Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Chapter 21 [middle third]

[How Amadis continued his search for his brother Galaor, and what he encountered along the way.]

[A stable at the ruins of the castle of the Marquis of Santillana, built between the 14th and 15th centuries, in Buitrago del Lozoya, Spain. Photo by Sue Burke.]


Amadis left Urganda's damsels, as we have told you, and traveled until midday, when he left the forest through which he had ridden. He found himself in a plain, where he saw a handsome fortress and a carriage traveling across it, the biggest and most beautiful that he had ever seen. It was pulled by twelve palfreys and was covered from top to bottom by a rich scarlet silk cloth, so nothing could be seen of what was inside, and it was guarded on all sides by eight armed knights.

When he saw the carriage, Amadis came toward it, wanting to know what it was. As he neared, a knight came forward and told him:

"Pull back, my lord knight, and do not dare approach."

"I do not come for ill purposes," Amadis said.

"However it be," the other knight said, "do not do it, for ye are not such as ought to see what goes here. And if ye continue to try, it will cost you your life, for ye must fight with us, and here are such that could defend it well alone against you and even better if all fight you at once."

"I know nothing of their skill, but still, if I can, I will see what is in that carriage."

Then he took up his arms, and the two knights that rode ahead came at him, and he at them. One struck his shield and the knight's lance broke, while the other missed with his blow. Amadis quickly knocked down the one who had hit him, turned to the other who had passed and met him so hard that he put both that knight and his horse on the ground.

He tried to go toward the carriage, but two other knights came at him as fast as their horses could gallop, and he went at them. He hit one so hard that that knight's armor served for naught, and, with his sword, he struck the other on top of his helmet with such a blow that the knight had to hold on to the neck of his horse, senseless.

When the remaining four saw that their comrades had been defeated by a single knight, they were frightened to see such an amazing thing, and moved as a group with great anger against Amadis to attack him. But before they arrived, he knocked the other knight to the earth.

They attacked, and some struck his shield while the others missed. Amadis came at the one who rode ahead to attack him with his sword, but that knight came so fast that they collided, and their shields and helmets met so hard that the knight fell from his horse, stunned out of his wits. The three knights turned to Amadis and stuck great blows. Amadis knocked the lance out of the hands of one of them with his sword, then used the lance to hit him in the throat so hard that the iron and the wooden shaft came out of the back of his neck, and threw him to the earth dead.

Then he rode as fast as he could at the other two, and hit one on the helmet with all his strength and knocked it from his head. Amadis saw his face, which was very old, and felt pity for him. He said:

"Truly, my lord knight, ye ought to cease these practices, for if ye have not won honor yet, from here forward your age will excuse you from winning it."

The knight told him:

"My dear sir, to the contrary, young men ought to try to win honor and prestige, and old men ought to try to maintain it as long as they can."

When Amadis heard the old man's thoughts, he said:

"Knight, I hold what ye said to be better than what I said."

As they were speaking, Amadis looked up and saw that the remaining knight was riding as fast as his horse could go toward the castle, and that the others who could get up were chasing their horses. He went to the carriage, lifted up the cloth and put his head inside.

He saw a marble funeral monument, and on the lid was the image of a king dressed in royal clothing with a crown on his head, but his crown was split down to his head, and his head split down to his neck. He saw a lady sitting on a bench with a girl next to her, and the girl seemd more beautiful than any other he had seen in all his days.

He said:

"My lady, why does this statue have its face split in half?"

She looked at him and saw that he was not a member of her company, and said:

"What is this, knight? Who allowed you to see this?"

"I did," he said, "for I wanted to see what was traveling inside here."

"And our knights," she said, "what did they do about it?"

"They did me more harm than good," he said.

Then the lady lifted up the cloth and saw that some of her men were dead and that others were chasing their horses, and she was very upset. She said:

"Oh, knight, cursed be the hour when ye were born for the devilish acts that ye have done!"

"My lady," he said, "your knights attacked me, but if it pleases you, answer my questions."

"May God help me," she said, "ye shall learn nothing from me, for I have been vilely dishonored you."

When Amadis saw how angry she was, he left there and went on his way where the road took him. The lady's knights put the dead into the carriage, and they rode with great shame toward the castle.

The dwarf asked Amadis what he had seen in the carriage. Amadis told him, and how he could learn nothing from the lady.

"If she were an armed knight," the dwarf said, "she would have told us soon enough."

Amadis did not answer and continued on his way, but when he had ridden a full league, he saw the old knight whose helmet he had knocked off coming up behind him and calling for him to wait. Amadis stopped, and the knight arrived unarmed and said:

"My lord knight, I come to you with a message from the lady whom ye saw in the carriage. She wishes to remedy the discourteous way she spoke to you and asks you to lodge in the castle tonight."

"Good sir," Amadis said, "I saw her so impassioned for what happened between you and me, that the sight of me ought to give her more anger than pleasure."

"Believe, my lord," the knight said, "that your return would make her very happy."

Amadis, who thought that a knight so old would not lie, and who saw the affection with which he made the request, turned back. As they rode, they spoke, and Amadis asked if he knew why the stone figure had its head cut in half, but the old knight did not wish to say.

When they neared the castle, the knight said that he wanted to go ahead so that the lady would know he would be arriving. Amadis rode more slowly, and when he arrived at the gate, he saw the lady and the beautiful girl in a window in the tower above it. The lady said to him:

"Enter, my lord knight, and we thank you for coming."

"My lady," he said, "I am very happy to give you pleasure instead of anger."

He entered the castle, and as he went ahead, he heard a great movement of people in the palace. Then armed knights rode out of it and soldiers left on foot, and as they came, they said:

"Stay, knight, and be our prisoner. If not, ye are dead."

"Truly," he said, "I shall not willingly be imprisoned by such deceitful people."

Then he strapped on his helmet but could not put on his shield because they came too fast, and they began to attack on all sides. But as long as his horse lasted, he defended himself bravely, bringing down at his feet those whom the blade of his sword reached.

When he saw that he was surrounded by too many people, he went to a shed in the courtyard, and there he defended himself amazingly well. He saw them take the dwarf and Gandalin prisoner, and his heart was filled with more courage than ever to defend them.

But so many people came and attacked him on all sides with such blows that at times he fell to his knees on the earth. There was no way he could escape death, for he knew they would not put him in prison since he had killed six of his adversaries and had badly injured others.

However, God and His great love saved him very well, in this manner: The girl, who was watching the battle and saw him do amazing deeds, took great mercy on him. She called one of her damsels and said:

"My friend, the great valor of the of that knight has moved me to pity. I would rather have all our men die than him alone. Come with me."

"My lady," the damsel said, "what do ye wish to do?"

"To let my lions loose," she said, "so they can kill those who hold the best knight in the world in a such danger. I command you as my vassal to let them loose, for no one other than you can do it, since they know only you. I will take the blame."

The girl returned to the lady. The damsel went to free the lions, both of them, very brave, who were on a chain. As the animals entered the courtyard, she shouted to everyone to protect themselves, for she had set them loose. But before anyone could flee, they tore to pieces all those they could reach with their sharp, strong claws.

Amadis saw people fleeing to the castle wall and towers, leaving him free while the lions occupied themselves with those whom they had before them. He immediately ran as fast as he could to the gate of the castle, went outside, and closed it behind himself so the lions would remain inside.

He sat down on a rock, very tired, as one who had just fought hard, his bare sword in his hand, one-third of it broken off.

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