Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Chapter 18 [final half]

[How Amadis met the sorcerer Arcalaus in battle and was defeated and left to die.]

[Moon rising over Thurso Castle, Scotland. Photo by amateur astrophotographer Stewart Watt. NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day.]


Amadis listened a while but heard nothing more. He entered the chamber, his shield at his neck, his helmet on his head, and his bare sword in his hand. Soon he found himself in a beautiful gallery lit by a lamp, and saw a bed where six armed men slept with their shields and axes next to them. He approached, took one of the axes, and was continuing forward when he heard more than a hundred voices shout:

"Lord God, send us death, for we can suffer this pain no more!"

He was shocked to hear it. The noise woke the men who slept, and one of them said to another:

"Get up, take the whip, and make the captives be quiet. They will not let us enjoy our sleep."

"I will happily do that," he said. "They woke me from a dream, and they will suffer for it."

Then he got up quickly, took the whip, then saw Amadis coming toward him. He was astonished and said:

"Who goes there?"

"I do," Amadis said.

"And who are you?" the man said.

"I am a knight and a stranger," Amadis said.

"Well, who let you in without permission?"

"No one," Amadis said. "I came here by myself."

"Did ye?" he said. "That was a bad moment for you, for it means ye shall soon be put into the same suffering as those prisoners who shout so loudly."

He turned and quickly closed the gate, woke the others, and said:

"Comrades, ye see here an erring knight-errant who entered here by his own will."

The one who was the jailer, who was extraordinarily big and strong, said:

"Just leave him to me, and I shall put him with the others there."

He picked up an axe and shield, came at him, and said:

"If thou fearest death, put down thy arms, and if not, wait for it, for soon thou shalt have my ax."

Amadis was angry to hear himself threatened and said:

"I would not give a straw for thee, and however big and brave thou mayst be, thou art evil and of bad blood, and thy heart must fail thee."

They raised their axes and attacked. The jailer hit him on top of the helmet, and the ax sunk deeply into it. Amadis struck his shield, and the ax passed through it. The jailer drew back with it in his shield. Amadis put his hand on his sword, came at him, and cut the handle.

The jailer, who was brave, thought to get under him, but he could not, for Amadis was stronger than anyone else he had ever fought. The jailer grabbed him and tried to throw him down, but Amadis hit him in the face with the pommel of his sword and broke his jaw, knocked him down in front of him, stunned, and struck him in the head such that no surgeon could have saved him. The others who watched were shouting not to kill him or Amadis himself would be killed.

"I do not know how that will happen," Amadis said, "but I am safe from this man."

He put his sword in its scabbard, pulled the ax from his shield, and went at them, and they all came to attack him. They struck him as hard as they could, but he swung at one and the ax split his head open down to his brain, and he fell dead at his feet. Next he struck the one who was attacking the fiercest and opened his ribs until he fell. He grabbed another by the ax so roughly that he knocked him to his knees. That man and the other one who had been fighting begged for mercy and for their lives.

"Then put down your arms," Amadis said, "and show me the men who are shouting."

They put their weapons down and led him forward. Amadis heard someone moaning and weeping in a small chamber, and he said:

"Who lies here?"

"My lord," they said, "a lady who is in great pain."

"Then open the door," he said. "I must see her."

One of them turned to where the big jailer lay and took two keys from his belt. He opened the door to the chamber, and the lady, who thought the jailer was coming, said:

"Oh, sir, by God, have mercy on me and give me death, not more torment!"

She said to herself:

"Oh, King, on a bad day I was beloved by you, for your love has cost me dearly!"

Amadis felt great pity for her, and tears came to his eyes. He said:

"My lady, I am not he whom ye think, but rather he who will take you from here if I can."

"Why, holy Mary!" she said. "Who are you that ye could enter here?"

"I am a knight and a stranger," he said.

"Then what happened to the big cruel jailer and the others who were guards?"

"What will happen to all evil men who do not mend their ways," he said.

He ordered one of the men to bring a candle, which he did, and Amadis saw a lady with a heavy chain around her throat and her clothing torn everywhere, allowing her body to be seen. And when she saw that Amadis looked at her with pity, she said:

"My lord, however ye see me now, there was a time when I was rich, the daughter of a king, and because of a king I am in this distress."

