The next big jousting tournament in the rotation was the Candlemas tournament, around New Year’s. (JOUSTING TOURNAMENT 37!) Everybody planned to attend, Launcelot included.

Guenever and Launcelot had made up by the time she called him into her chambers one evening before the tournament. “Listen,” she said. “I know you’ve always said you won’t bear any lady’s favor into the tournament with you, but you’ve broken that rule once, for Elaine. Won’t you do the same for me?” She showed him a golden sleeve she had made special. “You always go incognito anyway. Disguise yourself, wear my favor, and join whichever side is the underdog, which is to say, the side that my husband isn’t on.”

“I’ll do it!”

Later Launcelot told Bors he would sit this tournament out. Instead, he claimed, he would spend the holidays with Sir Brastias, the hermit who put him up back at the start of this Book. Launcelot and Lavaine rode out early, before the tournament. Launcelot’s plan: visit Sir Brastias as promised, get a good rest, and then arrive at the tournament incognito after one week, instead of going back to Camelot after two.

And so it was Christmas, and naturally Launcelot was napping, out in the woods near Sir Brastias’s hermitage. Enter Diana! We’ll call her Diana; Malory doesn’t give her a name, which is a shame because she’s pretty interesting. Diana is basically what if Robin Hood were a girl and all the Merry Men were Merry Women?

Got that? It’s pretty straightforward. So Diana was out hunting with her hounds, chasing a deer. By chance the deer ran through Launcelot’s napping-place, and what with one thing and another Diana shot Launcelot in the butt — seriously, in the thick of the buttock. The arrow went in deep, and Launcelot naturally woke up screaming! The deer had skipped away by this point, of course; Launcelot looked around, saw no deer, just a woman with a bow and himself with an arrow sticking out of his ass.

“What the hell, lady?”

Unfortunately Malory isn’t interested in developing Diana as a character. “Sorry,” she said, and left, never to be seen again. Launcelot limped back to Sir Brastias’s hermitage, where Lavaine and Brastias extract the arrow from his butt.

“Who shot you?” was naturally the question on their lips.

“I don’t want to talk about it!” was Launcelot’s only reply. Apparently getting shot in his sleep by Lady Robin Hood is embarrassing.

Despite this butt injury, Launcelot refused to sit out the big tournament. He and Lavaine carried out Launcelot’s plan of showing up late, incognito, and on Mister 100’s side. But Launcelot didn’t count on one thing: Sir Bors and his Grail-granted superpowers. Bors recognized Launcelot straight off, through the disguise. He warned his brothers and cousins not to tangle with him, also Sir Gareth, a good egg despite being one of Sir Gawaine’s brothers.

Launcelot beat up thirty or so knights, at the tournament. Eventually Arthur, noticing that one of Mister 100’s knights appeared to be head and shoulders better than all the others, got together a bunch of named characters — Gawaine, Mordred, Kay, Griftlet, Lucan, Palomides, and Safere. Arthur led them into battle, intending to surround and bring down Launcelot. When Bors saw this happening, he and Gareth rode to Launcelot’s aid, because they didn’t want anybody getting killed.

It’s a whole long scene nobody cares about. Sir Bedivere was also there and got beaten up pretty badly.

Afterwards Gawaine complained to Arthur that the knight with the golden sleeve had to have been Launcelot, and why were Bors and the others fighting on the wrong side, and on and on, until Kay told him to just shut up already.

“Yeah, Gawaine,” said Arthur. “I’m sure you’re right, but come on. It’s just a tournament.” Arthur, King of England, then gave a little speech about, basically, the importance of good sportsmanship and how it’s essential to the flower of chivalry. He summed up with “and always a good man will do ever to another man as he would be done to himself.

The end! The moral is, don’t be like Sir Gawaine.

Actually, before Book XVIII ends, Malory takes a moment to tell us that May is the best time of year for romance, and that one should love God first and one’s spouse/significant other/lover second, and that for all her faults Queen Guenever really did love Launcelot. Because that’s how they loved in olden times: well! Not like Malory’s decadent era of roughly a thousand years later. So I suppose that’s the moral.


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