Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Chapter 6

[A "great helm" war helmet.]


How the Childe of the Sea fought with the foot soldiers of the knight called Galpano, then with the brothers of the lord of the castle and with the lord himself, and killed him without mercy.

As the Childe of the Sea neared the castle, he saw a damsel in great sorrow coming from it, with a squire and a youth who waited on her. The damsel was very beautiful with lovely hair, which she was tearing out. The Childe of the Sea said to her:

"My friend, what has caused such distress?"

"Oh, my lord," she said, "it is so bad that I cannot tell you."

"Tell me," he said, "and if can I can rightly remedy it for you, I will."

"My lord," she said, "I am traveling with a message from my lord for a young knight who is widely known for his goodness, and four foot soldiers captured me and took me to that castle where I was dishonored by a traitor, and worst of all he made me swear that I will never have another lover as long as he lives."

The Childe took the reins of her horse and told her:

"Come with me, and I will you get justice if I can."

As he rode on holding the reins, he asked her who the knight was to whom she brought her message.

"Ye shall know it," she said, "if ye avenge me. I can tell you that he would be greatly hurt if he were to learn of my dishonor."

"That is certain," said the Childe of the Sea.

They found the four foot soldiers, and the Childe of the Sea told them:

"Evil traitors, why did you do wrong to this damsel?"

"Should we fear that ye can do her justice?" they said.

"Now ye shall see," he said.

He took his sword in hand and charged at one of them who had raised a battle ax, and gave him such a blow that he cut off his arm, which fell to the ground. The foot soldier collapsed, shouting. Then the Childe struck another across the nose and cut him from ear to ear. When the other two saw this, they began to flee towards a river through the underbrush.

He put his sword in its scabbard, took the damsel's horse by the reins, and said, "Let us continue."

The damsel told him:

"Near here there is a castle gate where I saw two armed knights."

"In that case, I want to see them," he said. "Damsel, follow me and fear not."

They entered the gate of the castle, where he saw an armed knight on horseback, and when they had entered, the gate was dropped down shut behind them. The knight said arrogantly:

"Come and receive your dishonor."

"Let us leave this to be seen," said the Childe. "But were ye the one who forced himself on this damsel?"

"No," said the knight, "but if I were, what of it?"

"I will avenge her if I can," he said.

"Then I want to see how ye fight." He charged at him as fast as his horse could carry him, but he missed with his blow. The Childe of the Sea struck him on his shield with his lance so hard that all the knight's armor failed. The iron tip pierced through to his back and knocked him dead to the ground. The Childe pulled free his lance and charged at another knight that was coming toward him, who said:

"Ye chose a bad time to enter here."

The knight hit him on the shield and his lance passed through it, but the iron tip was stopped by the Childe's hauberk, which was sturdy. The Childe struck the knight's helmet with his lance and knocked it from his head, and the knight tumbled to the ground, unable to stop his fall. As he saw that he was in trouble, he began to shout, and three armed foot soldiers ran out from a room. He told them:

"Kill this traitor."

They attacked the Childe's horse so that it fell while he was on it, but he got up infuriated because they had killed it. He hit the knight in the face with his lance, and the iron tip came out between his ear and his neck, and he fell immediately. The Childe turned toward the foot soldiers who were attacking him and who had injured his shoulder, from which he lost much blood, but such was his fury that he did not feel it. He swung his sword at the head of the soldier who had wounded him, and cut off his ear, then his face, and more, and the sword descended to his chest.

The other two fled to a courtyard, shouting:

"Come, our lord, come, or we are all dead."

The Childe of the Sea mounted the horse of the knight he had killed and rode after them. He saw an unarmed knight in a doorway, who said:

"What is this, knight? Did ye come here to kill my men?"

"I came," he said, "to avenge this damsel who was taken here by force, if I can find the one who did it."

The damsel said:

"My lord, this is the one by whom I was dishonored."

The Childe of the Sea told him:

"Arrogant knight, full of villainy, now ye shall pay for the evil that ye did. Arm yourself at once. If not, I must kill you unarmed, for with evildoers like you, one should have no restraint."

"My lord," said the damsel, "kill this traitor and do not let him do more evil, for now it is all up to you."

"Vile woman," said the knight, "he picked a bad time to believe you and to come with you." He entered his grand palace, saying, "Wait for me, knight, and do not flee, because ye cannot hide from me anywhere."

"And I tell you," said the Childe of the Sea, "if I were to flee from you here, I would not find peace anywhere."

It did not take long before he saw him come back on a white horse, fully and completely armed. Galpano said:

"Base knight-errant, it was an ill-fated moment for you to see this damsel, because here ye shall lose your head."

When the Childe heard his threat, he became irate and said:

"Now let each protect his own head, and he who does not, shall loose it."

