Palomides, separated from his companions, embarked upon his strange adventure. He boarded the ship which Hermance, the dead guy, arrived on, and told the sailors aboard to take him wherever he was supposed to go.
“Strange adventure me, boys,” he said.
The sailors exchanged glances and nod. Overnight, they took him up the coast to a castle, while he slept. In the morning the sailors woke him up and pressed a horn into his hands. “Sir knight,” one said, “ye must arise, for here is a castle there ye must go into.“
“Check,” said Palomides. He left the ship and strode up to the castle’s gates, where he blew the horn.
All the knights in this castle (and apparently there were a lot of them) heard the horn! They came running. You might expect a big fight scene, but when they saw Palomides standing outside, all the knights cheered and welcomed him in for a feast with many divers meats.
“Two kinds of pork! Sweet!” said Palomides. Once again, I feel I need to stress that he was not a very good Muslim, not through any personal defect, but only because Malory knows literally nothing about Islam.
Palomides enjoyed his feast; it’s the highlight of any strange adventure. But then, over the din of cheers and songs, he heard someone sniffle.
“Hold on,” he cried, rising to his feet. “Is anybody out there not having a good time? I love not to hear such a sorrow, and fain I would know what it meaneth.”
So he made his way through the party, until he found the unhappy person, who turned out to be a knight named Sir Ebel.
“It’s true: I’m unhappy,” Ebel admitted. “My liege lord, King Hermance of the Red City, has died. He was a great guy. Way into jousting.”
“Oh, right,” said Palomides. He’d forgotten. “I’m actually here to avenge his death. How did he die, again? Who killed him?”
“It’s a sad story,” said Ebel. Long story short — Malory does love to unpack this kind of backstory — the late Hermance had no biological children, but two adopted sons, Helius and Herlake. His nephews and cousins resented that these adopted sons stood to inherit Hermance’s estates, and so feuded with Helius and Herlake. The pair pretty much destroyed the cousins, then, having honed their relative-ruining skills, decided to commit adoptive patricide.
While their adoptive father Hermance was out hunting, separated from the rest of his party, they ambushed him. Helius mortally wounded Hermance with a spear, and then both he and Herlake wandered off. Ebel found the dying King Hermance and packed him into a ship with a vengeance-requesting letter, which is how Palomides came to be there.
“A sad story,” said Palomides. “But I’ll make it right! I’ll take out Helius and Herlake both! What do I need to do?”
As Ebel gave Palomides directions, Palomides warned him that if he died, Tristram or Launcelot or someone would show up looking to avenge. “So, be on the lookout for that.”
Palomides headed off to Hermance’s capital, the Red City, where the adopted sons had taken up rulership. Along the way he bumped into a new character.
“Hey! What’re you doing here?” Palomides asked the new knight.
“I’ve come to avenge King Hermance!” said the stranger.
“No way! I called dibs!”
And the two of them jousted over the honor. Palomides won, you’ll be relieved to hear.
Afterwards it turns out this new knight was Sir Hermind, brother of the late King Hermance and — this is a twist! — cousin of the late Sir Lamorak! Palomides told Hermind all about how Gawaine and his brothers murdered Lamorak. Sir Hermind became incensed at the news.
Palomides and Hermind arrived by ship at the Red City, which by the way was located on the Delectable Isle, I kid you not. Palomides knew that Helius and Herlake wouldn’t be happy about Hermind’s arrival, but they had no reason to fear him as far as they knew. So he just went right up to the gates and announced that he was Sir Palomides, Knight of the Round Table, Questing Beast Questor, and Arthur’s Goodwill Ambassador from Camelot.
He got a city-wide party thrown in his honor! Although when they found out he’s Muslim they tried to get him baptized, and he had to politely decline again. To shut them up he claimed that he’d sworn an oath to win seven tournaments and also capture the Questing Beast first, before he would convert.
Around the third day of this city-wide Palomides Festival, he finally met Helius and Herlake. They were all dolled up in shiny armor, with forty knights attending them. Malory at this point editorializes a bit about how Helius and Herlake weren’t deserving of their honors, because they were only the adopted children of King Hermance, and therefore were secretly really peasants, which led them to self-hatred, which was why they were such villains. Thanks for that, Malory.
“Welcome, Sir Palomides Saracen,” they said.
“You’re under arrest!” was how Palomides greeted them in return.
This led to a tense conversation, let me tell you. Helius and Herlake didn’t deny having murdered their father, but they had forty knights and a whole city on their side. They talked a little smack about Palomides being Muslim, also.
“Feh,” said Palomides. “Even if I die right now, I’d die a better Christian than either of you. And I’m not even baptized, nor do I even believe in Jebus! I’m just a better person!”
Eventually Helius and Herlake tried to flee. Palomides chased them, jousted forty guys, was trampled, got up, bashed Helius’s head in with a mace, stabbed Herlake through the heart with a spear, and fought Helius on foot for a while. Eventually Palomides decapitated him.
“All hail King Palomides!” cheered the peasantry. “Hurray!”
“Yeah, no. No thank you. I have zero interest in that,” said Palomides. “This place is kind of a dump. I’m going back to Arthur’s court. Sort it out among yourselves.”
So Sir Ebel or Sir Hermind or someone became king of the Delectable Isle, and Palomides made his way back to Joyous Gard, where he reconnected with Tristram and Dinadan and Gareth. He and Dinadan had sex. Or at least they lay together that night. Which when a knight and a lady did it meant sex.
Malory combines hilariously archaic pro-aristocracy politics with odd progressivism w/r/t Palomides being non-Christian (and also possibly gay, but that’s no doubt my modern eyes seeing what he didn’t intend). Weird, huh? Would this whole section of the book work better if Sir Dinadan had been actually a woman who rebelled against her culture’s gender roles and lived as a man and knight? I think maybe so!