So Gawaine and Gaheris are chasing down the white hart, and they ride over the river and through the woods and they’re bearing down, and Gaheris goes ahead and releases the dogs.
Yeah, turns out they brought dogs — six greyhounds, specifically. The greyhounds dash on ahead and chase the hart into a castle tucked away in the woods, and in the central courtyard of the castle the six dogs corner the hart and lay into it and kill it.
Gawaine and Gaheris haven’t caught up yet, but this racket from the death of the hart alerts the knight who lives in the castle, and that guy comes storming out, sword drawn, and he lays into the dogs and starts killing them. All the while he’s cursing them out about the hart, which apparently was a present from his queen.
So Gawaine and Gaheris show up just as the four or so surviving greyhounds are running off with their tails tucked between their legs, and of course Gawaine is pissed that this knight took it upon himself to kill Gawaine’s and Gaheris’s dogs, and he pulls out his sword, and he’s like, “what the hell, dude?”
“Yeah I killed your dogs,” says the knight. “They killed my hart!”
“They’re my dogs!” spits Gawaine. “If you’re going to revenge yourself on someone, revenge yourself on me!”
“Don’t mind if I do!” shouts the knight, and he and Gawaine lay into one another.
One short fight later, the knight is lying on the ground, bleeding from several wounds, begging Gawaine not to kill him. It’s pretty pathetic.
“I’m so sorry! Have mercy! Look into your heart! I’m so sorry! I’ll make it up to you, anything you want, just let me live, look into your heart!” he wails.
Gawaine is all “what heart?” and he’s winding up to decapitate this knight the same way he decapitated Allardin in the previous chapter. But then — oh no! — It’s this knight’s wife! She’s running up, she’s screaming, she’s running straight into Gawaine’s sword! Oh, it’s pretty bloody.
Apparently knights accidentally killing ladies happens kind of a lot. Gawaine doesn’t even realize he’s hit her at first. I guess she ran up behind him, straight into his backswing? But when he does, well man, that takes the wind out of his sails I can tell you.
“Oh, bad on you, Gawaine,” says Gaheris. “Boo, Gawaine. Boo. You just know that’s going to come back to haunt you. You better be nice to people from now on, starting with this guy.”
“Yeah,” says Gawaine. “Wow. Sorry, dude. I mean, from the way Malory describes it she appears to have run straight into my sword mid-chop, which one might interpret as a lot of things, the wife heroically taking the blow for her husband even, but we’re all going to call it misadventure. So, bad on me, I guess. I’ll give you mercy after all.”
“You just killed my wife,” says the knight. “I don’t actually want your mercy any more. First you kill my hart, then you kill my wife, what the hell is the matter with you?”
“Look I said I was sorry,” Gawaine says, a little testily. “I was trying to kill you, not her. I didn’t even see her. Listen, go to Camelot and tell King Arthur this whole story, he’ll know what to do. This is above my pay grade.”
“What? No, no, I’m not your errand-boy, I’m Sir Ablamar of the Marsh!” says the knight. “I don’t care if you do kill me after all, I’m not carrying off your message to King Arthur!”
“If you don’t I will, in fact, kill you,” says Gawaine.
“Oh, really? Well, I’ll do it, then,” says Sir Ablamar. “But I don’t like it.”
So Ablamar mounts up with a couple of dead greyhounds and heads back to Camelot, and Gawaine goes into Ablamar’s and his wife’s castle, to lie down for a while. It’s been a whole big thing.
Normally when Malory brings in a damsel or wife or maiden and doesn’t give her a name I step up to the plate, but I don’t have the heart to give Ablamar’s wife a name. She literally runs in from offscreen and dies, in such a transparent women-in-refrigerators moment that even the characters in the story seem a little sickened by it.