In The Days of Old, When Knights Were Bold…

The author of this story is unknown. A very different tale with a similar punchline is Feghoot XXXIX by Reginald Bretnor writing under the name of Grendel Briarton.

The realm of King Arthur was sorely beset by the encroachments of the Saxons. Sadly, there were few Knights left to fight them. King Arthur, despairing the probable downfall of Camelot, turned once again to Merlin, his friend and wisest advisor.

“Merlin, I fear that this time even your great resources will not avail us at this critical time.” (Kings speak in that phony kind of prose so you’ll have to excuse him) “We shall never be able to turn back the Saxons without many more Knights. The Round Table is sorely depleted, and I have little hope.”

“Fear not, my King” said Merlin. “I have a plan. Bring me parchment and ink and all your scribes. Then bring me the youth of the nearby peasants, the stable boys, and the young servants of the castle. I shall give you your Knights!”

“Merlin, oh Merlin, I fear you’ve lost your wisdom. It takes years to become a Knight. One must grow in experience, be tested in battle and character… It cannot be done” said Arthur.

“Trust me, my King” said Merlin. “I have devised a method of creating Knights on the instant.”

Soon, as bidden, the male youth of the nearby peasantry were summoned to Camelot, along with the stable boys and the younger servants. Merlin had them arrayed in a single line that stretched almost as far as the eye could see. One by one, each young man stepped up to a table beneath a pavilion where Merlin sat. The humble youth entered, full of fear and not knowing what to expect. As they passed Merlin, he handed each one a piece of parchment with the seal of Camelot printed upon it by the scribes. Each parchment and the image upon it was exactly like the others. Miraculously, as each young man took the parchment and placed it on his forehead, a change took place in him.

They all stood taller, stronger — their eyes flashed with confidence and power. As they exited the pavilion, each one was truly a powerful Knight! They were handed their swords and given great horses to ride and galloped off to do battle. Nearly a thousand of the humble became Knights that single day. History tells us that they were successful and helped preserve Camelot for yet another generation.

Merlin, of course, is known to this day, as the inventor of the Printed Sir Kit.

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