Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Logres, Book I (The Devil's Son), Chapters 19-25

Chapters 13-18

 Chapter 19

After some time in thought, King Uther Pendragon called together his barons and advisors, saying, "These things threaten to harm us all in ways that cannot be repaired, and I am very sorry for the death of Gorlois, who was a man admirable in many ways. What can possibly be done to make amends?"

Then Sir Ulfius said in secret to the other barons, "The king is surely right that hostility must be put behind us and that we must do what can be done to restore friendship with the Lady of Trevena and all of the duke's friends. This is my advice, and if there is any who can think of better, let him not be silent. To wait for peace is folly; it must be made. Let a message be sent to all the friends of the duke and his lady, and let the king go himself to Tintagel. Let him proffer peace and great amends for the death of the duke. If they accept it, all is well; if they reject it, it is they and not the king who have rejected it."

Then all were agreed on this course of action, and they came as a group to the king and offered this counsel, which the king accepted. The king therefore sent letters to all of the kith and kin of Gorlois and Igraine who had been involved in the recent war, inviting them with promise of safe passage to Cardoel, so that all faults might be amended and all complaints addressed.

Shortly thereafter Merlin visited the king, and when the king told him of his plans, said to him, "Who has given you this counsel?"

"It comes from all of my barons," said the king.

"It was agreed upon by all of your barons, no doubt," said Merlin, "but it is clearly the advice of Sir Ulfius. He is a knight I have found both wise and true, and this counsel is both wise and true." Then the child spoke for some time alone with Sir Ulfius and returned. "Do not forget your promise to give me your firstborn son," he said to the king. "You will not see me until he is born. Until then be guided by Sir Ulfius, who knows well how to obtain the peace you wish."

Then Merlin took leave of the king and returned to Blaise, telling him all that happened. Blaise wrote it all in his book, but when they came to events at Tintagel, he laid aside his pen for a moment and remonstrated with the child. "How can this be seemly and right?" he said.

"It is a matter of timing," said Merlin. "The years of preparation are few, and therefore it is necessary to take what opportunities may be had for achieving the right end."

"The right end is to do what is right before God," said Blaise. "It is not your task to make the world go right but to do your duty and let God determine all else."

"My duty is to delay the coming of Antichrist," said Merlin.

"Your duty is to be a good man," said Blaise. "Wise you are, but you are a man and not God. It is God who will delay the Antichrist, or not, as divine wisdom sees fit."

"But I am destined to be an instrument by which this is done, and all else must give way to what will prevent the Antichrist from arising in this age."

"Only devils look only to the consequences and not to the deed done," replied Blaise sternly.

The child was silent a long time after this. Then he said, "Write this conversation in the book."

Chapter 20

The king's messengers soon came to Tintagel, where they found the duchess and the friends of the duke and of the duchess, who in turn all took counsel over it. They saw well enough that they could not defend much further against the wrath of the king, but they were wary of the kind of peace that might be offered. So the Duchess Igraine agreed to ask further what might be the terms, and if they were acceptable, to accept them. Agreement was made between the duchess and the messengers that the duchess and her friends would come to Cardoel on the quinzieme, where they would have full right to make such complaint and ask such remedy as they deemed appropriate.

On the quinzieme, all being gathered together at Cardoel, the king asked the duchess, through a messenger, what amends she deemed appropriate to restore friendship. To this, however, Duchess Igraine replied, "I have not come to ask amends but to see what your intention is toward me and those around me."

At this, the king sent Sir Ulfius himself to the duchess and her advisers. Sir Ulfius said to them, "The king wishes to make amends. If you have no specific amends that you wish, will you be willing to abide by the amends that I will choose?"

The duchess and her advisers took counsel. Then Sir Brastias said, "I do not believe that either the king or Sir Ulfius will act with dishonor in this matter," and on his recommendation they agreed to Sir Ulfius's proposal.

To this Sir Ulfius replied, "I will then give you my advice, and if you have nothing wiser to offer, it shall become an agreement between us. You know well that the duke died in battle, although the king did not intend his death, and that the lady, who is one of the best ladies in the world, has young children and is with child, and that her lands are in disarray after the recent battles. It is right, therefore, that the king shall restore the duke's lands to the lady and to his parents. You know as well that the king has no wife. If you will accept my advise, let him marry the lady, extending his protection to her and to her children, and making her true Queen of Logres. Let him find good marriages for her daughters, and let her select such knights as she deems appropriate, whether from the Round Table or otherwise, whether from her friends or the friends of the king, to be Queen's Knights sworn for her protection. And let all the knights of the Round Table swear to protect the children, whether of the queen or of the king, from harm against their enemies."

