Howard Pyle's King Arthur and his Knights

Chapter Fourth. What Befell Sir Accalon, and How King Arthur Fought an Affair-at-Arms With Swords, and How He Came Nigh to Losing His Life Thereby.

   Here followeth the account of what happened unto Sir Accalon the morning after he went aboard that magic ship with King Arthur as aforetold.
   Now when Sir Accalon awoke from that same sleep it was with him as it had been with King Arthur; for, at first, he wist not whether he was still asleep and dreaming or whether he was awake. For, lo! he found himself to be lying beside a marble basin of clear water that gushed up very high from a silver tube. And he perceived that not far from this fountain was a large pavilion of parti-colored silk which stood upon the borders of a fair meadow of grass.
   So Sir Accalon was altogether astonished to find himself in this place when he had fallen asleep on board that ship, wherefore he was afraid that all this was the fruit of some very evil spell. So he crossed himself and said, "God save King Arthur from any harm, for it seems to me that those damsels upon that ship have wrought some magic upon us for to separate us the one from the other." So saying, he arose from where he lay with intent to inquire further into that matter.
   Now, as he made some noise in bestirring himself, there came forth from that pavilion aforementioned a very hideous dwarf, who saluted him with all civility and with high respect. Then Sir Accalon said to the dwarf, "Sirrah, who are you?" Unto which the dwarf made answer, "Messire, I belong unto the lady of yonder pavilion, and she hath sent me to bid you welcome to this place, and to invite you in for to partake of a repast with her." "Ha!" quoth Sir Accalon, "and how was it I came hither?"
   "Sir," said the dwarf, "I do not know, but when we looked forth this morning we saw you lying here by the fountain side."
   Then Sir Accalon made great marvel at that which had happened to him, and by and by he said, "Who is thy lady?" To which the dwarf replied, "She is hight the Lady Gomyne of the Fair Hair, and she will be passingly glad of your company in her pavilion."
   Upon this Sir Accalon arose, and, having laved himself at the fountain and so refreshed himself, he went with the dwarf unto the pavilion of that lady. And when he had come there he saw that in the centre of the pavilion was a table of silver spread with a fair white cloth and covered with very excellent food for a man to break his fast withal.
   Now immediately Sir Accalon came into the pavilion, the curtains upon the further side thereof were parted and there entered from a further chamber a very beautiful lady and gave Sir Accalon welcome to that place. And Sir Accalon said to her, "Lady, methinks thou art very civil to invite me thus into thy pavilion." "Nay, sir," said the lady, "it took no great effort to be civil unto a knight so worthy as thou." Then she said to Sir Accalon, "Sir, wilt thou sit here at the table with me and break thy fast?"
   At this Sir Accalon was very glad, for he was anhungered, and the beauty of the lady pleased him a very great deal, wherefore it afforded him great joy for to be in her company.
   So they two sat at the table with a very cheerful and pleasant spirit and the dwarf waited upon them.
   Now after Sir Accalon and the Lady of the Pavilion had broken their fasts she spake to him in this wise, "Sir knight, thou appearest to be a very strong and worthy lord and one very well used to feats of arms and to prowess in battle."
   To this Sir Accalon made reply, "Lady, it does not beseem me to be-speak of my own worth, but this much I may freely say; I have engaged in several affrays at arms in such measure as a knight with belt and spurs may do, and I believe that both my friends and mine enemies have had reason to say that I have at all times done my devoirs to the best of my powers."
   Then the damoiselle said, "I believe you are a very brave and worthy knight, and being such you might be of service to a good worthy knight who is in sad need of such service as one knight may render unto another."
