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Marvel of the Sword

The Story: A damsel arrives at the court of King Arthur, wearing a sword in a sheath on a belt around her waist, which was highly unusual for a woman. Arthur asks why she is wearing the sword, and she explains the sword can only be removed by a noble knight, without villainy, treachery, or treason. So far, she has failed to find such a knight. Arthur grasps the sword firmly and gives it a heavy tug. Unlike the sword in the stone, this sword does not even budge for him. In fact, the lady sarcastically remarks that he doesn’t need to pull so hard for the sword will draw out easily for the knight who is worthy. Arthur’s knights give it a try, but none are successful, causing the lady to wail that she thought a worthy knight would surely be found in this land.

During this time, a knight had been imprisoned because he had killed another knight. Due to the reputation of his prowess, he is released from prison just in time to see this marvel of the sword. This knight, Balin, asks to be given a chance. At first, he is denied because his clothing is ragged, but he pleads his case, explaining that worthiness is not based upon outward appearance. And so he is allowed to try his hand at drawing out the sword, which comes out of the sheath easily for him.

The other knights are unhappy at this turn of events because they don’t think Balin is a worthy knight. He makes matters worse when he refuses to return the sword to the lady, saying someone will have to take it from him by force. The lady warns him that it is a bad idea to keep the sword because with it he will kill the man he loves most in the world. Still Balin refuses to return the sword, and he rides out of Arthur’s court.

As Balin is leaving, however, he sees the Lady of the Lake ride into Arthur’s court. The Lady asks Arthur to honor the promise he gave her to repay her for giving him Excalibur. (In a humorous-to-us exchange, Arthur says he’s forgotten the name of the sword. Could she remind him?) She asks Arthur to give her the head of either Balin or the damsel who brought the sword because Balin had killed her brother and the woman had brought about the death of the Lady’s father. Arthur says that is not within his power because it would be dishonorable.

At that moment, Balin recognizes the Lady, whom he has been seeking for three years because she had caused his mother’s death. He is offended that she has asked for his head, so he immediately draws his sword and cuts off her head! Arthur cries shame at Balin and says he will never be forgiven. Balin says the Lady was the falsest lady alive and had brought about the deaths of many knights through her enchantments. Arthur banishes Balin from court. Balin regrets upsetting Arthur, so he has a plan: he will defeat Arthur’s current greatest enemy, King Rience of North Wales, as well as his whole army. No big deal, right?

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