Arthur calls together a special A-team task force, of Sir Gawaine, Sir Bors, Sir Bedivere, and a knight we haven’t met up to this point, the very young Sir Lionel of Benwick, Launcelot’s nephew.
“You four scout ahead, get to the Roman camp, find Caesar Lucius, and tell him to turn around and go home and stop killing people, all right?”
“What if he doesn’t want to go home?”
“If he doesn’t want to go home, that’s all right, we can deal with that by defeating him in battle. I figure that’s inevitable. But really make an effort trying to talk him out of just randomly killing peasants, guys. That’s priority one.”
“As King of France, I appreciate that, Arthur ol’ buddy,” says Bors.
So Gawaine & Bors & Bedivere & Lionel ride forth, and they bring along some more soldiers for good measure, just in case. It’s not actually all that far I guess because Malory never looked at a map and figured France is the same size as the Isle of Wight, anyway an hour or two out they come to a lovely French meadow, green trees, silken tents, brightly colored, it’s very idyllic for an army camp. More like a Renaissance Fair than not. Lucius’s pavilion is, of course, the biggest and the nicest and the most golden. It’s got a big eagle on it, too.
“Two of us should go talk to Lucius, and the other two hang back with the soldiers in case he tries something,” Bors says. “As King of France, obviously I should be one of the pair that goes to talk to him.”
“Not it,” says Lionel.
“Not it,” says Bedivere.
“…Dang,” says Gawaine.
Gawaine and Bors march boldy into the Imperial camp, waving olive branches of truce, and they’re allowed into Lucius’s tent, where Bors lays out Arthur’s demands.
“Hmm.” Lucius makes a show of thinking this over. “Hmm, you say he wants me to surrender my claims to this part of Europe and return home? Hmm. Hmm. Is that a good deal for me? Hmm. Got to think this one over carefully. What do you think, men?”
Lucius’s men shout something unintelligible in Italian.
“What they said!” cries Lucius. “You go back and tell Arthur that I’ll face him gladly in battle, me and my enormous army! I’ll have him on bended knee, swearing fealty to the Eternal City!”
Lucius’s men shout some more, Gawaine isn’t sure what they’re saying but he’s pretty sure it’s about him and it’s unflattering.
“Christ!” screams Gawaine. He can’t take it any more. “You guys are dicks! I’ll kill you all myself! All the guys you’ve killed up to this point have been French! And the French suck! I’m from the North! You haven’t had to face an English-style cavalry charge! I’ll kill you all myself!”
Bors smacks his forehead. “Did I not mention twice already this chapter I’m the King of France, Gawaine?” he mutters out of the side of his mouth. Then, to Lucius, Bors adds that he could successfully fight essentially everyone in the North combined at once, and Lucius shouldn’t get any ideas.
The Romans get all quiet at this point, as Gawaine’s and Bors’s threats sink in. Things are getting tense! Then one of them, Sir Gainus, slowly applauds.
“Very nice,” he says, slow-clapping. “Very nice. Britons are mad for the boasting, we can all see that. I wonder whether they are all hat and no cowboy, or just mostly hat and very little cowboy…”
“I’ll show you hat!” cries Gawaine, and quick-draws his sword and smashes Gainus right in his smug face.
So the lesson here is, don’t ask Sir Gawaine to be your spokesknight. This is, what, the third time a knight has unexpectedly killed a member of a royal retinue, visitor to court, et cetera? Balin killed the Lady of the Lake and then later Sir Garlon. This is also another example of Gawaine managing to kill a guy in a single blow to the head, circumventing normal jousting procedure. From what I’ve reluctantly picked up off the Internet, Gawaine’s traditionally interpreted as having a hair-trigger murderous rage thing going on. Say the wrong thing to him, and he’s liable to flip out and kill you in a single blow. Again, it seems like a perpetual chorus of scowling matrons constantly judging him would be a good thing, under the circumstances. I don’t know why Malory promises us that and then just drops it.