The Quest of Eric and Enide

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Castle of King ArthurIn the first part of this story, Enide married Eric, a Knight of King Arthur's Round Table. Now she begins her life with her ideal knight. She has dreamed that they will live "happily ever after" - but unlike most stories that end at this point, we go on and see if Eric and Enide really do live happily ever after.

For Enide's lament we include some line's from Tennyson's poem The Idylls of the King. (The Marriage of Geraint).

Read by Natasha. Version by Bertie. Duration 16.40.
Proofread by Claire Deakin.

The Quest of Eric and Enide

While Enide was still living with her father in proud poverty, she had a dream. In which she could see a candle lit chapel deep inside a stone castle.

A knight and a young maiden in a simple white dress knelt, heads bowed, before the altar. The knight wore a silk tunic over his broad shoulders. On his heels were golden spurs. His face was not entirely clear to her, but the bride was Enide.

It was a private, almost secret wedding, with only three or four of her husband-to-be’s closest comrades in attendance. The priest asked if she promised to love, honour and obey her knight, and she cast down her eyes and said softly, “I do”.

In her dream, she could feel joy filling in her heart at the certain knowledge that she would live happily ever after in the arms of her strong protector.

It happened in life almost as in the dream – but it all happened so very fast. One day, a handsome knight did come to her father’s house. There had been others before him, like Cameron the Bent-Nose and Ferris the Iron-Fist. Their manners were rough, and they called her father “vassal” which meant “slave.” The worst had been Parkin the Small. When Enide brought him his beer, he leered at her with his yellow eyes. He said to her father:

“Your daughter’s a pretty one. I’ll give you two gold coins for her.” Her father ordered Enide to stay at the convent until Parkin was gone.

The latest knight was different. He treated her father, an old soldier, with great courtesy, and asked him all about the battles he taken part in. He praised the food and the drink, and happily ate the wood pigeon that her father had shot with his bow and arrow, and which Enide had plucked and prepared, before roasting it over the fire.

The next day the knight fought in a tournament as the champion of Enide’s beauty. Then she rode behind him on his horse to Cardigan where King Arthur was holding court. That very evening they wed inside the castle chapel.

Her dream had come true. She was Lady Enide, wife of Sir Eric - and now she was beginning the rest of her life. Only, she hadn’t dreamed about what would happen next. The castle and the court were so strange. She might as well have been in a far away country where she knew not one word of the language. She had no idea what was expected of her; when to curtsey, when hold out her hand to be kissed, or when to stay back in the shadows.

Fortunately there was always something going on at court to distract her. There was a tournament in which all the knights of the round table took part and fought each other. Enide sat next to Queen Guinevere to watch the knights on their broad war horses, the brightly painted shields, the fluttering banners, the ladies in beautiful dresses, the dust, and the blood. The tournament was a chaotic melee. Quite frankly it was a brawl, in which knight fought knight almost at random. There was Sir Galahad swinging at Sir Lancelot with a ball and chain. The ball demolished Lancelot’s shield into splinters, but fortunately did no damage to his skull before he could ride off. Queen Guinevere fanned herself with relief.

Enide’s eyes did not dare to leave her husband. When anyone came against him, she felt cold with terror on his behalf. But Eric’s lance propelled many an attacker from the saddle of his horse. When at last he himself was dragged to the ground, he stood up and bashed his opponent over the helmet with the flat side of his sword. Enide thought he was the strongest and bravest knight in the world, and quite possibly, she was right.

The king declared that Eric was the outright winner. Suddenly, Enide realised that everyone’s eyes were directed to her as his lady. Her cheeks flushed – and that made her all the more radiant. Eric rode up before her, and held in the reigns of his lively horse. Enide sat and gazed at her her ideal knight. Guinevere elbowed her in the side and said, “Stand up dear and hold out your hand to your husband”. She extended her hand, and Eric kissed it.

The whole court cheered, "Eric and Enide, Eric and Enide, Hurrah!"

That evening, Eric and Enide sat together before the fire. The serving maid filled their silver goblets with sparkling wine from the vineyards of Devon. Eric said to her in a quiet confidential voice.

“I have spent five years here in Wales, in the service of King Arthur. I have fought in twelve battles and more tournaments than I can count. That was all fine when I was alone, but this castle is no place for a delicate young girl. Very soon, my beauty, I shall take you away from this rough life – back to my father’s Devonshire kingdom. There you will find things are more comfortable.”

“Your father is a king?’

“Yes, my princess, he is king – second only in wealth and power to King Arthur.”

On the morning of their leaving, Queen Guinevere embraced Enide and wished her the same happiness that she had found as Arthur’s Queen. Arthur presented Eric with a sword and scabbard studded with precious stones. To Enide he gave six chests filled with gorgeously embroidered dresses and bed covers.

Prince Eric and Princess Enide rode with forty knights and forty pages and serving girls. Their journey to Devon took five days, but as they approached Eric’s home, word reached his old father that his son was on his way back from his service to King Arthur, and that he was bringing with him a bride of radiant beauty.

