Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur, Book XX Chapter 2

When Agravaine and Mordred tell Arthur that Launcelot has been sleeping with Guenever for decades, the old king sits down heavily.

“Do you have any evidence?” he asks.

“Evidence?”  Agravaine is puzzled.  “What, suddenly the burden of proof is on the accuser?  What about the trial system presented in the previous book?”

“Sir Launcelot, as you may have never noticed because you’re plainly an idiot,” says Arthur, “is the best knight.  Let’s imagine the best-case scenario.  You walk up to Launcelot and say, ‘Oi!  Launcelot!  Oi’m haccusin’ yew of hadulteries, Oi ham.’”

“Is that supposed to be an Orkney accent?”

“And then Launcelot, what, he goes quietly?  No.  He slices your fool head off, is what he does, and then he claims that no one has any proof and he can defeat whatever judicial champion anyone cares to offer.  No dice.”

“So what,” demands Mordred, “Launcelot can just get away with whatever?  Guenever can just get away with whatever?  Arthur’s court has no rule of law?”

Arthur stares into space for a good long while.

“Uncle Sire?”

“You’d have to catch him in the act,” he says, finally.  “Several of you, because he could defeat any one knight easily.”

“I’ve been thinking about this, Uncle Sire, and I have a plan!”  Agravaine claps his hands together.  “Here’s what we do is, you go away from Camelot on an overnight trip, hunting.  And then me, and Mordred here, and another twelve knights will lie in wait outside Guenever’s room, and we’ll burst in on them right when they’re, you know, doing it!”

“That sounds like a terrible idea, but what other choice do I have?”

Agravaine and Mordred reassure Arthur that it will all be okay.  “Don’t worry!” “We can handle this!” “Let us deal!

Cut to the night in question.  Agravaine and Mordred have recruited a bunch of cannon fodder knights: Sir Colgrevance who is already dead; plus Sir Mador who has a grudge against Launcelot anyway, Sir Meliot, Sir Petipase, Sir Galleron, Sir Melion, Sir Astamore, Sir Grummore, Sir Curselaine, and Gawaine’s sons Sir Gingalin, Sir Florence, and Sir Lovel.  Fourteen knights, all of whom were either Gawaine’s relatives, members of the Orkney faction, self-proclaimed rivals or enemies of Launcelot, or all of the above.

Over in the Benwick faction’s chambers, Launcelot and Bors are just hanging out. “Well, it’s getting late,” says Launcelot. “Guess I’ll go sleep with Guenever now.”

Bors blinks.  “Hmm,” he says.

“What ‘hmm’?”

“Launcelot, you know how I found the Holy Grail?”

“Yes.”

“And how I have the occasional preternatural flash of insight?”

“Yes.”

“Launcelot, take it from me: don’t visit the queen tonight.”

Launcelot scoffs, because what, is he supposed to be afraid to visit Guenever?  That’d be silly!  He’ll be fine, he’s sure.

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Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur, Book XX Chapter 1

Another year, another May, another season of romance and whimsy!  Book XX opens with the stark contrast between all the happy lovers in Camelot (chief among them Guenever and Launcelot) and the two villains of our piece, Sir Agravaine and Sir Mordred.  These two, Gawaine’s brothers, spend all their free time sulking, overcome with a privy hate to the queen Dame Guenever and to Sir Launcelot.  And, of course, it’s not as if Guenever and Launcelot are being particularly quiet about their romance.  They’ve been together, off and on, for something like forty, fifty, maybe sixty years, and you’re bound to get sloppy.

One day Gawaine and all his brothers, the Orkney faction, meet up for one of their informal complain-about-Launcelot get-togethers, and Sir Agravaine leads off.  “I marvel that we all be not ashamed both to see and to know how Sir Launcelot lieth daily and nightly by the queen, and we all know it so, and it is shamefully suffered of us all, that we all should suffer so noble a king as King Arthur is so to be shamed.  Why don’t we just tell Arthur and get Launcelot executed and be done with it?”

Sir Gawaine, the elder statesman of the faction (he’s been around since Book III) raps on the table in front of him.  “Everybody listen to me!  That’s a bad idea!”

Gaheris and Gareth, the good brothers Malory doesn’t hold in special contempt, exchanges glances.  “Yeah,” one of them says, and the other nods.

