THE STORY OF SIR BALIN 23
' Alas !' cried Balm,' that I should ever live to see this day,' and he fell back fainting to the ground. At this sight Balan crept on his feet and hands, and pulled off Balm's helmet, so that he might see his face. The fresh air revived Balin, and he awoke and said: ' 0 Balan, my brother, you have slain me, and I you, and the whole world shall speak ill of us both.'
' Alas,' sighed Balan, ' if I had only known you! I saw your two swords, but from your shield I thought you had been another Knight.'
' Woe is me !' said Balin,' all this was wrought by an unhappy Knight in the castle, who caused me to change my shield for his. If I lived, I would destroy that castle that he should not deceive other men.'
' You would have done well,' answered Balan, ' for they have kept me prisoner ever since I slew a Knight that guarded this island, and they would have kept you captive too.' Then came the lady of the castle and her companions, and listened as they made their moan. And Balan prayed that she would grant them the grace to lie together, there where they died, and their wish was given them, and she and those that were with her wept for pity.
So they died ; and the lady made a tomb for them, and put Balan's name alone on it, for Balin's name she knew not. But Merlin knew, and next morning he came and wrote it in letters of gold, and he ungirded Balin's sword, and unscrewed the pommel, and put another pommel on it, and bade a Knight that stood by handle it, but the Knight could not. At that Merlin laughed. 'Why do you laugh ? ' asked the Knight. ' Because,' said Merlin, ' no man shall handle this sword but the best Knight in the world, and that is either Sir Lancelot or his son Sir Galahad. With this sword Sir Lancelot shall slay the man he loves best, and Sir Gawaine is his name.' And this was later done, in a fight across the seas.
All this Merlin wrote on the pommel of the sword.