   To this Sir Accalon said, "What is that service?" And the damoiselle replied, "I will tell thee: There is, dwelling not far from this place, a certain knight hight Sir Ontzlake, who hath an elder brother hight Sir Domas. This Sir Domas hath served Sir Ontzlake very ill in many ways, and hath deprived him of well nigh all of his patrimony, so that only.a little is left to Sir Ontzlake of all the great possessions that were one time his father's. But even such a small holding as that Sir Domas begrudges Sir Ontzlake, so that Sir Ontzlake must needs hold what he hath by such force of arms as he may himself maintain. Now Sir Domas hath found himself a champion who is a man of a great deal of strength and prowess, and through this champion Sir Domas challenges Sir Ontzlake's right to hold even that small part of those lands which were one time his father's; wherefore if Sir Ontzlake would retain what is his he must presently do battle therefore.
   "Now this is a very sad case for Sir Ontzlake' for a short time since he was wounded by a spear at a tournament and was pierced through both of his thighs, wherefore he is not now able to sit upon his horse and to defend his rights against assault. Wherefore meseems that a knight could have no better cause to show his prowess than in the defence of so sad a case as this."
   So spake that lady, and to all she said Sir Accalon listened with great attention, and when she had ended he said, "Lady, I would be indeed right willing to defend Sir Ontzlake's right, but, lo! I have no armor nor have I any arms to do battle withal."
   Then that damoiselle smiled very kindly upon Sir Accalon and she said to him, "Sir, Sir Ontzlake may easily fit thee with armor that shall be altogether to thy liking. And as for arms, I have in this pavilion a sword that hath but one other fellow in all the world."
   Upon this she arose and went back into that curtained recess from which she had come, and thence she presently returned, bringing a certain thing wrapped in a scarlet cloth. And she opened the cloth before Sir Accalon's eyes, and lo! that which she had there was King Arthur's sword Excalibur in his sheath. Then the damoiselle said, "This sword shall be thine if thou wilt assume this quarrel upon behalf of Sir Ontzlake."
   Now when Sir Accalon beheld that sword be wist not what to think, and he said to himself, "Certes, either this is Excalibur or else it is his twin brother." Therewith he drew the blade from out of its shield and it shined with extraordinary splendor. Then Sir AccaIon said, " I know not what to think for pure wonder, for this sword is indeed the very image of another sword I wot of." When he so spake that damoiselle smiled upon him again, and she said, "I have heard tell that there is in the world another sword like to this."
   Then Sir Accalon said, "Lady, to win this sword for myself I would be willing to fight in any battle whatsoever." And the damoiselle replied, "Then if thou wilt fight this battle for Sir Ontzlake thou art free to keep that sword for thine own," at the which Sir Accalon was rejoiced beyond all measure of gladness.
   So it came about that, by the wiles of Queen Morgana le Fay, King Arthur was brought to fight a battle unknowingly with a knight very much beloved by him, and that that knight had Excalibur to use against his master. For all these things had come to pass through the cunning of Morgana le Fay.
   Now a fair field was prepared for that battle in such a place as was convenient both to Sir Domas and to Sir Ontzlake, and thither they came upon the day assigned, each with his knight-champion and his attendants, Sir Ontzlake being brought thither in a litter because of the sore wound in his thighs. Also a great many other folk came to behold the combat, for the news thereof had gone forth to a great distance around about that place. So, all being in readiness, the two knights that were to do battle in that field were brought within the barriers of combat, each fully armed and each mounted upon a very good horse.
   Now King Arthur was clad all in armor of Sir Domas, and Sir Accalon was clad in armor that belonged to Sir Ontzlake, and the head of each was covered by his helmet so that neither of those two knew the other.
   Then the herald came forth and announced that the battle was toward, and each knight immediately put himself in readiness for the assault. Thereupon, the word for assault being given, the two rushed forth, each from his station, with such speed and fury that it was wonderful to behold. And so they met in the midst of the course with a roar as of thunder, and the spear of each knight was burst all into small pieces unto the truncheon which he held in his hand. Upon this each knight voided his horse with great skill and address, and allowed it to run at will in that field. And each threw aside the truncheon of his spear and drew his sword, and thereupon came, the one against the other, with the utmost fury of battle.