“I think it’s the best idea anyone’s ever had!” cries Mordred.

“You would,” Gawaine says, narrowing his eyes at Mordred.  “Bad idea, I said.”

“All right then,” says Agravaine.  “It sounds to me like there’s a consensus in favor of telling Arthur.”

Gawaine protests!  For thing, he doesn’t like the Orkney faction’s odds against the Benwick faction, if it came to that.  “You just know Bors and all Launcelot’s relations would line up on his side.  Also, Launcelot’s rescued everybody here at least once, and Arthur, and Guenever too I don’t even know how many times.  He saved me from Carados and killed him back between Book V and Book VI, even though Carados was on the list of Knights of the Round Table in Book XIX.  He saved you, Agravaine, and you, Mordred, from Sir Tarquin, back in Book VI.  The man deserves the benefit of the doubt.”

“Maybe, but he’s had literally decades of it,” retorts Agravaine.  “I’m sick of letting him keep on and on and on with his infidelity!”

At this point in the meeting King Arthur sticks his head in.  “Hey, nephews!  I was just passing by the chamber and happened to hear raised voices.  What’s the concern?”

“Shut it,” warns Gawaine, but Agravaine and Mordred ignore him.

“There’s something we need to tell you, Uncle Sire,” says Agravaine.

“Yes indeed, Uncle-Father,” says Mordred.

Gareth and Gaheris exchange glances again, and, shaking their heads, they rise to their feet and leave the room.  Gawaine follows after them, scowling.

“What’s all this about?” Arthur asks Agravaine and Mordred.

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Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur, Book XIX Conclusions

It’s not clear to me why Book XIX was separated out from Book XVIII.  Both concern Launcelot and Guenever and their infidelity-related misadventures, plus neither of them are crazy long.  Even combined they’re shorter than Book X.

We do get another look at the crazy-go-nuts criminal justice system of King Arthur’s court.  Meliagrance ambushes Guenever and ten knights.  His knights attack, and nine of the ten knights are wounded.  He takes Guenever, the wounded knights, and all their hangers-on prisoner.  He tries to murder the little boy that Guenver dispatches as a messenger.  Then, because he apologizes and surrenders to Guenever when Launcelot appears, he gets off scot-free.  He doesn’t even lose his castle!  He remains a knight of the Round Table, able to wander freely through Camelot!

Conversely, when he accuses Guenever of infidelity, his evidence consists of a) she looks kind of tired, and b) there’s blood on her sheets.  He doesn’t identify who she supposedly slept with, he has no witnesses, and frankly blood on a lady’s bedsheets could come from many, many different sources.  Granted, Guenever’s affair with Launcelot is something of an open secret, but nobody present who is aware of it is willing to come forward and say so.  And yet on Meliagrance’s say-so, Guenever’s scheduled for execution.  Meliagrance, of all knights, the same guy who got off with a slap on the wrist in the previous paragraph!

Arthur puts the execution on temporary hold, when Launcelot fails to show, but he’s clearly very reluctant to do so, and Meliagrance cries foul.  Is the standard of justice here that ladies are considered flammable unless demonstrated otherwise?  And I’m setting aside all the nonsensical aspects of trial by judicial champion, which we went over in the last book.

The story of why Launcelot was late to the joust is also pretty specious.  He agrees to go to Meliagrance’s castle, for no reason.  He goes on a tour of the castle, which is the very first castle tour by anybody anywhere, in all of Malory.  He survives a sixty-foot drop unharmed (Malory says he falls onto hay, but still).  A mysterious woman who totally has the hots for him brings him food and water and eventually escorts him out of the well.  I don’t get it, I really don’t.

But man, that’s quite a list of knight names at the end there, am I right?

Knights of the Round Table who have died: a list I surely won’t have to update as we go on from here!

Sir Balin, slain by Sir Balan in Book II.*

Sir Balan, slain by Sir Balin in Book II.*

Sir Accolon, slain by King Arthur as a result of Morgan’s plan failing in Book IV.*

King Pellinore, slain offscreen by Sir Gawaine sometime after the start of Book IV.

Sir Chestaline, Sir Gawaine’s youthful ward, slain by Roman soldiers during Book V.*

Sir Marhaus, slain by Sir Tristram early in Book VIII.

