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The High History of the Holy Graal: Branch XXVI


Of Meliot the story is here silent, and saith that King Arthur and Messire Gawain have ridden so far that they are come into the Isle of Avalon, there where the Queen lieth. They lodge the night with the hermits, that made them right great cheer. But you may well say that the King is no whit joyful when he seeth the coffin where the Queen lieth and that wherein the head of his son lieth. Thereof is his dole renewed, and he saith that this holy place of this holy chapel ought he of right to love better than all other places on earth. They depart on the morrow when they have heard mass. The King goeth the quickest he may toward Cardoil, and findeth the land wasted and desolate in many places, whereof is he right sorrowful, and understandeth that Kay the Seneschal warreth upon him with the others. He marvelleth much how he durst do it. He is come to Cardoil. When they of the castle know it they come to meet him with right great cheer. The tidings went throughout all the land, and they of the country were right joyous thereof, for the more part believed that he was dead. They of the castle of the Hard Rock knew it, but little rejoiced they thereat. But Kay the Seneschal was whole of his wound and bethought him that great folly would he do to remain longer there to war upon the King, for well knew he that and the King held him and did that which he had proclaimed, his end were come. He departeth from the castle, where he had sojourned of a long while, and crossed again stealthily over-sea, and came into Little Britain, and made fast a castle for fear of the King, that is called Chinon, and was there long time, without the King warring upon him, for enough adventures had he in other parts.


To Cardoil was the King repaired and Messire Gawain. You may well understand that the land was much rejoiced thereof, and that all the knights were greatly comforted, and knights came back to the court from all parts. They that had been wounded were whole again. Briant of the Isles stinted not of his pride nor of his outrage, but rather stirred up the war the most he might, he and Meliant still more, and said that never would he cease therefrom until death, nor never would he have rest until such time as he should have vengeance of Lancelot. The King was one day at Cardoil at meat, and there was in the hall great throng of knights, and Messire Gawain sate beside the King. Lancelot sate at the table, and Messire Ywain the son of King Urien, and Sagramors li Desirous, and Ywain li Aoutres, and many more other knights round about the table, but there were not so many as there wont to be. Messire Lucan the Butler served before the King of the golden cup. The King looked round about the table and remembered him of the Queen. He was bent upon thinking rather than on eating, and saw that his court was much wasted and worsened of her death. And what time the King was musing in such sort, behold you a knight come into the hall all armed before the King; and he leaneth on the staff of his spear.

"Sir," saith the knight, "Listen, so please you, to me, and all these others, listen! Madeglant of Oriande sendeth me here to you, and commandeth that you yield up the Table Round to him, for sith that the Queen is dead, you have no right thereof, for he is her next of kin and he that hath the best right to have and to hold it; and, so you do not this, you he defieth as the man that disinheriteth him, for he is your enemy in two manner of ways, for the Table Round that you hold by wrong, and for the New Law that you hold. But he sendeth you word by me, that so you will renounce your belief and take Queen Jandree his sister, that he will cry you quit as of the Table Round and will be of your aid everywhere. But and if you do not this, have never affiance in him. And so sendeth he word to you by me!"


Therewith the knight departeth, and the King remaineth all heavy in thought, and when they had eaten, he rose from the tables and all the knights. He speaketh to Messire Gawain and Lancelot, and taketh counsel with all the others.

"Sir," saith Messire Gawain, "You will defend yourself the best you may, and we will help you to smite your enemies. Great Britain is all at your will. You have not as yet lost any castle. Nought hath been broken down nor burnt but open ground and cottages and houses, whereof is no great harm done to yourself, and the shame thereof may lightly be amended. King Madeglant is of great hardiment as of words, but in arms will he not vanquish you so soon. If that he warreth upon you toward the West, send thither one of the best knights of your court that may maintain the war and defend the land against him."


The King sojourned at Cardoil of a long space. He believed in God and His sweet Mother right well. He brought thither from the castle where the Graal was the pattern whereby chalices should be made, and commanded make them throughout all the land so as that the Saviour of the world should be served more worshipfully. He commanded also that bells be cast throughout his land after the fashion of the one he had brought, and that each church should have one according to the means thereof. This much pleased the people of his kingdom, for thereby was the land somewhat amended. The tidings came to him one day that Briant and Meliant were riding through his land with great routs of folk, and were minded to assiege Pannenoisance; and the King issued forth of Cardoil with great throng of knights all armed, and rode until he espied Briant and his people, and Briant him again. They ranged their battles on both sides, and came together with such might and so great a shock as that it seemed the earth shook; and they melled together at the assembly with their spears so passing grimly as that the frushing thereof might be heard right far away. Some fourteen fell in the assembly that rose up again never more. Meliant of the Waste Manor searcheth for Lancelot in the midst of the stour until he findeth him, and runneth upon him right sturdily and pierceth his shield with his spear. Lancelot smiteth him such a sweep amidst the breast, that he thrusteth his spear right through his shoulder, and pinneth him so strongly that the shaft is all to-brast, and the end thereof remaineth in his body. And Meliant, all stricken through as he is, runneth upon him and passeth his spear right through the shield and through the arm, in such sort that he pinneth it to his side. He passeth beyond and breaketh his spear, and afterward returneth to Lancelot, sword in fist, and dealeth him a buffet on the helm so grimly that he all to-battered it in. Lancelot waxeth right wroth thereof, and he grieveth the more for that he feeleth him wounded. He cometh toward Meliant, sword drawn, and holding him well under cover of his shield and cover of his helm, and smiteth Meliant so fiercely that he cleaveth his shoulder down to the rib in such sort that the end of the spear wherewith he had pierced him fell out therefrom. Meliant felt himself wounded to the death, and draweth him back all sorrowful, and other knights run upon Lancelot and deliver assault. Messire Ywain and Sagramors li Desirous and Messire Gawain were on the other side in great jeopardy, for the people of Briant of the Isles came from all parts, and waxed more and more, and on all sides the greater number of knights had the upper hand therein. King Arthur and Briant of the Isles were in the midst of the battle, and dealt each other right great buffets. Briant's people come thither and take King Arthur by the bridle, and the King defendeth himself as a good knight, and maketh a ring about him amongst them that attack him, the same as doth a wild boar amongst the dogs. Messire Ywain is come thither and Lucan the Butler, and break through the press by force. Thereupon, behold you Sagramors li Desirous, that cometh as fast as his horse may gallop under him, and smiteth Briant of the Isles right before his people with such a rush that he beareth him to the ground in a heap, both him and his horse. Briant to-brast his thigh bone in the fall that he made. Sagramors holdeth sword drawn and would fain have thrust it into his body, when the King crieth to him that he slay him not.


