In which Arthur fights an incredibly bloody war
Mister 100 rampaged southward, along with all his allies who weren’t laying siege at Bedegraine. Arthur and his brain trust had scouts keeping tabs on them; these scouts sent Arthur regular reports as to Mister 100’s movements. It’s hard to move fifty thousand guys at any kind of speed I guess, because Arthur always had plenty of time and warning and he burned up the land that Team Lot & Mister 100 moved into. As a result, they couldn’t pillage and plunder and eat, food being most of what they’d be plundering. So things continued to head off the rails for Team Lot & Mister 100.
One night after around a week of this, Mister 100 had a dream. The dream ran like this: there’s a nation full of shining happy people and towns and flowers. Then a tornado comes and chews everything up and everyone is sad. Then things get worse because a tidal wave washes over the nation and everything is washed away. So, in conclusion, everyone in the whole nation is sad and unhappy and wailing phrases such as if only we hadn’t gone to war against King Arthur and his good buddy Merlin this wouldn’t have happened what fools we were to discount the advice of Merlin who knows everything and can use magic to affect people’s dreams save us Merlin save us from ourselves.
Mister 100 woke up in, as they say, a cold sweat (super uncomfortable) and roused Lot and the other kings.
“I had a dream,” said Mister 100. “It was not an awesome dream.” He related the story to Lot and the others.
“Dang,” said Lot. “That sounds bad. We’d better formulate some kind of master plan, get some high-level strategy going. The worst thing would be if we go into this without a plan.”
Then, because Merlin was so awesome, Mister 100 and all his guys ware ambushed by Arthur’s host. And at this stage the story becomes a little complicated.
You’ve got Arthur and Ban and Bors riding into Mister 100′s camp, pulling a sneak attack at night which catches many of Mister 100′s troops in their tents. The tents were pulled down, and Arthur’s little strike force inflicted massive casualties before pulling back out. Malory continues to play fast and loose with the numbers, claiming that there were sixty thousand men in Mister 100′s camp (forgetting the force besieging the knights at Bedegraine, plus including a phantom seven thousand guys from nowhere) and ten thousand of them were killed in the raid but fifty thousand were still hale and ready for violence.
After the raid ended, Merlin suggested (this is another bit where the Merlin/Gandalf parallels are much stronger than I had been expecting, what with him telling the generals how to fight) that Ban and Bors and everyone should head back up the road to Bedegraine and combine their ten thousand men with Arthur’s twenty thousand, and to be sure that Bors and Ban would be at the head of the column all conspicuous, so that when they broke the siege on the Bedegraine forces the Benwick and French knights would see them and be inspired.
As Malory puts it, it was done anon as Merlin advised.
Then Ulfius and Brastias, the old firm, decided to commit some deeds. They grabbed everyone handy, which was three thousand knights, and launched a follow-up raid on Mister 100′s troops just as Mister 100′s troops had recovered from the previous lightning raid! Ulfius and Brastias killed knights left and right, over and under, to and fro, hither and yon.
Mister 100′s co-kings saw that they were just a couple of knights (plus 3000 more unnamed knights who don’t really count, in a Spartans-and-helots sort of way) and got angry and defensive and rode up to beat them back. Ulfius’s horse went down! Ulfius, on foot, had to deal with the Duke of Cambenet and King Clariance double-teaming him! Ulfius was left reeling! He’s tagged in Brastias! Brastias and Clariance pounded on one another! Both their horses went down! In fact both their horses were been hit so hard that all eight of their horsey legs were driven into the earth up to the knee! It is crazy, the way Malory describes it.
Sir Kay, meanwhile, came in as part of another round of attacks. He did passing well with the six-man team that he assembled for the tournament. Some of the kings were pounded on the caterers Sir Griflet and Sir Lucan, so Kay rescued them. Then King Lot came up to rescue his co-kings and Sir Kay pounded on him, and then Mister 100 joined the fray.
Mister 100 was his side’s best fighter, you recall. Kay could compete with Mister 100; he was driven off. Mister 100 helped King Lot get back up and offered him a new horse. Mister 100 was classy like that. This sparked a big round of guys offering unhorsed guys new horses, which horses were often freshly taken from newly-unhorsed enemy knights: Griflet nabbed a horse and gave it to Kay, Lot gave one to King Nentres, Mister 100 knocked a guy down and took his horse and gave it to King Idres, blah blah bah.
Eventually Mister 100 and his fellows pulled back and caught their breath and called a thirty-second time-out, vowing vengeance for all this horse thievery. Sir Ector rode in just too late and found that Ulfius and Brastias got dehorsed way back three paragraphs ago and no one ever got them new horses and so they had been trampled nearly to death.
Seriously. Ector takes care of them, though.
After the thirty-second time-out ended, Arthur took the field himself. There were a bunch more dehorsing and giving of horses and guys rescuing other guys from being trampled or ganged up on. At one point someone took Sir Ector’s horse, which, listen. Here’s a nickel’s worth of free advice: don’t take King Arthur’s adoptive father’s horse and then ride it somewhere King Arthur can see you, it turns out that is a terrible idea. King Arthur will mess you up if you try that.
