CHAPTER III How King Arthur had ado with them and overthrew them, and slew the five kings and made the remnant to flee.
Reading time: 4 minutes. Word count: 700 words.
UNTO this counsel these five kings assented, and so they passed forth with their host through North Wales, and came upon Arthur by night, and set upon his host as the king and his knights were in their pavilions.
King Arthur was unarmed, and had laid him to rest with his Queen Guenever.
Sir, said Sir Kay, it is not good we be unarmed.
We shall have no need, said Sir Gawaine and Sir Griflet, that lay in a little pavilion by the king.
With that they heard a great noise, and many cried, Treason, treason!
Alas, said King Arthur, we be betrayed! Unto arms, fellows, then he cried.
So they were armed anon at all points.
Then came there a wounded knight unto the king, and said, Sir, save yourself and my lady the queen, for our host is destroyed, and much people of ours slain.
So anon the king and the queen and the three knights took their horses, and rode toward Humber to pass over it, and the water was so rough that they were afraid to pass over.
Now may ye choose, said King Arthur, whether ye will abide and take the adventure on this side, for an ye be taken they will slay you.
It were me liefer, said the queen, to die in the water than to fall in your enemies' hands and there be slain.
And as they stood so talking, Sir Kay saw the five kings coming on horseback by themselves alone, with their spears in their hands even toward them.
Lo, said Sir Kay, yonder be the five kings; let us go to them and match them.
That were folly, said Sir Gawaine, for we are but three and they be five.
That is truth, said Sir Griflet.
No force, said Sir Kay, I will undertake for two of them, and then may ye three undertake for the other three.
And therewithal, Sir Kay let his horse run as fast as he might, and struck one of them through the shield and the body a fathom, that the king fell to the earth stark dead.
That saw Sir Gawaine, and ran unto another king so hard that he smote him through the body. And therewithal King Arthur ran to another, and smote him through the body with a spear, that he fell to the earth dead Then Sir Griflet ran unto the fourth king, and gave him such a fall that his neck brake.
Anon Sir Kay ran unto the fifth king, and smote him so hard on the helm that the stroke clave the helm and the head to the earth.
That was well stricken, said King Arthur, and worshipfully hast thou holden thy promise, therefore I shall honour thee while that I live.
And therewithal they set the queen in a barge into Humber; but always Queen Guenever praised Sir Kay for his deeds, and said, What lady that ye love, and she love you not again she were greatly to blame; and among ladies, said the queen, I shall bear your noble fame, for ye spake a great word, and fulfilled it worshipfully.
And therewith the queen departed.
Then the king and the three knights rode into the forest, for there they supposed to hear of them that were escaped; and there he found the most part of his people, and told them all how the five kings were dead. And therefore let us hold us together till it be day, and when their host have espied that their chieftains be slain, they will make such dole that they shall no more help themselves. And right so as the king said, so it was; for when they found the five kings dead, they made such dole that they fell from their horses.
Therewithal came King Arthur but with a few people, and slew on the left hand and on the right hand, that well-nigh there escaped no man, but all were slain to the number thirty thousand. And when the battle was all ended, the king kneeled down and thanked God meekly. And then he sent for the queen, and soon she was come, and she made great joy of the overcoming of that battle.
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Languages / Anthropology 3043: Folklore & Mythology.
Laura Gibbs, Ph.D.
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