Medieval Arthurian legend
Of Arthour and of Merlin
14th century Middle English. National Library of Scotland MS Advocates 19.2.1, the Auchinleck Manuscript; Lincoln's Inn Library, Hale MS 150.
'You shall not ask us our names, nor who we are, nor question any identity we may give you.'
‘There is the king,’ said Merlin. ‘Get off your mounts, all of you, and make your way on foot.’
They all advanced towards the gathering, each knight holding the hand of another. King Arthur went at the head, leading King Ban in his right hand and King Bohort in his left, with Merlin in front of him bearing a furled pennon. King Loedegan and all his assembly looked on questioningly, jostling one another to get a better look. No one recognised them at all.
King Leodrgan strode forwards and greeted King Ban. ‘If you come here in peace, then welcome,’ he said.
‘By Christ, we mean you no harm nor shame,’ replied King Ban. ‘We’ve come to help you. We are warriors from a distant land and we understand that you are in need of some fighting men. So we’ve come here from a far country to help you in your war and to serve you. But on this condition: we ask you, in God’s name – for it will be neither to your harm nor to your shame – to grant us willingly what we shall now ask, which is that you shall not ask us our names, nor who we are, nor question any identity we may give you, and if you are happy with this, then tell us now, and if you don’t wish to take us up on this offer, then we will happily go away and serve somebody else, who may be more pleased to see us.’
Leodegan took leave to go and consult his advisors. All his barons agreed that these men seemed to be noble and strong – you could tell by the look of them. He should take them up on their offer, accept their service and on no account send them away.