Then Sir Brastias said, "It seems to me that this is a generous proposal. Peace is necessary, and it would be difficult to find a better path to it."

And Duchess Igraine said, "If the king will really honor this proposal, I will agree to it."

Then a great gathering was held. Sir Ulfius rehearsed the terms of the agreement, and asked of all gathered, "Does this agreement seem fitting to you?" And they all said that it did. Then Sir Ulfius turned to the king and said, "Will you abide by the terms of this agreement as recognized and ordained by these worthy lords?"

The king replied, "If the duchess and her friends are content with it, I shall certainly uphold it."

Then Sir Ulfius turned to the duchess and said, "Will you accept this peace offered by the king?"

And Duchess Igraine said, "As the king is so gracious and true, I will accept it wholly."

Afterward, the king said to Sir Ulfius, "Tell me, was this proposal crafted by Merlin?"

But Sir Ulfius said, "No, my lord. He told me to determine the best proposal I could by my own judgment, and only charged me to two things: that the proposal should be generous to the lady and that care should be taken to provide for and protect all her children."

Then the day was set, and King Uther Pendragon and Duchess Igraine processed to the church door. There on the porch before Bishop Fastidius, Uther gave to Igraine a ring of gold and a shield piled with gold and silver as symbol of her whole dowry, and said to her, "I take you as my wife," while she replied, "I take you as my husband." She was then crowned queen and all there went to Mass. Afterward, Bishop Fastidius gave the new man and wife a blessing before the crowd, and the feast began.

Marriages were arranged for all the daughters of Gorlois and Igraine. The eldest, Morgause, who was already of marriageable age, was married to King Lot of Orkney and Leudonia, also known as Lothian, who had been an ally of the king against the Saxons and of Duke Gorlois against the king, and who was a half-brother on his mother's side of both King Urien of Rheged and a half-brother on his father's side of Saint Teneu. From this marriage came in years to come Sir Gawain, Sir Agravain, Sir Gaheris, and Sir Gareth. She would also bear, out of wedlock, Sir Mordred. 

The second daughter, Elaine, was promised to King Budic or Budicius of Nentres and Garlot in Brittany, who was sometimes known as Emyr Llydaw, or High King of Brittany. He had supported Ambrosius and Uther in their early days. He had previously been wed to Arianrhod, the sister of Saint Teilo, and had had by that previous marriage five children, Saint Ismael of Menevia, Saint Oudoceus, Saint Tyfei, Saint Gwen Teirbron, and Sir Hoel the Great. Saint Gwen Teirbron, that is, the Three-Breasted, would later marry Saint Fragan, the Prince of Dumnonia, and would bear him Saint Wethenoc, Saint Jacut, Saint Winwallus, and Saint Creirvia; afterward she married Sir Aeneas the Breton and would bear him Saint Cadfan. Elaine and Budic would themselves have as children Sir Galeschin and Elaine the Younger. 

The third and youngest daughter of Igraine was named Morgan. She was even when just walking a lively and vivacious child, and was promised to King Urien of Rheged, but spent much of her early youth with Budic and Elaine in Brittany. As she grew to show forth brilliance of mind and mastery of all arts both common and strange, being able to remember perfectly anything she heard even once and to devise schemes beyond the cunning of most men, in later days she became known as Morgan the Fay. Later, after her marriage to Urien, she bore to him Sir Ywain the Tall, the Knight of the Lion.

All of these daughters of Igraine in later days wielded great power, being supported even after Uther's death by the knights of Uther's Round Table; but greatest of them all was Morgan the Fay.

Chapter 21

King Uther Pendragon and Queen Igraine were one night abed, the queen having begun to grow great with child, and the king asked the queen by whom she was pregnant, given the timing, as she had not seen the duke for some time before his death and it seemed too early to have begun after their own wedding. Then the queen began to weep. 

"My lord," she said, "I will not lie to you, but have mercy on me, for even I do not fully know how this has happened. Please do not forsake me over this."

The king replied, "Nothing that you can say would make me leave you."

Then the queen told him that she had lain with a man who seemed in every respect her duke, who had arrived at Tintagel with two men who seemed in every respect like men who were loyal to the duke, but who afterward she knew could not be, for her duke was already dead at the time.

Hearing this, the king said, "You are my wife and we are one by that bond; but we must ask Merlin his counsel as to what to be done with the child."

"My lord," she said, "let it be so."

Some time afterward, Merlin returned from his visit with Blaise, and was informed by the king and Sir Ulfius of all that had happened.

