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The High History of the Holy Graal: Branch IX


Now the story is silent about the two knights for a little time, and speaketh of the squire that Messire Gawain meeteth in the midst of the forest, that told him he went seek the son of the Widow Lady that had slain his father. And the squire saith that he will go to avenge him, wherefore cometh he to the court of King Arthur, for that he had heard tell how all good knights repaired thither. And he seeth the shield hang on the column in the midst of the hall that the Damsel of the Car had brought thither. The squire knoweth it well, and kneeleth before the King and saluteth him, and the King returneth his salute and asketh who he is.

"Sir," saith he, "I am the son of the Knight of the Red Shield of the Forest of Shadows, that was slain of the Knight that ought to bear the shield that hangeth on this column, wherefore would I right gladly hear tidings of him."

"As gladly would I," saith the King, "so that no evil came to him thereof, for he is the knight of the world that I most desire."

"Sir," saith the Squire, "Well behoveth me to hate him for that he slew my father. He that ought to bear this shield was squire when he slew him, wherefore am I the more sorrowful for that I thought to be avenged upon him squire. But this I may not do, wherefore I pray you for God's sake that you will make me knight, for the like favour are you accustomed to grant unto others."

"What is your name, fair friend?" saith the King.

"Sir," saith he, "I am called Clamados of the Shadows."

Messire Gawain that had repaired to court, was in the hall, and said to the King: "If this squire be enemy of the Good Knight that ought to bear this shield, behoveth you not set forward his mortal enemy but rather set him back, for he is the Best Knight of the world and the most chaste that liveth in the world and of the most holy lineage, and therefore have you sojourned right long time in this castle to await his coming. I say not this for the hindering of the squire's advancement, but that you may do nought whereof the Good Knight may have cause of complaint against you."

"Messire Gawain," saith Queen Guenievre, "well know I that you love my Lord's honour, but sore blame will he have if he make not this one knight, for so much hath he never refused to do for any; nor yet will the Good Knight have any misliking thereof, for greater shame should he have, and greater despite of the hatred of a squire than of a knight; for never yet was good knight that was not prudent and well-advised and slow to take offence. Wherefore I tell you that he will assuredly listen to reason, and I commend my Lord the rather that he make him knight, for much blame would he have of gainsaying him."

"Lady," saith Messire Gawain, "So you are content, I am happy."

The King made him knight right richly, and when he was clad in the robes, they of the court declare and witness that never this long time past had they seen at the court knight of greater comeliness. He sojourned therein long time, and , was much honoured of the King and all the barons. He was every day on the watch for the Good Knight that should come for the shield, but the hour and the place were not as yet.


When he saw that he did not come, he took leave of the King and the Queen and all them of the court, and departed, thinking him that he would go prove his knighthood in some place until he should have heard tidings of his mortal enemy. He rideth amidst the great forests bearing a red shield like as did his father, and he was all armed as for defending of his body. And a long space of time he rideth, until one day he cometh to the head of a forest, and he espied his way that ran between two mountains and saw that he had to pass along the midst of the valley that lay at a great depth. He looketh before him and seeth a tree far away from him, and underneath were three damsels alighted, and one prayed God right heartily aloud that He would send them betimes a knight that durst convoy them through this strait pass.


Clamodos heareth the damsel and cometh thitherward. When they espied him, great joy have they thereof and rise up to meet him. "Sir, say they, "Welcome may you be!"

"Damsels," saith he, "Good adventure may you have! And whom await you here?" saith he.

"We await," saith the Mistress of the damsels, "some knight that shall clear this pass, for no knight durst pass hereby."

"What is the pass; then, damsel?" saith he.

"It is the one of a lion, and a lion, moreover, so fell and horrible that never was none seen more cruel. And there is a knight with the lion between the two mountains that is right good knight and hardy and comely. Howbeit none durst pass without great company of folk. But the knight that hath repair with the lion is seldom there, for so he were there we need fear no danger, for much courtesy is there in him and valour."

And the knight looketh and seeth in the shadow of the forest three fair stags harnessed to a car.

"Ha," saith he, "you are the Damsel of the Car, wherefore may you well tell me tidings of the knight of whom I am in quest."

"Who is he?" saith the Damsel.

"It is he that should bear a shield banded argent and azure with a red cross."

