In which Sir Bors experiences surrealism
Pretty soon a knight passed by! Sir Bors! He’s not Sir Launcelot, but as Launcelot’s nephew and a knight of the Round Table, he was pretty darn close. I mean, what are the odds? At least half of the knights in Le Morte D’Arthur aren’t related to Launcelot.
Naturally Bors and Bromel ended up jousting. At first Sir Bromel looked like he might win, but then Sir Bors won, instead. It was an exciting fight. Afterwards Bromel surrendered, and Bors accepted his surrender on the condition that Sir Bromel go visit Sir Launcelot next Pentecost and apologize to him in person (yield thee unto him as a knight recreant). Bromel promised to do that, and off he went, never to be seen or heard from again.
Bors headed into the castle, to meet Pellam and Elaine. They’re thrilled — thrilled! — that finally Launcelot’s family had come to visit the baby. Bors was surprised about the baby, it is safe to say. “Launcelot never mentioned a baby. On the other hand, he has been distracted lately.” Bors held his little cousin Galahad and studied his wee face. “Definitely I can’t deny there’s a strong resemblance. I hope he grows up to be a great knight!”
And then! The incense-burner bird flew in, so they held a magical feast, and a new maiden came in holding the Grail. She announced to Sir Bors that his cousin Galahad would grow up to sit in the Siege Perilous, win the Grail, surpass Launcelot in every way, et cetera. Then she disappeared in a light show! (GRAIL SIGHTING 3!)
“Wow,” said Bors. “This is some crazy strange adventure happening here. Pellam my man, are you sure we’re in Castle Corbin? Because it seems to me this is Castle Strange Adventures!”
“Yeah,” said Pellam after a pause. He recalled Sir Balin and the dolorous stroke and all that. “Many knights have passed through here on strange adventures. Sir Gawaine was here the other day. I don’t like him.”
“Nobody does,” said Bors. “Maybe I’ll hang out here for a while, see if I can score a strange adventure of my own.”
“I don’t recommend that.” Pellam had seen a lot of strange adventures in his day. “It sounds like a fun time, all strange and adventurous, but it all ends in tears.”
Bors was confident. “I can handle whatever!”
“Well, okay. But if you’re going to do this, see a priest and do some confessing, so you can die with a clear conscience.”
Bors didn’t plan on dying, but he agreed to confess his sins. Bors’s sins were very pedestrian, Malory tells us. While some knights would dip their wick anywhere, Bors had only slept with one woman, the daughter of King Brangoris. Bors and Princess Brangoris’s Daughter had a kid together, a girl named Elaine. (ELAINE 5!)
After the confession, Bors went to bed for the night in a room set aside for him. He politely declined an unspecified number of offers of bedtime companionship (Malory is vague).
And then, a spear materialized from out of nowhere! It was long and pointy and clearly magical: aside from having just beamed in, its tip shone in the darkness of the room. Also no one was wielding it; it just floated in the air! The spear stabbed Bors deep in the shoulder, then vanished as abruptly as it appeared.
“Whoa,” said Bors. He lay there in bed for a second, feeling his wound, reflecting perhaps that his insistence on a strange adventure had been maybe ill-founded. Then a knight barged in!
You are not going to believe who this knight was, but I am going to tell you anyway: it was Sir Pedivere, last seen in Book VI! This was the jerk who murdered a woman, outsmarted Launcelot and ended up begging the Pope for forgiveness. Years later, he appeared doing strange adventure temp work out of Castle Corbin!
“Arise, sir knight, and fight with me,” said Pedivere.
“I’m bleeding pretty badly,” said Bors. “But okay, sure.” He got up out of bed, lifted his sword and shield, and started to swordfight with Pedivere. Despite his wounds, Bors was still much better than his opponent; Pedivere retreated right out of Bors’s bedroom and into the bedroom next door.
“Five-minute break!” cried Pedivere, as Bors started to follow him into the room. He slammed the door shut in Bors’s face.
Bors was stuck standing there tapping his foot, until Pedivere came out freshly again, and began new battle with Sir Bors mightily and strongly.
This maybe happened a few times. Eventually Bors realized that whenever Pedivere started to lose the swordfight, he could just retreat into the room next door, lock Bors out, and then sit and catch his breath. So Bors outflanked Pedivere, positioning himself between Pedivere and the door, until he’d backed his foe into a corner. Finally unable to retreat, Pedivere proved no match for Bors, who knocked him down.
