Trigger warning: mention of rape
“Pellinore… Pellinore…” Arthur takes a moment to place the name. “Oh, that guy! The one who stole my horse and then killstealed King Lot! He’s a jerk!” cries Arthur.
“Still, a fine knight and a good man,” says Merlin.
“In what sense is he a good man?”
Aries cuts in. “I said I don’t buy it,” he repeats.
So Merlin calls in his surprise witness, Tor’s mother and Aries’s wife, Mitzi. (You can tell which of those three names is the one I had to toss in because Malory couldn’t be bothered to name her.) Mitzi is impressive! Even after twenty years of hard serf living, she’s full womanly, says Malory, and fair.
“Wow,” says Arthur.
“It’s true!” cries Mitzi. “When I was a sexy milkmaid, years ago shortly before I married Aries, I met a knight, and he was stern and fair and I couldn’t say no to him. I mean, he had a sword.”
“So Pellinore is also a rapist,” sighs Arthur.
“Well, middling,” says Mitzi. “He was fair and I didn’t say no. But he had a sword.”
“I’m reluctantly obliged to buy this,” says Aries. “I mean, look at me, look at Tor, look at Tor’s refusal to work a day in his life… I can believe it.” He’s not thrilled, though.
“I’m not thrilled either,” says Tor. “If for no other reason that my mother is getting painted as a woman of loose virtue by current, by which I mean medieval, standards!” He glares at Merlin and perhaps hefts his new sword.
“Oh, Tor, don’t worry about it,” says Merlin. “Your father is a good knight and a good man —“
“In what sense is he a good man?” Arthur asks again. “Guy stole my horse.”
”He’s a king,” points out Merlin. “If he knew you existed he’d probably cover you and Mitzi in riches. He has no idea.”
“Hmm,” says Tor. “I’m somewhat mollified.”
“And Aries, this was before you and Mitzi were married, so she was having semi-consensual sex as a free agent, not as your property,” Merlin tells the cowherd.
“Hmm, good point,” says Aries. “Okay, I‘m officially okay with this.”
So the next morning King Pellinore shows up at Arthur’s court, and Arthur welcomes him warmly, I guess because Merlin keeps prodding him. Arthur fills him in about Tor his illegitimate child, and hey, maybe Pellinore and Arthur bond a bit over having illegitimate children.
Anyway, Tor and Pellinore meet, and Pellinore looks him up and down, notes how clean and unwilling to labor he is, and confirms that Tor is plainly his own son. I assume Pellinore and Mitzi have some awkward moments, and Aries gets shut out. Anyway.
Now, Gawaine got knighted before Tor did, but because Tor’s father is present and Gawaine’s died fighting a rebellion against King Arthur, Tor gets shunted to the front of the line and Gawaine has to be second for the cake and the kiss-a-wench line and the jousting and whatever other honors the knights all line up for.
“Hey Merlin,” says Arthur. “I notice that due to some really dodgy math there’s exactly two empty seats at the Round Table, not counting the one marked DO NOT SIT, also what is the deal with the one marked DO NOT SIT?”
“Ah, sire,” responds Merlin. “Only the greatest knights may be promoted to the Round Table and we’re short two great knights, is the beginning and end of that.”
“And the third seat?”
“That is the Siege Perilous,” intones Merlin. “Siege is what we’re calling seats now. There is one man who may sit in the Siege Perilous and any that aren’t him who try it shall be smote!”
“Huh!” says Arthur. “You learn something every day.”
“The knight who takes that seat shall be peerless, the best ever, way better than you or Kay or anyone,” says Merlin.
“Just so long as it’s not Pellinore,” grumbles Arthur.
Speaking of, Merlin leads Pellinore by the hand over to the Round Table and invites him to sit in one of the two empty chairs, which is huge deal.
Now you may recall — I would not hold it against you if you forgot — that Sir Gawaine was the son of King Lot, and that Pellinore killstole Lot at the end of his war against Arthur. So Gawaine sees Pellinore getting heaped with honors, and himself pushed to second place behind Pellinore’s son, and he’s just seething. He turns to his brother, Gaheris, who’s his squire, and mutters about how as soon as he can fetch his sword he’s going to murder Pellinore.
Gaheris talks him out of it, though. It’s not that Gaheris thinks that murdering a knight of the Round Table in front of King Arthur and the assembled knights is a bad idea (does no one learn anything from the story of Balin the Idiot Knight?). No, Gaheris’s objection is that he wants in, and so Gawaine needs to hold off until Gaheris has been knighted himself, and then the two of them will team up and kill Pellinore together.
Gaheris and Gawaine shake on it. Guenever would maybe comment now, say something pithy, but she still has zero lines.