Sir Lamorak, slain offscreen by Sir Gawaine and his brothers around the time of Book X.

Sir Uwaine, slain by Sir Gawaine in Book XVI.

Sir Colgrevance, slain by Sir Lionel in Book XVI.

Sir Galahad, ascended into heaven with the Grail in Book XVII.

Sir Percivale, died of grief after coming in second on the Grail-Quest, in Book XVII.

Sir Patrice, ate a poisoned apple intended for Sir Gawaine, in Book XVIII.

Sir Meliagrance, decapitated by Launcelot with one hand tied behind his back, in Book XIX.

Sir Tristram, murdered by King Mark at some point before Book XIX.

Starred entries are knights who were not, technically, members of the Round Table, but who were more or less solid Camelot-allies.  Gawaine-related deaths: 5 of 14.

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A few short stories I liked

“…dozens of iChaperones lit up in angry technicolor. They swarmed down from the ceiling to hover around the heads of their respective underage protectees, screens flashing the cutesy drink icon that alerted them to the presence of alcohol.”

Monday’s installment of Daily Science Fiction, “iChaperone” by Kat Otis, takes helicopter parenting and personal electronics to their logical point of union.  90% of the story is right there in the title, and the remaining 10% puts a pleasant button on it.  At just under 800 words, it’s not a sentence longer than it needs to be.

“When she asked her mother why the word of God must be written in books, why it could not be known instantly and forever by everyone, her mother said that faith was like a human and an alien meeting for the first time. Without mutual cultural reference they stare into each other’s eyes and do not fall in love.”

Escape Pod’s recent episode 451 featured the wistful “the Aliens Made of Glass” by Helena Bell.  The story shows us a future where things have gotten predictably worse: famine and disaster, the North Carolina-Virginia border closed and the Coast Guard checking IDs.  But this future also holds the promise of improvement; a fleet of alien ships slowly drifting in from out past Pluto. The viewpoint character, an ex-nun who lost her faith when the alien fleet was discovered, now spends her time fishing on a charter boat.  Light on plot and heavy on imagery, the sonorous story seems ideal for Escape Pod, as it’s less a narrative to read than a happening to experience.  Everyone in the story is struggling to communicate: the ex-nun no longer feels in communion with the divine; Gray, her childhood friend and would-be husband, has difficulty defining the parameters of their relationship; her eventual roommate lies comatose and unresponsive.  Humanity sends missives into the void, by CB radio and probe, which the aliens ignore, and when people mistake the ex-nun for a current nun, she doesn’t correct them any more than she corrects Gray when he calls himself her boyfriend.  When the alien message arrives, its ineffability seems natural, even inevitable.

(The audio version of the story has exceptionally poor sound quality, but the full text is available at the link above.)

 

 

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Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur, Book XIX, Chapters 11 to 13

43) Sir “Good Uwaine” Uwaine, the late Sir Uwaine’s brother with the same name

44) Sir “Big Heart” Ozanna

45) Sir Astamor

46) Sir Gromere Grummorson

47) Sir Crosshelm

48) Sir Servause the Bruce, who one time had dinner just him and Nimue and Sir Launcelot, and you just know he never shuts up about it

49) Sir Aglovale, Percivale’s less accomplished brother

50) Sir Durnore, Percivale’s least accomplished brother

51) Sir Tor, Percivale’s most accomplished brother after the late Sir Lamorak

52) Sir Griftlet the Caterer

53) Sir Lucan the Other Caterer

54) Sir Bedivere, who was Lucan’s brother I bet you didn’t know

55) Sir Brandiles, who always manages to edge his way into the group photos

56) Sir Constantine, did I mention him?  I did, he was number nine.  Well, he bears repeating.  Same guy.

57) Sir Clegis

58) Sir Sadok, the Vulcan

59) Sir Dinas, Mark’s reluctant seneschal, from Cornwall

60) Sir Fergus, Tristram’s sidekick

61) Sir Driant, also from Cornwall

62) Sir Lambegus, Tristram’s other sidekick

63) Sir Clarrus of Cleremont

64) Sir Cloddrus

65) Sir Hectimere

66) Sir Edward of Carnavon

67) Sir Dinas, but not the same Sir Dinas as number 59 above; this one is Sir Edward’s brother, also of Carnavon

68) Sir Priamus, the one that Gawaine converted to Christianity in Book V, or was it Tristram, Malory forgets; also he’s related to Edward and Dinas too, even though he’s Italian and a former Muslim and not from Carnavon at all.

