Afterward, this title telleth us that Meliot of Logres was departed from Castle Perilous sound and whole, by virtue of the sword that Lancelot had brought him, and of the cloth that he took in the Chapel Perilous. But sore sorrowful was he of the tidings he had heard that Messire Gawain was in prison and he knew not where, but he had been borne on hand that two knights that were kinsmen of them of the Raving Castle that had slain one another, had shut him in prison on account of Perceval that had won the castle. Now, saith Meliot of Logres, never shall he have ease again until he knoweth where Messire Gawain is. He rideth amidst a forest, and prayeth God grant him betimes to hear witting of Messire Gawain. The forest was strange and gloomy. He rode until nightfall but might not find neither hold nor hermitage. He looketh right amidst the forest before him and seeth a damsel sitting that bemoaneth herself full sore. The moon was dark and the place right foul of seeming and the forest gloomy of shadow.
"Ha, damsel, and what do you here at this hour?"
"Sir," saith she, "I may not amend it, the more is my sorrow. For the place is more perilous than you think. Look," saith she, "up above, and you will see the occasion wherefore I am here."
Meliot looketh and seeth two knights all armed hanging up above the damsel's head. Thereof much marvelleth he.
"Ha, damsel," saith he, "Who slew these knights so foully?"
"Sir," saith she, "The Knight of the Galley that singeth in the sea."
"And wherefore hath he hanged them in such wise?"
"For this," saith she, "that they believed in God and His sweet Mother. And so behoveth me to watch them here for forty days, that none take them down of hanging, for and they were taken hence he would lose his castle, he saith, and would cut off my head."
"By my head," saith Meliot, "Such watch is foul shame to damsel, and no longer shall you remain here."
"Ha, Sir," saith the damsel, "Then shall I be a dead woman, for he is of so great cruelty that none scarce might protect me against him."
"Damsel," saith Meliot, "Foul shame would it be and I left here these knights in such wise for the reproach of other knights."
Meliot made them graves with his sword, and so buried them the best he might.
"Sir," saith the damsel, "And you take not thought to protect me, the knight will slay me. To-morrow, when he findeth not the knights, he will search all the forest to look for me."
Meliot and the damsel together go their way through the forest until they come to a chapel where was wont to be a hermit that the Knight of the Galley had destroyed. He helpeth down the damsel of his horse, and afterward they entered into the chapel, where was a great brightness of light, and a damsel was there that kept watch over a dead knight. Meliot marvelleth him much.
"Damsel," said Meliot, "When was this knight killed?"
"Sir, yesterday the Knight of the Galley slew him on the sea- shore, wherefore behoveth me thus keep watch, and in the morning will he come hither or ever he go to the castle where Messire Gawain hath to-morrow to fight with a lion, all unarmed, and my Lady, that is mistress both of me and of this damsel you have brought hither, will likewise be brought to-morrow to the place where the lion is to slay Messire Gawain, and she in like sort will be afterward delivered to the lion and she renounce not the New Law wherein the knight that came from Raving Castle, whereof she is lady, hath made her believe; and we ourselves shall be in like manner devoured along with her. But this damsel would still have taken respite of my death and she had still kept guard over the knights that were so foully hanged above her. Natheless, sith that you have taken them down from where they were hanging, you have done a right good deed, whatsoever betide, for the Lord of the Red Tower will give his castle to the knight for this."
Meliot is right joyous of the tidings that he hath heard of Messire Gawain that he is still on live, for well knoweth he, sith that the Knight of the Galley will come by the chapel there, that he will come thither or ever Messire Gawain doth battle with the lion.
"Sir," saith the damsel of the chapel, "For God's sake, take this damsel to a place of safety, for the knight will be so wood mad of wrath and despite so soon as he cometh hither, that he will be fain to smite off her head forthwith, and of yourself also have I great fear."
"Damsel," saith Meliot, "The knight is but a man like as am I."
"Yea, Sir, but stronger is he and more cruel than seem you to be."
Meliot was in the chapel the night until the morrow, and heard the knight coming like a tempest, and he brought with him the lady of the castle and reviled her from time to time, and Meliot seeth him come, and a dwarf that followeth after him a great pace. He crieth out to him: "Sir, behold there the disloyal knight through whom you have lost your castle. Now haste! Avenge yourself of him! After that will we go to the death of Messire Gawain?"
Meliot, so soon as he espieth him, mounteth and maketh his arms ready.
"Is it you," saith the Knight of the Galley, "that hath trespassed on my demesne and taken down my knights?"
"By my head, yours were they not! Rather were they the knights of God, and foul outrage have you done herein when you slew them so shamefully."
He goeth toward the knight without more words, and smiteth him so passing strong amidst the breast that he pierceth the habergeon and thrusteth all the iron of his spear into his body and afterward draweth it back to him with a great wrench. And the knight smiteth him so hard on his shield that he maketh an ell's length pass beyond, for right wroth was he that he was wounded. The dwarf crieth to him, "Away, then! The knight endureth against you that have slain so many of them!"
The Knight of the Galley waxeth wood wrath. He taketh his career, and cometh as fast as his horse may carry him, and smiteth Meliot so strongly that he breaketh his spear in such sort that he maketh both him and his horse stagger. But Meliot catcheth him better, for he thrusteth the spear right through his body and hurleth against him at the by-passing with such stoutness and force that he maketh him fall dead to the ground from his horse. The dwarf thought to escape, but Meliot smote off his head, whereof the damsels gave him great thanks, for many a mischief had he wrought them.
