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The final part of our story of Eric and Enide combines romance and adventure in equal measures. The Knight Prince and his Princess set out across Dartmoor on a quest - but a quest for what? Neither of them seems to know. The perfect happiness of their fairytale marriage has already given way to quarrelling, and Eric seems more interested in his hurt pride than fighting off imminent danger.
You can catch up with the earlier parts of our long but exciting story from the time of King Arthur.
The Marriage of Eric and Enide
The Quest of Eric and Enide
Our Sources are Chretien de Troyes, The Mabinogion, The Idylls of the King by Tennyson (from which we quote).
Read by Natasha. Version By Bertie. Duration 25.40
Proofread by Claire Deakin.
The Journey of Eric and Enide
Eric and Enide rode up and down over the moorland in silence. After a while the mist and the drizzle began to lift, but it was no clearer to Enide where they were going or why. Eventually she thought to herself, “This is too ridiculous. He must tell me what this is all about”.
So she spoke to her husband but he did not reply. She thought that perhaps he could not hear her because his armour covered his ears. She leaned over and tapped him on the helmet. His visor was up above his face, but the look in his clear blue eyes was distant and uninterested in her.
“My Lord,” she said. “You told me that we are going on a quest. May I ask just one question: a quest for what?”
Eric did not tell her. Instead he said in a weary voice, “I ask only this. Ride on ahead and do not say a word to me. Whatever may happen, whatever you may see or hear, do not speak to me.”
Having said that, he clamped the visor of his helmet down over his face.
Enide was not sure if she was more hurt or angered by this response, but she hurried ahead on her pony until she was some way further down the track. Although she was tired and sad, she kept a sharp lookout for any signs of life or jeopardy. She had heard tales of the strange beings that appeared on the moors: pixies, ghosts, headless horsemen, wild hounds, and robbers. Soon she realised that her intuition of danger was right – for she saw three knights watching them from the brow of the hill. They started to ride down the slope towards them. They looked far from friendly for they were coming at quite a pace and held lances in their hands. She turned around to look for her husband – but he was riding far behind and did not seem to have noticed the knights.
“I must warn him,” she said to herself. “He told me not to speak, but this is a matter of life and death.”
She kicked her heels into her pony to hurry down the track towards Eric as she called out, “My Lord! My Lord! We’re under attack!” But Eric did not respond.
When she reached him she said frantically, “Don’t you see those three knights? Soon they will be upon us!”
“So? What do you want me to do about it?” he asked. “Don’t you recall? I’ve gone soft and effeminate.”
“Oh what are you saying?”
“Your words, not mine, darling.”
She calmed herself and tried to reason with her husband one more time.
“If you insist on arguing then very soon you will be dead and your wife will be taken prisoner by bandits. Is that what you really want?”
With a grunt, Eric lifted up his lance and spurred his horse on to meet the attackers. One robber-knight rode out in front of the others; Eric drove his lance into his shield, and thrust him off his horse. He stabbed the second bandit in the side so that he too fell from his mount. The third turned and fled, but Eric pursued the robber and caught up with him. They clashed sword to sword and very soon Eric killed his opponent. He gathered the loose horse and rode back to collect the mounts from the two other robbers.
“You can walk,” he said to them, “and be glad that you picked on an effeminate knight, or you might have finished up still worse.” The defeated robbers looked baffled by this statement. As they left, Eric ordered Enide not to speak another word, even if the devil himself was coming to attack them.
They rode on, and when they reached the top of a hill, Enide looked down towards a river and she saw some men hurrying to hide in some trees by the track. She was sure that they were robbers and that they were setting an ambush for them. She felt alarmed and confused. Eric had told her not to speak – and yet she must warn him that they were in danger. She remembered that at her wedding she had promised to love honour and obey.
“I do love him,” she said to herself, “but if he’s being pig-headed, how can I honour and obey him? Of course I must warn him or we will both die.”
So she did warn him - and he was furious.
“Did I not order you to keep silent?” he asked. “I give you but one command, and this is how you keep it!”
“My Lord, you did indeed tell me not to speak, but it is very hard when I see danger up ahead.”
“Oh faithless woman,” he muttered. Then he spurred his horse onto the brow of the hill. Looking down from there he saw the clump of trees and bushes where the robbers lay in wait, and he charged down towards them. He disappeared into the trees and Enide wondered if that would be her last sight of her husband still alive. She heard the clashing of swords and shields, the whinnying of horses, and the cries of men. Ten minutes later Eric emerged from the trees leading five horses with empty saddles.
When husband and wife met up again, neither said a word, although Eric seemed to be in better spirits – for no one could doubt his strength and valour after a victory over five men.
