Though Percivale was a holy knight and a fabulous fighter he couldn’t handle 20+ to one odds. He took out a third or so of his opponents, but then they killed his horse! Oh no! was this the untimely end of Percivale?
No! In a shocking twist, Sir Galahad sprang up out of nowhere, all in red finery! He lay into the funeral-goers, until they broke and fled into the woods.
That Galahad! He’s so dreamy!
As he watched Galahad chase the opposition into the woods, Percivale marveled at how the target of his quest had just appeared out of nowhere like that. “Hey, Galahad! Thanks for saving me!” he shouted. “Come back here so I can thank you properly!”
But alas, Galahad disappeared into the woods, and Percivale was left alone.
Malory continues this narrative, filling us in on Galahad’s actions since then. He ignores the gap between Book XIV and Galahad’s prior appearance in Book XIII, the whole unlikely Castle of the Maidens affair. Sir Galahad rode away from Percivale and had all kinds of awesome adventures that Malory isn’t going to go into right now, because they didn’t involve a jousting tournament. Instead he skips to the part where Galahad stumbled across a jousting tournament in progress. (JOUSTING TOURNAMENT 39!) It was outside a castle; the teams were the knights not inside the castle versus the knights inside the castle. The knights not inside the castle were clearly winning: as Galahad approached, he could see them just cutting down the inside-knights as they opponents tried to sally forth from the castle gates.
Malory is not describing a siege, let me remind you. By his own assertion, he is describing a jousting tournament. It’s totally different.
Anyway, Galahad decided he should help the knights inside the castle. He pulled out his magical white shield, threw a spear, waved his magical sword around, and generally did such wonderful deeds of arms that all they marveled.
But what’s this? Sir Gawaine and Sir Ector the Lesser! They too chose to participate in this tournament as well, but on the (previously) winning side!
“Man, we’re suddenly getting our butts kicked by that knight with the white shield,” complained Ector.
Gawaine recognized the shield. “That’s no knight, that’s Sir Galahad! Mister Holy Blessed Dude himself! I’d hate to be the guy next up against him!”
And then the melee shifted such that by adventure Sir Gawaine found himself in a one-on-one with Galahad, because Malory knows exactly one trick of dramatic irony and he uses it over and over again. Galahad didn’t even hesitate: he bashed Gawaine’s head in. Down Gawaine went, skull caved in, pieces of his helmet embedded in his brain, horse sliced open from Galahad’s follow-through.
“Crap, Uncle Gawaine!” I did not realize that Gawaine was the uncle of Ector the Lesser. In fact I was pretty sure Ector was in the Bors/Launcelot family of knights, which is unrelated to the Gawaine/Uwaine/Gaheris/Mordred group, but that’s what Malory says now, that Ector de Maris was Gawaine’s nephew. Never mind that Ector has called Launcelot both brother and uncle at various times, and never mind that his appellation, Ector de Maris, fits in more with Launcelot du Lake and Bors de Ganis. Uncle Gawaine. Fine.
Ector stood over Gawaine’s body and chased off the knights moving in to finish him off, as Galahad left. Ector and Gawaine shared a touching moment wherein Gawaine thought he was dying and Ector assured him he’d be up and Grail-Questing again in no time. Gawaine was all no, I’m done, go on without me. Malory reminds us about a bit in early Book XIII: Arthur had Gawaine attempt to draw out the Sword in the Other Stone, but he couldn’t, and then Launcelot (who at the time was uttering prophecy because why not) asserted that Galahad would one day use the sword to bash Gawaine’s skull in.
“Prophecy completed,” says Malory. He’s a little smug about it.
Sir Ector nursed Gawaine back to health, the end. A big hand for Ector and Gawaine, everybody! They’ll be back after the Grail Quest is over, although I can’t promise that Sir Gawaine won’t randomly murder anyone between then and now!
Galahad continued on, stopping briefly at his grandfather’s Castle Corbin, and on and on. Around this point, Malory forgets that Pellam’s castle is Castle Corbin, and starts calling it Carbonek, but let’s try to keep these things straight, okay? One night at a cottage, he met a woman. It’s a crying shame that Malory doesn’t provide this woman with a name. While usually I strive to give the poor female characters anachronistic names, this lady is special. So I dub her Magdalena, which sounds appropriate to her station. While Galahad slept inside the cottage, Mags knocked on its door. “I’ve come for Galahad,” she told the hermit within (Sir Ulfin, retired knight; almost all hermits are either Nacien or a retired knight)
Ulfin woke Galahad, and Galahad seemed not in the slightest surprised to see her. “Magdalena.”
“Galahad,” said Mags with a curtsey. “I will that ye arm you, and mount upon your horse and follow me, for I shall show you within these three days the highest adventure that ever any knight saw.”
The strange adventure scale tops out at highest adventure, which is up above even marvelous adventure. “Check,” said Galahad. He already had his things together; within minutes Galahad and Mags were riding together towards the sea.
Mags took Galahad down to Collibe, at the seaside. In a castle there they enjoyed meals and hot showers and a little sleep. But before the sun rose, Mags and Galahad were down on the beach, where Mags pointed out the white samite ship, the magic Grail Quest ship we’ve seen a couple of times now.
Out on the ship, Percivale and Bors waved frantically from the deck, trying to get Galahad’s attention. He waved back. “What’s the plan?”
“We swim the rest of the way.” Mags dismounted, then removed her horse’s saddle and tack and made a bundle out of it. Galahad followed suit, and then they swam out with their bundles to the ship.
It had been deadly calm, but as soon as Mags and Galahad had boarded the ship, the wind picked up from nowhere. It hit the sails with a whump and the ship started accelerating. Percivale had been through this a couple of times already; he led everybody down belowdecks where they wouldn’t get blown off.
Galahad told Percivale and Bors about his trials, mainly the Castle of the Maidens, and listened as Percivale and Bors recounted their own temptations. “Truly ye are much bounden to God, for ye have escaped great adventures. The three of us did it; we’re on our way to the Grail. Also Mags is here.”
Bors was troubled. “What about Launcelot?”
“What about him?”
Bors shrugged. “I have a hard time believing that I succeeded at something he failed. I mean, sure, you’re some kind of prophesied messiah, and Percivale here likewise sat in the Siege Perilous and also he castrated himself, which shows real dedication. But me? I’m just a man. I even have an illegitimate child, named Pale Elian or Sir Helin or Elaine if it’s a girl.”
“Launcelot’s doing his own thing,” replied Galahad, and didn’t want to talk about it any more.