Apparently Celtic myths of obscure antiquity have been adapted in France, and interwoven with fables about Joseph of Arimathea and Christian mysteries. It is not possible here to go into the complicated learning of the subject. In Malory, Balin, after dealing the dolorous stroke, borrows a strange shield from a knight, and, thus accoutred, meets his brother Balan, who does not recognise him.
"I will go with you," said Balan, "and we will help each other as true knights and good brethren ought to do." As they talked they saw coming toward them a misshapen old man. This was Merlin in a strange disguise, though the brothers did not know him.
"These rascals of rank," grumbled Balan, "always have this word in their mouths. That which they most fear is the opinion of some dozen friends, and several thousand strangers, who read the 'Gazette des Tribunaux. They only think of their own heads later on."
"One of these knights was Balin, he that won the sword; the other was Balan, his brother, and as good a knight. And it is the most sorrowful thing that tongue can say that neither of these brave knights shall live long to win the fame of which they are so worthy." "Alas!" said Arthur, "if that be so, it is indeed a great pity.
"And I should aid you," said Balan. "They have held me here because I happened to slay a knight that kept this island. And if you had slain me and lived, you would have been held in the same way as their champion." As they thus conversed there came to them the lady of the castle, with four knights and six ladies and as many yeomen.
Sir, said Balan, ye may see he beareth two swords, thereby ye may call him the Knight with the Two Swords. And so departed King Mark unto Camelot to King Arthur, and Balin took the way toward King Rience; and as they rode together they met with Merlin disguised, but they knew him not. Whither ride you? said Merlin. We have little to do, said the two knights, to tell thee.
Soon after this was done Merlin came to King Arthur and told him of the dolorous stroke that Balin gave to King Pellam, and how Balin and Balan fought together the marvellest battle that ever was heard of, and how they were buried both in one tomb. Alas, said King Arthur, this is the greatest pity that ever I heard tell of two knights, for in the world I know not such two knights.
It followed that when the enemy opened their fire no one was taken unprepared, and the French batteries, posted to the rear between Balan and Bazeilles, immediately commenced to answer, rather with the idea of showing they were awake than for any other purpose, for in the dense fog that enveloped everything the practice was of the wildest. "The dyehouse will be well defended," said Delaherche.
"It were well done," said Balan, "for since I first came hither I have never been able to depart, for here they made me fight with one who kept this island, whom I slew, and by enchantment I might never quit it more; nor couldst thou, brother, hadst thou slain me, and escaped with thine own life."
And so they couched their spears and came marvellously fast together, and they smote each other in the shields; but their spears were so heavy and their course so swift that horse and man were borne down, and both knights lay in a swoon. He drew his sword and went towards Balin, who arose and went against him. But Balan smote Balin first, striking through his shield and cleaving his helm.