69) Sir Hellaine le Blank, Sir Bor’s son (or daughter) by Princess King-Brandegore’s-Daughter

70) Sir Brian de Listinoise

71) Sir Gautere, from Book VI

72) Sir Reynold, also from Book VI

72) Sir Gillemere, also from Book VI, you remember, Launcelot beat them up while disguised as Kay

73) Sir “Little” Guyart

74) Sir Bellangere le Beuse, and oh, that reminds Malory of a story and he totally forgot to mention it earlier but this guy Bellangere is the son of Sir Alisander, who before Malory said killed King Mark in a flash-forward.  Now Malory says that Alisander got killed by King Mark, around the same time that King Mark murdered Sir Tristram, which, didn’t Malory mention that that happened?  Anyway.  Mark kills Alisander, Mark kills Tristram, the lovely Isoud cries, Bellangre kills Mark and also Sir Andred, that little shit.

75) Sir “Not so Famous” Hebes

76) Sir Morganore

77) Sir Sentraile, from Britannia

78) Sir Suppinabilis

79) Sir Bellangere the Proud, not the same guy as Bellangere le Beuse

80) Sir Neroveus

81) Sir Plenorius

82) Sir Darras

83) Sir Harry of Spaniel Lake

84) Sir Erminide, the brother of King Hermance, whom you might remember from Palomides’s little side-adventure late in Book X

85) Sir Selises of the Dolorous Tower

86) Sir Edward of Orkney

87) The Other Red Knight

88) Sir Arrok de Grevaunt

89) Sir Degrane Saunce Velany, he’s got this whole other story that Malory sadly doesn’t have time to go into

90) Sir Epinogris

91) Sir Pellas the Good, Nimue’s husband

92) Sir Lamiel of Cardiff who’s great in bed

93) Sir Plaine de Fors

94) Sir Melleaus de Lile

95) Sir “Strong Heart” Bohart aka Borre who was another one of Arthur’s illegitimate children, see Book I Chapter 17

96) Sir Mador who accused Guenever earlier

97) Sir Colgrevance who Sir Lionel definitely killed so I don’t know what’s up with that

98) Sir Hervis of the Thuggish Woods

99) Sir Marrok, another great story Malory doesn’t have time for, he was a werewolf

100) The Indigo Knight

101) The Green Knight

102) The Red Knight (not to be confused with the Other Red Knight, who got listed first for some reason)

All these hundred knights and ten searched Sir Urre’s wounds by the commandment of King Arthur,” says Malory.

“Dude!” says I. “It was only a hundred and two, and also you counted a few of them twice, and also at least one of them was dead.”

“I said a hundred and ten knights and I stand by that claim!”

You might have notice one name not on that list: Sir Launcelot!  He’s out on an unspecified errand, and doesn’t return until after every other knight has failed to magically heal Sir Urre.  (Personally, I would have guessed that Sir Bors could do it; after the Grail quest he’s been suggested to have magical powers.)

Long story short, Launcelot doesn’t want to try to heal Urre because so many others have failed and he’s so humble.  Arthur commands him to try, same as everyone else.  Launcelot heals Urre through the power of prayer and also laying of hands.  Everyone celebrates, and there’s a big jousting tournament, because that’s how you celebrate.  Urre and Lavaine win, and then Lavaine marries Urre’s sister.

As we fade to black, the camera lingers on Sir Agravaine, glaring at Guenever and Launcelot sitting a little too close together.  Also, at Nimue’s urging, Sir Pellas announces his immediate retirement from the Round Table.  He and Nimue are going off to retire together; they want someplace nice and quiet compared to how Camelot’s about to be.  Israel, maybe.

There’s a whole long series of strange adventures that Sir Launcelot does in between scenes here in Book XIX, says Malory, but if you want to read about them you can just read Christian de Troyes, same as he did before he lost his notes.  Now Malory wants to start the big finish: the DEATH OF ARTHUR!

