So now we turn away from Sir Gawaine, that little prick, and to Sir Marhaus, last seen hooking up with a friendly thirty-year-old woman and going off in a different direction on a strange adventure of his own.
Marhaus’s adventure wasn’t all that strange, compared to Gawaine’s. He and his new lady-friend, Annette, rode southwards for a day. The Forest of Arroy got thicker as they went. At sunset they found nowhere to stop for the night, so instead they pressed on in the increasing gloom. Marhaus asked Annette for advice, but she had none. Finally, once they were well and truly stumbling around in the dark, they hit a wall. I don’t know that they actually walk into it. But there was this little walled villa or manor or estate or village, it’s hard to say, deep in the forest. Basically there was a wall and a courtyard on the other side of the wall, with a guy in the courtyard. So probably there was also a gate. Malory is vexing at times.
Quick back-and-forth between Marhaus and the guy in the yard. Marhaus wanted to be put up for the night, guy in the yard said there’s nowhere he can stay. Marhaus offered money, guy turns him down. Marhaus made wild promises, guy turned him down. Finally Marhaus exploded at him. “I can’t take this! Just name your price!”
“Okay, okay, tell you what,” said the guy. “I’ll get you put up in the manor house, provided you participate in the attached strange adventure.”
“What kind of strange adventure?”
“I can’t tell you unless you accept the quest.”
“Hmm… is this the strange adventure you’re leading me to?” Marhaus asked Annette.
“No, it’s unrelated. A side adventure, I guess,” said Annette.
“Either way, you’ve got a deal,” Marhaus told the gatekeeper.
The gatekeeper let Marhaus and Annette into the courtyard, and from there to the manor house. He had some words with the lord of the manor about how someone’d come to try the strange adventure, which resulted in the lord sending out a bunch of guys with torches. Once Sir Marhaus and Annette could finally see their hands in front of their faces, the men led the guests into the manor house, where the lord lounged around with a big pack of guards.
“Greetings, fellow nobleman,” said Marhaus. “My name is Sir Marhaus, knight of the Table Round. Well, technically I’m not part of the Table yet, but Sir Gawaine — King Arthur’s nephew, don’t you know — Gawaine said he could get me in. It’s a fait accompli, as good as done. Also my brother-in-law is the King of Ireland.”
“Oh, I wish you hadn’t told me that,” said the lord, whose title is the Duke of the Southern Marches.
“You don’t like the Irish?”
“I like the Irish fine. It’s Arthur who’s my enemy. I’m a staunch Team Lot & Mister 100 booster, I am.”
“You see these men, my six sons? I used to have thirteen sons, before Arthur and his wars.”
“And I have it on good authority that Sir Gawaine, Arthur’s nephew and your bosom chum apparently, he was the knight who slew my boys in Arthur’s most recent battle, the one described at the start of Book IV.”
“All seven? That doesn’t sound like Gawaine.”
“Nevertheless, that’s the rumor. In the morning, Gawaine-lover, you’ll have to fight me and my sons.”
“What, all seven? I, for the record, I know Gawaine, but we aren’t that close.”
“I insist, Sir Marhaus.”
Marhaus sighed. “Okay then. I’ll joust all of you. In the morning.”
So Marhaus and Annette were led off to bed — in separate rooms, you guys, jeez, get your minds out of the gutter. Marhaus got a good night’s sleep, because in the morning he would have to joust all seven of them.
Blah blah blah, Marhaus jousted the Duke of the Southern Marches and his six sons, and Malory described it in some detail but screw that; I’m skipping to the end! Marhaus ended the fight without a scratch on him, all of his enemies’ weapons were shattered, and the Duke himself lay on the ground under Marhaus’s sword. The Duke graciously surrendered, Marhaus accepted, and they work out that the Duke and his sons would go to Camelot and offer fealty to Arthur. Side strange adventure completed!
Finally Marhaus and Annette were back on the road, and Annette led him to the actual strange adventure that she had promised him. It turned out to be a big jousting tournament put on by Lady de Vance, last seen having an affair with King Rience way back in Book II. Blah blah, Marhaus entered and won the tournament. He beat like forty guys and won golden circlet worth a thousand besants for first prize. Malory himself pretty well skips this tournament. (JOUSTING TOURNAMENT 6!)
Afterwards Annette led Marhaus on to the second half of the strange adventure. Out past Lady de Vance’s there was an earl name of Fergus. Malory wants us to know that he would show up again later in the story of Sir Tristam, but that doesn’t matter at the moment. A giant named Taulurd had been terrorizing Fergus and his people. Taulurd had a brother named Taulas, whom Sir Tristam would eventually fight, but Malory is really putting the cart before the horse here, throwing out a lot of crude foreshadowing without giving us much in the way of context.
When Annette introduced Marhaus to Fergus, the earl immediately started complaining about this giant, and how he was lighting peasants on fire, and so on.
“Hmm, does he fight on horseback or on foot?”
