Sacred Texts  Sagas & Legends  England  Index  Previous  Next 

p. 331

The Battle of Queen Radigund and Britomart

That night Britomart spent in the great Temple of Isis, which was dedicated in days of old to the worship of justice. Here in her sleep she had a wondrous vision, which at first filled her with dread. But when she described it next morning to the priests in the Temple, they told her that her dream had a good meaning, and that everything would end well. Greatly relieved to hear this, she bestowed rich rewards on the priests, and made royal gifts of gold and silver to the Temple. Then taking leave of them, she went forward to seek her love, never resting and never relenting till she came to the land of the Amazons.

When news of her approach was brought to Radigund she was filled with courage and glee instead of being dismayed. Glad to hear of fighting, of which she had now had none for a long time, she bade them open the gates boldly, so that she might see the face of her new foe; but when they told her of the Iron Man who had lately slain her people, she bade them hold them shut.

So there outside the gate, as seemed best, her pavilion was pitched, in which brave Britomart rested herself, while Talus watched at her door all night. All night, likewise, those of the town, in terror, kept good watch and ward upon their wall.

The next morning, as soon as it was dawn, the warlike Amazon peeped out of her bower, and caused a shrill trumpet to sound to warn her foe to hasten to the battle. Britomart, who had long been awake

p. 332

and arrayed for contest, immediately stepped haughtily from the pavilion, ready for the fight, and on the other side her foe soon appeared.

But before they lifted hand, Radigund began to propound the strict conditions with which she always fettered her foes--that Britomart should serve her as she had bound the rest to do. At this, Britomart frowned sternly, in disdain of such indignity, and would no longer parley, but bade them sound the advance, for she would be tied by no other terms than those prescribed by the laws of chivalry.

The trumpets sounded, and they rushed together with greedy rage, smiting with their falchions; neither sought to shun the other's stroke, but both savagely hacked and hewed, furious as a tiger -and a lioness fighting over the same prey. So long they fought that all the grassy floor was trampled with blood. At last Radigund, having espied some near advantage, let drive at Britomart with all her might, thus taunting her with savage scorn--

"Bear this token to the man whom you love so dearly, and tell him you gave your life for his sake!"

The cruel stroke glanced on Britomart's shoulder plate, and bit to the bone, so that she could hardly hold up her shield for the smart of it. Yet she soon avenged it, for the furious pain gave her fresh force, and she smote Radigund so rudely on the helmet that it pierced to the very brain, and felled her to the ground, where with one stroke Britomart killed her.

When Radigund's warrior band saw this dreadful sight they all fled into the town, and left Britomart

p. 333


''Thence forth unto the Idole they her brought;<BR>
      *      *      *      *      *      *<BR>
To which the Idole, as it were inclining,<BR>
Her wand did move with amiable looke,<BR>
By outward shew her inward sense designing.''
Click to enlarge

''Thence forth unto the Idole they her brought;
      *      *      *      *      *      *
To which the Idole, as it were inclining,
Her wand did move with amiable looke,
By outward shew her inward sense designing.''


p. 334

sole victor. But they could not retreat so fast but that Talus could overtake the foremost. Pressing through the mob to the gate, he entered in with them, and then began a piteous slaughter; for all who came within reach of his iron flail were soon beyond the skill of any doctor.

Then the noble Conqueror herself came in, and though she had sworn a vow of revenge, yet when she saw the heaps of dead bodies slain by Talus, her heart was torn with pity, and she bade him slack his fury. Having thus stayed the massacre, she inquired for the iron prison where her love lay captive. Breaking it open with indignant rage, she entered, and went all over it; when she saw the strange and horrible sight of the men dressed up in womanish garb, her heart groaned with compassion for such unmanly and disgraceful misery.

When at last she came to her own Knight, whom the like disguise had no less disfigured, abashed with shame she turned aside her head, and then with pity and tender words she tried to comfort him. She caused the unsightly garments to be immediately taken off, and in their stead sought for other raiment, of which there was great store, as well as bright armour reft from many a noble knight whom the proud Amazon had subdued. When Sir Artegall was clad anew in this apparel Britomart's spirits revived, and she rejoiced in his gallant appearance.

They remained for awhile in the city of Queen Radigund, so that Sir Artegall might recover his strength, and Britomart be healed of her wounds. During this time Britomart reigned as a Princess, and

p. 336

changed all the order of government. The women were deposed from the rule which they had usurped, and true justice was dealt them, so that, worshipping Britomart as a goddess, they all admired her wisdom and listened to her teaching. All those knights who had long been hidden in captivity, she freed from their thraldom, and made magistrates of the city, giving them great wealth and authority. And in order that they should always remain faithful, she made them swear fealty to Artegall.

As the latter Knight was now fully recovered, he proposed to proceed upon the first adventure which had called him forth, the release of the: Lady Irene from the villain Grantorto. Very sad and sorrowful was Britomart at his departure, yet wisely moderated her own grief, seeing that his honour, which she put above all things, was much concerned in carrying out that adventure. For a little while after lie had gone she remained there in the city, but finding her misery increase with his absence, and hoping that change of air and place would somewhat ease her sorrow, she too departed, to appease her anguish in travel.

Next: The Adventure of the Damsel, the Two Knights, and the Sultan's Horses