Three days later, once Melias had turned the corner, Galahad just itched to get back to that Grail Quest. Melias’s caretaker, the good man about whom Malory has nothing to say, gave a little monologue about how great Galahad was. He was so great he didn’t even need to take the sacrament of confession and get his sins wiped away! Because like Mary the Virgin Mother, he didn’t have any sins! Melias, by contrast, was a normal guy, with normal sins; he was a good knight yet also wicked enough that magic knights would attack him. The two magic knights that fought Melias and Galahad signified two discrete sins which were wholly in this knight Melias. Galahad had zero magic knights attacking him, and therefore zero sins.
Galahad was awesome, is the moral of this story.
Once this lesson had been painstakingly delivered, Galahad departed, leaving Melias to recover. Galahad rode many journeys forward and backward as adventure would lead him, in an extended travel montage. Finally he passed an abandoned castle called Abblasoure, beyond which was a mountainous wild region absent of people, aka Wales. Within these Welsh wilds Galahad discovered a disused and half-ruined church! So naturally he went inside to pray.
Within, all was desolate, but he kneeled down and prayed nevertheless. And a mysterious voice answered his prayers!
“Go thou now, thou adventurous knight, to the Castle of the Maidens, and there do thou away the wicked customs.”
“Whoa,” said Galahad. “Thanks for the tip, Jesus!”
A half-mile up the road, at the headwaters of the Severn River, Galahad spied a big castle, well-maintained with a lot of defensive earthworks.
“What’s that castle?” he asked a peasant.
“Fair sir, it is the Castle of the Maidens,” was the answer. “Home of JOUSTING TOURNAMENT 22, which was a major plot point in Book IX.”
Galahad expressed surpass and delight, that he found the castle so easily. “Jesus asked me to settle their hash. They’ve got some wicked customs there.”
“Yessir. Frankly you should probably just keep going.”
“That ain’t happening!” Galahad double-checked his weapons, armor, and shield, then approached the front gate of the Castle of the Maidens. He wanted to see just what all the furor was about.
A bevy of seven maidens met him. “Don’t you cross our moat!” they warned him, but he crossed anyway.
Inside the gates a squire flagged him down. “Sir! Sir? Sir. Welcome to the Castle of the Maidens,” the squire said, once he had Galahad’s attention. “I hope you enjoy your visit. The knights who live in that keep over there,” and here he pointed at one of the structures within the Castle of the Maidens complex, “sent me out to ask you why you’re here.”
Galahad saw no reason not to be forthright. “Jesus sent me to end your wicked custom. He was nonspecific as to what exactly it was, but I figure I’ll know it when I see it.”
“Huh, wow.” The squire was not expecting that. “That’s a pretty tall order.”
“Whatever.” Galahad shrugged. “Do me a solid, go get started on whatever the process for ending your wicked customs is, okay?”
“I’ll need to talk to my supervisor.” The squire retreated into the castle.
Pretty soon seven knights emerged from the castle! All brothers. They asked Galahad again to leave.
“Nope! We can joust it out if you want!”
“Joust? Bah! Do you see a tournament going on? This is Wales!” The knights did not cotton to fancypants English-style jousting. “We’ll just murder you seven on one!”
Galahad, perfection that he was, was kind of a fan of jousting. “Don’t you want to lay down some rules?”
“Rules?” The lead Welsh fighter was particularly incredulous. “In a knight fight?”
Galahad’s response was to heave his lance direct into the throat of the lead knight, killing him instantly.
Do me a favor. Next time you get a chance, search YouTube or somewhere for the knife fight scene from Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid (1969).
The other six knights jumped in, intending to batter Galahad with their spears, but his magic shield deflected their blows! And when he drew his magic sword, the surviving brothers gave up, and fled into the castle and out the other side.
Galahad gave chase! He was about to follow them out and run them down in the countryside, but an old priest, one of the inhabitants of the Castle, stopped him. Malory wants us to understand Castle of the Maidens was a whole town, not just the one castle, though there was a straight-up castle there, too.
“You’ve saved us!” The old priest embraced Galahad, which might or might not have been a stalling tactic.. “Here, help me unlock all the doors!” He stuffed a set of keys into Galahad’s hands and took another keyring for himself. Together the two of them opened up all the gates. The townsfolk of the Castle of the Maidens streamed in and thanked Galahad for driving off those seven guys, who had been super jerks.
Fearing that they might come back, Galahad took the advice of a townswoman: he sent messages to all the landholders that swore fealty to the lord of Castle of the Maidens, telling them to knock it off with the wicked customs already. Pleased, the townswoman presented him with a ceremonial horn, the blowing of which would send out a signal that there was a new administration in Castle of the Maidens.
After he blew the horn and had a little lie-down, it occurred to Galahad to ask a question. “What exactly were the wicked customs, anyway? In all the excitement I never asked.”
So the priest explained. Seven years ago the seven knights visited the Castle of the Maidens, ruled at the time by Duke Lianour. Whether this happened before or after JOUSTING TOURNAMENT 20 is unclear. The knights met his daughter and lusted after her, which nobody liked. Now, she was a full fair woman, this isn’t child molestation we’re talking about, just regular molestation. But still, Lianour asked them to leave, and instead they murdered him and his son and locked everyone up in a dungeon. And for seven years they’d been collecting taxes.
“Whoa!” said Galahad.
Shortly after they imprisoned her, the duke’s daughter uttered a prophecy about how the seven of them would be brought low by a lone knight. The seven’s response was to adopt a policy of murdering any lone knight that came through Castle of the Maidens, in case he was the knight prophesied to kill them. Also they imprisoned maidens and did terrible things to them. And therefore it is called the Castle of the Maidens, for they have devoured many maidens.
I’m pretty sure Malory means “devoured” in a metaphorical sense, rather than claiming that the seven interlopers were killing and eating people. But still, pretty bad. And you can see why I’m unclear as to whether this happens before or after the big jousting tournament. On the one hand, the many heroic knights at that tournament surely would have intervened regarding the unsavory goings-on, so it must have happened after. On the other hand, the name Castle of the Maidens derives from those unsavory practices, and by the time of the tournament the castle was already known by that name, so it must have happened before!
“Can I meet this prophetess, Lianour’s daughter?” asked Galahad.
Yes and no, it turned out. Yes, inasmuch as they’d be happy to take him to her, and no, inasmuch as she’d been dead for six years and eleven months and three weeks.
She did have a younger sister, Lianour’s third child! So despite her being pretty badly traumatized by all the devouring (Malory makes it plain she had to endureth great pains with mo other ladies), Galahad named this younger princess the ruler of the Castle of the Maidens.
The next morning a messenger arrived to tell Galahad not to worry about the six surviving knights. Gawaine and Gareth and Uwaine slew them!