After defeating the Red Knight, Sir Gareth finally called Linet to task about her absurd attitude. He wasn’t so much upset about it being abusive and embarrassing, as he was about it being inaccurate: he was actually a very competent knight, but she kept acting like he was a mere yokel or churl.
Linet responded that she would leave that up to the best knight to judge. Turns out this whole time Linet had been leading Gareth to Linet’s personal hero, about whom she had as many good things to say as she did negative things about Gareth. “He’s just so awesome,” she said. “He’s like 99.9% as awesome as King Arthur, and more awesome than anybody else.”
“Sounds like a guy I should meet.”
“Just don’t embarrass me, Prettyboy.”
Linet led Gareth into the Indigo Lands. There, they entered a big lovely city with lots of indigo tents and banners and shields. And of course there was a jousting tournament (JOUSTING TOURNAMENT 14!) just getting ready to start! At this point I am shocked whenever a knight arrives in a new location and there isn’t a jousting tournament about to start.
Anyhow, the knight that Linet was such a fan of was Sir Persant, the Indigo Knight. The word Malory uses is Inde, which at first I assumed meant India, with the elephants and the Orientalism, but some rooting around online strongly suggests we’re talking about the color indigo, which harmonizes with the Red, Black, and Green knights better anyhow. Sir Persant and five hundred of his closest friends had been gearing up for some jousting. When they see Gareth of course they immediately wanted him to participate, a sentiment they communicated with gestures while Linet and Gareth were still a long ways out of earshot.
Gareth was down with it. “Cool, a jousting tournament!”
“Oh, you silly Prettyboy,” sighed Linet. “You’ll just get yourself killed if you try to joust actual knights.”
“As I was just saying, I have defeated a whole series of knights, with you watching.”
It’s unclear why, but this time when Gareth defended himself, Linet listened to him. “You know, you’re right,” she said. “You’re actually a great knight, and you must also be a gentleman because you’ve put up with my incredibly shrewish behavior for thousands of words now.”
“I’m keeping my identity secret,” Gareth reminded her. “Whether I’m a nobleman or not, you don’t get to know. But at this point I’m ready to just quit you and abandon you here with your super Indigo Knight buddy.”
“Alas!” she responded. “Now that you don’t want me I think you’re marvelous! Fair Prettyboy, forgive me!” And she threw herself at his feet, offering whatever he wanted from her. Of course Gareth merely wanted her apology.
(Sir Thomas Malory: not great at writing women.)
Sir Persant, the Indigo Knight, tired of waiting around on Gareth and Linet to close the distance to the jousting tournament. He rode out to meet them, and what with one thing and another there was a joust and Gareth beat the Indigo Knight.
Afterwards the Indigo Knight explained that the Black Knight, the Green Knight, and the Red Knight were all his brothers (their names were Sir Percard, Sir Pertolepe, and Sir Perimones). He swore fealty to Gareth as his two surviving brothers had before him. There was the usual big post-joust feast.
When Gareth retired that night, Persant decided to send a girl to his bedchamber. Specifically he sent his eighteen-year-old daughter and if you think this is kind of out of left field you aren’t alone. A dutiful daughter, she did as he commanded. When she reached Gareth’s chambers he was already asleep, so she stripped naked and climbed into his bed and woke him up.
Once Sir Gareth realized he wasn’t dreaming he backed up and asked the girl what the heck is going on, and she explained.
“Are you a virgin, or a slut?” Gareth asked her afterwards. Seriously. Malory phrases it a little differently, but only a little: Be ye a maid or a wife?
The girl’s response leaves no room for misinterpretation: sir, I am a clean maiden.
“Okay, well, I’m not about to shame your father by deflowering, or as Malory says, I won’t defoil you.” Which sounds like a step in making Jiffy-Pop or a TV dinner, defoiling. “Get out of here, go on,” he said, but he said it kindly and kissed her on the forehead.
