At Totnes Constantin the fair and all his host came ashore; thither came the bold man—well was he brave!—and with him two thousand knights such as no king possessed. Forth they gan march into London, and sent after knights over all the kingdom, and every brave man, that speedily he should come anon.
The Britons heard that, where they dwelt in the pits; in earth and in stocks they hid them like badgers, in wood and in wilderness, in heath and in fen, so that well nigh no man might find any Briton, except they were in castle, or in burgh inclosed fast. When they heard of this word, that Constantin was in the land, then came out of the mountains many thousand men; they leapt out of the wood as if it were deer. Many hundred thousand marched toward London, by street and by weald all it forth pressed; and the brave women put on them men's clothes, and they forth journeyed toward the army.
When the Earl Constantin saw all this folk come to him, then he was so blithe as he was never before in life. Forth they took their way two nights and a day, so that they came full truly to Melga and Wanis. Together they rushed with stern strength, fought fiercely—the fated fell! Ere the day were gone, slain was Wanis and Melgan, and Peohtes enow, and Scots without number, Danes and Norwegians, Galloways and Irish. The while that the day was light lasted ever this slaughter.
When it came to the eventime, then called the Earl Constantin, and bade that guides should ride to the waters, and active men toward the sea, for to guard them. A man should have seen the game, how the women forth marched over woods and over fields, over hills and over dales. Wheresoever they found any man escaped, that was with Melga the heathen king, the women loud laughed, and tore him all in pieces, and prayed for the soul, that never should good be to it. Thus the British women killed many thousands, and thus they freed this kingdom of Wanis and of Melga.
And Constantin the brave marched to Silchester, and held there his husting of all his British thanes, all the Britons came to the meeting, and took Constantin the noble, and made him king of Britain— much was then the mirth that was among men. And afterwards they gave him a wife, one wondrous fair, born of the highest, of Britain the best of all. By this noble wife Constantin had in this land three little sons. The first son had well nigh his father's name; Constantin hight the king, Constance hight the child. When this child was waxed, that it could ride, then his father caused him to be made a monk, through counsel of wicked men, and the child was a monk in Winchester. After him was born another, who was the middle brother, he was named Aurelius, his surname hight Ambrosius. Then was last of all born a child that was well disposed, he was named Uther, his virtues were strong; he was the youngest brother, but he lived longer than the others.
Guencelm the archbishop, who toward God was full good, took charge of the two children, for love of the king. But alas! that their father might live no longer!—for he had good laws the while that he lived; but he was king here but twelve years, and then was the king dead—hearken now through what chance. He had in his house a Peoht, fair knight and most brave; he fared with the king, and with all his thanes by no other wise but as it were his brother. Then became he so potent, to all his companions unlike; then thought he to betray Constantin the powerful. He came before the king, and fell on his knees, and thus lied the traitor before his lord: "Lord king, come forthright, and speak with Cadal thy knight, and I will thee tell of strange speeches, such as thou never ere on earth heardest."
Then arose the king Constantin, and went forth out with him. But alas! that Constantin's knights knew it not! They proceeded so long forward that they came in an orchard. Then said the traitor there: "Lord, be we here." The traitor sat down, as if he would hold secret discourse, and he approached to the king, as a man doth in whispering. He grasped a knife very long, and the king therewith he pierced into the heart; and he himself escaped—there the king dead lay, and the traitor fled away.
The tidings came to court, how the king had fared; then was mickle sorrow spread to the folk. Then were the Britons busy in thought, they knew not through anything what they might have for king, for the king's two sons, little they were both. Ambrosie could scarcely ride on horse, and Uther, his brother, yet still sucked his mother; and Constance the eldest was monk in Winchester; monk's clothes he had on, as one of his companions. Then came to London all this landfolk, to their husting, and to advise them of a king, what wise they might do, and how they might take on, and which one of these children they might have for king. Then chose this people Aurelie Ambrosie, to have for king over them.
That heard Vortiger, a crafty man and most wary; among the earls he stood, and firmly withstood it, and he thus said—sooth though it were not: "I will advise you counsel with the best; abide a fortnight, and come we eft right here, and I will say to you sooth words, so that with your eyes ye shall see, and your while well bestow; this same time we shall abide, and to our land the while ride, and hold amity and hold peace, freely in land."
All the folk did as Vortiger deemed; and he himself went as if he would go to his land, and turned right the way that into Winchester lay. Vortiger had Welshland the half-part in his hand; forty knights good he had in his retinue. He proceeded to Winchester, where he found Constance, and spake with the abbot who governed the monastery where Constance was monk, the king's son of Britain. He went into the monastery with mild speech; he said that he would speak with Constance. The abbot granted it to him, and he led him to the speech-house. Thus spake Vortiger with the monk then there: "Constance, hearken my counsel, for now is thy father dead. There is Ambrosie thy brother, and Uther the other. Now have the elders, the noblest in land, chosen Aurelie—his surname is Ambrosie—if they may through all things they will make him king; and Uther, thy brother, yet sucketh his mother. But I have opposed them, and think to withsay, for I have been steward of all Britain's land, and earl I am potent, unlike to my companions, and I have Welshland half part in my hand; more I have alone than the others all clean. I am come to thee, for dearest of men thou art to me; if thou wilt swear to me oaths, I will take off thee these clothes, if thou wilt increase my land, and thy counsel place in my hand, and make me thy steward over all Britain's land, and through my counsel do all thy deeds, and if thou wilt pledge me in hand, that I shall rule it all, I will through all things make thee Britain's king." This monk sate well still, the speech went to him at his will. Then answered the monk with much delight: "Well worth thee, Vortiger, that thou art come here; if evermore cometh the day that I may be king, all my counsel and all my land I will place in thine hand, and all that thou wilt do, my men shall accept it. And oaths I will swear to thee, that I will not deceive thee." Thus said the monk; he mourned greatly how else it were, that he were monk; for to him were black clothes wondrously odious. Vortiger was crafty and wary—that he made known everywhere—he took a cape of a knight of his, and on the monk he put it, and led him out of the place; he took a swain anon, and the black clothes put on him, and held secret discourse with the swain, as if it were the monk.
Monks passed upward, monks passed downward; they saw by the way the swain with monk's clothes; the hood hanged down as if he hid his crown; they all weened that it were their brother, who there sate so sorry in the speech-house, in the daylight, among all the knights. They came to their abbot, and greeted him in God's name: "Lord, benedicite, we are come before thee, for strange it seemeth to us what Vortiger thinketh in our speech-house, where he holdeth discourse, throughout this day no monk may come therein, except Constance alone, and the knights all clean. Sore we dread, that they him miscounsel." Then answered the abbot; "Nay, but they counsel him good; they bid him hold his hood (holy order), for now is his father dead." Vortiger there abode the while Constance away rode. Vortiger up arose, from the monastery departed, and all his knight out went forth-right.
The monks there ran thither anon, they weened to find Constance; when they saw the clothes lie by the walls, then each to other lamented their brother. The abbot leapt on horse, and after Vortiger rode, and soon gan overtake the Earl Vortiger. Thus said the abbot to Vortiger where he rode: "Say me, thou mad knight, why dost thou so great wrong? Thou takest from us our brother,—leave him, and take the other. Take Ambrosie the child, and make of him a king, and anger thou not Saint Benedict, nor do thou to him any wrong!"
Vortiger heard this—he was crafty and very wary;—soon he came back, and the abbot he took, and swore by his hand, that he would him hang, unless he him pledged, that he would forthright unhood Constance the king's son of this land, and for such need he should be king of this country. The abbot durst no other, there he unhooded his brother, and the child gave the abbot in hand twenty ploughlands, and afterwards they proceeded forth into London. Vortiger the high forbade his attendants, that they to no man should tell what they had in design. Vortiger lay in London, until the same set day came, that the knights of this land should come to husting.
At the day they came, many and numerous; they counselled, they communed, the stern warriors, that they would have Ambrosie, and raise for king; for Uther was too little—the yet he might suck—and Constance was monk, who was eldest of them, and they would not for anything make a monk king. Vortiger heard this, who was crafty and most wary, and leapt on foot as if it were a lion. None of the Britons there knew what Vortiger had done. He had in a chamber Constance the dear, well bathed and clothed, and afterwards hid with twelve knights. Then thus spake Vortiger—he was of craft wary: "Listen, lordings, the while that I speak of kings. I was in Winchester, where I well sped, I spake with the abbot, who is a holy man and good, and said him the need that is come to this nation by Constantin's death—therefore he is uneasy—and of Constance the child, that he had holden. And I bade him for love of God, to take off the child's hood, and for such need he should be king in the country. And the abbot took his counsel, and did all that I bade him; and here I have his monks, who are good and chief, who shall witness bear before you all. Lo! where here is the same child, make we hereof a king, and here I hold the crown that thereto behoveth, and whoso will this withsay, he shall it buy dear!"
