Anyway, Gawaine and Uwaine stay with Marhaus for a week, and then they’re going to ride off, and Marhaus says listen, I’ll come with you part of the way and we’ll go into the Forest of Arroy.
“Everybody has strange adventures in the Forest of Arroy! Can’t go a week without hitting a strange adventure smack in the face.”
“Cool, cool, we’re up for some strange adventures. Uwaine here has never been on one.”
So they ride into the forest, and boom they’re in a clearing with three women: a maiden, a matron, and a crone.
“Are you here for the strange adventure?” they ask, in eerie unison.
“What’d I tell you?” says Sir Marhaus. “What’d I tell you?”
Quick description of the three women: the crone is about sixty, white hair, wears a tiara. The matron is about thirty, a blonde, with a little golden circlet. The maiden is still in her teens and possibly would be considered underage in the modern world, but the Arthurian age of consent is much more lax, thanks for that Malory. She doesn’t have a gold hat like the other two, hers is flowers.
“Here’s how it’s gonna go down,” says the matron. “Three of you, three of us, we break up into pairs and take you on three separate strange adventures that will take most of the rest of Book IV to describe, and then we meet back here in a year. Which of you travels with which of us, we’re leaving up to you.”
“Cool,” says Uwaine. “Dibs on the crone. She’s probably the smart one, that’s how it goes, right? I want the smart one, because I have very little actual life experience.”
“Hmm. I’ll take the matron, she looks game,” says Marhaus. “We might end up just going back to my place and shacking up for a year. No promises.”
“Sweet!” cries Gawaine. “I get the hot young teenager! She’s the youngest and therefore hottest and therefore best!”
“Yeah, good luck with that,” says Marhaus.
The damosels are okay with this division. Everybody kisses one another goodbye (NB Marhaus and Gawaine have now kissed twice, which is twice more than the number of specific references to Arthur and Guenever kissing), and they lead the three knights in three different directions. Uwaine west, Marhaus south, and Gawaine north.
Much like the triptych in Book III, we’re going to follow each knight separately, Malory explains, and we’ll start with Sir Gawaine. His story is easily the most involved. Gawaine and Trixie (as usual I do not want to keep typing “the damosel”) ride northwards, and on the far side of the Forest of Arroy they arrive at a big old country house, inhabited by an elderly knight.
Gawaine calls to him. “Hey, any strange adventures around here? Trixie said there were strange adventures up this road!”
“It’s getting late,” the old knight says. “Get some sleep, and I’ll take you to a strange adventure in the morning.”
Next morning, the old knight drops Gawaine and Trixie off at a decrepit country shrine, an old stone cross. Gawaine wants to ride on, but Trixie shushes him and tells him to just chill for a while.
Some time later, a sobbing knight wanders up to the shrine.
“Ho, knight!” calls Gawaine.
“Oh, God bless you, stranger! You are doubtless my salvation!” cries the other knight.
“Um, okay. God bless you too, knight.”
“No, no, good knight,” sighs the crying knight. “I’m way too unhappy to be blessed.”
Gawaine looks to Trixie for guidance, but she just shrugs.
Vocabulary word of the chapter: “to hove,” meaning to loiter.