Le Morte d'Arthur BOOK II CHAPTER VIII
Legends and Sagas
How Merlin prophesied that two the best knights of the world
should fight there, which were Sir Lancelot and Sir Tristram.
THE meanwhile as this was a-doing, in came Merlin to King Mark,
and seeing all his doing, said, Here shall be in this same place
the greatest battle betwixt two knights that was or ever shall
be, and the truest lovers, and yet none of them shall slay other.
And there Merlin wrote their names upon the tomb with letters of
gold that should fight in that place, whose names were Launcelot
de Lake, and Tristram. Thou art a marvellous man, said King Mark
unto Merlin, that speakest of such marvels, thou art a boistous
man and an unlikely to tell of such deeds. What is thy name?
said King Mark. At this time, said Merlin, I will not tell, but
at that time when Sir Tristram is taken with his sovereign lady,
then ye shall hear and know my name, and at that time ye shall
hear tidings that shall not please you. Then said Merlin to
Balin, Thou <60>hast done thyself great hurt, because that thou
savest not this lady that slew herself, that might have saved her
an thou wouldest. By the faith of my body, said Balin, I might
not save her, for she slew herself suddenly. Me repenteth, said
Merlin; because of the death of that lady thou shalt strike a
stroke most dolorous that ever man struck, except the stroke of
our Lord, for thou shalt hurt the truest knight and the man of
most worship that now liveth, and through that stroke three
kingdoms shall be in great poverty, misery and wretchedness
twelve years, and the knight shall not be whole of that wound for
many years. Then Merlin took his leave of Balin. And Balin
said, If I wist it were sooth that ye say I should do such a
perilous deed as that, I would slay myself to make thee a liar.
Therewith Merlin vanished away suddenly. And then Balan and his
brother took their leave of King Mark. First, said the king,
tell me your name. Sir, said Balan, ye may see he beareth two
swords, thereby ye may call him the Knight with the Two Swords.
And so departed King Mark unto Camelot to King Arthur, and Balin
took the way toward King Rience; and as they rode together they
met with Merlin disguised, but they knew him not. Whither ride
you? said Merlin. We have little to do, said the two knights, to
tell thee. But what is thy name? said Balin. At this time, said
Merlin, I will not tell it thee. It is evil seen, said the
knights, that thou art a true man that thou wilt not tell thy
name. As for that, said Merlin, be it as it be may, I can tell
you wherefore ye ride this way, for to meet King Rience; but it
will not avail you without ye have my counsel. Ah! said Balin,
ye are Merlin; we will be ruled by your counsel. Come on, said
Merlin, ye shall have great worship, and look that ye do
knightly, for ye shall have great need. As for that, said Balin,
dread you not, we will do what we may.