How Amadis departed with the lady who came by the sea to avenge the killing of the dead knight she brought in her boat, and what happened on that quest.
finds a giant roasting a pig from the Roman de Brut by Wace (Edgerton 3028), second quarter of the 14th century, made in England. From the British Library.]
As ye have heard, Amadis remained at Firm Island with his lady Oriana enjoying the greatest delights and pleasure that any knight ever had, from which he had no wish to leave even to become the lord of the world. If his lady had been absent, the troubles and pain and anxieties of his impassioned heart would have tormented him without comparison, and he would have found no renewal or rest anywhere; yet everything was the utter opposite being in her presence and seeing her great beauty, which had no equal. That made him forget all his past troubles and had no thought except for the good fortune he found himself in.
But since among the perishable things of this world, nothing can be found that ends well, since God did not wish to make it so, and when we think we have reached the goal of our desires, at that point we are immediately tormented by others of greater size or better fate. So soon, Amadis looked within himself, and while he was aware that what he possessed was beyond comparison, he began to remember his earlier times when his honor and esteem had been achieved by feats at arms, and he thought that if he spent much time in his present situation, his fame would begin to fade and shrink. So he was placed in great worry, not knowing what to do with himself.
He sometimes spoke to Oriana with great humility, asking her urgently to give him permission to leave and go to places where he believed his aid would be needed, but she, finding herself on that island far from her father and mother and all the people of her native land, having no other consolation or company besides him for her solitude, never wished to grant it. Instead, always with many tears, she begged him to give his body some rest from the labors of the past, and she also reminded him that his friends had left at great danger to themselves and their men to gain realms to increase their honor, and were they to suffer some reversal, if he were there, he could help them much better than if he were somewhere else. With this and other many loving things she tried to detain him.
But as ye have been told many times in this great story, ever since the knight’s spirit had been lit by that great fire of desire on the first day when he began to love her, he had a great fear of somehow angering her or failing to follow her command regardless of the good or ill that would come to him. So with little pressure, although his desire had reached anguish, he was detained.
Determined to fulfill his lady’s command, he agreed with Grasandor that until some news came about the fleet, they would ride out through the mountains and go hunting for exercise, and preparations were quickly made. They left with their beaters and dogs from the island, and rode to where, as this book has told you, there were hills and riverbanks with more bear, boar, deer, waterfowl, and many other animals than could be found anywhere else. They hunted often, and at night returned to the island with great pleasure for themselves and for the ladies, and so they lived that life for some length of time.
Then it happened one day that as Amadis was among the beaters on the skirts of the mountain near the seashore waiting for a boar or wild beast, holding the leash of a very handsome dog that he especially liked, he looked at the sea and saw a boat coming in the distance toward him. And when it was closer, he saw in it a lady and a man who was rowing, and because it seemed odd, he left the line of beater without being seen and rode downhill with his dog, passing through some thick brush.
He reached the shore, where he found that the lady and the man with her had landed and were dragging from the boat a fully armed dead knight, whom they laid on the ground, covered by his shield.
When he reached them, Amadis said:
“Lady, who is this knight, and who killed him?”
She turned to look, and although he was dressed as knights usually do to go hunting, and he was alone, she immediately recognized him as Amadis, and she began to tear her veils and clothing in great mourning and said:
“Oh my lord Amadis of Gaul! Help this sad and ill-fated lady for what ye owe to chivalry, because these hands of mine took you from your mother’s womb and made the ark in which ye were placed in the sea, saving your life when ye were born. Help me, my lord, for ye were born to save and rescue those with tribulations and bitter persecutions such as those that have come over me!”
Amadis felt great sorrow for the lady, and when he heard her words, he looked at her more carefully and immediately recognized her as Darioleta, who was with his mother the Queen when he was engendered and born, and so his pain for her grew. He came to her and took her hands from her hair, which was mostly white, asked her to tell him why she was weeping and tearing her hair so hard, and said he would not fail to immediately place his life in danger of death to repair her great loss.
When she heard this, she knelt before him and wished to kiss his hands, but he would not give them, and she told him:
“Then, my lord, without going elsewhere and finding some delay, come with me right away in this boat, and I shall guide you to where ye may remedy my troubles, and on the way I shall tell you my misfortune.”
Amadis, seeing her with such anguish and passion, believed the lady had indeed suffered a great injury. And because he had no armor and only his fine sword, knowing that if he sent for his arms, Oriana would stop him from going with the lady, he decided to arm himself with the armor of the dead knight. He ordered the man to disarm the dead knight and help him put on that armor, and so it was done. With the lady and the man who was rowing, he immediately entered the boat. As he was about to cast off from the shore, by chance a beater from his company came chasing a wounded deer that had hidden there where the brush was very thick.
When Amadis saw him, he called to him and said:
“Tell Grasandor that I am leaving with this lady who landed here, and I ask for his forgiveness. Her great loss and haste mean that I cannot see him and speak to him. I ask him to have this knight interred and to win the forgiveness of my lady Oriana because I am making this trip without her permission. She must believe that I could not have failed to do so without great shame.”
That having been said, the boat left the shore as fast as it could be rowed, and they traveled all that day and night the same way that the lady had come. In the meantime Amadis asked her to tell him about her urgency and injury that needed such help. Weeping bitterly, she told him:
“My lord, ye know that when your mother the Queen left Gaul to go to your island to attend the weddings of yourself and your brothers, she sent a messenger to my husband and me at Little Brittany, where at her command we were governing, and in her letter she ordered us to follow her to Firm Island because it would not be right if those celebrations happened without us. She did this because of her great nobility and her great love for us rather than for anything we deserved.
“At this command, I and my husband and my unfortunate son, whom we left there dead and whose armor ye wear, immediately set sail with a fine company of servants in a very large ship. We sailed with good weather, which to our ill fortune changed to bad weather that pushed us far off course, and after two months and many dangers that overcame us because of that storm, one night a high wind took us to the island of the Vermilion Tower, where a giant named Balan is the lord, the bravest and strongest of all the giants of any island.
“We came to port, not knowing where we were traveling, and we took shelter, but we were soon surrounded by people from the island in boats, and we were all taken prisoner and held until the next day when they took us to the giant. When he saw us, he asked if there was a knight among us. My husband said yes, that he was, and that the man next to him, his son, was also a knight.
“ ‘Then,” the knight said, “ye must follow the custom of this island.’
“ ‘And what is the custom?’ my husband asked.
“ ‘Ye must fight me one by one,’ the giant said, ‘and if either of you can defend yourself for an hour, ye and all your company are all free, and if ye are defeated within that hour, ye are my prisoners, but ye shall have some hope for your safety if as good men ye had put all your strength to the test. But if by chance your cowardice is so great that ye do not place yourselves in battle, ye shall be put into a cruel prison where ye shall suffer great anguish as payment for having taken the order of knighthood and fearing loss of life more than loss of honor or those things for which ye took your oath. Now that I have told you everything rightly about the customs maintained here, decide what ye would prefer.’
“My husband told him:
“ ‘We wish to fight, for in vain we would bear arms if out of fear of some danger we would fail to do with them what they were made for. But what security have we that if we are victorious, the custom ye have spoken of shall be followed?’
“ ‘There is none other than my promise,’ the giant said, ‘for come good or ill, it will not be broken willingly by me. I would rather have my body be broken, and I have had my son whom I have here and all my servants and vassals swear to uphold it.’
“ ‘In the name of God,’ my husband said, ‘have my arms and horse be brought to me and to my son, and prepare yourself for battle.’
“ ‘This shall be done at once,’ the giant said.