"Of him am I likewise in quest," saith the Damsel; "please God, we shall hear tidings of him betimes."

"Damsel" saith the knight, "that would I. And for that you are in quest of him as am I likewise, I will convoy you beyond this pass."

The Damsel maketh her Car go on before, and the damsels go before the knight; and so enter they into the field of the lion, and right fair land found they therewithin. Clamados looketh and seeth the hall within an enclosure and seeth the lion that lay at the entrance of the gateway. As soon as he espieth Clamados and the damsels, he cometh toward them full speed, mouth open and ears pricked up.

"Sir," saith the Damsel, "and you defend not your horse on foot, he is dead at the first onset."


Clamados is alighted to his feet, by her counsel, and holdeth his spear in his fist, and the lion rampeth toward him all in a fury. Clamados receiveth him on the point of his spear, and smiteth him therewith so stoutly that it passeth a fathom beyond his neck. He draweth back his spear without breaking it, and thinketh to smite him again. But the lion cheateth him, and arising himself on his two hinder feet, setteth his fore feet on his shoulders, then huggeth him toward him like as one man doth another. But the grip was sore grievous, for he rendeth his habergeon in twain and so teareth away as much flesh as he can claw hold on.


When Clamados felt himself wounded, he redoubled his hardihood, and grippeth the lion so straitly to him that he wringeth a huge roar out of him, and then flingeth him to the ground beneath him. Then he draweth his sword and thrusteth it to the heart right through the breast. The lion roareth so loud that all the mountains resound thereof. Clamados cutteth off his head and goeth to hang it at the door of the hall. Then he cometh back to his horse and mounteth the best he may. And the Damsel saith to him, "Sir, you are sore wounded."

"Damsel," said he, "please God, I shall take no hurt thereof."

Thereupon, behold you a squire that issueth forth of the hall and cometh after him full speed. "Hold, Sir Knight," saith he; "Foul wrong have you wrought, for you have slain the lion of the most courteous knight that may be known, and the fairest and most valiant of this kingdom, and in his despite have you hung the head at his door! Right passing great outrage have you done hereby!"

"Fair sweet friend," saith Clamados, "it may well be that the lord is right courteous, but the lion was rascal and would have slain me and them that were passing by. And your lord loved him so much he should have chained him up, for better liketh me that I slew him than that he should slay me."

"Sir," saith the squire, "there is no road this way, for it is a forbidden land whereof certain would fain reave my lord, and it was against the coming of his enemies that the lion was allowed forth unchained."

"And what name hath your lord, fair friend?" saith Clamados.

"Sir, he is called Meliot of Logres, and he is gone in quest of Messire Gawain, of whom he holdeth the land, for right dear is he to him."

"Messire Gawain," saith Clamados, "left I at the court of King Arthur, but behoveth him depart thence or ever I return thither."

"By my head," saith the squire, "faith would I you might meet them both twain, if only my lord knew that you had slain him his lion."

"Fair friend," saith Clamados, "and he be as courteous as you say, no misliking will he have of me thereof, for I slew him in defending mine own body, and God forbid I should meet any that would do me evil therefor."


Thereupon the knight and the damsels depart and pass the narrow strait in the lion's field, and ride on until they draw nigh a right rich castle seated in a meadowland surrounded of great waters and high forests, and the castle was always void of folk. And they were fain to turn thitherward, but they met a squire that told them that in the castle was not a soul, albeit and they would ride forward they would find great plenty of folk. So far forward have they ridden that they are come to the head of a forest and see great foison of tents stretched right in the midst of a launde, and they were compassed round of a great white sheet that seemed from afar to be a long white wall with crenels, and it was a good league Welsh in length. They came to the entrance of the tents and heard great joy within, and when they had entered they saw dames and damsels, whereof was great plenty, and of right passing great beauty were they. Clamados alighteth, that was right sore wounded. The Damsel of the Car was received with right great joy. Two of the damsels come to Clamados, of whom make they right great joy. Afterward they lead him to a tent and made disarm him. Then they washed his wounds right sweetly and tenderly. Then they brought him a right rich robe and made him be apparelled therein, and led him before the ladies of the tents, that made right great joy of him.


"Lady," saith the Damsel of the Car, "This knight hath saved my life, for he hath slain the lion on account of which many folk durst not come to you, wherefore make great joy of him."

