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          In the days before King Arthur of the great legends was born, Maximus the Great was the Emperor of Rome.  Maximus was strong, and wise, and well-loved by his people.
          No other country dared to attack Rome, because Maximus had a mighty sword which could defeat them.  He called the sword Caliburn, because it was made from metal that had fallen from the stars.
          Rome was a large country, as grand and shining as the sea.  It was the greatest country on all the earth.  People from all around the world came to see its wonders.
          Maximus was proud of Rome.  It was his home, and he loved it very much.
          One day, Maximus went hunting with some friends.  But the noon sun was hot, and he grew very tired.  So he laid down beneath a tree near the river that flowed through Rome.  And he had a very special dream.
          Maximus dreamed that he was riding a boat along the river.  After a long time, he came to the highest mountain in the world.  But the river kept on going, past the mountain, and across miles and miles of green fields.  So Maximus stayed in his boat, and let the river take him farther than any man had ever gone before.
          At last he came to a magical city.    He saw huge castles on the shore, but the city was empty; no people lived there.
          Nearby, a ship made of pure gold and silver lay waiting to take him further on his journey.  When he climbed into the ship, he found that no one else was on board.  He was all alone on the ship.  But before he could leave again, the magical ship took off with him, and sailed across the entire ocean!
          After many days and nights, he came to the fairest island in all the world.   He left the ship, and walked all over the island, trying to find the people who lived there.
          At last, on the western shore, he found a beautiful castle.  It was made of gold and silver and ivory, and it glowed like fine jewels in the sunset.
          The gate was open, so Maximus walked inside.  He found himself in a great hall with golden pillars.  The walls were made of gold and silver and precious stones.  Two boys were playing chess on a silver chessboard.  Nearby, an old man was sitting in an ivory chair, carving fine crystal chessmen for the boys.
          But Maximus hardly noticed the wonders around him.  A beautiful girl was sitting on the throne in that great hall.  And she was even more beautiful than all the gold and silver, and all the precious jewels in the world.  Maximus fell in love with her right away, and begged her to marry him.
          He put his arms around her...but suddenly the glowing castle vanished, and Maximus woke up from his dream.  He was back in Rome again, laying beneath the tree along the river.
          Maximus was sure that the girl and her castle were real, so he told his friends about the dream.  He even sent men all across the world, to find the island where the girl lived.
          After a long time, one of his men did find the wonderful island, and the golden castle, and the beautiful girl sitting on her throne.  He told Maximus that the big island was called Britain (which we now call England), and that the girl's castle was on the Isle of the Druids, which was just beyond Britain.
          Maximus left Rome right away, and went to the Isle of the Druids in Britain.    The trip took many days and nights, across the ocean and through strange lands that were very different from Rome.
          When Maximus finally reached the castle, it looked just like he had dreamed.   He went inside, and found the beautiful girl, and her brothers, and her father carving chessmen out of fine crystal.
          The girl's name was Elen, and she agreed to marry him.  She loved Maximus very much, and in time she gave him two strong sons and a beautiful daughter.   Maximus was so happy that he built big castles for each of his children, and they became very holy places.
          Maximus stayed in Britain, and used his mighty sword to keep Britain safe, and he forgot all about Rome.  He even changed his name to Macsen, which is the British word for Maximus.
          But Rome had not forgotten about him.  The Roman people were angry that he had left them.  So they put a new Emperor on his throne, and went to war against him.
          Macsen asked Elen's brothers to fight with him, and they raised a big army.  Then they all went to Rome, hoping to defeat the new Emperor and win back Macsen's throne.
         
But the new Emperor was stronger than Macsen and his British army, and he killed Macsen.  He wanted to keep Caliburn, Macsen's mighty star-sword, for himself.
          Elen's brothers could not save Macsen, but they managed to save his precious sword.  They brought it back to Britain with them, and hid it in the castle that Macsen had built for his older son.  They knew that someday, a ruler would be born who could use Caliburn...or Excaliber, as it was eventually re-named...to defend Britain against all their enemies.




Legend adaptation by:  Jo Grant