So here’s the Tale of Pellinore. This ought to be good. Follow along and try to figure out whether Pellinore is a Goofus like Gawaine or a Gallant like Tor.
He mounts up and rides after the mysterious lady and the mysterious knight who abducted her, and out in the woods he stumbles across a couple in trouble. There’s a knight, all bloody and unconscious, and a damosel, waving and shouting and trying to flag down passing motorists. Pellinore slows down and says howdy.
“Pellinore! King Pellinore! For Christ’s sake, help me out here!” cries the damosel. Apparently she and Pellinore know one another?
“No,” says Pellinore. “Questing. Back later.” He rides off before the conversation can continue.
“Why that lousy horse-stealing Griftlet-jousting son of a…” the damosel shakes her fist at his back. “God,” she prays, “let Pellinore be in need just as I have been in need just now and him ignoring me like a big ol’ jackass.”
Then, just for good measure, the knight dies of his wounds and the damosel takes his sword and chops her own head off. “That’ll show Pellinore” may or may not have been her last words.
If I could give one piece of advice to anyone going to Arthurian times, it would be, don’t be a damosel. Also, this is how Malory does foreshadowing.
Anyway, Pellinore rides on and in the next valley over he meets a serf.
“Ho, knight,” says the serf.
“Ho yourself,” says Pellinore. “I’m looking for a man and a woman, you seen them?”
“Oh, you bet,” says the serf. “I know just who you’re talking about, you couldn’t be clearer. The knight was on a horse and the lady was shouting for somebody, anybody, to get the knight to release her.”
“Great,” says Pellinore. “Which way did they go?”
“Funny story,” says the serf. “They’re jousting over there at the jousting field. Well, the knight is. The lady’s cousin showed up and tried to claim her.”
“Free her, you mean?”
“No, no, claim her like she was lost luggage. Anyway, the knight who had her didn’t think real well of that, so, long story short, they’re jousting right now.”
“And the lady?”
“Each knight has a squire watching over her in that pavilion over yonder,” says the serf, and points.
“You’ve been very helpful, serf,” says Pellinore. “So I won’t slice any of your limbs off.”
“Thank thee, sir knight,” says the serf.
Pellinore rides up, finds the pavilion, heads in, and sure enough, there’s a lady tied up with two squires watching her.
“Lady,” says Pellinore. “I’ve come to bring you back to King Arthur’s Court!”
“You’ve come to free me?” She looks up at Pellinore on his big horse.
“No,” says Pellinore. “To retrieve you.”
“Hey now,” say the squires. “We’re here to prevent that. You should take it up with our bosses, who are outside jousting.”
“Fine,” says Pellinore, and rides off without saying goodbye. He doesn’t go very far, though. In the adjacent jousting field he gets in between the two knights, who have been jousting very slowly. They’ve just now gotten to the dehorsed phase of the joust.
“Knights!” he cries. “What are you fighting for?”
“Well I’ll tell you,” says the first knight. “This jackass here has been holding my father’s sister’s daughter against her will, so I’m fighting him.”
“Pshaw,” says the second knight. The second knight’s name, I am not making this up, is Sir Hontzlake of Wentland. “I won her,” says Sir Hontzlake. “I won her at King Arthur’s wedding reception. King Arthur gave her to me, for being the best jouster.”
“Bull,” says Pellinore. “I was there, you just abducted her, plain and simple. Arthur sent me to bring her back and make you face justice, either by his court or my hand.”
“Yeah, well, so what?” says Sir Hontzlake.
“Anyway I’m taking her back to Camelot,” says Pellinore. “With any luck I’ll be back in time to get some wedding cake. So you two stop fighting each other, and either accept that I’m retrieving the lady, or else team up and fight me.”
“We’ll do that, then,” say the knights, and get ready to fight Pellinore two-on-one, their prior argument temporarily shelved in the face of this interloper.
“Hold on, hold on,” says Pellinore. “Let me get off my horse.”
He starts to dismount, but Sir Hontzlake, jerk that he is, jumps the gun and stabs Pellinore’s horse in the side.
“What the hell?!” Pellinore is mightily pissed by this. “This is a good horse! I stole this horse from Arthur way back in Book I!”
“Hah!” cries Sir Hontzlake. “Now you don’t have a horse at all! What’re you going to do about it, huh?”
Pellinore pulls out his sword and smites Sir Hontzlake of Wentland in the head, so hard that his skull cracks open and the sword goes down into the head as far as the chin.
“I’ll do that,” he tells Sir Hontzlake’s corpse.