Tristram returned at long last to Cornwall. His relatives, King Meliodas and King Mark and Queen Hestia, threw a tremendously big party in celebration of his accomplishments. Meliodas and Hestia gave Tristram the bulk of his inheritance, just because Malory feels like setting up a continuity error later on.
Afterwards, Tristram took up residence in Mark’s court. He was on the market for a lady-love, promise-ring with the lovely Isoud or not. He set his cap on a certain woman whose name Malory couldn’t bothered to learn. Her husband — yes, Tristram’s target was a married woman, which is probably what stops Malory from calling her a damosel — anyway, this woman’s husband was named Earl Segwarides. I’m suspicious; it looks like Malory just mashed his fingers on the keyboard and deleted consonants until he had an acceptable number of syllables. Might as well call him Earl Furewunumuh, which is a name I made up just now by that method. Anyway, I’ll call her Sally, Sally Segwarides. Funny story, later Malory decides that this guy whose wife Tristram would seduce, Segwarides, was the brother of Sir Palomides, the guy whom Tristram had humiliated at the Irish tournament.
Tristram and Sally chillaxed at Mark’s court, having an affair, like you do. Everyone was cool with it. Tristram was very cool with it, Sally was totally cool with it, and Segwarides was entirely down with it on account of he didn’t know about it. Mark was the only guy not cool with it. Not because of anyone’s marriage vows or promise ring! No, Mark was upset because he wanted to have an affair with Sally. Sally, for her part, would have been fine with having a husband and two lovers, and couldn’t see why Mark wasn’t cool with that. He wasn’t, and Tristram didn’t know about Mark’s interest.
But if he had been, he wouldn’t have been willing to share her, either. Sally couldn’t have her cake and eat it too, so to speak. Mark and Tristram were mutually exclusive, as lovers. Stay with the hot young knight, or switch over to the established sugar daddy king? And so Sally came up with a plan to determine which of them she should pursue her affair with. Naturally, Peter the dwarf was involved. Step one, Peter ran a message from her over to Tristram.
“Ho, Tristram!” said Peter. “Got a message, from Sally, to you.”
“Lay it on me,” said Tristram.
“She says that she can’t sleep with you until tomorrow night. Tonight she’s sleeping with someone else.”
“What? No! Unacceptable!” fumed Tristram.
“Not done!” Peter held up one finger in warning. “Whatever you do, she says, do not under any circumstances show up in her bedchamber expecting to sleep with her tonight. Especially don’t come unarmed, because her other lover will be well-armed. If you show up, there’ll be nothing for it but for you and he to joust for her love, right there in her bedchamber. While that would be extremely hot, Sally says, she doesn’t want you to risk yourself like that for her. Although it would be a great way to prove your devotion. Don’t show up. Don’t do it. Do it.”
“Oh, I’ll show up,” said Tristram. “I’ll show up and I’ll bring a sword and I’ll kill him! No one else gets to sleep with Sally — not this ‘other lover,’ not her lawfully wedded husband, nobody!”
“Yeah, okay.” Peter would relay that back. “So I’ll tell her to expect you around, what, ten o’clock?”
On the way back to Sally’s chambers, Peter bumped into Mark. Malory doesn’t specify, but I assume Mark recognized him.
“Peter! Why, as I live and breathe, Peter the dwarf! I haven’t seen you in, my, it’s been six books, my good man. How’s Mister Two-Swords? And that one fellow whose name I never learned?”
“Merlin. His name was Merlin,” said Peter, in unknowing completion of one of Merlin’s prophecies. “They’re both dead. Nobody’s seen Merlin since the start of Book IV, either.”
Mark paused for a respectful moment of silence.
“You know, he named-dropped Tristram,” he said, once the moment has passed. “The fellow whose name I never learned. Merlin, you say? Didn’t mean anything at the time, this was before Tristram was born.”
“Mmm,” said Peter.
