[How Sir Grumedan – old, handsome, and valiant – faced the Romans, and how he was helped by two foreign knights.]
[Construction began on Chepstow Castle in Wales in 1067, and it is the oldest surviving stone castle in Britain. Photo by Gwyneth Box.]
So, as ye hear, they passed the night, and the next day they put everything in the ships they would need. Maganil and his brothers appeared before the King, and with great pride said to Sir Grumedan:
“As ye see, the day of your shame is approaching, for tomorrow is set for the battle that ye so foolishly sought. Do not expect that the departure of the ships or anything else can prevent it. If ye do not admit your defeat, ye must pay for the stupid things that you said as a very old man without brains or sense.”
Sir Grumedan, who was almost senseless with rage upon hearing this, stood up to respond. But the King, who knew he was very sensitive in matters of honor, was worried for him and said:
“Sir Grumedan, I beg you not to speak about this as a service to me. Prepare yourself for the battle, since ye better than anyone else knows that such trials consist in deeds rather than words.”
“My lord,” he said, “I shall do what ye order out of respect for you, and tomorrow I shall be in the field with my companions. There the good and evil of each man shall be known.”
The Romans went to their lodgings. The King called Sir Grumedan aside and told him:
“Whom do ye have to help you against these knights? They seem fierce and valiant to me.”
“My lord,” he said, “I have God on my side, and the body and heart and hands that He gave me. And if Sir Galaor were to come tomorrow at the hour of the tierce, I would have him, and I am certain that he would hold my cause to be right, and I would not need a third with him. And if he does not come, I shall fight them myself, one by one if by rights it can be done.”
“But do ye not see that the battle was set for three against three,” the King said, “and since ye agreed to that, they will not agree to any change because it was delivered and sworn that way into the hands of Salustanquidio? And Sir Grumedan,” the King said, “may God save me, I have a great weight in my heart because I see that ye lack the companions that ye will need for such a challenge. I am very afraid about what will happen to you.”
“My lord,” he said, “do not be afraid, for soon God shall have mercy and shall aid those in whom He is pleased. I opposed their arrogance with restraint and good will, and for that, it is to be expected that God will help me. And if Sir Galaor does not come or any other of the good knights of your court, I shall fight with the two of my knights that I deem best.”
“Say nothing of that,” the King said, “for ye shall face strong men experienced in such things, and those companions will not do. But, my friend Sir Grumedan, I shall give you better counsel. I wish to secretly place my body with yours in this battle, since many times ye placed your fate at my service. And my loyal friend, I would be very disgraced if at this time I did not put my life and my honor in your service in payment for all those times ye put yours at the extreme edge of death to serve me.”
And as he said this, the King embraced him, and tears fell from his eyes. Sir Grumedan kissed his hands and said:
“May it not please God that such a loyal king as yourself were to fall into error over someone who shall always labor to increase your fame and honor. And yet, my lord, I hold this to be one of the highest favors I have ever received from you, and my services cannot be enough to repay you for it, but I cannot accept it because ye are the King and lord and judge who rightly can decide in this case over both foreigners and your own subjects.”
Blessed be the vassals to whom God gives such kings, holding more dear the love they owe them than the services done for them, unmindful of their lives and grandeur, wishing to place their bodies in danger of death like this king wished to do for a knight, who although poor was very richly supplied with virtue.
“If it is so,” the King said, “I can do nothing else but to pray to God to help you.”
Sir Grumedan went to his lodging, and he ordered two of his knights to prepare to be with him the next day in battle. But I tell you that although he was very courageous and strong and experienced at arms, his heart was broken because those who would accompany him in that battle were not what he needed for such a great feat, yet he was of such a lofty and strong heart that he would neither give nor yield to disgrace before death. So rather than show his true feelings, he did the opposite. He spent the night in the chapel of Saint Mary, and in the morning they heard Mass with great devotion. Sir Grumedan prayed to God to let him finish the battle with honor, but if it was His will that this would be the end of his days, to have mercy on his soul.
Then with great courage he called for his arms. After he put on a strong and very white coat of mail, he wore over it a surcoat of his colors, which were cardinal with white swans. He was not done arming himself when a beautiful damsel entered the door, who had come on orders of Grasinda and the Greek Knight, and with her came two damsels and two squires. She bore in her hand a very beautiful and richly decorated sword and asked for Sir Grumedan, and they pointed him out immediately.
