THE TWO ENCHANTERS
I. MERLIN AND VIVIEN
A great Enchanter indeed was Merlin. He served with his enchantments the King of the Isle of Britain from the time he was a stripling to the time when he was two score years of age. Then, when he might have passed from being a lesser to being a great Enchanter, Merlin vanished altogether and was seen no more at the court of the King of the Isle of Britain. All the great works he had planned were left undone, all the instruments he had gathered were left unused, all the books he had brought together were left unopened, and the King whom he had served so long was left to whistle for his Enchanter.
If there were one to blame for that it was the daughter of King Dionas. She was young, but she was ungentle. What she saw, that she would have. One day a stranger was passing with her father, and when he looked on her he said, "A young hawk she is, a young hawk that has not yet flown at any prey." That very day the daughter of King Dionas walked on the plain that was at a distance from her father's castle. The stranger who had spoken of her to the King was there, and he looked long upon her.
"Who art thou who lookest on me so?" said the child.
"Thou art Nimiane, who art also called Vivien," said the stranger.
"Yea," said she, "but who art thou, man?"
"I am called Merlin," he said, "and I am the Enchanter to the King of the Isle of Britain."
"Show me thine enchantments," said Vivien, who feared not to speak to any man.
Now Merlin had looked on all the ladies who were at the court of the King of the Isle of Britain, and on the maidens who were in far countries and distant castles, and besides, the ladies of the times of old had been shown him in his Magic Glass, but never before had he seen any one who seemed so lovely to him as this child. She was bright eyed as a bird. She had a slim body, and pale cheeks, and quick, quick hands. Her hair was red and in thick tangles. "Show me thine enchantments," she cried to him again.
Merlin bade her come with him and she came. He brought her to a high place, a place that was of rock with rocks piled all about it. On the ground he made magical figures. Then he said magical words. And all the time Vivien, slim Vivien with her tangle of red hair, stood upon the rocks and kept her eyes upon him.
Upon the ground that was all rock Merlin made a garden with roses blowing and clear waters flowing, with birds singing amongst the leaves and fishes swimming in the streams. He made trees grow, too, with honey-tasting fruits upon them.
Vivien went through the garden, plucking the flowers and tasting the fruits that grew there. She turned to Merlin and looked at him again with her bright eyes. "Canst thou make a castle for me?" said she.
Then Merlin made his magical figures and said his magical words over again. The stones that were strewn about everywhere came together and built themselves up into a castle. When the castle rose before them Vivien took Merlin by the hand, and they went through its doorway and up the stairway and into the castle turret. And when they looked from the turret Vivien said, "Would that no one should know of this garden and this castle but thou and I!"
He told her that the castle and the garden would be hidden. Then when they were leaving the garden he put a mist all around, a mist that those who came that way could not see through and were made fearful of venturing into.
And so the castle and the garden were all unknown to men. But Vivien would come, passing through the mist, and going into the garden and up into the turret. At first she would not have Merlin near her. Afterward it came to pass that she would summon him. A bugle hung in the turret of the castle, and she would blow upon it, and he would come and stay by her.
He was two score years of age, and she was five years less than a score. Nevertheless he thought it better to watch her dancing with bright green leaves in her red hair than to know all that would bring him from being a lesser to being a great Enchanter. Of the maidens and great ladies he had seen, some, he told her, were like light, and some were like flowers, and some were like a flame of fire. But she, he said, was like the wind. And he took thought no more for the King of the Isle of Britain, nor for the great work he was to do for him, and he spent his days in watching Vivien, and in listening to Vivien, and in making magic things for Vivien's delight.
Her father once took her away from the place near where the hidden garden and the hidden castle stood. Vivien was in another country now. And when she went amongst those who were strangers to her she found out that nothing mattered to her except the looks and the words of Merlin. The castle and the garden — she did not think of them, nor of the magic things he had made for her. Her thoughts were only on Merlin, who was so wise and who could do such wonders.
When she came back, and when she met him in the hidden garden, she caught hold of his hands, and she would not let go of them. Nor would she tell Merlin why this change had come over her, and why she would keep close to him now and not apart. At last she said to him, "What ladies and what maidens have you known, O my master Merlin?"
Then Merlin took his Magic Glass into his hands, and in it he showed her all the ladies who were at the court of the King of the Isle of Britain, and he showed her all the lovely maidens who lived in far countries and in distant castles whom he knew. Vivien threw herself on the ground with her face to the rock after she had looked into the glass.