Vortiger was most strong, the highest man of Britain, was there never any so bold that his words durst deprecate. In the same town was the archbishop dead, and there was no bishop that forth on his way did not pass, nor monk nor any abbot, that he on his way did not ride, for they durst not for fear of God do there the wrong, to take the monk child, and make him Britain's king. Vortiger saw this—of all evil he was well ware, up he gan to stand, the crown he took in hand, and he set it upon Constance—that was to him in thought. Was there never any man that might there do Christendom, that might do blessing upon the king, but Vortiger alone did it clean for all! The beginning was unfair, and also was the end, he deserted God's hood (holy order), therefore he had sorrow! Thus was Constance king of this land, and Vortiger was his steward.
Constance set all his kingdom in Vortiger's hand, and he did all in the land, as he himself would. Then saw Vortiger—of much evil he was ware—that Constance the king knew nothing of land (government?), for he had not learnt ever any learning, except what a monk should perform in his monastery. Vortiger saw that—the Worse was full nigh him!—oft he bethought him what he might do, how he might with leasing please the king. Now thou mayest hear, how this traitor gan him fare. The best men of Britain were all dead, now were the king's brothers both full little, and Guencehn the archbishop therebefore was dead, and this land's king himself of the law knew nothing. Vortiger saw this, and he came to the king, with mild speech his lord he gan greet: "Hail be thou, Constance, Britain's lord! I am come thus nigh thee for much need, for to say to thee tidings that are come to land, of very great danger. Now thee behoveth might, now weapons behove thee to defend thy country. Here are chapmen arrived from other lands, as it is the custom; they have brought to me toll for their goods, and they have told me and plighted troth, that the King of Norway will newly fare hither, and the Danish king these Danes will seek, and the King of Russia, sternest of all knights, and the King of Gothland with host most strong, and the King of Frise—therefore it alarmeth me. The tidings are evil that are come to land; herefore I am most adread, for I know no good counsel, unless we may with might send after knights, that are good and strong, and that are well able in land, and fill thy castles with keen men, and so thou mightest defend thy kingdom against foreigners, and maintain thy worship with high strength. For there is no kingdom, so broad nor so long, that will not soon be taken if there are too few warriors."
Then answered the king—of land he knew nothing—"Vortiger, thou art steward over all Britain's land, and thou shalt it rule after thy will. Send after knights that are good in fight; and take all in thine hand, my castles and my land, and do all thy will, and I will be still, except the single thing, that I will be called king."
Then laughed Vortiger—he was of evil most ware—was he never so blithe ere in his life! Vortiger took leave, and forth he gan pass, and so he proceeded through all Britain's land, all the castles and all the land he set in his own hand, and the fealty he took ever where he came. And so he took his messengers, and sent to Scotland, and ordered the Peohtes, the knights best of all, three hundred to come to him, and he would well do to them. And the knights came to him thereafter well soon; thus spake the traitorous man: "Knights, ye are welcome. I have in my hand all this regal land, with me ye shall go, and I will you love, and I will you bring before our king; ye shall have silver and gold, the best horses of this land, clothes, and fair wives; your will I will perform Ye shall be to me dear, for the Britons are hateful to me, loud and still I will do your will, if ye will in land hold me for lord." Then forth-right answered the knights "We will do all thy will," and they gan proceed to Constance the king. To the king came Vortiger—of evil he was well ware—and said him of— had done—"And here I have the Peohtes, who shall be household knights; and I have most well stored all thy castles, and these foreign knights shall before us fight." The king commended all as Vortiger purposed, but alas! that the king knew nothing of his thoughts, nor of his treachery, that he did soon thereafter! These knights were in court highly honoured, full two years with the king they dwelt there, and Vortiger the steward was lord of them all. Ever he said that the Britons were not of use, but he said that the Peohtes were good knights. Ever were the Britons deprived of goods, and the Peohtes wielded all that they would. They had drink, they had meat, they had eke much bliss. Vortiger granted them all that they would, and was to them as dear as their own life; so that they all spake, where they ate their meat, that Vortiger were worthy to govern this realm throughout all things, better than three such kings! Vortiger gave these men very much treasure.
Then befell it on a day, that Vortiger lay at his inn; he took his two knights and sent after the Peohtes, bade them come here, for they all should eat there. Forth-right the knights came to him, to his inn, he tried them with words as they sate at the board, he caused draughts to be brought them of many kinds of drinks, they drank, they revelled, the day there forth passed. When they were so drunk that their shanks weakened, then spake Vortiger what he had previously thought: "Hearken now to me, knights, I will say to you forth-right of my mickle sorrow that I for you have mourned. The king delivered me this land for to be his steward. Ye are to me liefest of all men alive, but I have not wealth to give my knights, for this king possesses all this land, and he is young and also strong, and all I must yield to him that I take of his land, and if I destroy his goods, I shall suffer the law, and mine own wealth I have spent, because I would please you. And now I must depart hence far to some king, serve him with peace, and gain wealth with him; I may not for much shame have here this abode, but forth I must go to foreign lands And if the day shall ever come that I may acquire wealth, and I may so well thrive, that ye come in the land where I am, I will well reward you with much worship. And have now all good day, for to-night I will go away, it is a great doubt whether ye see me evermore"—These knights knew not what the traitor thought Vortiger was treacherous, for here he betrayed his lord, and the knights held it for sooth, what the traitor said Vortiger ordered his swains to saddle his steeds, and named twelve men to lead with himself, to horse they went as if they would depart from the land.
The Peohtes saw that—the drunken knights—how Vortiger would depart, herefore they had much care, they went to counsel, they went to communing, all they lamented their life exceedingly, because Vortiger was so dear to them And thus said the Peohtes, the drunken knights: "What may we now in counsel? who shall us now advise? who shall us feed, who shall us clothe, who shall be our lord at court? Now Vortiger is gone, we all must depart,—we will not for anything have a monk for king! But we will do well, forth-right go we to him, secretly and still, and do all our will, into his chamber, and drink of his beer When we have drunk, loudly revel we, and some shall go to the door, and with swords stand therebefore, and some forth-right take the king and his knights, and smite off the heads of them, and we ourselves have the court, and cause soon our lord Vortiger to be overtaken, and afterwards through all things raise him to be king;—then may we live as to us is befest of all."
The knights proceeded to the king forth-right; they all went throughout the hall into the king's chamber, where he sate by the fire There was none that spake a word except Gille Callaet; thus he spake with the king whom he there thought to betray: "Listen to me now, monarch, I will nothing lie to thee We have been in court highly honoured through thy steward, who hath governed all this land, he hath us well fed, he hath us well clothed And in sooth I may say to thee, with him we ate now to day, but sore it us grieveth, we had nought to drink, and now we are in thy chamber give us drink of thy beer" Then gave the king answer "That shall be your least care, for ye shall have to drink the while that you think good" Men brought them drink, and they gan to revel, thus said Gille Callaet—at the door he was full active "Where be ye, knights? Bestir you forth right!" And they seized the king, and smote off his head, and all his knights they slew forth-right And took a messenger, and sent toward London, that he should ride quickly after Vortiger, that he should come speedily, and take the kingdom, for that he should know through all things, slain was Constance the king. Vortiger heard that, who was traitor full secret; thus he ordered the messenger back forth-right anon, and bade them "well to keep all our worship that never one depart out of the place, but all abide me, until that I arrive, and so I will divide this land among us all."
Forth went the messenger, and Vortiger took anon and sent over London, and ordered them quickly and full soon, that they all should come to husting. When the burgh-men were come, who were most bold, then spake Vortiger, who was traitor full secret,—much he gan to weep, and sorrowfully to sigh, but it was in his head, and not in his heart. Then asked him the burgh-men, who were most bold. "Lord Vortiger, what is that thou mournest? Thou art no woman so sore to weep." Then answered Vortiger, who was traitor full secret: "I will tell you piteous speeches, of much calamity that is come to the land. I have been in this realm your king's steward, and spoken with him, and loved him as my life. But he would not at the end any counsel approve, he loved the Peohtes, the foreign knights, and he would not do good to us, nor anywhere fair receive, but to them he was gracious, ever in their lives I might not of the king have remuneration (or wages), I spent my wealth, the while that it lasted, and afterwards I took leave to go to my land, and when I had my tribute, come again to court. When the Peohtes saw that the king had no knights, nor ever any kind of man that would aught for them do, they took their course into the king's chamber I say you through all things, they have slain the king, and think to destroy this kingdom and us all, and will forth-right make them king of a Peoht. But I was his steward, avenge I will my lord, and every brave man help me to do that. On I will with my gear, and forth-right I will go."
Thirty hundred knights marched out of London; they rode and they ran, forth with Vortiger, until they approached where the Peohtes dwelt. And he took one of his knights, and sent to the Peohtes, and said to them that he came, if they would him receive. The Peohtes were blithe for their murder (that they had committed), and they took their good gear—there was neither shield nor spear Vortiger weaponed all his knights forth right, and the Peohtes there came, and brought the head of the king. When Vortiger saw this head, then fell he full nigh to the ground, as if he had grief most of all men, with his countenance he gan he, but his heart was full blithe. Then said Vortiger, who was traitor full secret: "Every brave man lay on them with sword, and avenge well in the land the sorrow of our lord!" None they captured, but all they them slew; and proceeded to the inn, into Winchester, and slew their swains, and their chamber-servants, their cooks, and their boys, all they deprived of life-day. Thus faired the tidings of Constance the king.
