John Fish B.Sc.Publishers of Tenby in Wales (UK)
ROWSE LITERARY AGENCY The Erotic Adventures of King Arthur by Art Banta
ROWSE LITERARY AGENCY
The Erotic Adventures of King Arthur
e-mail: Art Banta
AVAILABLE IN E-BOOK FORMAT
Synopsis Chapter I. Earliest Memories
Chapter I. Earliest Memories(as told by Cai)
Arthur's foster brother Cai (Sir Kay) remembers growing up with Arthur at Castrec. Arthur was brought there by Myrddin (Merlin) as an infant to protect him from harm and so Myrddin could influence him. When Arthur and Cai were out hunting as teenagers, Palomides the Saracen, who headed a warband that preyed on marauding Irish pirates, encountered the boys.
Chapter II. The Young Myrddin (as told by Morgan)
Myrddin, the son of the Harlot of Caerlleon, was raised in the city of Myrddin by Taliesin, the great British bard. When still a youth, Myrddin became famous as a sorcerer by revealing that the evil King Vortigern's tower was being constructed dangerously over a cavern.
Chapter III. Master of Britain(as told by Morgan)
Myrddin allies himself with Emrys and Uthyr, who came from Brittany to defeat the evil Vortigern. The brothers from Brittany defeat Vortigern, and Emrys becomes Pen-Dragwn (High King) of Britain. Myrddin now the third most powerful man in Britain. Emrys is poisoned. Uthyr becomes Pen-Dragwn. Myrddin now the power behind the throne.
Chapter IV. Uthyr's Seed (as told by Gorlois and Myrddin)
Uthyr Pen-Dragwn becomes lustful for Eigyr (Igraine), the wife of Gorlois, Lord of Tintagel (in Cornwall). Myrddin makes it possible for Uthyr to bed Eigyr. Arthur is conceived. Uthyr, in gratitude, allows Myrddin to spirit Arthur away to Castrec.
Chapter V. The Brigand Gang (as told by Cai)
Arthur, now in his mid-teens, joins Palomides' brigands. There he meets Gwalchmai (Gawain) and Bedwyr (Bedivere), who remain his lifelong companions. He learns the arts of war and leadership while riding wild with the gang.
Chapter VI. The Sword and the Stone (as told by Cai)
Myrddin causes to be constructed what appears to be a large stone with a sword thrust into it. Uthyr dies, leaving Britain without a high king. Myrddin sets up the stone in the central square of Lughdun (London), and convinces the contenders for the kingship that whoever draws forth the sword shall become Pen-Dragwn. It's an elaborate fraud, but results in Arthur, age sixteen, becoming the new Pen-Dragwn.
Chapter VII. Coronation and Unrest in the North (as told by Bedwyr)
Arthur is crowned in Caerlleon by both Dwdrych (Dietrich, Christian bishop of Caerlleon) and Myrddin (Wycha warlock). The tribes living north of the Wall do not recognize Arthur's right to be king. Civil war may result. The Druids are consulted as to what the result of the war would be. The auguries indicate Arthur would be victorious over the Pixies (Picti/Picts).
Chapter VIII. Rumors of War(as told by Morgawse)
While the Pixies are deciding whether to go to war with Arthur, Arthur's sister Morgawse is sent to Arthur's capital at Caerlleon by Lot, King of the North. Morgawse had been married to Lot years before. She was at Caerlleon as a messenger proclaiming that the North wanted peace, in order to keep Arthur off guard. At Caerlleon, she meets her sister Morgan the Fay. Arthur beds his sister Morgawse, and Medrawd (Mordred) is conceived.
Chapter IX. Fairhand(as told by Gareth)
When Morgawse went back north to Lot's domain, she left behind her youngest son Gareth. He was to pretend to be a mere kitchen scullion at Caerlleon Castle. He is named Heirddllaw (Fairhand) in derision by Cai. But he is allowed to go out on an adventure to rescue a damsel in distress. He overcomes the Red Warrior who is holding the damsel in bondage, thus winning the lady.
Chapter X. The Battle of Arderydd Ford (as told by Gwalchmai)
Lot's army proceeds south of the wall to challenge Arthur's forces. Arthur sends to his cousins Bors and Ban who were kings on the Continent to cross the Channel and bring troops to aid him in the upcoming battle. The cousins arrive with troops. The combined armies march north. Lot is easily defeated. Arthur now is a warrior king, although still in his teens.