He replied, "Sir Ulfius has made a sort of satisfaction for his sin by making the peace, but I must yet do so."

King Uther Pendragon said, "You are wise enough, I have no doubt you can find a way to do so."

The child replied, "Some satisfactions for sin can only be done with aid; I will need your help."

"Say on," said the king. "I have already agreed that you should have the child; what more do you require?"

"There is in this land a good man who is married and has recently had a male child. Let them both be summoned to swear on the holy book that they shall keep a child who shall be brought to them, and raise that child as if he were their own."

"You have but to say the name and I will find him so that it may be done," said the king.

"That shall not be difficult," replied Merlin, "for you already know him. He is Sir Ector, one of the truest men in all of the realm."

King Uther Pendragon was delighted by this suggestion, and after Merlin had taken his leave to return to Blaise, he summoned Sir Ector, for whom he gave a great feast. Sir Ector was surprised by this and asked the reason for it. To this the king replied, "A great marvel has happened to me, and I must beg aid of you."

To which Sir Ector naturally replied, "Whatever my king and brother requires, I will do."

Then the king said, "I have had a strange and wonderful dream. A man came to me in my sleep saying that you are the worthiest and truest man in my realm."

"That is indeed strange and wonderful," said Sir Ector drily.

"No," said the king, "do you think I do not know my foster brother? That is not strange and wonderful at all. But this is the strange thing. He said that you will receive a male child and must raise him along with your own son as if he were your own."

"Did he say when and where I should receive this child, or where and when he would be born?"

"No," said the king, "but ever since I have had this dream, my heart has been unsettled, for I believe that in some dark way the survival of this kingdom may depend on it."

Sir Ector had his doubts, but he said, "As my king wills, so will I attempt to do, if the occasion arises. I shall let my wife know." Thus he did, and although she too, being of a skeptical disposition, thought it strange and unlikely, she agreed that it would be wise to humor the king.

When the time had almost come for Queen Igraine to give birth, Merlin came again to court and sought out Sir Ulfius in secret.

"Tell the king to go to the queen and tell her that she shall bear her son tomorrow after midnight, that she must give her son over to the first man seen in the hall, and that this must be done all in secret, because there are those who would harm the child if it were known that Uther has an heir."

Sir Ulfius said, with some surprise, "Will you not speak to the king yourself?"

But Merlin said, "No," and would say nothing further. So Sir Ulfius went to the king and told him what Merlin had said, and the king went in turn to the queen and told her, although without telling his source.

"I marvel that you know my condition so well," said the queen to the king, "but I will do as you say, especially if you think that the child may be in danger otherwise.

"My lady," he said, "I know that this is not easy for you, but there are many who would harm the child if they could."

That very day, one of the queen's maids and confidantes was out in the town, giving alms on behalf of the queen, when she was stopped by a beggar, to whom she gave a coin.

"I thank you and your lady," said the beggar, "and in exchange, I will give you this word: May the queen be glad in the birth of her son, for he will do wonderful things of great honor, and may she be comforted as well, for her action shall save the life of the boy, that he may do them. And if she has any doubts later, let her look for the cherries in winter, for by them she shall know that the boy is safe." Then the beggar vanished before her eyes.

Marveling, the maiden returned to the queen and told her what had befallen, so that the queen also marveled.

In the morrow after evensong, the queen went into labor and was delivered of the child shortly after midnight. Then after she had held the boy in her arms for a while, she sent for the maiden who had spoken with the beggar and said, "Take this child and carry it to the hall door, and if you meet a man who asks for it, deliver the child to him, but make note what kind of man he is."

The maid obeyed, and when she reached the hall door, she found there an old and rumpled man.

"Why are you here?" she asked.

"I am here to receive what you bring," he replied.

"What man are you, that I might tell my lady?"

But the rumpled old man said, "That is nothing to you; do as you were commanded and let the queen know that it has been done." So the maid handed over the child, but as soon as she had done so, the man vanished, and she knew not where nor how. She returned to the queen and told her what had happened. And the queen wept.

But in the early morning, as Sir Ector was leaving holy mass, Sir Ector was met by a man so old as to be decrepit, who called to him and asked him to bide a moment. And when Sir Ector had courteously turned aside, the man said, "I have brought you a man-child, and I beg that you baptize him and raise him as if he were your own. If you do so, great good will come to you and your heirs, beyond what you would believe if I were to tell you."

And Sir Ector, astonished, said, "This must be the child which the king told me I was to raise as my own."

"It is the same," said the ancient old man. "And the king and all just men and just women should pray you to do so, as I pray you to do so."