And the worldly-wise men took charge of the other children; for they had care of Vortiger they took Ambrosie and Uther, and led them over sea, into the Less Britain, and delivered them fairly to Biduz the king. And he them fairly received, for he was their kin and their friend, and with much joy the children he brought up; and so well many years with him they were there.
Vortiger in this land was raised to be king; all the strong burghs stood in his hand; five-and-twenty years he was king here. He was mad, he was wild, he was cruel, he was bold; of all things he had his will, except the Peohtes were never still, but ever they advanced over the north end, and afflicted this kingdom with prodigious harm, and avenged their kin enow, whom Vortiger slew here.
In the meantime came tidings into this land, that Aurelie was knight, who was named Ambrosie, and also was Uther, good knight and most wary, and would come to this land, and lead an army most strong. This was many times a saying oft repeated; oft came these tidings to Vortiger the king; therefore it oft shamed him, and his heart angered, for men said it everywhere:—"Now will come Ambrosie and Uther, and will avenge soon Constance, the king of this land; there is no other course, avenge they will their brother, and slay Vortiger, and burn him to dust; thus they will set all this land in their own hand!" So spake each day all that passed by the way.
Vortiger bethought him what he might do, and thought to send messengers into other lands, after foreign knights, who might him defend; and thought to be wary against Ambrosie and Uther.
In the meantime came tidings to Vortiger the king, that over sea were come men exceeding strange; in the Thames to land they were come; three ships good came with the flood, therein three hundred knights, kings as it were, without (besides) the shipmen who were there within. These were the fairest men that ever here came, but they were heathens—that was the more harm! Vortiger sent to them, and asked how they were disposed (their business); if they sought peace, and recked of his friendship? They answered wisely, as well they knew, and said that they would speak with the king, and lovingly him serve, and hold him for lord; and so they gan wend forth to the king. Then was Vortiger the king in Canterbury, where he with his court nobly diverted themselves; there these knights came before the sovereign. As soon as they met him, they greeted him fair, and said that they would serve him in this land, if he would them with right retain. Then answered Vortiger—of each evil he was ware—"In all my life that I have lived, by day nor by night saw I never ere such knights; for your arrival I am blithe, and with me ye shall remain, and your will I will perform, by my quick life! But first I would of you learn, through your sooth worship, what knights ye be, and whence ye are come, and whether ye will be true, old and eke new?"
Then answered the one who was the eldest brother: "Listen to me now, lord king, and I will make known to you what knights we are, and whence we are come. I hight Hengest; Hors is my brother; we are of Alemaine, a land noblest of all, of the same end that Angles is named. In our land are strange tidings; after fifteen years the folk is assembled, all our nation-folk, and cast their lots; upon whom that it falleth, he shall depart from the land. The five shall remain, the sixth shall forth proceed out of the country to a foreign land; be he man ever so loved, he shall forth depart. For there is folk very much, more than they would desire; the women go there with child as the wild deer, every year they bear child there! That is fallen on us, that we should depart; we might not remain, for life nor for death, nor for ever anything, for fear of the sovereign. Thus we fared there, and therefore are we now here, to seek under heaven land and good lord. Now thou hast heard, lord king, sooth of us through all things." Then answered Vortiger—of each evil he was ware—"I believe thee, knight, that thou sayest to me right sooth. And what are your creeds, that ye in believe, and your dear god, whom ye worship?" Then answered Hengest, fairest of all knights—in all this kingdom is not a knight so tall nor so strong:—"We have good gods, whom we love in our mind, whom we have hope in, and serve them with might. The one hight Phebus; the second Saturnus; the third hight Woden, who is a mighty god; the fourth hight Jupiter, of all things he is aware; the fifth hight Mercurius, who is the highest over us; the sixth hight Appolin, who is a god brave; the seventh hight Tervagant, a high god in our land. Yet (in addition) we have a lady, who is high and mighty, high she is and holy, therefore courtiers love her—she is named Frea—well she them treateth. But among all our dear gods whom we shall serve, Woden had the highest law in our elders' days; he was dear to them even as their life, he was their ruler, and did to them worship; the fourth day in the week they gave him for his honour. To the Thunder (Jupiter) they gave Thursday, because that it may help them; to Frea, their lady, they gave her Friday; to Saturnus they gave Saturday; to the Sun they gave Sunday; to the Moon they gave Monday; to Tidea they gave Tuesday." Thus said Hengest, fairest of all knights. Then answered Vortiger—of each evil he was ware—"Knights, ye are dear to me, but these tidings are loathsome to me; your creeds are wicked, ye believe not on Christ, but ye believe on the Worse, whom God himself cursed; your gods are of nought, in hell they lie beneath. But nevertheless I will retain you in my power, for northward are the Peohtes, knights most brave, who oft into my land lead host most strong, and oft do me much shame, and therefore I have grief. And if ye will me avenge, and procure me their heads, I will give you land, much silver and gold." Then answered Hengest, fairest of all knights: "If Saturnus so will it, and Woden, our lord, on whom we believe, it shall all thus be!"
Hengest took leave, and gan wend to his ships; there was many a strong knight; they drew their ships upon the land. Forth went the warriors to Vortiger the king; Hengest went before, and Hors, next of all to him; then the Alemainish men, who were noble in deeds; and afterwards they sent to him (Vortiger) their brave Saxish knights, Hengest's kinsmen, of his old race. They came into hall, fairly all; better were clothed and better were fed Hengest's swains, than Vortiger's thanes! Then was Vortiger's court held in contempt! the Britons were sorry for such a sight.
It was no whit long before five knights' sons who had travelled quickly came to the king; they said to the king new tidings: "Now forth-right the Peohtes are come; through thy land they run, and harry, and burn, and all the north end fell to the ground; hereof thou must advise thee, or we all shall be dead." The king bethought him what he might do, he sent to the inn, after all his men. There came Hengest, there came Hors, there came many a man full brave; there came the Saxish men, Hengest's kinsmen, and the Alemainish knights, who are good in fight. The King Vortiger saw this; blithe was he then there.
The Peohtes did, as was their custom, on this side of the Humber they were come. And the King Vortiger of their coming was full aware; together they came (encountered), and many there slew; there was fight most strong, combat most stern! The Peohtes were oft accustomed to overcome Vortiger, and so they thought then to do, but it befell then in other wise, for it was safety to them (the Britons) that Hengest was there, and the strong knights who came from Saxland, and the brave Alemainish, who came thither with Hors, for very many Peohtes they slew in the fight; fiercely they fought, the fated fell! When the noon was come, then were the Peohtes overcome, and quickly away they fled, on each side they forth fled, and all day they fled, many and without number. The King Vortiger went back to lodging, and ever were nigh to him Hors and Hengest. Hengest was dear to the king, and to him he gave Lindesey, and he gave Hors treasures enow, and all their knights he treated exceeding well, and thus a good time it stood in the same wise. The Peohtes durst never come into the land, no robbers nor outlaws, that they were not soon slain; and Hengest exceeding fairly served the king.
Then befell it on a time, that the king was very blithe, on a high-day, among his people. Hengest bethought him what he might do, for he would hold secret discourse with the king; he went before the king, and gan greet fair. The king up stood, and set him by himself; they drank, they revelled—bliss was among them. Then quoth Hengest to the king: "Lord, hearken tidings, and I will tell thee of secret discourse, if thou wilt well listen to my advice, and not hold in wrath what I well teach." And the king answered as Hengest would it. Then said Hengest, fairest of all knights: "Lord, I have many a day advanced thy honour, and been thy faithful man in thy rich court, and in each fight the highest of thy knights. And I have often heard anxious whisperings among thy courtiers; they hate thee exceedingly, unto the bare death, if they it durst show. Oft they speak stilly, and discourse with whispers, of two young men, that dwell far hence; the one hight Uther, the other Ambrosie—the third hight Constance who was king in this land, and he here was slain through traitorous usage. The others will now come, and avenge their brother, all consume thy land, and slay thy people, thyself and thy folk drive out of land. And thus say thy men, where they sit together, because the twain brothers are both royally born, of Androein's race, these noble Britons; and thus thy folk stilly condemn thee. But I will advise thee of thy great need, that thou procure knights that are good in fight; and give to me a castle, or a royal burgh, that I may be in, the while that I live. For I am for thee hated—therefore I ween to be dead, fare wherever I fare, I am never without care, unless I be fast inclosed in a castle. If thou wilt do this for me, I will it receive with love, and quickly I will send after my wife, who is a Saxish woman, of wisdom excellent, and after my daughter Rowenne, who is most dear to me. When I have my wife, and my kinsmen, and I am in thy land fully settled, the better I will serve thee, if thou grantest me this." Then answered Vortiger—of each evil he was ware—"Take quickly knights, and send after thy wife, and after thy children, the young and the old, and after thy kin, and receive them with joy; when they to thee come, thou shalt have riches to feed them nobly, and worthily to clothe them. But I will not give to thee any castle or burgh, for men would reproach me in my kingdom, for ye hold the heathen law that stood in your elders' days, and we hold Christ's law, and will ever in our days." The yet spake Hengest, fairest of all knights: "Lord, I will perform thy will, here and over all, and do all my deeds after thy counsel. Now will I speedily send after my wife, and after my daughter, who is to me very dear, and after brave men, the best of my kin. And thou give me so much land, to stand in mine own hand, as a bull's hide will each way overspread, far from each castle, amidst a field. Then nor the poor nor the rich may blame thee, that thou hast given any noble burgh to a heathen man." And the king granted him as Hengest yearned.
