Then the king gat his spear in both his hands, and ran toward Sir Mordred, crying, ‘Traitor, now is thy death day come.’ And when Sir Mordred heard Sir Arthur, he ran until him with his sword drawn in his hand. And there King Arthur smote Sir Mordred under the shield, with a foin of his spear, throughout the body, more than a fathom. And when Sir Mordred felt that he had his death’s wound he thrust himself with the might that he had up to the bur of King Arthur’s spear. And right so he smote his father Arthur, with his sword holden in both hands, on the side the head, that the sword pierced the helmet and the brain pan, and therewithal Sir Mordred fell stark dead to the earth; and the noble Arthur fell in a swoon to the earth and there he swooned ofttimes.
And Sir Lucan the Butler, and Sir Bedevere ofttimes heave him. And so weakly they led him betwixt them both, to a little chapel not far from the seaside. And when the king was there he thought him well eased. Then heard they people cry in the field.
‘Now go thou, Sir Lucan,’ said the king, ‘and do me to wit what betokens that noise in the field.’
So Sir Lucan departed, for he was grievously wounded in many places. And so as he yede, he saw and hearkened by the moonlight, how that pillers and robbers were comen into the field, to pill and rob many a full noble knight of brooches, and beads, of many a good ring, and of many a rich jewel; and who that were not dead all out, there they slew them for their harness and their riches. When Sir Lucan understood this work, he came to the king as soon as he might, and told him all what he had heard and seen.
‘Therefore by my rede,’ said Sir Lucan, ‘it is best that we bring you to some town.’
‘I would it were so,’ said the king.
‘But I may not stand, mine head works so. Ah Sir Lancelot,’ said King Arthur, ‘this day have I sore missed thee: alas, that ever I was against thee, for now have I my death, whereof Sir Gawain me warned in my dream.’
Then Sir Lucan took up the king the one part, and Sir Bedevere the other part, and in the lifting the king swooned; and Sir Lucan fell in a swoon with the lift, that the part of his guts fell out of his body, and therewith the noble knight’s heart brast. And when the kind awoke, he beheld Sir Lucan, how he lay foaming at the mouth, and part of his guts lay at his feet.
‘Alas,’ said the king, ‘this is to me a full heavy sight, to see this noble duke so die for my sake, for he would have helpen me, that had more need of help than I. Alas, he would not complain him, his heart was so set to help me: now Jesus have mercy upon his soul!’
Then Sir Bedevere wept for the death of his brother.
‘Leave this mourning and weeping,’ said the king, ‘for all this will not avail me, for wit thou well and I might live myself, the death of Sir Lucan would grieve me evermore; but my time hieth fast,’ said the king. ‘Therefore,’ said Arthur unto Sir Bedevere, ‘take thou Excalibur, my good sword, and go with it to yonder water side, and when thou comest there I charge thee throw my sword in that water, and come again and tell me what thou there seest.’
‘My lord,’ said Bedevere, ‘your commandment shall be done, and lightly bring you word again.’
So Sir Bedevere departed, and by the way he beheld that noble sword, that the pommel and the haft was all of precious stones; and then he said to himself, ‘If I throw this rich sword in the water, thereof shall never come good, but harm and loss.’ And then Sir Bedevere hid Excalibur under a tree.
And so, as he might, he came again unto the king, and said he had been at the water, and had thrown the sword into the water.
‘What saw thou there?’ said the king.
‘Sir,’ he said, ‘I saw nothing but waves and winds.’
‘That is untruly said of thee,’ said the king, ‘therefore go thou lightly again, and do my commandment; as thou art to me leve and dear, spare not, but throw it in.’
Then Sir Bedevere returned again, and took the sword in his hand; and then him thought sin and shame to throw away that noble sword, and so eft he hid the sword, and returned again, and told to the king that he had been at the water and done his commandment.
‘What saw thou there?’ said the king.
‘Sir,’ he said, ‘I saw nothing but the waters wap and waves wan.’
‘Ah, traitor untrue,’ said King Arthur, ‘now has thou betrayed me twice. Who would have weened that thou that hast been to me so leve and dear, and thou art named a noble knight and would betray me for the riches of the sword? But now go again lightly, for thy long tarrying putteth me in great jeopardy of my life, for I have taken cold. And but if thou do now as I bid thee, if ever I may see thee, I shall slay thee mine own hands; for thou wouldst for my rich sword see me dead.’
