King Arthur’s court is all abuzz about Prettyboy and his strange adventure and how he got a horse and armor and a nice golden cloak all out of nowhere, after a year of slaving away in the kitchens for Sir Kay.
“You know, he didn’t get a spear or a shield,” observes Kay. “I think I’ll go hassle him about that, just to remind him what a dick I’ve been to him for no very good reason.”
“Seriously?” chorus Sir Launcelot and Sir Gawaine. And Kay, dude, if you’re talking about going off to be a dick and Sir Gawaine thinks it’s a bad idea? Reconsider, my man. Reconsider.
But no, Kay is all fired up on Operation BE A DICK. He hops onto his horse and rides after Prettyboy with his own spear, shield, et cetera. He rides off after Prettyboy, who himself had ridden off after Linet. All three of them converge at some point up the road.
“Yo! Prettyboy!” calls Kay. “Recognize me?”
Prettyboy turns about and sees him. “Yeah, I recognize you! You’re Sir Kay, who belittled me daily for a year!”
“Yeah, exactly! So, check this out!” And Kay levels his spear and hefts his shield and gets all jousty, which is dirty pool since Prettyboy doesn’t have a spear of his own.
However! Prettyboy does have a sword, which he got from Peter last chapter and which Malory just hasn’t mentioned up to this point. Prettyboy had it the whole time, Malory swears. Prettyboy pulls out this sword, and rides up at Kay, and somehow, even though a spear has better reach than a sword and that’s exactly why knights use spears and lances from horseback, somehow Prettyboy dehorses Kay and knocks him unconscious (so how old is the hoary old trope of conking someone on the head and they pass out, only to come to some time later wholly uninjured with no permanent harm? At least 500 years old).
While Kay is down and out, Prettyboy snatches his shield and spear, solving the no-spear, no-shield problem. But then Prettyboy has other problems! One, Linet up and left mid-joust. She did not stick around for the knight-on-knight horseplay. Two, Launcelot and Peter show up.
“Okay, listen, Peter, take Kay and his horse back to Camelot, all right?” Launcelot tells the dwarf. Peter nods — he’s all the time cleaning up after other knights’ messes like this — and hauls Kay off.
Meanwhile Prettyboy and Launcelot joust. This is entirely Prettyboy’s idea, and I don’t get why on earth he thinks it’s a good plan. Launcelot never loses. That’s his whole thing. But he’s not one to turn down a chance to joust, our boy Launcelot, and soon enough they’re going at it, and of course Launcelot’s the better knight. Prettyboy does all right for himself, though, especially considering he’s up against the Man from Benwick. Malory takes pains to explain that Prettyboy is almost as good as Launcelot, his personal Mary Sue, but not quite.
After Launcelot dehorses Prettyboy, he offers to end the joust there, but Prettyboy wants to do the on-foot swording part too, so they do that for a while, and then Launcelot is like, okay, Prettyboy, you’ve made your point.
“You fight more liker a giant than a knight,” Launcelot says. “Your jousting ability is durable and passing perilous.” In fact, Launcelot dreaded himself to be shamed, which is to say, for a minute there it seemed like there was a nontrivial chance of Prettyboy actually defeating him!
And of course Launcelot doesn’t want his perfect record broken. So he offers another draw, and Prettyboy jumps at the chance, because Prettyboy knew he was pretty likely to lose. He’s pleased with his performance, regardless. “It doth me god to feel your might, and yet my lord, I showed not the utterance.”
“Yeah, you fought hard, kiddo,” says Launcelot. “You shouldn’t be afraid of any other knights, with jousting prowess like that.”
“Did I do well enough to be knighted? I did, didn’t I? I did! Please knight me now!”
“Hmm, yeah, okay.” Launcelot pulls out his sword. “By the power invested in me as King Arthur’s duly appointed representative in all things, including but not limited to the queen’s bedchamber, which is perhaps how I justify my ongoing affair with his wife, Jeff is just speculating here… I hereby dub thee Sir… hold on. I can’t call you Sir Prettyboy.”
“Promise not to tell anyone?”
“I’m Gareth, the brother of Sir Gawaine, Sir Gaheris, and Sir Mordred. They don’t know it’s me! I don’t want special treatment from Uncle Sire. And don’t tell Mom I ran off to become a knight!”
Launcelot shakes his head. “Sure. Your secret’s safe with me. I dub thee Sir Gareth.” Sword-tap on the shoulder, and it’s done.
Sir Gareth and Launcelot shake hands, and then go their separate ways. Launcelot goes back to Kay and Peter and their horses and they all go back to Camelot together. Kay spends a good long while convalescing from his beating at the hands of Gareth, and everyone scolds him for being such a dick to poor Prettyboy, and mistreating strangers.