Hengest took leave, and forth he gan pass, and after his wife he sent messengers, to his own land, and he himself went over this land, to seek a broad field whereon he might well spread his fair hide. He came to a spot, in a fair field, he had obtained a hide to his need, of a wild bull that was wondrously strong. He had a wise man, who well knew of craft, who took this hide, and laid it on a board, and whet his shears, as if he would shear. Of the hide he carved a thong, very small and very long, the thong was not very broad, but as it were a thread of twine; when the thong was all slit, it was wondrously long, about therewith he encompassed a great deal of land. He began to dig a ditch very mickle, there upon a stone wall, that was strong over all, a burgh he areared, mickle and lofty. When the burgh was all ready, then shaped he to it a name, he named it full truly Kaer-Carrai in British, and English knights they called it Thongchester. Now and evermore the name standeth there, and for no other adventure had the burgh the name, until that Danish men came, and drove out the Britons; the third name they set there, and Lanecastel (Lancaster) it named; and for such events the town had these three names.
In the meantime arrived hither Hengest's wife with her ships; she had for companions fifteen hundred riders; with her came, to wit, mickle good ships; therein came much of Hengest's kin, and Rowenne, his daughter, who was to him most dear. It was after a while, that that time came, that the burgh was completed with the best of all. And Hengest came to the king, and asked him to a banquet, and said that he had prepared an inn against him (his coming) and bade that he should come thereto, and he should be fairly received. And the king granted him as Hengest it would.
It came to the time that the king gan forth proceed, with the dearest men of all his folk; forth he gan proceed until he came to the burgh. He beheld the wall up and down over all; all it liked him well, that he on looked. He went into the hall, and all his knights with him; trumps they blew, games men gan to call, boards they ordered to be spread, knights sate thereat, they ate, they drank, joy was in the burgh!—when the folk had eaten, then was the better befallen to them.
Hengest went into the inn, where Rowenne dwelt; he caused her to be clad with excessive pride; all the clothes that she had on, they were most excellent, they were good with the best, embroidered with gold. She bare in her hand a golden bowl, filled with wine, that was one wondrous good. High-born men led her into the hall before the king, fairest of all things! Rouwenne sate on her knee, and called to the king, and thus first she said in English land: "Lord king, wassail! for thy coming I am glad." The king this heard, and knew not what she said, the King Vortiger asked his knights soon, what were the speech that the maid spake. Then answered Keredic, a knight most admirable; he was the best interpreter that ere came here: "Listen to me now, my lord king, and I will make known to thee what Rowenne saith, fairest of all women. It is the custom in Saxland, wheresoever any people make merry in drink, that friend sayeth to his friend, with fair comely looks, 'Dear friend, wassail!'—the other sayeth, 'Drinchail!' The same that holds the cup, he drinketh it up; another full cup men thither bring, and give to his comrade. When the full cup is come, then kiss they thrice. These are the good customs in Saxland, and in Alemaine they are accounted noble!"
Vortiger heard this—of each evil he was ware—and said it in British, for he knew no English: "Maiden Rouwenne, drink then blithely!" The maid drank up the wine, and let do (put) other wine therein, and gave to the king, and thrice him kissed. And through the same people the custom came to this land of Wassail and Drinchail—many a man thereof is glad' Rouwenne the fair sate by the king; the king beheld her longingly, she was dear to him in heart, oft he kissed her, oft he embraced her; all his mind and his might inclined towards the maiden.
The Worse was there full nigh, who in each game is full cruel; the Worse who never did good, he troubled the king's mood; he mourned full much, to have the maiden for wife. That was a most loathly thing, that the Christian king should love the heathen maid, to the harm of his people! The maiden was dear to the king, even as his own life; he prayed to Hengest, his chieftain, that he should give him the maid-child. Hengest found in his counsel to do what the king asked him; he gave him Rouwenne, the woman most fair. To the king it was pleasing; he made her queen, all after the laws that stood in the heathen days; was there no Christendom, where the king took the maid, nor priest, nor any bishop, nor was God's book ever handled, but in the heathen fashion he wedded her, and brought her to his bed' Maiden he had her, and ample gift bestowed on her; when he had disgraced himself on her, he gave her London and Kent.
The king had three sons, who were men exceeding fair; the eldest hight Vortimer,—Pascent, and Catiger. Garengan was an earl, who possessed Kent long, and his father before him, and he afterwards through his kin (by inheritance), when he best weened to hold his land, then had it the queen, and Hengest in his hand; strange it seemed to the knight, what the king thought. The king loved the heathens and harmed the Christians, the heathens had all this land to rule under their hand, and the king's three sons oft suffered sorrow and care. Their mother was then dead, therefore they had the less counsel—their mother was a woman most good, and led a life very Christian, and their stepmother was heathen, Hengest's daughter.
It was not long but a while, that the king made a feast, exceeding great, the heathens he brought thereto, he weened most well to do; thither came thanes, knights and swains. And all that knew of book (the Christians) forsook the feast, for the heathen men were highest in the court, and the Christian fold was held for base; the heathens were blithe, for the king loved them greatly. Hengest bethought him what he might do; he came to the king, with a hailing (salutation), and drank to the king. Then thus spake Hengest, fairest of all knights who lived of heathen law in those days: "Hearken to me now, lord king, thou art to me dear through all things; thou hast my daughter, who is to me very dear, and I am to thee among folk as if I were thy father. Hearken to my instruction, it shall be to thee lief, for I wish chiefly to help counsel thee. Thy court hate thee on my account, and I am detested for thee, and thee hate kings, earls and thanes; they fare in thy land with a host exceeding strong. If thou wilt avenge thee with much worship, and do woe to thy enemies, send after my son Octa, and after another, Ebissa, his wed-brother. These are the noblest men that ever led army; and give them of thy land in the north end. They are of mickle might, and strong in fight; they will defend thy land well with the best; then mightest thou in joy thy life all spend, with hawks and with hounds court-play love; needest thou never have care of foreign people." Then answered Vortiger—of each evil he was ware—"Send thy messengers into Saxland, after thy son Octa, and after thy friends more. Cause him to know well, that he send his writs after all the knights that are good in fight, over all Saxland, that they come to my need, and though he bring ten thousand men, all they shall be welcome to me." Hengest heard this, fairest of all knights, then was he so blithe as he was never in his life.
Hengest sent his messengers into Saxland, and bade Octa come, and his wed-brother Ebissa, and all of their kindred that they might gain, and all the knights that they might get. Octa sent messengers over three kingdoms, and bade each brave man speedily to come to him, who would obtain land, or silver or gold. They came soon to the army, as hail that falleth, that was to wit, with three hundred ships. Forth went with Octa thirty thousand and eke more, brave men and keen; and Ebissa, his companion, afterwards arrived with numberless folk, and he led to wit an hundred and fifty ships; thereafter arrived five and five, by six, by seven, by ten, and by eleven; and thus the heathen warriors they arrived toward this land, to the court of this king, so that this land was so full of foreign people, that there was no man so wise, nor so quick-witted, that might separate the Christians and the heathens, for the heathens were so rife, and ever they speedily came!
When the Britons saw that sorrow was in the land, therefore they were sorry, and in their heart dreary, and proceeded to the king, the highest of this land, and thus to him said with sorrowful voice: "Listen to us, lord king, of our discourse; thou art through us (by our means) bold king in this Britain, and thou hast procured to thee harm and much sin; brought heathen folk—yet it may thee harm;—and thou forsakest God's law, for foreign folk, and wilt not worship our Lord, for these heathen knights. And we would pray thee, for all God's peace, that thou leave them, and drive from thy land. If thou else (otherwise) mightest not, we will make mickle fight, and drive them from land, or fell them down, or we ourselves will lie slain, and let the heathen folk hold this realm, possess it with joy, if they may it win. And if they all are heathen, and thou alone Christian, they will never long have thee for king, except thou in thy days receive the heathen law, and desert the high God, and praise their idols. Then shalt thou perish in this world's realm, and thy wretched soul sink to hell; then hast thou dearly bought the love of thy bride!" Then answered Vortiger—of each evil he was ware:—"I will not leave them, by my quick life! For Hengest is hither come, he is my father, and I his son; and I have for mistress his daughter Rouwenne, and I have wedded her, and had in my bed, and afterwards I sent after Octa, and after more of his companions;—how might I for shame shun them so soon, and drive from land my dear friends?" Then answered the Britons, with sorrow bound: "We will nevermore obey thy commands, nor come to thy court, nor hold thee for king, but we will hate thee with great strength, and all thine heathen friends with harm greet. Be Christ now, that is God's son, our help!" Forth went the earls, forth went the lords, forth went the bishops, and the book-learned men, forth went the thanes, forth went the swains, all the Britons, until they came to London.