Then afterward she watched him in a way different from the way she had watched him before. What he said and what he did she remembered well. Soon she understood his magic figures and could make them. She came to understand his magic words and to be able to repeat them. And Merlin would say to her, "O my little hawk, fly at this — and this — and this."
One day as they wandered through a forest Vivien asked him to tell her the mightiest spell that he knew. The Enchanter told it to her. She stood still, with all her quick mind in her face, while he put aside the tangles of her red hair and spoke into her ear.
It was a spell that would hold in a place the one whom it was spoken over. When he had told her he went at her bidding and seated himself under a forest tree. Vivien, laughing, made a magic circle around him and repeated the spell that he had given her. When she did this the Enchanter was enchanted. Merlin stayed under the forest tree, and there he would stay, for he could not move until the spell that was said over him was unsaid by Vivien.
And Vivien danced around him, her red hair shaking, her bright eyes gleaming, her quick hands waving. She called to him, "Merlin, Merlin Enchanter, come to me." But Merlin, under the forest tree, could not move. She ran through the woods and he could not follow after her. In a while she came back and stood beside him.
Said Merlin to her, "Why have you worked this spell upon me, and why have you left me here so that I cannot move?" She knelt down on the ground beside where he pat.
"O Merlin," said she, "I would leave you here enchanted, for fear you should leave me and go amongst the maidens and the ladies who are so lovely." And when she said that her face was so hard that he knew she would hold him there.
But Merlin smiled, and he said to her, "I would stay always where you are, Vivien, blossom of the furze."
"Nay," said she, "you would go from me. Why should you not? You have great works to do for the King of the land. And when you see again the ladies and the maidens who are the loveliest in the world you will not come back again to Vivien. I shall hate the castle and the garden that you made for me, and I shall hate every one who will come near me. I shall hold you, Merlin, here, even until the wolves come out at night and devour you and me."
"I will build a castle for you in an empty country, and no one shall ever be there but you and me," said Merlin.
"Nay," said Vivien, "they will search the world for you, Merlin, and when they find you, you will have to go with them."
Then Merlin, as if it were a magic thing that would please her, brought out his thought about the Island of the White Tower. Away beyond the Western Island, in a sea that is never sailed on, that island lies. Only on Midsummer Day does it come near to the Western Island so that men may see it. There, said Merlin, they might go. Those who would search for him could never come to him there. He told her more and more about the Island of the White Tower, and Vivien listened in delight to all he told her. And when he had sworn he would take her to it she unsaid the spell with which she had bespelled him, and he rose up from where he had been held, and he sprang across the magic figure that was drawn upon the ground. And with Vivien Merlin went through the forest.
The fishermen who cast their nets by the shores of the Western Ocean have this story of Merlin and Vivien. They tell how in a boat of crystal twelve creatures sailed to the Island of the White Tower. And two were Merlin and Vivien, and nine were the nine prime bards of the Isle of Britain who went with Merlin, and one was the tame wolf that was Merlin's servant. They sailed out upon a Midsummer's Day, and from that good day to this no hint or hair of the Enchanter has been seen by King nor clown in all the Isle of Britain.
II. ZABULUN THE ENCHANTER
It was Anluan, the father of Eean, Anluan who had once been a fisherman by the shores of the Western Ocean, who told this story of the Enchanter of the Isle of Britain. The fishermen know the story, and they, more often than any others, have seen the Island of the White Tower as it shows itself on the rim of the Western Ocean.
The story was told after the white horse and the red horse had clattered across the stones of the courtyard, bringing Eean and Bird-of-Gold toward their meeting with Merlin. Candles thicker than a man's wrist had been put upon the supper table; fresh torches had been set in the sconces along the walls; and logs of resinous wood had been piled upon the hearth. All this was done so that the King and his lords might drink their last cups of wine before they went into the sleeping chambers.
And now, in the light of shining candles and blazing torches and mounting hearth fires, the squires and the servers went amongst the company filling the wine cups up. Some had already the wine in their cups, and were waiting for King Manus to raise his in a health. Then the strangest of strange things happened. No wind came into the hall, but suddenly the candles upon the table and the torches along the walls went out. The servers went to relight the torches at the hearth, but the hearth blaze had died down, and all the logs were black.