"I will take the child," said Sir Ector.

Then the old man said, "God bless you, Sir Ector! For by this deed you will accomplish more than many generations of knights have ever accomplished." And he handed the child over to Sir Ector and disappeared around a corner, before Sir Ector could ask the question that he had on his mind, which was whether the child was to have a name.

Then Sir Ector looked at the child and saw that he was a strong an handsome infant. He arranged with the priest of the church for the child to be baptized that day. The boy was christened Arthur, for the name sounded like the Breton word for 'bear' and also like the name of the Artorii, a Roman clan from whom Sir Ector was descended through one line. Then he brought the boy home to his wife, and they raised the child as the younger brother of their own son, whose name was Kay.

Chapter 22

There was a knight of the Round Table, named Sir Cleges, valiant and true, who had rendered many services to King Uther, for he was an excellent warrior. He was known for his excellence in battle and his courtesy in all other situations, but he had withdrawn from the deeds of war some time before. In the king's service he had been well rewarded, but he was generous to a fault, giving gold freely to those in need, and holding it beneath his dignity to scramble after coin. He was also generous to his tenants, and gentle with them when they could not pay their debts, never driving them off the land. He loved holding feasts for kith and kin, and if anyone, even a beggar, showed up at the door when he was having such a feast, they would be invited in and feasted as if they themselves were family. At every such feast, he paid minstrels, trumpeters, pipers, and drummers abundantly. His wife, whose name was Claris, was also generous with money, and much devoted to supporting the Church by alms. Inevitably, they were poor.

Each year for Christmas, Sir Cleges and Lady Claris would hold a great feast in honor of Christ's birth, at which they spared no expense. But as their money ran out, and even when their tenants could not pay what was due, they still spent as freely. To make up the difference, Sir Cleges borrowed, putting up his estates as security. Slowly they vanished into the maws of the moneylenders, until he had only one bit of land left, and, as servants vanished when money dried up to pay them, no one lived there in the castle except Sir Cleges, Lady Claris, and their two children.

On the Christmas Eve after Arthur's birth, Sir Cleges was grieved, thinking of the feast that he would in other years have been preparing on this day. He almost thought he could hear the music and laughter, the pipers and harpers and singers, and he began to weep, saying, "Oh Jesus, Heavenly King, who made all things from nothing, how often I have celebrated your day by feeding freeman and bondservant alike, for your sake. But now those days are passed, for I have nothing."

As he said this, however, his lady wife entered the room, and taking him in her arms, she said, "Away with all your sorrow, my dear and faithful husband! By Christ's sake, give thanks to God for what we yet have. Although we have but one simple meal, it is enough to make merry as we can, as is fitting on these holy days during which everyone should be merry and glad."

And this they did, making such cheer as they could over their simple meal, and playing with their children until evensong, after which they went to bed. When the church bells rang in the holy feast of the Nativity, summoning all to church, the knight and his lady and their children went to Mass.

As they returned from Mass, Sir Cleges felt himself in a more grateful mood, and he knelt beside a cherry tree in prayer, thanking God for all those in need he had been able to feed in years past. To rise, he grabbed the great bough above his head to pull himself up, and saw that it had become green with leaves and rich with cherries. He broke part of it off and carried it to his lady, asking her, "What do you think this means? Dear God in Trinity, I have never heard of cherries growing in winter."

They tasted the cherries in curiosity, and found that they were flawless, and , after giving some to their children, Lady Claris said, "This is surely a token of goodness to come. But it would also be surely wrong not to share it. Let us fill a pannier with this fruit, and you will go to the king's court to give it to him as a gift."

Sir Cleges was delighted by this plan, and that very morning, having filled panniers with cherries, Sir Cleges and his oldest son set out walking for King Uther's court, for they had no horses. Sir Cleges had no sword for defense, but only a stout staff. They both were shabbily dressed and bore baskets on their back, so that Sir Cleges looked more like a poor laboring shepherd than like a knight. Thus when they arrived at the gate, the porter looked suspiciously at him.

"You must withdraw from this place and go the place set aside for beggars," said the porter, "or else, by God and the Holy Virgin, I will break your head."

But Sir Cleges said to him, "Good sir, I beg you to let me go in. By Christ who bought me dearly, I sear that I have not come to beg but only to give the king a gift." Then he opened the pannier on his son's back and said, "Look and see for yourself!"

The porter gasped as he beheld the cherries, each one perfect and wholly out of season, and began to consider how such a gift to the king might be rewarded. Then he said, "By God and Saint Mary, you shall not pass this gate unless you promise to give me a third of any gift the king will give you."

