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The Birth of Arthur


Here begins the tale of the Birth of Arthur. It is an ancient tale, and I pray my telling of it be pleasing to all.

Long ago, the Island of Britain fell upon dark times, for Saxon invaders came from the Mainland to make war on the many kings of the Island. The kings could not unite against the invaders, for they warred constantly among themselves.

The people of Britain called out to be delivered from these dark times, and their prayers were heard in Annwn. "What shall be done?" said the Lord. "Without the blessing of sacred kingship, no man can unite all the people of Britain."

"We must send them a sacred King," said the Lady. "And to prepare and guide him, We Ourselves must incarnate in the world of men."

So it was that the Lord incarnated as Merlin, the wisest man in all Britain, and as this man he waited for the coming of Arthur. But the Lady chose to incarnate as many different women, including the daughter of Arthur's mother, Igraine, as I will relate a little later.

One night there came a portent. There appeared a great comet in the shape of a dragon. From its mouth issued a fiery ray of light. Uther, one of the more powerful kings, wondered what this could mean. So he called together all the wisest men of the land, but none could explain the sign until at last Merlin appeared.

"The star dragon signifies yourself," said Merlin. "The beam denotes your son, who shall be the greatest king this Island has ever known."

Thus it was that the Dragon became the emblem of High Kingship. Under the banner of the Pendragon, Uther united the kingdoms against the Saxons, who were driven for a time to the Mainland.

It was at a victory celebration that Pendragon Uther first looked upon Igraine, wife of his vassal Gorlois. From that moment, Uther could think of no other woman. Duke Gorlois precieved Uther's lust, and he withdrew himself and his wife to his castle at Tintagel.

Uther's suffering was such that his men did not know what to do, so they sent for the wisest man in the land, Merlin of the Isles. Now Merlin knew of Uther's longing for Lady Igraine, and through the use of his magic he knew that if Uther and Igraine were to have a son, he would one day be the greatest king in all the world.

So Merlin agreed to help Uther. At his direction, the Pendragon withdrew his men from the walls of Tintagel. When Duke Gorlois saw that the siege had ended, he and his troops left the castle and pursued the Pendragon's warband.

But Uthur was not with his army. Instead, he and Merlin hid near the castle, and when the Duke had ridden forth with his host, Merlin used his magic to give Uther the semblance of Gorlois, so that when Uther rode up to the gates of Tintagel, the men let him in, thinking he was their Duke. So skillful was the spell, that Uther was able to spend the night with Igraine without her knowing the deception. That night, the future Pendragon Arthur was conceived. That night also, Duke Gorlois was slain fighting the Pendragon's men.

Uther married Igraine, and within half a year she was heavy with child. There were those at court who believed Igraine had married again too soon, and many questioned the parentage of the child she carried. So Uthur asked the Queen, "Who is the father of the child you carry?"

And the Queen was very afraid to answer, but since Uther would not relent, she finally said to him, "My lord, I do not know the father of my child. On the night that my husband Gorlois died, at the very hour of his death, there came into the castle a man who seemed to be my lord, and that night was this child begotten." And she fell to tears, but Uther comforted her.

"Fear not, my wife," he said, "for I am the man who came to you that night, and therefore I am the child's father." And so the Queen was no longer afraid, and in due time Igraine bore the child at Midwinter, on the longest night of the year. He was a strong, healthy boy, and Uther rejoiced greatly.

When the infant was but a few weeks old, Merlin came to remind the High King of the great magic he had wrought so that Uther could lie with Igraine. "I now come to claim my fee for this," said Merlin. He then told the Pendragon that the child must be taken away to be safely fostered.

Uther was reluctant, but he knew that there were those who questioned the parentage of the boy. So to protect the child until he was old enough to prove his worth, the Pendragon agreed to let Merlin take him.

And so it was that Merlin took the boy, wrapped in Uther's purple cloak, to a postern gate, and from there vanished from the land. Queen Igraine wept bitterly, but the High King would not tell her where her child had gone. And the boy, who was named Arthur, remained in hiding as he grew to manhood.

Now Queen Igraine was very worried about her children. She had three daughters by her late husband, Duke Gorlois, and she feared for their fate.

Uther saw his wife's concern, and so he saw to the futures of the girls. For the two older daughters, Uther arranged for marriages with two of his most powerful allies. But the youngest daughter, Morgana, he sent to a Sisterhood, where she learned very quickly the arts of magic -- so quickly that the Sisters gave her the title le Fay, which means the Faerie. For you see, Morgana was one of the incarnations chosen by the Lady, though Morgana did not know this yet.

Meanwhile, the Lord Merlin had taken Uther and Igraine's son, Arthur, to Avalon, to be watched by the Lady Herself. Arthur learned many things well, such as reading, horse riding, and composing with a harp. But he was unable to learn magic well.

So when he was thirteen years old, he was taken by Merlin to be fostered by a knight named Sir Ector of the Forest Savauge. There Arthur met his foster-brother, Kay, who was a few years older. The two became inseparable friends and true companions.

All this time, Arthur did not know he was the son of King Uther.

Here ends the tale of the Birth of Arthur. May his Blessed Spirit be pleased with my telling of it, and may my ancestors smile upon me, now and ever.


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