Chapter XI. Accolon and the Wrath of Morgan(as told by Morgan)
Arthur's sister Morgan cannot control her younger brother. She seeks to depose him, set her lover Accolon on the throne, and thus become queen of Britain. Arthur defeats Accolon in battle and Morgan, now known to be Arthur's enemy, flees to dwell among the Fay who live underground north of the Wall.
Chapter XII. Pelleas and Ettarde (as told by Gwalchmai)
Arthur builds himself a new capital, which he calls Camelot. After his sister's betrayal, Arthur is in a foul mood. His companion Gwalchmai (Gawain) decides to go seek adventure rather than hang around Camelot while Arthur is so hard to get along with. He comes across a young man named Pelleas who is in love with Ettarde. His love is unrequited. Gwalchmai attempts to help Pelleas by going to see Ettarde to plead for his new friend. Gwalchmai ends up bedding Ettarde. Pelleas gets a kind of revenge, with help from the sorceress Nimue.
Chapter XIII. War and Peace(as told by Bedwyr)
The English (Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Frisians, and Danes) have settlements on Britain's east cost. Arthur, with the help of Bors and Ban's troops, engages in a series of battles against the English. At the Battle of Mount Badon (521 A.D.) Arthur's forces defeat the English completely. The "Arthurian Peace" is established in Britain for the next twenty-four years. Arthur marries Gwenhwyvar. She cannot remain true to him. Nor can he remain true to her. All in all, a satisfactory marriage for both of them.
Chapter XIV. The Prince of Love(as told by Llenlleawc)
Llenlleawc (Lancelot) came to Britain with the troops from the Continent. After the hostilities against the Pixies and then the English, he seeks adventures during the new Peace. He has an erotic adventure with a couple called Belleus and Tegan. Then a further adventure protecting Cai from assaults. Both tales involve bawdy humor.
Chapter XV. Family Reunion (as told by Morgan)
Medrawd, Arthur's bastard son by Morgawse, has been brought to Camelot and made a companion of the Table Round. Arthur is unaware that Medrawd is his son. Morgan realizes her brother Arthur has been beneficial to Britain. She comes to Camelot to merely aggravate Arthur, not to harm him. She reveals to Arthur and his two companions Gwalchmai and Bedwyr who Medrawd really is. Just enough to disturb Arthur's peace of mind. She also reveals that Gwalchmai is one of Morgawse's bastard sons, and therefore Arthur's cousin.
Chapter XVI. The List(as told by Medrawd)
Medrawd hates his father, Arthur. In 540 A.D., he makes up an extermination list to kill off his whole family -- mother, father, aunt, brothers, and cousins. He would then be the king of Britain. He successfully gets Morgawse killed, and then, most of the rest of his family. He keeps behind the scenes the whole time.
Chapter XVII. The End of Camelot(as told by Bedwyr)
Arthur is called upon by his cousins on the Continent to come to their aid against the Franks and Burgunds. While Arthur is abroad with his troops, Medrawd usurps the crown, and invites the Franks to come to Britain to fight Arthur on his return. Medrawd and Gwenhwyvar become lovers in Arthur's absence. Arthur returns to Britain. At the Battle of Camlann (542 A.D.) Arthur and Medrawd kill each other. After the battle, at Arthur's insistence, Bedwyr throws Arthur's sword into the waters. The Lady of the Lake raises a hand from the waters and takes the sword to Avalon. Arthur dies.
Chapter XVIII. The Heart of Britain(as told by Morgan)
Arthur's body taken to Avalon on a golden barge. His heart is kept there. His corpse then taken to Glastonbury by Myrddin. Arthur buried at the Christian Abbey of Glastonbury.
Sample Chapter CHAPTER ONE
One hears a fine lot of nonsense about Arthur nowadays. Mostly balderdash. I should know. You might say I've known him longer than anyone. That is, anyone in his or her right mind. Arthur was my brother, you know. Well, my foster brother. And I loved him dearly, of course. But, Lord knows, most of the time I didn't approve of him. Not really. Loyal to the end. That's me. Loyal Old Cai. But, really, the man's morals were dreadful. Not really befitting a Christian, you know.
