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The Story of the Champions of the Round Table

Howard Pyle


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Description

This is Howard Pyle's retelling of the legends of three of the most illustrious knights of the Round Table, Sir Lancelot, Sir Tristram and Sir Percival.

This book has 316 pages in the PDF version, and was originally published in 1905.

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Excerpt from 'The Story of the Champions of the Round Table'

IT hath already been set forth in print in a volume written by me concerning the adventures of King Arthur when he first became king, how there were certain lesser kings who favored him and were friendly allies with him, and how there were certain others of the same sort who were his enemies.

Among those who were his friends was King ran of Benwick, who was an exceedingly noble lord of high estate and great honor, and who was of a lineage so exalted that it is not likely that there was anyone in the world who was of a higher strain.

Now, upon a certain time, King Ban of Benwick fell into great trouble; for there came against him a very powerful enemy, to wit, King Claudas of Scotland. King Claudas brought unto Benwick a huge army of knights and lords, and these sat down before the Castle of Trible with intent to take that strong fortress and destroy it.

This noble Castle of Trible was the chiefest and the strongest place of defence in all King Ban's dominions, wherefore he had intrenched himself there with all of his knights and with his Queen, hight Helen, and his youngest son, hight Launcelot.

Now this child, Launcelot; was dearer to Queen Helen than all the world besides, for he was not only large of limb but so extraordinarily beautiful of face that I do not believe an angel from Paradise could have been more beautiful than he. He had been born with a singular birth-mark upon his shoulder, which birth-mark had the appearance as of a golden star enstamped upon the skin; wherefore, because of this, the Queen would say: "Launcelot, by reason of that star upon thy shoulder I believe that thou shalt be the star of our house and that thou shalt shine with such remarkable glory that all the world shall behold thy lustre and shall marvel thereat for all time to come." So the Queen took extraordinary delight in Launcelot and loved him to the very core of her heart--albeit she knew not, at the time she spake, how that prophecy of hers concerning the star was to fall so perfectly true.

Now, though King Ban thought himself very well defended at his Castle of Trible, yet King Claudas brought so terribly big an army against that place that it covered the entire plain. A great many battles were fought under the walls of the castle, but ever King Claudas waxed greater and stronger, and King Ban's party grew weaker and more fearful.

So by and by things came to such a pass that King Ban bethought him of King Arthur, and he said to himself: "I will go to my lord the King and beseech help and aid from him, for he will certainly give it me. Nor will I trust any messenger in this affair other than myself; for I myself will go to King Arthur and will speak to him with my own lips."

Having thus bethought him, he sent for Queen Helen to come into his privy closet and he said to her: "My dear love, nothing remaineth for me but to go unto the court of King Arthur and beseech him to lend his powerful aid in this extremity of our misfortunes; nor will I trust any messenger in this affair but myself. Now, this castle is no place for thee, when I am away, therefore, when I go upon this business, I will take thee and Launcelot with me, and I will leave you both in safety at King Arthur's court with our other son, Sir Ector, until this war be ended and done." And to these Queen Helen lent her assent.

So King Ban summoned to him the seneschal of the castle, who was named Sir Malydor le Brun, and said to him: "Messire, I go hence to-night by a secret pass, with intent to betake me unto King Arthur, and to beseech his aid in this extremity. Moreover, I shall take with me my lady and the young child Launcelot, to place them within the care of King Arthur during these dolorous wars. But besides these, I will take no other one with me but only my favorite esquire, Foliot. Now I charge thee, sir, to hold this castle in my behalf with all thy might and main, and yield it not to our enemies upon any extremity; for I believe I shall in a little while return with sufficient aid from King Arthur to compass the relief of this place."

So when night had fallen very dark and still, King Ban, and Queen Helen, and the young child Launcelot, and the esquire Foliot left the town privily by means of a postern gate. Thence they went by a secret path, known only to a very few, that led down a steep declivity of rocks, with walls of rock upon either side that were very high indeed, and so they came out in safety beyond the army of King Claudas and into the forest of the valley below. And the forest lay very still and solemn and dark in the silence of the nighttime.

Having thus come out in safety into the forest, that small party journeyed on with all celerity that they were able to achieve until, some little time before dawn, they came to where was a lake of water in an open meadow of the forest. Here they rested for a little while, for Queen Helen had fallen very weary with the rough and hasty journey which they had traveled.

Now whilst they sat there resting, Foliot spake of a sudden, saying unto King Ban: "Lord, what is that light that maketh the sky so bright yonderways?" Then King Ban looked a little and presently said: 

"Methinks it must be the dawn that is breaking." "Lord," quoth Foliot, "that cannot very well be; for that light in the sky lieth in the south, whence we have come, and not in the east, where the sun should arise."

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