Malory reveals that King Mark has a younger brother, Prince Boudwin, whom he’s neglected to mention up to this point. Boudwin existed, Malory insists. He just hadn’t been involved in literally any of the Cornish events of the last three Books because he’d been very busy.
But he was Mark’s younger brother, smarter, better-looking, way more charismatic. Shortly after the Sessoins evacuated, an expeditionary force of Moors landed at whatever Cornwall’s main port was. They tried to invade, but Boudwin (who lived in that city Malory doesn’t feel like providing a name for) raised a militia and routed them. He burned their boats and became the hero of the hour, without even telling Mark about the invasion until it was all over. Everyone was very impressed.
Afterwards Mark invited him and his wife Anglides (a woman with a name!) and also his infant son Alisander to Tintagil, to visit.
“You could have told me about that invading army,” Mark said to Boudwin, once alone with him and his wife.
“Enh, it was nothing I couldn’t handle, brother. And if I’d waited for the courier to get to you and then for a response, the invaders would have been doing damage that whole time. Easier to just get the job done, y’know?”
“Thou liest, false traitor!” screeched Mark. “Thou art ever about for to win worship from me and put me to dishonor and thou cherishest that I hate! I am jealous of your bravery and great deeds! You make me feel bad about myself!” And Mark pulled out a knife and stabs Boudwin in the chest, twenty or thirty times. Blood flew everywhere! Boudwin’s wife Anglides screamed! It was a bad scene.
Sir Tristram, Sir Dinas, and also Sir Fergus (Tristram’s other sidekick whom Malory keeps forgetting about) all felt pretty dreadful about this, but what can you do? Mark was king; he could stab whoever he wanted apparently. The only person to take any kind of action was the lovely Isoud, who bundled Anglides and her infant son Alisander up and gave them horses and sent them out of Tintagil before Mark killed them too. This was the most proactive thing the lovely Isoud had done in, like, ever.
Mark went to murder his sister-in-law and nephew, but found them already gone. I don’t know why Mark waited, since Anglides had been in the room when he murdered Boudwin. But by this point she’d fled; Mark couldn’t find her anywhere in the castle. He sent for one of his best men, Sir Sadok. Sadok wasn’t that great a guy, really, but Mark’s men were by and large incompetent dolts. If they could have found work under someone better than Mark, they would.
“Sadok,” he said, “go find Anglides and her son and kill them. Or bring them to me. Either way.”
“You got it, boss,” said Sadok.
Sadok rode after Anglides and caught up to her easily. He invited her back to Tintagil.
She declined. “I’m not into getting stabbed.”
“That’s understandable,” Sadok said ruefully. “I don’t suppose you’re planning on raising Alisander to avenge his father’s death?”
“Well, now I am!” said Anglides. “That’s a great idea!”
Sadok returned to Mark. He lied and claimed he murdered Anglides and Alisander both. It seemed easiest. And thereof King Mark was full glad.
Anglides rode and rode until she arrived in Arundel, in Sussex, where she had a castle. There she met up with her cousin’s husband Bellangere and they all lived there in Arundel for years and winters, til Alisander was big and strong and wait, what?
Yeah, Malory is skipping ahead twenty years to tell how Sir Alisander avenged his father’s death. And no, Mark and Tristram and Launcelot and Gawaine and Arthur and Guenever won’t be twenty years older next time we see them. Malory doesn’t see why we’d have any problem with that.
There’s also a bit here about Alisander inheriting his father’s shirt with all the blood and stab-wounds on it, which is reminiscent of the tale of Sir Ill-Fitting Suit, back at the start of Book IX, but Malory insists these are totally different stories and no way has he gotten his timeline muddled. It’s me who has the problem, not him, Malory says.
Twenty years pass before we return to Alisander. By this point he’d become a full-grown man, ready to be knighted alongside twenty of his contemporaries in Ardunel, which was where he’d been slumming around most of his life. They held a knighting ceremony, followed by a big jousting tournament, which of course Sir Alisander won. (JOUSTING TOURNAMENT 27!)
Anglides, his mother, came to him. “Congratulations, my son,” she said.
