Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Chapter 37

How the news came to the Queen that King Lisuarte was being held prisoner, and how Barsinan initiated his treachery so he could become king, though he was eventually defeated and the King restored to his reign.

[Battle scene from Cronecken der Sassen (The Chronicles of Saxony), printed in Mainz, Germany, in 1492.]


The woodsmen, who had seen what had happened to the King, arrived in town and let everything be known. When the news was heard, the tumult was enormous, and all the knights took up their arms and left in all directions as fast as their horses could go until it seemed that the countryside was full of them.

Arban, the King of North Wales, was speaking with the Queen when his squires arrived with his arms and horses. A page came in and told him:

"My lord, arm yourself. What are ye doing? No knight of the King's company remains in the town any longer except for you. All have left as fast as their horses could gallop for the forest."

"But why?" Arban said.

"Because," the page said, "they say that ten knights have taken the King prisoner."

"Oh, holy Mary!" the Queen said. "I have always feared such a thing." And she fell as if dead.

Arban left her in the care of her ladies and damsels, who raised a great lament, and went to arm himself. As he mounted his horse, he heard shouting that the castle had been taken.

"Holy Mary!" he said. "We have all been betrayed." He thought it wrong to leave the Queen without protection, for the town was in a great uproar as if everyone were in the streets. Arban paused at the gate of the Queen's palace, armed and with two hundred of his knights, and sent two of them to find out what the uproar was about.

When they arrived at the castle, they saw that Barsinan was inside with all his men, and he was cutting the throats and killing everyone he could, and others he was throwing from the walls, and when Barsinan learned about the uproar over the imprisonment of the King, he had no concern, since the King's men, who suspected nothing, had left immediately to rescue him. Barsinan had with him six hundred knights and servants, all well armed.

When Arban learned this from his knights, he said:

"Because of the conspiracy of that traitor, the King is being held prisoner."

When Barsinan had taken over the castle, he left men there to guard it and left with others to attack the Queen and take the throne and crown of the King. The townspeople realized what was happening and went to the palace of the Queen with all the arms they had. When Barsinan arrived at the palace, he found Arban there with all his man and a huge crowd of townspeople.

Barsinan said:

"Arban, up to now thou hast been the smartest young knight that I have ever seen, and, from here on, do what thou must so as not to lose thy senses."

"And why dost thou say this to me?" Arban said.

"Because I know," he said, "that King Lisuarte is in the hands of those who will send me his head without its body within five days, and there is no one besides me in this land who can and ought to be king, and so I shall be king in good time. The lands of North Wales, of which thou hast lordship, I shall grant thee, for thou art a good and wise knight. So stand back and I shall take the throne and crown. But if thou wouldst do the contrary, here and now I shall defy thee and I tell thee that none shall stand against me in taking what is my reign without losing their head."

"Truly," Arban said, "thou hast said such things that will place me against thee as long as I shall live. First, for thou advisest me to go against my lord when he is in greatest need of me. And then, since thou knowest that those who hold him will kill him, it seems clear that thou hast betrayed him. And because I have always thought that one of the most precious things in the world is loyalty, and thou hast rejected it and acted vilely against it, we can in no way make any agreement."

"What?" Barsinan said. "Thou wishest to keep me from being king of London?"

"A traitor shall never be the king of London," Arban said, "as long as the most honest king in the world is alive."

Barsinan said:

"I have spoken to thee first before all others about what would be good for thee, thinking that thou wert more wise than the others, and now thou seemest to me to have the weakest mind of all, and I shall make thee know well thy madness. I would see what thou shalt do, for I wish to take the crown and the throne, which I deserve for my skill at arms."

"About this," Arban said, "I shall do as much as if the King my lord were sitting in that throne now."

"Now I shall see," Barsinan said, and he ordered his men to attack.

Arban was ready for them with his company, for he was very intrepid and loyal in all things, and he was very angry over what he had heard about the King, his lord. They met one another very bravely, giving great blows everywhere, and thus many were killed or injured, and both sides fought as hard as they could to defeat and kill the other.

But Arban did so much that day that he more than all others in that battle was praised, for he defended all his men and kept attacking, felling and injuring the enemy, and putting his own life at risk.

Thus they continued until night, but Arban's men could not be defeated due to the narrow streets, otherwise they would have been overcome and the Queen taken. Barsinan retired with his company to the castle and found that many of his men were missing, both dead and injured, and they very much needed to rest.

Arban said to his men:

"My lords, let your loyalty and courage shine bright, and let us not be dismayed by this difficulty, for ye shall be well repaid soon." Then he had his men prepare to pass the night securely.

This done, the Queen, who was almost dead with fear, had Arban called, and he came immediately, armed as he was and with many injuries. When he approached the Queen, he removed his helmet, which was damaged, and all saw that he had five wounds on his face and throat, and that his face was greatly disfigured and covered with blood, yet he seemed very handsome to those who, after God, had only him to protect them.

When the Queen saw him, she felt great sorrow for him, and told him, weeping:

"Oh, good nephew! God keep you and help you, so you may conclude your loyal effort. By God, tell me, what shall become of the King and of us?"

"We shall end well, God willing," he said, "and we shall hear good news about the King. And I tell you, my lady, do not fear the traitors who have come here, for with the great loyalty of your vassals that remain in the city with me, we shall defend you very well."

"Oh, nephew!" she said, "I see you in no condition to bear arms, and I do not know what the others shall do without you."

"My lady," he said, "do not worry, for as long as I have my soul, I shall never give up my arms." Then he left her and returned to his company, and so they passed the night.

And Barsinan, although his company found itself in difficulty, showed great strength and told them:

"My friends, I do not wish to fight more about this, nor have any more deaths, so I shall end this without excess and battles, as ye shall see soon. Rest now without any worries."

And so they rested for the night. The next morning Barsinan armed himself and mounted his horse, brought twenty knights with him, and went to a blockade in a narrow street that Arban's majordomo guarded. And when those behind the barrier saw him, they took up their arms to protect themselves, but Barsinan told them that he came to talk and they were safe until noon. The majordomo went immediately to tell his lord, who was pleased by the truce, for all the men in his company were injured and could not take up arms.

Arban returned at once with the majordomo to the blockade. Barsinan told them:

"I wish to make a truce with you for five days, if ye would."

"I wish," Arban said, "that ye agree not to attempt to kill anyone in the town for five days, and if the King were to return, that we shall do what he orders."

"I agree to all this," Barsinan said, "so that there will be no fighting, for I value my company and yours, and ye shall be mine sooner than ye think. And I must tell you that the King is dead, and I wish to take his daughter as my wife, and ye shall see this before the truce has ended."

"May God cease to help me if I were to make any truce with you," Arban said, "for ye are part of the treason that was done to my lord. Now go and do what ye will."

And I tell you that before nightfall, Barsinan had attacked them fully three times and was repelled each time.

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