In time, Merlin became so enamoured of Nimue that desperate for her love, he told her all his secrets, although she found him old, smelly, and frightening (being the son of a demon). He predicted to Arthur how he would soon be gone, and how Arthur and Merlin would badly miss one another, and how Arthur must guard Excalibur and its scabbard.
Nimue left Camelot, followed everywhere by Merlin. They visited King Ban and his family in France, where they met Ban's wife Elaine and young son Launcelot (originally christened Galahad), whom Merlin predicted would one day defeat Ban's greatest enemy King Claudas. Then Merlin followed Nimue to Cornwall, where she imprisoned him beneath a huge rock.
The five kings (of): Denmark, Ireland (his brother), the Vale, Soleise, and the Isle of Longtains... invaded Arthur's lands, and he hastily headed North with Guenevere and some of his knights, ordering the rest to follow as soon as possible. The five kings learned of this and ambushed his small camp by night in a forest near the river Humber (the site of Arthur's 5th battle). Fleeing in the confusion, Arthur, his queen and three knights were come upon by the five kings alone by the foaming river. In the ensuing fight, Kay killed two, and Arthur, Gawaine and Griflet killed one each.
During the next day's battle, they slew 30,000 of the now leaderless enemy host, losing only 200 ordinary knights and 8 knights of the Round Table.
Safely back home in Camelot, Arthur discussed with Pellinore who to promote to Round Table status, and picked four old knights: King Uriens (his ex-enemy), the King of the Lake, Sir Hervise de Revel, and Sir Galagars, and also four young ones: Sir Gawaine, SirGriflet, Sir Kay, and deliberated over either Bagdemagus or Tor. Pellinore's bastard son Tor was picked, and Arthur's cousin Bagdemagus rode off in anger.
Sir Bagdemagus and his squire rode past portents (strange notes on crosses and holy Sangreal-related herbs) and had many adventures (such as finding Merlin's rock and failing to budge it), before returning to Camelot and finally getting Round Tabled.
Kings Arthur and Uriens (seemingly friends all of a sudden), and Sir Accolon of Gaul, became lost pursuing a hart, and were invited by twelve mysterious women to board their tiny ship on a great water. Inside the vessel were luxurious dining and sleeping quarters, and all three were banqueted, then shown separate cabins.
The next morning King Uriens awoke at Camelot safe in the arms of his wife Morgan le Fay, but Arthur and Accolon were nowhere to be found. Arthur awoke in a dungeon, minus his sword and scabbard, where twenty fellow prisoners explained how their evil captor Sir Damas sought to force them to fight against his own good brother Sir Ontzlake. One of Morgan le Fay's damosels appeared and offered Arthur the same deal the others had been refusing for seven years; he accepted and they were all released.
Meanwhile Sir Accolon awoke uncomfortably close to a fountain, where a dwarf sprang up and reminded him of his agreement with Morgan le Fay to fight an unspecified knight in return for Excalibur and its scabbard - which he duly handed over. Accolon was escorted to Sir Ontzlake, for whom he agreed to fight on account of his thigh wounds.
The next morning Morgan sent a fake Excalibur to her half-brother, but Nimue knew Merlin's prediction of these events and turned up to help Arthur. Neither recognising the other, Accolon and Arthur fought each other. At first Accolon, protected by the magic scabbard, gained advantage over Arthur and smashed his phony sword, but Nimue used magic to make him drop Excalibur, and Arthur grabbed it and the scabbard and was on the verge of killing Accolon, when he asked his name and they learned one another's identities, and swapped stories. Accolon admitted he was sleeping with Morgan and had agreed to kill Arthur in return for the kingship, but had not realised today was the day; yet Arthur spared him.
Arthur revealed his identity to the throng and told Sir Damas to give all his lands to his brother or die. Then he and Accolon rode to a convenient nunnery for medical attention, where Accolon died. Still recovering, Arthur despatched Accolon's remains to his half-sister at Camelot as a warning.
Meanwhile, back in Camelot, Morgan had assumed her evil plan had worked, and was about to get rid of her husband Uriens in a similar brutal fashion but a maid warned her son Sir Uwaine and he stopped Morgan in the act of chopping off her husband's head with his own sword. Then Accolon's corpse arrived, and realising the game was up, Morgan hastily fled Camelot with her own men-at-arms and rode to the nunnery for another desperate attempt at stealing the sword, and though she got the scabbard she failed to acquire Excalibur, because Arthur slept with it in his hand.
When Arthur awoke, he set off in pursuit with Sir Ontzlake, but Morgan cast the scabbard into a deep lake and used her magic to disguise herself and her men as standing stones. And so the magic scabbard was lost forever.
So endeth the early years.
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