"Greater joy may I not make, than I do, nor the damsels that are herein, for we await the coming of the Good Knight that is healed, from day to day. And now is there nought in the world I more desire to see."

"Lady," saith Clamados, "Who is this Good Knight?"

"The son of the Widow Lady of the Valleys of Camelot," saith she.

"Tell me, Lady, do you say that he will come hither presently?"

"So methinketh," saith she.

"Lady, I also shall have great joy thereof, and God grant he come betimes!"

"Sir Knight," saith she, "What is your name?"

"Lady" saith he, "I am called Clamados, and I am son of the lord of the Forest of Shadows."

She throweth her arms on his neck and kisseth and embraceth him right sweetly, and saith: "Marvel not that I make you joy thereof, for you are the son of my sister-in-law, nor have I any friend nor blood-kindred so nigh as are you, and fain would I you should be lord of all my land and of me, as is right and reason."

The damsels of the tents make right great joy of him when they know the tidings that he is so nigh of kin to the Lady of the Tents. And he sojourned therewithin until that he was whole and heal, awaiting the coming of the knight of whom he had heard the tidings. And the damsels marvel them much that he cometh not, for the damsel that had tended him was therewithin and telleth them that he was healed of his arm, but that Lancelot is not yet whole, wherefore he is still within the hermitage.


This high history witnesseth us and recordeth that Joseph, who maketh remembrance thereof, was the first priest that sacrificed the body of Our Lord, and forsomuch ought one to believe the words that come of him. You have heard tell how Perceval was of the lineage of Joseph of Abarimacie, whom God so greatly loved for that he took down His body hanging on the cross, which he would not should lie in the prison there where Pilate had set it. For the highness of the lineage whereof the Good Knight was descended ought one willingly to hear brought to mind and recorded the words that are of him. The story telleth us that he was departed of the hermitage all sound and whole, albeit he hath left Lancelot, for that his wound was not yet healed, but he hath promised him that he will come back to him so soon as he may. He rideth amidst a forest, all armed, and cometh toward evensong to the issue of the forest and seeth a castle before him right fair and well seated, and goeth thitherward for lodging, for the sun was set. He entereth into the castle and alighteth. The lord cometh to meet him that was a tall knight and a red, and had a felon look, and his face scarred in many places; and knight was there none therewithin save only himself and his household.


When he seeth Perceval alighted, he runneth to bar the door, and Perceval cometh over against him. For all greeting, the knight saluteth him thus: "Now shall you have," saith he, "such guerdon as you have deserved. Never again shall you depart hence, for my mortal enemy are you, and right hardy are you thus to throw yourself upon me, for you slew my brother the Lord of the Shadows, and Chaos the Red am I that war upon your mother, and this castle have I reft of her. In like manner will I wring the life out of you or ever you depart hence!"

"Already," saith Perceval, "have I thrown myself on this your hostel to lodge with you, wherefore to blame would you be to do me evil. But lodge me this night as behoveth one knight do for another, and on the morrow at departing let each do the best he may."

"By my head!" saith Chaos the Red, "mortal enemy of mine will I never harbour here save I harbour him dead."

He runneth to the hall above, and armeth himself as swiftly as he may, and taketh his sword all naked in his hand and cometh back to the place where Perceval was, right full of anguish of heart for this that he said, that he would war upon his mother and had reft her of this castle. He flung his spear to the ground, and goeth toward him on foot and dealeth him a huge buffet above the helmet upon the coif of his habergeon, such that he cleaveth the mail and cutteth off two fingers'-breadth of the flesh in such sort that he made him reel three times round.


