Lugodoc’s summary of Book 1 – The Prologues
Many hundreds of years ago in Britain, King Uther Pendragon of England warred against the Cornish Duke of Tintagil, and so called him to parley. Unfortunately Uther fell in lust with his enemy’s wife, Igraine, so the duke and his spouse abandoned the peace process and fled home; the duke holed up in Castle Terrabil, his wife in Castle Tintagil.
Uther laid seige on both, unsuccessfully. Then he asked his friend Sir Ulfius to fetch Merlin, who made a bargain to use his magic to make himself, Uther, and Ulfius look like Sir Jordanus, the duke, and Sir Brastias respectively. Seeing them leaving Terrabil en route for Tintagil, the real duke followed but was killed. The three imposters entered Tintagil Castle, and Igraine was done by the disguised Uther, who shortly after married her as himself.
Igraine’s existing three daughters by the old duke were Margawse, Elaine, and Morgan le Fay, who eventually married King Lot of Lothian and Orkney (eventually begetting Gawaine and the other Orkney Knights), King Nentres of Garlot, and King Uriens of the land of Gore.
Nine months later, Arthur was born, and taken away by Merlin according to his bargain with Uther, to be fostered by Sir Ector. Two years later Uther fell sick, thus prompting his Northern enemies to make battle, but he fought back, leading his armies from his horse-drawn sick-bed (Merlin’s idea) and drove them off. He died anyway, and the land fell into strife for many years.
Eventually Merlin advised the Archbishop of Canterbury to invite the warring lords to London for Christmas, where mysteriously appeared in the churchyard, against the high altar, a four foot marble cube, and set in it a steel anvil, and stuck in that a sword. Written in gold on the sword were the words “Whoso pulleth out this sword of this stone and anvil is rightwise king born of all England”. Several tried, but all failed, so the Archbishop called a joust for New Year’s Day, so everyone could have try.
Of the many who came were Sir Ector, his son Sir Kay, and young Arthur. At the joust Sir Kay discovered that he had left his sword at his lodging, so Arthur ran back for it. Everybody there was out watching the joust, so instead of breaking in he decided to take the sword instead, removing it with ease, and he delivered it to Sir Kay. After giving several demonstrations of his pulling power to the growing crowd, Arthur finally had revealed to him by Sir Ector that he was fostered on Merlin’s orders, but did not tell him his true lineage, which was still a mystery to all but Merlin. The other lords were still dubious and demanded repeat performances at Twelfth Night, Candlemass, Easter, and finally Pentecost, during which Arthur was protected by Sirs Baudwin of Britain, Kay, Ulfius, Brastias and others.
The peasants demanded Arthur’s coronation, following which he promoted his associates and removed to Carlion in Wales, where he was promptly beseiged by the six Kings: Lot of Lothian and of Orkney, Uriens of Gore, Nentres of Garlot (each of the three married to one of Arthur’s half sisters), the King of Scotland, the King of the Hundred Knights, and the King of Carados… who all wanted someone older as king, with their combined 3000 knights. There Merlin explained Arthur’s righteousness and heritage to the angry kings (though somehow keeping it a secret from Arthur himself at this time), but they rejected his argument, so with his sturdy friends, 300 turncoats, and the local peasants, Arthur attacked and drove them all away (his 1st battle).
Next, young Arthur headed for London and his barons, where Merlin appeared again with a cunning plan…
Sirs Ulfius and Brastias sped off across The Channel with letters for Kings Ban of Benwick and Bors of Gaul, overcoming King Claudas’ eight minions on the way, with letters offering to help the French kings in their struggle with aforsaid King Claudas if they would but first help Arthur with his own hostile king problem. This worked, and the two kings arrived in London with 300 knights in time for a tournament at All Hallowmass.
At the tournament all had a merry violent time, until people started to get tired and emotional, at which Arthur and his two new royal friends called a halt. Sir Kay the seneschal received the prize for vanquishing the most French, along with Sir Lucas the butler and Griflet the butler’s assistant. Sirs Ladinas, Gracian and Placidas (both French) came second.
After a council of war, Merlin set off to France with King Ban’s ring and Gracian and Placidas, later returning with 10,000 horsemen which he hid in the forest of Bedegraine, where the three kings joined them.
Meanwhile, the six kings Arthur had defeated at Carlion now found five more: Brandegoris of Stranggore, Clariance of Northumerland, Idres of Cornwall, Cradelmas, and Agwisance of Ireland… plus the Duke of Cambenet, a total force of over 50,000 men. Some laid seige to the castle of Bedegraine, while the rest searched for Arthur.
The King with the Hundred Knights had a dream of terrible destruction by wind and water, presaging great battle, and two nights later Arthur attacked (his 2nd battle).
By morning 10,000 were dead, but Arthur was still outnumbered, so Merlin devised a pincer movement in a nearby wood and a further prolonged battle followed. Eventually Merlin pointed out that of the original total warring forces of over 60,000, now barely 15,000 remained, so why not call that a result? He also predicted that the eleven kings would find their own lands invaded by Saracens and that they would not dare to attack again for at least three years.
Arthur rewarded Kings Ban & Bors, and Merlin visited his own master Bleise in Northumberland to have it all written down. Then he returned to Bedegraine Castle in Sherwood Forest the morn after Candlemas dressed as a poacher to give Arthur some entertainment.
Of the many lords who came to do homage to Arthur, one was Earl Sanam, and his daughter Lionors. Arthur was attracted to her, and they slept together, the eventual result being Sir Borre, about whom nothing else is ever said.