When he came to my father's estate, Castrec in Powys,(1) he was still in swaddling clothes. Brought there by that old quack Myrddin.(2) I was only three years old at the time, so I really don't remember the occasion. In my memory, Arthur was always there.
The story of the sword in the stone was trumped up by Myrddin, don't you know. Myrddin cast a spell on those in attendance at the sword drawing contest when he conspired to make the young Arthur the High King. It worked. Myrddin wanted Arthur as High King so he, himself, would be the power behind the throne. From the time he convinced Uthyr to give Arthur to him, he was conspiring to run the show from behind the scenes. Myrddin had always wanted to be the real lord of Britain. And, after Arthur's ascension, he was.
But there I go, running way ahead of myself. Damme! I wanted to start at the beginning, and here I am up to that silly sword in the stone business.
So, back to the beginning...
When the infant Arthur was brought to us at Castrec, father didn't know who the baby was. Myrddin explained that the child needed sanctuary, and you know father. A fine Christian gentleman, he was. Couldn't refuse sanctuary to an innocent. He had known and admired Myrddin for years. Had a soft spot in his heart for the old pagan. And Myrddin somehow conveyed the feeling that it was a matter of national security that the infant be sequestered with us at Castrec, and that no one was to know his parentage. So, all of a sudden I had a baby brother. And that event changed my life forever. As a matter of fact, it changed things in Britain forever after as well.
For the first three years or so, Arthur didn't affect my life a great deal. Most of his care was entrusted to Brigid, one of our Irish slaves. I was the apple of my parents' eye, and Arthur was no more bother to me than one of the many puppies we kept in the kennels. Except that he was raised in the house, and slept in my bedroom. Brigid slept in my room in those days, too. In order to take care of Arthur's needs. So, I became aware of exactly how she took care of him. Shocking!
I may have been nothing more than a child myself, but I knew that the way Brigid played with the little fellow's private parts when the adults weren't looking wasn't really proper. I wouldn't have dared to say anything to anyone about it, of course. But not only did the wench fondle the helpless little child in a most familiar way, he seemed to thrive on it. As she played with that little member of his, Arthur cooed and smiled, and showed his appreciation in a very physical way which I certainly shall not mention. You know, I am no friend or admirer of the
English.(3) But as bloodthirsty and filthy as they are, I have always found their morals superior to the Irish. And Brigid was not particularly circumspect, even for an Irish girl.
Father, although British(4) to the core, had been a Roman cavalry officer, and was the finest horseman I ever knew. Thus, our estate in Powys was one of the most famous horse farms in the Western world. I can't even remember the first time I was placed on horseback. I have been able to ride since infancy. What I do remember is the day Arthur was first placed on a horse.
I was eight years old, and an accomplished rider on my pony, when father and one of the stable slaves placed my little brother on one of the tamer ponies all by himself. There were no stirrups attached to saddles in those days. Stirrups weren't introduced to Britain until Palomides introduced the concept several years later. So Arthur had to keep to the saddle with no footrests. The little redhead, with a front tooth missing, threw back his head and laughed with glee the moment he found himself in the saddle. He instinctively set the pony on a trot, to the consternation of both the slave and father. To my dismay, he rode as well from that first moment as I did with my three years experience in horse riding. Arthur became my equal in equitation despite the differences in our ages. I was to discover that he was my equal or better at nearly every activity we engaged in. I must admit that annoyed me somewhat. But, at the same time, it made it possible for us to be better boyhood companions as well as foster brothers.
By the time I was nine, we were allowed to hunt in the woods, sometimes afoot, sometimes on horseback, all by ourselves. We fished, hunted, hiked, swam, wrestled, fought, built tree forts, climbed trees, and filled the land with youthful laughter. We were always accompanied by our two hunting dogs -- Arthur's hound Cabal and my faithful Clydno. Our hunting weapons consisted of pikes, swords, and bows and arrows for hunting roebuck and stag. For spotted grouse, hare, ducks, and geese, we preferred nets and slings. My father, Ector, believed that hunting was the best preparation a British boy could have for battle. And he knew there would be battles a-plenty if we were to save our Island from the barbaric English.
Father Byrhferth, our resident priest, taught us to read in Latin and British, to work with numbers, and even to write a bit in both the British and the Roman scripts. But, such learning took up only a small part of our day. Most of our time was spent in what was nearly an idyllic childhood. Except, of course, for Arthur's base proclivities, which were, very likely, the result of Brigid's coarse teaching.
