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قراءة كتاب King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table

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‏اللغة: English
King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table

King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table

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دار النشر: Project Gutenberg
الصفحة رقم: 8

Caerleon, seeing them give way, rose up with one accord, and rushed at them with clubs and staves, and chased them far and wide, and slew many great knights and lords, and the remainder of them fled and were seen no more. Thus won King Arthur his first battle and put his enemies to shame.

But the six kings, though sorely routed, prepared for a new war, and joining to themselves five others swore together that, whether for weal or woe, they would keep steadfast alliance till they had destroyed King Arthur. Then, with a host of 50,000 men-at-arms on horseback, and 10,000 foot, they were soon ready, and sent forth their fore-riders, and drew from the northern country towards King Arthur, to the castle of Bedgraine.

But he by Merlin's counsel had sent over sea to King Ban of Benwick and King Bors of Gaul, praying them to come and help him in his wars, and promising to help them in return against King Claudas, their foe. To which those kings made answer that they would joyfully fulfil his wish, and shortly after came to London with 300 knights, well arrayed for both peace and war, leaving behind them a great army on the other side of the sea till they had consulted with King Arthur and his ministers how they might best dispose of it.

And Merlin being asked for his advice and help, agreed to go himself and fetch it over sea to England, which in one night he did; and brought with him 10,000 horsemen and led them northward privately to the forest of Bedgraine, and there lodged them in a valley secretly.

Then, by the counsel of Merlin, when they knew which way the eleven kings would ride and sleep, King Arthur with Kings Ban and Bors made themselves ready with their army for the fight, having yet but 30,000 men, counting the 10,000 who had come from Gaul.

"Now shall ye do my advice," said Merlin; "I would that King Ban and King Bors, with all their fellowship of 10,000 men, were led to ambush in this wood ere daylight, and stir not therefrom until the battle hath been long waged. And thou, Lord Arthur, at the spring of day draw forth thine army before the enemy, and dress the battle so that they may at once see all thy host, for they will be the more rash and hardy when they see you have but 20,000 men."

To this the three knights and the barons heartily consented, and it was done as Merlin had devised. So on the morrow when the hosts beheld each other, the host of the north was greatly cheered to find so few led out against them.

Then gave King Arthur the command to Sir Ulfius and Sir Brastias to take 3000 men-at-arms, and to open battle. They therefore setting fiercely on the enemy slew them on the right hand and the left till it was wonderful to see their slaughter.

When the eleven kings beheld so small a band doing such mighty deeds of arms they were ashamed, and charged them fiercely in return. Then was Sir Ulfius' horse slain under him; but he fought well and marvelously on foot against Duke Eustace and King Clarience, who set upon him grievously, till Sir Brastias, seeing his great peril, pricked towards them swiftly, and so smote the duke through with his spear that horse and man fell down and rolled over. Whereat King Clarience turned upon Sir Brastias, and rushing furiously together they each unhorsed the other and fell both to the ground, and there lay a long time stunned, their horses' knees being cut to the bone. Then came Sir Key the seneschal with six companions, and did wondrous well, till the eleven kings went out against them and overthrew Sir Griflet and Sir Lucas the butler. And when Sir Key saw Sir Griflet unhorsed and on foot, he rode against King Nanters hotly and smote him down, and led his horse to Griflet and horsed him again; with the same spear did Sir Key smite down King Lot and wounded him full sore.

But seeing that, the King of the Hundred Knights rushed at Sir Key and overthrew him in return, and took his horse and gave it to King Lot. And when Sir Griflet saw Sir Key's mischance, he set his spear in rest, and riding at a mighty man-at-arms, he cast him down headlong and caught his horse and led it straightway to Sir Key.

By now the battle was growing perilous and hard, and both sides fought with rage and fury. And Sir Ulfius and Sir Brastias were both afoot and in great danger of their death, and foully stained and trampled under horses' feet. Then King Arthur, putting spurs to his horse, rushed forward like a lion into the midst of all the mêlèe, and singling out King Cradlemont of North Wales, smote him through the left side and overthrew him, and taking his horse by the rein he brought it to Sir Ulfius in haste and said, "Take this horse, mine old friend, for thou hast great need of one, and charge by side of me." And even as he spoke he saw Sir Ector, Sir Key's father, smitten to the earth by the King of the Hundred Knights, and his horse taken to King Cradlemont.

But when King Arthur saw him ride upon Sir Ector's horse his wrath was very great, and with his sword he smote King Cradlemont upon the helm, and shore off the fourth part thereof and of the shield, and drave the sword onward to the horse's neck and slew the horse, and hurled the king upon the ground.

And now the battle waxed so great and furious that all the noise and sound thereof rang out by water and by wood, so that Kings Ban and Bors, with all their knights and men-at-arms in ambush, hearing the tumult and the cries, trembled and shook for eagerness, and scarce could stay in secret, but made them ready for the fray and dressed their shields and harness.

But when King Arthur saw the fury of the enemy, he raged like a mad lion, and stirred and drove his horse now here, now there, to the right hand and to the left and stayed not in his wrath till he had slain full twenty knights. He wounded also King Lot so sorely in the shoulder that he left the field, and in great pain and dolor cried out to the other kings, "Do ye as I devise, or we shall be destroyed. I, with the King of the Hundred Knights, King Anguisant, King Yder, and the Duke of Cambinet, will take fifteen thousand men and make a circuit, meanwhile that ye do hold the battle with twelve thousand. Then coming suddenly we will fall fiercely on them from behind and put them to the rout, but else shall we never stand against them."

So Lot and four kings departed with their party to one side, and the six other kings dressed their ranks against King Arthur and fought long and stoutly.

But now Kings Ban and Bors, with all their army fresh and eager, broke from their ambush and met face to face the five kings and their host as they came round behind, and then began a frantic struggle with breaking of spears and clashing of swords and slaying of men and horses. Anon King Lot, espying in the midst King Bors, cried out in great dismay, "Our Lady now defend us from our death and fearful wounds; our peril groweth great, for yonder cometh one of the worshipfullest kings and best knights in all the world."

"Who is he?" said the King of the Hundred Knights.

"It is King Bors of Gaul," replied King Lot, "and much I marvel how he may have come with all his host into this land without our knowledge."

"Aha!" cried King Carados, "I will encounter with this king if ye will rescue me when there is need."

"Ride on," said they.

So King Carados and all his host rode softly till they came within a bow-shot of King Bors, and then both hosts, spurring their horses to their greatest swiftness, rushed at each other. And King Bors encountered in the onset with a knight, and struck him through with a spear, so that he fell dead upon the earth; then drawing his sword, he did such mighty feats of arms that all who saw him gazed with wonder. Anon King Ban came also forth upon the field with all his knights, and added yet more fury, sound, and slaughter, till at length both hosts of the eleven kings began to quake, and drawing all together into one body, they prepared to meet the worst, while a great multitude already fled.

Then said King Lot, "Lords, we must take yet