When Chaos the Red felt himself wounded, he was sore grieved thereof, and cometh toward Perceval and striketh him a great buffet above in the midst of his helmet, so that he made the sparks fly and his neck stoop and his eyes sparkle of stars. And the blow slippeth down on to the shield, so that it is cleft right down to the boss. Perceval felt his neck stiff and heavy, and feeleth that the knight is sturdy and of great might. He cometh back towards him, and thinketh to strike him above in the midst of his head, but Chaos swerved aside from him; howbeit Perceval reached him and caught his right arm and cutteth it sheer from his side, sword and all, and sendeth it flying to the ground, and Chaos runneth upon him, thinking to grapple him with his left arm, but his force was waning; nathless right gladly would he have avenged himself and he might. Howbeit, Perceval setteth on him again that loved him not in his heart, and smiteth him again above on the head, and dealeth him such a buffet as maketh his brains be all to-scattered abroad. His household and servants were at the windows of the hall. When they see that their lord is nigh to the death, they cry to Perceval: "Sir, you have slain the hardiest knight in the kingdom of Logres, and him that was most redoubted of his enemies; but we can do no otherwise; we know well that this castle is your mother's and ought to be yours. We challenge it not; wherefore may you do your will of whatsoever there is in the castle; but allow us to go to our lord that there lieth dead, and take away the body and set it in some seemly place for the sake of his good knighthood, and for that it behoveth us so to do."

"Readily do I grant it you," saith Perceval.

They bear the body to a chapel, then they disarm him and wind him in his shroud. After that they lead Perceval into the hall and disarm him and say to him: "Sir, you may be well assured that there be none but us twain herewithin and two damsels, and the doors are barred, and behold, here are the keys which we deliver up to you."

"And I command you," saith Perceval, "that you go straightway to my mother, and tell her that she shall see me betimes and I may get done, and so salute her and tell her I am sound and whole. And what is the name of this castle?"

"Sir, it hath for name the Key of Wales, for it is the gateway of the land."


Perceval lay the night in the castle he had reconquered for his mother, and the morrow, when he was armed, he departed. These promised that they would keep the castle loyally and would deliver it up to his mother at her will. He rode until he came to the tents where the damsels were, and drew rein and listened. But there was not so great joy as when the damsel that rode like a knight and led the Car came thither with Clamados. Great dole heard he that was made, and beating of palms. Wherefore he bethought him what folk they might be. Natheless he was not minded to draw back without entering. He alighted in the midst of the tents and set down his shield and his spear, and seeth the damsels wringing their hands and tearing their hair, and much marvelleth he wherefore it may be. A damsel cometh forward that had set forth from the castle where he had slain the knight: "Sir, to your shame and ill adventure may you have come hither!"

Perceval looketh at her and marvelleth much of that she saith, and she crieth out: "Lady, behold here him that hath slain the best knight of your lineage! And you, Clamados, that are within there, he hath slain your father and your uncle! Now shall it be seen what you will do!"

The Damsel of the Car cometh thitherward and knoweth Perceval by the shield that he bare of sinople with a white hart.

"Sir," saith she, "welcome may you be! Let who will make dole, I will make joy of your coming!"


Therewith the Damsel leadeth him into a tent and maketh him sit on a right rich couch; afterward she maketh him be disarmed of her two damsels and clad in a right rich robe. Then she leadeth him to the Queen of the Tents that was still making great dole.

"Lady," saith the Damsel of the Car, "Stint your sorrow, for behold, here is the Good Knight on whose account were the tents here pitched, and on whose account no less have you been making this great joy right up to this very day!"

"Ha," saith she, "Is this then the son of the Widow Lady?"

"Yea, certes," saith the Damsel.

"Ha," saith the Lady, "He hath slain me the best knight of all my kin, and the one that protected me from mine enemies."

"Lady," saith the Damsel, "this one will be better able to protect and defend us, for the Best Knight is he of the world and the comeliest."

The Queen taketh him by the hand and maketh him sit beside her. "Sir," saith she, "Howsoever the adventure may have befallen, my heart biddeth me make joy of your coming."

"Lady," saith he, "Gramercy! Chaos would fain have slain me within his castle, and I defended myself to my power."

The Queen looketh at him amidst his face, and is taken with a love of him so passing strong and fervent that she goeth nigh to fall upon him. "Sir," saith she, "and you will grant me your love, I will pardon you of all the death of Chaos the Red."

"Lady," saith he, "your love am I right fain to deserve, and mine you have."

"Sir," saith she, "How may I perceive that you love me?"

"Lady," saith he, "I will tell you. There is no knight in the world that shall desire to do you a wrong, but I will help you against him to my power."

"Such love," saith she, "is the common love that knight ought to bear to lady. Would you do as much for another?"

"Lady," saith he, "It well may be, but more readily shall a man give help in one place than in another."