   It was at this time that Vivien came to that place upon the behest of Merlin, and she brought with her such a Court and state of beauty that a great many people took notice of her with great pleasure. So Vivien and her Court took stand at the barriers whence they might behold all that was toward. And Vivien regarded those two knights and she could not tell which was King Arthur and which was his enemy, wherefore she said, "Well, I will do as Merlin desired me to do, but I must wait and see this battle for a while ere I shall be able to tell which is King Arthur, for it would be a pity to cast my spells upon the wrong knight."
   So these two knights came together in battle afoot, and first they foined and then they both struck at the same time and, lo! the sword of King Arthur did not bite into the armor of Sir Accalon, but the sword of Sir Accalon bit very deeply into the armor of King Arthur and wounded him so sorely that the blood ran down in great quantities into his armor. And after that they struck very often and very powerfully, and as it was at first so it was afterward, for the sword of Sir Accalon ever bit into the armor of King Arthur, and the sword of King Arthur bit not at all into his enemy's armor. So in a little while it came that King Arthur's armor was stained all over red with the blood that flowed out from a great many wounds, and Sir Accalon bled not at all because sorely wounded of the sheath of Excalibur which he wore at his side. And the blood of King Arthur flowed down upon the ground so that all the grass around about was ensanguined with it. So when King Arthur beheld how all the ground was wet with his own blood, and how his enemy bled not at all, he began to fear that he would die in that battle: wherefore he said to himself, "How is this? Hath the virtue departed out of Excalibur and his sheath? Were it not otherwise I would think that that sword which cutteth me so sorely is Excalibur and that this sword is not Excalibur."
   Upon this a great despair of death came upon him, and he ran at Sir Accalon and smote him so sore a blow upon the helm that Sir Accalon nigh fell down upon the ground.
   But at that blow the sword of King Arthur broke short off at the cross of the handle and fell into the grass among the blood, and the pommel thereof and the cross thereof was all that King Arthur held in his hand.
   Now at that blow Sir Accalon waxed very mad, so he ran at King Arthur with intent to strike him some dolorous blow. But when he saw that King Arthur was without weapon, he paused in his assault and he said, "Sir Knight, I see that thou art without weapon and that thou hast lost a great deal of blood. Wherefore I demand thee to yield thyself unto me as recreant."
   Then King Arthur was again very much a-dread that his death was near to him; yet, because of his royalty, it was not possible for him to yield to any knight. So he said, "Nay, Sir Knight, I may not yield myself unto thee for I would liever die with honor than yield myself without honor. For though I lack a weapon, there are peculiar reasons why I may not lack worship. Wherefore thou mayst slay me as I am without weapon and that will be thy shame and not my shame."
   "Well," said Sir Accalon, "as for the shame I will not spare thee unless thou dost yield to me." And King Arthur said, "I will not yield me." Thereupon Sir Accalon said, "Then stand thou away from me so that I may strike thee." And, when King Arthur had done as Sir Accalon bade him, Sir Accalon smote him such a woful blow that the King fell down upon his knees. Then Sir Accalon raised Excalibur with intent to strike King Arthur again, and with that all the people who were there cried out upon him to spare so worshipful a knight. But Sir Accalon would not spare him.
   Then Vivien said unto herself, "Certes, that must be King Arthur who is so near to his death, and I do make my vow that it would be a great pity for him to die after he hath fought so fiercely." So when Sir Accalon raised his sword that second time with intent to strike his enemy, Vivien smote her hands with great force, and emitted at the same time a spell of such potency that it appeared to Sir Accalon upon the instant as though he had received some very powerful blow upon his arm. For with that spell his arm was benumbed all from the fingertips unto the hollow of his armpit, and thereupon Excalibur fell out of Sir Accalon's hands and into the grass.
   Then King Arthur beheld the sword and he perceived that it was Excalibur and therewith he knew that he had been betrayed. Wherefore he cried out thrice, in a very loud voice, "Treason! Treason! Treason!" and with that he set his knee upon the blade and before Sir Accalon could stay him he had seized it into his hands.