“Yo momma! I’m one fine knight, huh?” Alisander was all excited. “Aren’t I good?”
“Calm down, kiddo,” Anglides said. “I need to lay something heavy on you. You see this tattered and bloodstained doublet I’ve been carrying around in my purse for as long as you can remember?”
“Yeah.” Alisander had always wondered about that doublet. “What’s up with that?”
“This was your father’s shirt, my son!” She held the bloody shirt aloft and waved it as though it were a flag. Maybe she sung an aria! “He wore it when that villain, his brother King Mark of Cornwall, stabbed him and murdered him most cruelly!”
“I know, right?” His mother wept a single brave tear. “Now that you’re a knight, you’ve got to avenge your father’s death!”
“Oh, you bet. Fair mother, you have given me a great charge. I always do whatever you tell me to. I promise to God and to you.”
Meanwhile one of Alisander’s fellow newly-minted knights resented how easily Alisander had defeated him and his nineteen friends in that big jousting tournament. This knight rode off to Cornwall and found King Mark exactly where he’d been twenty years earlier, preserved as if in amber. Everybody was the same age as before except Alisander, is what I’m saying.
From this snitch, Mark heard about Alisander having survived, and implicitly about Alisander’s plans to kill him. Mark did a spit-take because hadn’t he send Sir Sadok to kill Anglides and Alisander twenty years ago? So he went looking for Sir Sadok.
“Hey, you Vulcan jackass,” he said when he found the guy. “What the hell?”
Sadok folded immediately. “Yeah, I admit it, I did it! I let them live! I was mighty upset with regards to your cowardly murder of his father. Now Alisander will come and punish you for your crimes! I don’t regret it at all!”
Mark had some thugs try to kill Sadok at this point, but Sadok killed them and escapes on horseback, making his way to Sir Dinas’s castle. Apparently Sir Tristram had been at Sir Dinas’s castle for the last twenty years, recuperating from one heck of a battle wound.
When Tristram learned his cousin Alisander was alive, he immediately drafted a letter to the boy, telling him that his first order of knightly business should be to go to Camelot. There he should present himself to Arthur and ask Launcelot to give him some knightliness lessons.
After an unsuccessful assassination attempt on Sir Sadok, Mark conceived of a supervillain team-up. He sent letters to Morgan le Fay, and her assistant enchantress the Queen of Northgalis, and to Pitiless Bruce, and to a minor villain Malory hasn’t bothered to tell us about before, Malgrin, suggesting they form some sort of secret society or guild dedicated to malevolence and calamitous intent.
When Alisander received Tristram’s letter he set out for Camelot. Alisander pretty much did whatever anybody tells him to; that was his main distinguishing characteristic. He got lost along the way, unfortunately, and found himself participating in series of jousting tournaments sponsored by Old King Carados. (JOUSTING TOURNAMENT 28!) There he defeated a bunch of knights, upwards of twenty, including Sir Safere.
You’ve probably forgotten Sir Safere; he got mentioned once before. He was Sir Palomides’s other brother, the one who wasn’t Sir Segwarides. Not a major figure.
“This boy Alisander seems promising,” said Morgan le Fay, watching the tournament. “Dumb and agreeable, just how I like them.”
Morgan and her henchdamosel Trudy approached the tournament. They interviewed two of the knights Alisander defeated: Sir Elias from Gomeret and his colleague Sir Cari from Gomeret. Gomeret is “somewhere in France probably,” according to my very breezy Internet searching. These guys had nothing very interesting to say.
Undeterred, Morgan and Trudy interviewed a couple more knights, Sir Guy and Sir Garaunt, both from Camiliard, which Malory has confused with Cameliard, which was where Guenever was from. Anyway, he says these two were Guenever’s cousins. Malory is a master of throwing in entirely superfluous factoids.
“So to sum up what we’ve been told,” Trudy said to Morgan le Fay, “Sir Alisander, dim and easily-led though he is, should not be messed with, jousting-wise. He’s not in the Launcelot, Tristram, Lamorak leagues, but still a force to be reckoned with.”