She told him in French:
“My lord Sir Grumedan, the Greek Knight, who esteems you highly for what he heard said about you when he was in this land, and because he knows that the battle with the Romans is set for you today, has sent you two very good knights whom you have seen in his escort. And he sent me to tell you that ye would not wish other knights than these for the battle and that by his faith ye may accept them without fear. And he sends you this beautiful sword which has proven to be very fine, for you have seen it strike great blows against the stone column when he pursued the knight who was fleeing.”
Sir Grumedan was overjoyed when he heard that, considering the need in which he had been placed and how any man would only be in the company of the Greek Knight if he was very worthy. And he told her:
“Damsel, may the good Greek Knight enjoy good fortune, for he is so courteous to someone he does not know, and this is due to his great discretion. May God be pleased to have the time come when I may serve him.”
“My lord,” she said, “ye would greatly esteem him if ye knew him, as ye shall his companions when you have tested them. Now mount, for they are waiting for you to enter the field where ye must fight.”
Sir Grumedan took the sword and noticed that it was very clean and showed no evidence at all of the blows that it had given the column. He made the sign of the Cross over it and placed it on his belt, leaving his own sword behind. He mounted the horse that Sir Florestan had given him when he defeated the Romans, as ye have heard, and on it he seemed old, handsome, and valiant, and he rode to the knights who were waiting for him.
The three greeted each other joyfully, but Sir Grumedan could not recognize either of them. Thus they entered the field looking so fine that those who supported Sir Grumedan felt great pleasure. The King, who had already come, was amazed by how those knights, for no reason at all or knowing Sir Grumedan, wished to place themselves in such danger. When he saw the damsel, he had her called. She came before him, and he told her:
“Damsel, why have those two knights from your company wished to be in such a dangerous battle without knowing the man for whom they are fighting?”
“My lord,” she said, “those who are good and who are evil are known by what is said of them, and the Greek Knight heard about Sir Grumedan’s courtesy and the battle he faced, and knowing that at this time few of your best knights are here, he thought it good to leave these two companions of his to help him. They are of such great skill and prowess at arms that before midday is over, the great arrogance of the Romans will be even more broken, and your men’s honor will be well protected. And he did not wish Sir Grumedan to know about it until he found them in the field of battle, as ye have seen, my lord.”
The King was very happy over that aid, for his heart had been broken fearing that misfortune would befall Sir Grumedan because no one could help him in that battle. He was very grateful to the Greek Knight although he did not show it as deeply as he felt it.
The three knights, with Sir Grumedan in the middle, rode to one end of the field, awaiting their enemies. And then King Arban of North Wales and the Count of Clare entered it as judges on his behalf, and on behalf of the Romans came Salustanquidio and Brondajel de Roca, all by order of the King.
And soon the Romans arrived to fight, riding beautiful horses and wearing fine new armor, and as they were husky and tall, it seemed that they would present themselves with strength and valor. They brought along bagpipes and trumpets and other instruments to make great noise, and all the knights of Rome accompanied them. And so they came before the King and told him:
“My lord, we wish to take the heads of those Greek knights to Rome, and it would not trouble us to do so, but in the case of Sir Grumedan, your anger would trouble us, so order him to take back what he said and grant that the Romans are the best knights in the world.”
The King did not answer that, and instead said:
“Go fight your battle, and those who win the heads of the others may do with them what they see fit.”
They entered the field, and Salustanquidio and Brondajel placed them at one end of it, and King Arban and the Count of Clare put Sir Grumedan and his companions at the other. Then the Queen came to the windows with her ladies and damsels to watch the battle, and she ordered Sir Guilan the Pensive, who was weak from illness, and Sir Cendil of Ganota, who had not yet fully recovered from a wound, to join them, and said to Sir Guilan:
“My friend, what do you think will happen to my father Sir Grumedan in this?” The Queen always called him father because he had raised her. “Those devils seem so big and strong that they terrify me.”
“My lady,” he said, “everything done at arms is in the hands of God and the righteousness by which the men who take them up conform to God, and not in great courage. And my lady, since I know Sir Grumedan as a very wise knight, Godfearing and justice-doing, and the Romans to be so unreasonable and arrogant, motivated merely by whim, I tell you that if I were where Grumedan is with those two companions, I would not be afraid of those three Romans even if a fourth were to join them.”