None of the named knights died, although (as mentioned before) Sir Brastias and Sir Griflet both came pretty close. Sir Lucan and Sir Griflet were a major team-up, two caterers against the world.
Knights fighting kings and other knights continued on for a good long while. Ban and Bors, for whatever reason, hadn’t ridden forth since pulling their men out of Bedegraine. But now they took the field and started smashing guys up and unhorsing them anew. Arthur rode around like a crazy guy with the only magic sword in the campaign, killing dozens. He even came up against King Lot, briefly, and stuck him one good in the shoulder, so Lot called another thirty-second timeout.
“Everybody huddle up,” said King Lot. “We are not winning like we oughta. This battle has stopped being fun.”
“This battle stopped being fun about four hours ago,” said Mister 100.
“The problem,” said King Lot, “is that we’re getting in one another’s way.” Everyone agreed. “At the start of this battle we outnumbered them 3 to 1, and then for a while we outnumbered them 2 to 1, and right now we outnumber them 3 to 2. That is a bad trend. We’re getting humiliated here. So what we’ll do is, me and Mister 100 and three other kings will ride out with fifteen thousand men, and the rest of you and all the rest of the men will stay here and hold them, and we’ll circle all the way around, freshen up, and then when you’re at your most exhausted we’ll get them from the back, where there’s room. Otherwise we’re doomed, fellas.”
As they made ready to carry out this plan, which they didn’t manage to pull off, one of the kings (technically the Duke of Cambenet but hey) started a major advance aimed right at, it turns out, Sir Lionses and Sir Phariance. Those two got their butts kicked, until King Bors spotted this happening and rode in to their rescue as all-fired-up as anyone has ever been about anything ever.
“Crap,” said King Lot. “I know that guy. That’s King Bors of France. Hell of a dude.”
“Shit,” said Mister 100.
“Shit is right,” said King Lot. “Well that explains how Arthur had fifty percent more knights than we were expecting. How’d he even get here? You’d think the king of Gaul would be in, you know, Gaul, not up in our grill.”
“I can tell you how he got here,” said Mister 100. “I can tell you in one word, two syllables. Mer-lin.”
“Well, hell,” said King Carados. “I’ll go kill Bors, give that a shot. If it looks like he’s kicking my ass, come rescue me, okay?”
And Carados rode up with a special high-speed high-impact slam-and-smash English-style cavalry charge, which Bors, being from France, was not expecting. However Bors was way more awesome than Carados, and sure enough Bors kicked his ass and Mister 100 had to ride in to the rescue. Mister 100 was basically the best knight on his side of the battle, Malory reminds us again. He may be my favorite character so far.
Once Mister 100 had rescued Carados, he and Lot and all the rest of their team spotted Ban.
“Aw, man,” said King Lot. “King Ban of Benwick. He’s got Benwick.”
“Merlin, what did I tell you?” said Mister 100. “Merlin.“
“Ban and Bors are the two best men on the Continent,” said King Lot. “We can run away from them, or we can try to take them out, or, I don’t know, some third thing. We can’t just ignore them, though, because they’re cutting our guys to shreds. You know we had them outnumbered like 3 to 1 and now it’s basically even?”
“I’m on it,” said Mister 100.
Mister 100 mounted up and charged King Ban, who was indeed cutting the opposition to shreds. Now Mister 100 was pretty awesome, and King Ban (Sir Launcelot du Lake’s father) was also pretty awesome, so they had a great fight with lots of reversals and horses getting killed and armor getting ripped off and it continued on for a while and then King Ban got lucky and clocked Mister 100 on the side of the head and Mister 100 went down.
King Brandegoris came in, tried to rescue Mister 100, but the only guy on their side who could rescue Mister 100 was Mister 100 himself, so, that didn’t work out so well for Brandegoris and he went down, too.
Arthur came up and gave Ban a new horse and apologized for letting Ban get as badly smacked around as Mister 100 smacked him around, and Ban was all, you should see the other guy.
And then things got bad. Malory phrases it like so. But when King Ban is mounted on horseback, then there began new battle, the which was sore and hard, and passing great slaughter. Tens of thousands of guys were dead, wounded, or thoroughly demoralized. In the thick of it, Lot and Mister 100 and the other nine kings (really eight kings plus the Duke of Cambenet) rolled up together.
They hauled out, retreating for the night — yeah it’s night again which means it’s been twenty-four hours of constant violence — and the tattered force circled up and slept like dead men.
Meanwhile, Arthur and his guys hadn’t suffered losses nearly so bad, but they were definitely battered. Arthur was pissed at Mister 100 and the others for not surrendering and preventing all this needless bloodshed, but Ban and Bors took him aside and reminded him that it’s just what kings do, them and their knights, they fight valiantly. Mister 100 and the other kings were all pretty valiant knights. Ban would go so far as to say that Mister 100 and the others were better knights than any to be found on the Continent, and if only Arthur and Lot and Mister 100 and the others could mend fences then England would be an unstoppable powerhouse of knightly strength and skill at arms.
