But no army would have been strong enough to keep Arthur and his knights away from the country they loved so well. They fought fiercely till they got on shore and scattered all Sir Modred’s men.
Then the knight gathered another army, and chose a new battle-field.
But King Arthur fought so bravely that he and his men were again victorious, and Sir Modred fled to Canterbury.
Many of the people began to forsake the false knight now, and saying that he was a traitor, they went back to King Arthur.
But still Sir Modred wished to conquer the King. He would go through the counties of Kent and Surrey and raise a new army.
Now King Arthur had dreamed that if he fought with Sir Modred again he would be slain. So when he heard that the knight had raised another army, he thought, “I will meet this traitor who has betrayed me. When he looks in my face, he will be ashamed and remember his vow of obedience.”
And he sent two bishops to Sir Modred. “Say to the knight that the King would speak with him alone,” said Arthur.
And the traitor thought, “The King wishes to give me gold or great power, if I send my army away without fighting,” “I will meet King Arthur,” he said to the bishops.
But because he did not altogether trust the King he said he would take fourteen men with him to the meeting-place, “and the King must have fourteen men with him too,” said Sir Modred. “And our armies shall keep watch when we meet, and if a sword is lifted it shall be the signal for battle.”
Then King Arthur arranged a feast for Sir Modred and his men. And as they feasted all went merrily till an adder glided out of a little bush and stung one of the knight’s men. And the pain was so great, that the man quickly drew his sword to kill the adder.
And when the armies saw the sword flash in the light, they sprang to their feet and began to fight, “for this is the signal for battle,” they thought.
And when evening came there were many thousand slain and wounded, and Sir Modred was left alone. But Arthur had still two knights with him, Sir Lucan and Sir Bedivere.
When King Arthur saw that his army was lost and all his knights slain but two, he said, “Would to God I could find Sir Modred, who has caused all this trouble.”
“He is yonder,” said Sir Lucan, “but remember your dream, and go not near him.”
“Whether I die or live,” said the King, “he shall not escape.” And seizing his spear he ran to Sir Modred, crying, “Now you shall die.”
And Arthur smote him under the shield, and the spear passed through his body, and he died.
Then, wounded and exhausted, the King fainted, and his knights lifted him and took him to a little chapel not far from a lake.
As the King lay there, he heard cries of fear and pain from the distant battle-field.
“What causes these cries?” said the King wearily. And to soothe the sick King, Sir Lucan said he would go to see.