowfulness, and I am greatly grieved for thee.
And, indeed, I would fain aid thee to all the extent that is in my power. So, if thou wilt
lead me to where is this bridge and that grimly castle of which thou speakest, I make thee
my vow that I will assay to the best of my endeavor to learn of the whereabouts of thy
good knight, and as to what hath befallen him."
"Sir," said the lady, "I am much beholden unto thee for thy good will.
Yet thou mayst not hope for success shouldst thou venture to undertake so grave an
adventure as that without either arms or armor for to defend thyself. For consider how
grievously that Red Knight hath served my husband, Sir Brandemere, taking no consideration
as to his lack of arms or defence. Wherefore, it is not likely that he will serve thee any
more courteously." And to the lady's words Parcenet also lifted up a great voice,
bidding Sir Pellias not to be so unwise as to do this thing that he was minded to do. And
so did Ponteferet, the esquire, also call out upon Sir Pellias, that he should not do this
thing, but that he should at least take arms to himself ere he entered upon this
But to all that they said Sir Pellias replied, "Stay me not in that which I would
do, for I do tell you all that I have several times undertaken adventures even more
perilous than this and yet I have 'scaped with no great harm to myself." Nor would he
listen to anything that the lady and the damsel might say, but, arising from that place,
he aided the lady and the damsel to mount their palfreys. Then mounting his own steed, and
the esquire and the pages having mounted their steeds, the whole party immediately
departed from that place.
So they journeyed for a great distance through the forest, the esquire,
directing them how to proceed in such a way as should bring them by and by to the castle
of the Red Knight. So, at last they came to a more open place in that wilderness where was
a steep and naked hill before them. And when they had reached to the top of that hill they
perceived beneath them a river, very turbulent and violent. Likewise they saw that the
river was spanned by a bridge, exceedingly straight and narrow, and that upon the farther
side of the bridge and of the river there stood a very strong castle with seven tall
towers. Moreover the castle and the towers were built up upon the rocks, very lofty and
high, so that it was hard to tell where the rocks ceased and the walls began, wherefore
the towers and the walls appeared to be altogether one rock of stone.
Then the esquire, Ponteferet, pointed with his finger, and said, "Sir Knight,
yonder is the castle of the Red Knight, and into it he bare Sir Brandemere after he had
been so grievously wounded." Then Sir Pellias said unto the lady, "Lady, I will
presently inquire as to thy husband's welfare."
Therewith he set spurs to his horse and rode down the hill toward the bridge with great
boldness. And when he had come nigher to the bridge, lo! the portcullis of the castle was
lifted and the drawbridge was let fall with a great noise and tumult, and straightway
there issued forth from out of the castle a knight clad all in armor and accoutrements of
red, and this knight came forward with great speed toward the bridge's head. Then, when
Sir Pellias saw him approaching so threateningly, he said unto those who had followed him
down the hill: "Stand fast where ye are and I will go forth to bespeak this knight,
and inquire into the matter of that injury which he hath done unto Sir
Upon this the esquire, Ponteferet, said unto him, "Stay, Sir Knight, thou wilt be
hurt." But Sir Pellias said, "Not so, I shall not be hurt."
So he went forth very boldly upon the bridge, and when the Red Knight saw him approach,
he said, "Ha! who art thou who darest to come thus upon my bridge?"
Unto him Sir Pellias made reply, "It matters not who I am, but thou art to know,
thou discourteous knight, that I am come to inquire of thee where thou hast disposed of
that good knight Sir Brandemere, and to ask of thee why thou didst entreat him so
grievously a short time since."
At this the Red Knight fell very full of wrath. "Ha! ha!" he cried
vehemently, "that thou shalt presently learn to thy great sorrow, for as I have
served him, so shall I quickly serve thee, so that in a little while I shall bring thee
unto him; then thou mayst ask him whatsoever thou dost list. But seeing that thou art
unarmed and without defence, I would not do thee any bodily ill, wherefore I demand of
thee that thou shalt presently surrender thyself unto me, otherwise it will be very
greatly to thy pain and sorrow if thou compellest me to use force for to constrain thy
Then Sir Pellias said, "What! what! Wouldst thou thus assail a knight who is
altogether without arms or defence as I am?" And the Red Knight said, "Assuredly
shall I do so if thou dost not immediately yield thyself unto me."
