Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Chapter 128 [part 2 of 3]

[How Amadis fought the giant Balan.] 

[The portal of the Church of Our Lady beneath the Chain, of the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta, in Prague, Czech Republic. Photo by Sue Burke.]

The knight went to his boat and returned to Amadis. When Amadis heard the answer, without hesitation he went to the port and immediately disembarked on the shore. But first he took aside the man who had guided the lady in the ship and told him:

“My friend, I ask thee not to say my name to anyone. If I must die here, it shall be discovered, and if I am the victor, I shall give thee a great reward for doing this.”

The sailor promised to do so. Then they went up toward the castle, and they found the giant unarmed in the great plaza before its gate. When they arrived, the giant studied him and said to the lady:

“Is this one of the sons of King Perion, whom thy wert to bring?”

The lady told him:

“This is a knight who seeks thee for the wrong that thou didst to me.”

Then Amadis said:

“Balan, thou hast no need to know who I am. It is enough for thee to know that I come to ask thee to make right the great wrong thou didst to this lady. Without any reason, thou hast killed her son and taken her husband and daughter prisoner. If thou makest it right, I shall not have to fight with thee, but if not, prepare thyself for battle.”

The giant said, laughing:

“The best amends I can give thee is to release thee from thy quest and from death, for since thou hast come at thy free will to amend her loss, thou must hold thy life as dearly as hers. And although I am not accustomed to doing this for anyone unless they first test the edge of my sword, I shall do it for thee because thou hast come in ignorance to seek thy own harm unwittingly.”

“If I feared thy threats as much as thou thinkest,” Amadis said, “I would be excused from coming to find thee from such a far-off land. Do not believe, Balan, that I seek thee out of ignorance, for I well know that thou art one of the most famous giants in the world. But as I see that thy custom here is so counter to the service of the most high Lord, and what I seek to do conforms with His holy law, I do not consider thy valor to be much, because He shall fulfill what I lack. And because I consider thee highly and I love thee for what others love in thee, I beg thee to make amends to this lady as is just.”

When the giant heard this, he said:

“Thou has made such fine demands that if I would not suffer shame for granting them, I would do all that I could for the contentment of this lady, but first I wish to test and see what the knights of Firm Island are like. And because it is now late, I shall send thee food and two very good horses so that thou mayst select the one thou preferest, and two lances. Prepare thyself with all thy courage, which thou shalt need, to fight here in three hours. And for thy comfort if thou wishest other arms, I shall give thee the best, for I think that I can offer a great quantity from the knights I have defeated.”

Amadis told him:

“Thou hast acted like a good knight, and the more courtesy I see in thee, the more it troubles me that thou hast no understanding of what thou ought to do. I shall take a horse and lance and no other arms besides those that I have brought, for the blood on it from he whom thou hast killed without cause will give me more courage to avenge him.”

The giant returned to the castle without responding, and Amadis to his company and the knight from Prince Island, who did not want to leave his side no matter how much the giant asked him to come with him to the castle. They remained beneath the portal of a church that was at the edge of the plaza, where soon they were brought food. There they rested, speaking of things that most contented them, waiting for the giant to appear.

The knight frequently studied Amadis’ face to see if the great confrontation had affected him, and he always seemed to see him display greater courage, by which he was very amazed.

When the time came that the giant had set, two very large and beautiful horses were brought to Amadis with fine tackle for such a use, and he took the one that seemed better. After examining it, and since it came with a saddle, he mounted it, put his helmet on and his shield around his neck, and when he was ready in the great plaza, he sent the man who had brought the horses to take the other back and tell the giant that he was waiting for him and not to make the day be in vain.

All the people of the island who could come were around the plaza to see the battle, and the walkways and windows of the castle were filled with ladies and damsels.

And so as ye hear, he saw three trumpeters playing a sweet song in harmony in the great Vermilion Tower, which was the sign that the giant was coming out to fight, as was the custom every time he did battle. Amadis asked those present about it. They told him the reason for it, which seemed good to him and the act of a great lord, and he thought that when he was at Firm Island, with his lady, if he had the occasion to do battle with someone who came seeking it, that he would order the same thing done because he thought it would serve to increase the courage of the knight for whom it was played.

When the trumpets were done, the gates of the castle opened, and the giant came out on the other horse that he had sent to Amadis, his lance in hand and armed in steel polished clean like a mirror. The helmet like the shield were made to his measure, and plate armor covered the rest of his body. When he saw Amadis, he told him:

“Knight of Firm Island, now that thou seest me armed, dost thou dare wait for me?”

“Now I wish thee to make amends to this lady for the wrong thou hast done to her,” he said, “and if not, protect thyself from me.”

Then the giant came at him as fast as his horse could go, and he was so large that there was no knight in the world, no matter how courageous he was, who would not have felt terror. And as he came hard with a great eagerness to meet him, he lowered his lance so much to avoid erring in the blow that it struck Amadis’s horse in the center of its forehead and the lance came out a ways from the back of its neck.

