[How Sir Florestan faced the greatest knight of that land and won the damsels, and what happened next.]
[Capital on a column at the portico of San Pedro Church, Caracena, Spain, from the 12th century.]
Then a knight left the same valley as the others had. He wore armor parti-colored in gold, and he rode bay horse so large and fierce that it could have served a giant. The knight was tall and muscular, and he seemed to be quite strong and valiant. He came fully armed, lacking nothing, and behind him came two squires to serve him wearing coats of mail and helmets and carrying large, sharp battle axes in their hands. The knight seemed prepared to do harm, and he said to Sir Florestan:
"Stay, knight, and do not flee, for it shall do thee no good. Since thou art going to die, die bravely and not like a coward, for thou canst not escape through cowardice."
When Florestan saw himself threatened with death and called a coward, he became so angry it was amazing, and he said:
"Thou poor thing, vile, deformed, and mindless. May God help me, I fear thee as if thou wert a great beast without strength nor courage."
"Oh," the knight said, "how it hurts me that I cannot avenge myself on thee as thou dost deserve. May God grant me that the four men in your family who thou esteemest most were here, because I would cut off their heads with thine."
"Protect thyself only from me," Florestan said, "for with the help of God I shall do what they may thus be spared of doing."
Then they charged each other with their lances lowered, well covered with their shields, and each held great ire for the other. They met so hard that both shields failed, and their armor was pierced. The big knight lost both stirrups and would have fallen from his saddle if he had not held onto the horse's neck. Florestan, after passing him, went to one of the squires, grabbed the axe that he had in his hand, and pulled on it so hard that the squire and the beast he rode on were thrown to the ground.
He ran at the knight, who had righted himself in his saddle and gotten the axe from the other squire, who had had it ready to put into his hands. They raised the axes and struck each other on the helmets, which were of fine steel, and the blades entered three fingers deep. Florestan was hit so hard that his jaw struck his chest. The big knight was so stunned that he let go of his axe, which remained stuck in Florestan's helmet, and he could not lift up his head, which lay on the neck of his horse.
Florestan turned to attack, and because the other knight lay prostrate, he struck him in the space between the helmet and neckpiece of his coat of mail with such a blow that he easily knocked his head to the hoofs of the horse.
At that, he went to the damsels, and the first one told him:
"Truly, good knight, I had once believed that not even ten knights like you could have won us as ye have done alone, and it is right that ye have us as yours."
Then his host came to him, who was young and handsome, as ye have already heard, and he said:
"My lord, I love this damsel with great passion, and she loves me, and a year ago the knight whom ye killed took her from me by force and would not let me see her, and now that I could have her by you, I would be deeply grateful to you, if this does not grieve ye."
"Truly, host," he said, "if it is as ye say, ye find in me a great benefactor, but I shall not give her to you nor to anyone against her will."
"Oh, my lord," the damsel said, "it would please me, and I beg ye to give me to him, for I love him dearly."
"In the name of God," Florestan said, "I set you free so ye can do as ye will."
The damsel happily left with the host. Galaor ordered his squires to take the great bay horse, which seemed the handsomest he had ever seen, and gave the one he had to the host. Then they got on the road, the damsels with them, and I tell you that they were young and beautiful. Sir Florestan took the first one for himself and said to the other:
"My dear, do for this knight what may please him, for I order you do to so."
"What?" she said. "Ye wish to give me to him, who is worth less than a woman, who saw you in such danger and did not help you? Truly, I believe that the armor he wears is for someone else and not him, for the heart it surrounds is weak."
"Damsel," Sir Florestan said, "I swear to you by the faith I have in God that I give you to the best knight that I know of in the world now, except for my lord Amadis."
The damsel looked over Galaor and saw him so young and handsome that she was amazed by what she had just heard about him, and gave him her love, and the other gave hers to Sir Florestan. That night they stayed at the home of lady who was the sister of the host they had just left, and she did all she could in their service when she learned what had happened. There they rested that night, and in the morning they returned to the road, and they said to their lovers:
"We must travel through many far-off lands, and it would be very hard for you to accompany us. Tell us where ye would be most content, and we shall take ye there."
"Then if ye please," they said, "four days from here on this road that ye follow, there is a castle of a lady who is our aunt, and we shall stay there."