“Speaking of my nephew, I couldn’t help but notice you were closeted in conversation with him, Peter my good man. Tell [me] all, why and wherefore that [you] came on message from Sir Tristram.“
“Can’t tell. Secret.”
“Tell me or I stab you,” Mark said with uncharacteristic force.
“Jeez, fine,” said Peter. “Everyone’s always with the threaten-the-dwarf. Sally sent me to him, to entice him to ambush her other paramour tonight. Roundabout ten.”
“Ah. That’s lovely. Now, as you were. Go. Go, and, my good man, do not upon pain of skewering tell anyone we spoke of this. For serious, upon pain of death.”
Forewarned, Mark took his spear and his horse and two of his most omerta-respecting knights, and set an ambush for Tristram in the hall outside Sally’s chambers. So when Tristram rode up the hallway on his own horse (I’m not sure Malory visualized the action he describes here) Mark leaped out and stabbed him! They jousted. Both were wounded, Tristram knocked out Mark and either knocked out or killed Mark’s two men (again, Malory is vague). Bleeding, he stumbled into Sally’s bedchamber and found Sally just inside, where she’d been making ready to watch the fighting.
At first Sally was disappointed that the fight happened out in the hallway; she hadn’t been able to watch Mark and Tristram sexily joust over her. But hey, Tristram took a spear-wound for her, which was very nearly as sexy by Sally’s standards. Sally was so into Tristram’s wounded status that what with one thing and another they never got around to binding his wound. Pretty soon there was blood and such all over Sally’s bedsheets.
Which was fine, until a chambermaid burst in! Earl Segwarides was on his way! So Sally hustled Tristram out of there and he rode off, still bleeding.
Sure enough Segwarides arrived not five minutes later. He saw Sally’s bed all rumpled, and bloody, as though she’d been rolling around in it with a man who was bleeding from an open spear wound.
“Hi honey,” she said. “I can totally explain!”
“False traitress!” thundered Segwarides. Out comes his sword! “Tell me who was here! And then I’ll kill you!” Not the most compelling bargain, dude.
“Okay, so, let’s put the sword down and have a nice civilized chat where I don’t get my head cut off at the end of it, all right?”
“Tell anon to me all the truth!”
“Okay. Okay, you win. You’re the big mister swordy man. It was Sir Tristram — he burst in here, all sweaty and bloody and hot, and we ruined that bed.”
Segwarides howled, and demanded to know where Tristram went.
“He rode off just a few minutes ago. You could probably catch him — if you really want to. He’s a fine, well-formed knight with a fully-functional sword of his own, you know. More of a knight than you shall ever be!”
Segwarides pulled on some of his armor — not all of it, he was in a hurry — and caught up to Tristram on the road back to Tintagil.
“Turn, false traitor knight!” shouted Segwarides, as he closed in on Tristram. As Tristram turned, Segwarides knocked at him with his spear. The spear broke so Segwarides pulled out his sword and stabbed at Tristram.
“Hey, now, I’m starting to get annoyed,” said Tristram as he effortlessly dodged the blows. Even wounded, Tristram was more than a match for Segwarides. “Knock it off, stranger. I don’t know what you think I’ve done, but I don’t know you from Adam…”
“Die die die!” screamed Segwarides.
Tristram drew his sword and cut Segwarides, which was a reasonable move under the circumstances. He sliced Segwarides’s horse literally in half, says Malory. Segwarides went down in the wreckage of his horse! Tristram left him there and high-tailed it back to Tintagil, where he climbed into his bedchamber and roughed it up a bit. Tristram made it look like he had woken up in the night, and walked into a rake he’d carelessly left by his bed, and that was why he was wounded. No reason to think he had been fighting anyone, no sir. Plausible deniability, that was what Tristram was after.