But Amadis, unaffected by his size or valor, for he had already experienced such things, struck the giant on his large and strong shield so hard that the force threw the giant from the saddle and he fell on the field, which was very hard, in a great tumble that seriously injured him. Amadis’s horse fell dead with him on the ground, and he arose as fast as he could, although with great effort because one of his legs was caught beneath the horse.

He saw the giant get up somewhat stunned but not so much that he did not immediately put his hand on the strong steel sword he carried. He believed no knight in the world would dare to wait for two blows from it, for they would leave him dazed or dead.

Amadis put his hand on his own very good sword and covered himself with his shield, and went at him. The giant did the same and charged with his arm held high to strike him without care, both because of his great arrogance and because in his encounter with Amadis, the lance had come right at his heart and with such force that it pushed the shield against his chest so hard that his flesh was bruised and his cartilage broken, so he was in great pain and had lost much of his strength and ability to breathe.

Amadis, seeing him approach, realized that he was defeated, and he raised his shield as high as he could to receive the blow. The giant hit so hard that the sword easily cut through the boss down and took off a third of the shield, but did not strike deeper. If he had struck further, he would have also sent Amadis and his arm to the ground.

Amadis, who in such straits had great experience and knew how to free himself from danger, neither neglecting nor forgetting anything he ought to do, before the giant could pull back his arm, struck him such a blow next to the elbow that although the sleeve of the plate armor was strong and of thick mail, it could not stop or delay his very fine sword from cutting through much of the flesh and one of the forearm bones.

The giant felt the blow deeply and pulled back a ways, but Amadis immediately charged him and gave him another blow on the top of the helmet with all his strength, and the sparks flew as if it had somehow been set on fire. It twisted the helmet on his head, so he could not see.

When the governing knight from Prince Island, who had come with Amadis, saw the blows that Amadis gave, and the encounter with the lance which had thrown from the saddle someone as valiant and as heavy as that giant, and what Amadis had done with his sword, he began to cross himself many times and said to the lady, who was next to him:

“My lady, where did ye find that devil who does such things that no other mortal knight has done?”

The lady told him:

“If many such devils like him were in the world, there would not be so many injuries and deaths from arrogant and evil men as there are.”

The giant quickly placed his hands on his helmet to straighten it, and he felt that his right arm had lost much of its strength for he could barely hold his sword in his hand, and he pulled farther back, but Amadis immediately came at him as he had from the first and gave him another great blow on the center of his shield, hoping to strike him on his head, but he could not, for when the giant saw such a fierce blow coming, he raised his shield to receive it. The sword sunk so deep into it that when Amadis tried to pull it out, he could not.

The giant tried to attack him, but he could only raise his arm a little, so his blow was weak. Then Amadis pulled on his sword as hard as he could, and the giant tugged on his shield, so that the great strength of the one and the other made the straps that held it around his neck break. Amadis pulled away the shield with his sword, which brought great danger to the giant because he had no way to use his own sword.

When the giant understood that and realized he had no shield, he took his sword in his left hand and began to strike Amadis with great blows, who ably protected himself with his shield, but he could in no way keep the giant’s blows from cutting through his chain mail in several places and reaching his flesh. And certainly, if the giant could have attacked with his right hand, he knew he would be in great danger of death, but with the left hand, although the blows were mighty and strong, they were poorly aimed, and most of them missed and were in vain.

Amadis, who wanted to wield his sword to attack, raised it up stuck in the shield, only seeking to defend himself. But seeing himself in such difficulty and danger, he decided to try to resolve the situation as fast as he could, and he pulled back a bit and took his own shield from his neck and threw it in the field between himself and the giant. He put a foot on the giant’s shield and pulled with both hands on the sword so hard that he pulled it free.

Meanwhile the giant picked up Amadis’s shield with his right hand, and although it was very lightweight, he could hardly raise it up and hold it in his hand, for the injury next to his elbow was so serious and with all the blood that had flowed from his arm, it felt almost dead, so he could only raise up and use his hand weakly. What impeded and fatigued him more were the bruised flesh and broken bones over his heart from the encounter with the lance ye have heard about, which cut his breath so much he could hardly breathe.

But as he was valiant both in strength and spirit, and he saw his fate approaching death, he withstood with great effort because after Amadis’s sword had been stuck in the shield with that great blow, Amadis could not attack or ward off blows with it. But when he pulled the sword out and it was free and unimpeded, he took the giant’s shield by its handles and could barely lift it up, given its size and weight, and charged to attack with great blows, using all his strength, so that the giant was harried, and both from the speed of Amadis’ attacks and from his haste to protect himself and attack, his heart collapsed on itself from the pain he felt within it, and he fell as if he were dead on the field.

When the men watching in the castle saw this, they shouted, and the ladies and damsels shrieked, saying:

“Our lord is dead! Death to the traitor who killed him!”


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