In which Sir Percivale and Sir Ector “rescue” Sir Launcelot
Five hundred knights eventually showed up, and Launcelot defeated each and every one of them. He was so skilled that he avoided killing or even maiming his opponents, that was how good he was. Malory skipped over the details of Launcelot’s 72 hours of continuous jousting action (JOUSTING TOURNAMENT 34!) We rejoin the narrative during a big feast afterwards.
Sir Ector and Sir Percivale, still searching for Launcelot after all these years, happened by. They saw the castle, its big moat with no drawbridge, and naturally they were curious. They tried shouting at the castle. “Hello! Hello!”
A lady with a falcon on her shoulder emerged from a rear door, and called back to them from the other side of the moat. “Howdy! Have you come to fight for me? You’re late!”
“We just had a big jousting tournament, and I’m the prize! Nobody won me, though!”
Ector and Percivale exchanged glances. “Whose castle is this?”
“My lady Elaine’s, she’s so pretty! And her husband, the best knight anywhere, Sir Guilty!”
“Well that doesn’t raise my suspicions at all,” muttered Ector.
“How did Sir Guilty come to be lord of this castle?” shouted back Percivale.
“It’s a crazy story actually!” shouted the prize, whose name I’ve decided is Melanie. “He wandered into Corbin acting like a crazy person! And then he was the town crazy man for a while! And then he was healed by the Grail! Sir Guilty: he’s just the best!”
“I would like to meet this Sir Guilty!” shouted Percivale.
Melanie saw no reason he couldn’t! “There’s a boat over on the other side of the castle! It’ll ferry you over!”
“Thank you!” shouted Percivale, and Melanie went back inside. “All right here’s the plan,” he told Ector. “We split up. You stay out here, in case there’s trouble. I’ll go in and check on this ‘Sir Guilty’ guy.”
“What if he’s Launcelot?”
“All the more reason for us to split up. Say we both go in, and it is Launcelot, but then he challenges us to a joust! We can’t both joust him at once.”
“Yeah, that makes sense,” said Ector. “Do as ye list, and here I shall abide you until that I hear of you.”
So Percivale pulled on a face-concealing helmet, and he strode on into the castle. In the great hall a large dinner was set. When Sir Launcelot saw Percivale enter, he rose from the head table to sword-fight the intruder. Launcelot had defeated an average of one knight every eight minutes for the prior seventy-two hours straight; what was one more?
But of course Percivale was a way better knight than any of those scrubs. He and Launcelot shield-fought (that is, after a perfunctory lances-and-horses bit, they tossed their swords aside and hammered one another with shields, which I’ve never heard of before and I guess maybe it was a nonlethal jousting technique? Or maybe I’m misreading “they flang out their swords” and it means to unsheathe rather than to fling away! I like my probably-wrong interpretation better)! Two straight hours of combat passed, until they were both pretty much exhausted.
“So, strange knight wearing a device of a knight kneeling before a queen,” said Percivale. It was the first thing he’d said since they started. “What’s your name?”
“They call me Sir Guilty,” said Launcelot shortly. “What’s yours?”
“I don’t hesitate to tell you! I am not using a pseudonym of any kind. I am Sir Percivale de Galis, that was brother to the good knight Sir Lamorak de Galis, and King Pellinore was our father, and Sir Aglovale is my brother. That’s a lot of information about me and who I am and I’m being completely open and honest about it. Hint hint.”
Launcelot sighed. “Damn it, I should have known that hosting a jousting tournament would be a bridge too far. Fine. You win.” He kneeled in surrender.
“Man, I knew it was you. ‘Sir Guilty.’ Come on! Let me hear you say your actual name,” said Percivale. “Just for the record?”
“So God me help, my name is Sir Launcelot du Lake, King Ban’s son of Benoy. By which I mean Benwick.” Launcelot sounded so sad that Percivale couldn’t help but feel bad for him.
“Sorry,” said Percivale. “But Ector and I — he’s outside — we’ve been searching for you for years, boss. We thought you’d be happy to see us.”
“The queen sent us, if that helps? Again, sorry about having found you. I can see you would have rather just stayed here forever.”
“It is soon forgiven,” Launcelot grumbled.
Launcelot and Ector shared a tearful reunion. Launcelot introduced Elaine to Percivale and Ector both. She threw a big banquet in their honor, and Launcelot recapped his whole crazy misadventure, with Bliant and Selivant, and the boar, and the hermit, and the time living like a dog in Corbin, and so on and so on.
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