“Yeah, well, they all hate me,” said Arthur.
“Try to look at it from their side,” said Ban and Bors. “Y’all are enemies. If we were enemies, I’d hate you too. It’s only natural.”
Meanwhile over the river and through the woods, Lot and Mister 100 and the others held one more strategy session. “So that plan I had a while back for splitting our forces in half and flanking them, that didn’t work,” said Lot, “on account of we couldn’t get it together to try it. Here’s my new idea: we ride around, hit and run, shock troops with the cavalry. It worked for Arthur’s men when they started this battle, going on thirty blood-soaked hours ago. Now our big trouble has been our dehorsed guys and footmen; we keep trying to rescue them and getting them new horses and it’s just throwing good money after bad, manpower-wise. So I propose, a guy gets dehorsed, he’s on his own. I know that sounds callous, but listen. There’s plenty of brambles and thickets and woods, a dehorsed guy can run into them, circle around, ambush; let’s not run in rescuing one another. It’s causing more trouble than it’s fixing.”
“Also,” said Lot, “morale among the men is pretty low, so if you see anyone fleeing, cut him down, otherwise he’ll start a panic and all the men will run.”
“Aw man,” said Mister 100. “Has it really come to that?”
But, yeah, it had really come to that. Lot and Mister 100 and the other kings all agreed to adopt these new rules of engagement, for the incipient battle. Which was really just Day 2 of the continuing battle.
That morning Arthur, Ban and Bors mounted up with forty of their best and least-dying knights, which number included the old firm of Ulfius & Brastias, Kay and the caterers, Ector, Lionses & Phariance, and a whole pile of other dudes. They gave a big cheer and morale was high and they hefted their spears and rode off at speed to hunt down Team Lot & Mister 100.
Team Lot & Mister 100 were ready and desperate, so they were mounted up by dawn, too. They charged Arthur’s knights with their own host (what remained of it) and everyone whose name has been mentioned so far got all crazy-go-nuts and killed a mob of dudes.
Ban and Bors, at one point, exchanged glances and looked sidelong at Arthur and muttered to one another. They knew, coming in, they knew that Englishmen were bloody-minded violent thugs who speak the language of slaughter, but they hadn’t realized just how loony and death-crazed Arthur and his men would turn out to be.
So slow-motion pan of Arthur and his best guys finally coming right at Lot and Mister 100 and their guys, and roaring of the soldiers and the spears coming up, truly, this would be the final and climactic exchange…
And boom Merlin out of nowhere, on Shadowfax a big black horse-shaped object! Merlin shouted “everyone! The fight is over! I declare it a draw!”
“What the hell?” asked Arthur.
Merlin shook his head. “Listen, you. The best estimate for the number who died on D-Day, 6 June 1944, is between fifteen and twenty thousand total on both sides. You know how many lives you and Lot and Mister 100 have ended in the last thirty-six hours? Two to three times that. Enough is, I mean seriously, enough. If this doesn’t end right now, Kung Fu Jesus will come down from heaven and blast you all with force lightning because this is literally atrocious. It is an atrocity. These are war crimes.”
“Well, they started it.”
“Here what you do now. You go home,” said Merlin. “Congratulate your men and give them out medals and everyone can feel good about being the violent-est thugs in all of Christendom.”
“No contest,” interjected Ban. “You guys are totes the violent-est.”
“Go home,” repeated Merlin. “And don’t worry about Lot or Mister 100, I’m using my crazy Merlin powers to say that if you just leave them alone for three years, they’ll leave you alone for three years, and by the end of that period the situation will have changed in ways you’ll find amusing and surprising. Anyway, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland have been invaded by Moors, so Lot and the others will have to take their five thousand or so surviving cavalry and deal with the forty thousand angry Moors. It’ll keep them busy for a while.”
“Wait, what?” asked Arthur.
“I need to get going,” said Merlin. “But one last thing. Take all the plunder your men have gotten from the bodies of the fallen, and turn it over to Ban and Bors. It’ll go a long way towards securing their friendship in the wake of this let’s-take-all-of-our-knights-out-of-France-and-Benwick-and-bring-them-to-England-and-then-they-suffer-seventy-percent-casualties debacle.”
“Yeah, okay,” said Arthur. “I can just pay my surviving men out of petty cash.”
“That’s the spirit,” said Merlin. He rode off to meet up with Saruman the White Bleise, his master. Merlin related to Bleise the story of the battle, and Bleise wrote it all down, and that’s how Malory knows all this, and let’s just say that everything else that happens in the book. Merlin told Bleise about and Bleise wrote it down, and that’s how Malory knows all this stuff, and now that it’s been said let’s never bring it up or think about that ever again.
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