Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur Book VIII Chapter 32
Palamides out, the lovely Isoud and Tristram back to King Mark’s court. Lambegus makes a full recovery. Adtherp we never speak of again.
Skip ahead a bit: Sir Andred, Tristram’s cousin, resents Tristram’s being so awesome. Or maybe he’s been keeping track of all the times Tristram has been a murderous jerk. Either way, he takes it upon himself to spy on Tristram and the lovely Isoud, and look for evidence that they’re secretly in love. Since they are secretly in love, this doesn’t take him long. Andred tells Mark, and Mark goes for his sword.
Mark confronts Tristram about his not-very-secret love for the lovely Isoud, whom you might recall is married to King Mark. Swords get waved around, harsh words are exchanged, and finally Tristram gets tired of humoring his uncle and takes the sword out of Mark’s hand and spins it around and makes like to poke Mark with it. Kind of a jerk move, Tristram!
“Guards! Guards! Save me from my nephew!” squeals Mark, who is not coming out of this episode very well at all. His own guards are disgusted by his display of unknightly behavior. Instead of rescuing him, they just shake their heads sadly.
Tristram, emboldened, growls at Mark and leaps at him, and starts chasing him around the castle poking him in the back with the sword, and slapping the flat of it against him. Eventually Mark slips and falls, and probably starts crying. I’m starting to envision Mark as some unlikable Chris Kattan character. You’d think this would make Tristram seem more likable by comparison, but no. He’s still a jerk.
Afterwards Tristram decides he’s had enough of Castle Tintagil, and rides off into the woods. A couple of Mark’s knights try to stop him, but one of them gets his head chopped off for his troubles (overreact much Tristram?), and the other only lives long enough to carry the severed head back to Mark.
“Okay, council meeting time,” says Mark, and pulls out his royal whiteboard. “TRISTRAM,” he says, and writes it on the whiteboard in red. “Ideas? He’s gone rogue, people. Any ideas?”
Mark’s brain trust, his seneschal Sir Dinas, shakes his head. “Boss, listen, we’re going to need a bigger army if we’re going to take on Sir Tristram. You don’t seem to want to accept the fact you’re dealing with an expert in guerrilla warfare, with a man who’s the best, with swords, with lances, with his bare hands. A man who’s been trained to ignore pain, ignore weather, to live off the land, to eat things that would make a billy goat puke. In Ireland his job was to dispose of enemy personnel. To kill! Period! Win by attrition. Well, Tristram was the best.”
Mark is unconvinced. “Are you telling me that two hundred of our men against Meliodas’s boy is a no-win situation for us?”
“You send that many, don’t forget one thing.”
“A good supply of body bags.” Dinas scowls.
First Blood, ladies and gentlemen. Anyway Mark is nonplussed. “All right, fine. Do we know where he’s headed?”
“Camelot, would be my guess. He’ll hook up with Launcelot (the best knight, God he’s so great) and make other friends, and then they’ll come back here and it’ll be game over for King Mark of Cornwall, chivalric oaths or no.”
“I need another option!” grunts Mark.
“There is… one other way,” Dinas says. “You’re not going to like it.”
“What is it?”
“You won’t like it.”
“Apologize to him and invite him back to court and hold a jousting tournament. No knight can resist a jousting tournament.”
“Damn! I know you’re right.”
So Mark apologizes to Tristram and everything’s immediately hunky-dory again.
To get serious here for a moment, it seems to me that there’s basically two types of sanctioned interpersonal violence: one where two violent guys agree to settle things between the two of them and one where the agents of a state act in behalf of the state. There are typically lots more rules in the first case.
The interplay between these two is fascinating. Here, we’ve got a king’s soldiers more or less saying, “Dude, this has nothing to do with us. Settle your own problems.”