The next morning, Gaheris and Gareth very regretfully led Guenever out to the stake for burning. With them were a sizable group of knights of the Round Table:
- Sir Belliance, the jerk
- Sir Segwarides, the cuckold
- Sir Griftlet the Caterer
- Sir Brandiles
- Sir Aglovale, Percivale’s brother
- Sir Tor, Percivale’s other brother
- Sir Gauter, from Book VI
- Sir Gillimer, also from Book VI
- Sir Reynolds, from the same scene in Book VI as Gauter and Gillimer
- Sir Damas
- Sir Priamus, the converted Moor
- Sir “the Other Kay” Kay
- Sir Driant
- Sir Lambegus, Tristram’s sidekick
- Sir Hermind
- The Green Knight, from Book VII
- The Red Knight, from Book VII
When Launcelot showed up to rescue Guenever, as everybody knew he would, he killed them all. Also Gaheris and Gareth, not because he was trying to but because it was a very chaotic scene.
Guenever and Launcelot rode off over the pile of bodies. Arthur watched them go.
“This can’t go on,” he said.
“Alas, that ever I bare crown upon my head!” cried Arthur, after the massacre. “The Round Table is ended, as I predicted. We were running on fumes ever since the Grail quest; now we’re done. Launcelot and his Benwick faction aren’t about to come back, hat in hand, and apologize. And I can’t forgive the slaughter of more than thirty knights of the Round Table. There’s no happy ending from this.”
King Arthur addressed a collection of unspecified knights, because basically all of his friends and confidantes are either dead, vanished, or in revolt. The only knights to speak of that he had left were Sir Gawaine and Sir Mordred, and third-stringers like Sir Lucan or Sir Bedivere.
“That reminds me,” he said, “nobody tell Gawaine about the loss of his so-called surviving brothers. When he hears Gareth and Gaheris are dead, and that he’s the last of the Orkney faction, he will go night out of his mind. Mercy Jesu! Why slew he Sir Gareth and Sir Gaheris? They were good men; they didn’t deserve that. None of them deserved it. Except maybe Agravaine, who was pretty much asking for it. Ah Agravaine, Agravaine, Jesu forgive it thy soul, for thine evil will.”
One of Arthur’s knights took the initiative, since Arthur had by this point just broken down sobbing, of finding Sir Gawaine and updating him about the massacre.
“I knew it would happen. Launcelot wouldn’t let her burn.” Gawaine sighed heavily. “Gareth and Gaheris are okay, though, right?” Seriously this was the first thing he asked.
“No, they died,” said the knight, because he forgot what Arthur had just told him.
“Liar!” Gawaine couldn’t believe it. “Launcelot wouldn’t kill Gareth! He and Gareth are buddy-buddy!”
“That’s what people are saying.” The anonymous knight shrugged.
“Alas, now my joy is gone.” Gawaine stood there for a moment. Then he collapsed, and lay comatose for hours. Eventually, he woke up enough to sob.
Then he ran off to Arthur. “Uncle Sire! Gareth and Gaheris are dead!”
“I knooooow!” sobbed Arthur, who had just then finally stopped crying. He and Gawaine embraced one another and started sobbing all over again.
Gawaine wanted to have the best funeral ever for his brothers, but Arthur had already put them in the ground; he did it while Gawaine was unconscious with grief. “It’s easier this way.”
“I suppose you’re right,” sniffled Gawaine. “Well, I’m off to murder Sir Launcelot. Or die in the attempt. Either way.”
Not so fast, Gawaine! King Arthur called for a scribe, and drafted dozens of letters, one for each of his vassals. He earned a whole pile of favors, in his decades as king, and the time had come for him to cash those chips in: every man he could muster was to join in a siege on Launcelot’s castle, Joyous Gard.