King Arthur was at Caerlleon upon Usk; and one day he sat in his
chamber; and with him were Owain the son of Urien, and Kynon the son
of Clydno, and Kai the son of Kyner; and Gwenhwyvar and her
handmaidens at needlework by the window. And if it should be said
that there was a porter at Arthur's palace, there was none. Glewlwyd
Gavaelvawr was there, acting as porter, to welcome guests and
strangers, and to receive them with honour, and to inform them of the
manners and customs of the Court; and to direct those who came to the
Hall or to the presence-chamber, and those who came to take up their lodging.
In the centre of the chamber King Arthur sat upon a seat of green
rushes, over which was spread a covering of flame-coloured satin, and
a cushion of red satin was under his elbow.
Then Arthur spoke, "If I thought you would not disparage me," said
he, "I would sleep while I wait for my repast; and you can entertain
one another with relating tales, and can obtain a flagon of mead and
some meat from Kai." And the King went to sleep. And Kynon the son
of Clydno asked Kai for that which Arthur had promised them. "I,
too, will have the good tale which he promised to me," said Kai.
"Nay," answered Kynon, "fairer will it be for thee to fulfill
Arthur's behest, in the first place, and then we will tell thee the
best tale that we know." So Kai went to the kitchen and to the mead-
cellar, and returned bearing a flagon of mead and a golden goblet,
and a handful of skewers, upon which were broiled collops of meat.
Then they ate the collops and began to drink the mead. "Now," said
Kai, "it is time for you to give me my story." "Kynon," said Owain,
"do thou pay to Kai the tale that is his due." "Truly," said Kynon,
"thou are older, and art a better teller of tales, and hast seen more
marvellous things than I; do thou therefore pay Kai his tale."
"Begin thyself," quoth Owain, "with the best that thou knowest." "I
will do so," answered Kynon.
"I was the only son of my mother and father, and I was exceedingly
aspiring, and my daring was very great. I thought there was no
enterprise in the world too mighty for me, and after I had achieved
all the adventures that were in my own country, I equipped myself,
and set forth to journey through deserts and distant regions. And at
length it chanced that I came to the fairest valley in the world,
wherein were trees of equal growth; and a river ran through the
valley, and a path was by the side of the river. And I followed the
path until mid-day, and continued my journey along the remainder of
the valley until the evening; and at the extremity of a plain I came
to a large and lustrous Castle, at the foot of which was a torrent.
And I approached the Castle, and there I beheld two youths with
yellow curling hair, each with a frontlet of gold upon his head, and
clad in a garment of yellow satin, and they had gold clasps upon
their insteps. In the hand of each of them was an ivory bow, strung
with the sinews of the stag; and their arrows had shafts of the bone
of the whale, and were winged with peacock's feathers; the shafts
also had golden heads. And they had daggers with blades of gold, and
with hilts of the bone of the whale. And they were shooting their daggers.
"And a little way from them I saw a man in the prime of life, with
his beard newly shorn, clad in a robe and a mantle of yellow satin;
and round the top of his mantle was a band of gold lace. On his feet
were shoes of variegated leather, fastened by two bosses of gold.
When I saw him, I went towards him and saluted him, and such was his
courtesy that he no sooner received my greeting than he returned it.
And he went with me towards the Castle. Now there were no dwellers
in the Castle except those who were in one hall. And there I saw
four-and-twenty damsels, embroidering satin at a window. And this I
tell thee, Kai, that the least fair of them was fairer than the
fairest maid thou hast ever beheld in the Island of Britain, and the
least lovely of them was more lovely than Gwenhwyvar, the wife of
Arthur, when she has appeared loveliest at the Offering, on the day
of the Nativity, or at the feast of Easter. They rose up at my
coming, and six of them took my horse, and divested me of my armour;
and six others took my arms, and washed them in a vessel until they
were perfectly bright. And the third six spread cloths upon the
tables and prepared meat. And the fourth six took off my soiled
garments, and placed others upon me; namely, an under-vest and a
doublet of fine linen, and a robe, and a surcoat, and a mantle of