“Yeah, he’s absolutely our target,” agreed Morgan le Fay. “Now here’s my plan…”
We cut away to Sir Alisander, celebrating his tournament win. He didn’t mind at all when a hot young damosel named Trudy approached him all starry-eyed. (Granted, Trudy was twenty years older than she’d been when she pulled a variation of this same trick on Sir Tristram, but whatevs.)
“Oh powerful knight, I think you should know that the terrible ogre Malgrin over in the neighboring kingdom has declared that I am never to become married!” she said. “No kisses, no pets, no caresses, no tongue and lip action, not from me to any winner of any tournament, at least until someone has done the right thing and jousted him. Wilt thou for my sake joust?” I think it’s safe to assume she made kissy-faces at him.
“Yeah!” cried Alisander. “Heck yeah. Just name the time and place and I’m there!”
Trudy whistled, and up popped Malgrin, ready to go; he was at her commandment, said Malory. Although he was an ogre, he’d been mounted and armored to joust knight-style.
To make a long jousting story a somewhat shorter jousting story, Alisander dehorsed Malgrin. Malgrin demanded the joust continue on foot. Alisander agreed to this. Malgrin revealed that while he’s a crap jouster when it came to the horseback part, few could stand against him when it came time for the ogre-raining-down-blows-with-a-sword part.
He wounded Alisander, wounded him again, wounded him a third time. Alisander took so many blows from Malgrin, it was a wonder he could stand! Also, says Malory, the fight was basically a draw. Inexplicable! Hours passed, and then Malgrin called a thirty-second time out.
He took a knee. “I never caught your name, it occurs to me.”
“Bah,” spit Alisander. “I never threw it. Now you tell me, who are you and what’s your deal?”
“Oh, you know,” said Malgrin. “I’m into Trudy. She keeps getting me to kill guys for her, and also sometimes I kill guys just for funsies.”
“So God me help, this is the foulest confession that ever I heard knight make, nor ever heard I speak of other men of such a shameful confession, wherefore it were great pity and great shame unto me that I should let thee live any longer, therefore keep thee as well as ever thou mayest, for as I am true knight, either thou shalt slay me or else I shall slay thee, I promise thee faithfully!”
Malgrin found this a little unfair. If he was the worst person Alisander has ever met, then maybe that just meant Alisander hadn’t met many people. Did Alisander know King Mark? (For that matter, did he know Sir Tristram?)
But anyway, they fought some more. Alisander decapitated Malgrin, then keeled over. The dude bled from over a dozen different wounds, several of them probably lethal.
“C’mon, Trudy,” said Morgan le Fay as she leaped from her hiding place. Together the Queen and her henchdamosel hauled the dying Alisander onto a litter, and dragged him back to Morgan’s nearest castle.
Once safely inside, Morgan worked some of her magic and stabilized Alisander. He woke up partway through and started screaming about the pain, so she drugged him up some more to finish the job.
“Ma’am, now that we’ve saved Alisander, am I going to marry him?” asked Trudy. “I mean, that was what I hinted at pretty strongly in our earlier interaction. Also he seems nice enough, and he killed Malgrin for me, which is kind of hot. Can I marry him, ma’am?”
“Uh…” Morgan le Fay didn’t want Alisander tied down with a new bride, she wanted him out killing Arthur’s knights. “Would you step outside for a second?”
Once Trudy was out of the room, Morgan roused Alisander with more drugs. “Listen, kiddo, I have an instruction for you. Don’t marry Trudy.”
“Don’t marry Trudy. Check,” said Alisander. He did whatever he was told. This is Alisander’s only personality trait. “Wait, why not?”
“I didn’t tell you to ask me a question!”
“Can I come in?” Trudy knocked at the door. “Listen, Sir Alisander, about the whole marriage thing…”
“Oh, right. No. Nope, can’t marry you,” said Alisander.
Trudy was legit disappointed. “Why not?”
Alisander glanced at Morgan, who paid him no mind. “I don’t know,” he said.
Trudy sighed, not entirely surprised. Alisander was, after all, rock stupid. “Well, will you at least give me away to Sir Gerine the Overweight? He’s been into me for ages, and I’m not getting any younger, and seeing as I’m now your property, that you killed Malgrin to take, and all…”
Alisander checked with Morgan, who gave it a thumbs-up. She may have been the main villain of the Arthurian canon, but she wasn’t about to stand in the way of some version of love! “Sure,” he said.