And blackness was in the chamber where, a minute before, candles and torches and hearth fires were blazing. The King and his lords stood around the table, while the servers and squires ran through every chamber of the castle to find a spark of light.
But not even a spark could they find; not the light of a rush candle even was to be found in any hall or chamber in the castle. And on every stairway the same story was told, how suddenly light and fire had gone black out.
But now the grooms came in with flints and steel and tow. Every one tried to strike a spark, but no spark came for all their striking. And now, all over the castle, there were outbursts of woe: the cooks were lamenting that they would have no fires, and the women were weeping because lights could not be brought them. It was then that King Manus bade his lords stand around laying their hands upon the table.
The next thing was that a figure appeared at the doorway. All saw it, for there was a line of faint light around it. It was the figure of a tall man. "Speak," said King Manus with his hand stretched to the figure.
"If you will have me speak," said the man.
"The lights and the fires have been quenched in the castle. How has this come to be?"
"It is in the power of an Enchanter of the second degree to quench light and fire," said the man in the darkness. "Further, King Manus: the fire and light that is extinguished cannot be brought back until the Enchanter lifts his ban."
"Have you come to tell me this?" asked the King.
"I have come to make a request of you, King Manus," said the man in the darkness.
Then Anluan, the father of Eean, he whose duty it was to let none that might have a request come face to face with the King, groped around the room that he might place himself before his master. But ere he came to where King Manus stood the man with the line of light around had come so close that he and the King looked into each other's eyes.
"O King," said the stranger, "I have answered what you asked of me. Now I make my request. It is that the black horse that is in your stable be given to me."
There was a stir in the darkened hall, and then there was an outcry. It was from Anluan, the father of Eean. "0, King Manus, beware of the man who knows of the powers of Enchanters. He may be the one who would ride in chase of Eean, my son!"
"He has made a request of me," said King Manus. "By the open hand of my father, it will have to be granted him."
"It is for the one horse that can follow the others," Anluan cried.
"I have never refused a request! Alas, alas, in one night the three horses that were my pride are taken from me !"
"Strike now, and light candle and torch and hearth fire," said the one who had come amongst them.
Flint was struck upon steel; sparks came and made the tow blaze; candle and torch and hearth fire were lighted again. Then all looked at the one who had come amongst them.
Tall he was, with a dark and bony face, and eyes that were like a hawk's eyes. His dress was a plain cloak that had a hood that went over his head. And yet, although he had not the staff nor the robe of an Enchanter, it did not need Anluan's cry to tell the company that here was the one to whom his son had been apprenticed — Zabulun the Enchanter!
"Why do you go in chase of my son?" Anluan cried.
"Harut and Marut laid hands upon me. Am I to have no more mastery because of that?" said Zabulun. "For forty days I was laid in the cave that is under the sea, and do men think that all power is gone from me because of that? I thought all that time that what I worked for would come to pass, and that the Magic Mirror of Babylon would be lost in the ruin of the Tower of Babylon and that destruction would come upon the Babylonians. This would have been if the boy who was my apprentice had been faithful to me. But he spoke the words that restored the mirror to the Kings of Babylon. And I, whose name, as I thought, would stand forever as one who had worked a great destruction, am as naught — my name is a name to laugh at. And shall he pass from my mastership, the boy who let this befall me? Not so; he has still to be my aid. I have paid you, his father, gold for his seven years' service, and his service still belongs to me."
Then, turning to King Manus, Zabulun said, "You have granted my request. Command now that your grooms go to the stable and bring out the black horse that I am to ride."
King Manus gave the commands. Then out of the door of the castle they all went and into the courtyard. The still light of the dawn, the dawn of Midsummer's Day, was coming over the world. The grooms went to the stable, and in full sight of all unlocked the great stable door and brought out the black horse whose swiftness was such that he could overtake the wind of March that was before him, while the wind of March that was behind could not overtake him. They brought forth the black horse and they held him while the dark-faced man put himself astride. Then the hoofs of the last of the King's horses struck fire out of the stones of the courtyard, while a cry went up from Anluan, the one-time fisherman.
And away went Zabulun the Enchanter, away, away in pursuit of Eean and Bird-of-Gold, and the light of the Midsummer Day came into the world.
III. THE LAST FLIGHT OF EEAN AND BIRD-OF GOLD
As the first light of the Midsummer Day came over the world the two who were fleeing before him were speaking of Zabulun the Enchanter. "That we may baffle him," one said.
