[How an elderly squire on a quest brought an enchanted sword sheathed in dragon bones to the court of King Lisuarte, along with a half-alive and half-dead wreath of flowers, and what he was seeking with them.]
["His Move," painted by Albrecht Vriendt in 1868.]
King Lisuarte felt deeply concerned about the battle he had to fight with King Cildadan, knowing the courage and baseness that giants and other knights of such blood would bring to the battle. He wanted to be fully prepared to uphold his honor in it, so he had in London with him Sir Florestan and Agrajes and Galvanes the Landless, who had by then arrived, and many other knights of renown.
The knights all spoke a lot about the deeds of Beltenebros, and many said that he had even exceeded those of Amadis. This bothered his brothers Sir Galaor and Florestan so much that if they had not given their word to the King to get into no other confrontation until the battle was over, they would have searched for him and fought him, with such ire and wrath that it could only have resulted in death for him or them. They agreed that if they left the battle alive, they would not enter into another quest except to search for him, but they only spoke of this between themselves.
One day as the King was in his palace speaking with his knights, an old squire accompanied by two others, all dressed alike, entered through the gate. He had untidy white hair and big ears. He went to the King, knelt before him, greeted him in Greek, where he was from, and told him:
"My lord, the great and worldwide fame of the knights and ladies and damsels of your court has caused me to come to see if among them I might find what I have been seeking fruitlessly for sixty years all over the world. And if thou, noble King, thinkest it good for me to make a test here, it shall not be to thy harm nor loss, I promise thee."
The knights, wishing to see what it would be, eagerly begged the King to grant what he asked, and he, as eager as them to know, held it good. Then the old squire picked up a jasper chest three cubits long and one palm wide, whose pieces were held in place with plaques of gold. He opened it and took out the strangest sword ever seen. The sheath was made of two strips as green as emeralds, and were of bone so clear that the iron of the sword could be seen inside, but one strip was not like the other, for one could not have been more clear and bright, but the other was as glowing as red as fire. The decorations and belt were made of the same bone as the sheath, in small pieces joined with golden screws so that it could be fastened like any other belt.
The squire hung it around his neck and took from the box a wreath of very beautiful flowers for a woman's head. Half of it was as lovely and green and of such lively colors as if it had just been cut in full bloom, and the other half of flowers so dry that it seemed as if they would crumble if anyone came near them.
The King asked why the two parts of the wreath were so different, half so fresh and the other half so dry, and why the sword seemed so strange.
"King," said the squire, "this sword cannot be taken from its sheath except by the knight who loves his lady more than any other in the world loves his own lady, and when it is in his hand, the half that seems now to be burning with become as clean and bright as the other half, and the iron shall seem the same on each side. And this wreath of flowers that ye see, if it is put on the head of the lady or damsel who loves her husband or beloved the same as the knight, then the dry flowers shall be as green and beautiful as the others, with no difference between them. Know that I cannot become a knight except at the hand of the faithful lover who removes this sword, and I cannot take a sword except from she who wins the wreath. And for that reason, good King, I have come to your court after engaging in this search for sixty years, for I think that no court of any other emperor or king could equal yours in honor and fame, here I think I can find that which in the others, no matter how many courts I have visited, I could not find."
"Now tell me," said the King, "why this fire so bright in half the sheath does not burn the other half."
"I shall tell you gladly," the squire said. "Know, King, that between Tartar and India there is a sea so hot that it boils like water over a fire, and it is all green, and serpents live in that sea. They are larger than crocodiles, and they have wings to fly, and they are so venomous that people flee them in fear. But some times they find them dead, which they value highly, for they are very useful for medicines. These serpents have one bone from head to tail, and it is so wide that the entire body is borne over it, and as green as ye see it in the sheath and ornaments. And because it was engendered in that burning sea, no other fire can burn it.
"Now I shall tell you about the wreath. It is made from flowers of trees that are in that land of Tartar on an island set fifteen miles out in that sea, and there are only two such trees, and no one knows where more of them grow. In that sea there is a whirlpool so fast and dangerous that men fear to cross it to pick the flowers, but some dare to do it and gather them to sell because they always remain fresh and vivid.
"Now that I have told you about them, I want you to know why I travel thus and who I am. Know that I am the nephew of the best man of his time, who was named Apolidon, and who lived a great while in your land on Firm Island, where he left many enchantments and marvels, as is well known throughout the world. My father was his brother King Ganor, to whom he left his reign, and I was engendered by Ganor and the daughter of the King of Cononia. When I was the age to become a knight, since my mother loved me dearly, she asked me to give her a boon: since I was conceived in the great love between her and my father, I would not become a knight except at the hand of the most faithful lover in the world, and would not take a sword except from the lady or damsel who loved the same way.
"I agreed, thinking that it would not take any longer to fulfill that boon than to arrive in the presence of my uncle Apolidon and his beloved Grimanesa, but it did not happen that way, because when I came before him, I found that Grimanesa had died, and when Apolidon knew why I had come, he felt very sorry for me because the custom of that land was that, not being a knight, I could not reign in that kingdom, which was my right.
"Since he could not help me at that time, he ordered me to return in a year, when he gave me this sword and wreath, saying that I could remedy my foolishness in promising such a boon by the labor of looking for a knight and woman, and, when I had found both, I would have fulfilled my promise.