That night, Enide stayed awake to keep watch for wolves or robbers. While she sat by camp fire she looked at her sleeping husband, his broad shoulders, his huge arms and his thick neck, and she thought to herself, “He is certainly brave and strong, and he is often kind and noble. But he was born a prince and has never had anything but praise all his life. Perhaps it is not surprising that there are times when he behaves like a spoilt child.”
When the sun rose, they saw that they had camped on the edge of a farm. Soon a boy came across them. He was carrying some food for the farm workers’ lunch. He hailed Eric and said, “Good sir. I see that you and your lady are of noble stock. Let me take you to my master, for he loves to know when people of note are passing through. He will receive you in his palace and you shall stay in comfort and the best food and drink will restore you.”
Eric and Enide both gladly accepted the invitation. That day they rested on comfortable beds and in the evening they joined the lord of the manor for a dinner of roast venison.
When Enide saw her host, she recognised him straight away. His name was Earl Limours, and two years before he had stayed in her father’s house, and had asked for her hand in marriage. Her father rejected him. He thought his manners were too smooth, and he didn’t trust Limours to take good care of his daughter.
Neither Enide or Limours said a word to show that they knew each other – and Enide was afraid that her husband would be jealous if he learned their history.
All evening Limours drank and jested a good deal, for he liked good company. Eric also drank freely from the wine, though he barely glanced in the direction of his wife. Limours looked her way a good deal though.
When Eric was out of the room, he sat next to her and said:
Enide, my early and my only love,
Enide, the loss of whom hath turned me wild–
What chance is this? how is it I see you here?
Make me a little happier, let me know it.
Owe you me nothing for a life half lost?
And, Enid, you and he, I see with joy,
Ye sit apart, you do not speak to him,
You come with no attendance, page or maid,
To serve you–doth he love you as of old?
For, call it lovers’ quarrels, yet I know
Though men may bicker with the things they love,
They would not make them laughable in all eyes,
Not while they loved them; and your wretched dress,
A wretched insult on you, dumbly speaks
Your story, that this man loves you no more.
Your beauty is no beauty to him now.
As he spoke, Enide saw cunning in Limours’ eyes. She remembered that her father had not trusted this man’s charm. She sat silently, and he whispered to her, “Come. I will set you free. Say the word and my men will fall upon your cruel husband while he is unarmed and unsuspecting. Then we shall at last be man and wife, as it was meant to be.”
Enide was greatly afraid that one of Limours men would stab Eric in the back before the evening was out. She could see no chance to warn him before they were alone together. So she answered craftily, “No. It will be bad luck to kill a guest at dinner, and although he is unarmed, he will put up a fierce fight. Better wait until dawn, and kill him while he sleeps.”
Limours agreed that Enide’s plan was the safest and the best. When everyone was ready for bed, he bowed deeply to Eric and wished him the soundest of sleeps. After Eric and Enide had gone up to their room, he boasted to his men that the lady did not love her careless husband, and had only eyes for him, her first true love.
Enide let her husband sleep a few hours, but she herself did not dare rest. While it was still dark she awoke him and told him what Limours had said and how she had tricked him to win a little time.
Eric thought to himself, “So she does love me after all. Or at least, she prefers me to Limours.”
The couple slipped out the palace before dawn, but soon after sun rise, Enide thought she could hear the sound of hooves behind them. She turned saw a cloud of dust bristling with the points of lances. Limours and a large number of his men were after them.
She spoke to Eric, “My Lord, Look back. We are not out of danger yet.” This time her husband did not scold her for speaking. He turned his horse and charged towards their pursuers.
Enide thought to herself, “Even he cannot defeat an army. Surely this time he will be killed and Limours will force me to become his wife. No. I would rather kill myself than marry that charm merchant.”
Limours rode out in front of his men and was the first to meet Eric. They clashed against one another’s shields with lances, and both fell to the ground. Soon they were back on their feet. Limours swung at Eric with his sword, but Eric ducked under it and cut his opponent on the leg between the joints of his armour. When Limours men saw their master fall, three of them came at Eric. They were on horse back and he was on foot. It was only a matter of moments before Eric would surely be dealt a death blow - but the wounded Limours called out, “Men stop. Leave him be. My head was hot with wine and passion. I behaved ignobly to a guest. Let this knight go on his way with his fair lady, for that is how it should be.”
Enide thought that it was only by a miracle that her husband had survived this encounter. What she did not know was that Eric had been wounded, and beneath his armour, he was bleeding. The sun shone down hotly, and the strength in his muscles were evaporating.
Eric was already wondering how much longer he could go on, when they both heard some piteous cries up ahead in some woods. He understood right away that it was the voice of a woman who was in great distress.
“Wait here,” he said to Enide, “I must go and help.”
As he rode on ahead, Enide thought how if anything terrible happened to him, people would say that her husband died while coming to the aid, not of her, but another woman.