"And what if we cannot baffle him this time?" said the other.
"Then he will take me and make me do terrible services for him" — it was Eean who said this —"and, worse than all the services he will make me do, he will separate us."
"No, no," said Bird-of-Gold. "If he takes us this time, I shall do everything to make myself useful to the Enchanter. I have thought out ways in which I can serve him. He will not separate us and we will be together still."
"O, Bird-of-Gold," said Eean, "I am fearful lest he should slay you for taking the Magic Mirror off the Tower of Babylon. But I have a sword and he shall not harm you."
"I shall escape him," Bird-of-Gold said, "and as he followed you and me across the world, so I shall follow him and you, and we shall never be apart."
They had learnt in their wanderings all ways of guiding themselves, and as they galloped on they were heading for the Western Ocean. Darkness was around them at first. But the sky was wide and clear, and Bird-of-Gold, when she raised her head, could see and name the bright planets. There was Mars with his red pulse. Bird-of-Gold likened this planet to the steed that she bestrode, and as she rode on she sang to herself the song that the shepherd boys in her own country used to sing about another star:
That star, I know, is Betelguise;
Yet, as I walk the hills by day,
I hardly know his splendid name—
That star is far away.
But when at night I travel on,
Or watch across an empty land,
Then Betelguise, my star of stars,
No thing is nearer hand.
Then send a ray that I may own
The fortune that is mine:
O Betelguise, my star of stars,
My forehead's for your sign!
And after all the countries he had wandered through, Eean was now back on the ground of his own country. He heard the cry of the curlews overhead. He saw the lakes that looked as if even the birds had forgotten them, so lonely they were, lonely, but with deep memories. He saw the cairns of stones above the long dead heroes. Once he saw a fox upon a cairn, and it seemed to him that this was the very fox he had chased away from his mother's coop the day before the Enchanter had taken him away from the Western Island.
With strong hearts King Manus's horses galloped on. But the heart of Eean was strained with the thought of the distance that was still before them. First, a great mountain that had to be crossed. Then a wide plain. Then that other mountain from the top of which one could see the Western Ocean in the daylight. And Zabulun the Enchanter might come upon them in the hills or on the plain and say a word that might stop their horses' gallop.
But they came to the last mountain top, and they saw the waters of the Western Ocean with gleams of gold coming upon them. Adown the heather-covered hillside their horses hurried. And as the broad sun rose over the broad ocean the feet of the white and the red horse were scattering the foam along the shore.
And as they watched they saw Merlin's island grow out of the dimness of the sea. Then the sun became fuller and it lighted up the White Tower, and Eean and Bird-of-Gold knew they had come to their journey's end indeed. They sprang off their horses, and they dipped their hands in the sea, and they kissed each other.
"Now we must cast over on the island the tokens that the Atlantes gave us," Eean said, "the cocks' combs and the peacocks' feathers. If they come to Merlin, he will let us cross to his island, and we can swim our horses over. But how shall we know if the tokens come to him?"
He raised the bag in which were the cocks' combs and the four peacocks' feathers. He cast the bag toward the island. Through the air it went like a flying bird.
They mounted their horses again, ready to swim them across when they got some signal from the island. And the signal came. It was the howl of the wolf that was Merlin's servant.
Now they were to swim their horses across. As they went into the water, Bird-of-Gold looked back. Down through the heather of the hillside a rider was coming. He was on a black horse. They knew him for Zabulun, the Enchanter from whom they were fleeing.
IV. HOW EEAN WON HIS RELEASE FROM ZABULUN THE ENCHANTER
Merlin, with the tame wolf that was his servant beside him, was standing by the White Tower on the morning of that Midsummer Day. And Vivien was upon the tower, singing to her colored birds and looking out over the sea.
Vivien, who played with her colored birds, had still the look of a child in her face. Her hair was no longer in tangles; it was softer than it was once, and it fell softly over her shoulders. Her eyes, for all the child's look that was in her face, were as if they had seen many things come and change and pass.
Like a King, or like one who had been always near a King, was Merlin the Enchanter. He smiled, and his smile was calm and royal. But one might have said that his eyes were strangely close to each other and that his lips were strangely red.
His beard was long and gray. He wore a white robe with a belt of green leaves around it, and a chaplet of oak leaves was on his head. Vivien was dressed in green, with a golden belt clasped around her, and with green leaves in her soft hair.
