These knights rode out in small groups, and Malory only really cared about one of them: Sir Percivale and his brother Sir Aglovale. You may have forgotten — I know I did! — but Percivale and Aglovale were sons of the late King Pellinore, and also brothers of the late Sir Lamorak. They have a half-brother, Sir Tor, who was Pellinore’s son by a different mother. Their mother was, therefore, a queen somewhere. Queen Veronica, let’s say.
Sir Percivale and Aglovale visited their mother, just in case Veronica had encountered Launcelot. But no, she hadn’t seen him, she’d been busy mourning Percivale’s and Aglovale’s dead brother. Not Lamorak, a different dead brother: she’d gone from four sons to two. There’d been a lot of tragedy in Veronica’s life. In fact, Veronica would have very much appreciated it if Percivale and Aglovale would quit being knights and live with her in peace.
Sadly for her, her sons declined that offer. They were the sons of a king and a queen, they said, and so going a-venturing was in their blood.
Veronica understood this, and could even accept it, but she had a little speech to deliver first. “Alas my sweet sons, for your sakes I shall lose my liking and lust, and then wind and weather I may not endure, what for the death of your father King Pellinore that was shamefully slain by the hands of Sir Gawaine and his brother Sir Gaheris, and they slew him not manly but by treason. Ah, my dear sons, this is a piteous complaint for me of your father’s death, considering also the death of Sir Lamorak, that of knighthood had but a few fellow. Now, dear sons, have this in your mind.”
“I’m just reminding everyone how awful Sir Gawaine is. Well, sons, go and have a good quest. I’ll just be here at home, fainting and crying.” Veronica let out a sob, and then she swooned!
Percivale and Aglovale looked at their mother, lying there on the floor in a swoon. Then they left.
After Veronica came to, she realized that her sons had ridden off and left her alone in her castle once again.
“Woe! Woe is me!” She summoned a squire. “Manuel, take this purse of money, go and catch up to my sons. Buy them things, I don’t know, what do they like? New shields? Buy them whatever.”
“Yes’m,” said Manuel. He hopped on a horse and rode, before too long catching up to Percivale and Aglovale.
“Mom sent you?” they said, once he’d explained himself. “Thanks but no thanks; Guenever gave us plenty of spending money. Go back home and comfort Mom.”
So Manuel turned around and headed back, but he took a wrong turn and ended up knocking on the door of the wrong castle. “Hello? Anyone home? I could use some directions!”
A baron answered the door and let Manuel in. “My good fellow!” he said. “What on earth are you doing, knocking on my door like that?”
“Eugh, I don’t even know.” Manuel groaned; he’d had a super frustrating day. “I was tasked with meeting up with Sir Aglovale and Sir Percivale, and then they sent me back to their mother, and she’s not going to be happy to see me, and what am I supposed to do? I’m actually Aglovale’s squire, you know. He was supposed to take me into battle with him, and knight me, and so on. But then he ditched me instead.”
Sir Goodewin (that is the baron’s name) looked surprised. “Really? You’re Sir Aglovale’s squire?”
“Indeed I am!” Manuel might have said more, except that the baron’s men grabbed him and clapped him in irons.
“You look confused,” Goodewin said to Manuel, as his men dragged the squire away to be murdered. “Long story short, Sir Aglovale killed my brother in a tournament. So boom, here I am with the avenging. Nothing personal.”
The next morning Aglovale and Percivale happened across a funeral, in progress. A bunch of peasants had gathered in a churchyard, which piqued Aglovale’s interest.
“Hold up,” he said to Percivale. “What’s happening here?”
“Fair knight, we’re having a funeral for the poor squire who was murdered last night,” explained an expository peasant.
“Murdered? A squire? Seriously, what happened?”
“It’s true! He was murdered for being the servant of Sir Aglovale, whom our lord Sir Goodewin despises.”
“Oy,” said Aglovale. “Percivale, we’re going to have to dismount for this.”
So Aglovale and Percivale dismounted and walked to Goodewin’s castle, where Aglovale rang the bell for service.
A porter answered the door. “Go and tell your boss that Sir Aglovale is here,” Aglovale told him.