When Myrddin came to our estate, which he did at least twice a year while Arthur was with us, he always regaled Arthur and me with lays and legends which he sang to us, accompanying himself on his harp. He, of course, always sang and played for the entire compound we lived in. But for us two boys, he sang the Mabinogion in its entirety every time. I have no musical abilities at all, but in my off-key way, I can sing much of the epic myself from memory of Myrddin's performances. He sang of the heros of our British race, Gwion, Kynan, Meriodoc, and the rest. He also sang of the times in which we lived, with lively tales of Theodoric, Clovis, and the other emperors on the Continent. I was always enchanted by the old man's singing. But, I couldn't stand the man himself. He was never pleasant to be around except when he was playing his harp. Otherwise he was cross, cantankerous, and just downright rude. During his interminable stays at Castrec, Myrddin took Arthur out into the woods to instruct him in the evil Old Ways of Wycha.(5) It was clear to me that Arthur was more inclined towards the pagan teachings of Myrddin than the holy teachings of Father Byrhferth. Father seemed blind to the evil that Myrddin was stirring into Arthur's soul from the beginning.
Brigid had been removed from our bedroom, of course, by the time Arthur was five years old. But, she arranged to meet him in the stables when he was about six. I know, because I secretly followed him when he sneaked away to meet her. They lay down in the hayloft, and undressed. They caressed each other in most unseemly ways. How do I know? Because I found a hidden spot on the other side of the loft, from which I could watch, unseen. Why did I bother to watch these sinful scenes? I thought perhaps I would someday be able to explain to Arthur how wrong it was for him to submit to such odious practices. Perhaps it would help to save his soul. But, oh, my. The things they did there in that loft.
Arthur started to grow light face-hair when he was thirteen. I was, of course, sixteen that same year, and I was just barely cultivating the fuzz on my own upper lip. Arthur, although younger than me, always seemed to be my age or older physically. Back then, when he was thirteen, after we would go to bed, he would play with himself. He played with himself until he made a mess in his nightclothes. I did talk to him about that.
"Arthur, I see you playing with yourself at night before you go to sleep. I believe that is not a virtuous thing to do."
"Oh, come off it, Cai. I'll bet you do the same thing when I'm not looking."
"I certainly do not!" I huffed.
"How about dreams, eh, Cai? Don't you sometimes dream of girls in the night? And don't you wake up with your bedclothes as spotted as mine when I've been pleasuring myself?"
I had to admit that I had such dreams. And Arthur just laughed, and said, "See. There can't be anything very wrong with that if a good Christian lad like you has experiences when his mind is asleep."
Arthur's reasoning bothered me. So, I went to Father Byrhferth to seek guidance.
"Father. I have seen my brother Arthur play with himself at night."
"Have you been guilty of lustful consideration of your brother, my son?"
"No, Father. It's not that. I'm concerned about whether what he's doing is likely to damn his soul to Hell."
"You are rightfully concerned, Cai. What he is doing is a great venal sin. The Church has a Latin name for the sin -- masturbari -- which derives from words meaning to befoul one's hand. But, my son, it is more than the hand that is befouled. It is the very soul. You must urge your brother to come to me to confess his sin and seek absolution from Our Lord by doing an appropriate penance."
I told Arthur what Father Byrhferth had said.
"Tell you what I'll do," Arthur answered me. "Next time Myrddin comes to Castrec, I'll seek his opinion. If he says I should confess what I'm doing as a sin, I promise you I'll do so."
Well! Consulting an old pagan like Myrddin didn't seem very appropriate to me. But, I was interested in what Myrddin would say about all this.
Myrddin had said he would be returning to Castrec towards the beginning of the month of An Bhealtaine, which the Romans call May. Which meant he would be with us around Arthur's birthday, since Arthur was born on the eve of Beltane.(6)We didn't have long to wait for an answer to the question of the sin of self defilement.