Eric found the young damsel – and she told him how she and her fiancé had had been set upon by a giant, and now the cruel beast was dragging him away to his lair. Whether the beast was to eat him or to demand a ransom from his father, she did not know.
“I will return the young man safely to you – or die in the trying,” said Eric. As he rode on, he thought that it might be the latter. Not far ahead he caught up with the abductor, who was truly a giant – barely able to walk under the trees he was so tall. He was dragging his prisoner along the ground like a sledge.
Eric called out, “Ogre. Let him go.”
The giant snarled, “Make me.”
As Eric rode up to him, the giant grabbed his foot and yanked him off his horse. The huge beast brought his his club down onto Eric and dealt him a terrible blow. It was if a boulder had rolled off a cliff onto his head. Perhaps by chance, Eric tripped the giant and the beast fell onto the point of Eric’s sword. Eric thrust upwards. The creature bellowed like an earthquake and staggered around before thundering onto the ground. Eric was so weak that he was barely able to pick himself up and help the young man onto his horse. In a semi-conscious daze he led him back down the path to reunite the lad with his maiden. When Eric finally got back to the place where Enide was waiting for him, he was blacking out and seeing only stars in front of his eyes. He fell off his horse with a great crash of his armour.
Enide untied his helmet and saw the wound in his head. She had nothing to wash it with, but her tears - and she felt that his body was frightfully cold.
“Oh no, dear husband, do not leave me,” she said. Despair came over her.
At noon, a huge red-bearded knight found Enide weeping over the body of her husband. Her grief and tears did not detract from her beauty. He thought to himself, “Here’s the damsel for me - and I am here just in time. This morning she belonged to this pile of limbs that is lying on the road. By this evening she will be mine.”
He stepped down from his horse and tried to comfort the beautiful young woman, saying that he would take her back to his castle for protection, and that he was the most powerful man around these parts. His name was Earl Doorm.
Enide refused to leave her husband, but Earl Doorm told his servant to fetch a cart to carry the body back with them.
When they reached Doorm’s castle, Eric’s massive limbs were stretched out on the table of the main hall. Enide sat for long hours by his side weeping and saying his name.
Her words reached into the mind the Eric - for he was not dead, merely in a deep state of unconsciousness. The sound of his wife’s voice brought him back from the brink of death.
His first clear thought was, “I love her - and she loves me.”
But Earl Doorm was growing impatient with Enide. He strutted up and down the hall until at last he pulled her away from Eric’s body and shook her.
“Tears will not bring him back... Weep no more. The priest is on his way. First we shall have a funeral, and then a wedding straight after.”
“No, No,” cried Enide, “I shall always love my Lord Eric. I shall never love another man so long as I live.”
Eric heard these words but his eyes remained closed.
“Foolish woman!” cried Earl Doorm. “Don’t you see? You are mine now.”
“Yours?” she said in amazement. “Never!”
“You shall be my wife within the hour. And you will learn to obey me even sooner,” cried Doorm, and with that he struck her on the face.
Eric rolled off the table onto his feet and punched the Earl. Doorm staggered backwards, as much shocked as hurt, and Eric’s second blow laid him out flat.
They were surrounded by the Earl’s guards who looked on in amazement thinking that Eric was a ghost.
One of them called out, "The dead knight is risen!"
Another said, “It’s the devil himself.”
And third cried, “It’s the Apocalypse!”
Eric led Enide by the hand into the courtyard where they found a scene of complete panic with soldiers and servants running this way and that from the spectre of the dead knight.
Only a young serving maid kept hold of her senses. She did not believe in such nonsense as ghosts, and she hated the Earl with all her heart. She fetched a horse for Eric and Enide and wished them God’s speed.
Enide climbed up behind Eric, clasped her arms around him, and once more they rode away... And they kept on riding over the hills until they met a knight.
“What is your name?” Called the stranger. “Are you friend or foe?”
Eric did not reply because he was still too feeble to speak.
“Tell me your name,” called the knight again, “or I shall challenge you.”
Enide realised that if Eric did not reply, the other might take him for a robber.
She called out, “His name is Eric, Prince of Devon and he is grievously wounded. What is your name?”
“I am Kay, a knight of King Arthur,” replied the other. “The name of Prince Eric is held in great esteem by myself and all the knights of the round table. Now pray, follow me.”
King Arthur was camped not more than a mile away. When he heard that Prince Eric had arrived and was seriously wounded, he brought him to rest in his own tent. Serving maids washed Eric’s wounds with a healing ointment concocted by the wizard Merlin. He rested for three days, and all the time Enide stayed by his side.
For a long while he did not speak. When at last he opened his eyes he said, “We have found the object of our quest.”
“And what is that my dear?” asked Enide. And he replied softly, “Love.”