Segwarides’s men found him lying there on the road to Tintagil, the ruins of his horse flaming all around him. They dragged him away before the fire reached the horse’s gas tank, and they got him home. He slowly convalesced. Segwarides wanted nothing to do with Tristram afterwards, what with the affair and all. He didn’t pursue his vengeance further, after he’d calmed down, because Tristram was a deadly foe and the king’s nephew and so on. Tristram never heard about this because he didn’t know Segwarides at all. He knew, vaguely, that Sally had a husband, but that was it.
And as for Mark, well, Mark knew that Segwarides had reason to hate Tristram, and also reason to hate Mark, inasmuch as Mark had also been sleeping with Sally. When Tristram called in sick to court and explained that it had been the darnedest thing, he woke up in the middle of the night and accidentally impaled himself, that was why he was wounded… Mark knew it wasn’t true, because Mark knew he’d stabbed Tristram with a spear. From that day on, Mark secretly resented and hated Tristram, and didn’t love him any more. In public he was all, oh, Tristram, my beloved nephew but on the inside, he was thinking I wish adders would eat your face. And so Merlin’s prophecy comes full circle!
And then Sir Bleoberis showed up! It’s okay if you don’t remember him: he was in some of the big jousting crowd scenes in Book VII, but Malory graciously forgives you for having forgotten about him. Bleoberis facts: he had two brothers, Sir Blamore and Sir Bors Junior; he and his brothers were all members of the French royal family, which is to say, their cousin was Sir Launcelot and their father was King Bors. Mark was thrilled by Sir Bleoberis’s arrival; he was a minor celebrity, a Knight of the Round Table and all. So when Sir Bleoberis requested a boon, Mark was only too happy to grant it! Which of course, turned around and bit Mark immediately, because that always happened. The boon Bleoberis wanted was to run off with Sally, the hottest lady in Mark’s court, and Mark’s own mistress, and also the wife of the Earl Segwarides.
Mark was honor bound to smile a tight smile and watch as Sally cheerfully ran away with Bleoberis, climbing up behind him on his horse and riding off into the extramarital sunset. Afterwards, though, he couldn’t help letting it slip to Segwarides that his wife had been unfaithful, again.
Segwarides armored up and rode after Bleoberis to “rescue” Sally. This scandal was the talk of the court! Especially the ladies-in-waiting who had known that Sally had been Tristram’s mistress in addition to Mark’s mistress! They were overwhelmed by the gossip possibilities. One of them found Tristram and chewed him out for not behaving more like a proper fictional paramour, and riding after his lady-love, since his love for Sally was so pure and perfect and idealized.
“You know, she has a husband,” said Tristram. “Not really my place. If this Earl Segwarides weren’t around, then maybe, but still. You can’t interfere in a marriage like that. Tell you what, when he gets back with Sally, I’ll joust him, what do you say? Me and Segwarides. As fas as I know, we’ve never fought before. Maybe we’ll just have a nice conversation. I don’t know. We’ll do something.”
Shortly after this, one of Segwarides’s squires ran into the court and started expositing about how badly Bleoberis beat Segwarides up. Blood spurting everywhere, bruises, broken bones, girls pointing and laughing. Thunder rumbled through the court! Bleoberis may have been a Knight of the Round Table, but declining to return a knight’s wife when the knight demanded her was unsportsmanlike conduct!
Everyone looked at Tristram, who sighed. He very reluctantly announced a plan to ride down Bleoberis and confront him for this affront. He called in Gouvernail, and arms and armor, and rode off.
Before Tristram reached Sir Bleoberis, he found his cousin Sir Andred, riding despondently. Andred looked like forty miles of bad road.
Tristram was shocked to see him so injured. “Andred, cousin, what has happened to you?”
“Oh, Tristram, it was awful. Our uncle and lord, Mark, sent me forth to engage with two Knights of the Round Table who have been making trouble in Cornwall, and bring them back to him. Clearly I’ve made a terrible mess of things by getting myself beaten up! They ignored my polite request to visit Mark’s court! I don’t know what to do!”
