A couple of days later, as Launcelot grumpily wandered in search of strange adventure, he came to a long bridge over a gully. Just on the other side he saw some jackass with an ironshod club.
“Where’s your toll money?” demanded the churl, as Launcelot approached. He bonked Launcelot’s horse on the nose with his club.
“I don’t have toll money and if I did I wouldn’t give you any,” snapped Launcelot. “It’s a bridge! What, am I supposed to ride alongside it?”
The toll-keeper didn’t find this a very compelling argument, but he made a mistake of his own: he tried to get into a fight with Launcelot.
Afterwards, as Launcelot cleaned the blood from his sword, he noticed a whole village full of peasants on the far side of the bridge. They’d gathered, perhaps in response to the churl’s cries of agony, and stared at him. Some of them hid behind others, and mothers protected their children.
“Murderer!” cried one. Most of the rest just shushed him.
“What?” Launcelot asked. “Who was this guy? Not a mugger? Is that the consensus, that I didn’t just dispatch a mugger?”
“He was a toll-taker for the bridge!”
“No, no, listen. Listen. This bridge? It’s King Arthur’s bridge, because we’re in England-Logris-Britain. This is King Arthur’s road. It’s not a private way. And the king hasn’t authorized anyone to collect tolls I am one hundred percent sure.”
“The masters of the castle aren’t going to like this. He was their chief porter,” muttered one of the villagers.
Launcelot sighed. “Oh, so now there’s a castle involved? Great. Fine. I’ll just deal with them, all right? Point me in the right direction.”
They pointed him in the right direction, and he headed up towards the castle. It was a very nice castle, old and well-built, with a bunch of good doorways and so on. Good place to repel a siege. He tied his horse up outside, and scanned the castle’s upper stories. A bunch of folks peered down from the windows and the walls of the castle, murmuring concerned murmurs about how the masters weren’t going to like this.
Then the masters showed up! The masters turned out to be a giant and… another giant. Two giants. These weren’t civilized knightly giants like Turquine, they’re the Skyrim caveman-looking giants with the clubs and the loincloths. Launcelot killed them both. One tried to run when Launcelot killed the other, but Launcelot ran it down with his horse.
Afterwards Launcelot entered the castle, where five dozen women kneeled before him. Apparently the giants had kept quite a harem. Of course Launcelot wasn’t interested in taking advantage of them (c.f. his monologue last chapter) and told them they were free to go.
“Well, that’s nice too.” Mainly the women were just happy not to be stuck embroidering silk for their supper. They asked for Launcelot’s name, so they could tell all their friends about the nice young knight who’d rescued them when they were imprisoned by giants for the better part of a decade.
“Ah, sir!” they said when Launcelot revealed he was the celebrated Sir Launcelot du Lake. “That makes sense. We’ve heard of you. Word gets around, even when you’re pinned up in a castle as part of some giants’ harem of silk-workers. It only stands to reason that the knight who finally defeated our captors would be you. Many, many lesser knights have tried and died. I was just telling Alma, the other day, Alma, I said, Alma, you know who would be able to fight those giants without dying? Sir Launcelot, Queen Guenever’s –“
“I’m just going to cut you off right there,” interrupted Launcelot. “You’re welcome, by all means you can tell your friends, and how about you sixty women take all the riches in the castle and divide it up among you, as partial recompense for your troubles. I don’t need any of it.”
“Oh, one thing. Does this castle belong to anyone? If I’ve just given you permission to steal from some local lord I should probably renege on that.”
“This is Castle Tintagil, once home to Duke Gorlas, who wed Igraine, then died fighting the forces of Uther Pendragon. Uther in turn married Igraine and begat Arthur, now king,” said Alma, who could apparently remember as far back as Book I.
“Okay, so, it’s Arthur’s, I guess, and he certainly won’t mind. So, great. I’ll be going now.”
And Launcelot left. Thus ends the Tale of Launcelot and the Giants of Castle Tintagil. Listen, not every story is going to be a winner.