On the way back to the tournament grounds, Tristram meets, oh, let’s call her Orlene. Orlene was the damosel who accompanied Sir Launcelot on an adventure that Malory skipped over, his defeated of a Sir Carados at a place called Dolorous. This is Orlene’s backstory, Malory says. Now we rejoin Tristram “Tramtrist,” already in progress.
“Are you Sir Launcelot?” Orlene asks Tristram.
“No, no, folks call me Tramtrist. I’m the knight who just now defeated Sir Palamides, who yesterday beat up like ten Knights of the Round Table, including Sir Kay and Sir Griftlet.”
“Are you sure you’re not Sir Launcelot?” she asks. Orlene isn’t convinced. “You sure sound like Launcelot. ‘I just beat a knight who beat ten knights’ is the kind of thing he says.”
“I promise I’m not Sir Launcelot,” Tristram says. “I swear to God! Although I pray to God to make me as badass a knight as Sir Launcelot.”
“Hmm,” says Orlene. “Would you mind lifting your face-concealing visor that you’ve been wearing, so I can see with my eyes that you aren’t Launcelot?”
“Fine,” says Tristram, and does so.
“Whoa!” cries Orlene. “Okay, I’m convinced you aren’t Launcelot. You’re way, way, way better-looking than he is.”
At this point I assume Tristram is wondering how he can string Orlene and the lovely Isoud both, I expect, but Orlene doesn’t stick around. Once she knows Tristram isn’t Launcelot, off she goes.
So Tristram makes it back to Anguish’s court, and the lovely Isoud greets him, and thanks God for bringing her Tramtrist back to her, and Anguish and Queen Isoud marvel at Tramtrist’s Palamides-defeating prowess. For “long” Tristram is an honored guest in Anguish’s court (Malory is vague as to dates, as usual) and eventually one day the lovely Isoud and her mother decide to give Tristram a bath.
Not like that, not like that. They draw up a nice hot bath for Tristram and send him off to it, and while he’s scrubbing and soaking they poke around “Tramtrist’s” chambers, which are also the chambers of Sir Famous Hebes (who has become “Tramtrist’s” squire) and “Tramtrist’s” manservant Gouvernail.
“Ooh, look at this darling sword,” cries the lovely Isoud.
“Very nice,” says the queen, and then perhaps she adds “I wonder why he never uses this one?”
“Maybe it’s dirty,” I imagine the lovely Isoud guessing. “We could have it cleaned for him. That would be a nice surprise!”
The queen draws it out of its scabbard and can’t help but notice it’s broken off halfway along the blade, with a break that precisely matches the vengeance-token she’s been carrying around since Chapter VII.
“Good heavens,” she says. “Daughter, lovely Isoud, this man Tramtrist slew my brother your uncle Marhaus. This is the sword he used — you see? I have the blade, taken from my brother’s body.”
“Ew,” says the lovely Isoud. “Also, aw. I love Tramtrist, and now he’s gone and murdered Uncle Marhaus, and also you’re going to commit horrible vengeance upon him, aren’t you?”
“Oh my yes,” says Queen Isoud.
Queen Isoud’s first plan is to take the broken sword and slice Tristram up with it immediately, catching him unawares in the bath. But Famous Hebes puts the kibosh on this plan, by noticing her sneaking into the bathroom with a sword, and sounding an alarm. Her second plan — and Malory reminds us that this is all happening of her evil will, like she’s totally unjustified? Her second plan is to go to Anguish, kneel before him, and demand that he kill Tramtrist for her.
“A boy like that — go find another! A boy like that — he killed my brother!” she cries.
“Whoa,” says Anguish. “You’re saying Sir Tramtrist, the nice young man our daughter is so sweet on, you’re saying he killed your brother Marhaus?”
“That is exactly what I am saying, yes. Are you going to go kill him?”
“Yeah, I guess,” says Anguish, all dejected. He liked “Tramtrist.”