Then Sir Bedevere departed, and went to the sword, and lightly took it up, and went to the water side; and there he bound the girdle about the hilts, and then he threw the sword as far into the water as he might; and there came an arm and an hand above the water and met it, and caught it, and so shook it thrice and brandished, and then vanished away the hand with the sword in the water. So Sir Bedevere came again to the king, and told him what he saw.
‘Alas,’ said the king, ‘help me hence, for I dread me I have tarrried over long.’
Then Sir Bedevere took the king upon his back, and so went with him to that waterside. And when they were at the waterside, even fast by the bank hoved a little barge with many fair ladies in it, and among them all was a queen, and all they had black hoods, and all they wept and shrieked when they saw King Arthur.
‘Now put me into the barge,’ said the king.
And so he did softly; and there received him three queens with great mourning; and so they set them down, and in one of their laps King Arthur laid his head.
And then that queen said, ‘Ah, dear brother, why have yet tarried so long from me? Alas, this wound on your head hath caught over-much cold.’
And so then they towed from the land, and Sir Bedevere beheld all those ladies go from him.
Then Sir Bedevere cried, ‘Ah my lord Arthur, what shall become of me, now ye go from me and leave me here alone among mine enemies?’
‘Comfort thyself,’ said the king, ‘and do as well as thou mayest, for in me is no trust for to trust in; for I will into the vale of Avalon to heal me of my grievous wound: and if thou hear never more of me, pray for my soul.’
But ever the queens and ladies wept and shrieked, that it was pity to hear. And as soon as Sir Bedevere had lost the sight of the barge, he wept and wailed, and so took the forest; and so he went all that night, and in the morning he was betwixt two holts hoar, of a chapel and an hermitage. And he saw an hermit grovelling on all four, there fast by a tomb was new graven. When the hermit saw Sir Bedevere he knew him well, for he was but little tofore Bishop of Canterbury, that Sir Mordred flemed.
‘Sir,’ said Sir Bedevere, ‘what man is there interred that ye pray so fast for?’
‘Fair son,’ said the hermit, ‘I wot not verily. But this night, at midnight, here came a number of ladies, and brought hither a dead corpse, and prayed me to bury him; and here they offered an hundred tapers, and they gave me an hundred bezants.’
‘Alas,’ said Sir Bedevere, ‘that was my lord King Arthur, that here lieth buried in this chapel.’
Then Sir Bedevere swooned: and when he awoke he prayed the hermit he might abide with him still there, to live with fasting and prayers. ‘For from hence I will never go,’ said Sir Bedevere, ‘by my will, but all the days of my life here to pray for my lord Arthur.’
‘Ye are welcome to me,’ said the hermit, ‘for I know you better than ye ween that I do. Ye are the bold Bedevere, and the full noble duke, Sir Lucan the Butler, was your brother.’
Then Sir Bedevere told the hermit all as ye have heard tofore. So there bode Sir Bedevere with the hermit that was tofore Bishop of Canterbury, and there Sir Bedevere put upon him poor clothes, and served the hermit full lowly in fasting and in prayers.
Thus of Arthur I find never more written in books that be authorised, nor more of the very certainty of his death heard I never read, but thus was he led away in a ship wherein were three queens; that one was King Arthur’s sister, Queen Morgan le Fay; the other was the Queen of Northgales; the third was the Queen of the Waste Lands. Also there was Nimue, the chief lady of the lake. More of the death of King Arthur could I never find, but that ladies brought him to his burials; and such a one was buried there, that the hermit bare witness that sometime was Bishop of Canterbury, but yet the hermit knew not in certain that he was verily the body of King Arthur; for this tale Sir Bedevere, knight of the Table Round, made it to be written.
Yet some men say in many parts of England that King Arthur is not dead, but had by the will of Our Lord Jesus into another place; and men say that he shall come again, and he shall win the holy cross. I will not say that it shall be so, but rather I will say, here in this world he changed his life. But many men say that there is written upon his tomb this verse: HIC IACET ARTHURUS, REX QUONDAM REXQUE FUTURUS.