“Okay, okay, you win,” said Pedivere.
“Right, now, next Pentecost you need to…”
“I have to go to Camelot, and announce that Sir Bors defeated me, I know, I know,” said Pedivere. “I’ve been through that once before, with Sir Launcelot. Let’s just be done with this, all right?”
So Bors went back to bed (Malory doesn’t mention the spear-wound again) but no sooner had he fallen back asleep, than some jerk started firing hundreds of arrows in through the windows of his room! They got all over the floor and they stuck to the bedframe and more than one lodged themselves in Bors’s limbs.
“Jeez! This strange adventure is awful!” Bors staggered out of the bedroom and into the hallway, where he was nearly eaten by a lion.
Yeah! A lion! Just stone hanging out in the hallway. Bors managed to slay it, though it ripped his shield to tatters. Down to just his nightshirt and his sword and some arrows stuck in his body, Bors limped downstairs to the main courtyard, where he fell into an editorial cartoon.
There was this dragon, okay, and it was labeled KING ARTHUR. Really! Listen to Malory if you don’t believe me: Right so Sir Bors forthwithal saw a dragon in the court passing horrible, and there seemed letters of gold written on his forehead; and Sir Bors thought that the letters made a signification of King Arthur.
I know, right?
But there was more! A mean old leopard sprang out of the darkness and attacked the dragon! Then the dragon breathed fire, which defeated the leopard, but it wasn’t really fire, it was smaller dragons! The smaller dragons came spewing out of the big dragon’s mouth, all over the leopard. But once the leopard was down, they turned on the big dragon, and tore it all to pieces! Finally there was nothing left in the courtyard but parts of the dead dragon and little dragons squabbling over the bits.
Bors had to sit down for a second, after seeing all that. He landed in a chair, and in another chair next to him noticed an old man with snakes wrapped around his neck. The old man was also carrying a harp. As Bors watched, he strummed it and started to sing:
And did those feet in ancient time.
Walk upon England’s mountains green:
And was the holy Lamb of God,
On England’s pleasant pastures seen!
And did the Countenance Divine,
Shine forth upon our clouded hills?
And was Jerusalem builded here,
Among these dark Satanic Mills?
Bring me my Bow of burning gold;
Bring me my Arrows of desire:
Bring me my Spear: O clouds unfold!
Bring me my Chariot of fire!
I will not cease from Mental Fight,
Nor shall my Sword sleep in my hand:
Till we have built Jerusalem,
In England’s green & pleasant Land!
Those are not the words Malory uses, of course; it’s “Jerusalem” by William Blake. But Malory makes it clear that this was the subject matter of the song: Joseph of Arimathea bearing the Grail off to England.
“This is heavy,” said Bors.
“Go home,” Nacien suggested to Bors. Nacien was very probably the name of this guy for reasons I may or may not get into later. “Go on, git. Your strange adventure is over.”
Then, just to punctuate the point, the bird with the incense (seen twice before already) flew in, and a magical feast appeared, and Nacien produced four dancing children and the Spear of Longinus, for good measure.
“Whoa,” said Bors.
“Go back to Camelot, find Launcelot, and tell him all about this,” Nacien said. “Also, tell him he’s too much of a sinner to ever achieve the Grail, though he is the greatest warrior alive today.” At this point four women pranced in with banners and also an altar with pillars and a silver light and a shining sword! It was all so crazy-magical that Bors was struck blind by the awesomeness of it, and he passed out.
In the morning, Bors woke up and he could see, which came as a relief. He had a good breakfast with Pellam and Elaine and little baby Galahad, then politely excused himself and got the hell out of there. He rode hard and didn’t stop until he had arrived back at Camelot. There he found Launcelot, in an unspecified situation with Guenever.
“Launcelot, cousin, listen to this crazy story!” shouted Bors, and unloaded the whole tale of Castle Corbin onto Launcelot. Launcelot listened, mystified.
Guenever listened, too, but stopped hearing anything when Bors got to the part about Elaine being the mother of Launcelot’s son. “What?!” She turned to Launcelot and demanded an explanation, calling him false knight.
“It was magic,” Launcelot said lamely. Which explanation Guenever reluctantly accepted.
In which Sir Bors experiences surrealism — No Comments
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