Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Logres VI

Book I continued

 Chapter 15

When the morning came and King Uther Pendragon learned that the Duke of Trevena had fled, he was sad and ashamed, but held himself wronged. He called his counselors, asking them if they knew why he had left despite the king's command, but they had no answer.

The king said, "You can all bear witness that I showered him with favors more than any other." They all assented to this and wondered aloud why the duke had acted so dishonorably. Then King Uther said, "Unless you deem some other way better, I will send after him to return, both him and his wife, and make amends, and if he does so, we will have done with it." They agreed on this plan, and King Uther sent two reliable men to Trevena with his message.

When the messengers came to the duke, however, Sir Gorlois refused utterly to return, saying, "I will not return to one who has done to me and to mine in such a discourteous and dishonorable manner." Then he sent them back to Cardoel with his refusal. 

The duke, however, was pensive a long while after, and then called his own counselors together. He told them everything that had happened, and the reason for his flight from Cardoel. "I beg you, and charge you by the fealty you owe me, to aid me in defending my lands. For as Uther is a man used to having his will, he will come against me; and as he is neither fool nor coward nor weakling, I do not know how he shall be held off. Then they all swore to defend him and his, even if it put all their lives and goods in jeopardy.

When the messengers returned to Cardoel and gave Duke Gorlois's answer, everyone was astonished, for they knew nothing more than what had been said out loud, and could not imagine what could cause such a lack of courtesy. Then King Uther Pendragon said to all his counselors and barons, "This impudence cannot stand. I beg you, and charge you by the fealty you have worn to me, to aid me in redressing this dishonor that the duke has done."

They swore to support him, but some of the cooler heads begged him first to send formal warning to the duke and give him forty days to make some sort of reparation. To this the king, who perhaps did not wholly wish to go war over this, agreed. The messengers were sent back with this message.

Duke Gorlois in the meantime had been considering the options available to him. He only had two castles that were sufficiently fortified and prepared against the kind of force that the king could muster, the castle of Dimilioc and the castle of Tintagel at Trevena. Of the two, Castle Tintagel was the greater and had the more defensible location, and therefore he put his wife and his daughters there, with a special bodyguard of ten knights, while he prepared to defend his lands from the forward castle of Dimilioc; lands that neither Dimilioc nor Tintagel could adequately defend, he regarded as if they were already in Uther's hands, for he could not stretch his forces so thinly as to defend them all.

At the end of the forty days, having received no answer, the Pendragon gathered his forces in the Duke's territory and began to lay it waste. The key question of strategy, however, was whether Dimilioc or Tintagel should receive the brunt of the invading force. Most of the barons agreed that Dimilioc was the better choice, but the king, still unsure, asked Sir Ulfius.

"I do not understand," said Sir Ulfius. "Do you think that we would fare better if we seized Tintagel first, perhaps because the duke will not expect it?"

"I think that I do not know what I will do if I do not see Igraine," said the king, for his scouts had brought him the news that Igraine was at Tintagel.

Sir Ulfius replied, "Men must endure not having what they cannot have. Our concern in this present matter is the Duke of Trevena, and you must let nothing distract you from the aim of defeating him."

With a sigh, the king agreed to this, and his forces assaulted the fortress of Dimilioc.

Chapter 16

While Dimilioc was not so advantageous a position as Tintagel, it had been built well and was well stocked. The king assaulted it many times with sappers and siege towers, but each time the defenders were able to repulse the assault. The king grew furious, and distressed from the fact that it seemed that meeting Igraine again was farther and farther away. At times, when alone in his pavilion, he would weep. He attempted to hide it from his men, but such a thing cannot be wholly hid in a camp, and the people around him were greatly puzzled. Finally Sir Ulfius came to him and demanded to know his sorrow.

"You already know it, my friend," said the king; "I am so full of love for Igraine that I am now dying. I cannot eat, I cannot drink, I cannot do anything."

"You would have to have an extraordinarily weak heart to die from love for only one woman," said Sir Ulfius. "Nonetheless, I will tell you what you must do, if you are so serious about it. Send for Merlin and if you promise to give him whatever he wishes, he will no doubt give you the solution to your problem."

Then King Uther said, "It is true that there is nothing that the child cannot do. But he surely knows my distress already, and I am afraid his angry at me for having given permission to try the perilous seat at the Round Table. Nor do I know where he is. And will he not be angry at me for loving the wife of a liegeman? I cannot send for him."

To which Sir Ulfius replied, "I do not know whether Merlin is angry or not, but I know that he has in the past shown love and favor toward you. I am certain you will soon hear tidings of him."

The knight left the king, wondering whether he might not find Merlin himself. As he was riding on another errand, he came across a man by the side of the road, who shouted, "Sir Ulfius, I would like to speak to you."

Sir Ulfius looked at him closely, but did not know him. But the knight went over beside the man and dismounted, asking him what he wished to say.

"I am an old man," said the man, "a very old man, an ancient man, as you see with your own eyes, but I was considered wise even when I was a child, and I think I am no fool now. Not long ago I was near Tintagel and I met someone who told me that your king loves the duke's wife, and is now destroying the country for her. If you will aid me, I will acquaint you with this person, who I believe can aid you."

Sir Ulfius was surprised, and, wondering somewhat, he asked that the man acquaint him with this person who knew something so secret.

The old man said, "Well and good, but I wish first to hear what gift the king would offer in return."

"I will ask," said Sir Ulfius. "Where shall I find you when I have his answer?"

"In this vicinity," said the old man; "if you return soon, either I or my messenger will be here."

Sir Ulfius returned to the king with what haste he could, and told him everything that had happened.

"Do you know this man?" asked the king.

