Morgan le Fay! She’s appeared a little bit in previous books, and she’ll show up again a handful of times in later books, but this set of stories is her big role.
It started off innocently enough. One day King Arthur, Morgan’s husband King Uriens, and Morgan’s lover Sir Accolon were out hunting. Malory informs us that Sir Accolon is French, in case that makes a difference to anyone. They rode hard and long, hunting, and on the second day out they went a little overboard chasing a hart. First they left behind all the rest of their hunting party, they were riding so hard, and second then they rode so hard their horses had three simultaneous heart attacks and died.
“Shoot,” said Arthur. “Those were my three best horses.”
Regardless, the hart was just ahead, so they continued on foot. The hart teased them, constantly dancing in and out at the edge of their perception. Eventually the sun set, with them no closer to catching the hart than before. Also they’d been dehorsed and separated from all their men. For a fun weekend getaway things went south real fast.
Arthur turned to his companions. “Should we turn back, or press forward?”
“We know that behind us there’s nothing but brambles and mud,” said King Uriens. “Maybe there’s a resort hotel ahead of us.”
So they pressed ahead, and finally they came to a beach, and on the beach there was the hart, getting run down by hounds, and Arthur, according to Malory, blew the prise and dight the hart, which I think means he completed the enterprise (that is, killed the hart) and then butchered it as one would in preparation for eating it? Or possibly he blew his special “we’ve gotten our prize, the hart” horn and then he shouted at the hart to surrender. Both interpretations work!
After the hart was dealt with, one way or another, Arthur noticed that out in the water there was a little boat, all made of silk. As he watched, this small boat floated towards shore and beached itself in front of him.
“That’s a pretty good trick. I’m going to check it out,” he called over his shoulder and stepped aboard. Quickly Arthur confirmed there was no one on the boat (it couldn’t have been that big if it could beach like that, I figure, so this can’t have taken him very long, but Malory explicitly notes the boat had a cabin). He called for Uriens and Accolon to join him. Once all three of them had boarded, suddenly an hundred torches appeared, set upon all the sides of the ship boards! The little silken boat was all lit up now, which was an abrupt and dramatic change.
“Whoa!” said Uriens.
“Crap, I should have realized!” Arthur scowled. “It’s a strange adventure!”
Twelve maidens emerged from the previously empty cabin and greeted King Arthur and his companions, in eerie unison. “Welcome to Arthur, King. Welcome to Uriens, King. Welcome to Accolon, knight. Come, dine with us!”
“Smile and nod,” Arthur whispered to Uriens and Accolon, then turns to addressed the maidens. “Ladies, thank you. It’s a lovely magical ship you have here…”
“Oh Arthur!” swooned the twelve maidens in unison. If only one of them did it, it would have been a clear invitation for Arthur to go cheat on Guenever with her, but with all twelve doing it at once the message was more muddled.
“Hey, that’s sweet,” Arthur said. He slowly backed towards the gangplank and shore.
“Sire, please dine with us! We’ll be ever so disappointed if you don’t!” the maidens said in their impossibly kittenish voices.
“Odds this is a trap are approximately one in one,” said Arthur. “But what the hey.”
Uriens and Accolon agreed on one thing: they were hungry.
Arthur, Uriens, and Accolon entered the little boat’s cabin. Where before it had been a mere closet, by this point it was a big silk-lined feasthall with a tablecloth stretched out on the floor and a tremendous picnic of meat and wine and cheese and everything delicious spread before them.
“This part of the strange adventure is pretty okay I admit.” Arthur and his companions sat down and ate, and the food is delicious. It was the best food Arthur has ever eaten, and he was the king of England/Britain/Logris, so, lots of opportunities for good food. And there was so much of it! He ate way more than was good for him, as did Uriens and Accolon. Afterwards they stretched out on the floor. The maidens offered to lead them to bed, and what with all the wine and such they agreed. Four maidens each led them off into three different bedchambers (all large and spacious and airy, despite being inside this tiny little ship’s cabin) and Malory is completely silent as to whether the maidens climbed into bed with them or not, but he does say that soon enough all three of them were deeply asleep in three separate bedrooms.
In the morning Uriens woke up, and he was no longer aboard the ship! He was instead back at Camelot, in his wife Morgan le Fay’s bed (she was staying over while her husband and lover took this hunting trip). “Wow! What a strange adventure!” he exclaimed. “I was in a silk ship and there was good food and now I’m here! How wonderful!”
Arthur, on the other hand, woke up in an inky prison. It was too dark to see anything, but he could hear knights all around him moaning and complaining. “Saw this one coming,” muttered Arthur. “Stupid strange adventures.”