"And so, good King, this is the reason for my quest. May it be that in your nobility, which has never been lacking, ye may try this sword, and all your knights, and the Queen and all her ladies and damsels may try the wreath of flowers, and if here be found those who can pass the test, the jewels shall be theirs and the advantage and peace of mind mine, and ye shall have greater honor that any other prince because of what was found in your court and lacking in all the others."
When the old squire was done speaking, all the knights who were with the King earnestly begged him to order the trial, and he also wanted it, so he agreed. He told the squire that since the Feast of Saint James [July 25] was only five days away, many knights he had summoned would be present then, and to wait until that day because the more people present, the more likely he was to find what he was looking for. He held that to be good.
Gandalin, who was in the court and who heard all that the squire had said and how the King had responded, mounted his horse, went to Miraflores on the pretext of seeing Mabilia, and entered the little patio with its beautiful trees, where he found Beltenebros and Oriana playing chess. He told them:
"My good lord and lady, I bring you strange news from the court today."
Then he told them all about the sword and the wreath and why the old squire had brought them, and how the King had agreed to have them tested, just as it has been told to you above. When Beltenebros heard this, he lowered his head and begin to think so deeply that he saw nothing, and it seemed to Oriana, Mabilia, and Gandalin that he was lost to everything in the world. He remained that way for a while, and eventually Mabilia and Gandalin left. When Beltenebros became alert, and Oriana asked him what had caused him to think so deeply.
He told her:
"My lady, if God and ye can make what I was thinking about come true, ye shall make me very happy for all time."
"My beloved," she said, "by making youself the lord of my person, everything ye ask shall be easy to fulfill."
He took her by the hand and kissed it many times and said:
"My lady, I was thinking that if you and I win those two jewels, our hearts shall forever be at rest, for all the doubts that have tormented them shall be put aside."
"How can this be done," Oriana said, "without placing me in great shame and greater danger, along with these damsels who know of our love?"
"It can well be done," Beltenebros said, "for I shall take you so well disguised and with such assurances from your father the King so that no one shall recognize us, as if we were to go before foreigners who knew nothing about us."
"If it is so," she said, "I shall do as ye will, and may God make it good, for I do not doubt winning that wreath, if it can be won for loving too much."
Beltenebros told her:
"I shall ask for an assurance from your father that he shall not ask anything of me against my will, and I shall come wearing all my armor, and you, my lady, shall wear a brocade cape and veils before your face, so that ye can see everyone but no one can see you, and this way we shall come and go without anyone knowing who we are."
"My true beloved," Oriana said, "what ye say seems good. Let us call Mabilia, for without her advice I do not dare to agree to such a great undertaking."
Then they called her, and the Damsel of Denmark and Gandalin, who were with her, and told them what they had agreed to, and although it meant a great danger for them, knowing it was the will of Amadis and Oriana, they did not oppose it.
Instead, Mabilia said:
"Among the gifts that my mother the Queen sent me with the Damsel of Denmark is a very beautiful, well-made cape that has never been seen in all these lands, and it shall be for you to wear, my lady."
Then they brought it and put Oriana in a room and dressed her the way she would go, and with her gloves on her hands and her veils, they brought her before Beltenebros, and as much as he and they looked at her head to toe, they could not find one thing by which they nor anyone could recognize her.
"I never thought, my lady, that I would be so happy not to see you or recognize you."
He ordered Gandalin to go immediately to buy the most beautiful palfrey he could and, on the day of the test, to bring it to the garden wall after midnight. And he also ordered Durin to wait for him with his horse after nightfall at the place where he had entered over the wall, because that night he wanted to go to the Spring of the Three Streams, and to send Enil, his squire, to secure the assurance from the King, and to get the new arms that Enil was bringing.
Finally, when the time came, he left the garden, mounted his horse, and went alone into the forest, which he knew well, as one who had often ridden through it while hunting. At dawn he was beside the fountain, and he did not wait long to see Enil coming with his armor, very well made and handsome, which gave him great pleasure. He asked him about the news of the court. Enil told him how the King and all his men spoke often about his great skill, and began to tell him about the sword and wreath, but Beltenebros told him:
"I learned about that three days ago from a damsel who asked me to take her well disguised to test herself, and I agreed to do it. I shall go with her, also disguised, to try the sword. And because, as thou knowest, my will is not to be known to the King or anyone else until my works merit it, go back quickly and tell the King that if he gives his assurance to me and the damsel I shall take that nothing shall be done nor required of us against our will, then we shall come and try this test. And tell the Queen and her ladies and damsels that the damsel has made me take her is against my will, but I can do nothing else, for I have promised her. And on the day of the test, come here at dawn so the damsel may learn if thou hast brought the assurance or not. In the meantime, I shall go to get to her, for she lives far from here."
Enil said he would do so, gave him his armor, and left to fulfill his orders. Beltenebros went to the riverside that ye have already heard of, and there he remained until night, and then he left for Miraflores. There he found Durin, who took his horse, and he went to the entrance of the garden, where he saw his lady Oriana and the other damsels waiting for him, who received him well. He gave them his armor and climbed the wall.
Mabilia told him:
"What is this, my lord and cousin? Ye have returned richer than ye left."
"You do not understand," Oriana said. "He left to look for weapons so he could leave this prison."
"That is true," Mabilia said, "and ye should take counsel, for ye shall have to fight with him."
So they entered the castle with great pleasure, and they give him something to eat, for he had not eaten all day because he was hiding.