The Queen would fain that Perceval should pledge himself to her further than he did, and the more she looketh at him the better he pleaseth her, and the more is she taken with him and the more desirous of his love. But Perceval never once thought of loving her or another in such wise. He was glad to look upon her, for that she was of passing great beauty, but never spake he nought to her whereby she might perceive that he loved her of inward love. But in no wise might she refrain her heart, nor withdraw her eyes, nor lose her desire. The damsels looked upon her with wonder that so soon had she forgotten her mourning.


Thereupon, behold you Clamados, that had been told that this was the knight that, as yet only squire, had slain his father and put Chaos his uncle to death. He cometh into the tent and seeth him sitting beside the Queen, that looked at him right sweetly.

"Lady," saith he, "Great shame do you to yourself, in that you have seated at your side your own mortal enemy and mine. Never again henceforth ought any to have affiance in your love nor in your help."

"Clamados," saith the Queen, "the knight hath thrown himself upon me suddenly. Wherefore ought I do him no evil, rather behoveth me lodge him and keep his body in safety. Nought, moreover, hath he done whereof he might be adjudged of murder nor of treason."

"Lady," saith Clamados, "He slew my father in the Lonely Forest without defiance, and treacherously cast a javelin at him and smote him through the body, wherefore shall I never be at ease until I have avenged him. Therefore do I appeal and pray you to do me my right, not as being of your kindred, but as stranger. For right willing am I that kinship shall avail me nought herein."

Perceval looketh at the knight and seeth that he is of right goodly complexion of body and right comely of face. "Fair Sir," saith he, "as of treason I would that you hold me quit, for never toward your father nor toward other have had I never a mind to do treason, and God defend me from such shame, and grant me strength to clear myself of any blame thereof."

Clamados cometh forward to proffer his gage.

"By my head," saith the Queen, "not this day shall gage be received herein. But to-morrow will come day, and counsel therewith, and then shall fight be done to each."

Clamados is moved of right great wrath, but the Queen of the Tents showeth Perceval the most honour she may, whereof is Clamados right heavy, and saith that never ought any to put his trust in woman. But wrongly he blameth her therein, for she did it of the passing great love she hath for Perceval, inasmuch as well she knoweth that he is the Best Knight of the world and the comeliest. But it only irketh her the more that she may not find in him any sign of special liking toward herself neither in deed nor word, whereof is she beyond measure sorrowful. The knights and damsels lay the night in the tents until the morrow, and went to hear mass in a chapel that was in the midst of the tents.


When mass was sung, straightway behold you, a knight that cometh all armed, bearing a white shield at his neck. He alighteth in the midst of the tents and cometh before the Queen all armed, and saith: "Lady, I plain me of a knight that is there within that hath slain my lion, and if you do me not right herein, I will harass you as much or more than I will him, and will harm you in every wise I may. Wherefore I pray and require you, for the love of Messire Gawain, whose man I am, that you do me right herein."

"What is the knight's name?" saith the Queen.

"Lady," saith he, "He is called Clamados of the Shadows, and methinketh I see him yonder, for I knew him when he was squire."

"And what is your name?" saith the Queen.

"Lady," I am called Melior of Logres."

"Clamados," saith the Queen, "Hear you what this knight saith?"

"Yea, Lady," saith he; "But again I require that you do me right of the knight that slew my father and my uncle."

"Lady," saith Melior, "I would fain go. I know not toward whom the knight proffereth his gage, but him do I appeal of felony for my lion that he hath slain." He taketh in his hand the skirt of his habergeon: "Lady, behold here the gage I offer you."


"Clamados," saith the Queen, "Hear you then not that which this knight saith?"

"Lady," saith he, "I hear him well. Truth it is that I slew his lion, but not until after he had fallen upon me, and made the wounds whereof I have been healed herewithin. But well you know that the knight who came hither last night hath done me greater wrong than have I done this other. Wherefore would I pray you that I may take vengeance of him first."

"You hear," saith she, "how this knight that hath come hither all armed is fain to go back forthwith. Quit you, therefore, of him first, and then will we take thought of the other."

"Lady, gramercy!" saith Meliot, "and Messire Gawain will take it in right good part, for this knight hath slain my lion that defended me from all my enemies. Nor is it true that the entrance to your tent was deserted on account of my lion; and in despite of me hath he hung the head at my gate."

