Le Morte d'Arthur BOOK X CHAPTER XXIX
Legends and Sagas
How Sir Tristram overcame the battle, and how Elias
desired a man to fight body for body.
SO on the morn Elias the captain came, and bade King
Mark: Come out and do battle; for now the good knight
Sir Tristram is entered it will be shame to thee, said Elias,
for to keep thy walls. When King Mark understood this
he was wroth and said no word, but went unto Sir Tristram
and asked him his counsel. Sir, said Sir Tristram, will ye
that I give him his answer? I will well, said King Mark.
Then Sir Tristram said thus to the messenger: Bear thy
lord word from the king and me, that we will do battle with
him to-morn in the plain field. What is your name? said
the messenger. Wit thou well my name is Sir Tristram
de Liones. Therewithal the messenger departed and told
his lord Elias all that he had heard. Sir, said Sir Tristram
unto King Mark, I pray you give me leave to have the
rule of the battle. I pray you take the rule, said King
Mark. Then Sir Tristram let devise the battle in what
manner that it should be. He let depart his host in six
parties, and ordained Sir Dinas the Seneschal to have the
foreward, and other knights to rule the remnant. And
the same night Sir Tristram burnt all the Sessoins' ships
unto the cold water. Anon, as Elias wist that, he said it
was of Sir Tristram's doing: For he casteth that we shall
never escape, mother son of us. Therefore, fair fellows,
fight freely to-morrow, and miscomfort you nought; for
any knight, though he be the best knight in the world, he
may not have ado with us all.
Then they ordained their battle in four parties,
wonderly well apparelled and garnished with men of arms.
Thus they within issued, and they without set freely upon
them; and there Sir Dinas did great deeds of arms. Not
for then Sir Dinas and his fellowship were put to the worse.
With that came Sir Tristram and slew two knights with
one spear; then he slew on the right hand and on the left
hand, that men marvelled that ever he might do such
deeds of arms. And then he might see sometime the
battle was driven a bow-draught from the castle, and
sometime it was at the gates of the castle. Then came
Elias the captain rushing here and there, and hit King
Mark so sore upon the helm that he made him to avoid
the saddle. And then Sir Dinas gat King Mark again to
horseback. Therewithal came in Sir Tristram like a lion,
and there he met with Elias, and he smote him so sore
upon the helm that he avoided his saddle. And thus they
fought till it was night, and for great slaughter and for
wounded people everych party drew to their rest.
And when King Mark was come within the Castle of
Tintagil he lacked of his knights an hundred, and they
without lacked two hundred; and they searched the
wounded men on both parties. And then they went to
council; and wit you well either party were loath to fight
more, so that either might escape with their worship.
When Elias the captain understood the death of his men
he made great dole; and when he wist that they were
loath to go to battle again he was wroth out of measure.
Then Elias sent word unto King Mark, in great despite,
whether he would find a knight that would fight for him
body for body. And if that he might slay King Mark's
knight, he to have the truage of Cornwall yearly. And
if that his knight slay mine, I fully release my claim
forever. Then the messenger departed unto King Mark,
and told him how that his lord Elias had sent him word
to find a knight to do battle with him body for body.
When King Mark understood the messenger, he bade him
abide and he should have his answer. Then called he all
the baronage together to wit what was the best counsel.
They said all at once: To fight in a field we have no lust,
for had not been Sir Tristram's prowess it had been likely
that we never should have escaped; and therefore, sir, as
we deem, it were well done to find a knight that would do
battle with him, for he knightly proffereth.