   Then it appeared to King Arthur that a great virtue had come into him because of that sword. Wherefore he arose from his knees and ran at Sir Accalon and smote him so sorely that the blade penetrated his armor to the depth of half a palm's breadth. And he smote him again and again and Sir Accalon cried out in a loud voice, and fell down upon his hands and knees. Then King Arthur ran to him and catched the sheath of Excalibur and plucked it away from Sir Accalon and flung it away, and thereupon the wounds of Sir Accalon burst out bleeding in great measure. Then King Arthur catched the helmet of Sir Accalon and rushed it off his head with intent to slay him.
   Now because King Arthur was blinded with his own blood he did not know Sir Accalon, wherefore he said, "Sir Knight, who art thou who hast betrayed me?" And Sir Accalon said, "I have not betrayed thee. I am Sir Accalon of Gaul and I am knight in good worship of King Arthur's Court."
   But when King Arthur heard this he made great outcry and he said, "How is this? Know you who I am? " And Sir Accalon said, "Nay, I know you not." Then King Arthur said, "I am King Arthur who am thy master." And upon this he took off his helmet and Sir Accalon knew him.
   And when Sir Accalon beheld King Arthur he swooned away and lay like one dead upon the ground, and King Arthur said, "Take him hence."
   Then when those who were there were aware who King Arthur was, they burst over the barriers and ran toward him with great outcry of pity. And King Arthur would have left this place but upon that he also swooned away because of the great issue of blood that had come from him, wherefore all those who were round about took great sorrow, thinking that he was dying, wherefore they bewailed themselves without stint.
   Then came Vivien out into that field and she said, "Let me have him, for I believe that I shall be able to cure his hurts." So she commanded that two litters should be brought and she placed King Arthur in one of the litters and she placed Sir Accalon in the other, and she bore them both away to a priory of nuns that was at no great distance from that place.
   So when Vivien had come there she searched the wounds of King Arthur and bathed them with a very precious balsam, so that they immediately began to heal. As for Sir Accalon, she would not have to do with his wounds, but let one of her attendants bathe him and dress his hurts.
   Now when the next morning had come, King Arthur was so much recovered that he was able to arise, though very weak and sick nigh unto death. So he got up from his couch and he would not permit anyone to stay him, and he wrapped a cloak about him and went to the place where Sir Accalon lay. When he had come there he questioned Sir Accalon very narrowly and Sir Accalon told him all that had happened to him after he had left that ship, and how the strange damsel had given him a sword for to fight with. So when King Arthur heard all that Sir Accalon had to tell him, he said, "Messire, I think that thou art not to be blamed in this matter, but I much do fear me that there is treachery here to compass my ruin."
   Then he went out from that place and he found Vivien and he said to her, "Damsel, I beseech thee to dress the wounds of that knight with the same balsam that thou didst use to dress my wounds." "Lord," said Vivien, "I cannot do so, for I have no more of that balsam." But what she said was false, for she did have more of that balsam, but she did not choose to use it upon Sir Accalon.
   So that afternoon Sir Accalon died of his wounds which he had received in his battle with King Arthur.
   And that day King Arthur summoned Sir Domas and Sir Ontzlake into his presence and they came and stood before him, so filled with the terror of his majesty, that they had not the power to stand, but fell down upon their knees unto him.
   Then King Arthur said, "I will pardon you, for ye knew not what ye did. But thou, Sir Domas, I believe, art a very false and treasonable knight, wherefore I shall deprive thee of all thy possessions but that one single castle which thy brother had and that I shall give unto thee, but all thy possessions I shall give unto Sir Ontzlake. And l shall further ordain that thou shalt never hereafter have the right to ride upon any horse but a palfrey, for thou art not worthy to ride upon a courser as a true knight hath a right to do. And I command it of thee that thou shalt presently liberate all those knights who were my companions in captivity, and thou shalt recompense them for all the injury that thou hast done to them according as it shall be decided by a Court of Chivalry."
   Therewith he dismissed those two knights, and they were very glad that he had dealt so mercifully with them.