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Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur, Book XIX, Chapters 10 and 11

New story!  Once upon a time there was a Hungarian knight named Sir Urre, who fought with a Spanish knight named Sir Alphegus, at Alphegus’s father’s tournament.  Urre killed Alphegus, but Alphegus had a death-curse, on account of his mother was a sorceress.  As he died, Alphegus inflicted seven great wounds, three on the head and four on his body and left hand onto Urre.  These wounds wouldn’t heal, on account of magic, until they were touched by the best knight of the world.

Urre, with his mother and his sister Felelolie (whose name looks like a typo) criss-crossed all of Europe, looking for a magic cure for Urre’s magic unhealing wounds.  What with one thing and another, one Pentecost they arrive at Camelot.  Arthur hears their story, and agrees to attempt to heal Urre’s wounds, and instructs all of his knights to likewise try, assuming he fails.

“Don’t think, that if I fail to heal him, and then you heal him, don’t think I’m going to be mad.  Way back in Book II we had a situation kind of like this, and I’ll say again what I said then: may the best knight come forward and do his duty!”

Malory explains that of the hundred and fifty spots at the Round Table, forty of them are either unoccupied at the moment or else those knights are absent; at Camelot at this time are one hundred and ten knights.  Malory then proceeds to list them off, which normally I would skip over but this list is just a thing of beauty guys.

LIST OF KNIGHTS WHO TRY AND FAIL TO HEAL SIR URRE’S WOUNDS WITH A TOUCH

1) King Arthur (actually, the wounds do close, but then several of them reopen)

2) King Clarence of Northumberland, longtime enemy of Arthur

3) Mister 100, the Great Welsh Hope

4) King Uriens of Gore, Arthur’s favorite brother-in-law

5) King Anguish of Ireland, father of the lovely Isoud

6) King Nentres, Arthur’s other brother-in-law

7) Old King Carados, another longtime rival

8) Duke “the Other Galahad” Galahad, not to be mistaken for Sir Galahad the Mary Sue

9) Sir Constantine of Cornwall, Arthur’s acting king back when Arthur was busy invading Italy

10) the Duke of Clarance, nothing special about him

11) Earl Ulbause, ditto

12) Earl Lambaile, ditto

13) Earl Aristause, ditto

14) Sir Gawaine, Arthur’s nephew

15) Sir Gingalin (Gawaine’s eldest son)

16) Sir Florence (Gawaine’s middle son, different mother than Gingalin)

17) Sir Lovel (Gawaine’s youngest son, Florence’s brother)

18) Sir Agravaine, Gawaine’s brother

19) Sir Gaheris, Gawaine’s brother

20) Sir Mordred, Gawaine’s half-brother and Arthur’s son

21) Sir Gareth, aka Prettyboy

22) Sir Lionel, Launcelot’s nephew

23) Sir Ector the Lesser, Lionel’s brother

24) Sir Bors, Lionel’s other brother

25) Sir Blamore, both Bors’s and Launcelot’s cousin

26) Sir Bleoberis, Blamore’s brother

27) Sir Gahalantine, from Benwick

28) Sir Galihodin, also from Benwick

29) Sir Menaduke, also from Benwick

30) Sir Villiars the Valiant, also from Benwick

31) Sir “Famous” Hebes, former courier

32) Sir Sagramore the Lusty

33) Sir Dodinas the Thug

34) Sir Dinadan, Tristram’s ex-sidekick

35) Sir Bruneor, the Knight in an Ill-Fitting Suit

36) Sir Kay, Arthur’s brother

37) Sir “Stranger” Kay, no relation

38) Sir Meliot, Nimue’s cousin

39) Sir Petipase of Winchelsea

40) Sir Galleron of Galway

41) Sir Melion of the Mountain

42) Sir Cardok

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Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur, Book XIX Chapters 8 and 9

The day of Launcelot’s and Meliagrace’s joust fast approaches!  If Launcelot doesn’t show, Meligrance wins by default, and thus Guenever is convicted of adultery with a mystery knight, and she’ll be burned at the stake!  No one wants that!  Arthur notices Launcelot is missing, and asks around.

“Sir, we wot not where he is, but we deem he is ridden to some adventures, as he is ofttimes wont to do, for he hath Sir Lavaine’s horse,” the court says in unison.  It’s an oddly stilted speech, but everybody figures Launcelot will show up on time, because he’s not about to let Guenever get burned at the stake.

