Mark couldn’t sleep at night, he was so consumed by thoughts of revenge. But how? How could he make Tristram suffer?
Then one day he had it! He called Tristram to him.
“Nephew,” he said. “You’ve been telling everyone about the lovely Isoud and how insanely hot and lovely and awesome she is.”
“Have I?” Tristram tried to remember. “I mean, she is hot and all, but I just had a whole strange adventure about my other lover, Sally Segwarides.”
Mark’s face tightened. “Yes. Would you mind terribly going back over to Ireland and fetching her? Then I’ll marry her. It’s a good plan. Good politics with Ireland. Has nothing to do with spiting you. Not at all.”
“Well, you’re the boss,” said Tristram.
Now, just because all of King Anguish’s court hated him, that wasn’t going to stop Tristram from visiting them and fetching away the lovely Isoud. Tristram was happy to do it! But he didn’t fly off half-cocked. Tristram gathered all the best Cornish knights together. They did a few team-building exercises, then set sail for Ireland.
But then there was a storm of something, Malory doesn’t care to examine it in detail. His point is, they had to put in at Camelot. I’m not sure how the geography here works: I didn’t realize Camelot had a harbor. Tristram and his Cornish buddies piled out of their ship, and looked around.
Why not chill at Camelot for a little while? It was no Ireland, but it was nice enough. Tristram set up a tent, they cooked some bratwursts, listened to the game: good times.
Before too long, a couple of Arthur’s knights showed up. One of them was Sir Launcelot’s little brother Sir Ector-the-Lesser, who we’ve encountered before a few times, and the other was Sir Morganor, whom we haven’t. Morganor sounded like it was produced by some kind of automatic Knight Name Generator that reshuffles syllables. They just wanted to say hi, but they ended up jousting Tristram for funsies.
Tristram won, of course. Afterwards Sir Ector-the-Lesser found himself lying on the grass. “Whoa,” he asked. “Who are you anyway?”
Apparently this hadn’t come up before the joust.
Tristram explained himself, in brief, as a knight from Cornwall.
“Cornwall? Really? Oh, man. I’ve been beaten by a Fighting Gamecock? That’s so embarrassing!” Overwhelmed with shame, Sir Ector pulled his armor off and refused to ride his horse, as penance for losing to a Cornishman.
Meanwhile, back in the plot, stuff was afoot. You remember Sir Bleoberis? He had a brother, Sir Blamore, and these two cooked up a scheme to humiliate King Anguish of Ireland. Their reasons for doing so were unclear, but still, this was how the story went. Step one, they arranged for King Arthur to extend an official invitation (also known as a summons) to Anguish. If Anguish was so good as to attend, there would be a brief reception. If Anguish declined, Arthur would strip him of his crown, title, and lands.
Why Arthur went along with this was also unclear. He wasn’t not invested heavily in the plot; in fact the date on Anguish’s summons was a day that Arthur would be out of town. Specifically he’d be at Launcelot’s castle, Joyous Garde. Arthur arranged for a couple of lesser kings to cover for him: the King of Carados and the King of Scots.
Whether this was the same King of Carados that had been part of Team Lot & Mister 100, back in Book I: unclear. Whether this was the same King of Scots that had been so eager to invade France in Book V: who knows? To sum up I’m pretty sure Malory just pulled these names out of a hat. This is like the fourth Carados in Le Morte D’Arthur so far. Normally I assume folks with the same name are the same person, but Carados? I dunno.
King Anguish made the trip out to Camelot, of course. When Arthur summoned you for a pleasant little reception, you come running, if you know what’s good for you. He was a little disappointed we he learned that Arthur himself skipped the reception, but what really shook him was when Sir Bleoberis, out of nowhere, started accusing him of murder!
Yeah! Bleoberis claimed that his cousin had been visiting Anguish’s court and gotten murdered!
When Anguish heard this he suddenly realized the whole reception had just been a trap! And Anguish had only one option: to answer him knightly.
