Right, Sir Ulfius and Merlin. Ulfius runs back to Uther, tells him how Merlin was there, and Uther’s like, what? you liar, I don’t see Merlin. Merlin is waiting outside, in fact; apparently he’s like a vampire in that he can’t come in unless invited. Ulfius escorts Merlin in, Uther greets Merlin, Merlin cuts him off.
I know what you want, says Merlin, and I can make it happen, I just have one thing I need in return.
Name it, says Uther.
Merlin makes him swear on Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John before he continues (this is the first mention of Christianity so far) and once Uther has committed himself, Merlin explains that he wants the child that he will father upon Igraine, to raise as Merlin sees fit. Merlin is completely confident that after one night with Uther, Igraine will be pregnant. Merlin also claims that Merlin’s seizing of the kid will be best for everyone (implying perhaps that he doesn’t think much of Uther’s childraising abilities).
Uther agrees, and Merlin says to stand back because he’s going to do some magic.
Merlin disguises himself and Ulfius as a couple of the Duke’s men, Jordanus and Brastias, and disguises Uther as the Duke himself. Then they make for Castle Tintagil, where they’re admitted despite the siege. Uther claims he’s very sick, very tired, he’ll explain what he’s doing at Tintagil instead of Castle Terrabil where he’s supposed to be repelling Uther’s siege in the morning, right now he just wants to go to bed with his wife. Igraine is a little surprised that her husband is on the one hand very sick and very tired and on the other hand is hella eager to jump her bones, but she goes along with it.
Meanwhile, the actual Duke has cottoned to Uther leaving the siege, somehow, and decides that while the king is away is a great time to sally forth and break the siege. Which he tries to do, and fails at miserably, and gets himself killed before Uther, Ulfius, and Merlin have even arrived at Tintagil.
Which I suppose technically clears Uther of the sleeping-with-another-man’s-wife charge, since the Duke is dead when he sleeps with Igraine, but, you know, still pretty rapey. What Ulfius and Merlin do overnight, if they sleep with Jordanus’s and Brastias’s wives or what, isn’t addressed, but in the morning Merlin wakes Uther up early and he kisses Igraine goodbye and they ride off, just barely ahead of the arriving news that the Duke died the night before trying to lift the siege on Terrabil.
Which really confuses the hell out of Igraine, but she keeps her mouth shut about it.
Anyway, with the Duke dead, all of Uther’s barons point out that there isn’t a reason to keep on fighting, and Uther agrees, so he gets Ulfius to pull some shuttle diplomacy, Henry Kissinger style, going back and forth between his camp and Igraine in Castle Tintagil. Ulfius eventually arranges for Igraine and Uther to meet, which is something of a feat given how as far as Igraine knows the last time they met for peace talks it was just a ruse for Uther to try to seduce her.
But that was then, this is now, and anyway Igraine is a widow and Uther is a) unwed and b) hot for her, so Igraine and Uther agree to marry and that seals the deal, boom, peace between England and Cornwall.
Meanwhile, Uther arranges for three sisters to marry three other kings: Margawse marries King Lot of Orkney, Elaine marries Nentres of Garlot, and Morgan, the youngest sister, goes to necromancy school and upon graduation marries Uriens of Gore. A little googling tells me that Margawse, Elaine, and Morgan are the three daughters of Igraine by the late Duke, but the text gives me zero info on that. Malory does explain that Margawse is the mother of Gawaine, and that Morgan (who graduated summa cum laude from necromancy school by the way) is the mother of Sir Ewain, but the relationship between Uther marrying off these sisters and everything else that happens in this chapter is wholly unclear. Way to go, Malory! Way to go, Malory’s editor!
Google also tells me that the Duke of Tintagil has a name, even if Malory doesn’t use it — Gorlas, which can be spelled a half-dozen different ways. But this isn’t “Tertiary Sources: Wikipedia Part 2 of Infinity;” I’ll try to keep these intrusions of external information to a minimum.
This chapter establishes Merlin as Uther’s bag man, plus features magic as a plot point (though Malory’s vague enough that I could believe Merlin just wrapped Uther in bandages and put fake mustaches on himself and Ulfius) but also features Uther sleeping with Igraine under a ruse, which is to say Igraine is not exactly giving informed & enthusiastic consent, which is more off-putting than I was expecting to find. I knew going in that medieval texts weren’t going to be feminist, but there’s something creepy in the bit where Malory excoriates Uther from adultery (since Gorlas is dead before he sleeps with Igraine) while just ignoring the rape aspect. I’m reasonably certain that this isn’t going to be a constantly recurring theme, Uther getting Merlin to disguise him as some dude so that Uther can sleep with that dude’s wife, though. Chapter 4 is subtitled “Of the death of King Uther Pendragon,” so even if Chapter 3 is wall-to-wall disguised-crypto-rape, the total amount of Uther being a jackass is likely to be a small percentage of the book. On the other hand, if he’s only going to be around for another couple of chapters, Uther better hurry up and become less unlikable.
Discussion Question: Why doesn’t Malory include Gorlas’s name or mention that Morgan le Fay and her sisters are Igraine’s daughters?
Vocabulary word for the chapter: mickle, meaning a large amount or greatly. “As mickle as the child is worth” means “as much as the child is worth.”