Meanwhile Sir Launcelot is at the bottom of a well.  Luckily for him he landed on straw, and also luckily for him there’s a lady down at the bottom of the well, too, one who somehow provides him with meat and drink. Also she wants to sleep with him, but Launcelot of course turns her down.

She can come and go from the bottom of the well at will, this lady can.  She comes to Launcelot the morning of the joust, and warns him that Guenever will be burned soon.  Launcelot says that’s a terrible thing, and that if she does end up dead because he wasn’t there, surely everyone in Camelot will realize that he’s imprisoned somewhere and search for him.

The lady offers to get Launcelot out of the well, and to provide him with arms and armor, if only he’ll kiss her once.  Launcelot relents, kisses her, doesn’t enjoy it he promises.

Cut to the jousting field, Guenever in the dock, anxiously awaiting Launcelot, and haven’t we done this all before?  We have.  This time, instead of Sir Bors stalling for time, it’s Sir Lavaine who is certain, absolutely certain, that Launcelot will be here any minute now.  As the sun rises up towards noon and Launcelot fails to appear, Arthur beings to fret more and more.  Finally he announces that the execution will be put on pause until after Sir Lavaine has found Sir Launcelot.

Just as Sir Meliagrance calls foul — Launcelot’s forfeiting, Meliagrance should be the victor — Launcelot appears!  Long story short, Meliagrance gets trounced.  At the end of the fight, just as Launcelot is about to slice Meliagrance’s head off, the latter knight breaks down sobbing.

“I surrender!  I surrender!  Don’t hurt me, Launcelot!  I’m a knight of the Round Table, please don’t slay me!”

A hush falls over the crowd.  On the one hand, Meliagrance is entitled to clemency if he surrenders.  On the other, everyone agrees he’s a dick.  Launcelot, too, is taken aback.  He looks around for guidance, and his eyes meet Guenever’s.  She makes a slicing motion across her throat.

“C’mon, Meliagrance,” whispers Launcelot.  “Get up and let’s finish this like knights.  C’mon.  You want, I’ll spot you half my armor and my shield and my helmet, how about that?”

“No!  I surrender!”

“I’ll tie one hand behind my back!”

Meliagrance looks up.  “For serious?  Half your armor, shield, helmet, and also one hand tied behind your back?”

“Sure,” says Launcelot.  He’s made this kind of offer before; it never works.

“I’ll take it!” cries Meliagrance.  “You heard him, sire!”

So Launcelot takes off his helmet and half his armor, and lays aside his shield and has Sir Lavaine tie his left hand behind his back.

“All right!” says Meliagrance, and charges Launcelot.  Launcelot has a huge undefended area, where his helmet and armor and shield would normally be protecting him; Meliagrance makes for that.

Launcelot sidesteps, then with a single swipe slices Meliagrance’s head clean off.

The end!  Moral: do not joust Sir Launcelot, even if he’s got half his armor, no helmet, and one hand tied behind his back.

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Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur, Book XIX, Chapters 6 and 7

Shortly afterwards Launcelot and Guenever plan a night-time rendezvous.  Lavaine thinks this is a bad idea, what with Sir Meliagrance the Recently Pardoned still hanging around Camelot just looking for an excuse to take Launcelot down a peg.  Launcelot ignores him, though.

When Launcelot and Guenever meet, Launcelot’s down in the garden with a ladder and Guenever’s up in a second-story window in the castle infirmary.  They whisper some pleasantries back and forth, and then Launcelot announces his intention to climb up to her.

“Careful!” warns Guenever, because a) the castle infirmary is full of sleeping knights, the ones who went with her on her ill-fated field trip, excepting Sir Pellas, and b) the infirmary windows are, for whatever reason, secured with heavy iron bars.

But Launcelot isn’t the kind of guy to let a simple barred window stand in his way!  He shimmies up the ladder, puts his hands on the bars, and pulls.

Now shall I prove my might for your love!” he says, and tugs so hard he rips the iron bars right out of the stone wall.  He also tears up his hands pretty badly, throughout to the bone, but he can’t cry out in pain because of the sleeping knights.

Then the two of them go back to her bedroom for the night.  The next morning Launcelot sneaks out early and gets his hand bandages up with help from Lavaine, while Guenever sleeps late.  Sir Meliagrance just happens to wander into Guenever’s bedroom, to make sure she’s okay since she missed breakfast I guess.

