The King of Scotland, whose name according to Malory is King Anguish, and I’m hoping we see more of him if only for that, King Anguish gives a big ol’ whoop. “Yeah! Yeah! Let’s take over Rome! Boo-yah! We can do it! We’ll kick their asses! We’ll show them what guys from islands north of France can do! Woo! Woo!”
Anguish really gets the crowd going, and before too long they’re all shouting about how great Arthur is, how he’s going to be the new Emperor of Rome by the time they’re through, and what dicks the Romans are. They fall over one another in their eagerness to pledge wave upon wave of their men to the war effort: twenty thousand Scots from Scotland! Thirty thousand Normans from Normandy! Thirty thousand Welsh from Wales! Zero from Gore, because Queen Morgan le Fay is still not on speaking terms with Arthur. But thirty thousand Orcs from Orkney! Thirty thousand Fighting Gamecocks from Cornwall! And so on.
Arthur finds this outpouring of support and high emotion really touching, and he thanks his assembled lords and baron and knights and probably Nimue (since Merlin can’t make it). He calls the taxmen back in, and he sits them down and he says listen.
“I’m not going to pay any taxes. You really should have been expecting that. I’m not going to pay, but I want you to go back to Caesar Lucius Caesar, and you say to him, ‘Loosh,’ you say, ‘Loosh, this guy Arthur just isn’t playing ball. He told us the amount of taxes he’s willing to pay, and that amount is zero. Zero taxes.’ You tell him, I don’t see any right he has to demand taxes from me, that I grew up hearing folk tales about British Roman generals who marched back to Rome and took the place over, I’m thinking here of Septimus Severus, I’m thinking of Titus Flavius, I’m thinking of Publius Hertinax. I know revisionist Roman histories claim those dudes weren’t native to Britain, they just lived here for a while, but my position is no, they were British, they became Emperor, and I’m British and I’m going to become Emperor also. Just like Constantine and Belinus and Brenius, which names I might or might not have made up just now. That doesn’t matter. What matters is that I’m going to conquer Rome…”
SMASH CUT to the taxmen, in Rome, in Lucius’s office.
“…He’s going to conquer Rome, he says, and get everyone to recognize him as Emperor. Then he gave us some nice gift baskets of fruit and paid for our flights back, first-class the whole way. He’s a real class act, that Arthur.”
Lucius’s response is not great. He stomps around his office throwing things for a while, snarling incoherently. Eventually he calms down enough that he can form whole sentences, and he starts shouting about how foolish it was to assume that Arthur would act like a reasonable person here, like any other king in his situation, and do the decent thing, and how stupid an assumption it was on Lucius’s part to figure that a supposedly wise and benevolent king wouldn’t leap at an opportunity to throw tens of thousands of men’s lives away. What king wouldn’t want a pointless war?
One of Lucius’s advisors points out that Arthur is renowned for being the title character of the book, and generally badass. The advisor visited England the previous year, on vacation, and while he was there he was impressed with how chivalrous and knightly everyone was. Serious knightliness happening up in there. By drawing Arthur’s attention, the advisor warns, Lucius has maybe just signed his own death warrant, made himself a target.
“Fine! You know what? Fine! It’s fine! If he wants to have a war, we’ll just have a stupid war! I’m going to France! Send messengers to Spain and Portugal and Italy and Sicily and Tunisia and Libya and Egypt and Cyprus and Greece and Turkey and Arabia and Palestine and Bulgaria and India and Timbuktu and Armenia and Damietta and Elayme and Damascus and Scythia and Syria and Macedon and Prussia and Poland and Hungary and Austria and Algeria and Crete and Morocco and Croatia and Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia and Romania and Moldova and Armenia and Beirut and Qatar and Kuwait and Chechnya and Ethiopia and did I already say Greece? Send messengers out and tell them to send their armies to Normandy, because we aren’t going to let this man Arthur get any further onto the Continent than Flanders!”
Lucius also calls in a favor and musters a troop of giants, fifty giants, to be his personal bodyguard. So this enormous column of soldiers rolls slowly across Europe, over the alps and through Germany, which they sack on their way to Flanders. Big chunks of Benwick and parcels of land that King Claudas and Ban and Bors had been fighting over, big chunks of Benwick get torched, and it’s all prelude to Lucius’s plan, which is to wait until Arthur and his knights and armies are all assembled in Normandy, and then hit Normandy so hard there isn’t a Normandy any more, there’s just a somewhat wider English Channel. Or, as Malory phrases it, Lucius “purposed to destroy the realm of Little Britain.”