There was many a noble Briton at the husting, and the king's three sons they all were come thither; there was Vortimer, Pascent, and Catiger, and very many others, that came with the brothers; all the folk came thither, that loved the Christendom. And all the rich men betook them to counsel, and took the king's eldest son, who was come to the husting, and with mickle song of praise elevated him to be king. Then was Vortimer Christian king there, and Vortiger, his father, followed the heathens. All thus it happened, as the counsel was done.
And Vortimer, the young king, was most keen through all things; he sent Hengest and Hors his brother, unless speedily they departed from this realm, he would evil do to them, both blind and hang them; and his own father he would destroy, and all the heathens, with great strength. Then answered Hengest, fairest of all knights: "Here we will dwell winter and summer, ride and run with the King Vortiger; and all that with Vortimer go, they shall have sorrow and care!" Vortimer heard that—he was wise and most wary—and caused a host to be assembled over all this land, that all the Christian folk should come to his court. Vortimer, the young king, in London held his husting; the king ordered each man that loved the Christendom, that they all should hate the heathens, and bring the heads of them to Vortimer the king, and have twelve pennies for reward, for his good deed. Vortimer the young marched out of London, and Pascent, his brother, and Catiger, the other; to them was come word, that Hengest lay at Epiford, upon the water that men name Darwent. There came together sixty thousand men; on one half was Vortimer, Pascent, and Catiger, and all the folk that loved our Lord; on the other half were chiefs with Vortiger the king, Hengest and his brother, and many thousand others. Together they came, and combated with might; there fell to the ground two and thirty hundred of Hengest's men; and Hors was wounded. Catiger came there, and with his spear ran him through, and Hors forth-right there wounded Catiger. And Hengest gan to flee with all his followers, and Vortiger the king fled forth as the wind; they flew forth into Kent, and Vortimer went after them; there upon the seashore Hengest suffered pain; there they gan to halt, and fought very long; five thousand there were slain, and deprived of lifeday, of Vortiger's men, of the heathen race.
Hengest bethought him what he might do; he saw there beside a haven very large, many good ships there stood in the sea-flood. They saw on their right hand an island exceeding fair, it is called Thanet; thitherward they were brisk; there the Saxish men sought the sea, and anon gan pass into the island. And the Britons followed after them, with many kind of crafts, and surrounded them on each side; with ships and with boats they gan to smite and shoot. Oft was Hengest woe, and never worse than then; unless he did other counsel he should there be dead. He took a spear-shaft, that was long and very tough, and put on the end a fair mantle, and called to the Britons, and bade them abide; he would speak with them, and yearn the king's grace, and send Vortiger with peace to the land, to make this agreement that he might depart without more shame into Saxland.
The Britons went to the land, to Vortimer their king, and Hengest spake with Vortiger, in most secret converse. Vortiger went on the land, and bare a wand in his hand. The while that they spake of peace the Saxons leapt into their ships, and drew up high their sails to the top, and proceeded with weather in the wild sea, and left in this land their wives and their children, and Vortiger the king, who loved them through all things. With much grief of mind Vortiger gan away fare; so long they proceeded, that in Saxland they were (arrived). Then were in Britain the Britons most bold; they assumed to them mickle mood, and did all that seemed good to them; and Vortimer, the young king, was doughty man through all things. And Vortiger, his father, proceeded over this Britain, but it was no man so poor, that did not revile him, and so he gan to wander full five years. And his son Vortimer dwelt here powerful king, and all this nation loved him greatly. He was mild to each man, and taught the folk God's law, the young and the old, how they should hold Christendom.
He sent letters to Rome, to the excellent Pope, who was named Saint Romain—all Christendom he made glad.—He took two bishops, holy men they were both, Germain and Louis, of Auxerre and of Troyes; they proceeded out of Rome, so that they hither came. Then was Vortimer so blithe as he was never ere here; he and all his knights went forth-right on their bare feet towards the bishops, and with much mirth mouths there kissed. Now mayest thou hear of the King Vortimer, how he spake with Saint Germain,—for their coming he was glad. "Listen to me, lordings, I am king of this people; I hight Vortimer, my brother hight Catiger; and Vortiger hight our father—miscounsel followeth him! He hath brought into this land heathen people; but we have put them to flight, as our full foes, and felled with weapon many thousands of them, and sent them over sea-stream, so that they never shall come again. And we shall in land worship our Lord, comfort God's folk, and friendly it maintain, and be mild to the land-tillers; churches we shall honour, and heathendom hate. Each good man shall have his right, if God it will grant, and each thral and each slave be set free. And here I give to you in hand each church-land all free; and I forgive to each widow her lord's testament, and each shall love other as though they were brothers. And thus we shall in our day put down Hengest's laws, and him and his heathendom that he hither brought, and deceived my father through his treacherous crafts; through his daughter Rowenne he betrayed my father. And my father so evilly began, that he shunned the Christendom, and loved the heathen laws too much, which we shall avoid the while that we live."
Then answered Saint Germain—for such words he was glad:—"I thank my Lord, who shaped the daylight, that he such mercy sent to mankind!" These bishops proceeded over this land, and set it all in God's hand, and the Christendom they righted, and the folk thereto instructed; and then soon thereafter they departed to Rome, and said to the Pope, who was named Romain, how they had done here, restored the Christendom. And thus it stood a time in the same wise.
Go we yet to Vortiger—of all kings be he most wretched!—he loved Rowenne, of the heathen race, Hengest's daughter, she seemed to him well soft. Rowenne bethought her what she might do, how she might avenge her father and her friends' death. Oft she sent messengers to Vortimer the king; she sent him treasures of many a kind, of silver and of gold, the best of any land; she asked his favour, that she might here dwell with Vortiger his father, and follow his counsels. The king for his father's request granted to her her prayer, except that she should do well, and love the Christendom; all that the king yearned, all she it granted. But alas! that Vortimer was not aware of her thought; alas! that the good king of her thought knew nothing; that he knew not the treachery that the wicked woman thought!
It befell on a time she betook her to counsel, that she would go to the King Vortimer, and do by his counsel all her need, and at what time she might do well, and receive the Christendom. Forth she gan ride to Vortimer the king; when she him met, fair she greeted him: "Hail be thou, lord king, Britain's darling! I am come to thee; Christendom I will receive, on the same day that thou thyself deemest fit."
Then was Vortimer the king blithe through all things; he weened that it were sooth what the wretch said. Trumpets there blew, bliss was in the court; forth men brought the water before the king; they sate then at the board with much bliss. When the king had eaten, then went the thanes-men to meat; in hall they drank; harps there resounded. The treacherous Rowenne went to a tun, wherein was placed the king's dearest wine. She took in hand a bowl of red gold, and she gan to pour out on the king's bench. When she saw her time, she filled her vessel with wine, and before all the company she went to the king, and thus the treacherous woman hailed him (drank his health): "Lord king, wassail, for thee I am most joyful!" Hearken now the great treachery of the wicked woman, how she gan there betray the King Vortimer! The king received her fair, to his own destruction. Vortimer spake British, and Rowenne Saxish; to the king it seemed game enow, for her speech he laughed. Hearken how she took on, this deceitful woman! In her bosom she bare, beneath her teats, a golden phial filled with poison; and the wicked Rowenne drank (or drenched) the bowl, until she had half done, after the king's will. The while that the king laughed, she drew out the phial; the bowl she set to her chin, the poison she poured in the wine, and afterwards she delivered the cup to the king; the king drank all the wine, and the poison therein. The day forth passed, bliss was in the court, for Vortimer the good king of the treachery knew nothing, for he saw Rowenne hold the bowl, and drink half of the same wine that she had put therein. When it came to the night, then separated the courtiers; and the evil Rowenne went to her inn, and all her knights with her forth-right. Then ordered she her swains, and eke the thanes all, that they in haste their horse should saddle; and they most still to steal out of the burgh, and proceed all by night to Thwongchester forth-right, and there most fast to inclose them in a castle, and lie to Vortiger, that his son would besiege him. And Vortiger the false king believed the leasing.