Briant's people were not able to succour their lord. Nay, rather, they drew back on all sides, for the stout had lasted of a long space. So they tended the dead and the wounded, of whom were enough on one side and the other. King Arthur made carry Briant of the Isles to Cardoil, and bring along the other knights that his own knights had taken. Right joyous were the folks at Cardoil when the King came back. They bore Meliant of the Waste Manor on his shield to the Hard Rock, but he scarce lived after. The King made Briant of the Isles be healed, and held him in prison of a long while, until Briant gave him surety of all his lands and became his man. The King made him Seneschal of all his lands, and Briant served him right well.


Lancelot was whole of his wound, and all the knights of theirs. King Arthur was safely stablished, and redoubted and dreaded of all lands and of his own land like as he wont to be. Briant hath forgotten all that is past, and is obedient to the King's commands and more privy is he of his counsel than ever another of the knights, insomuch that he put the others somewhat back, whereof had they much misliking. The felony of Kay the Seneschal lay very nigh the King's heart, and he said that and any would take vengeance upon him for the same, greatly would he love him thereof, for so disloyally hath he wrought against him that he durst not let the matter be slurred over; and a sore misfortune is it for the world when a man of so poor estate hath slain so high a man as his son for no misdeed, and that strangers ought by as good right as they that knew him or himself take vengeance upon him thereof, so that others might be adread of doing such disloyalty.


Briant was feared and redoubted throughout all Great Britain. King Arthur had told them that they were all to be at his commandment. And one day while the King was at Cardoil, behold you a damsel that cometh into the hail and saith unto him: "Sir, Queen Jandree hath sent me over to you, and biddeth you do that whereof her brother sent you word by his knight. She is minded to be Lady and Queen of your land, and that you take her to wife, for of high lineage is she and of great power, wherefore she biddeth you by me that you renounce the New Law and that you believe in the God in whom she believeth, and, so you do not this, you may not have affiance in your land, for King Madeglant hath as now made ready his host to enter into the chief of your land, and hath sworn his oath that he will not end until he shall have passed all the borders of the isles that march upon your land, and shall come upon Great Britain with all his strength, and so seize the Table Round that ought to be his own of right. And my Lady herself would come hither but for one thing, to wit, that she hath in her such disdain of them that believe in the New Law, that she deigneth not behold none of them, for, so soon as she was stablished Queen, made she her eyes be covered for that she would not look upon none that were of that believe. But the Gods wherein she believeth did so much for her, for that she loveth and worshippeth them, that she may discover her eyes and her face, and yet see not at all, whereof is she right glad, for that the eyes in her head are beautiful and gentle. But great affiance hath she in her brother, that is mighty and puissant, for he hath her in covenant that he will destroy all them that believe in the New Law, in all places where he may get at them, and, when he shall have destroyed them in Great Britain and the other islands, so that my Lady might not see none therein, so well is she with the Gods wherein she believeth, that she will have her sight again all whole nor until that hour is she fain to see nought"


"Damsel," saith the King, "I have heard well that which you tell me of this that you have in charge to say; but tell your Lady on my behalf, that the Law which the Saviour of the world hath established by His death and by His crucifixion never will I renounce, for the love that I have in Him. But tell her that she believe in God and in His sweet Mother, and that she believe in the New Law, for by the false believe wherein she abideth is she blinded in such sort, nor never will she see clear until she believe in God. Tell her moreover, I send her word that never more shall there be Queen in my land save she be of like worth as was Queen Guenievre."

"Then I tell you plainly," saith she, "that you will have betimes such tidings as that good for you they will not be."

The damsel departeth from Cardoil, and cometh back to where the Queen was, and telleth her the message King Arthur sendeth her. "True," saith she, "I love him better than all in the world, and yet refuseth he my will and my commandment. Now may he no longer endure!"

She sendeth to her brother King Madeglant, and telleth him that she herself doth defy him and he take not vengeance on King Arthur and bring him not into prison.

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