Then they let their horses run, and their lances struck each others' shields, which did not hold. Neither did their hauberks, and the iron tips of the lances entered their flesh. Their bodies, shields and helmets collided so fiercely that both fell to the ground. The Childe landed well and still had his reins in his hand, but Galpano arose injured.

Both put their hands on their swords and held their shields before them, and they fought so bravely that they terrified those who watched. Their shields fell in splinters to the earth, along with many fragments of their hauberks. Their helmets were dented and broken. The courtyard where they fought was stained with blood.

Galpano's head ached from an injury, and blood ran into his eyes. He stepped away to clean them, but the Childe of the Sea, who moved quickly and burned with anger, said:

"What is this, Galpano? Cowardice does not become thee. Hast thou forgotten that thou fightest for thy head, and if thou guardest it poorly, thou shalt loose it?"

Galpano told him:

"Bear with me a moment and let us rest. There is plenty of time for us to fight."

"There is no need for that," said the Childe, "for I do not fight thee out of respect, but to do justice for the damsel whom thou dishonoredst."

And then the Childe struck Galpano's helmet so fiercely that he fell to both knees. He got up and began to defend himself poorly, and Childe no longer had to fight with full force. The other knight was tired, and he could barely lift his sword. He did nothing but try to protect himself with his shield, although it had been cut to pieces on his arm, and nothing remained of it.

Having lost hope, he began to run from one side of the courtyard to another to flee the Child's sword, who gave him no rest. Galpano tried to escape into the tower where he had his men. But the Childe of the Sea reached him before he could climb more than a few steps, grabbed him by the helmet and threw him down so hard that Galpano fell flat onto the ground and the helmet came off in his hand. The Childe raised his sword and gave him such a blow on the neck that his head was severed from his body.

The Childe said to the damsel:

"From today on you can have another lover if ye wish, for he to whom ye swore has been dispatched."

"Blessed be God and you," she said, "for ye have killed him."

He wanted to go up in the tower, but he saw that the stairway had been raised. He mounted Galpano's horse, which was very handsome, and said:

"Let us leave here."

The damsel said:

"Knight, I will take the head of he who dishonored me, and, on your behalf, deliver it to the young man for whom I carry a message."

"Do not take it," he said, "for that would be offensive. Take the helmet in its place."

The damsel agreed, and ordered her squire to carry it. They found the gate left open by those who had fled, and they rode out of the castle.

When they were on the road, the Childe of the Sea said:

"Tell me, who is the young knight to whom you carry the message?"

"Know that it is Agrajes," she said, "son of the King of Scotland."

"Blessed be God that I did not allow him to receive that offense," he said. "I tell you, damsel, that he is the best young knight that I know of now, and if ye had told him of your dishonor, he would have returned your honor to you. Tell him that I, his knight, commend myself to him, and we will meet in the war in Gaul if he goes there to fight."

"My lord," she said, "if ye care for him so much, I ask you to give me a gift."

"Very willingly," he said.

"Then," said the damsel, "tell me your name."

"Damsel," he said, "ye do not wish to know my name now. Ask for some other gift that I can give."

"I wish no other gift," she said.

"May God help me," he said. "Ye are not courteous in wanting to know something from any man against his will."

"Still," she said, "tell me if ye wish to fulfill your promise."

When he saw that he could not avoid it, he said:

"They call me Childe of the Sea."

He left her as quickly as he could and continued down the road. The damsel was joyful to know the name of the knight.

The Childe of the Sea was badly wounded and bled so much that the road was stained with blood, and the horse, which was white, seemed scarlet in many places. He traveled until vespers, when he came to a handsome fortress. An unarmed knight came toward him, and when he reached the Childe, he said:

"My lord, where did you get these injuries?"

"In a castle that I left back there," said the Childe.

"And this horse, how did you get it?"

"I exchanged it for mine, which they had killed," said the Childe.

"And the knight who owned it, what happened to him?"

"Why, he lost his head," said the Childe.

Then the other knight dismounted to kiss his foot. The Childe pushed him away from the stirrup, so instead he kissed the hem of the Childe's hauberk, and said:

"My lord, ye are well come, for you have restored all my honor."

"Sir knight," said the Childe, "do you know where they can heal my wounds?"

"Yes, I know," he said. "In my house a damsel, my niece, will care for you better than any other in this land."

They dismounted, and as they entered the tower, the knight told him:

"My lord, that traitor whom ye killed left me half-dead for a year and a half, and dishonored, and I could not take up arms. He made me loose my good name and swear that I could only be called vanquished by him. Ye have brought my honor back to me."

There they put the Childe of the Sea in a fine bed, and his injuries were tended by the hand of the damsel, who told him that she would make him healthy as long as he did not travel for a few days. He said he would follow all her counsel.


[Note: At the suggestion of a reader, I have substituted Child of the Sea with Childe, which is an archaic, Middle English word meaning "child of noble birth." It is closer to the original Spanish Doncel del Mar, which means "young nobleman."]

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