"My lady," he said, "do not be troubled, for these are the turns and acts of fate that none may flee nor avoid. And if the one for whom ye suffer and sustain this harm is worthy, your poverty and rags will become riches, and your suffering joy, but we must not place our trust in one or the other."

He ordered them to remove the chain and to bring her something to cover herself. The man with the candle brought a scarlet woolen cloak that Arcalaus had given to his jailer. Amadis put it on her, took her by the hand, and led her out of the cell, telling her not to fear returning to it unless they killed him first. He brought her to where the big jailer and the other dead men were, and she was astounded. She said:

"Oh, hands, how many injuries, how many cruelties ye have given me and the others who lie here and who do not deserve it! And though ye shall not feel vengeance, ye shall feel the damnation of the soul ye belong to."

"My lady," Amadis said, "as soon as I place you with my squire, I will return to take out all the other prisoners so that no one remains here."

They went onward, and when they came to the iron gate, a man was there and said to the man who carried the candles:

"Arcalaus asks what became of the knight who entered here. Did ye kill him or is he a prisoner?"

The other man was so frightened that he could not speak, and the candles fell from his hands. Amadis took them and said:

"Fear not, ruffian. What dost thou dread while under my guard? Go forward."

They went up the stairs until they entered the courtyard and saw that much of the night had passed. The moon shown brightly. When the lady saw the sky and the air, she was jubilant, as one who had not witnessed them for a long time. She said:

"Oh, good knight, may God keep thee and give thee the reward thou hast earned for removing me from here!"

Amadis took her by the hand and went to where he had left Gandalin, but he did not find him and feared he had lost him. He said:

"If the best squire in the world is dead, he who did it shall suffer the greatest and most cruel vengeance ever done, if I live."

As he stood, he heard shouts, and he went toward them until he found the dwarf who had left him hanging by one leg from a beam over a malodorous fire, and he saw Gandalin, who, although he was tied up and wished to be freed, said:

"My lord, help the dwarf first, for he is suffering badly."

Amadis did so, and, holding the dwarf with one hand, cut the cord, put him on the ground, and went to untie Gandalin. He said:

"Truly, friend, the one who put thee here did not esteem thee as much as I do."

Then he went to the gate of the castle and found it closed by a portcullis, and when he saw that he could not get out, he went to the side of the courtyard where there was a bench and sat there with the lady, and brought Gandalin and the dwarf and the two men from the prison. Gandalin showed him the building where they had put his horse, and he went there, broke down the door, found it with its saddle and reins, and took it with him.

He wished to return to release the prisoners, but he was worried that the lady might be harmed by Arcalaus, since he was in the castle. He decided to wait until daybreak, and asked the lady who the king was who loved her and on behalf of whom had she suffered such distress.

"My lord," she said, "Arcalaus is the sworn enemy of the king who loves me, and since he could not take vengeance on him, he decided to take it out on me, knowing of our love and believing that this would cause the worst possible pain. He managed to kidnap me in front of many people by making the air around me so dark that no one could see me. This was the work of one of his enchantments. He put me there where ye found me, and said that I would suffer in that gloom, and since the king who loved me would not see me nor know where I was, his heart would enjoy vengeance."

"Tell me, if it pleases you," Amadis said, "who this king is."

"Arban of North Wales," the lady said. "I do not know if ye have heard of him."

"Merciful God!" Amadis said. "That is the knight whom I love most in the world. Now I pity you less than before, since ye have suffered for one of the best men in the world, and because of that, your will shall be done with double joy and honor."

Speaking of this and other things, they waited until the morning became bright. Then Amadis saw a knight in the window who said:

"Are ye the one who killed my jailer and my men?"

"What!" Amadis said. "Are ye the one who unjustly kills knights and seizes ladies and damsels? Truly I hold you as the most corrupt knight in the world, more cruel than good."

"Ye do not know all my cruelty yet," the knight said. "But I will make ye know it soon, and I will make it so that ye shall not correct nor reproach me over what I do, whether for good or ill."

He left the window and soon Amadis saw him enter the courtyard well armed on a large horse. He was one of the biggest knights in the world who was not a giant. Amadis studied him, thinking that he would clearly be very strong. Arcalaus said to him:

"Art thou looking at me?"

"I am looking at thee," he said, "because, by thy appearance, thou couldst be an illustrious man, deterred only by the evil and shameful deeds that thou findest enjoyable."