“Yeah, okay, I’ll handle it,” said Tristram. “Bleoberis has a guy with him, huh? Is it his brother, Sir Blamore?”
“What? No. I don’t know what you’re on about. I’m talking about Sir Sagramour the Lusty and Sir Dodinas the Thug.” Andred had been sent after two wholly unrelated Knights of the Round Table who were making wholly unrelated trouble in Cornwall.
“Whatever. I’m sure I can handle it. I’m adding them to the list. Just go back to our uncle’s court, cousin.”
So Andred rode in one direction and Tristram in the other.
Cut to Tristram looking down on two likely knights, is how Malory phrases it. He had caught up to the troublemakers, Sagramour and Dodinas. He geared up to give them what-for!
Gouvernail fret. “Sir, sir, I would counsel you not to have ado with them, for they be two proved knights of Arthur’s court.”
Tristram scoffed. “Don’t worry, I’m sure I can take them. When I defeat two hardened Knights of the Round Table, it’ll merely increase my personal legend.”
“Fine, whatever, you’re the boss,” said Gouvernail with a sigh.
Tristram charged. “You! Knights, if knights you be! Where come you from? Where go you to? Spill! Or else get cut!” He was really kind of a jerk about it.
Sir Sagramour the Lusty took a bit of offense at Tristram’s attitude. “You there, are you a knight of Cornwall?”
“Who wants to know? Why do they want to know? What’s your angle?” roared Tristram. Again, Tristram was not trying to make friends.
Sagramour and Dodinas exchanged glances, and nodded significantly one another. “It’s funny,” said Sagramour “We’d always heard that Cornish knights, the Fighting Gamecocks, were tough bullroar. Which is funny, and not at all true, because just two hours ago we met a Cornish knight who talked a good game but he seemed more inclined to lie down in the mud and take a nap than get back up and joust us. You look like you could use a little nap yourself, stranger!”
“Oooooh,” went the studio audience, like you do when one character on the sitcom talks smack right to the face of another character on the sitcom.
“Well, we’ll find out,” said Tristram. “Because that was my cousin!”
This didn’t have the dramatic effect that Tristram had been hoping for. Sagramour and Dodinas just looked at him.
“So do your best because I’m going to knock both of you at once into the mud!”
This got a rise out of Dodinas, who drew a spear and told Tristram to shut up and move along. Instead Tristram pulled out his own spear and they jousted. Dodinas ended up with his neck broken, and Sagramour suffered a compound fracture of his right femur. But don’t worry, they would be fine. There was zero risk of infection in Arthurian times; a year or so of bed-rest, then you’re fresh as a daisy. Even the microbes and bacteria respected Arthur’s rule.
“Disease was practically unknown during Arthur’s reign — they were optimum humans then. And even the Microscopic Races owed allegiance to Camelot at its zenith, and did not harm to Man. At least that’s what they say.” — Grant Morrison, Seven Soldiers of Victory: Shining Knight
Afterwards, Tristram asked if he was the new king of England or whatever, since he’d beaten two Knights of the Round Table, and they smiled politely and explained that wasn’t how it worked, but they’d be happy to pass along his name to their supervisor. They were actually pretty chummy now, which was pretty atypical. Usually after a joust everybody’d be full of hurt feelings. Tristram introduced himself, and Sagramour and Dodinas suggested they all three head back to Camelot, but Tristram had to take a rain check on that. He needed to find Sir Bleoberis de Ganis, prince of France and latest lover of Sally, the hottest lady-in-waiting in Mark’s court.
“Oh, then? Sure, yeah, they’re right over there,” said Sagramour He pointed to the other side of a hill. Tristram crossed the hill, and sure enough, there was Sir Bleoberis and also Sally, riding off together.
Tristram quickly caught up with them. Once he and Bleoberis met, they had a conversation that goes more or less like this.
“Surrender Sally!” shouted Tristram.
Bleoberis snorted. “No! What are you, Cornish? I don’t abide uppity Cornish knights.”
