“All right, now we will tell you our tale. Including the bouncing around in time that we did before we found a year in which Arthur still lived, and all was at peace.
“We first arrived in the year 459 AD, and ran into a battle. Some knights fighting others, in the belief that the very young Arthur should be named King. We rounded a corner, riding right into it, and perforce joined in. We won, and after it was over, had to think of an excuse not to join them. We said we were on an errand for our king.
“Once we left them we found a secluded place, and I set our date ahead to 535. On arrival, we road to a village at the base of Glastonbury Tor, where stopped at an inn. There we met a group of monks, who were on pilgrimage to Arthur’s tomb on the Tor. We were not too happy at missing the time again, but were allowed to join them. We all fasted before the climb, and saw the tomb, just as it has been described. We left after we had eaten, and again found a secluded spot at the edge of a forest. Once more, we reset our time machines, and went back to 490 AD. At last we hit it right, Arthur was alive, and at peace. We were fortunate in running into a couple of the knights, Sir Dinadin and Sir Tristan. They invited us to join them that evening at a feast in Camelot’s Great Hall. There we met Arthur, presented as Sir Lucas and Sir Gwilim, from Little Britain, and heard many tales of knightly adventures.
“Arthur was a big man, dark haired and eyed, with the broad shoulders and muscular body of a fighter. He moved with the grace of a dancer, and sword fighter, and was all that legend describes. He was a gracious host, and was enjoying and joining in with the laughter and banter around he table.
“Two stories stand out. The first was Sir Sagramore’s, who was called the Desirous, the Unruly, the Rash, the Impetuous, and from his tale, the description was correct. He was the son of the King of Hungary and daughter of an Eastern Emperor. After his father died and his mother married a British king, he followed her to Britain.
“He had barely landed when he was attacked by a group of Saxons, and might well have ended his career then. As luck would have it, Gaharis, Agravain and Gawain came to his rescue, and they killed the group and left them for the ravens. He was then housed for the night with the brothers, and the next day went with them to meet Arthur. He distinguished himself in several battles, was knighted, along with Gaheris and his brothers, and named a member of the Round Table.
“The part of his tale that he seemed to enjoy telling the most, was about his adventures rescuing maidens and, afterwards, seducing them. He mentioned only two by name, Queen Sebile of Sarmenie whom he defended against Baruc the Black. After which, they became lovers.
“The other named maiden was the Lady Senehaut, who became more than a lover, as she was the mother of his daughter. The daughter was being raised by Queen Guinevere. ‘Another well rewarded adventure,’ he said, ‘was the liberation of the Castle of Maidens from a siege by Tallides of the Marsh.’ He smiled at the memory, and refused to detail the rewards, though many knights called for him to do so.
“There was a great uproar when Sagramore’s tale ended, with many ribald comments and much laughter. When this died down, Arthur called on Sir Gawain to tell of his encounter with the Green Knight.
“Sir Gawain was hesitant, and stood blushing. ‘I am not proud of how I comported myself in that encounter,’ he said, ‘but as my King commands, so I will tell.’ He then recounted how, at a New Year celebration, a gigantic figure all green, entered the hall. He rode a green horse, and wore no armour, but in one hand he bore an axe, and in the other, a holly bough.
“’I have come to challenge any knight here to play a Christmas game with me,’ he said. ‘Let him who dares take this axe and strike me, once. One year and day hence, let the knight come to me, and allow me to strike him once. Whoever wins, keeps the axe.’
“’At first, Arthur wanted to take the challenge, but I begged leave to do it.’ Gawain said. ‘It was granted; the knight swept his hood off his head, and bowed his neck to me. With one swift stroke, I severed his head, and it rolled to the floor. But he did not fall. Instead, he picked his head up, and the mouth reminded me of the bargain. ‘Meet me at the green chapel,’ he said, then mounted his steed and rode out.
“’When the time neared, I set out to find the Green Chapel. I had many adventures and battles along the way, but eventually I came, starving and worn, to the castle of Bertilak de Hautdesert. He and his beautiful wife welcomed me, and treated me royally. There was an old crone there, too, who was treated with great honour, but never introduced.
“’Three days before I was to appear at the Green Chapel, I told Bertilak of my quest and asked if he knew of it. He told me it was less than two miles away, and offered a bargain. Whatever he brought in from hunting for the next three days, he would give to me. I was to give him in return whatever I gained during each day. I agreed.
“’The first day, I was in the room assigned to me, when Lady Bertilak entered. She tried to seduce me, but all I would allow was one kiss. This kiss I exchanged that evening with Bertilak, in return for a deer. The same thing happened the second day, with two kisses exchanged for a boar. The third day, the lady was more insistent, and to keep the peace, and because she said it would keep me from injury, I accepted a girdle of green and gold silk, and three kisses. I exchanged the kisses with Bertilak for a fox, but didn’t mention the girdle.
“He goes on to recount how he went to the chapel, met the green knight, and after flinching at the first threatened blow, steadfastly knelt for the final one. The green knight swung again, without touching him, but when Gawain angrily demanded that he finish what he started, he swung a third time. But the blow was soft, only breaking the skin. He then the green knight reveals that he is Bertilak, transformed by magic, and it was a trick proposed by the elderly lady Gawain had seen. In reality, she was Moran le Fay, Arthur’s sister and a sorceress. She hated Arthur, and thought to test Arthur’s knights, and terrify Guinevere. Gawain and Bertilak parted on friendly terms, and Gawain returned to the Round Table to tell his tale. He wore the green girdle in shame at his failure to follow the rules of the game. The knights, after hearing the tale, absolve him of blame, and all decide to wear green sashes to honour his adventure.
“And that, gentlemen, is the tale of our Arthurian adventure.” P.C. smiled. “The day after the feast, we rode out and deep into the forest, set out time machines for my laboratory for yesterday’s date, and returned home.” They sat in silence for a moment, then the discussion started, and went on long into the night.