Sir Cleges consented to this and therefore he and his son were allowed through the door. Soon he came to a hallway overseen by an usher, who, on seeing such shabby figures said, "Who has let you in here? Get hence or I shall beat you head and foot, and not regret it in the least."

But Sir Cleges replied, "Good sir, by Christ's love, cease your anger, for I have brought a present from the Lord of Heaven who died upon the cross, which I have come to give to the king, your lord and mine." And he lifted the lid of the basket on his son's back, saying, "Look and see for yourself!"

The usher marveled at how beautiful the unexpected cherries were. Then, considering the matter closely, he said, "By sweet Mary, you will not step one foot past the door of this hallway unless you grant me one third of whatever the king may grant you in reward for this gift."

And Sir Cleges consented, seeing no other way to continue, but his face was sober and cheerless in doing so. In the hall beyond the door, he found some wealthy lords, a steward, a deputy serving in the place of Sir Ector, the seneschal, who was away on king's business. All of them were dressed in marvelously fine clothes. Seeing Sir Cleges and his son, the steward boldly went up to them and said, "Churl, who made you such a fool as to come here without being summoned? Withdraw with your shabby clothes at once!"

To which Sir Cleges replied, "Peace, good sir. I have brought a present for my lord the king from the Lord who died upon the cross." And he opened the lid on the basket on his son's back. "Look and see for yourself!"

The steward wondered at the cherries, saying, "I have never in all my life seen such fruit at this time of the year." Then, thinking about the reward such a luxury might command, he said, "You shall come no nearer to the king unless you promise to give me a third part of any gift the king might give you in return for this; promise, or throw yourself out!"

Sir Cleges was silent a long moment, thinking that he would then receive nothing at all for his gift to the king, despite the difficulty of his journey, and that he would perhaps have been better off simply to eat the cherries with his family at home. But, seeing the steward impatient, he finally consented.

Thus finally Sir Cleges received an audience, and he came before King Uther Pendragon and Queen Igraine as they sat upon their thrones. Sir Cleges knelt, offering his present, then, setting the baskets on the ground, he opened them so that all might see the cherries.

The king and the queen both rose at the sight, astonished with delight, and tasted of the cherries; the queen especially held that she had never known cherries so perfect, and her eyes were bright as she said it. She had the cherries served throughout the hall, as the king said, "Make merry, my friends! The one who has brought us this gift will surely be rewarded."

Chapter 23

"I thank you heartily," King Uther Pendragon said to Sir Cleges. "You have made my court joyful and made this day memorable to all. By God's good grace, whatever you wish, I will give, if God does not impede it, whether it be land or anything else your heart desires." And Queen Igraine spoke her approval of this.

Sir Cleges replied, "I thank you, my king, for such a gracious gift, for I am but a poor knight. To give me land, or gold, or silver, is much too much for such as I. Therefore I ask only one thing: to have full permission, as if it were the king himself who did it, to give out twelve stout blows with my staff, safe by king's authority from all penalty or retaliation. By holy charity, this is all I need; grant this to me, so that I may repay what needs repayment."

The king replied, "I repent my grant. By God who made us both, you would do better to take gold as your fee. You seem to need it more."

But Sir Cleges replied that the king had asked and he had given the king his answer, by the guarantee of the king's word. The king was angry and sorely grieved, but he ordered that it be as was agreed. Sir Cleges immediately went through the hall, searching through the great lords, until he found the steward. He struck the steward, who fell down like a stone, and then hit him with the staff three more times.

"Sir, for your courtesy, strike me no more!" cried the steward.

Sir Cleges then went and found the usher, giving him four hard blows over the head, saying, as he did so, "Here is the third of my reward that we both agreed that I should give you!" The usher was given such an ache that he could not fulfill his duties for several days afterward.

Finally Sir Cleges came to the porter, whom he paid with his third so stoutly that the man could neither speak nor fulfill his office for several days, and his shoulder and arm were also broken.

The king meanwhile had withdrawn to a side-parlor to cheer his mood, making mirth and revel with his noblemen and listening to a harpist play. When the harpist had finished, the king said, "Tell me, since you seem to know many people, who was that poor knight who brought the cherries, if you know?"

"That," said the harpist, "was surely Sir Cleges, one of your knights, a man of high stature when his fortune was better."

"That cannot be Sir Cleges!" said the king. "I wish it were, for Sir Cleges did me many a fine service, and I would rather have him than three other knights."