“Did I not mention that he was a giant? I thought I did. He would crush any horse he tried to ride.”
“Ah. I’ll have to fight him on foot, then. Wouldn’t be sporting, otherwise.”
Marhaus went off to fight the giant Taulurd, and found him chilling under a holly tree, not hurting anyone right that second. Marhaus marched up and announces that they were going to fight.
“Fair enough,” said Taulurd, and broke Marhaus’s shield in half with a single swing of his club. Of course he had a club; he was a giant.
Marhaus and Taulurd fought for a while. Taulurd was pretty badass but eventually Marhaus got the better of him and sliced his arm off. Taulurd ran off to apply a tourniquet, and Marhaus chased after. Taulurd took refuge in a river, which was only waist-high to the giant but too deep for Marhaus. Marhaus paced back and forth on the shore.
“Ha!” said Taulurd. “Not so arm-cutting-off now, are you?”
Marhaus got an idea, and fetched some rocks, and started throwing them at Taulurd. One clocked him badly on the head, and Taulurd dropped down, into the water, which is to say, he drowned. So, good for Sir Marhaus I guess. Malory assures us that Taulurd did many awful things offscreen, but I can’t help sympathizing with the giant. I’m 6’4″, after all.
Marhaus headed over to the giant’s house, and collected all his riches, plus he freed the dozen men and two dozen women Taulurd had been keeping prisoner.
“You’re wonderful!” said Earl Fergus. “Here, take half of my lands as a reward.”
“Nah,” said Marhaus. “I’ve got these riches, they’ll do fine for me. I wouldn’t mind spending six months convalescing at your home, though, since the giant beat me near to death.” Which Malory didn’t mention at the time but okay.
Sir Marhaus and Annette chilled at Fergus’s for most of the rest of the year, then headed back to the Forest of Arroy to meet back up with Gawaine and Uwaine. Along the way Marhaus got into a scrape with some other knights, but it’s not worth spending more than one sentence on.
The last part of this story is the part with Sir Uwaine and the sixty-year-old woman, Ursula. Together they had a ton of strange adventures, most of a year’s worth, right off the bat. Uwaine won a big jousting tournament, and was awarded a falcon and a horse. (JOUSTING TOURNAMENT 7!) Ursula advised him with good advice; they made a solid team. Lots of adventures Malory doesn’t describe in detail.
At some point Ursula introduced Uwaine to a friend of hers, the Lady of the Rock. The Lady of the Rock, no relation to the late Lady of the Lake, was a nice and polite damosel, but she had a problem. Two knights, Sir Edward of the Red Castle and Sir Hue of the Red Castle — the Red Castle brothers — had been riding around her barony lighting up peasants and demanding the Lady of the Rock sign her property over to them.
The Lady of the Rock was far too virtuous to come right out and demand Uwaine joust these two guys. Instead she just passive-aggressively brought them up at various opportunities, steered the conversation that way, et cetera.
“Madam of-the-Rock,” Uwaine said, over dinner, “these dudes you’re talking about sure sound like jerks. I was taught that if you put a SIR in front of your name, then, well, you’re expected to behave like a gentleman, but these guys don’t sound like gentle men. I’m a knight, I’m a knight of the Round Table in fact, which is the best kind of knight. I mean, okay, technically I’m suspended but that’ll get sorted out eventually I’m sure. So, tell you what, I’ll have a talk with these two, Sir Edward and Sir Hue, the Red Castle guys.”
“Oh, that’d be awesome.”
“Yeah, and if they refuse to listen to reason, I’m a reasonable guy, but I can fight ’em, if we need to do that. We can cross that bridge when we come to it.”
The Lady of the Rock couriered over an invitation to the Red Castle, asking Sir Edward and Sir Hue to come over for tea and crumpets and frank discussion to settle their dispute. And they showed up! But they brought a hundred knights in armor with them, which made it less social. Soon they stood outside the Lady’s castle, knocking at the gates.
“I don’t think we should let them in,” said the Lady of the Rock.
“I’m sure it’s fine,” said Uwaine. “We invited them!”
“They brought a hundred men at arms. You stand here, on top of the wall, and shout down at them, okay?”
Ursula endorsed this plan, but Uwaine really wanted to either let them into the castle or else go out himself and talk to them. Ursula and the Lady of the Rock had to work hard to convince him these weren’t realistic options. Anyway, eventually Uwaine got up on the wall and shouted down, and Edward and Hue shouted back up. Uwaine tried to negotiate with them, but Edward and Hue weren’t much for listening to reason.
“Okay then,” shouted down Uwaine. “I’ll come out and joust with one of you, all right? Winner decides this whole deal.”
Edward and Hue conferred. “No way we do this one on one,” they shouted back. “We’ve got a hundred men and arms, they’re on our team. You’ve got two women.”
“This is between knights!”
“Our guys are all knights! We knighted them just now!”
“Well I’m not fighting a hundred and two guys, don’t be stupid!”