So there was a very small wedding!
Afterwards Morgan drugged Alisander again, and carted him off to her main castle, the oddly named Castle Prettyview, aka La Beale Regard.
“I’m still in a lot of pain and also I can’t move my legs,” observed Alisander.
“Yeah, about that,” said Morgan. “I can fix you, but you need to swear an oath for me.”
“If you say to do it, I’ll do it! That’s kind of my thing,” said Alisander. “What’s the oath?”
“I need you to stay here at Castle Prettyview for a year. I have this whole intricate thing set up. It’s not worth going into now. You just have to stay here.”
“You’re the boss!”
Morgan healed Alisander, and he was stuck at her house for a year. By the time his sentence was down to eleven and a half months, he already regretted the whole thing. It was boring at Castle Prettyview, and there were very few opportunities to kill King Mark, is what it boils down to.
Enter Beatrice! Malory calls her simply a damosel that was cousin to the Earl of Pace, but I say she merits a name. Beatrice arrived at Castle Prettyview, which belonged to her cousin Morgan le Fay. Since Morgan was the daughter of Gorlas and Igraine (you might remember them from Book I, Chapter 1), Arthur was Igraine’s son with Uther, and Beatrice didn’t have an explicit familial link to Arthur, my guess is that one of Beatrice’s parents was a sibling of Gorlas’s. And her other parent had one of the Earl of Pace’s parents as a sibling, probably. Anyway.
Beatrice met Alisander while he loitered around the outskirts of Castle Prettyview, sulking. “You look bummed,” she said by way of introduction.
“Whatever,” said Alisander.
“Sir knight, an ye would be merry I could tell you good tidings,” she continued. “Cheer up and I’ll fill you in on a little secret.”
“Cheer up? Cheer up?” Alisander did that overly dramatic teenager thing where he threw his head back and groaned. “I know, you told me to cheer up and so I should cheer up, but it’s not that easy! I’m a prisoner! I can’t leave Castle Prettyview, because I promised I wouldn’t, but now I’m stuck here just because I said I would stay. It’s so unfair!”
“Cousin Morgan tricked you into promising to stay here? You know she’s just setting you up to seduce you, don’t you?”
Alisander looked disgusted. “Gag! She’s all old and stuff. I had liefer cut away my hangers than I would do her such pleasure. And I think we all know what I mean by hangers.” Malory: right in there with the testicles jokes!
“Tell you what,” said Beatrice. “Let me seduce you instead, and then I’ll figure you a way out of this.”
“Sounds reasonable,” said Alisander. “But what’s the play?”
“My uncle, the Earl of Pace –“
“Whoa,” I say to Malory. “Uncle? You just said, you just said cousin.”
“Shut up,” explains Malory.
“My uncle, the Earl of Pace, hates Morgan. Hates her. So much, it’s like, flames, coming out of the side of his face. All I need to do is tell him that there are vile shenanigans a-transpiring here in Castle Prettyview, and in twenty minutes he’ll be out front with his army, laying siege. He’s spared it up to now only because we all know this castle is rightfully mine.”
“Before long the whole castle will be burning. Just fire all over the place! A massive inferno! Then we go out the back door and ride off and live happily ever after!”
“Sounds like a plan!” If there’s one thing Alisander was into, it was going along with other people’s plans.
“Wait, no. You promised to stay here for a year, right?”
“I did.” Alisander was crestfallen. “It’s only been three weeks.”
“No, it’s cool. Here’s what we do. I get the castle burned down, and then you spend a year hanging out in the ruins.”
“…how is that better for me?”
“Let’s have sex,” suggested Beatrice. And they did! Alisander did to her pleasaunce as it pleased them both at times and leisures, which is as saucy as Malory ever gets. Afterwards Alisander had entirely forgotten about his objection to the plan.
