Eventually Launcelot arrived at a jousting tournament, because it’d just been too long since there was any serious jousting in this novel, I guess. Five hundred knights were jousting in this tournament, on two teams. The White team was really giving the Black team a pounding. (JOUSTING TOURNAMENT 36!)
Then thought Sir Launcelot for to help there the weaker party in increasing of his chivalry! He rode in and started jousting on the side of the Blacks. He beat up a whole big pile of White knights, as the White knights threw wave after wave of their men at him. Everyone talked about how awesome Launcelot was; it was business as usual.
But the Whites just had an endless stream of guys to throw at Launcelot, and a man may not ever endure. After many hours of victory following victory, our hero eventually collapsed, worn down by the crush of bodies.
The Whites took him prisoner. “What the hey, guy,” they complained. “You’re what, J. Random Knight, just come in and bashing on our joust? And beating everybody up! Who invited you?”
Launcelot didn’t have a good answer for them, and he was super despondent, on account of this was the first time ever that he had lost a fight. So he lay in the prison and felt sorry for himself until the knights let him go.
Sobbing and mired in self-pity, Launcelot rode onwards. Eventually he came to an apple tree, and you know Launcelot! Even when he was unhappy, he was still a knight who took lots of naps. So he lies down under the tree and takes a nap. (LAUNCELOT NAP 8!).
He had another dream, in which Nacien berated him for feeling sorry for himself.
“I wonder what that dream meant,” Launcelot said to himself, when he woke up, because Launcelot did not know how to interpret dreams. He rode around for a while and found a chapel and in the chapel was Nacien!
No, wait, not Nacien, Malory says. Nacien was in the vision, so it had to be someone else. It was a recluse who had a window that she might see up to the altar; that is, an anchoress. (This was an actual thing: women who lived inside the walls of churches, like crazy agoraphobic nuns!)
Our hero Launcelot entered the chapel, looking for Nacien. He saw zero Naciens but spotted a low window that opened onto a cell, in which the aforementioned anchoress sat. “Hi there, anchoress.”
“Yes, yes, Sir Launcelot.” The anchoress was not at all surprised to see him, because she was holy. “Tell me your most recent vision, so I can interpret it for you, and then you can get out of my hair.”
“Okay.” And then he told her altogether word by word, and the truth how it befell him at the tournament, which wasn’t actually part of the vision, but it was a big deal to Launcelot.
“Launcelot, Launcelot, Launcelot.” The anchoress clucked her tongue in disapproval. “You were such a good knight, when you were doing earthly adventures back in Book VI. But since then you’ve been engaging in heavenly adventures. It’s a whole new scale, kiddo.”
Launcelot perked up. “So, I lost at that tournament because those knights were all Mystery Knights or Magic Knights or Fair Knights, not regular knights? I’m still undefeated in terms of conventional jousting?”
“No!” the anchoress snapped. “That was a perfectly normal jousting tournament you crashed, between your brother-in-law Eliazar, Pellam’s son, and King Harlon‘s son Argustus. Sir Eliazar’s team were the Whites, and Sir Argustus’s the Blacks, who lost.”
“Aw, man.” Launcelot slumped in his seat.
“Listen, remember Arthur’s last big jousting tournament in Book XIII? Jousting Tournament 35?”
Malory didn’t mention it at the time, but now he’s decided that during that tournament half the knights wore black and called their team the Unconfessed Sins, and the other half wore white and called their team the Virgins. Of course the Virgins won, because symbolism. That was the true beginning of the Quest for the Holy Grail.
Later, when Launcelot came upon a tournament and saw the Virgins beating the Unconfessed Sins again, what did he do? He joined in the fight on the side of the Unconfessed Sins. Shame, Launcelot! Boo!
“Aw, man!” Launcelot sniffled. He was like a little dejected puppy.
The anchoress took pity on Launcelot and fed him dinner. “Just try to be a better man, Sir Launcelot. You just keep trying, you hear?”
In the morning Launcelot continued onwards and came to a ford, guarded by a gigantic black knight, as big as a bear. They jousted, wordlessly, and Launcelot lost! He was dehorsed and washed away down the river! But he was okay with that, because he was trying to be better. And then he took his helm and his shield, and thanked God of his adventure.
That wraps up Book XV, which was very short. Malory lets us know that Book XVI shall be about Sir Gawaine, so we’ve got that to look forward to. Although actually it’s mostly about Sir Bors. If you’ve been paying attention you may have already pieced it together, but in the Quest for the Holy Grail, Galahad, Percivale, and Bors have a distinct advantage over everyone else.