So, Merlin and Vivien and those who were with them travelled for three days to the eastward, until, toward the end of the third day, they reached the confines of a very dark and dismal forest. And there they beheld before them trees so thickly interwoven together that the eyes could not see anything at all of the sky because of the thickness of the foliage. And they beheld the branches and the roots of the trees that they appeared like serpents all twisted together.
Wherefore Vivien said, “Sir, this is a very dismal woodland.” “Yea,” said Merlin, “so it appeareth to be. Ne’theless there lieth within this forest that place which is called by some the Valley of Joyousness, and by others the Valley of Delight, because of the great beauty of that place. And there are several pathways extending through this forest by the means of which that valley may be reached by a man, whether a-horse or afoot.”
And after a while they found it was as Merlin said, for they came by and by upon one of those pathways and entered it and penetrated into the forest. And, lo! within that doleful woodland it was so dark that it appeared as though night-time had fallen, although it was bright daylight beyond the borders thereof, wherefore many of that party were very much afraid. But Merlin ever gave them good cheer and so they went forward upon their way. So, by and by, they came out at last from that place and into the open again, whereat they were greatly rejoiced and took much comfort.
Now, by this time, the evening had come, very peaceful and tranquil, and they beheld beneath them a valley spread out in that light and it was wonderfully beautiful. And in the centre of the valley was a small lake so smooth and clear, like to crystal, that it appeared like an oval shield of pure silver laid down upon the ground. And all about the margin of the lake were level meadows covered over with an incredible multitude of flowers of divers colors and kinds, very beautiful to behold.
When Vivien saw this place she cried unto Merlin, “Master, this is, indeed, a very joyous valley, for I do not believe that the blessed meadows of Paradise are more beautiful than this.” And Merlin said, “Very well; let us go down into it.” So they went down and, as they descended, the night fell apace and the round moon arose into the sky and it was hard to tell whether that valley was the more beautiful in the daytime or whether it was the more beautiful when the moon shone down upon it in that wise.
So they all came at last unto the borders of the lake and they perceived that there was neither house nor castle at that place.
Now upon this the followers of Merlin murmured amongst themselves, saying, “This enchanter hath brought us hitherward, but how will he now provide for us that we may find a resting-place that may shelter us from the inclement changes of the weather. For the beauty of this spot cannot alone shelter us from rain and storm.” And Merlin overheard their murmurings and he said, “Peace ! take ye no trouble upon that matter, for I will very soon provide ye a good resting-place.” Then he said to them, “Stand ye a little distance aside till I show ye what I shall do.” So they withdrew a little, as he commanded them, and he and Vivien remained where they were. And Vivien said, “Master, what wilt thou do?” And Merlin said, “Wait a little and thou shalt see.”
Therewith he began a certain very powerful conjuration so that the earth began for to tremble and to shake and an appearance as of a great red dust arose into the air. And in this dust there began to appear sundry shapes and forms, and these shapes and forms arose very high into the air and by and by those who gazed thereon perceived that there was a great structure apparent in the midst of the cloud of red dust.
Then, after a while, all became quiet and the dust slowly disappeared from the air, and, behold! there was the appearance of a marvellous castle such as no one there had ever beheld before, even in a dream. For the walls thereof were of ultramarine and vermilion and they were embellished and adorned with figures of gold, wherefore that castle showed in the moonlight like as it were a pure vision of great glory.
Now Vivien beheld all that Merlin had accomplished and she went unto him and kneeled down upon the ground before him and took his hand and set it to her lips. And while she kneeled thus, she said, “Master, this is assuredly the most wonderful thing in the world. Wilt thou then teach me such magic that I may be able to build a castle like this castle out of the elements?” And Merlin said, “Yea; all this will I teach thee and more besides; for I will teach thee not only how thou mayst create such a structure as this out of invisible things, but will also teach thee how thou mayst, with a single touch of thy wand, dissipate that castle instantly into the air; even as a child, with a stroke of a straw, may dissipate a beautiful shining bubble, which, upon an instant is, and upon another instant is not. And I will teach thee more than that, for I will teach thee how to change and transform a thing into the semblance of a different thing; and I will teach thee spells and charms such as thou didst never hear tell of before.”