As always, after Myrddin was received as an honored guest by my father Ector and my mother Liv, he regaled the entire hall with epics of our people. He had the most beautiful singing voice I ever heard. And he was unequaled on his instrument. The entertainment followed a lavish dinner of meats, breads, vegetables, honeyed cakes, and plenteous mead and ale. Myrddin brought out his harp and entertained us way into the middle of the night. On these occasions, Arthur and I were allowed double portions of ale, which often meant we were fast asleep before the epics spun by Myrddin were completed. We would fall into a deep slumber, and be carried off to our room by the burly field slaves that were allowed into the villa on festive occasions.
The second day of his visit with us, Myrddin led Arthur out into the woods for instruction in the ways of Wycha. I'm quite sure that Father Byrhferth did not approve of that arrangement. But, apparently Father had agreed to it when Arthur was first brought to us.
When Myrddin had left, I dared ask Arthur what the bard had said in response to the matter of self-defilement.
"Myrddin laughed at the question," Arthur said.
"What do you mean, 'he laughed'?"
"Just that. He said that what I was doing was the most normal thing in the world. There is no defilement at all about it. Myrddin says the Christians have very weird ideas about our sexual selves. Some crazy notion about 'Original Sin.' I'll have to admit, that when Byrhferth gets into the Original Sin story, it leaves me quite cold."
"So there's nothing wrong, according to Myrddin, to self-befoulment?"
"Myrddin says that he believes old Byrhferth is doing the same thing to himself even as you are discussing the matter with him."
Well! I was shocked. Even today, from the viewpoint of myself as a cultured, Christian, British gentleman, I am shocked at such talk. Father Byrhferth was a holy cleric of Mother Church. I'm sure he never engaged in such a practice himself. And behind the confession screen. The thought makes me shudder.
What I couldn't keep myself from doing, and what I could never bring myself to confess to Father Byrhferth, was this. Whenever I spied Arthur and Brigid heading for the hayloft in the stables, I found myself drawn by a force greater than my Christian conscience to sneak off to my hiding place on the other side of the loft, where I could observe them, unseen. There was no orifice of their bodies that did not manage to be met in erotic attachment. Kissing, yes. I didn't approve of the kissing, but could accept it. But, the other actions. Forgive them Father!
Brigid was as comely a lass as I had ever seen, or indeed, as I have beheld since. Her golden hair was, as the British bard sang, "more lovely than asphodel whilst kissed by Lleu.(7)" Her skin was so milk-white that she seemed as translucent as the alabaster vases brought to our shores from Egypt. And in those areas that glow pink against such coloring, no rose could ever match. She was a woman shaped for love. But, my sense of romance is intruding on common decency. I shall not describe Brigid further to you. To do so fills me with most unseemly thoughts, as her presence did in those days.
One lazy, rainy afternoon, when I had taken my viewing position of the lovers, I found my hand climbing towards my groin, unbidden by my higher consciousness. The Devil certainly had control of me. On this particular occasion, as I watched my brother and the Irish slave-girl disport themselves, I was engaged in sinful practice myself. And, as I did so, a most surprising thing happened. The knob of my member burst through the prepuce for the first time, accompanied by an odor reminiscent of the fish that was sometimes brought to the villa from the sea, and had been exposed to the air for an extended period. That, mixed with the smell of the hay in which I was ensconced, caused me to feel a euphoria that I sometimes can't help but feel around the presence of over-ripe fish. May God have mercy on my soul.
Not long thereafter, I found myself engaging in the sin of self-pollution as often as Arthur had done so when I warned him of the danger to his soul. My sin of self-abuse was something that I found myself able to confess to Father Byrhferth. And, knowing I was contrite, he offered absolution after I had performed the various penances he prescribed.
The image of Brigid haunted me in various ways when I was far from the hayloft. It was her milk-white breasts with their iridescent pink aureoles blushing forth that were always present in my dreams when my nocturnal emissions awakened me. And it was of her entire body, but particularly the pubic area, that filled my fantasies when I found my antic hand exercising my own private domain. But of none of this dared I speak to another soul, not Arthur, and certainly not Father Byrhferth.
Although we changed physically -- hair growing on various parts of our bodies, our voices changing, and our procreative equipment now exerting a great command over us -- Arthur and I followed very much the same kinds of activities that had occupied us as children. We still rode, hiked, hunted, fished, swam, wrestled, squabbled, laughed, and raced each other.