So they were standing by and on the tower, Merlin, Vivien, and Merlin's tame wolf, when the tokens that were from the Atlantes came. Merlin laid his hand upon the wolf, and the wolf gave the howl that was the signal for Eean and Bird-of-Gold to come on the Island of the White Tower. The Enchanter saw them ride their horses into the water. And then another token came to him — the token that one magician sends to another, a Bird of Foam it was, and Zabulun sent it.
Deep were the waters, but great-hearted were the horses of King Manus, the white horse and the red horse, and with Eean and Bird-of-Gold astride of them they swam to the Island of the White Tower. They came to the sloping shore, and the riders helped the horses up to the hard ground. The white and the red horse stood shivering from their plunge into the ocean. Afterward they threw themselves on the grass and lay as still as if they were dead.
Not to the horses, but out to the sea did Eean and Bird-of-Gold look. The black horse with Zabulun astride him was swimming now. Swiftly to the White Tower where they saw Merlin stand they went.
"O, Merlin," Eean cried, "to you we have come to save us from the Enchanter who has pursued us from one end of the world to the other."
"From whom have you come, you who have sent such tokens?" said Merlin.
"From Hermes Trismegistus in his secret cell.. And Hermes bade us say to you that we have heard from him the answer to the riddle that the Sphinx asks, and that we crossed the desert to come to you, answering the Sphinx."
"Who is the Magician who pursues you?" "Zabulun, once a Prince in Babylon, O Merlin." "Is it he who pursues you? — Zabulun! I shall have a welcome for Zabulun."
"Save us, O Merlin, from Zabulun," Bird-of-Gold cried.
Vivien came down from the tower. "It is Zabulun who comes to our island in chase of these two, my Vivien," Merlin said. "Now you shall see me match my power with Zabulun's."
"A match between magicians, how entertaining it will be!" cried Vivien, clapping her hands.
"O lady, if Zabulun is not baffled it will be death or separation for us," said Bird-of-Gold to her.
"Merlin will baffle him — you will find that Merlin will baffle him," said Vivien. "You see, he has done nothing to impress me for an age."
Now Merlin had sent the tame wolf that was his servant upon an errand, and the wolf at this moment returned leading nine men who wore white robes and who had chaplets of oak leaves upon their brows. These were the nine prime bards of the Isle of Britain who had come to the Island of the White Tower with Merlin, their chief.
They stood as he bade them, four on one side and five on the other, with the Enchanter of the Isle of Britain between them. Merlin bade Eean stand with the four bards. He touched them with his staff, and the row of bards and Eean with them became all as alike as ten peas in a pea pod. And Merlin went to Bird-of-Gold and touched her also, and she became like the lady Vivien exactly.
Now the black horse that bore Zabulun came to the sloping bank of the Island of the White Tower, and Zabulun sprang off his back and drew the black horse up on the bank. The horse breathed mightily, and then like the others lay down on the grass.
With great and sure strides Zabulun came to the White Tower where Merlin stood. "Hail, Merlin," he cried in a loud voice.
"You know of an apprentice of mine who has come to your island."
"Find him, O mighty magician."
Zabulun looked and saw the ten men who looked exactly alike, and the two women whom one could not tell one from the other. He turned to Merlin then and he said, "What a simple trick you would play upon me! Nine bards you have, and there are ten before us. One of them is Eean, the boy apprenticed to me."
"Then you will take him, Zabulun."
It is certain that Merlin did not think that Zabulun would do what he did now. He changed himself into a hound. Running amongst the ten that were there he snuffed at them. By the smell of the horse he had ridden he would find Eean.
But as he ran amongst them Merlin touched each of the ten bards and Eean with them with his staff. They all became pigeons and flew up into the air. One had a feather awry. This was Eean on whom Zabulun had laid a paw just as he was being transformed.
Instantly Zabulun changed himself into a hawk and strove to rise above the flock of pigeons. As he did he saw the one that had a feather awry. Over him he came.
Then Eean, seeing the hawk above him, dropped instantly to the earth. The others flew down with him, crowding around to hide the ruffled feather. They came before the door of Merlin's house. They flew in and lighted down on the floor while the hawk came sweeping up to the doorway.
Merlin touched the pigeons with his staff and again transformed them. They became ten rings of gold that lay upon the floor. As the hawk flew in and perched on a chair to fix his eyes upon them, the rings of gold rolled into the fire.