Shortly afterwards the Earl of Pace waited until Morgan le Fay wasn’t in residence at Castle Prettyview, then he and a hundred of his friends got together and burned it to the ground. Alisander would have burned to death, but he didn’t, because Beatrice told him to go stand in the garden. The garden was, apparently, fireproof.
Afterwards Beatrice and the Earl of Pace high-fived, and Alisander announced that he was going to stay in the ruins of the castle for the rest of the year, just like Beatrice had told him to.
Then Alice… shoot, Malory forgot he hasn’t mentioned Alice up to now. He names her, which is kind of a thing. I know Alice sounds like the kind of name I make up, but no. Alice’s dad was Sir Ansirus, one of Launcelot’s cousins. So she was from Benwick. Ansirus spent all his time on pilgrimages, back and forth between Benwick and Jerusalem, over and over again. So people called him Duke Ansirus the Pilgrim, which was why Alice was known popularly as Alice the Lovely Pilgrim. Okay? We all clear?
Alice went to Camelot. In her pilgrimage she’d heard all about Alisander and how he was loitering in the ruins of Castle Prettyview. After regaling the court with the tale of Alisander up to the present, she announced that “what knight may overcome that knight that keepeth that piece of earth shall have me and all my lands.”
Alice’s motivation for this goes entirely unexplained. But all the unmarried knights were way into this challenge, because she was passing fair and of great rents. Huge tracts of land. She traveled to the ruins of Castle Prettyview and set up a pavilion for herself, to watch as Alisander jousted all comers.
First up: Sir Sagramour the Lusty! This anecdote may be why he was called the Lusty, because he was first to answer Alice’s call. After a little back-and-forth, Sir Alisander dehorsed him, Alice was impressed (by Alisander, not by Sagramour). It occurred to her that maybe, just maybe, Sir Alisander was the one she wanted.
“Can I see you without your helmet on?” she asked.
Alisander complied. Compliance was his thing, after all.
“O sweet Jesus,” marveled Alice. “You’re perfect! Thee must I love and never another.“
“Really? Cool,” said Alisander. “Although… would you mind letting me see your face, too?”
Malory just assumed we’d all realize that Alice wore a wimple, that’s why he didn’t mention it sooner, he didn’t want to insult us. Anyway, Alice pulled off her wimple, and the two of them stared longingly at one another and breathlessly recounted to one another how they were royalty of various kinds and how pretty each thought the other, and so on.
Their conversation kept getting interrupted, though, by this whole string of knights who showed up to challenge Alisander and win Alice. Alisander quickly defeated them each in turn, but we get some decent knight names out of it: Sir Harsouse of Berbuse, Sir Hewgon, Sir Harvis of the Marches, Sir Vains, and Sir Perin of Montaine. The final knight who showed up that first day: Sir Mordred, whom Malory has decided was no longer a good guy, but rather “the false knight,” which comes a little out of left field. Remember back in Book IX, when Mordred had been an expert on chivalry, able to come to the defense of Sir Breunor? Malory loved him some Mordred back then.
Anyway, as Alisander stood around, swooning over Alice, and just as Alice was about to retire to her pavilion for the evening, enter Mordred! Alisander didn’t even notice him at first; he was so enamored of her that he wist not whether he were on horseback or on foot, which is to say, he just stood there staring into space like an idiot. Mordred rode up, saw this, and figured he could score an easy win by just grabbing Alisander and dragging him out of the ruins of Castle Prettyview.
Mordred would have gotten away with it, too, except that Alice witnessed this, and committed the ultimate lady sacrifice, in Malory’s version of the world, by picking up a sword and actually whacking someone with it! Specifically she poked Alisander, which had the effect of knocking him out of his lovesick swoon, and prompting him to fight back against Mordred. Mordred ran away, and everyone had a big laugh at his expense.
The next day Alisander jousted more guys, and more the day after that, and so on. The rate of challengers gradually slowed, but by the time his year was finally up his joust-count was in the high three figures.
Then he and Alice married and lived happily ever after and they had a son, Sir Bellengerus le Beuse, who grew up and turned out to be the actual guy to kill Mark, after Mark finally murdered Tristram and Alisander both. God only knows how old Mark would have to have been by the time this kid became a knight, but whatever.