Then Vivien cried out, “Master, thou art the most wonderful man in all of the world!” And Merlin looked upon Vivien and her face was very beautiful in the moonlight and he loved her a very great deal. Wherefore he smiled upon her and said, “Vivien, dost thou still hate me?” Andshe said, “Nay, master.”
But she spake not the truth, for in her heart she was evil and the heart of Merlin was good, and that which is evil will always hate that which is good. Wherefore, though Vivien lusted for the knowledge of necromancy, and though she spake so lovingly with her lips, yet in her spirit she both feared and hated Merlin because of his wisdom. For she wist right well that, except for the enchantment of that ring which he wore, Merlin would not love her any longer in that wise. Wherefore she said in her heart, “If Merlin teaches me all of his wisdom, then the world cannot contain both him and me.”
Now Merlin abided with Vivien in that place for a year and a little more, and in that time he taught her all of magic that he was able to impart. So at the end of that time he said unto her, “Vivien, I have now taught thee so much that I believe there is no one in all of the world who knoweth more than thou dost of these things of magic which thou hast studied in this time. For not only hast thou such power of sorcery that thou canst make the invisible elements take form at thy will, and not only canst thou transform at thy will one thing into the appearance of an altogether different thing, but thou hast such potent magic in thy possession that thou mayst entangle any living soul into the meshes thereof, unless that one hath some very good talisman to defend himself from thy wiles. Nor have I myself very much more power than this that I have given to thee.”
So said Merlin, and Vivien was filled with great joy. And she said in her heart, “Now, Merlin, if I have the good fortune to entangle thee in my spells, then shalt thou never behold the world again.”
Now, when the next day had come, Vivien caused a very noble feast to be prepared for herself and Merlin. And by means of the knowledge which Merlin had imparted to her she produced a certain very potent sleeping-potion which was altogether without taste. This potion she herself infused into a certain noble wine, and the wine she poured into a golden chalice of extraordinary beauty.
So when that feast was ended, and whiles she and Merlin sat together, Vivien said, “Master, I have a mind to do thee a great honor.” And Merlin said, “What is it?” “Thou shalt see,” said Vivien. Therewith she smote her hands together and there immediately came a young page unto where they were, and he bare that chalice of wine in his hand and gave it unto Vivien. Then Vivien took the chalice and she went to where Merlin sat and kneeled down before him and said, “Sir, I beseech thee to take this chalice and to drink the wine that is within it. For as that wine is both very noble and very precious, so is thy wisdom both very noble and very precious; and as the wine is contained within a chalice of priceless cost, so is thy wisdom contained within a life that hath been beyond all value to the world.” Therewith she set her lips to the chalice and kissed the wine that was in it.
Then Merlin suspected no evil, but he took the chalice and quaffed of the wine with great cheerfulness.
After that, in a little, the fumes of that potent draught began to arise into the brains of Merlin and it was as though a cloud descended upon his sight, and when this came upon him he was presently aware that he was betrayed, wherefore he cried out thrice in a voice, very bitter and full of agony, “Woe! Woe! Woe!” And then he cried out, “I am betrayed!” And therewith he strove to arise from where he sat but he could not.
That while Vivien sat with her chin upon her hands and regarded him very steadily, smiling strangely upon him. So presently Merlin ceased his struggles and sank into a sleep so deep that it was almost as though he had gone dead. And when that had happened Vivien arose and leaned over him and set a very powerful spell upon him. And she stretched out her forefinger and wove an enchantment all about him so that it was as though he was entirely encompassed with a silver web of enchantment. And when she had ended, Merlin could move neither hand nor foot nor even so much as a finger-tip, but was altogether like some great insect that a cunning and beautiful spider had enmeshed in a network of fine, strong web.