"Then," quoth Pellias, "thou art not fit for to be dealt with as
be-seemeth a tried knight. Wherefore, should I encounter thee, thy over-throw must be of
such a sort as may shame any belted knight who weareth golden spurs."
Thereupon he cast about his eyes for a weapon to fit his purpose, and he beheld how
that a certain huge stone was loose upon the coping of the bridge. Now this stone was of
such a size that five men of usual strength could hardly lift it. But Sir Pellias lifted
it forth from its place with great ease, and, raising it with both hands, he ran quickly
toward that Red Knight and flung the rock at him with much force. And the stone smote the
Red Knight upon the middle of the shield and drave it back upon his breast, with great
violence. And the force of the blow drave the knight backward from his saddle, so that he
fell down to the earth from his horse with a terrible tumult and lay upon the bridgeway
like one who was altogether dead.
And when they within the castle who looked forth therefrom, saw that blow, and when
they beheld the overthrow of the Red Knight, they lifted up their voices in great
lamentation so that the outcry thereof was terrible to hear.
But Sir Pellias ran with all speed to the fallen knight and set his knee upon his
breast. And he unlaced his helmet and lifted it. And he beheld that the face of the knight
was strong and comely and that he was not altogether dead.
So when Sir Pellias saw that the Red Knight was not dead, and when he perceived that he
was about to recover his breath from the blow that he had suffered, he drew that knight's
misericordia from its sheath and set the point to his throat, so that when the Red Knight
awoke from his swoon he bebeld death, in the countenance of Sir Pellias and in the point
of the dagger.
So when the Red Knight perceived how near death was to him he besought Sir Pellias for
mercy, saying, "Spare my life unto me!" Whereunto Sir Pellias said, "Who
art thou?" And the knight said, "I am hight Sir Adresack, surnamed of the Seven
Towers." Then Sir Pellias said to him, "What hast thou done unto Sir Brandemere
and how doth it fare with that good knight?" And the Red Knight replied, "He is
not so seriously wounded as you suppose."
Now when Sir Brandemere's lady heard this speech she was greatly exalted with joy, so
that she smote her hands together, making great cry of thanksgiving.
But Sir Pellias said, "Now tell me, Sir Adresack, hast thou other captives beside
that knight, Sir Brandemere, at thy castle?" To which Sir Adresack replied, "Sir
Knight, I will tell thee truly; there are in my castle one and twenty other captives
besides him: to wit, eighteen knights and esquires of degree and three ladies. For I have
defended this bridge for a long time and all who have undertaken to cross it, those have I
taken captive and held for ransom. Wherefore I have taken great wealth and gained great
Then Sir Pellias said, "Thou art soothly a wicked and discourteous knight so to
serve travellers that come thy way, and I would do well for to slay thee where thou
But since thou hast besought mercy of me I will grant it unto thee, though I will do so
only with great shame unto thy knighthood. Moreover, if I spare to thee thy life there are
several things which thou must perform. First thou must go unto Queen Guinevere at
Camelot, and there must thou say unto her that the knight who left her unarmed hath taken
thine armor from thee and hath armed himself therewith for to defend her honor. Secondly,
thou must confess thy faults unto King Arthur as thou hast confessed them unto me and thou
must beg his pardon for the same, craving that he, in his mercy, shall spare thy life unto
thee. These are the things that thou must perform."
To this Sir Adresack said, "Very well, these things do I promise to perform if
thou wilt spare my life."
Then Sir Pellias permitted him to arise and he came and stood before Sir
Sir Pellias summoned the esquire, Ponteferet, unto him, and he said, "Take thou this
knight's armor from off of his body and put it upon my body as thou knowest how to
do." And Ponteferet did as Sir Pellias bade him. For he unarmed Sir Adresack and he
clothed Sir Pellias in Sir Adresack's armor, and Sir Adresack stood ashamed before them
all. Then Sir Pellias said unto him, "Now take me into thy castle that I may there
liberate those captives that thou so wickedly boldest as prisoners." And Sir Adresack
said, "It shall be done as thou dost command."
Thereupon they all went together unto the castle and into the castle, which was an
exceedingly stately place. And there they beheld a great many servants and attendants, and
these came at the command of Sir Adresack and bowed themselves down before Sir
Then Sir Pellias bade Sir Adresack for to summon the keeper of the dungeon, and Sir
Adresack did so. And Sir Pellias commanded the keeper that he should conduct them unto the
dungeon, and the keeper bowed down before him in obedience.