Sir Cleges shortly after returned to the king, having delivered his twelve strokes and, kneeling before the king, thanked him for granting his request. Then the king asked why he had demanded such a strange gift. He replied, "The three men to whom I gave the strokes would not let me enter unless I promised to give them each one third of my reward for the cherries. Since I would then have nothing, I decided to ask for twelve strokes as my reward."

The king and all the barons in the parlor laughed heartily at this. "Whatever the clothes he may be wearing," said some of the barons, "surely this man is of noble kin, because he has a noble wit." And some laughed so hard they fell off their chairs.

The king, however, took a moment's thought and sent for the steward. "I understand you have an agreement with this man; if he has received any further gifts, ask your lawful due."

But the steward said, "I want nothing more to do with this man; I wish I never knew him." And some of the barons began laughing again.

"Tell me your name," the king commanded, turning to Sir Cleges.

Sir Cleges replied, "My lord, men call me Sir Cleges; I was for a while a knight of your Round Table, although age and bodily hardship have taken me away from such a life."

"Are you really that man, so noble and free, so strong and hardy?"

"Yes, my lord," said Sir Cleges, "until God chose to take it away. But I suppose it is the fate of all young men to become old men, and all hale men to become ground down, and as for anything else, I cannot say that I am not myself to blame."

The king then made sure that Sir Cleges was given all that a knight needed, a good horse, a good sword, and good armor, with excellent clothes and a purse of gold and estates around Cardiff. He also made his son a squire as well as lands of his own, and gave them both a finely wrought cup of gold to give to Lady Claris. 

When they returned home, Lady Claris gave thanks to God for having given her both a knight and squire. On Sir Ector's return, after some consultation, the king made Sir Cleges one of the king's stewards, and the knight, always better at caring for another's treasure than his own, no longer lacked for anything. When God sent for him not long afterward, he was respected by all, and Lady Claris followed him not long after that, having given a generous donation to the Church for prayers for their souls. Their oldest son later became a knight of some renown and was known to all as Sir Amadas; their youngest son, Sir Eglamour, traveled abroad and had even more extraordinary adventures. But these are different tales.

Chapter 24

In the last years of King Uther Pendragon, troubles arose on every side, as Saxons and Angles and Jutes, hearing of good land in the British isles, multiplied on every side. The king, too, began to endure ill health, suffering gout in his hands and feet, as well as other illnesses; but the task of a king does not grow less. Seeing that the Danes were committing outrages in every place, he called together his barons, who were eager for vengeance against the interlopers. Therefore, at the king's behest, they gathered together their forces for the fighting of the foe. But the king was unable to lead due to his health, and those who led in his place were not his match, with the result that the host was scattered, with men fleeing on every side.

At this time, Merlin counseled Blaise to leave the lands north of the Humber and take residence for a time near Ineswitrin, or, as the Cambrians call it, Ynys Witrin, the Isle of Glass, for it was at that time better protected from the raids of the Saxons and the Danes. Thence Merlin came to Cardoel at a time when the king was particularly incapacitated from his illness; but the boy met the king with good cheer.

"You are greatly sick," he commented, "and greatly afraid."

"Indeed," said the king, who thought now that Merlin had come that there might at last be comforting news. "You know well that I am beset by foes, and many of my men have been slain by them."

"This is because the arms of your people will avail nothing without a good lord at their head," said Merlin.

"For the love of God, Merlin" said the king, "give me advice as to what should be done."

"My king," said Merlin, "I will tell you, but it is for your secret ears alone. Gather your host again, and when they have answered the summons, cause yourself to be borne out to them in a litter, and prepare yourself to fight your enemies. I tell you truly that you will vanquish them, and by your victory, the whole land will see the value of a king. But when you are done, your time begins to come to an end, as it does for all men. Make a division of your treasure, showing yourself to be even to the end a king who is considerate of his people. Your wealth will do you no further good, but it may do great good to others. Treasures and honors only weigh down the soul, and as your life comes toward its final day, you must show yourself aware of what is beyond the grave, beyond the point at which all earthly joys fall aside, in the life perdurable. God has given you much, and now you must give in return."

"Alas," said the king, "as I look over them, it seems that our years together have been too few."

"Your calling and my calling are very different," said the boy to the king, "but I am glad that they have brought us together on the same road this little way. I have loved you much. But all the good deeds of a life are as nothing compared to a good end. Now we part, for you must do the work of a king. For king you are, Uther Pendragon, and may you never be forgotten for it."

"This I will do in any case," said King Uther Pendragon, "although it seems strange to fight in a litter."

"You have achieved greater things by stranger means, my king," said Merlin. "Or have you forgotten already? But now I must take my leave."

