In which Sir Launcelot shows up late
Hey, remember Sir Launcelot? Remember how he was conspicuously absent for several scenes? Turns out he’d been chilling in Benwick the whole time. He got the letter from Sir Gawaine but assumed it was just Gawaine being a dick again, and disregarded it. Once Arthur was gone, though, he eventually got that news, and it spurred him to act.
“To England!” he cried. “We must go avenge our fallen king, and slay the false knight Sir Mordred! Maybe it’ll make up for all the slaughter I did in Book XX!”
Bors, Lionel, Ector, Palomides, and all the other former Knights of the Round Table, now Knights of Hanging Out In Benwick, let out a cheer. “To England!”
With much pomp and circumstance they loaded onto ships and crossed the channel. When they came to Dover, Launcelot was ready for a fight, so he set up an elaborate amphibious assault, ready to storm the beaches. His host was tanned, rested, ready, their numbers hideous to behold. They poured onto the seaside, and it wasn’t until Launcelot and his seven or eight chief lieutenants (Malory can’t keep track and keeps contradicting himself) had unloaded, along with all the men, that they realized there was no opposing army there to fight them.
“What gives?” they asked the townsfolk of Dover.
The folk of Dover very politely explained that Arthur and Mordred and a hundred thousand or so knights all died in a huge massacre, up at Barham Down, leaving a massive power vacuum in England. Also here, Dover, was where Gawaine died.
“So we’re too late?” Launcelot was aghast.
“Pretty much.” Launcelot visited Gawaine’s tomb, as Gawaine requested in the letter, and silently prayed and forgave Gawaine all his faults.
Then Launcelot threw a huge funeral-party, because what else was he going to do with all this food and money he brought? He rented out the church for funeral after funeral, spending lots of money and having to supply tons of candles, and it went on and on for days.
Three days after Launcelot locked himself in Gawaine’s tomb to have a good cry, he stumbled out and called together his apostles, I mean his knights. “Guys, thanks a lot for coming out, but we’re done here I guess. I’m going to go find Guenever now. I’ll be back in a couple of weeks. Or if I’m not, just go home without me, okay?”
Bors asked if this was such a good idea. Launcelot insisted that it was, and also forbid any of his knights from following or accompanying him.
Launcelot found Guenever easily; she hadn’t been living as an incognito nun, just a nun. He strode into her cloister, and when she saw him she fainted!
The nuns with Guenever helped her back up.
“Oh, thanks,” she said. “It’s just, that’s…”
She saw Launcelot again, where he stood in the doorway, dramatically backlit by the daylight outside. And she fainted a second time.
The nuns helped her up, again.
“Whew,” she said. “It’s just, I haven’t seen him for…” And swoon! Down she went for the third time.
All the nuns waved Launcelot out of the cloister, before they helped Guenever up. “What the heck?” they asked.
“That’s Sir Launcelot, my beloved knight and lover for many decades. Oh, the things we’ve done to one another’s bodies… Bring him over to me.”
The nuns squinted. “Are you serious?”
“Yes!” Guenever sat down and looked as regal as she could, which was pretty darn regal. “Bring him in.”
So the nuns led Launcelot into Guenever’s presence. “Through this man and me hath all this war been wrought, and the death of the most noblest knights of the world; for through our love that we have loved together is my most noble lord slain,” she told the nuns.
“Guenever…” he began.
“It’s good to see you,” Guenever said, stiffly. “As you can see I’ve become a nun, in hopes of making up for the sins of the past.”
“She’s really good at it!” piped up one of the nuns in the back.
“Thanks, Shirley.” Guenever smiled at Shirley, then turned back to Launcelot. “As such, I need you to leave and never come back.”
“Aw!” Launcelot had half-expected this, but still he was crestfallen. “Are you sure you don’t want to go back to Benwick with me and be my queen?”
“Very sure. I’m extremely focused on my nunning career now. Go marry someone else. Find a girl named Elaine, I know you like them.”
“All the Elaines I knew are dead, and besides, you’re the only one I want!”
“I’m sorry, Launcelot. It can’t happen. Otherwise our tragic star-crossed love story would have a happy ending, and thus lose all drama and angst. Marry someone else.”
“If I can’t marry you, I don’t want anyone. I’ll live the rest of my life celibate!”
“Hah!” Guenever did not think highly of Launcelot’s ability to remain celibate. “First girl named Elaine who throws herself at you…”
“Guen, I was celibate throughout the Grail quest. I can do it, if I need to, and proving my love for you to God or whatever… I’m going off to be a monk, if you’re going to be a nun.”
“Then I guess we’ll meet in heaven! Peace be with you!”
“And also with you!” Launcelot stood there for a moment. “One last kiss?”
“Nay, that I shall never do!”
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