In the morning, Elaine and her crew left, for reasons that no one would explain to King Arthur. Arthur was willing to let her go, of course, though he was annoyed that she was being so secretive. So Arthur sent a hundred-knight escort with her, led by one of his best men, Sir Bors.
Bors sidled up to Elaine, as they rode off, and nonchalantly observed that it was awfully early and didn’t she look a little bedraggled and I don’t know, Malory is nonspecific, but he got her to tell him the whole sordid story.
“Launcelot ran away from home?” Bors was shocked, shocked to hear this! “Where did he go?”
“I just said, I don’t know!” Elaine sniffled.
“You and Guenever, man, you’re a couple of pieces of work!”
“It’s not my fault! It’s Guenever’s fault! She’s the one who sent him away! Why does everyone say it’s my fault?!”
Bors planned to bring his hundred followers back to Camelot, where he’d give Arthur a version of the story that didn’t include Launcelot’s affair with Guenever. He thought Elaine should probably seek out Launcelot, too, which she had been planning on doing anyway, she was quick to tell him. Even if Queen Guenever, Miss Thing, had insisted Elaine never see him again.
Screw Guenever, that was Elaine’s basic position.
Dame Brisen, the enchantress who’d masterminded the Elaine-Launcelot hookup in the first place, pulled Elaine aside as Bors left, and warned her that Launcelot had almost certainly gone totes crazy. There would be no profit from an Elaine-Launcelot reunion at this point in time, but maybe Bors would find Launcelot and nurse him back to sanity. Then at some point after that, more Elaine-Launcelot assignations. That was the only path from the present situation to Elaine-Launcelot funtimes that Brisen could see.
This made Elaine cry.
Bors turned back towards Camelot, but on the way he met Guenever and some of his and Launcelot’s other cousins. Guenever had them out searching the woods, but they didn’t know why. Bors told them all about the Launcelot situation. Guenever cried, which prompted Bors to chew her out, crying over spilled milk, etc. Then Lionel and Ector and Bors sat down together and bemoaned the ultimate fate of Camelot in general and their family in particular. First their distant cousin Lamorak, a good knight, had been murdered, and then the head of their faction, Sir Launcelot, had gone mad. Would the Orkney faction (Gawaine and Mordred and their brothers) entirely overwhelm Bors and the rest of the Benwick faction? (Also, do you think Malory has been subtly pulling for the Benwick faction over the Orkney faction this whole time, or do you think it hasn’t been subtle at all?)
Guenever overheard Bors, Lionel, and Ector bemoaning Launcelot’s fate. She ostentatiously fainted, with a loud SWOON! Soon she was lounging on a divan, attended to by the three knights, gradually returning to consciousness.
“Seek him,” she begged the knights. “And spare not for no goods but that he be found, for I wot he is out of his mind.”
“Spare not for no, check,” said Bors. They were going to go Launcelot-hunting anyway, and besides, they were pretty cheesed with Guenever.
So the knights rode off, equipped with the best treasure and horses and armor that Guenever could provide. For months and months, they rode around. High places, low places, wooded places, barren places. Fields, castles, villages, the seaside. Everywhere they went, they asked everyone they met — have you seen Launcelot? He was wearing a shirt, and had a sword?
Seriously this is the way they describe Launcelot: a dude who wore a shirt and held a sword.
Three months of this later, Bors and his comrades stumbled across a certain guy Bors knew, Sir Melion de Tartare, whom we’ll call Rough Melion. You know I do minutes of research, sussing out these names, right?
“Melion! Where you headed?”
“Enh, I figured I’d go to Camelot,” said Rough Melion.
“Cool, cool,” said Bors. “When you get there, tell Arthur and Guenever and everyone that we’ve been looking for Launcelot for three months. So far we’ve come up dry.”
So Rough Melion visited Camelot, where he told everybody that Bors, Lionel, and Ector have been so far unsuccessful. Guenever wanted results and didn’t like this news. So she threw more resources at the problem! Twenty-three more knights of the Round Table headed out into the wild, searching for Launcelot. They were well-equipped with not just the usual horses and weapons and armor, but also with expense accounts (which Malory finds impressive and expects we do also).