So now we turn away from Sir Gawaine, that little prick, and to Sir Marhaus, last seen hooking up with a friendly thirty-year-old woman and going off in a different direction on a strange adventure of his own. Marhaus’s adventure isn’t all that strange, compared to Gawaine’s, but anyway, I’ll let you judge.
Marhaus and his new lady-friend, Annette, they ride southwards for a day and the forest gets thicker and it gets darker and there’s nowhere to stop for the night, so they press on. Marhaus asks Annette for advice, but she just shrugs. Finally, once they’re well and truly stumbling around in the dark, they hit a wall. I don’t know that they actually walk into it. But there’s a little walled villa or manor or estate or village, it’s hard to say, basically there’s a wall and a courtyard on the other side of the wall, with a guy in the courtyard. So probably there’s also a gate. Malory is vexing at times.
Quick back-and-forth between Marhaus and the guy in the yard. Marhaus wants to be put up for the night, guy in the yard says there’s nowhere he can stay, Marhaus offers money, guy turns him down, Marhaus makes wild promises, guy turns him down, finally Marhaus says, name your price!
“Okay, okay, tell you what,” says the guy. “I’ll get you put up in the manor house, provided you participate in the attached strange adventure.”
“What kind of strange adventure?”
“I can’t tell you unless you accept the quest.”
“Hmm… is this the strange adventure you’re leading me to?” Marhaus asks Annette.
“No, it’s unrelated. Sort of a side adventure, I guess,” says Annette.
“Either way, you’ve got a deal,” Marhaus tells the gatekeeper.
So the guy lets Marhaus and Annette into the courtyard, and from there to the manor house, and has some words with the lord of the manor about how someone’s come to try the strange adventure. The lord of the manor sends out a bunch of guys with torches, so Marhaus and Annette can finally see their hands in front of their faces, and they lead the guests into the manor house, where the lord is lounging around with a big pack of men.
“Greetings, fellow nobleman,” says Marhaus. “My name is Sir Marhaus, knight of the Round Table. Well, technically I’m not part of the Table yet, but Sir Gawaine — King Arthur’s nephew, don’t you know — Gawaine said he could get me in, it’s a fait accompli. Oh, also my dad is the King of Ireland.”
“Oh, I wish you hadn’t told me that,” says the lord, whose title is the Duke of the Southern Marches.
“You don’t like the Irish?”
“I like the Irish fine. It’s Arthur who’s my enemy. I’m a staunch Team Lot & Mister 100 booster, I am.”
“You see these men, my six sons? I used to have thirteen sons, before Arthur and his wars.”
“And I have it on good authority that Sir Gawaine, Arthur’s nephew and your bosom chum apparently, he was the knight who slew my boys in the most recent battle described in Book IV, Chapter III.”
“All seven? That doesn’t sound like Gawaine.”
“Nevertheless, in the morning you’ll have to fight me and my sons.”
“What, all seven? I, for the record, I know Gawaine, but I’m not Gawaine. And really, we aren’t that close.”
“I insist, Sir Marhaus.”
Marhaus sighs. “Okay then. I’ll joust all of you. In the morning.”
So Marhaus and Annette are led off to bed — in separate rooms, you guys, jeez, get your minds out of the gutter — and Marhaus gets a good night’s sleep and in the morning he has to joust all seven of them.
Vocabulary word of the chapter: “Courtelage,” which apparently means the wall or fence around a courtyard. It’s what Marhaus and Annette stumble into in the dark, and it’s the first vocabulary word Malory has thrown at me which I can’t effortlessly extract an exacting definition of, using Google.