The girl ran back to her father (I would assume she paused to put her clothes back on but you never know) and filled him in on how it all went down.
“Well, one thing’s for sure — he’s a gentleman, and must therefore be of noble birth,” said the Indigo Knight.
(Again: Sir Thomas Malory, clearly not a feminist even by the standards of the fifteenth century.)
The next morning, over breakfast, the Indigo Knight finally got around to asking Linet what her deal was. She explained that she was taking Gareth out to her sister, specifically to her castle and the siege it had been under for two years. At long last she unloaded a pile of exposition explaining the purpose of the strange adventure Gareth had signed up for.
1) Linet’s sister lived in a castle called Castle Dangerous, which, I gotta say, is right up there with rescuing Princess Damsel from the Red Dragon of Reddragonville.
2) Over two years had passed since the Red Knight of the Red Lands — who was a totally different Red Knight of the Red Lands than the one that Gareth had already met on this same adventure — started his siege of the castle. The fact that there were two Red Knights in this story is deftly sidestepped.
3) Linet’s name was Linet, someone finally got around to mentioning, and her sister’s name was Lionesse.
Linet requested the Indigo Knight knight Gareth, so Sir Prettyboy would be a legit knight, but Gareth explained that Sir Launcelot du Lake already knighted him, which led him and the Indigo Knight to list off a bunch of great knights and discuss how great knightliness is. Knights mentioned included Sir Launcelot du Lake, Sir Tristram, Sir Gawaine for some reason, as well as Launcelot’s three cousins Sir Blamore de Ganis, Sir Bleoberis de Ganis, Sir Bors de Ganis, and his brother Sir Ector de Maris, plus some new names: Sir Percivale, Sir Palomides the Muslim knight, and Palomides’s brother Sir Safere. Malory had mentioned Sir Percivale in passing in Book II, but this was the first time his name appeared on a character’s lips.
In return Gareth revealed his true identity: he was Sir Gareth, son of King Lot and Queen Morgawse, brother of Sir Gawaine, Sir Agravaine, and Sir Gaheris. He self-identified as the youngest brother, which, I dunno whether that means he was younger than Sir Mordred or whether he knew that Mordred wasn’t Lot’s son. Malory told us readers that Prettyboy was Gareth back at the start of Book VII, but it had been a secret to the characters.
At this point Malory shifts gears to Lionesse and Castle Dangerous. I’m a little confused, because Malory starts off this scene change with “so the book saith,” suggesting he’s merely repeating what he read in one of the French romances, but the minimal amount of research I’ve done suggests that Malory invented this particular book out of whole cloth. So either he’s referring to a nonexistent source to make himself sound smart (thus presaging political discussion on Facebook by over 500 years), or else I’m mistaken about him being the original author of this tale. I’m sure there’s an explanation for this. Just because I wrote a book about King Arthur doesn’t make me an Arthurian scholar, people. These fancy clothes do that.
Lionesse, under siege in Castle Dangerous, received a visitor! Peter the dwarf, displaying previously-unknown teleportation powers, popped in, despite the siege and despite his having last been seen in Camelot, many days of travel away. He explained to Lionesse how Linet and Gareth were on their way. Lionesse wanted to know all about this Sir Prettyboy her sister had found. Peter did a good job of talking him up, explaining that he was an awesome knight traveling incognito despite being the son of King Lot of Orkney (Peter is explicit about this bit), and recapping his exploits so far.
1) Drowning a pair of knights (Lionesse knew exactly the two Peter was talking about, oddly enough), the Breuse, or Bruce, brothers: Sir Gherard the Bruce and Sir Arnold the Bruce).
2) Killing the Black Knight.
3) Defeating the Green Knight.
4) Defeating the Red Knight (but not the other Red Knight).
5) Defeating the Indigo Knight.
6) Oh, also he beat Sir Kay and fought Sir Launcelot to a standstill.
How Peter knew all this isn’t addressed. He was present for point 6, but not the others.