Then Kings Arthur, Ban, and Bors marched off to Cameliard to rescue King Leodegrance from King Rience of North Wales (Arthur’s 3rd battle) where Arthur met Leodegrance’s daughter Guenevere.
The two French kings subsequently returned home to deal with their own problem, King Claudas, as Merlin had made the remarkably detailed prediction that they would not need to visit Britain again, but that Arthur would soon visit them and destroy their enemies, and that all of the eleven kings would die in a day at the hands of two knights – Sirs Balin le Savage and his brother Balan. Meanwhile the eleven defeated kings returned to the city of Sorhaute in the land of Gore to discuss the Saracen problem, divide up Cornwall, Wales and the North between them, and plot revenge.
At Lughnasad the recently defeated King Lot of Orkney sent his wife Margawse (not Morgan le Fay) to Arthur’s court to snoop; she ended up sleeping with her unsuspecting half-brother Arthur, and the result of this semi-incest was Mordred.
After an unsettling dream, Arthur went hunting unsuccessfully after the traditional Celtic otherworldly hart, and saw The Questing (barking) Beast drink from a well to quieten its stomach, pursued by King Pellinore, who stole his horse.
There Merlin turned up disguised as a fourteen year-old, and then as an eighty year-old, and finally told Arthur the whole truth of his lineage and who his father was, and how his recent foul deed of incest would one day destroy him and his realm. Then they all rode home to Carlion.
Learning of Arthur’s lineage, Sir Ulfius accused Igraine of having been unfaithful to her husband Tintagil, but it was all resolved and blamed on Merlin, and Igraine was re-united with her long-lost son.
Arthur made the young squire Griflet into a knight so that he could avenge the death of Sir Miles, but he was beaten instead. Then twelve old knights arrived from Rome demanding truage, but Arthur refused.
He went riding off alone and soon “rescued” Merlin from three churls before breaking his sword in a fight with King Pellinore, who would have taken Arthur’s head but for Merlin’s sleep-spell. After recuperating with a hermit for three days, the swordless Arthur was taken by Merlin on a special quest.
Merlin took Arthur to a nearby lake, in the middle of which rose an arm “clothed in white samite” grasping a fair sword. Then the damosel who lived in the rock in the lake appeared, offering the sword to Arthur for an unspecified favour, and so borrowing a nearby barge Arthur acquired both it and the scabbard. In the next book he learns its name – Excalibur.
Riding home, Merlin made several predictions regarding Pellinore’s future worth to Arthur, whilst clouding Pellinore’s mind for safety as they rode past, and also explained how the scabbard was greater than the sword, for it protected the wearer against all loss of blood.
A few years after his previous defeat King Rience of North Wales (and possibly Ireland too) sent a messenger to Arthur explaining how he had defeated eleven (different) kings and woven a cloak out of their beards, and demanded Arthur’s beard for his collection, but Arthur was unimpressed.
Later, Merlin told Arthur that the enemy who would one day destroy him had been born on Beltayne (May 1st), so Arthur sent for every noble child with that birthday. The ship carrying the Northern children foundered, and all died save young Mordred, who was rescued by a good man who looked after him for the next 14 years.
At A Glance
Book 1 chapter overview:
- 1. How Uther Pendragon sent for the duke of Cornwall and Igraine his wife, and of their departing suddenly again.
- 2. How Uther Pendragon made war on the duke of Cornwall, and how by the mean of Merlin he lay by the duchess and gat Arthur.
- 3. Of the birth of King Arthur and of his nurture.
- 4. Of the death of King Uther Pendragon.
- 5. How Arthur was chosen king, and of wonders and marvels of a sword taken out of a stone by the said Arthur.
- 6. How King Arthur pulled out the sword divers times.
- 7. How King Arthur was crowned, and how he made officers.
- 8. How King Arthur held in Wales, at a Pentecost, a great feast, and what kings and lords came to his feast.
- 9. Of the first war that King Arthur had, and how he won the field.
- 10. How Merlin counselled King Arthur to send for King Ban and King Bors, and of their counsel taken for the war.
- 11. Of a great journey made by King Arthur and the two kings Ban and Bors, and how they went over the sea.
- 12. How eleven kings gathered a great host against King Arthur.
- 13. Of a dream of the King with the Hundred Knights.
- 14. How the eleven kings with their host fought against Arthur and his host, and many great feats of the war.
- 15. Yet of the same battle.
- 16. Yet more of the same battle.
- 17. Yet more of the same battle, and how it was ended by Merlin.
- 18. How King Arthur, King Ban, and King Bors rescued King Leodegrance, and other incidents.
- 19. How King Arthur rode to Carlion, and of his dream, and how he saw the questing beast.
- 20. How King Pellinore took Arthur’s horse and followed the Questing Beast, and how Merlin met with Arthur.
- 21. How Ulfius impeached Queen Igraine, Arthur’s mother, of treason; and how a knight came and desired to have the death of his master revenged.
- 22. How Griflet was made knight, and jousted with a knight.
- 23. How twelve knights came from Rome and asked truage for this land of Arthur, and how Arthur fought with a knight.
- 24. How Merlin saved Arthur’s life, and threw an enchantment on King Pellinore and made him to sleep.
- 25. How Arthur by the mean of Merlin gat Excalibur his sword of the Lady of the Lake.
- 26. How tidings came to Arthur that King Rience had overcome eleven kings, and how he desired Arthur’s beard to trim his mantle.
- 27. How all the children were sent for that were born on May-day, and how Mordred was saved.