Meliot buried the knight that he found in the chapel dead, then told the damsels that he might abide no longer, but would go succour Messire Gawain and he might. The damsels were horsed to their will, for one had the horse of the knight that was slain and the other the horse of the dwarf. The other damsel was come upon a mule, and they said that they would go back, for the country was made all safe by the death of the knight. They thanked Meliot much, for they say truly that he hath rescued them from death. Meliot departeth from the damsels and goeth right amidst the forest as he that would most fain hear tidings of Messire Gawain. When he had ridden of a long space, he met a knight that was coming all armed at great pace.
"Sir Knight," saith he to Meliot, "Can you tell me tidings of the Knight of the Galley?"
"What have you to do therein?" saith Meliot.
"Sir, the Lord of the Red Tower hath made bring Messire Gawain into a launde of this forest, and there, all unarmed, must he do battle with a lion. So my lord is waiting for the Knight of the Galley, that is to bring two damsels thither that the lion will devour when he shall have slain Messire Gawain."
"Will the battle be presently?" saith Meliot.
"Yea, Sir," saith the knight, "Soon enough betimes, for Messire Gawain hath already been led thither and there bound to a stake until such time as the lion shall be come. Then will he be unbound, but even then two knights all armed will keep watch on him. But tell me tidings of the Knight of the Galley, and you have seen him?"
"Go forward," saith he, "and you will hear tidings of him."
Meliot departeth thereupon, a great gallop, and cometh nigh the launde whereunto Messire Gawain had been brought. He espied the two knights that kept guard over him, and if that Messire Gawain were in fear, little marvel was it, for he thought that his end had come. Meliot espied him bound to an iron staple with cords about the body on all sides so that he might not move. Meliot hath great pity thereof in his heart, and saith to himself that he will die there sooner than Messire Gawain shall die. He clappeth spurs to his horse when he cometh nigh the knights, and overtaketh one of them with such a rush that he thrusteth his spear right through his body, and beareth him down dead. The other was fain to go to the castle for succour when he saw his fellow dead. Meliot slew him forthwith. He cometh to Messire Gawain, and so unbindeth him and cutteth the cords wherewith he is bound.
"Sir," saith he, "I am Meliot of Logres, your knight."
When Messire Gawain felt himself unbound, no need to ask whether he had joy thereof. The tidings were come to the Red Court that Queen Jandree was christened and baptized, and that the Knight was come that had such force and puissance in him that none might endure against him for the God in whom he believed, and they knew likewise that the Knight of the Galley was dead, and Messire Gawain unbound and the knights that guarded him slain. They say that there may they not abide, so they depart from the castle and say that they will cross the sea to protect their bodies, for that there they may have no safety.
When Meliot had delivered Messire Gawain he made him be armed with the arms, such as they were, of one of the knights he had slain. Messire Gawain mounted on a horse such as pleased him, and right great joy had he at heart. They marvel much how it is that they of the castle have not come after them, but they know not their thought nor how they are scared.
"Meliot," saith Messire Gawain, "You have delivered me from death this time and one other, nor never had I acquaintance with any knight that hath done so much for me in so short a time as have you."
They departed the speediest they might and rode nigh enow to the castle, but they heard none moving within nor any noise, nor saw they none issue forth, and much marvelled they that none should come after them. They rode until they came to the head of the forest and caught sight of the sea that was nigh enough before them, and saw that there was a great clashing of arms at the brink of the sea. A single knight was doing battle with all them that would fain have entered into a ship, and held stour so stiffly against them that he toppled the more part into the sea. They went thither as fast as they might, and when they drew nigh to the ship they knew that it was Perceval by his arms and his shield. Or ever they reached it, the ship was put off into the midst of the sea, wherein he was launched of his own great hardiment, and they went on fighting against him within the ship.
"Meliot," saith Messire Gawain, "See you, there is Perceval the Good Knight, and now may we say of a truth that he is in sore peril of death; for that ship, save God bethink Him thereof, shall arrive in such manner and in such a place as that never more shall we have no witting of him, and, so he perish for ever, no knight on live may have power to set forward the Law of our Lord."
Messire Gawain seeth the ship going further away, and Perceval that defendeth himself therein against them that set upon him. Right heavy is he that he came not sooner, or ever the ship had put off from the land. He turneth back, he and Meliot together, and right sorrowful was Messire Gawain of Perceval, for they knew not in what land he might arrive, and, might he have followed, right gladly would he have gone after him to aid him. They have ridden until they meet a knight. Messire Gawain asketh him whence he cometh, and he saith from King Arthur's court.
"What tidings can you tell us thereof?" saith Messire Gawain.
"Sir, bad enough!" saith he. "King Arthur hath neglected all his knights for Briant of the Isles, and hath put one of his best knights in prison."
"What is his name?" saith Messire Gawain.
"Sir, he is called Lancelot of the Lake. He had reconquered all the islands that had been reft of King Arthur, and slain King Madeglant, and conquered the land of Oriande that he turned to the belief of the Saviour of the World, and, so soon as he had conquered his enemies, King Arthur sent for him forthwith and straightway put him in his prison by the counsel of Briant of the Isles. But King Arthur will have a surfeit of friends betimes; for King Claudas hath assembled his folk in great plenty to reconquer the kingdom of Oriande and come back upon King Arthur by the counsel of Briant of the Isles that betrayeth the King, for he hath made him his Seneschal and commander of all his land."
"Sir Knight," saith Messire Gawain, "Needs must the King miscarry that setteth aside the counsel of his good knights for the leasings of a traitor."
Thereupon the knight departed from Messire Gawain. Right heavy is he of this that he hath said, that the King hath put Lancelot in prison. Never tofore did he aught whereby he wrought so much to blame.