CHAPTER VII How Arthur took upon him to fight to be delivered out of prison, and also for to deliver twenty knights that were in prison.
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WHAT are ye that so complain? said King Arthur.
We be here twenty knights, prisoners, said they, and some of us have lain here seven year, and some more and some less.
For what cause? said Arthur.
We shall tell you, said the knights; this lord of this castle, his name is Sir Damas, and he is the falsest knight that liveth, and full of treason, and a very coward as any liveth, and he hath a younger brother, a good knight of prowess, his name is Sir Ontzlake; and this traitor Damas, the elder brother will give him no part of his livelihood, but as Sir Ontzlake keepeth thorough prowess of his hands, and so he keepeth from him a full fair manor and a rich, and therein Sir Ontzlake dwelleth worshipfully, and is well beloved of all people.
And this Sir Damas, our master is as evil beloved, for he is without mercy, and he is a coward, and great war hath been betwixt them both, but Ontzlake hath ever the better, and ever he proffereth Sir Damas to fight for the livelihood, body for body, but he will not do; other-else to find a knight to fight for him. Unto that Sir Damas had granted to find a knight, but he is so evil beloved and hated, that there is never a knight will fight for him.
And when Damas saw this, that there was never a knight would fight for him, he hath daily lain await with many knights with him, and taken all the knights in this country to see and espy their adventures, he hath taken them by force and brought them to his prison.
And so he took us separately as we rode on our adventures, and many good knights have died in this prison for hunger, to the number of eighteen knights; and if any of us all that here is, or hath been, would have foughten with his brother Ontzlake, he would have delivered us, but for because this Damas is so false and so full of treason we would never fight for him to die for it. And we be so lean for hunger that unnethe we may stand on our feet.
God deliver you, for his mercy, said Arthur.
Anon, therewithal there came a damosel unto Arthur, and asked him, What cheer?
I cannot say, said he.
Sir, said she, an ye will fight for my lord, ye shall be delivered out of prison, and else ye escape never the life.
Now, said Arthur, that is hard, yet had I liefer to fight with a knight than to die in prison; with this, said Arthur, I may be delivered and all these prisoners, I will do the battle.
Yes, said the damosel.
I am ready, said Arthur, an I had horse and armour.
Ye shall lack none, said the damosel.
Meseemeth, damosel, I should have seen you in the court of Arthur.
Nay said the damosel, I came never there, I am the lord's daughter of this castle.
Yet was she false, for she was one of the damosels of Morgan le Fay.
Anon she went unto Sir Damas, and told him how he would do battle for him, and so he sent for Arthur. And when he came he was well coloured, and well made of his limbs, that all knights that saw him said it were pity that such a knight should die in prison.
So Sir Damas and he were agreed that he should fight for him upon this covenant, that all other knights should be delivered; and unto that was Sir Damas sworn unto Arthur, and also to do the battle to the uttermost. And with that all the twenty knights were brought out of the dark prison into the hall, and delivered, and so they all abode to see the battle.
Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:
Languages / Anthropology 3043: Folklore & Mythology.
Laura Gibbs, Ph.D.
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