Lionesse thought this was all awesome. She entrusted Peter with some wine and fresh bread and venison and so on, and sent him out with it, so that Gareth could have a nice big meal before he jousted with the other Red Knight. She also asked Peter to determine whether Gareth was a gentleman or not, so she’d know whether or not to fall in love with him.
Thanks to Peter’s inexplicable teleportation ability, he arrived instantly at the Indigo Knight’s place, where he met Linet and Gareth. The three of them headed on to a hermitage, where they had the picnic lunch Lionesse packed.
Then Peter left them behind and teleported to the other Red Knight, who wanted to know what the hell was going on with all this teleporting and wasn’t there a siege on Castle Dangerous how was Peter getting in and out at will? Peter pulled the other Red Knight aside and explained that Linet was on her way over, with a badass knight from Camelot.
The other Red Knight fretted at this news. “Is it Sir Launcelot, or Sir Tristram, or Sir Gawaine, or Sir Lamorak?”
“Then I’ve got nothing to worry about. I can take any other knight easily.”
“I dunno about that. He’s the son of a king and he defeated the Black Knight, the Green Knight, the Red Knight (not you, the other one), and the Indigo Knight.”
“Oh, jeez,” said the Red Knight, sort of like Peter Fonda in the Limey. “What’s his name?”
“Now, that I won’t tell you, for whatever reason. But Sir Kay calls him Prettyboy.”
The other Red Knight scowled. “Yeah, well… he won’t be so pretty when I’m done with him.”
“Anyone ever tell you you’re a dick, other Red Knight?”
Would this story be improved if the part of Peter the dwarf was played by Nimue? I think so, too.
What follows is a very joust-heavy sequence that I’m going to cover as briefly as I can.
1) Gareth and Linet arrived at Castle Dangerous, where — I am not making this up — the Red Knight had set up a jousting field in anticipation of Gareth’s arrival. (JOUSTING TOURNAMENT 15!)
2) In addition to all the usual jousting tournament materials, the Castle Dangerous exterior boasted a gibbet with forty executed knights hanging on it! Linet explains that was what happened to knights who lost to the Red Knight. She suggested one last time that Gareth should give up and go home and save himself.
3) Gareth was way too knightly to do that, though. In Arthur’s name, he announced his intention to deal with this ass.
4) Gareth signaled his arrival by blowing a big wooden horn set up for that purpose,. When the Red Knight heard it, he geared up for a joust.
5) Linet pointed out her sister, Lionesse, peeking out from a high window in the castle. As soon as he saw her, Gareth decided he was in love with her. He started giving her the eye and flirting with her. Despite the vast distance, him being on the ground and her in a high window, Lionesse picked up his signals and flirted right back with winks and nods.
6) The flirtation pissed off the Red Knight, who wanted to get to the joust already. He talked trash for a bit, but Gareth wasn’t scared.
7) They jousted, finally, and oh, what a joust it was! Malory loves describing jousting action. He’s like Tolkien and landscapes, if Tolkien described landscapes as “and then there was a tree, and it was a big tree, and then there was another tree, and it was also a big tree,” and so on for around twenty pages.
8) During the breaks Gareth went straight back to eyeing Lionesse. When it was looking bad for Gareth, Lionesse wept, which gave Gareth the strength to overcome.
9) Gareth won, surprising nobody. The Red Knight eventually surrendered, and told his own sad story.
10) Once upon a time, the Red Knight had loved a girl, and she’d loved him, but then her brother had been slain by either Sir Launcelot or Sir Gawaine, the Red Knight could never remember, and so she wouldn’t marry him. That’s why the Red Knight became a villain.
11) Gareth sent the Red Knight back to Camelot to throw himself at Launcelot’s feet, which is a little ironic as Launcelot had been all the time doing that to Guenever in the previous book.
12) Linet treated the wounds of both the Red Knight and Sir Gareth using previously unmentioned healing magic she possessed.