The porter soon fetched Goodewin. “Which one of you is Aglovale?” Sir Goodewin demanded.
Aglovale raised his hand. “Now what’s this about you hating me?”
“You killed my brother, Sir Gawdelin!”
“Oh, that.” Aglovale made a dismissive gesture. “That guy. That guy was a jerk. A false knight and betrayer of ladies. I don’t regret killing him at all, and now that you’ve killed Manuel I’m going to have to kill you, too.”
Goodewin, for whatever reason, was enraged by Aglovale’s words! They came to blows! Percivale held Goodewin’s men off Aglovale long enough for Aglovale to beat Goodewin to death.
Then Percivale and Aglovale hurried back to the churchyard and caught the tail end of Manuel’s funeral, before moving on. Man, Manuel did not get a fair deal, am I right?
Have you ever noticed that Malory is not great at internal continuity? Like, just now we had the tragic tale of Manuel, put to death for the crime of being Sir Aglovale’s squire in a place where Sir Aglovale’s name was mud. This next scene opens with Sir Percivale conspiring with Sir Aglovale’s squire, a totally different guy than the one who was just killed.
Let me back up. After the sordid events of the above paragraphs, Percivale and Aglovale rode around for a while, looking for Launcelot. Eventually they put in for the night at a castle called Castle Cardican. There Percivale woke up in the middle of the night and told Aglovale’s squire that he was ditching Aglovale. “You want to come with? We can ditch him together!”
This second squire was reluctant to abandon Aglovale in Castle Cardican, not so much because the squire respected his master, as because he was afraid Aglovale would be angry about it. Also that Aglovale would express that anger by eventually murdering him.
“Don’t worry about it,” said Percivale. “If it comes up, I’ll protect you.”
But Malory is vague as to whether Percivale left alone, or with Aglovale’s squire. All we know is that in the next scene, Percivale was miles away and without his brother. We fade from black to find Percivale approaching a stone bridge with, get this, a knight chained up on it.
“Whoa,” said Percivale. “How’d you get yourself into this predicament?”
“It’s a funny story,” said the knight. “I’m Sir Persides of the Round Table, by the way. You may have heard of me? I was a friend of Sir Tristram’s, back in Book IX? I mean, I hated him, but that’s true of all his friends.”
“Doesn’t ring a bell,” said Percivale.
“Well, anyway, I was out having a strange adventure, and I stayed in that castle over there.” Persides pointed to a castle on the other side of the bridge. Really very close by, built into the bridge, Malory says. Not clear how Percivale missed it. “Anyway, she totally wanted me, and I was all, no way, I’m married to strange adventuring and that means I’ve got to be totally celibate, just like Launcelot and Tristram, neither of whom have ever had sex as far as I know. So she had me chained up here.”
“Huh,” said Percivale. “That seems disproportionate. Here, let me try breaking your chains with my sword.”
“Don’t accidentally kill me!” warned Persides, as he leaned out so the chain would be taut.
Percivale drew his sword and swung and there was a huge CLANG! Percivale struck at the chain with such a might that he cut a-two the chain, and through Sir Persides’ hauberk and hurt him a little.
“That was awesome!” said Persides. “I don’t mind that all that I’m now bleeding! Also, a knight just came out of the castle behind you, so watch out.”
Sure enough, a knight rushed across the bridge to investigate the clanging. Percivale was ready for him, though! He lunged out and shoved the knight off his horse and into the water.
I don’t know why he’d mounted up, given he emerged from a castle that was built into the same bridge as Percivale was on. Nor do I know why there was a little rowboat positioned under the bridge such that this strange knight fell onto it, instead of into the water where he’d have drowned in his armor. All I am doing is reporting what Malory said. Blame him!
Afterwards Percivale and Persides headed into that castle themselves. They found the lady who wanted to sleep with Persides, and Percivale chewed her out and made her apologize, and also got her to release Persides’s servants she’d been keeping prisoner. Percivale really tore this lady a new one, calling her shameful and uncourteous. He made a big deal about how he was in the middle of a strange adventure, otherwise he’d have stuck around and really seen to it she reformed.
Then Persides and Percivale went back to Persides’s castle and had a party! Way to commit to that strange adventure, buddy.