"As of the lion," saith the Queen, "you have no quarrel against him and he slew him in defending his body, but as of the despite he did you as you say, when in nought had you done him any wrong, it shall not be that right shalt be denied you in my court, and if you desire to deliver battle, no blame shall you have thereof."


Clamados maketh arm him and mounteth on his horse, and he seemeth right hardy of his arms and valorous. He cometh right in the midst of the tent, where the ground was fair and level, and found Meilot of Logres all armed upon his horse, and a right comely knight was he and a deliver. And the ladies and damsels were round about the tilting-ground.

"Sir," saith the Queen to Perceval, "I will that you keep the field for these knights."

"Lady," saith he, "At your pleasure."

Meliot moveth toward Clamados right swiftly and Clamados toward him, and they melled together on their shields in such sort that they pierced them and cleft the mail of their habergeons asunder with the points of their spears, and the twain are both wounded so that the blood rayeth forth of their bodies. The knights draw asunder to take their career, for their spears were broken short, and they come back the one toward the other with a great rush, and smite each other on the breast with their spears so stiffly that there is none but should have been pierced within the flesh, for the habergeons might protect them not. They hurtle against each other so strongly that knights and horses fall together to the ground all in a heap. The Queen and the damsels have great pity of the two knights, for they see that they are both so passing sore wounded. The two knights rise to their feet and hold their swords naked and run the one on the other right wrathfully, with such force as they had left.

"Sir," saith the Queen to Perceval, "Go part these two knights asunder that one slay not the other, for they are sore wounded."

Perceval goeth to part them and cometh to Meliot of Logres. "Sir," saith he, "Withdraw yourself back; you have done enough."

Clamados felt that he was sore wounded in two places, and that the wound he had in his breast was right great. He draweth himself back. The Queen is come thither. "Fair nephew," saith she, "Are you badly wounded?"

"Yea, Lady," saith Clamados.

"Certes," saith the Queen, "this grieveth me, but never yet saw I knight and he were desirous of fighting, but came at some time by mischance. A man may not always stand on all his rights."

She made him be carried on his shield into a tent, and made search his wounds, and saw that of one had he no need to fear, but that the other was right sore perilous.


"Lady," saith Clamados, "Once more do I pray and require you that you allow not the knight that slew my father to issue forth from hence, save he deliver good hostage that he will come back when I shall be healed."

"So will I do, sith that it is your pleasure."

The Queen cometh to the other knight that was wounded, for that he declareth himself Messire Gawain's man, and maketh search his wounds, and they say that he hath not been hurt so sore as is Clamados. She commandeth them to tend him and wait upon him right well-willingly, "Sir," saith she to Perceval, "Behoveth you abide here until such time as my nephew be heal, for you know well that whereof he plaineth against you, nor would I that you should depart hence without clearing you of the blame."

"Lady, no wish have I to depart without your leave, but rather shall I be ready to clear myself of blame whensoever and wheresoever time and place may be. But herewithin may I make not so long sojourn. Natheless to this will I pledge my word, that I will return thither within a term of fifteen days from the time he shall be whole."

"Sir," saith the Damsel of the Car, "I will remain here in hostage for you."

"But do you pray him," saith the Queen, "that he remain herewithin with us."


"Lady," saith Perceval, "I may not, for I left Lancelot wounded right sore in my uncle's hermitage."

"Sir," saith the Queen, "I would fain that remaining here might have pleased you as well as it would me."

"Lady," saith he, "none ought it to displease to be with you, but every man behoveth keep his word as well as he may, and none ought to lie to so good a knight as he."

"You promise me, then," saith the Queen, "that you will return hither the soonest you may, or at the least, within the term appointed after you shall have learnt that Clamados is healed, to defend you of the treason that he layeth upon you?"

"Lady," saith he, "and if he die shall I be quit?"

"Yea, truly, Sir, and so be that you have no will to come for love of me. For right well should I love your coming."

"Lady," saith he, "never shall be the day my services shall fail you, so I be in place, and you in need thereof."

He taketh leave and departeth, armed. The Damsel of the Car commendeth him to God, and Perceval departeth full speed and rideth so far on his journeys that he cometh to his uncle's hermitage and entereth in, thinking to find Lancelot. But his uncle telleth him that he hath departed all sound and all heal of his wound, as of all other malady, as him thinketh.

Next: The High History of the Holy Graal: Branch X