Now, when the next morning had come, Merlin awoke from his sleep and he beheld that Vivien sat over against him regarding him very narrowly. And they were in the same room in which he had fallen asleep. And when Vivien perceived that Merlin was awake, she laughed and said, “Merlin, how is it with thee?” And Merlin groaned with great passion, saying, “Vivien, thou hast betrayed me.”
At this Vivien laughed again very shrilly and piercingly, and she said, “Behold! Merlin, thou art altogether in my power; for thou art utterly inwoven in those enchantments which thou, thyself, hast taught me. For lo! thou canst not move a single hair without my will. And when I leave thee, the world shall see thee no more and all thy wisdom shall be my wisdom and all thy power shall be my power, and there shall be no other in the whole world who shall possess the wisdom which I possess.”
Then Merlin groaned with such fervor that it was as though his heart would burst asunder. And he said, “Vivien, thou hast brought me to such shame that even were I released from this spell I could not endure that any man should ever see my face again. For I grieve not for my undoings so much as I grieve at the folly that hath turned mine own wisdom against me to my destruction. So I forgive thee all things that thou hast done to me to betray me; yet there is one thing alone which I crave of thee.”
And Vivien said, “Does it concern thee?” And Merlin said, “No, it concerns another.” Thereupon Vivien said, “What is it?”
Then Merlin said, “It is this: Now I have received my gift of foresight again, and I perceive that King Arthur is presently in great peril of his life. So I beseech thee Vivien that thou wilt straightway go to where he is in danger, and that thou wilt use thy powers of sorcery for to save him. Thus, by fulfilling this one good deed, thou shalt haply lessen the sin of this that thou hast done to betray me.” Now at that time Vivien was not altogether bad as she afterward became, for she still felt some small pity for Merlin and some small reverence for King Arthur. Wherefore now she laughed and said, “Very well, I will do thy desire in this matter. Whither shall I go to save that King?”
Then Merlin replied, “Go into the West country and unto the castle of a certain knight hight Sir Domas de Noir, and when thou comest there then thou shalt immediately see how thou mayst be of aid to the good King.” Upon this Vivien said, “I will do this thing for thee, for it is the last favor that anyone may ever render unto thee in this world.”
Therewith Vivien smote her hands together and summoned many of her attendants. And when these had come in she presented Merlin before them, and she said, “Behold how I have bewitched him. Go! See for yourselves! Feel of his hands and his face and see if there be any life in him.” And they went to Merlin and felt of him; his hands and arms and his face, and even they plucked at his beard, and Merlin could not move in any wise but only groan with great dolor. So they all laughed and made them merry at his woful state.
Then Vivien caused it by means of her magic that there should be in that place a great coffer of stone. And she commanded those who were there that they should lift Merlin up and lay him therein and they did as she commanded. Then she caused it that, by means of her magic, there should be placed a huge slab of stone upon that coffer such as ten men could hardly lift, and Merlin lay beneath that stone like one who was dead.
Then Vivien caused it to be that the magic castle should instantly disappear and so it befell as she willed. Then she caused it that a mist should arise at that place, and the mist was of such a sort that no one could penetrate into it, or sever it asunder, nor could any human eye see what was within. Then, when she had done all this, she went her way with all of her Court from that valley, making great joy in that she had triumphed over Merlin.
Nevertheless she did not forget her promise, but went to the castle of Sir Domas de Noir, and after a while it shall all be told how it befell at that place.
Such was the passing of Merlin, and God grant it that you may not so misuse the wisdom He giveth you to have, that it may be turned against you to your undoing. For there can be no greater bitterness in the world than this: That a man shall be betrayed by one to whom he himself hath given the power of betraying him.
And now turn we unto King Arthur to learn how it fell with him after Merlin had thus been betrayed to his undoing.