Here endeth the story of Sir Launcelot. That which followeth is the story of Sir Tristram of Lyonesse, who was knit with Sir Launcelot into such close ties of friendship that if they had been brothers of the same blood, with the same father and mother, they could not have loved one another more than they did.
For indeed it would not be possible to tell any history of Sir Launcelot of the Lake without telling that of Sir Tristram of Lyonesse as well, for as the web of a fair fabric is woven in with the woof thereof, so were the lives of Sir Launcelot and Sir Tristram woven closely together.
Wherefore you shall now hear tell of the goodly adventures of Sir Tristram of Lyonesse; and God grant that you may have the same joy in reading thereof that I shall have in telling of them to you._
The Book of Sir Tristram
[Illustration: Sir Tristram of Lyonesse]
There was a certain kingdom called Lyonesse, and the King of that country was hight Meliadus, and the Queen thereof who was hight the Lady Elizabeth, was sister to King Mark of Cornwall.
In the country of Lyonesse, there was a very beautiful lady, who was a cunning and wicked sorceress. This lady took great love for King Meliadus, who was of an exceedingly noble appearance, and she meditated continually how she might bring him to her castle so as to have him near her.
[Sidenote: King Meliadus rides a-hunting] Now King Meliadus was a very famous huntsman, and he loved the chase above all things in the world, excepting the joy he took in the love of his Queen, the Lady Elizabeth. So, upon a certain day, in the late autumn season he was minded to go forth a-hunting, although the day was very cold and bleak.
About the prime of the day the hounds started, of a sudden, a very wonderful stag. For it was white and its horns were gilded very bright, shining like pure gold, so that the creature itself appeared like a living miracle in the forest. When this stag broke cover, the hounds immediately set chase to it with a great outcry of yelling, as though they were suddenly gone frantic, and when the King beheld the creature, he also was immediately seized as with a great fury for chasing it. For, beholding it, he shouted aloud and drove spurs into his horse, and rushed away at such a pass that his court was, in a little while, left altogether behind him, and he and the chase were entirely alone in the forest.
[Sidenote: King Meliadus chases the stag] The stag, with the hounds close behind it, ran at a great rate through the passes of the woodlands, and King Meliadus pursued it with might and main until the chase burst out of the forest into an open plain beyond the woodland. Then King Meliadus beheld that in the midst of the plain was a considerable lake of water; and that in the midst of the water was an island; and that upon the island was a very tall and stately castle. Toward this castle the stag ran with great speed, and so, coming to the lake, it leaped into the water and swam across to the island—and there was a thin sheet of clear ice upon the water close to either bank.