When sees her lying there disheveled and Launcelot’s blood from his cut all over her sheets, Meliagrance immediately concludes that one of the nine wounded knights must be having an affair with Guenever.  And is he ever smug about it!  Finally he can revenge himself on Guenever’s sneaky not-being-his-prisoner that she did in the last story!

Guenever denies everything, of course. She calls in the wounded knights, all of whom are super huffy about the very idea that any of them would be so gauche as to sleep with Guenever.  They suggest that Meliagrance put a pin in his accusations until they’re all healed up, and then he can pick which of them he wants to joust first.

“Away with your proud language!” cries Meliagrance.  “You’re all wounded, so of course I can’t joust any of you.”

Launcelot comes in, curious about all the commotion.  Meliagrance doesn’t notice his bandaged hand immediately, and instead takes Launcelot for a potential ally, pointing out for him the bloody sheets.

“Dick move,” says Launcelot, “rooting around through a lady’s bed like that.  What were you expecting to find?”

Meliagrance turns around and gets all huffy, himself!  He doesn’t like Launcelot’s tone!

Launcelot doesn’t like the implication that any of his comrade knights would sleep with Guenever!  And he’s willing to joust with Meliagrance over it!

Meliagrance, backed into a corner, agrees to joust Launcelot.  And just so there’s no hard feelings, he invites Launcelot back to his castle for the occasion.

Cut to Meliagrance’s castle, where Meliagrance is giving Launcelot a tour.  Stables, great hall, kitchens, the dry well sixty feet deep, prison cells, bedrooms, chapel, and so forth.  All pretty standard.  When they arrive at the dry well (the highlight of the tour), Meliagrance suddenly shoves Launcelot forward from behind!  Launcelot falls down the well!

Meliagrance returns to Camelot and steals Sir Lavaine’s horse, then starts promulgating the rumor that Launcelot has ridden off incognito to have strange adventures, like you do.

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Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur, Book XIX Chapters 4 and 5

The second teamster is way into being alive!  He begs for mercy so pitifully that Launcelot probably feels bad.  Then he promises to take Launcelot into the castle, and to tell no one.

So Launcelot rides in the cart, right up to the castle, and then Malory remembers that Launcelot needs his horse to escape later on, and darn it, not only has Launcelot ditched his horse, but the horse got killed by the archers!  What’s a man with a shaky grasp of narrative integrity to do?

Answer: And Sir Launcelot’s horse followed the cart, with more than forty arrows broad and rough in him. Because that makes sense.

We cut to up in a tower in the castle, where Guenever and all her ladies in waiting stand, patiently staring out the windows waiting for Launcelot to come rescue them.

“I see somebody!” says one of the ladies, pointing down to the cart below.  “He can’t be Launcelot, though.  Probably he’s in the cart because they’re taking him to be hanged.”

Guenever peers down at the cart and spots Launcelot, recognizing him by his distinctive shield.  “Ha!  I knew it!  I knew he’d come for me!  Oh, I’ll have to tease him about how he must have fallen on hard times and had to pawn his horse and ride in a lumber cart!”  Then she turns sober.  “Also, whoever it was that theorized he was going to be hung?  You’re an idiot.  This is Launcelot we’re talking about!”

Down in front of the castle, Launcelot climbs out of the cart and starts shouting for Sir Meliagrance to come out and face him.  The castle’s gate-guard makes the mistake of trying to engage with Launcelot!  Launcelot punches him in the throat so hard his head comes clean off!

“Crap,” says Meliagrance.  “Crap crap crap.”

Thinking quickly, he dashes up to Guenever’s cell and there kneels before her.  “Mercy, madam, now I put me wholly into your grace.

“What?  What’s the matter with you?”  She’s naturally perplexed.

“I very humbly apologize, and I surrender, and as your prisoner I respectfully request you not let Launcelot murder me.”

Guenever groans.  “Fine.  Ye say well and better is peace than ever war.  Let’s just get all this over with.  Take me down from this cell into the nicer part of my new castle.”

Meliagrance leads Guenever down to the nice part of the castle, where Sir Launcelot fumes, waiting for Meliagrance to come out and get murdered. “Thou traitor knight come forth!” he bellows, all wroth out of measure.

