The High History of the Holy Graal/Branch VIII
Of the most Holy Graal here beginneth another branch in such wise as the authority witnesseth and Joseph that made recoverance thereof, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
This high history and profitable witnesseth us that the son of the Widow Lady sojourned still with his uncle King Pelles in the hermitage, and through distress of the evil that he had had since he came forth of the house of King Fisherman, was he confessed to his uncle and told him of what lineage he was, and that his name was Perceval. But the good Hermit the good King had given him the name of Parluifet, for that he was made of himself. King Hermit was one day gone into the forest, and the good knight Parluifet felt himself sounder of health and lustier than he wont to be. He heard the birds sing in the forest, and his heart began to swell of knighthood, and he minded him of the adventures he wont to find in the forest and of the damsels and knights that he wont to meet, and never was he so fain of arms as was he at that time, for that he had been sojourning so long within doors. He felt courage in his heart and lustiness in his limbs and fainness in his thought. Right soon armeth he himself and setteth the saddle on his horse and mounteth forthwith. He prayeth God give him adventure that he may meet good knight, setteth himself forth of his uncle's hermitage and entereth into the forest that was broad and shady. He rideth until he cometh into a launde that was right spacious, and seeth a leafy tree that was at the head of the launde. He alighteth in the shadow, and thinketh to himself that two knights might joust on this bit of ground fair and well, for the place was right broad. And, even as he was thinking on this wise, he heard a horse neigh full loud in the forest three times, and right glad was he thereof and said: "Ha, God, of your sweetness grant that there be a knight with that horse, so may I prove whether there be any force or valour or knighthood in me. For I know not now what strength I may have, nor even whether my heart be sound and my limbs whole. For on a knight that hath neither hardihood nor valour in himself, may not another knight that hath more force in him reasonably prove his mettle, for many a time have I heard say that one is better than other. And for this pray I to the Saviour and this be a knight that cometh there, that he may have strength and hardihood and mettle to defend his body against mine own, for great desire have I to run upon him. Grant now that he slay me not, nor I him!"
Therewithal, he looketh before him, and seeth the knight issue from the forest and enter into the launde. The knight was armed and had at his neck a white shield with a cross of gold. He carried his lance low, and sate upon a great destrier and rode at a swift pace. As soon as Perceval seeth him, he steadieth him in his stirrups and setteth spear in rest and smiteth his horse with his spurs, right joyous, and goeth toward the knight a great gallop. Then he crieth: "Sir Knight, cover you of your shield to guard you as I do of mine to defend my body, for you do I defy on this side slaying, and our Lord God grant that I find you so good knight as shall try what hardihood of heart I may have, for I am not such as I have been aforetime, and better may one learn of a good knight than of a bad."
With that he smiteth the knight upon his shield with such a sweep that he maketh him lose one of his stirrups and pierceth his shield above the boss, and passeth beyond full speed. And the knight marvelleth much, and maketh demand, saying, "Fair Sir, what misdeed have I done you?"
Perceval is silent, and hath no great joy of this that he hath not overthrown the knight, but not so easy was he to overthrow, for he was one of the knights of the world that could most of defence of arms. He goeth toward Perceval as fast as his horse may carry him and Perceval toward him. They mell together upon their shields right stiffly, so that they pierce and batter them with the points of their spears. And Perceval thrusteth his spear into the flesh two finger-breadths, and the knight doth not amiss, for he passeth his spear right through his arm so that the shafts of the lances were splintered. They hurtle together either against other at the passing so mightily, that the flinders of iron from the mail of their habergeons stick into their foreheads and faces, and the blood leapeth forth by mouth and nose so that their habergeons were all bloody. They drew their swords with a right great sweep. The knight of the white shield holdeth Perceval's rein and saith: "Gladly would I know who you are and wherefore you hate me, for you have wounded me right sore, and sturdy knight have I found you and of great strength."
Perceval saith not a word to him and runneth again upon him sword drawn, and the knight upon him, and right great buffets either giveth other on the helm, so that their eyes all sparkle of stars and the forest resoundeth of the clashing of their swords. Right tough was the battle and right horrible, for good knights were both twain. But the blood that ran down from their wounds at last slackened their sinews, albeit the passing great wrath that the one had against the other, and the passing great heat of their will, had so enchafed them they scarce remembered the wounds that they had, and still dealt each other great buffets without sparing.
King Hermit cometh from labouring in the forest and findeth not his nephew in the hermitage, whereof is he right sorrowful, and he mounteth on a white mule that he had therewithin. She was starred in the midst of her forehead with a red cross. Josephus the good clerk witnesseth us that this same mule had belonged to Joseph of Abarimacie at the time he was Pilate's soldier, and that he bequeathed her to King Pelles. King Hermit departeth from the hermitage and prayeth God grant him to find his nephew. He goeth through the forest and rideth until he draweth nigh the launde where the two knights were. He heareth the strokes of the swords, and cometh towards them full speed and setteth him between the twain to forbid them.
"Ha, sir," saith he to the Knight of the White Shield, "Right great ill do you to combat against this knight that hath lain sick this long time in this forest, and fight sorely have you wounded him."
"Sir," saith the-knight, "As much hath he done by me, and never would I have run upon him now had he not challenged me, and he is not minded to tell me who he is nor whence ariseth his hatred of me."
"Fair Sir," saith the Hermit, "And you, who are you?"
"Sir," saith the knight, "I will tell you. I am the son of King Ban of Benoic."
"Ha, fair nephew," saith King Hermit to Perceval, "See here your cousin, for King Ban of Benoic was your father's cousin-german. Make him right great cheer!"
He maketh them take off their helmets and lower their ventails, and then kiss one another, afterward he leadeth them to his hermitage. They alight together. He calleth his own squire that waited upon him, and made them be disarmed right tenderly. There was a damsel within that was cousin-german to King Pelles and had tended Perceval within in his sickness. She washeth their wounds right sweetly and cleanseth them of the blood. And they see that Lancelot is sorer wounded than Perceval.
"Damsel," saith the Hermit, "How seemeth you?"
"Sir," saith she, "Needs must this knight sojourn here, for his wound is in a right perilous place."
"Hath he danger of death?"
"Sir," saith she, "In no wise of this wound, but behoveth him take good heed thereto."
"God be praised!" saith he, "and of my nephew how seemeth you?"
"Sir, the wound that he hath will be soon healed. He will have none ill thereof."
The damsel, that was right cunning of leech-craft, tended the wounds of the knights, and made them whole as best she might, and King Hermit himself gave counsel therein. But and Perceval had borne his shield that was there within, of sinople with a white hart, Lancelot would have known him well, nor would there have been any quarrel between them, for he had heard tell of this shield at the court of King Arthur. The authority of this story recordeth that the two knights are in hermitage, and that Perceval is well-nigh whole; but Lancelot hath sore pain of his wound and is still far from his healing.