And so they continued on their journey. Sir Galaor asked his lady:
"How did that knight take you?"
"I shall tell you," the damsel said. "Know ye that the great knight who died in the battle dearly loved the damsel that your host took with him, but she despised him with all her heart and loved he to whom ye gave her more than anything else in the world. And the knight, as he was the greatest of these lands, took her by force without challenge. She never wished to give him her love, and since he loved her so much, so as not to anger her, he said:
" 'My dear, so that I may be rightly loved and desired by you as the best knight in the world, for your love I shall do this: know that a knight who is everywhere called the best who ever was, Amadis of Gaul, killed my cousin, who was called Dardan the Arrogant, in the court of King Lisuarte. I shall look for Amadis and cut off his head, and thus all his fame shall be converted into mine.
" 'While I am doing this, I shall leave you with two of the most beautiful damsels of this land to wait with you, and I shall give them as lovers two of the best knights of my family, and we shall take you every day to the Spring of the Three Elms, where many knights-errant pass by, and if they wish to take you, there ye shall see handsome jousts and how I shall fight in them, and so I shall become freely loved by you the way that I love you.' "
"At that, he took us and gave us to the two knights that were defeated, and kept us at that spring for a year, where they did many great deeds of chivalry until Sir Florestan ended the dispute."
"Truly, my dear," Sir Galaor said, "the ideas of that knight were overly grand if he had carried them out as he had said. But instead I think that he would have found great peril if he had met that Amadis whom he wished to find."
"So it seems to me," she said, "since ye hold him to be better than yourselves."
"What was the name of that knight?" Galaor said.
"Alumas," she said, "and ye should believe that if his great arrogance had not caused his downfall, he would have achieved high deeds at arms."
As they spoke of these and other things, they rode until they arrived at the aunt's castle, where they were well served, for the lady knew how Sir Florestan had killed Alumas and defeated his companions, who without cause or good reason had taken her nieces and held them by force and at great dishonor.
The next day they left the damsels there and rode until, four days later, they arrived in a town in the Kingdom of Sobradisa. There they learned how Amadis and Agrajes had killed Abiseos and his sons in battle and immediately made Briolanja the Queen. The news brought them great happiness and pleasure, and they gave many thanks to God. They left and arrived at the city of Sobradisa and went directly to the palaces without anyone recognizing them. They dismounted and went to where Amadis and Agrajes, now healed from their wounds, were with the new and beautiful Queen.
When Amadis saw them, having already recognized the damsel who had guided Sir Galaor, and saw Sir Florestan so strong and handsome and having already learned of his skill, he went to him with tears of joy falling from his eyes. Sir Florestan knelt before him to kiss his hands, but Amadis raised him up, embraced him and kissed him, and asked him in detail about the things that had happened to him, and then spoke with Sir Galaor, and they with his cousin Agrajes, whom they loved dearly.
When the beautiful Queen Briolanja saw four such knights in her house, she remembered how long she had been deprived of her inheritance and confined in fear to a single castle, where she had been taken in almost out of pity. Now she had recovered her honor and her reign through a great turn of the wheel of Fortune, and she not only had recourse to defend her own lands but even to conquer others. After receiving these two brothers with great love, she knelt on the ground and gave great thanks to the most powerful Lord, who had rewarded her in that way and with great mercy, and she said to the knights:
"Believe it true, my lords, that these miraculous reversals of fate have been done by the Lord on high, and although they may seem very grand, before His great power they should be rightly thought of as next to nothing. But should we now to believe that these great dominions and these riches, which we try to win and keep with so much trouble, care, pain, and anguish, would be better abandoned and abominated as superfluous and cruel torments to our bodies and even more to our souls, since they are neither certain nor lasting? Certainly I say not. Instead I affirm that if they are rightly won and acquired with good conscience, if we thank the Lord who has given them to us with modesty and gratitude, and if we retain for ourselves only enough that our reason but not our greed is satisfied, then we may achieve rest, pleasure, and happiness in this world, and we shall perpetually enjoy their fruit in the eternal world."
HERE ENDS THE FIRST BOOK OF THE NOBLE AND VIRTUOUS KNIGHT AMADIS