However, Arthur no longer engaged in erotic play with only his previous nursemaid. He now paid amorous pursuit of every female he thought he might be able to seduce. Girls just recently flowered, mature women the age of even my mother, pretty, plain, freeborn, slave. They were all grist for his mill, so to speak. And, at night, he would brag to me of his conquests. I was shocked, and would have preferred not to hear of his sinful ways. But, after all, he was my brother, if only in a foster kind of way. And I certainly did not wish to be rude and not listen to what he had to say at the end of the day.
Our bodies had changed, yes. And Arthur's ruttish ways became more extreme. But the idyllic life we lived was still much the same. That is, until we met Palomides one afternoon in the forest.
I believe to this day that our chance meeting with Palomides influenced Arthur's future irrevocably. He became the ruthless, merciless killer who later became the salvation of Britain. Yes, our meeting with Palomides was actually as portentous as that.
Arthur and I had happened upon a wild boar that morning. We had pikes and swords with us, and were young and stupid enough not to mind the danger posed by that fierce beast. Between the two of us, we managed to subdue and slaughter it without allowing it to inflict wounds with those vicious tusks on either our persons or our horses. Together we gutted it, butchered it, and cut out heart, liver, and testicles to roast over a fire we built in a clearing. The rest of the boar's meat we would take back to Castrec for the kitchen slaves to prepare for a feast.
As the redolence of the sizzling organs wafted into the forest air, a tall, dark man rode out of the trees and into the clearing. We were caught unaware, and, had he been bent on mischief, he certainly would have made short work of us.
In a harsh, guttural accent, he addressed us.
"Hail, Stranger," Arthur answered as he rose from his sprawled position by the campfire. He spotted his sword over by his horse, Eidyn.
The shrewd eyed stranger followed Arthur's glance, and sidled his horse between us and our mounts, blocking access to our weapons.
"You need not be concerned about my intentions, young hunters. I approach you in peace. I know not what rules of hospitality you profess. But, the scent of your cooking drew me close to observe."
I was perturbed by the intrusion of the black-eyed man. He didn't look like a civilized Christian to me. Or even a British pagan. More like a heathen, if you know what I mean. But, if Arthur was concerned, he showed it not at all.
"Stranger," he said. "These are the forests of the local brenin,(8) Ector. We are of his house, and welcome you to his lands. Even more, if your intentions are indeed peaceful, we are preparing more food than we can possibly eat ourselves. We would welcome you to join us at our hunters' repast. In return, all that we request is that you leave your mount and weapons by yonder tree where we have left our own."
The stranger did, indeed, ride to the edge of the clearing, and he dismounted near our horses. The manner of his dismounting was exceedingly curious. His left foot was resting on some sort of implement hanging down at the horses side. Never had I, or Arthur either, seen a horse so equipped. With great show the dark man divested himself of sword, shield, bow, and dagger, and returned to the fire extending his empty hands in evidence of disarmament.
The boar organs crackled and sizzled robustly on the greenwood spit, wafting into the sun-drenched air the scent of the boar fat with which we kept basting it. Both Arthur and I had hunting knives that we had retained to assist in the sectioning and devouring of our rustic feast. The stranger was aware of the cutlery, and evinced no concern about it.
Arthur introduced me as the son of Ector, and himself as my brother. The stranger smiled a wide grin, which revealed alarmingly white teeth.
"Young gentlemen," he said. "I thank you for your hospitality. I perceive that you are roasting delectable organs of the boar whose carcass I spy yonder. Many of my race and religion find meat from that family of beasts to be an abomination. Not I, young Britons. Whatever the Lord of the Universe has provided in the way of victuals for his creatures, I accept with thanks.
"My name is ----." He said his name. But it was absolutely incomprehensible to British hearing. It was expressed in a sound harsher to the ear than the sound of the banshee.
"I perceive that my name baffles you. Indeed, it appears to be unintelligible to all your countrymen. My native language is that of the Saracens. And of that people, I am of the tribe of Palomides. Thus, in this British land of yours, I answer to the name of Palomides the Saracen."
I was still quite tongue-tied, but fascinated. I had heard of the Saracens, and knew them to be neither Christians nor Wychans. This particular Saracen appeared to be some ten years or so older than us. But, with a fellow creature of such exotic appearance, it was certainly difficult to discern such subtleties as age.