"Before you go," said the king, "tell me how things go with the child."

"Of what is beyond the bounds of our lives, it is pointless to inquire," the boy replied. "But I will let you know that your son is kept well and taught well."

"Will I see you again?" asked the king.

"Once only. But tell Sir Ulfius to pay particular attention to any instructions that I might give." And with that, Merlin left.

The king summoned again his host, and this time he went to battle with them, carried in a litter. The host of Logres clashed with that of the Saxons and the Danes on the field at St. Albans. The Saxons and the Danes were routed in a humiliating defeat, with many slain before the British swords, so that it seemed that they had no more protection than sheep would in the presence of lions. Sir Ulfius and Sir Brastias did great deeds upon the field. Octa surrendered, and all his sons. Thus the land was at peace. Then, reflecting on the advice of Merlin, the king went down to Trinovant, which is also known as Londinium, and there he brought with him his great treasury, giving his goods to good men and women, and to the needy of his realm, and to the doing of fair almsdeeds. What was left he gave to the holy Church. He kept back nothing for himself.

Then he was a long time sick, growing ever more so, and at the end had grown so feeble that he could not speak or move, but only stare at the ceiling. Then Merlin returned and the barons told him that the king was dead.

"The king is not yet dead," said Merlin. 

"He has neither spoken nor moved for three days," replied the barons.

"You shall hear him speak once more," the boy replied. Then Merlin and the barons came to the bedchamber of the king, and opened all the windows; Sir Ulfius and Sir Brastias, as well as Mabon, the king's valet, were there, as well. And Mabon said to the king, 'Lo, Merlin is here."

And at the name, the king turned toward Merlin and recognition flashed in his eyes. Then Merlin said to all who were in attendance, "Still yourselves and hear now the last words of the king."

Merlin bent down and whispered in the king's ear. "You have done well, and have a beautiful end, if your conscience has been cleaned by pardon in the tribunal of mercy. I tell you that your son Arthur will be the next king of your realm after you, and by the grace of Jesus Christ, he shall complete in its full glory the Round Table that you have begun."

Then he said aloud to the king, "My king, do you ordain that your son shall be king after your days of this realm, with all of its appurtenances?"

And King Uther Pendragon spoke in a clear voice, saying, "I give him God's blessing and mine. For the love of God, let him pray for my soul, and if my blessing means anything, let him claim the crown and take the throne righteously and in a worthy manner."

"You have heard the last words of the king," said Merlin to those gathered round. 

Thus passed Sir Uther Pendragon, King of Logres, Duke of Britain. The barons and knights did him great honor and the fairest service that they might, interring him as befit a king. Many mourned him, and not least Queen Igraine, and there was great sorrow.

But the realm grew violent after his death, as baron after baron reached out his hand for the prize of the crown, and the shadows grew with malice throughout the land.

Chapter 25

For some time after the death of King Uther Pendragon, Merlin went from place to place throughout the land, setting in place things whose design he alone knew. But there came a day when Merlin knew by his special sight that his mother had died, and he fled weeping to the north and its forests, and lurked there like a wild thing. He lived and slept in the open air, alone except for a wolf, to whom he gave the name Bleiz, which is a Breton word for 'wolf'. Those who lived in the nearest villages called him Lailoken, and they whispered of strange things happening in the woods wherever he was found.

There was in those days, a saintly man named Kentigern, whose mother was Teneu, the daughter of King Leudonius of Lothian, also known as King Lot, a man of terrible temper. She had had a love affair with a nobleman of Rheged, and they had a child. Furious, the king attempted to throw her, while still pregnant, off a cliff; but, falling into the lake below, she survived, and because of an empty boat nearby she escaped to a place called Cuileann Ros, where she gave birth to Kentigern. The boy she raised with the help of Saint Servanus, also known as Saint Serf, who was ministering to the Picts, who became as his foster-father. Saint Serf called the boy Mungo, which was an expression meaning 'Dear One', and the boy was often called that even in later life. Saint Kentigern, also known as Saint Mungo, began himself to do missionary work in the kingdom of Alt Clut, along the River Clota, near the villages of Cathures and Mellingdenor, founding a church in the latter place. For some years he worked in his mission. However, a king rose up who was wicked in thought and deed, named Morcant Bulc; he would in much later days be the same King Morcant who assassinated the great King Urien of Rheged, thus destroying the power of the old northern kingdoms to resist the Saxons and Angles. In those days, he was still allied to King Urien, but he was suspicious of all missionaries as possible spies, and expelled them from his kingdom.

