Hero-Myths and Legends of the British Race
Page: 151King Arthur! I beg a boon of you!” “What is your request?” said the king, for the maiden was in great distress, and her tears filled his heart with pity. “What would you have of me?” “I cry for vengeance on a churlish knight, who has separated my love from me.” “Tell your story quickly,” said King Arthur; and all the knights listened while the lady spoke.
“I was betrothed to a gallant knight,” she said, “whom I loved dearly, and we were entirely happy until yesterday. Then as we rode out together planning our marriage we came, through the moorland ways, unnoticing, to a fair lake, Tarn Wathelan, where stood a great castle, with streamers flying, and banners waving in the wind. It seemed a strong and goodly place, but alas! it stood on magic ground, and within
The churlish giant darted out at the summons, brandishing his massive club, and rushed straight at King Arthur. The spell of the enchanted ground seized the king at that moment, and his hand sank down. Down fell his good sword Excalibur, down fell his shield, and he found himself ignominiously helpless in the presence of his enemy.
Now the giant cried aloud: “Yield or fight, King Arthur; which will you do? If you fight I shall conquer you, for you have no power to resist me; you will be my prisoner, with no hope of ransom, will lose your land and spend your life in my dungeon with many other brave knights. If you yield I will hold you to [Pg 270] ransom, but you must swear to accept the terms I shall offer.”
“What are they,” asked King Arthur. The giant replied: “You must swear solemnly, by the Holy Rood, that you will return here on New Year’s Day and bring me a true answer to the question, ‘What thing is it that all women most desire?’ If you fail to bring the right answer your ransom is not paid, and you are yet my prisoner. Do you accept my terms?” The king had no alternative: so long as he stood on the enchanted ground his courage was overborne by the spell and he could only hold up his hand and swear by the Sacred Cross and by Our Lady that he would return, with such answers as he could obtain, on New Year’s Day.