The King said, “My prayers are answered. Thanks be to God that I have lived long enough to see Eric’s safe return.”

He ordered that the way be prepared for them. The hooves of Eric’s and Enide’s horses trod over silks and tapestries strewn over the road. As they passed through the city, clouds of blossom rained down on them from high windows. The church bells rang out. Doves were released from towers. The people marvelled at the finest couple they had ever laid eyes upon.

The only creature who didn’t seem to approve was a large dog who ran behind Enide’s pony and barked at the top of his voice. The pony took fright and kicked back with its hind hoof – but instead of hitting the dog he kicked an old man who was standing in the crowd. Eric jumped down from his saddle. The Prince helped the old man to his feet and asked him if any bones had been broken. Enide almost cried because her husband was so good.

Inside the keep of the castle, the King and Eric’s six younger brothers and sisters all embraced him in turns. The youngest sister, whose name was Ethel the Fair, took Enide by the arm and told her, “I thought that Eric would never a find a beauty to match his own good looks, but now I see you, I see that he has indeed found a worthy match.”

Now Enide began the life of a princess. Every day a duke, an ambassador or family member, brought her a new present. It was her husband who outdid all the others in his generosity. She had jewels, dresses, perfumes, ingenious toys, dogs, hamsters, and sweet singing birds. In the evening there were dances, music and games. In the morning, she lay by Eric’s side until they rose at noon. In the afternoon there were walks through beautiful gardens, bathing in the spa, and gentle pony rides across the hills. The sweetness of all these pleasures was that Eric was always at her service.

He was indeed her ideal knight - but he was so perfect that it was, perhaps, well, just a little bit frustrating at times. She tested his patience. When they were due to go out riding she kept him waiting for an hour while she dressed. Another time she told him to go back and change because his grey tunic did not suit him. But not once did she provoke a single scowl or reproach from him. Yes, perhaps he was too perfect. He never wanted to leave her side. When there was a tournament, he did not take part himself, but equipped his ten finest knights to fight in his place, and instead spent the time with her. He rarely went hunting. He did not go looking for dragons to slay. All his thoughts were of love, not war.

People began to talk. Enide heard it first from the servant who was preparing her headdress. She asked her what Eric had been like when he was a boy: “Oh quite different my lady,” she replied. “Before he married he was much more interested in manly things like swords and javelins. Now it seems that he only has thoughts for you, my lady.”

Somehow this answer did not quite please Enide. She wondered if it was a good thing that her husband should be entirely devoted to her. She spoke to Eric’s sister who said that yes, she too had heard talk of how her brother had given up the life of a knight. The people were comparing him to Paris, the Trojan Prince, who lay all day with Helen while the war raged around the walls of Troy. Even his brothers were growing impatient with him. These words greatly trouble Enide, though at first she made no mention of her worries to her husband.

At last one summer morning, as Enide lay by her sleeping husband’s side, she began to weep and lament softly:

Am I the cause, I the poor cause that men
Reproach you, saying all your force is gone?
I am the cause, because I dare not speak
And tell him what I think and what they say?
And yet I hate that he should linger here;
I cannot love my lord and not his name.
And yet not dare to tell him what I think,
And how men slur him, saying all his force
Is melted into mere effeminacy?
O me, I fear that I am no true wife.’ (Tennyson)

As she wept, her tears fell onto Eric’s chest and face and awoke him, but his head was still fogged by sleep. He half heard her words and the understood only the gist of what she said. In this state of semi-awakedness he felt angry and betrayed that his wife should reproach him for growing soft and weak. Why, if it was not for him, she would still be a poor girl with a single white dress! He had made her a princess and his future queen, and this was all the thanks he received! Right through his body he felt a sharp pang that hurt far more than any wound he had received in combat.

He hurled his huge body out of the bed and turned and spoke to her in rage. “Why you think I grow soft, do you? You long for a life of battles and hard blows do you? Well make yourself ready, for we are setting out on a quest, you and I, and you shall learn the true meaning of your foolish words!”

An hour later, Eric was dressed in full armour on his war horse. Under his arm he held a long sturdy lance. Enide sat on her pony. In her heart, she deeply regretted her words. “Oh why did I speak so?” she asked herself. “I had every happiness, and now I have lost it all through my foolishness.”

Eric and Enide rode out onto the moors. At first light rain fell down from the sky as softly as Enide’s tears. Then the air became filled with mist and she could hardly see the ground in front of her pony’s feet. Eric and Enide rode on, pursuing their quest. A quest for what? Enide had no idea what her husband sought or what dangers and challenges they would meet on the way, but she knew that they had left their life of pleasure behind them.

And that’s the second part of our story. I’ll be back soon with the next instalment, in which we will find out what happened next in Eric and Enide’s journey through life.

In the meantime we there are loads more stories at Storynory.com – so drop by soon and listen to some.