The Queen was greatly consoled and heartened by what Sir Guilan told her, and she prayed to God from her heart to help her foster father and deliver him from that danger with honor. The knights in the field spurred their horses to charge, galloping at full speed, and because they were very skilled at arms and riding, both sides looked handsome.
Their shields were struck bravely, and none missed in the encounter, and their lances were broken. And something happened that had never been seen in a fight against equal sides in the court of the King, for all three Romans were thrown from their saddles onto the field, and Sir Grumedan and his companions rode past handsomely without having been moved from their saddles. Then the knights immediately turned back toward them and saw how they were struggling to get up and regroup. Sir Bruneo had a small wound on his left ribs from the lance of the one he had jousted with.
The Romans suffered great anguish from that joust, and everyone else felt great pleasure, both those who despised the Romans and those who loved Sir Grumedan.
The knight in green armor told Sir Grumedan:
“Since we have shown them how well they know how to joust, it would not be right if we were to attack them from horseback while they are on foot.”
Sir Grumedan and the other knight said that he had spoken well. They dismounted and gave their horses to someone to hold, and all three together headed toward the Romans, who now were not as brave as before. He of the green armor said:
“Our lords knights of Rome, ye have left behind your horses. This must only be because ye hold us in little esteem, but while we are not as renowned as ye are, we do not wish ye to take this honor from us, so we have dismounted from ours.”
The Romans, who had been maddened before, were frightened to have been so easily unhorsed, and they did not answer at all. They held their swords in their hands and their shields before themselves. Then they charged bravely and delivered fierce, swaggering blows, and everyone watching was amazed. Soon their valor and ire became apparent on their opponents’ armor, which in many places was cut and blood flowed from it, and their helmets and shields were damaged as well.
But Sir Grumedan, due to the great wrath with which he faced his enemy, moved ahead of his companions so that he was injured by more blows. His companions, of whose skill ye know and who feared shame more than death, seeing how the Romans were defending themselves, gathered all their strength and began to discharge mighty blows like those they had suffered, so the Romans were frightened, believing their strength had doubled. They faced so much danger they were driven back, and now they could do nothing besides protect themselves, and they drew away stunned, unable to regroup.
But the knights helping Sir Grumedan, who were nearing victory, did not let them rest or relax, and instead did amazing feats as if they had not received a blow all day. Maganil, who was the older and the most valiant of the brothers, as he had demonstrated all day, realized that his shield had been cut to pieces and his helmet pierced and dented, and his coat of mail offered no protection, so he hastened as fast as he could toward the Queen’s windows, and he of the vair armor followed him and did not let him rest.
The brother shouted:
“My lady, by God’s mercy, do not let them kill me, for I grant that everything Sir Grumedan said is true.”
“May ye be damned,” the knight of the vair armor said. “This is well known.”
He grabbed Maganil’s helmet and pulled it off his head and acted as if he wished to behead him. The Queen, when she saw this, left the window. Sir Guilan, who was there in the Queen’s windows, as ye have heard, told him:
“My lord Greek knight, do not be so greedy to take such an arrogant head as that to your land. Let it return to Rome, if ye please, where his conduct may be appraised and there he shall be abhorred.”
“I should do so,” he said, “because he asked for mercy from our lady the Queen and because ye wish it so, although I do not know you. I shall let him go. Order him to attend to his wounds, for his madness has been healed.”
Then he returned to his companions and saw how Sir Grumedan had one of the Romans on his back on the ground and his knees on his chest, and was striking him in the face with the hilt of his sword. The Roman shouted:
“Oh, my lord Sir Grumedan! I grant that everything ye said in praise of the knights of Great Britain is true, and what I said was a lie.”
The knight in the vair armor, who took great pleasure in seeing what Sir Grumedan was doing, called the judges to hear what the knight was saying and to see how the knight in the green armor had driven the other knight from the field, which he had left. But Salustanquidio and Brondajel de Roca were so sad and broken to see such an overwhelming defeat, that without speaking to the King, they left the field to go to their lodgings, and ordered that the knights who had retracted their words be brought to them, since their fates had gone very contrary.
Sir Grumedan, seeing that nothing remained to be done, got permission to mount, as did his companions, and went to kiss the hands of the King.
He of the green armor told him:
“My lord, may God always be with you, and we shall go to the Greek Knight, in whose company we are well honored and fortunate.”
“May God guide you,” the King said, “for ye have shown that he and ye are highly skilled at arms.”
And so they bid him farewell.