I’m not sure how, but despite being down to about ten thousand men after the slaughter of the last few chapters, and after sending back all the surviving Benwick knights to Benwick to defend Benwick from King Claudas, Arthur and Ban and Bors manage to ride out with twenty thousand men to Cameliard, where they smash up thousands of Rience’s guys and drive Rience himself off back to North Wales.
This is also when Arthur met King Leodegrance’s daughter, Guenever, whom (spoiler alert!) he marries later on. So bad for Lionors.
I’d call them Guinevere and Lenore, but then I’d also want to call Claudas Claude,and Bleise Blaise or maybe Bleys, and it just opens up a whole can of worms, so, not going there. Guenever and Lionors it is.
Anyhow, he hasn’t married her yet. At this point he’s just struck with infatuation for her.
And Ban and Bors are like, “okay, that was the last adventure for this trip, now we’re really going back to deal with Claudas.”
Arthur says he’ll come too, since they helped him.
Ban and Bors exchange glances and say politely no thank you. Arthur’s already done plenty, and besides, he has all this stuff to deal with in England. So, no, it’s back to France and Benwick for them.
I dug around a little bit online — I am trying to read this book mostly cold, without any more external knowledge than I already possessed at the outset of starting the reading, but that’s a hard line to keep to — and Benwick is equated popularly with Bayonne or Basque or Burgundy, which is to say, with places south of Paris which start with a B. That’s fine, although I had been cheerfully imagining Benwick as Antwerp.
Anyway, they’re saying their goodbyes and Arthur is again offering to come with, and Ban and Bors are all nah, it’s cool, but we’ll have to come back sometime, this was, well, not fun exactly, but it was a thing.
Merlin, ever the cheermonger and supplier of joy, announces that Ban and Bors will not be coming back any time soon, but next year after Claudas kicks their butts Arthur will ride in and save them.
(Thanks for the vote of confidence, Merlin!)
Merlin goes on to say that it’s not a big deal anyway because Team Lot & Mister 100 shall all eventually be killed by Balin and Balan, not Ban & Bors & Arthur. Merlin is the kind of guy who ruins surprise parties.
So in the meanwhile we turn to King Lot and Mister 100 and their dudes. They’re holed up in the city of Sorhaute, which is in King Uriens’s territory, getting fresh food and beer and leeches for their gangrenous limbs, and then in comes a messenger to tell them about how forty thousand Saracens are looting the north, and murdering peasants, and sieging castles and so on.
“Man,” says Lot.
“Yeah,” says Mister 100. “Here we go again.”
“I’m really starting to question the wisdom of deciding to be Arthur’s enemies,” says one of the kings.
“Yeah, if we weren’t enemies we could all team up and fight the non-Christians together,” says another.
“Did you hear how Arthur helped out King Leodegrance?”
“Oh, yeah, man, that King Rience is a jerk.”
“I hate that guy Rience.”
“Me too, I’m glad Arthur stomped him. I oughta buy Arthur a drink.”
“Except that we’re his bitter enemies.”
Anyway, King Lot and Mister 100 and the others agree to work together to kick out these Saracens, which they do, which takes a lot of work, and then they set up a loose confederation that governs Wales and Scotland and the North and Ireland, with the main goal of containing Arthur. They also overthrow and slay King Rience, because everybody hates him.
Things don’t go well for Lot or Mister 100 or any of their allies, which is basically the plot of much of the rest of the book, Malory says. Malory is slightly better than Merlin at foreshadowing.