Malory is kind enough to explain to us, at this point, that a) the usual method of trial for treason in those days was trial by combat, between the accused and the accuser (or their champions), and this is relevant because b) murder was at that time treated as a subcategory of treason. This would actually come up again, several times, in Book XX. Spoiler alert: Book XX is when Sir Launcelot saves Guenever from being burned at the stake and also murders everyone.
“I’m going to need a little time to formulate a response,” said Anguish. He was pretty sure Bleoberis can joust the crap out of him in a fair fight; guy was Sir Launcelot’s cousin. The whole family were all infamous kickers of ass.
Carados and the King of Scots put their heads together and agreed that Anguish could take all the time he needed, provided he didn’t need more than seventy-two hours.
How does this concern Tristram, you’re probably wondering. It comes back around, but first an unrelated interlude. Tristram was at his camp outside Camelot, when he spied a sobbing woman walking by.
Tristram asked her why she’s sobbing, and if she wouldn’t mind stopping, because he was trying to relax. Her response was that she’d be happy to, except that her baby had been stolen from her.
“Well, not my baby. Let me explain. My name is, let’s say Marcie.”
“Okay. Fine. Marcie.”
“And my lady — let’s call her Patty — is a great lady, full of renown and fame and probably many titles also.”
“And she had this baby, okay?”
“Not as far as I know. Normal, human baby.”
“And she wanted to give it to Sir Launcelot as a present –“
Tristram interrupted. “Wait, really?”
“Yes. So she gave –“
Tristram interrupted again. “Maybe it’s me, I’m a naive naif from provincial Cornwall, but is that common, giving knights babies as presents?”
“It doesn’t matter, because she entrusted it to me, and I was supposed to take it to Camelot and give it to Launcelot but this strange knight mugged me and stole the baby and Launcelot isn’t even here he’s at Joyous Garde and I don’t know where that is and waaaaaaaaah!” Marcie broke down sobbing.
Tristram did what he felt he had to, under the circumstances: he promised to go fetch the baby, or else get beaten up trying. Marcie found this a great comfort, and directed Tristram after the baby-stealer.
Tristram had no difficulty tracking down the villain, whose name was Pitiless Bruce, or in the original Malory-butchered French, Breuse Sans Pity. Pitiless Bruce was actually a recurring antagonist in Malory. Second-string, maybe, but still a credible threat; he was like the Riddler. Anyway, Tristram tracked down Pitiless Bruce no trouble. They jousted. Tristram got the baby back and he let Pitiless Bruce go with a warning, something he later regretted because, as I said, Pitiless Bruce became a recurring antagonist. He was a great foe unto many good knights of King Arthur’s court.
After Tristram returned the enchanted baby to Marcie, she decided to just wait at Camelot until Launcelot returned. This would in fact come up again, unlike so many of these random little incidents. Then he heard from Gouvernail about Anguish’s Bleoberis problem.
“Sweet! This is actually great news for me,” said Tristram. “I know there’s nobody except me and various Knights of the Round Table who could hope to defeat Sir Bleoberis, and of course Knights of the Round Table are forbidden from fighting one another by Guenever’s edict. I fought him to a standstill before, so I can probably take him now. And while basically everyone in Ireland hates me, Anguish doesn’t, and he’s not a bad dude. I help him out, he’ll have political cover to help me out. Then we can go get the lovely Isoud and bring her to my uncle Mark. Win-win!”
Gouvernail called Anguish over; when he and Tristram meet, they hugged. It was a touching reunion.
“I was summoned to Camelot because a relative of Sir Bleoberis died in Ireland,” Anguish told Tristram. “The rule is I have to fight Bleoberis or find someone else to, and if I lose the fight or refuse to fight, then I lose Ireland.”
“Bleoberis and his brother Blamore are cousins of Sir Launcelot; they’re crazy-badass, so it’s not looking good for me.”
“King Anguish, sire,” said Tristram, “you did me a good turn back in Ireland, and I’m still sweet on your daughter despite whatever lies you may have heard about a certain Sally. Also I know Bleoberis and he’s a piece of work. I’ll fight for you on two conditions.”