Now understood Vortimer, his son, that he had taken poison; might no leechcraft help him any whit. He took many messengers, and sent over his land, and bade all his knights to come to him forth-right. When the folk was arrived, then was the king exceeding ill; then asked the king their peace, and thus he spake with them all: "Of all knights are ye best that serve any king; there is of me no other hap, but that speedily I be dead. Here I deliver you my land, all my silver and all my gold, and all my treasures—your worship is the greater. And ye forth-right send after knights, and give them silver and gold, and hold ye yourselves your land, and avenge you, if ye can, of Saxish men; for when as I be departed, Hengest will make care to you. And take ye my body, and lay in a chest, and carry me to the sea strand, where Saxish men will come on land; anon as they know me there, away they will go; neither alive nor dead dare they abide me!"
Among all this discourse the good king died; there was weeping, there was lament, and piteous cries! They took the king's body, and carried to London, and beside Belyns-gate buried him fair; and carried him no whit as the king ordered. Thus lived Vortimer, and thus he ended there.
Then the Britons fell into evil counsel; they took Vortiger anon, and delivered him all this kingdom; there was a well rueful thing, now was eft Vortiger king! Vortiger took his messengers, and sent to Saxland, and greeted well Hengest, fairest of all knights, and bade him in haste to come to this land, and with him should bring here a hundred riders. "For that know thou through all things, that dead is Vortimer the king, and safe thou mayest hither come, for dead is Vortimer my son. It is no need for thee to bring with thee much folk, least our Britons eft be angry, so that sorrow eft come between you."
Hengest assembled a host of many kind of land, so that he had to wit seven hundred ships, and each ship he filled with three hundred knights; in the Thames at London Hengest came to land. The tidings came full soon to Vortiger the king, that Hengest was in haven with seven hundred ships. Oft was Vortiger woe, but never worse than then, and the Britons were sorry, and sorrowful in heart; they knew not in the worlds-realm counsel that were to them pleasing. Hengest was of evil ware—that he well showed there—he took soon his messengers, and sent to the king, and greeted Vortiger the king with words most fair, and said that he was come as a father should to his son; with peace and with friendship he would dwell in amity; peace he would love, and wrong he would shun; peace he would have, peace he would hold; and all this nation he would love, and love Vortiger the king through all things. But he had brought, in this land, out of Saxland, seven hundred ships of heathen folk, "who are the bravest of all men that dwell under the sun, and I will," quoth Hengest, "lead them all to the king, at a set day, before all his people. And the king shall arise, and choose of the knights two hundred knights, to lead to his fight, who shall guard the king preciously through all things. And afterwards the others shall depart to their land, with peace and with amity, again to Saxland; and I will remain with the best of all men, that is Vortiger the king, whom I love through all things." The tidings came to the Britons how Hengest them promised; then were they fain for his fair words, and set they peace and set amity to such a time that the king on a day would see this folk. Hengest heard that, fairest of all knights; then was he so blithe as he was never ere in life, for he thought to deceive the king in his realm. Here became Hengest wickedest of knights; so is every man that deceiveth one, who benefits him. Who would ween, in this worlds-realm, that Hengest thought to deceive the king who had his daughter! For there is never any man, that men may not over-reach with treachery. They took an appointed day, that these people should come them together with concord and with peace, in a plain that was pleasant beside Ambresbury; the place was Aelenge, now hight it Stonehenge. There Hengest the traitor either by word or by writ made known to the king, that he would come with his forces, in honour of the king, but he would not bring in retinue but three hundred knights, the wisest men of all that he might find. And the king should bring as many on his side bold thanes, and who should be the wisest of all that dwelt in Britain, with their good vestments, all without weapons, that no evil should happen to them, through confidence of the weapons. Thus they it spake, and eft they it brake, for Hengest the traitor thus gan he teach his comrades, that each should take a long saex (knife), and lay by his shank, within his hose, where he it might hide. When they came together, the Saxons and Britons, then quoth Hengest, most deceitful of all knights: "Hail be thou, lord king, each is to thee thy subject! If ever any of thy men hath weapon by his side, send it with friendship far from ourselves, and be we in amity, and speak we of concord; how we may with peace our lives live." Thus the wicked man spake there to the Britons. Then answered Vortiger—here he was too unwary—"If here is any knight so wild, that hath weapon by his side, he shall lose the hand through his own brand, unless he soon send it hence." Their weapons they sent away, then had they nought in hand;—knights went upward, knights went downward, each spake with other as if he were his brother.
When the Britons were mingled with the Saxons, then called Hengest, of knights most treacherous, "Take your saexes, my good warriors, and bravely bestir you, and spare ye none!" Noble Britons were there, but they knew not of the speech, what the Saxish men said them between. They drew out the saexes, all aside; they smote on the right side, they smote on the left side, before and behind they laid them to the ground, all they slew that they came nigh; of the king's men there fell four hundred and five—woe was the king alive! Then Hengest grasped him with his grim gripe, and drew him to him by the mantle, so that the strings brake. And the Saxons set on him, and would the king kill, and Hengest gan him defend, and would not suffer it; but he held him full fast, the while the fight lasted. There was many noble Briton bereaved of the life! Some they fled quickly over the broad plain, and defended them with stones, for weapons had they none. There was fight exceeding hard, there fell many a good knight! There was a bold churl of Salisbury come, he bare on his back a great strong club.
Then was there a noble earl, named Aldolf, knight with the best, he possessed Gloucester, he leapt to the churl, as if it were a lion, and took from him the club, that he bare on his back; whomsoever he smote therewith, there forth-right he died; before and behind he laid them to the ground. Three and fifty there he slew and afterwards drew towards a steed, he leapt upon the steed, and quickly gan him ride, he rode to Gloucester, and the gates locked full fast. And anon forth-right caused his knights to arm, and marched over all the land, and took what they found, they took cattle, they took corn, and all that they found alive, and brought to the burgh with great bliss; the gates they closed fast, and well them guarded.
Let we it thus stand, and speak we of the king. The Saxons leapt towards him, and would kill the king, but Hengest called forth-right, "Stop, my knights, ye shall him not destroy; for us he hath had much care, and he hath for queen my daughter who is fair. But all his burghs he shall deliver to us, if he will enjoy his life, or else is sorrow given to him." Then was Vortiger fast bound, gyves exceeding great they put on his feet, he might not ever bite meat, nor speak with any friend, ere he had to them sworn upon relic that was choice, that he would deliver them all this kingdom, in hand, burghs and castles, and all his kingdoms. And all so he did, as it was deemed. And Hengest took in his hand all this rich kingdom, and divided among his people much of this land. He gave an earl all Kent, as it lay by London, he gave his steward Essex, and on his chamberlain he bestowed Middlesex. The knights received it, and a while they held it, the while Vortiger proceeded over this land, and delivered to Hengest his noble burghs. And Hengest forth-right placed his knights therein, the while much of the baser people lay in Sussex, and in Middlesex much of the race, and in Essex their noblest folk. The meat they carried off, all that they found, they violated the women, and God's law brake, they did in the land all that they would.
The Britons saw that, that mischief was in the land, and how the Saxish men were come to them. The Britons shaped to the land a name for the shame of Saxish men, and for the treachery that they had done, and for that cause that they with knives bereaved them of life, then called they all the land East-Sex and West-Sex, and the third Middle-Sex. Vortiger the king gave them all this land, so that a turf of land did not remain to him in hand. And Vortiger himself fled over Severn, far into Welsh-land, and there he gan tarry, and his retinue with him, that poor was become. And he had in hoard treasure most large, he caused his men to ride wide and far, and caused to be summoned to him men of each kind, whosoever would yearn his fee with friendship. That heard the Britons, that heard the Scots, they came to him riding, thereafter full soon; on each side thither they gan ride, many a noble man's son, for gold and for treasure. When he had together sixty thousand men, then assembled he the nobles that well could advise: "Good men, say me counsel, for to me is great need, where I might in wilderness work a castle, wherein I might live with my men, and hold it against Hengest with great strength, until that I might the better win my burghs, and avenge me of my enemies who felled my friends, and have all my kingdom wrested out of my hand, and thus driven me out, my full foes?" Then answered a wise man, who well could counsel: "Listen now to me, lord king, and I will show to thee a good thing; upon the mount of Reir I will advise, that thou work a castle with strong stone wall, for there thou mightest dwell, and live with joy; and yet thou hast in thy hand much silver and gold, to maintain thy people who shall thee help, and so thou mightest in life live best of all." Then answered the king: "Let it be made known in haste, over my numerous host, that I will go to the mount of Reir, and rear there a castle."
Forth went the king, and the host with him; when they thither came, a dyke they began soon; horns there blew, machines hewed; lime they gan to burn, and over the land to run, and all west Welsh-land set in Vortiger's hand; all they it took, that they nigh came. When the dyke was dug, and thoroughly deepened, then began they a wall on the dyke over all, and they laid together lime and stone; of machines there was plenty—five-and-twenty hundred! In the day they laid the wall, in the night it fell over all, in the morrow they reared it, in the night it gan to tumble! Full a se'nnight so it them served, each day they raised it, and each night it gan fall! Then was the king sorry, and sorrowful through all things, so was all the host terribly afraid; for ever they looked when Hengest should come upon them.