Now when they had come to that dungeon they beheld it to be a very lofty place and
exceedingly strong. And there they found Sir Brandemere and those others of whom Sir
Adresack had spoken.
But when that sorrowful lady perceived Sir Brandemere, she ran unto him with great
voice of rejoicing and embraced him and wept over him. And he embraced her and wept and
altogether forgot his hurt in the joy of beholding her again.
And in the several apartments of that part of the castle, there were in all eighteen
knights and esquires, and three ladies besides Sir Brandemere. Moreover, amongst those
knights were two from King Arthur's Court: to wit, Sir Brandiles and Sir Mador de la
Porte. Whereupon these beholding that it was Sir Pellias who had liberated them, came to
him and embraced him with great joy and kissed him upon either cheek.
And all those who were liberated made great rejoicing and gave Sir Pellias such praise
and acclaim that he was greatly contented therewith.
Then when Sir Pellias beheld all those captives who were in the dungeon he was very
wroth with Sir Adresack, wherefore he turned unto him and said, "Begone, Sir Knight,
for to do that penance which I imposed upon thee to perform, for I am very greatly
displeased with thee, and fear me lest I should repent me of my mercy to thee."
Thereupon Sir Adresack turned him away and he immediately departed from that place. And
he called to him his esquire and he took him and rode away to Camelot for to do that
penance which he had promised Sir Pellias to do.
Then, after he was gone, Sir Pellias and those captives whom he had liberated, went
through the divers parts of the castle. And there they found thirteen chests of gold and
silver money and four caskets of jewels -very fine and of great brilliancy-all of which
treasure had been paid in ransom by those captives who had aforetime been violently held
prisoners at that place.
And Sir Pellias ordained that all those chests and caskets should be opened,and when
those who were there looked therein, the hearts of all were wonderfully exalted with joy
at the sight of that great treasure.
Then Sir Pellias commanded that all that treasure of gold and silver should be divided
into nineteen equal parts, and when it had been so divided, he said, "Now let each of
you who have been held captive in this place, take for his own one part of that treasure
as a recompense for those sorrows which he hath endured." Moreover, to each of the
ladies who had been held as captive in that place, he gave a casket of jewels, saying unto
her, "Take thou this casket of jewels as a recompense for that sorrow which thou hast
suffered. And unto Sir Brandemere's lady he gave a casket of the jewels for that which she
But then those who were there beheld that Sir Pellias reserved no part of that great
treasure for himself, they all cried out upon him: "Sir Knight! Sir Knight! How is
this? Behold, thou hast set aside no part of this treasure for thyself."
Then Sir Pellias made answer: "You are right, I have not so. For it needs not that
I take any of this gold and silver, or any of these jewels, for myself. For, behold! ye
have suffered much at the hands of Sir Adresack, wherefore ye should receive recompense
therefore, but I have suffered naught at his hands, wherefore I need no such
Then were they all astonished at his generosity and gave him great praise for his
largeness of heart. And all those knights vowed unto him fidelity unto death.
Then, when all these things were accomplished, Sir Brandemere implored all who were
there that they would come with him unto his castle, so that they might refresh themselves
with a season of mirth and good faring. And they all said that they would go with him, and
they did go. And at the castle of Sir Brandemere there was great rejoicing with feasting
and jousting for three days.
And all who were there loved Sir Pellias with an astonishing love because of that
collar of emeralds and opals and of gold. Yet no one knew of the virtue of that collar,
nor did Sir Pellias know of it.
So Sir Pellias abided at that place for three days. And when the fourth day was come he
arose betimes in the morning and bade saddle his horse, and the palfrey of the damsel
Parcenet, and the horses of their pages.
Then when all those who were there saw that he was minded to depart, they besought him
not to go, but Sir Pellias said, "Stay me not, for I must go."
Then came to him those two knights of Arthur's Court, Sir Brandiles and Sir Mador de la
Porte, and they besought him that he would let them go with him upon that adventure. And
at first Sir Pellias forbade them, but they besought him the more, so that at last he was
fain to say, "Ye shall go with me."
So he departed from that place with his company, and all those who remained gave great
sorrow that he had gone away.