"Well, Palomides the Saracen," Arthur answered. "The meats appear to be ready to be carved. We have no plates to offer you. We ourselves intended to lay the carved meat on these flat stones. More formal wear does not present itself in this rough spot."
Palomides shot us one of his astounding smiles, picked up a flat rock, and exclaimed, "If the sons of the local Brenin eat their kill on such plates, I would be most honored to join them so."
With that, Arthur removed the delicacies from the spit. And behold, there was ample for the three of us.
When we had finished our feast, and had wiped as much boar fat from our fingers and faces as possible without access to damp cloths, Palomides thanked us and complimented us on our food preparation. By then, I had summoned enough tongue to ask him the question that had lingered in my mind since he had descended from his saddle.
"Palomides," I said. "You are our honored guest, and have been most welcome at our bucolic feast." In that, I was not entirely truthful, for though I was curious about him, I cannot in good conscience say that I found his presence welcome. But, having disposed of fine British banalities, I proceeded.
"I am intrigued by the manner in which you dismounted. I have never seen the like. And I pride myself in knowing as much about horsemanship as any man in Britain." Well, I was putting it on a bit, I'll admit. Yet, as you know, equitation was not foreign to my upbringing. I continued.
"What, pray tell, good Palomides the Saracen, is the purpose of that strap you utilized to dismount?"
His answer was most enlightening. And, when Arthur fully understood the scope of the device, he had a key to liberating our land from encroachments by English, Irish, Picts, and Vikings. The moment that Palomides answered our questions may have been the moment that Britain was saved from the barbarity knocking at our shores.
Palomides asked us if we had ever heard of the Scythians.
"Why yes," I answered, remembering a reference by Tacitus to a people of that name. "They are wild barbarians who dwell well beyond the Danuvius River where the Empire ends at Vindobona.(9)
"Ah," said Palomides. "A British scholar. I vow that since the Romans withdrew from Britannia, there are not above a hundred men, save the Christian priests, who could have answered so readily."
I wondered whether the smile he exhibited when he said that was one of mockery, sarcasm, or comradeship. Was he saying that since the legions had left, there were only barbarians left on our island? I was inclined to take umbrage, but I wanted to hear about the Scythians and was not aching for an argument or a fight.
Palomides flashed a beatific smile at me.
"Have I offended you by my manner of speaking, Dominus Caius?"
No one called us by our Latin names since we were abandoned by Rome. I was no longer Caius, but Cai. Father was no longer Hectorius but Ector. Mother was never addressed as Livia, but Liv. And Arthur never had been Artorius.
"I use your Roman name, knowing that you probably despise it, only to acknowledge that you are well versed in your Tacitus, and no doubt in much of the literature of the Western world. I would not have you take offense."
As I was considering whether to pout or show interest in our guest, Arthur spoke up.
"Yes, yes, Palomides. Brenin Ector has a fine library of books at his disposal. And the priest who resides in the villa has led us through our history and geography. We know that these Scythians of whom you speak are reputed to be unrivaled horsemen, who have no fixed homes. And that Rome has never been able to subdue them."
"Exactly right, Lord Bear." Palomides responded with the pun that followed Arthur all his life. The British word for bear is close enough to the word "Arthur" to cause a good-natured joshing. Arthur always responded to this friendly punning in good spirits.
"Yes, Master Saracen. I am a red pelted bear indeed. But I will not go into hibernation until you regale us with your tale about the Scythians."
And, regale us he did. He told us that the Scythians had managed not only to stay free of Rome, but of Alexander's empire as well. These nomad tribes persistently managed to sneak across the Danuvius and steal the finest horses in the stables of the Roman cavalry.
Rome, desirous of teaching the barbarians a lesson, offered the Saracens a great bounty of gold if they would put the Scythians to rout. The Saracens were known to be even better horsemen than the people of the province of Hispania. The offer was made and accepted, and Palomides' tribe was among those dispatched to beyond the Imperial border.
The Romans and the Greeks were aware that the Scythian horsemen had footstrap(10) ornaments on their mounts. But with Imperial arrogance, never did the "civilized" Graeco-Romans consider adapting the contrivance themselves.
Palomides tribe was successful in capturing three horses from the Scythians, horses that were still accoutered with footstraps. They experimented riding the beasts with the embellishments, and discovered that they could wield their weapons much more expertly when their feet were thus supported. Palomides fell into a dispute with his tribal leader and was exiled from the troop. He never revealed what the source was of the dispute. And neither Arthur nor I ever attempted to pursue the point.
