The neighboring kingdom of Camelaird was laid waste, and King Leodogran
was hard pressed by Roman legions. Only a year before, Ryance, the mighty
king of North Wales, had made war on Leodogran and nearly destroyed his
realm; now came a barbarian host, and the disheartened king knew not where
to turn for help. Arthur had not yet distinguished himself by great deeds
of arms, for he had been but lately crowned; but the fame of his beauty
and wisdom had gone throughout the land.
He heard of King Leodogran's peril, and offered his aid, which was very
King Leodogran had a daughter, his only child, famous for her marvelous
beauty. Her eyes were as blue as the summer skies; her hair so gold-bright
as to have stolen rays from the sun.
Already kings and princes had sought to win her, but none had found
favor in her sight.
When Guinevere heard that the young king Arthur was
approaching Camelaird, she put on her finest robes and most costly jewels,
and eagerly waited his coming.
But Arthur came not heralded by trumpeters, as she had
expected, so while she was waiting and looking, King Arthur went by with
his men, dressed only as a common knight.
Even though she did not distinguish him from the many
knights, Arthur felt the glance of her eyes, and vowed to win King
Leodogran's fair daughter for his queen.
Guinevere, disappointed, went back to her chamber, while Arthur went on
to the war.
The tents were pitched that night, and on the following
morning the terrible struggle began. All day long the land resounded with
the noise of battle; the shouts of the barbarians mingled with the cheers
of the Britons, and the field was wet with the blood of both.
Neither side would give way, and Arthur's men were far
outnumbered by the Pagan tribe; many, brave knights fell that sorrowful
day while defending their king.
All day long Guinevere watched King Arthur from her
tower, and prayed that he might not be slain.
When night came, Merlin cast a spell upon the
barbarians, so they could not see how small the band was that they were
fighting; then Arthur's men were filled with new courage, and dashed into
the enemy's ranks, cutting down the men like reeds.
So Arthur and his brave knights won the battle and
brought peace to the land of Camelaird. King Leodogran sent for Arthur,
and made a great banquet for him, but Arthur was on his way to Camelot,
haunted by visions of the beautiful daughter of the king.
Then Leodogran sent messages to Arthur, and slaves
bearing rich gifts. All these Arthur sent back, saying if he had pleased
the king all he desired was the hand of Guinevere.
But King Leodogran was very loth to give up his fair
daughter, especially to one about whose royal birth so many doubted. For
some said he was an impostor; while others declared he was more than
mortal—a child of the sea, cast by the waves at Merlin's feet; while
others said he was the true heir to the throne—the lawful son of Uther and
King Arthur's realm was also in great danger, for many
nobles were intriguing for the throne and disputing his royal right to the
While thinking of these things, three messengers were sent from
Arthur—Sir Ulfius, Sir Brastius, and Sir Belvidere, most faithful knights,
who assured Leodogran that their lord King Arthur was indeed King Uther's
son, and that he was fast subduing the rebellious and would erelong unite
Leodogran hesitated no longer, but sent a favorable
answer to Arthur, and his peerless knight, Launcelot, was sent to bring
Guinevere to court.
Great and costly were the preparations for her coming;
all the knights of the realm were stationed at the postern gate to escort
her to the castle.
The marriage ceremony was celebrated with great pomp,
and all the people thought their new queen the fairest that lived.
King Leodogran sent as a present to Arthur a Round
Table which Uther Pendragon had given him. Around this table Arthur seated
his favorite knights and made a great banquet; but the seats were not all
filled, for at the table was room for one hundred and fifty knights.
So Arthur called Merlin to him and said: "Go and find
me fifty noble knights, and I will institute the order of The Knights
of the Round Table."
But Merlin found only twenty-eight whom he thought
worthy to bear fellowship with the other knights of Arthur's court.
Then the Archbishop of Canterbury blessed all the
knights in their places, and when they rose to do honor to the king, the
name of each knight appeared in letters of gold on the back of his seat.
There were several seats unoccupied, and on the back of one was written
"This is the Seat Perilous."
" What means this ? " asked King Arthur.
"My noble lord," answered Merlin, "there shall only two
men sit in that seat, and one of them shall have great worship."
"I marvel much at your meaning," said Arthur. "The year will
show you all," replied Merlin. "There is destined to come a son of
Launcelot—Galahad, the spotless knight—who will achieve many marvelous
things, among them the Sangreal. He shall sit in this seat. But many, many
adventures will come before that time."
After the banquet was over, the Knights of the Round
Table were bound by oaths to assist one another, even at the peril of
their own lives; to attempt the most hazardous adventures; when necessary,
to lead a life of solitude; to take up arms at the first call, and never
leave a battle-field until they had defeated the enemy, unless night
should intervene; and, according to the law of chivalry, they were to
redress wrongs, and help the widows and orphans.