Anguish sighed. “Conditions?”
“First,” said Tristram, “promise me you didn’t actually arrange the murder of Bleoberis’s relative.”
“Yeah, no.” Anguish shakes his head no. “I didn’t even know that such a knight was visiting Ireland. Totally I had nothing to do with that.”
“Second, promise me that you’ll do me a favor to be named later, because that’s traditional.”
“Are you going to end up asking me for the hand of my daughter, the lovely Isoud?” Anguish winked.
“The favor doesn’t get named until later!”
“Fine, fine.” Anguish winked again, as they shook on it.
As promised, Sir Tristram fought with Sir Bleoberis! Actually, no. Bleoberis made a last-minute switch, and so Tristram fought with Bleoberis’s champion, his brother Sir Blamore. I don’t know why they made that switch. Perhaps it was because Bleoberis knew he and Tristram had fought to a standstill. Highlights of this joust: King Anguish pointed out that Sir Launcelot, the best knight, was a cousin of Bleoberis’s and Blamore’s; Tristram observing out that Sir Launcelot (who was the best) was related to the knight he was jousting; Sir Blamore bragging that the best knight, Sir Launcelot, was his cousin; and Sir Bleoberis warning Blamore that while they were both quite badass (being related to Sir Launcelot, the best knight) Tristram himself was no small potatoes.
All of those things happened. Every one. I am not joking. Maybe I’m joking a little, but still.
Tristram and Blamore fought for so long that onlookers were amazed, then bored, then amazed again! And finally Tristram bashed in Blamore’s head.
Blamore went down! He was reeling, he was on his knees.
“I win!” cried Tristram. “I completely won. Check it out, everybody!”
“Not so fast,” wheezed Blamore. “The battle doesn’t end until I tap out or die, you know that. And I refuse to tap out! I won’t suffer the shame of being the Knight Who Tapped Out. So go ahead and kill me, or else I’ll lie here until my bones knit and then I’ll get up and kill you!”
Tristram was taken aback — after all, Blamore was related to Sir Launcelot! What if Tristram killed him and then Launcelot came looking for revenge? Also, as much of a jerk as Tristram was, he wasn’t sure he had the heart to slay someone so knightly he continued to threaten his opponent even while lying broken on the ground.
Tristram stepped back and looked to the judges’ table for a ruling. “I don’t want to kill him, for multiple reasons, but I’ve pretty clearly won the match. I grant him mercy. Anguish is cool with that, right Anguish?”
“Sure, sure,” said Anguish. “Thanks for defeating him so soundly, by the way. You’re pretty knightly, you know that?”
The panel of judges exchanged glances and shrug and called over Sir Bleoberis for a confab.
“Listen, sires, I don’t know about this mercy bullroar,” said Bleoberis. “I’m pretty sure that if it were me lying there in the mud, all bloody and broken, Blamore would be pushing for me to get killed in combat. So I think you should require Tristram to slay him. This has nothing to do with providing cover for a later vengeance by anyone we’re related to.”
The judges conferred among themselves and announced that since both Tristram and Anguish wanted Blamore to not die, there was no good reason for Blamore to die. Therefore their verdict was medical treatment for Sir Blamore and not guilty for King Anguish! The judges also compelled Anguish, Tristram, Blamore, and Bleoberis to kiss and make up, and after the four-way makeout they were all the best of friends forevermore.
And that’s the story of how Sir Tristam traveled from Cornwall to Ireland, arriving in the company of his best pal, King Anguish. Anguish told Queen Isoud and all her relations about how Sir Tristram wasn’t such a bad guy, really. Since he’d saved Anguish’s life, grudgingly the Irish nobility accepted him. Also the lovely Isoud was very happy to see him as well.
“I’ve kept your promise ring,” the lovely Isoud told Tristram. “And I’ve been so faithful to you!”
“Right. Right.” Tristram nodded slowly. “Faithful. Promise rings. Right.”
“And now my mother’s family is forced to accept you! There’s no reason we can’t finally get married!”
“Oh, Tristram darling. I’ve never been so happy.”