Meanwhile Team Lot & Mister 100 are putting all their ducks in a row. They’ve recruited one more king, which brings their total ranks up to eleven kings, and they’re all ready to get revenge for losing the battle at Caerlaeon. 11 to 3 is pretty good odds, but it’s not as good as 10 to 1, which is what they had before the last round of draft picks. Will they be able to pull out a win when Merlin is pulling for the other side? I’m guessing not.
But they don’t know that they’re doomed, they’re busy high-fiving one another and bragging about who is bringing the most men to the field. The finalized roster of kings looks like this:
King Brandegoris of Stranggore, who drinks too much and promises too freely. Five thousand cavalry.
King Clariance of Northumberland, who has nothing to prove to anyone. Three thousand infantry.
Mister 100, who is young and everyone likes him, he’s the Great Welsh Hope. Four thousand cavalry, plus one hundred knights I expect.
King Lot, Arthur’s brother-in-law, who organized the whole thing. Five thousand cavalry.
The Duke of Cambenet, not technically a king but we don’t mind. Five thousand cavalry.
King Uriens of Gore, Arthur’s other brother-in-law, who has plenty to prove apparently, won’t be outdone: six thousand cavalry.
King Idres of Cornwall, nothing interesting about him, five thousand cavalry.
King Cradelmas of nowhere in particular, nothing interesting about him either, five thousand cavalry.
King Agwisance of Ireland, I don’t know why he’s even getting involved, five thousand cavalry.
King Nentres, Arthur’s third brother-in-law whom you probably forgot about, five thousand cavalry.
King Carados of nowhere important, five thousand cavalry.
(Because it wouldn’t be an account of battles from a premodern era if there wasn’t a stultifying list of which general brought how many triremes, that’s why.)
I added those all up and I got fifty thousand cavalry, three thousand infantry, which goes to show you I’m not Malory because he tells us the correct total is fifty thousand cavalry and ten thousand infantry.
Anyway, they all get together and they’re like, okay, we’re ready to invade Arthur’s land, where to hit him first? And someone says, how about the forest of Bedegraine, that sounds like a good spot. So they ride into the forest and whoops, there’s a castle, which was either built by Merlin using magic or by the Benwick knights using Roman-era stockade engineering or maybe there was always a castle there and Malory just forgot about it when he called Bedegraine a forested valley last chapter.
I was, at this point, sort of expecting for Merlin to have cast the original D&D version of mass polymorph, which puts an army of guys into suspended animation (by turning them into a forest). Team Lot & Mister 100 get there, they just see a forest, they’re confused, they let their guard down, and then boom, the trees turn back into the assembled French and Benwick knights and it’s an ambush! But no, instead there’s just a siege.
So the invasion is halted as it begins, and the knights of Benwick and France (those two great powers of the Continent) are besieged by Team Lot & Mister 100, and then King Lot is like, screw this, and leaves behind a skeletal force of men to hold in the knights at Bedegraine and the rest of his group rides south with Mister 100 into Arthur’s territory.
So Mister 100 and the rest of his team are rampaging southward, the ones who aren’t laying siege at Bedegraine. Arthur and his brain trust have scouts keeping tabs on them; these scouts send Arthur regular reports as to their movements, and it’s hard to move fifty thousand guys at any kind of speed I guess, because Arthur always has plenty of time and warning and he’s burning up the land that Team Lot & Mister 100 are moving into, to make it so they can’t pillage and plunder and eat, food being most of what they’d be plundering. So things are already going a little off the rails for Team Lot & Mister 100.
But before this has gone on for more than a week or so, Mister 100 has a dream. The dream goes 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 wakes up in, as they say, a cold sweat (super uncomfortable) and rouses Lot and the other kings.
“I had a dream,” says Mister 100. “It was not an awesome dream.” He relates his dream to Lot and the others.
“Dang,” says 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 is so awesome, Mister 100 and all his guys are ambushed by Arthur’s host. Cliffhanger!
Spoiler warning: this battle that’s about to happen goes on for four chapters.