"Fortune has brought me to a fine moment," Arcalaus said, "if one such as thee can rebuke me."

And he went at him, with his lance lowered, and Amadis the same. Arcalaus hit him on the shield and his lance flew in pieces. They and their horses met each other so violently that they fell. Then they went on foot, as those who were very agile and brave. They attacked with their swords and soon they fought a cruel and fierce battle. No one could have believed it if they had not seen it. It lasted a long time since both were so strong and burning with passion.

But Arcalaus pulled back and said:

"Knight, thou art in danger of death and I do not know who thou art. Tell me so that I may know, for I think more in killing thee than in defeating thee."

"My death," Amadis said, "is at the will of God, whom I fear. Yours is at the will of the Devil, who is already furious for having to sustain thee and wants thy body to perish along with thy soul from the vices he has given thee. And if thou wishest to know who I am, I tell thee that my name is Amadis of Gaul, and I am the knight of Queen Brisena. Now prepare to end this battle, for I will not let thee rest any longer."

Arcalaus raised his shield and sword, and they both attacked each other with mighty and forceful blows. The courtyard was littered with pieces of their shields and the mail of their hauberks. By the third hour, Arcalaus had lost much of his strength, and when he went to strike Amadis on the top of his helmet, he could not maintain his grip on his sword. It flew from his hand and fell to the earth. When he tried to pick it up, Amadis pushed him so hard that both his hands struck the ground. As he got up, Amadis struck such a blow with his sword on top of his helmet that it left him stunned.

When Arcalaus saw himself in danger of death, he began to flee towards the palace from which he had left, with Amadis behind him. Both entered the palace, but Arcalaus took refuge in a chamber, and at the door, a lady watched how they fought. Arcalaus, as soon as he was inside the chamber, took a sword and said to Amadis:

"Now enter and fight me."

"Instead, let us fight in this hall, which is bigger," Amadis said.

"I will not," Arcalaus said.

"What?" Amadis said. "Dost thou believe thou canst protect thyself there?"

Amadis held up his shield, entered, raised his sword . . . and his strength left all his limbs and he lost consciousness. He fell to the ground as if he were dead.

Arcalaus said:

"I do not wish ye to die in any other way than this."

Then he said to the lady who watched them:

"Does it seem to you, my love, that I shall avenge myself well on this knight?"

"It seems to me," she said, "that ye shall avenge yourself at your will."

He disarmed Amadis, who lay senseless, put on the armor, and said to the lady:

"Do not move this knight from here for everything that ye hold dear, and leave him thus until his soul has left him."

And, wearing Amadis's armor, he went into the courtyard, where everyone believed he must have killed Amadis. The lady who had left the prison fell into deep mourning, and that of Gandalin cannot be spoken of.

Arcalaus said:

"Lady, look for someone else to take you from here, for the one ye saw is finished."

When Gandalin heard this, he fell to the earth as if he were dead. Arcalaus took the lady and said:

"Come with me and see how the ill-fated knight who fought with me is dying."

He took her to where Amadis lay and told her:

"How does it look, lady?"

She began to weep bitterly and said:

"Oh, good knight, how much pain and sadness many good people will suffer at thy death!"

Arcalaus said to the other lady, who was his wife:

"My dear, as soon as this knight is dead, have this lady returned to the prison from which he took her. I will go to the court of King Lisuarte and tell there how I fought with him, and that by his will and mine, we agreed to fight this battle on the condition that the winner take the other's head and go tell of it at the court within two weeks. That way, no one will be able to challenge me over his death, and I will obtain greater glory and esteem in arms that any other knight in the whole world for having defeated this knight who had no equal."

He returned to the courtyard, and ordered Gandalin and the dwarf to be put into the dark prison. Gandalin preferred to die and ran at him shouting:

"Traitor! Ye killed the most faithful knight that was ever born!"

But Arcalaus ordered his men to drag him away by the legs, saying:

"If I were to kill thee, it would not give thee sorrow. There inside thou shalt have something much worse than death itself."

He rode off on Amadis's horse and, with three squires, took the road toward King Lisuarte.

[As is the custom in Spain, Amadis of Gaul will vacation during the month of August, but it will resume on September 1, when ye shall see who came to rescue the greatest knight in the world from sad and certain death.]

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