The king was full sorry, and sent after sages, after world-wise men, who knew wisdom, and bade them cast lots, and try incantations, try the truth with their powerful craft, on what account it were, that the wall that was so strong might not ever stand a night long. These world wise men there went in two parties, some they went to the wood, some to the cross ways; they gan to cast lots with their incantations, full three nights their crafts there they practised, they might never find, through never anything, on what account it were, that the wall that was so strong every night fell down, and the king lost his labour. But there was one sage, he was named Joram, he said that he it found—but it seemed leasing—he said that if men found in ever any land, ever any male child, that never had father, and opened his breast, and took of his blood, and mingled with the lime, and laid in the wall, that then might it stand to the world's end. The word came to the king, of the leasing, and he it believed, though it were false. Soon he took his messengers, and sent over all the land, so far as they for care (fear) of death durst anyways fare, and in each town hearkened the rumours, where they might find speak of such a child.
These knights forth proceeded wide over the land; two of the number went a way that lay right west, that lay forth-right in where now Caermarthen is. Beside the burgh, in a broad way, all the burgh-lads had a great play. These knights were weary, and in heart exceeding sorry, and sate down by the play, and beheld these lads. After a little time they began striving—as it was ever custom among children's play,—the one smote the other, and he these blows suffered. Then was exceeding wrath Dinabuz toward Merlin, and thus quoth Dinabuz, who had the blow: "Merlin, wicked man, why hast thou thus done to me? Thou hast done me much shame, therefore thou shalt have grief. I am a king's son, and thou art born of nought; thou oughtest not in any spot to have free man's abode, for so was all the adventure, thy mother was a whore, for she knew not ever the man that begat thee on her, nor haddest thou any father among mankind. And thou in our land makest us to be shamed, thou art among us come, and art son of no man; thou shalt therefore in this day suffer death." The knights heard this, where they were aside; they arose up, and went near, and earnestly asked of this strange tale, that they heard of the lad.
Then was in Caermarthen a reve that hight Eli; the knights quickly came to the reve, and thus to him said soon with mouth:
"We are here-right Vortiger's knights, and have found here a young lad he is named Merlin, we know no whit his kin. Take him in haste, and send him to the king, as thou wilt live, and thy limbs have, and his mother with him, who bore him to be man. If thou this wilt do, the king will receive them, and if thou carest it not, therefore thou wilt be driven out, and this burgh all consumed, this folk all destroyed." Then answered Eli, the reve of Caermarthen "Well I wot, that all this land stands in Vortiger's hand, and we are all his men—his honour is the more!—and we shall do this gladly, and perform his will." Forth went the reve, and the burghers his associates, and found Merlin, and his playfellows with him Merlin they took, and his companions laughed, when that Merlin was led away, then was Dinabuz full glad, he weened that he were led away for to lose his limbs, but all another way set the doom, ere it were all done.
Now was Merlin's mother strangely become in a noble minster a hooded nun. Thither went Eli, the reve of Caermarthen, and took him the good lady, where she lay in the minster, and forth gan him run to the King Vortiger, and much folk with him, and led the nun and Merlin. The word (tidings) was soon made known to the King Vortiger's mouth, that Eli was come, and had brought the lady, and that Merlin her son was with her there come. Then was Vortiger blithe in life, and received the lady, with looks most fair and honour promised, and Merlin he delivered to twelve good knights, who were faithful to the king, and him should guard. Then said the King Vortiger, with the nun he spake there: "Good lady, say to me—well it shall be to thee—where wert thou born, who begat thee to be child?" Then answered the nun, and named her father:—"The third part of all this land stood in my father's hand, of the land he was king, known it was wide, he was named Conaan, lord of knights." Then answered the king, as if she were of his kin: "Lady, say thou it to me—well it shall be to thee—here is Merlin thy son, who begat him? Who was held for father to him among the folk?" Then hung she her head, and bent toward her breast; by the king she sate full softly, and thought a little while, after a while she spake, and said to the king: "King, I will tell thee marvellous stories. My father Conaan the king loved me through all things, then became I in stature wondrously fair. When I was fifteen years of age, then dwelt I in bower, in my mansion, my maidens with me, wondrously fair. And when I was in bed in slumber, with my soft sleep, then came before me the fairest thing that ever was born, as if it were a tall knight, arrayed all of gold. This I saw in dream each night in sleep. This thing glided before me, and glistened of gold, oft it me kissed, and oft it me embraced, oft it approached me, and oft it came to me very nigh; when I at length looked to myself—strange this seemed to me—my meat to me was loathsome, my limbs unusual, strange it seemed to me, what it might be! Then perceived I at the end that I was with child, when my time came, this boy I had. I know not in this world what his father were, nor who begat him in this worlds-realm, nor whether it were evil thing, or on God's behalf dight. Alas! as I pray for mercy, I know not any more to say to thee of my son, how he is come to the world." The nun bowed her head down, and covered her features.
The king bethought him what he might do, and drew to him good councillors to counsel, and they said him counsel with the best, that he should send for Magan, who was a marvellous man.—He was a wise clerk, and knew of many crafts; he would advise well, he could far direct, he knew of the craft that dwelleth in the sky (astronomy), he could tell of each history (or language). Magan came to court where the king dwelt, and greeted the king with goodly words: "Hail be thou and sound, Vortiger the king! I am come to thee, show me thy will." Then answered the king, and told the clerk all, how the nun had said, and asked him thereof counsel, from the beginning to the end, all he him told. Then said Magan: "I know full well hereon. There dwell in the sky many kind of beings, that there shall remain until domesday arrive; some they are good, and some they work evil. Therein is a race very numerous, that cometh among men; they are named full truly Incubi Daemones; they do not much harm, but deceive the folk; many a man in dream oft they delude, and many a fair woman through their craft childeth anon, and many a good man's child they beguile through magic. And thus was Merlin begat, and born of his mother, and thus it is all transacted," quoth the clerk Magan.
Then said Merlin to the king himself: "King, thy men have taken me, and I am to thee come, and I would learn what is thy will, and for what thing I am brought to the king?" Then said the king with quick speech: "Merlin, thou art hither come; thou art son of no man! Much thou longest after loath speech; learn thou wilt the adventure—now thou shalt hear it. I have begun a work with great strength, that hath my treasure well much taken away; five thousand men work each day thereon. And I have lime and stone, in the world is none better, nor in any land workmen so good. All that they lay in the day—in sooth I may say it—ere day in the morrow all it is down; each stone from the other felled to the ground! Now say my wise and my sage men, that if I take thy blood, out of thy breast, and work my will, and put to my lime, then may it stand to the world's end. Now thou knowest it all, how it shall be to thee." Merlin heard this, and angered in his mood, and said these words, though he were wrath: "God himself, who is lord of men, will it never, that the castle should stand for my heart's blood, nor ever thy stone wall lie still. For all thy sages are exceeding deceitful, they say leasings before thyself—that thou shalt find in this day's space. For Joram said this, who is my full foe; the tidings seem to me sport, I was shapen to his bane! Let Joram thy sage come before thee, and all his companions, forth-right here, who told these leasings to the king, and if I say thee my sooth words of thy wall, and why it down falleth, and with sooth it prove, that their tales are leasing, give me their heads, if I thy work heal." Then answered the king with quick voice: "So help me my hand, this covenant I hold thee!"
To the king was brought Joram the sage, and seven of his companions— all they were fated to die! Merlin angered, and he spake wrathly:— "Say me, Joram, traitor—loathsome to me in heart—why falleth this wall to the ground, say me why it happeneth that the wall falleth, what men may find at the dyke's bottom?" Joram was still, he could not tell. Then said Merlin these words: "King, hold to me covenant! Cause this dyke to be dug anon seven feet deeper than it is now; they shall find a stone wondrously fair, it is fair and broad, for folk to behold." The dyke was dug seven feet deeper, then they found anon there-right the stone. Then said Merlin these words: "King, hold to me covenant! Say to me, Joram, man to me most hateful, and say to this king what kind of thing hath taken station under this stone?" Joram was still; he could not tell.
Then said Merlin a wonder: "A water here is under; do away this stone, the water ye shall find anon." They did away the stone before the king anon, the water they found anon. Then said Merlin: "Ask me Joram, who is my full foe, after a while, to say thee of the bottom, what dwelleth in the water, winter and summer." The king asked Joram, but he knew nought thereof. The yet said Merlin these words: "King, hold to me covenant! Cause this water to be carried off, and away cast; there dwell at the bottom two strong dragons; the one is on the north side, the other on the south side, the one is milk-white, to each beast unlike, the other as red as blood, boldest of all worms! Each midnight they begin to fight, and through their fight thy works fell, the earth began to sink, and thy wall to tumble; and through such wonder thy wall is fallen, that happened in this flood, and not for my blood." This water was all carried off; the king's men were glad, great was the bliss before the monarch, and soon there-after they were sorry; ere the day came to an end, strange tidings they heard.