Edward and Hue conferred again, and pitched an actual counter-offer, which was Uwaine by himself versus Edward and Hue and nobody else. Uwaine could pick the time and place of the joust.
Uwaine agreed to this, and said he’ll joust them bright and early the next morning outside the Lady of the Rock’s castle. So as negotiations go, talking the other side down from 102 combatants to 2, that’s pretty good. I’d give Uwaine a B+ for the day.
Sir Uwaine had a big meal and a good night’s sleep. In the morning he went to church, had some breakfast, armed himself, and then he emerged from the Lady of the Rock’s castle, ready to joust with Edward and Hue. And they jousted, blah blah blah. Malory gives a detailed yet incredibly boring blow-by-blow of this combat. It turns out that Uwaine being outnumbered two to one wasn’t nearly the crippling disadvantage one might have expected. At one point Edward hit Uwaine so hard the Lady of the Rock thought Uwaine would surely die, but instead he stood back up. Dramatic!
They fought and fought and fought and hours went by and it’s like watching stock car racing, is how I’m imagining it at this point. So exciting you want to just change the channel. Or, as Malory puts it, they fought together for five hours as men raged out of reason.
Finally, after a full day of inconclusive sword-fighting, Uwaine slit Edward’s throat right through his armor. Once Edward was dead, Hue surrendered. Uwaine accepted the surrender, which was mighty knightly of him, and they embraced and went into Castle Of-the-Rock together. The Lady of the Rock threw a party, with everyone invited. Admittedly Sir Hue was not really in a party spirit, but still, he was included. Uwaine got Hue to agree to visit Camelot and present himself to Arthur and swear fealty, and the Lady of the Rock got uncontested control of her lands back.
Sir Uwaine and Ursula ended up spending another several months with the Lady of the Rock, as it took Uwaine that long to convalesce from his wounds. I suppose this is another way that old-school Advanced Dungeons and Dragons emulates Malory: a high-level fighter might have eighty hit points, and in a fight might get knocked down to single-digit numbers from that maximum, but recovering afterwards requires a number of days of bed rest equal to the number of hit points lost. So after a big battle the fighter would need to spend months recuperating, except of course the knight would actually just drink a potion, or get someone to cast cure moderate wounds on him a few times, or something. No one ever actually spends months recuperating in AD&D.
Anyway. At the close of the year of strange adventures, Uwaine and Ursula sallied forth from Castle Of-the-Rock back to the Forest of Arroy, where they met with Sir Marhaus and Annette, and Sir Gawaine and Trixie! OH WAIT make that Sir Gawaine looking surly and guilty and utterly sans Trixie.
“Yeah, where’s Trixie?”
“I lost Trixie. I don’t want to talk about it.”
“I said I don’t want to talk about it!”
“Just drop it you guys!”
“Well, okay, how was your year? I won a tournament and killed a giant!”
“Cool! I won several tournaments and fought for the Lady of the Rock!”
“Gawaine? How’d it go, other than the Trixie thing?”
“…I don’t know how else to say I don’t want to talk about it.“
Trixie showed up at the rendezvous point, as promised. Tanned and cheerful, she totally ignored Gawaine, just burned him, ice, man, she was ice. But Uwaine and Marhaus and the other damosels discussed their adventures, and Trixie told the fabulous story of her awesome year that started after she dumped Gawaine and ran off with Sir Carados’s friend.
Before too long, a messenger from Arthur found Uwaine and Gawaine. Apparently King Arthur had changed his mind about the whole exile thing, and wanted them to return to Camelot. Which they had figured would happen eventually, so, they weren’t too shocked. The messenger was a little annoyed — he checked Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, everywhere, trying to find Uwaine and Gawaine, and they had been having strange adventures the whole time.
Sir Gawaine and Sir Uwaine brought Sir Marhaus back to Camelot with them. Arthur was happy to see them, and threw a tournament to celebrate. (JOUSTING TOURNAMENT 8!) Marhaus won big. Sir Pellas showed up too, with Nimue on his arm. Nimue introduced him to Arthur and Pellas ended up joining the Round Table alongside Marhaus, and they had another round of tournaments that Pellas won. (JOUSTING TOURNAMENT 9!) Sir Pellas the Good was another one of these crazy magic super-knights who would wins like a winner. Pellas never reached the top of the Camelot Jousting Roster, though, because any time he was obliged joust with Gawaine he refused to participate — he hated Gawaine — and forfeited.
Malory flashes forward, here at the end, and explains that Marhaus would eventually die fighting Sir Tristram, and that Pellas would actually achieve the Grail, one of only four knights to do so, although he does it separately from Sir Bors, Sir Percivale, and Sir Galahad, and he would do it in a story that Malory would not get around to telling. Pellas was also basically the only knight who never, ever fought Sir Launcelot, even in tournaments, because Nimue knew that Launcelot was unstoppable and arranged for her husband to be unavailable whenever he would be up against Launcelot, or else she magically arranges for him to be assigned to the same team as Launcelot.