In which Merlin is a jerk, and Arthur retrenches
The next time Merlin visited Arthur wasn’t until months later. Arthur was chilling in Sherwood Forest, of all places, when Merlin decided to have a little fun, and dressed up like a beggar/poacher/woodsman. He tried to get in to see Arthur, but Arthur was not inclined to meet a random beggar. “Go away, we don’t want any.”
Merlin, still disguised, got all playful. “Give me a present! I want a present.”
“What? No,” said Arthur, like you would. I mean, come on. This is not a very good prank, Merlin.
“Okay,” said Merlin, “if you give me a present I’ll tell you about some buried treasure that’s right near here.”
Merlin-as-beggar clapped his hands. “Merlin told me about how there was buried treasure. Man, Merlin is so awesome Arthur you should just always do as he advises.” Then he skipped out like the malicious little imp he was.
And this point the old firm, Ulfius & Brastias, decided that fun is fun but enough is enough; they’d recognized Merlin right away and filled Arthur in.
“Okay. Yeah, that makes sense. Should I be angry, or apologize, or what?” asked Arthur. No one had any good ideas.
So in the meanwhile (that phrase is a direct quote from Malory), let me tell you about this gal Lionors, who was hot and lived nearby. She showed up at Arthur’s place in the forest to congratulate everyone on having survived the bloodiest day in English history, and Arthur liked the look of her and next thing you know she had an infant son who resembles Arthur. Said son eventually grew up to become Sir Borre of the Round Table, so, good for him I guess? I also guess that this is the buried treasure Merlin was talking about, this hot forest girl who became the mother of Arthur’s child.
At some point shortly after after Arthur had explained that he was married to Being King, but before Lionors gave birth, Arthur conveniently had to run off, because word came in that the King of North Wales (name of Rience, explicitly not a member of Team Lot & Mister 100) had decided to go to war with the King of Cameliard (name of Leodegrance; Cameliard is a purposefully ill-defined location somewhere near North Wales; Leo wasn’t a member of Team Lot & Mister 100 either). Arthur decided to go to Leodegrance’s aid, because King Rience was a total jerk.
Ban and Bors checked their watches and made noises about how they really should get back to Benwick and King Claudas and all that, but Arthur talked them into coming along for one more violent nutty English adventure. I’m not sure how, but despite being down to about ten thousand men after the slaughter of the last few chapters, and after sending back all the surviving French and Benwick knights back to the continent to defend Benwick from King Claudas, Arthur and Ban and Bors managed to ride out with twenty thousand men to Cameliard. There they smashed up thousands of Rience’s guys and drove Rience himself off back to North Wales.
This was also when Arthur met King Leodegrance’s daughter, Guenever, whom (spoiler alert!) he later married. So bad for Lionors, who exits the story never to be seen again. Arthur didn’t marry Guenever immediately, though. At this point he was merely struck with infatuation for her. Which is kind of funny, because (again, spoiler alert!) this is pretty close to the last time we get any hint that Arthur’s marriage to Guenever was ever anything but political and entirely aromantic.
Afterwards Ban and Bors announced they were done. “That was the last adventure for this trip, now we’re really going back to deal with Claudas.”
Arthur said he’d come too, since they helped him.
Ban and Bors exchanged glances and gave a polite no thank you. Arthur’d already done plenty, and besides, he had all this stuff to deal with in England. So, no, it was back to France and Benwick for them. When they said their goodbyes at the beach in Dover or Sandwich or wherever, Arthur again offered to come with, but Ban and Bors turned him down a second time. “Nah, Arthur, buddy. It’s cool, but we’ll have to come back sometime. This was, well, not fun exactly, but it was a thing.”
Merlin, ever the cheermonger and supplier of joy, announced that Ban and Bors would not be coming back any time soon, but next year after Claudas kicked their butts Arthur would ride in and save them.
(Thanks for the vote of confidence, Merlin! Also this is either a prophecy of Merlin’s that doesn’t come true, or else it’s just a story that Malory doesn’t bother to tell.)
Merlin went on to say that it wasn’t a big deal anyway because Team Lot & Mister 100 would all eventually be killed by Sir Balin and his brother Sir Balan, not Ban & Bors & Arthur. Merlin was the kind of guy who ruins surprise parties. Also this prediction never bears fruit; Balin killed a bunch of guys but neither Lot nor Mister 100 were among them.
Speaking of! We turn to at last King Lot and Mister 100 and their dudes. After the gigantic battle with Arthur, they holed up in the city of Sorhaute, in Gore. This was King Uriens’s territory, and he was able to get them all fresh food and beer and leeches for their gangrenous limbs. Just as Mister 100 and Lot figured things had quieted down at last, in came a messenger to tell them about how forty thousand Moors were looting the North. Murdering peasants, sieging castles, and so on.
“Man,” said Lot.
“Yeah,” said Mister 100. “Here we go again.”
“I’m really starting to question the wisdom of deciding to be Arthur’s enemies,” said one of the kings.
“Yeah, if we weren’t enemies we could all team up and fight the non-Christians together,” said another.
“Did you hear how Arthur helped out King Leodegrance?”
“Oh, yeah, man, that King Rience is a jerk.”
“I hate that guy Rience.”
“Me too, I’m glad Arthur stomped him. I oughta buy Arthur a drink.”
“Except that we’re his bitter enemies.”
King Lot, Mister 100 and the others agreed to work together to kick out these Moors, which they did (it was a lot of work). Afterwards they set up a loose confederation that governs Wales, Scotland, the North of England, and Ireland. Their main goal remained Arthur’s containment. They also overthrew and slew King Rience, because everybody hated him.
In general, things didn’t go well for Lot or Mister 100 or any of their allies, which is basically the plot of much of the rest of the book, Malory claims. Malory is only slightly better than Merlin at foreshadowing. Also it’s a stretch to say that Lot and Mister 100 are villains who have any real impact after this section.
Margawse came back into the picture at this point. You may have forgotten her: she was Arthur’s older half-sister, child of Igraine and Igraine’s first husband Gorlas. Uther married her off to Lot before he died. Now Margawse was the Queen of the Orkneys, with an absentee husband busy making war. She sent word to Arthur that she’d like to come visit, as Queen of the Orkneys, since Lot was off fighting Moors and there was no reason Margawse and Arthur couldn’t get along.
Neither of them were aware that they had the same mother, Malory tells us, and that kind of disclaimer only makes sense if… yes.
You’d think that Merlin might have bothered to speak up at some point, but no. Merlin’s a jerk. Mordred was raised out in the Orkneys along with Margawse’s other four children, his half-siblings since their father was Lot and his father was Arthur. That’s great. We’re a pretty small fraction of the way through the story and already Arthur has sired two illegitimate children, one with his half-sister. Mordred growing up in the Orkneys is another little factoid Malory contradicts himself on later, too.
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