Then Zabulun transformed himself into a tongs, and went hunting through the fire for the rings. He picked up one ring and flung it out on the floor, he picked up another ring and flung it out on the floor, and so on, until the ten rings were out of the fire. Merlin touched the rings with his staff, and they were transformed into ten grains of corn. Upon these ten grains Vivien and Bird-of-Gold threw handful after handful of grains of corn.
But now Zabulun changed himself into a cock with strong legs and wide claws and a hungry beak. With his claws he scratched through the heap of grain. With his beak he picked the grains up. Vivien and Bird-of-Gold kept throwing on the floor handful after handful of corn to cover the ten grains.
But the beak of the cock went so fiercely and so hungrily amongst them that only a few grains more than the ten were left upon the floor when Vivien and Bird-of-Gold found out they had no more handfuls to fling. Then it seemed as if the cock with his sharp eye would soon pick out the grain that was Eean.
Then with his staff Merlin touched nine of the grains, leaving one untouched. The one he left untouched was Eean. The nine were changed into weasels, and they faced the cock fiercely. Then was Zabulun startled. Instead of picking at the grain that was Eean he fluttered up from the ground, and went out of the door of the house.
Merlin touched the grain that was left and Eean stood up. Bird-of-Gold clapped her hands for joy on seeing him again. But Eean ran out of the door of the house after the cock that was Zabulun the Enchanter. He snatched up a strong staff as he ran.
Zabulun had changed back into his own form. But now Eean had no fear of him. He ran toward him. And Zabulun took up a staff that was lying there and made to defend himself.
Then began the battle between Eean and Zabulun. Eean struck at Zabulun, and Zabulun struck at Eean, and each defended himself with the staff that he had. They fought their way across the island, from one side to the other. They fought until their staves were broken and until they were covered with bruises. Then they threw away their staves and gripped one another. All around the island they wrestled. Strong were the hands of Zabulun upon Eean, and yet Eean was not thrown by Zabulun. Eean felt his own hands were strong upon Zabulun, and yet he could not throw him. Soon Eean lost sense of everything except two gripping and rocking figures.
They wrestled their way across the island, down to the shore where they had landed and where the three horses of King Manus were lying. They wrestled until the sea water came over their feet. Again things became clear to Eean. He knew that if he could overthrow the Enchanter he would win his freedom from him.
He fastened upon Zabulun a grip that seemed to be stronger than his own life. He heaved with a power that seemed to bring up his last breath. He bent Zabulun over. He brought him down, his head in the water. He flung himself upon the prone Enchanter.
"What would you have of me?" Zabulun said at last.
"Release. Say you have no more mastership in me."
"I say it. I have no more mastership in you. You have release from me."
"I let you rise."
Then Eean took his grip off Zabulun. The Enchanter rose up and took himself out of the water.
So Zabulun was defeated, and so release was given to Eean, The Boy Apprenticed to the Enchanter. Zabulun mounted the black horse that was King Manus's and had him swim the water. He rode across the plain and over one mountain and another mountain until he came to the castle of King Manus. There he left the horse to neigh for his grooms.
What became of Zabulun afterward is not written in the book that is the History of the Enchanters. Some say that from that Midsummer's Day he ceased to be named with the great Enchanters. The powers he had gained, they say, shrank from him. Afterward a famous juggler appeared in the world. He used to go into the halls of Kings on festival nights and do marvelous feats with balls and rings and knives, and play music on all manner of instruments, going from King's castle to King's castle. That juggler, they say — but they may be mistaken —was Zabulun, once Prince of Babylon, and once master of the Inaccessible Island.
Eean and Bird-of-Gold went within the White Tower, and conversed from noon to dusk with Merlin and the lady Vivien. Before that Midsummer's Day had passed into darkness, they mounted the white steed and the red steed and had them swim across the waters. When they came to the farther shore they let the horses stand for a while. Then mounting them again they rode over the mountains and across the plains and came again to the castle of King Manus.
V. THE RETURN OF KING MANUS'S HORSES
Again Manus, King of the Western Island, sat in his supper hall. The torches were in their sconces, the candles were lighted on the table, the hearth fire was blazing on the hearth, and his lords once again sat to the right and the left of him. But this time they sat without laughter and without high words.
