So King Anguish introduces Sir Tristram, aka Sir Tramtrist, and if you think I’m making that up you’re wrong, to his daughter the lovely Isoud. It turns out that in addition to being the fairest maiden in Ireland, the lovely Isoud is an accomplished surgeon and physician.
In hardly any time, the lovely Isoud has healed “Tramtrist” right up, and he falls for her hard, what with her saving his life and also being the fairest maiden in the country (hence her name). In return, he teaches her to play the harp, and she falls for him, too.
So everything would be just hunky-dory, except for a substantial issue, in the form of Sir Palamides. Sir Palamides is a rarity in Ireland: he’s Muslim, and a knight. He is probably not the same knight as Sir Priamus, whom Gawaine converted to Christianity (really Priamus converted himself and Gawaine just happened to be nearby at the time) back in Book V; different names, different places, etc. On the other hand, they have different names, but Malory has screwed that sort of thing up before, and how many Muslim knights are you likely to see in Le Morte D’Arthur? So maybe Palamides is the same guy as Priamus, and maybe he’s someone else. I’m going to go with someone else for now.
Anyway, Sir Palamides, the Muslim knight, bigtime wants to marry the lovely Isoud. He’s all the time sending her presents and flowers and kissing up to her father.
Tristram sees this, and he’s no fool. Palamides is a doughty knight, and well-intentioned, and he’s made it clear that while he’s a devout Muslim, he’s prepared to convert to Christianity to please the lovely Isoud.
Late in Tristram’s convalescence, King Anguish announces a jousting tournament, because we’ve gotten nine chapters into this story without a tournament. Grand prize in this tournament is the hand of Anguish’s cousin, Lady of-the-Lands, and with it control of the entire of-the-Lands estate, which is a big one.
Anguish sends the word out all through Arthur’s domain: England, Wales, Scotland, France, Brittany, the whole bit. Of course his daughter, the lovely Isoud, hears about it. She goes to Tristram.
“Tramtrist darling,” the lovely Isoud says, “there’s a tournament approaching, winner gets my cousin.”
“I heard,” answers Tristram. “But how does it affect me? Aside from my disinterest in marrying your cousin, I’m just barely out of the sickbed here, and furthermore I’m a young innocent knight who’s been on only a single strange adventure. So, I wasn’t about to enter it.”
“Shh, Tramtrist,” says the lovely Isoud. “What you don’t know is that you need to win this tournament. Sir Palamides has said that he’s planning to enter. If he wins, do you really think he’ll settle for the hand of my cousin, rather than myself?”
“Hmm, good point,” says Tristram. “Did I mention that while Sir Palamides is an accomplished knight, I nearly got myself killed on the only strange adventure I’ve been on?”
“Oh, fine. Fine, I’ll enter the tournament. But here’s what we do, we don’t tell anyone I’m doing it. We’ll keep it a secret, that I’m doing it, and especially that you’re colluding with me.”
“I’m colluding with you?”
“I’ll need a horse and armor.”
“I can get you those. I suppose that counts as collusion.”