"And so, young hunters, I left Scythia, an exile from my people, with only my horse and the provisions in my saddlebags. But, with the one treasure that allowed me to overcome all obstacles, a set of Scythian footstraps.
"Against all odds, I managed to ride through Roman, Gothic, and Gallic territories without being killed. When I got to Hispania, I liberated some twenty excellent horses from the residents of that province, and, paying for passage to Ireland by presenting a boat captain with two of the horses I had acquired, made my way there. In the Green Island, I found artisans who were able to duplicate the footstraps. I paid for these by leaving one more of my horses with them. Now, with footstraps for my tiny herd I joined a group of Irish marauders, crossed the sea to Britain with them and my remaining horses, and found myself fighting your countrymen. I learned to admire you Britons, and to despise the filthy Irish."
Not long after he arrived in Britain, Palomides deserted his Irish companions. This in itself made me wonder whether he had not, in like manner, deserted his own Saracen people for base motives. I did not trust the man then. And I never did learn to trust him. But then, I don't trust any foreigners unless they are our slaves.
"Bit by bit, with my tiny herd of seventeen horses, I began to develop a contingent of adventurous Britons. At first, three British adventurers joined me. I taught them to ride and fight, using the footstraps to advantage. The first people we attacked were the very Irishmen who had accompanied me to your shores. They were no match for our small group. We beheaded all twenty men. The Irishmen had managed to attack at least one of your villages, because they had silver enough to satisfy me and my nascent group of adventurers."
Well, anyone who had successfully attacked and eliminated Irish marauders could not be totally reprehensible. But, it was clear that the man was nothing more than the leader of a group of ruffians and cutthroats -- an outlaw gang that preyed on invaders to our Island. Not the type of person civilized people would want to associate with.
Arthur clearly did not share my feelings.
"How many people are now in this group of yours," he asked.
"We are now ten, including myself. As I stated, we have seventeen horses, so have room for seven more companions. If either of you fine gentlemen know of any men who are brave enough, patriotic enough, and horsemen enough to join us in ridding Britain of the filthy invaders from the West, we would welcome such bravehearted souls. There is booty to be had in the undertaking. But most of all, there is good, bloody sport for the valiant."
Arthur was valiant enough, God knows. Also, he was foolhardy. The sort of person Palomides was seeking. I felt sure we would see Palomides again, and in the not too distant future.
But of all that I will tell you anon. For now, I am weary of tongue and parched of throat. Would you be so kind as to pass the cakes and ale?
1. The site of Ector's domain was in north-central Wales near the present day city of Llanuwchllyn. The estate became known as Caer Cai during Arthur's reign.
2. Myrddin is also known by his Latinized name Merlinus and by the English Merlin.
3. By English, Cai means the Angles, Saxons, Jutes, and Frisians who had settled on the East coast of Britain soon after the Roman legions left. These English raided the Celtic Britons. After battles and skirmishes with the English, the Britons usually managed to bring some English as slaves back home with them. Irish slaves were usually obtained in the same way.
4. By British, Cai refers to the Celts who controlled the Island before the Romans had arrived. The Romans occupied Britannia for some four hundred years, and during the occupation all freeborn British (Britons) were automatically Roman citizens. Ector, Cai's father, had even served in the Roman cavalry in Britannia until Rome called back its legions in 410 A.D. and Britannia became Britain.
5. Wycha: the religion of the Britons prior to the arrival of the Romans and Christianity. Despite the attempts of Christianity to wipe it out, it survived among the British people.
6. Although Castrec was a Christian household, and the Roman calendar was nominally adopted by the Christians, the Celtic calendar was still followed by the majority of the people in Britain in the years 510 to 515 A.D. that Cai is describing. Arthur's birthday, Beltane Eve, would have been April 30, on the Roman calendar. By Christian reckoning, he was born in the year 500.
7. Lleu: Celtic sun god.
8. Brenin: A title indicating a landholder, a warlord, or acknowledged leader of a Celtic tribe.
9. Cai is referring to the Danube River and to Vienna.
10. Throughout the sixth century, and well into the seventh, there was no word in Latin, British, or English for stirrup. The only term used for the novelty was "footstrap."
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