The harper and the story-teller were at the table too, but they neither made music nor told stories. They had tried, both, that evening, but no one had listened to them. Outside, the iron door of the stable gaped wide, and the grooms and horse boys and watchers stood idly around' or went quarreling amongst themselves. It was very difficult, as you may imagine, for the harper to play upon his harp when he would hear the King say into his wine cup, "O, Raven, my black horse, where art thou now?" And it was equally difficult for the story-teller to get on with his tale when he would see the King looking at him with unseeing eyes and hear him say, "O, my white and my red horses, what would I not give if I saw you back in my courtyard again?"
So you can imagine the silence that was upon the supper board that was wont to resound with conversation and story-telling, with music and pledges of the wine cup. "O, Raven, my black horse, where art thou now?" said the King once again; and then, "What would I not give to have my white and my red horse in the courtyard again?" And these were all the words that King Manus could be got to say.
And then, suddenly, a loud neigh was heard outside. Straightway King Manus ran out of the supper hall. The lords, the minstrel, and the story-teller, the stewards, servers, and attendants, ran with him. And when they came as far as the wide door of the castle they ran into the grooms and the horse boys who were running from the stable. All ran together. And there, in the middle of the courtyard, without a rider upon his back, was Raven, the King's black horse.
They brought him into his stall in the stable, and they combed him and they groomed him; they gave him the red wheat and the white barley to eat and the clear spring water to drink. King Manus could hardly be prevailed upon to leave Raven's stall and come back into the supper hall. But at length they got him back into his seat, and then the supper board resounded with pledges of the wine cup as the King and his lords drank to each other merrily.
Again there was neighing in the courtyard, this time a double neighing. Straightway the King ran out and all who were near ran with him. They ran into the grooms and the horse boys who were running from the stable. There in the courtyard were the white horse and the red horse. They were not unmounted, however, for Eean and Bird-of-Gold were upon them.
This time King Manus grew into such glee that he swore by the open hand of his father that he would make a duke of every lord who was with him that night. There were great rejoicings. Some tossed their torches so high that they frightened the owls out of the cornices on the castle. The grooms brought the white horse and the red horse into their stalls in the stable, and they fed them with red wheat and white barley, and gave them the clear spring water to drink.
Then they went to carry Eean and Bird-of Gold into the supper hall. They were not to be found for a while, for Anluan, Eean's father, had led them away. He was seen to weep over Eean, and to take the hands of Bird-of-Gold and kiss her while he called her daughter. And to Anluan King Manus gave the privilege of bringing them to the supper board.
The King put Eean into the story-teller's seat, but he had Bird-of-Gold sit beside him on his left hand. The feast began all over again, and went on from egg to apple. And when wine had been drunk King Manus called upon Eean to tell the story of his journey to Merlin's Island and the full tale of how he had defeated Zabulun the Enchanter.
When all was told the King gave presents to Eean and Bird-of-Gold and he swore that for a year and a day he would have them live with him in his castle. "And," said he, "this girl, Bird-of-Gold, has been very loving and faithful to you as you have been to her, and for a further benefit to you I shall have the old blind sage come down from his attic in the castle and marry you here and now." Eean and Bird-of-Gold took each other's hands as he said this, and the old blind sage was brought down from his attic chamber, and he married Bird-of-Gold and Eean by the rays of the rising sun.
For a year and a day they lived in King Manus's royal castle. Now Eean had learnt so much of the arts and crafts and mysteries that belong to an Enchanter that he was able to do great works for the King. Castles he built that gave security, and bridges that brought people together, and mills that ground for the people abundance of corn. He had become so strong and so sure of himself since his encounter with Zabulun that all he set out to perform he did well. And his wife, Bird-of-Gold, loved him so much that her thought never went back to the country she had come from. Always, they say, she kept a flock of white ducks; perhaps they reminded her of the thousand ducks that was the fortune she brought into Babylon.
But the story-teller must not forget to tell you about the question that Eean asked Merlin the Enchanter on King Manus's behalf. It was about a game of chess that King Manus had been playing with his brother-in-law, King Connal, for half their lifetimes without either having victory in sight. Moreover, they had inherited the game from their fathers, and it was now being played for fifty years. Merlin told Eean what the moves should be, and the day after he came to the castle, Eean took the chess board and showed them to the King. With that instruction he played. The game of chess was finished three days afterwards, and great fame and honor came to King Manus.