“Tristram!” Sally waved. “Hello! Are you going to joust for me? That’s hot!”
“Shut up, Sally,” Tristram told her. “Listen, Bleoberis, I defeated two Knights of the Round Table on my way over here, so…”
Bleoberis perked up. “Two knights? Who?”
“Sagramour and Dodinas, known as the Lusty Knight and the Thuggish Knight, respectively.”
Bleoberis bit his lip. “Really? You defeated them both? Hmm, probably I should just return Sally here to you. She’s not worth it. But I suppose I’m honor-bound.”
So Bleoberis and Tristram dismounted and set up a little jousting field, and Sally sat and watched them sword-fight. They were both very good jousters; the fight was hot, yet inconclusive.
“This isn’t getting us anywhere,” Bleoberis said, after a couple of hours had passed. “Listen, Sir… what’s your name?”
“Didn’t I say already? I’m King Meliodas’s son by Queen Elizabeth, nephew of King Mark of Cornwall, knight of Liones, Sir Tristram.”
“Oh, hey, nice to meet you,” said Bleoberis. “I’ve heard of you. You killed Sir Marhaus, then you fought Sir Palomides, and also Sir Gawaine and nine knights that were traveling with Sir Gawaine. At the time Malory claimed Palomides was the one who defeated them, but it was totally you, I’m sure. Or at least you get credit for it, since you won the tournament as a whole.”
“Yeah, that’s me,” Tristram said. “And who are you, again?”
“I’m still Sir Bleoberis de Ganis, knight of the royal family of France, and cousin-germane of Sir Launcelot the celebrated knight. He’s the best knight ever!”
“That’s true, he is,” agreed Tristram. “Hmm. Launcelot’s cousin. Maybe we should just call this one a draw. I’d hate to kill you and have him show up to avenge you.”
“I’d be happy to accept a draw,” said Bleoberis. “I don’t even remember what we were fighting about!”
“AHEM!” Sally cleared her throat loudly. “If you aren’t going to fight over me any more, you could at least make out a little?”
“No, no.” Tristram shook his head. “We won’t be doing that. Come on back to Cornwall with me.”
“Or you can run off with me,” said Bleoberis. “Either way. We’ll abide by your decision.”
Sally hemmed and hawed and finally announced that since Tristram waited until after Bleoberis had already defeated her husband Segwarides to ride after her — as though she hadn’t really been a priority to him and he could have left her to someone else? — she chose Bleoberis.
Tristram wasn’t happy. “What? No! I only agreed to this because I assumed you’d choose me!”
“Sounds to me like the lady chose otherwise,” said Bleoberis.
Sally’s mind was made up. “Yeah! If you don’t care enough to steal me away from my oaf of a husband, why shouldn’t I run off with the prince of France? Just go back to Cornwall and leave us, and I won’t come back to this country until Segwarides’s funeral.”
“Not cool,” said Tristram. “What am I going to tell Mark?”
“Listen, let me level with you,” Bleoberis said to Tristram, taking him aside. “I’m kind of in the middle of a strange adventure and I need a woman for it, and Mark said I could have her, and as soon as the adventure is done I’ll send her back to her husband, knight’s honor.”
“Man, okay. Fine. Fine. Whatever.” Tristram glared at them both.
So they shook hands and split up. Tristram returned to Tintagil, and Bleoberis completed his strange adventure. He dropped off Sally at an abbey where he’d told her Segwarides was interred, which turned out to just be a half-truth as he wasn’t dead, just crippled. Segwarides was happy to see Sally, and Sally pretended to be happy to have been returned to her rightful owner, I mean husband. She even went so far as to smooth things over with Segwarides for Tristram, by explaining that really, Tristram had ultimately arranged for Bleoberis to take her back to Cornwall.
Tristram ended up the hero of the hour, which everyone was happy about, except King Mark, who was still bitter over the whole thing where Sally used to be his mistress.