When the water was all carried off, and the pit was empty, then came out these two dragons, and made great din, and fought fiercely down in the dyke. Never saw any man any loathlier fight; flames of fire flew from their mouths! The monarch saw this fight, their grim gestures; then was he astonished in this worlds-realm, what this tokening were, that he saw there at the bottom, and how Merlin knew it, that no other man knew. First was the white above, and afterwards he was beneath, and the red dragon wounded him to death; and either went to his hole— no man born saw them afterwards! Thus fared this thing that Vortiger the king saw. And all that were with him loved Merlin greatly; and the king hated Joram, and deprived him of his head, and all his seven comrades that with him were there.
The king went to his house, and led Merlin with him, and said to him with much love: "Merlin, thou art welcome, and I will give thee all that thou desirest, of my land, of silver and of gold." He weened through Merlin to win all the land, but it happened all otherwise ere the day's end came. The king thus asked his dear friend Merlin, "Say me now, Merlin, man to me dearest, what betoken the dragons that made the din, and the stone, and the water, and the wondrous fight? Say me, if thy will is, what betokeneth all this? And afterwards thou must counsel me how I shall guide me, and how I may win my kingdom from Hengest, my wife's father, who hath harmed me greatly." Then answered Merlin to the king that spake with him: "King, thou art unwise, and foolish in counsel, thou askest of the dragons that made the din, and what betokened their fight, and their fierce assaults? They betoken kings that yet are to come, and their fight, and their adventure, and their fated folk! But if thou wert so wise a man, and so prudent in thought, that thou haddest inquired of me of thy many sorrows, thy great care, that is to come to thee, I would say to thee of thy sorrow." Then quoth Vortiger the king: "Dear friend Merlin, say me of the things that are to come to me." "Blithely," quoth Merlin, with bold voice, "I will say to thee; but ever it will thee rue. King, king, be-see thee (see to thyself), sorrow is to thee given of Constantine's kin!—his son thou killedest; thou causedest Constance to be slain, who was king in this land; thou causedst thy Peohtes to betray (or destroy) him basely; therefore thou shalt suffer sorrows most of all! Afterwards thou drewest upon thee foreign people, the Saxons to this land, therefore thou shalt be destroyed! Now are the barons of Britain arrived; it is, Aurelie and Uther—now thou art thereof aware;—they shall come to-morrow, full truly, in this land at Totnes, I do thee well to wit, with seven hundred ships; and now they sail speedily in the sea. Thou hast much evil done to them, and now thou must the harm receive; thou hast on both sides bane that to thee shall seem; for now thy foes are before thee, and thy enemies behind. But flee, flee thy way, and save thy life—and flee whither that thou fleest, they will pursue after thee! Ambrosie Aurelie he shall have first this kingdom; but he through draught of poison shall suffer death. And afterwards shall Uther Pendragon have this kingdom; but thy kin shall kill him with poison; but ere he suffer death, he shall din (contest) make. Uther shall have a son, out of Cornwall he shall come, that shall be a wild boar, bristled with steel; the boar shall consume the noble burghs; he shall destroy (or devour) all the traitors with authority; he shall kill with death all thy rich kindred; he shall be man most brave, and noble in thought; hence into Rome this same shall rule; all his foes he shall fell to the ground. Sooth I have said to thee, but it is not to thee the softer;—but flee with thine host, thy foes come to thee to thy court!" Then Merlin the wise ceased his words, and the king caused thirteen trumpets to be blown, and marched forth with his army exceeding quickly. There was not forth-right but space of one night, that the brothers came, both together, to the sea-strand full truly, at Dartmouth in Totnes.
The Britons heard this, and were full surely blithe; they drew themselves out of the woods, and out of the wilderness, by sixty, and by sixty, and by seven hundred, by thirty, and by thirty, and by many thousands—when they came together, full good it seemed to them! And the brothers brought to this land a numerous host, and here came before them these bold Britons, a numerous folk, who would it all avenge, that ere were over the woods wondrously scattered, through the mickle dread, and through the great misery, and through the mickle harm that Hengest wrought them, and who had murdered all their chief men with knives, with axes cut in pieces the good thanes! The Britons held husting with great wisdom; they took anon Aurelie, the elder brother, in the noble husting, and raised him to be king. Then were the Britons filled with bliss, blithe in mood who ere were mournful. These tidings came to Vortiger the king, that Aurelie was chosen and raised to be king. Then was Vortiger woe, and eft to him was worse! Vortiger proceeded far to a castle, named Genoure, upon a high mount; Cloard hight the mount, and Hergin hight the land, near the Wye, that is a fair water (stream). Vortiger's men took all that they came nigh; they took weapons and meat, on many a wise; to the castle they brought as much as they cared for, so that they had enow, though it little helped them. Aurehe and Uther were aware of Vortiger, where he was upon Cloard, inclosed in a castle. They caused trumpets to be blown, their host to be assembled—a numerous folk of many a land—they marched to Genoure, where Vortiger lay. A king was within, a king was without; knights there fought with fierce encounters; every good man made himself ready. When they saw that they had not the victory, then a wondrous great force went to the wood; they felled the wood down, and drew to the castle, and filled all the dyke that was wondrously deep. And fire they sent in, on every side, and called to Vortiger: "Now thou shalt warm thee there, for thou slewest Constance, who was king of this land, and afterwards Constantine his son. Now is Aurelie come, and Uther his brother, who send thee bale!" The wind wafted the fire, so that it burnt wonderfully; the castle gan to burn, the chambers there were consumed; the halls fell to the ground. Might no man there against the fire make fight; the fire went over all, and burnt house, and burnt wall; and the King Vortiger therein he gan to burn; all it was consumed that therein dwelt! Thus ended there, with mickle harm, Vortiger!
Then Aurelie had all the land in his hand. There was the strong earl, named Aldolf, he was of Gloucester, of all knights skilfullest; there in the land Aurehe made him his steward. Then had Aurelie, and Uther his brother, felled their foes, and were therefore the blither! Hengest heard this, strongest of all knights; then was he afraid exceeding greatly. He marched his host, and fled toward the Scots, and Aurelie the king went after him in haste. And Hengest thought that he would, with all his army, if men pursued him, flee into Scotland, so that he might thence with guile escape, if he might not for Aurelie remain in the land. Aurelie marched forth, and led his host right north, with all his might, full a se'nnight. The Britons were bold, and proceeded over the weald. Then had Aurelie a numerous force; he found ravaged land, the people slain, and all the churches burnt, and the Britons consumed. Then said Aurelie the king, Britain's darling: "If I might abide, that I should back ride; and if the Lord it will, who shaped the daylight, that I might in safety obtain my right (or country), churches I will arear, and God I will worship. I will give to each man his right, and to every person, the old and the young, I will be gracious, if God will grant to me my land to win!"
Tidings came to Hengest of Aurelie the king, that he brought an army of innumerable folk. Then spake Hengest, most treacherous of all knights: "Hearken now, my men—honour to you is given—here cometh Aurelie, and Uther eke, his brother; they bring very much folk, but all they are fated! For the king is unwise, so are his knights, and a knave is his brother, the one as the other; therefore may Britons be much the un-bolder, when the head (leader) is bad, the heap (multitude) is the worse. And well ye may it remember, what I will say; better are fifty of us, than of them five hundred—that they many times have found, since they in land sought the people. For known it is wide, of our bold feats, that we are chosen warriors with the best! We shall against them stand, and drive them from land, and possess this realm after our will." Thus bold Hengest, fairest of all knights, emboldened his host, where he was in field, but otherwise it was disposed ere came the day a se'nnight. Forth came the tidings to Aurelie the king, where Hengest abode upon a mount.
Aurelie had for companions thirty thousand riders, bold Britons, who made their threat; and eke he had Welsh, wondrously many. Then caused he his knights to be ever weaponed, day and night, as if they should go to battle; for ever he had care of the heathen folk. And Aurelie with his host marched quickly towards him. When Hengest heard that Aurelie was near, he took his army, and marched against him. When Aurelie was aware that Hengest would come there, he went into a field, well weaponed under shield; he took forth-right ten thousand knights, that were the best born and chosen of his force, and set them in the field, on foot under shield. Ten thousand Welsh he sent to the wood; ten thousand Scots he sent aside, to meet the heathens by ways and by streets; himself he took his earls and his good warriors, and his faithfullest men, that he had in hand, and made his shield-troop, as it were a wild wood; five thousand there rode, who should all this folk well defend. Then called Aldolf, Earl of Gloucester, "If the Lord, that ruleth all dooms, grant it to me, that I might abide, that Hengest should come riding, who has in this land so long remained, and betrayed my dear friends with his long axes beside Ambresbury, with miserable death! But if I might of the earl win to me the country; then might I say my sooth words, that God himself had granted good to me, if I might fell my foes to ground anon, and avenge my dear kindred, whom they have laid adown!"