Chapter 1 The Knight with Two Swords
On a day some twenty years after these events, King Arthur held court. Now, most people know that King Arthur became king by drawing an enchanted sword from a stone. Many also know that he established a band of noble heroes called the Knights of the Round Table. Some even know that he ruled wisely and well and brought peace to all England. But not many realize how long all this took. On this particular day, the king had already drawn the sword from the stone, but he had no Round Table and only a few knights, and he ruled only a small part of England. Many powerful nobles were waging war with him, resisting his reign, which kept King Arthur quite busy. Nevertheless, he was already trying to rule wisely and well, which was why he was holding court. He was hearing the appeals of the people and administering justice.
"Next case!" called Sir Kay, the king’s foster brother, who stood beside the throne, sorting out the crowd and keeping order. Two guards led forward a grimy knight in dusty armor. Sir Kay looked at his list. "Here, O king, we have a knight who is accused of killing a fellow knight, a certain—" Sir Kay paused, squinting at the records in front of him. "Oh, dear."
"What is it, Kay?" asked the king.
"He’s accused of killing our cousin, Sir Bullevere. Uncle Clovis’s son."
King Arthur said, "This is a serious charge, O knight." He looked disapprovingly at the knight’s dusty armor. "Though you don’t seem to take it seriously. Is this how you choose to appear before your king?"
The knight replied softly, "I did not choose this dirt, sire. I have spent the last three months in your dungeons, waiting for trial. Your dungeons could use a wash."
The king’s expression softened. "I see. I’m afraid it has
been a while since I last held court, hasn’t it? You see, I’ve been busy lately, fighting the rebel King Royns of Wales. Well, never mind the dust, then. What is your name?"
"I am Sir Balin of Northumberland, Your Highness," said the knight.
"Sir Balin, you are accused of killing the knight Sir Bullevere."
"Yes, I did that."
King Arthur blinked. "You admit it?" Sir Balin nodded. "Why did you do it?"
"He attacked me."
"No, sire. I think he attacked me because I called him a nasty, cowardly brute."
King Arthur frowned again. "To provoke another to attack is the same as attacking yourself," he said.
Beside the king, Sir Kay cleared his throat. "Um, Arthur?"
"I’d just like to point out that, in fact, Bullevere was
a nasty, cowardly brute. I mean, remember that Christmas we spent at Uncle Clovis’s? Bull was a stinker, all right."
"But you can’t just go around calling people names," the king said.
"Even if they’re true?" asked Sir Kay. "Why not?"
"Because it starts fights, and people get killed," King Arthur explained patiently. "Sir Balin, step forward to receive your sentence."
But before Sir Balin could move, a murmur arose from the onlookers. The crowd parted to make way for a tall woman, who strode forward wearing a long sword.
"Where is King Arthur?" demanded the woman austerely.
No one spoke. Since King Arthur was wearing a crown and sitting on a throne in the middle of the hall, this seemed rather obvious, and people hate answering silly questions. But the woman apparently expected an answer, so at last the king waved his hand and said, "Um, right here."
"At last! Long have I sought you!"
There was anot
Hear ye, hear ye! Sir Balin tries to avoid the fate laid upon him as an infant in the fourth installment of the Knights’ Tales. Duels to the death, jousts, and villains round out this hilarious illustrated chapter book.