Guenever comes out, instead of Meliagrance, and tells Launcelot to calm down, because it’s all been taken care of.  “Quit bawling about your dead horse!”

Launcelot, understandably, is not immediately satisfied with this.  “My hurt is but little for the killing of a mare’s son, but he did more than kill my horse!  He abducted you!”

“And then he surrendered, so it’s all right now.  Thank you so much for coming out, but you really can’t go any further with your murder-Meliagrance plan.”

Launcelot complains that he really wants to murder Meliagrance, and says that maybe he will anyway, and then Guenever reminds him that she’s his queen and she’s giving him a direct order, and does he really want to commit treason?

So Meliagrance gets pardoned. Guenever returns to Camelot (she gives Meliagrance his castle back because what’s she going to do with it?). Launcelot is ever after called “the Knight of the Cart” in memory of this particular misadventure.

The last thing that happens: as they’re leaving the castle, Sir Lavaine comes running up, all out of breath.  “Launcelot!  I got your message!  I have found your horse that was slain with arrows!  I’m sorry to have to be the one to tell you, boss, but someone killed your horse!”

Wah wah waaaah.  The end!  No moral.

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Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur, Book XIX, Chapter 3

Once they’re at Meligrance’s castle, Guenever’s knights have their wounds bound, which is good, but they’re kept under constant guard, which is bad.  No one knows where they went, which is what Meliagrance is counting on!  If Arthur and Launcelot don’t know where Guenever is, they can’t rescue her.

Guenever cunningly sends a message to Launcelot via child endangerment.  She finds a child of her chamber and gives him one of her special Guenever-courier rings (last mentioned in Book XI) to sneak out and ride away, through the security cordon, across hostile countryside.  There’s a tense sequence where the child — again, Malory makes no bones about this kid being underage — heroically steals a horse and rides off.  Meliagrance and his guards spot him as he goes, and they give chase, with arrows whizzing by and horses galloping, but this heroic and recklessly endangered kid successfully escapes.

Meliagrance immediately calls all his knights together, and warns them: Launcelot coming is, at this point, inevitable.  He outlines some rules of engagement.

1) If you see Launcelot, try shooting him with arrows.

2) If he’s on a horse, shoot the horse with arrows.

3) If he’s on foot and a volley of arrows doesn’t take him down, run away.

4) Do not try to melee with Sir Launcelot under any circumstances, not even if you outnumber him by dozens.

Then he sends out teams of thirty archers to lie in wait along the roads, to guard against Launcelot.

Our heroic child soldier, meanwhile, makes it all the way to Camelot!  He finds Launcelot and tells him all about the ambush, Pellas finally justifying his seed, Guenever captured, Meliagrance a traitor, yadda yadda.  Launcelot sees the ring and knows the kid isn’t lying, so there’s nothing for it: he tells the kid to let Sir Lavaine know where he went, mounts up, and rides off.

Naturally he comes to the archers’ post.  They have a little back-and-forth, Launcelot threatening and the archers threatening and Launcelot calling them campers and so on, and then things get violent.  The archers have set up an elaborate earthworks defence for themselves, all ditches and moats and fences, such that Launcelot can’t get up to where they are.  Meanwhile they’re laying into him with arrows, killing his horse.  So the battle is one-sided, and Launcelot is stymied, which really irritates him.

Seriously, Malory says he’s full sore annoyed as well as full loath to give up.  He paces around, all frustrated, just around the corner and out of sight of the archers.

Luckily, just as Launcelot is about to give up, a cart appears!

Launcelot flags the cart down.  “Ho there, teamsters!  Where are you headed?”

“We’re taking this load of lumber to the castle of Sir Meliagrance,” says the lead teamster.  “That was kind of a stupid question.  I mean, you can see the cart of lumber right here, and Meliagrance’s castle is the only thing on this road.”

“How about I hop in the back and hide under the lumber, and ride into the castle with you?”

“Yeah, no.  No, I don’t think our boss Sir Meliagrance would like that,” replies the lead teamster.  “In fact, we should —”

That’s as far as he gets before Launcelot leaps up onto the cart, draws his sword, and slits the guy’s throat.  He shoves the corpse out of the driver’s seat and turns to the second teamster.

“I repeat the question.”

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