Thus it was that Saint Kentigern was traveling in the woods where rumor said that Lailoken was to be found, and as he sought water, he came to a spring where Merlin sat, with the wolf Bleiz at his feet, a wild and naked young man with piercing eyes. When Merlin saw him he laughed and said.

"Here is the bird that never flew,
Here is the tree that never grew,
Here is the bell that never rang,
Here is the fish that never swam.

And Saint Kentigern, seeing that the young man was dangerous, and not understanding the import of the words, said warily, "Will you let me have a drink of water?"

Merlin said nothing, only looking at him, but Saint Kentigern knelt and drank from the spring. Then Saint Mungo said to the wild young man, "I do not understand the words you said before."

To this Merlin replied, "Because the bird and the tree have passed, but the bell and the fish are yet to come. But from them will rise a great city."

The holy man did not understand this either, but he sat on a stone to rest his feet and looked at the wild man. They were both silent a moment, then Merlin said, "O Ruler of heaven! Why have you not made all seasons the same? The times come, the times go. Though spring provides the leaves and flowers, summer gives the crop and autumn gives the harvest. But for each there is an icy winter, devouring and laying waste to all. After the king comes the Saxons."

Then Saint Kentigern said, "Perhaps some king will rise who will defeat the Saxons once and for all."

But Merlin shook his head. "This is not how it will be."

"There is more to you than meets the eye, I think," the saint said.

"True," replied Merlin, "for although this may be said of anyone, it is especially true of me. I was christened to delay the Antichrist."

"This is a strange place from which to do that," replied Saint Kentigern.

"And how would you know such a thing?" replied Merlin. "But it is true that most of what is to be done is to the south, in Logres."

"Then why are you here in Alba instead?" asked the saint.

But Merlin was silent. Then Saint Kentigern said, "I adjure you, by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and by the holy Virgin and all the saints, tell me who you are. Who are you, and who are your father and your mother?"

Then Merlin said, with a bitter laugh, "My mother was a good woman, whose good name should never be associated with such a man as I. I was conceived in plan by the devil to be the Antichrist, but I was saved from that fate by the piety of my mother and my teacher, who baptized me a Christian and taught me the path of justice; by their prayers the powers with which I was born have been turned to a godly end, to delay the Antichrist's coming, that men may yet have time to repent and that the choirs of the holy Church may be filled as God has planned. My name is Merlin, and I was the prophet who came to Vortigern, and who aided Ambrosius and Uther in their undertakings. I will raise up a great kingdom in preparation for the manifestation of the cup of Christ, and be buried alive by a white serpent in stone, and fulfill my task of delaying the Antichrist alone through the ages until at last I fail, and am killed by the Antichrist three times over."

But Saint Kentigern shook his head. "I know nothing at all of any this, but this I know: Whatever your past, whatever your future, this is not your great task, even if your task involves these things by happenstance. Your task is the task every human soul shares, to practice virtue before God and man in faith and hope and love, with the aid of God's holy grace."

Merlin was silent again. Then Saint Kentigern rose and said. "I have been overly concerned with my own troubles, having been exiled from my home by a wicked king, and should perhaps take my own advice. May I say the holy mass here?"

Then Merlin received the sacrament of confession from Saint Kentigern, and Saint Kentigern said mass and gave his blessing to Merlin. When they were done, Merlin said to Saint Kentigern, "Do not be troubled; I know you intend to go on pilgrimage to Rome. Go thence, and when you return you will find spiritual strength in Cambria, and before the end of your long life you will return home where the holy dove will come to you with consolation."

All of this came true; Saint Mungo went to Rome, then studied with the saints in Saint David's in Cambria, and returned to Alba at the invitation of King Rhydderch Hael, where he had a mission between the braes of Glenapp and the Nith, until he returned again to the villages by the Clota, where he was visited by Saint Columba. And after he died, a very old man in his bath, he was recognized at the altars as a saint because of four miracles, involving a bird, a branch, a bell, and a fish.

As for Merlin, he bade farewell to the wolf Bleiz and took himself south. The villages in the area where he had lived as a wild man remember him to this day, although in later times they mixed up his tale with that of other men. They will point out to you the places where the lunatic Lailoken walked and a mound that they say is Merlin's grave, but this was the grave of a different man with a similar name. In truth, Merlin's fate was otherwise. He went down to Ineswitrin, where he was welcomed with open arms by Blaise, and they stayed together for some time, talking of many things.

After he had refreshed his spirit with Blaise, however, Merlin made his way to Londinium, and there he changed the course of Britain and all the world.

End of Book I, "The Devil's Son".

Book II will be called, "The Swords of Destiny".