"No," said Sir Ulfius, "but I suspect that the person of whom he speaks might be Merlin."

Then, after Mass in the morning, the king and Sir Ulfius rode out together, and the king was merrier than he had been in a long time. 

They had not ridden long when they passed a man both lame and blind on the road, who shouted after them, "Sir King! I beg you, give me something, so that I may pray in thanks for you, and, God willing, you may accomplish all your heart's desire."

Then King Uther Pendragon laughed and, looking at Sir Ulfius, he said, "They do say that the prayers of those in need go up to God. Will you do me a favor, Sir Ulfius?" Sir Ulfius of course assented, and the king continued. "Then go back to that cripple and sit beside him; tell him I have sent you to him to assist him, if he thinks he can accomplish my desire."

So Sir Ulfius did as he was asked, turning back to go and sit beside the man both blind and lame. When the man heard and felt Sir Ulfius sit near, he asked him what he wanted.

"The king has sent me to assist you," said Sir Ulfius, "so that by your prayer he may accomplish his heart's desire."

The lame man laughed. "The king is swifter of mind than you are," he said. "I was sent by the old man that you met before. Go back to the king and say that he will meet him soon."

When Sir Ulfius returned to the king, the king said, "Have I not sent you to the crippled man, to assist him?"

"And so I do," said Sir Ulfius. "He has sent me to tell you that you will soon meet the old man I had met before."

"I have no doubt of it," said the king, "for it is clear that the lame man and the old man you met before are the same man, and both are Merlin, going and coming as he pleases."

While the knight and the king were out riding, the child Merlin came to the king's tent and asked where he was. So they sent out messengers to let the king know that Merlin awaited him at his tent, and King Uther Pendragon therefore returned to camp. And the king ran to Merlin with great joy, arms open wide, and embraced the child. 

Merlin said to Sir Ulfius, "You see that, as I said, he is swifter of mind than you, since he knew so quickly that I was both the old man and the lame one."

Sir Ulfius did not respond, but said to the king, "You should let him know of your problem."

And the king replied, "Do you think he does not already know my heart?" But he said to Merlin, "I beg you, help me to have the love of Igraine, for without it I will die."

"I do not understand this," said the child. "Such a desire is surely not good and should just be cast aside. That way you may avoid the snares of the devil."

"How can I cast aside what is part of my very depths?" asked King Uther.  "Tell me how to have the love of Igraine and I will give you whatever you want."

"You should promise no one to give what they want until you know what they want," replied Merlin. "But you are the King David of this age, and I will accept your offer. You shall have Igraine's love, and I shall have in return what I want. You must swear it by a holy oath."

So King Uther Pendragon had the reliquaries and Gospels brought, and the king and the knight swore on relic and book that they should honor the agreement.

Then the child said, "Your lady is true to God and to her lord. But get your armies ready for battle, which they will surely fight tomorrow without you, for we shall ride out, and I shall give you an appearance of the duke, so perfect in resemblance that his own mother would swear that you are he. And Sir Ulfius and I shall take the form of his closest counselors; I shall be Sir Brastias and Sir Ulfius shall be Sir Jordanus.  In that guise we will find easy entry; it will lie with you to convince the lady, which is an art I do not have. If you do not succeed at it, we will have to take more tangled paths, but you will have the lady's love in the end."

Chapter 17

In the morning, King Uther, Sir Ulfius, and Merlin rode out, and when they were near to Tintagel, Merlin gave to the king and the knight each an herb they had never seen. "Rub this on your face and hands," he said. They both did so, and when they were done, lo! King Uther Pendragon looked exactly like Duke Gorlois and Sir Ulfius looked exactly like Sir Jordanus. Merlin, too, in the twinkling of an eye took on the appearance of Sir Brastias. Then they waited until the night was near to falling and rode to the gates of Tintagel. Merlin shouted to the ostiary, and when the ostiary peeked out, he saw Sir Brastias and Sir Jordanus accompanying the duke, so they opened the gates.

"We are on a mission of secrecy," Merlin in the form of Sir Brastias said to the porters. "Do not let the report of the duke's return be rumored abroad."

The King Uther Pendragon in the form of Duke Gorlois went up to the chambers of Igraine, where they made merry with wine and dinner, and Igraine was greatly delighted, because she thought the king to be her duke.

But late in the night, news spread around that the Duke of Trevena had died in battle, and came soon to the town. When the porters of the castle Tintagel heard about it, they passed it on to the stewards, who ran up to the bedchambers.

"Arise, lord!" they said. "There is a rumor going around that you have died, and you must quickly make clear that it is false."

And King Uther in the form of Duke Gorlois leaped up and took leave of Igraine, and with Merlin in the form of Sir Brastias and Sir Ulfius in the form of Sir Jordanus rode out of the castle.

Then Merlin said to the king, "Do you agree that I have kept my part of the covenant?"

And the king replied, "I do, and I will keep my own part, on my crown."

"You have engendered a son on Igraine by your actions," said the child, for he took his own form again. "You will give him to me at the time I ask him of you."

"So be it," sad the king.

They soon came to a river where Sir Ulfius and the king washed off the semblances of Sir Jordanus and Duke Gorlois,. Then they returned to camp, which was in a state of excitement because Duke Gorlois, having received information from an unknown source that the king was not with his army, had assaulted them, thinking that they would be unprepared, and had died in the battle. He had fought well, but been thrown from his horse into the midst of the infantry and was overwhelmed, for while the mounted knights would have spared him for his noble office and person, the foot soldiers did not know who he was.

And King Uther Pendragon, having thus defeated the Duke Gorlois of Trevena, was somber and pensive at the news of the duke's death.