Sir Tristram! The jerk! We last saw him married to Isoud the White and ruling the kingdom of Brittany. As the curtain parts on Book IX proper, he receives a series of letters from the lovely Isoud in Cornwall.
“Darling Tristram,” they mostly read, under the tear-stains. “Why not come visit me in Cornwall? I miss you ever so much! You could bring your wife along; I’m sure we will be the best of friends, what with our having the same name, both loving you, and also we’re both skilled surgeons.”
Tristram calls in his brother-in-law, Sir Kehydius. “Hey, Sir Useless…”
“Whatever. I’m thinking of taking a trip to Cornwall, strictly on the down-low. You in?”
Kehydius is indeed in, so he, Tristram, Tristram’s manservant Gouvernail, Isoud the White, and Dame Bragwaine (who couriered over the lovely Isoud’s letters) all pile into a cog and set out for Cornwall.
Malory loves him contrivances, so just like last time (Book VIII, Chapter 38) the ship gets blown way off course, and lands, this time in North Wales.
“I’m going to scout ahead,” says Tristram. “This part of the countryside is renowned for being loaded up with strange adventures. If I don’t come back in ten days, make for Cornwall overland without me.”
“I’m going with you,” says Kehydius.
“Whatever. Just stay out of my way.”
Tristram’s feeling full of pepper! He rides into the forest with Kehydius close behind, and stumbles across a knight lounging by the road, looking glum. It’s Sir Lamorak, but for whatever contrived reason, Tristram doesn’t recognize him. You can’t say that he’s wearing a face-concealing helmet, because Malory specifies that Tristram sees Lamorak seemed by his countenance to be passing heavy.
“Ho, knight!” says Tristram without preamble. “Wanna joust? Let’s joust!”
Lamorak says nothing. He doesn’t recognize Tristram either, much less Kehydius. To Lamorak these guys are just more forest jokers, come along to mess with him. He mounts up, and they joust. Lamorak dehorses Kehydius easily, and Kehydius goes down for the count. Then Lamorak dehorses Tristram, Tristram is sore ashamed, they sword-fight for a few hours, and finally Tristram calls a timeout.
“What’s your name, anyway, stranger?”
“Feh! Tell me your name first!”
“Now fair knight, my name is Sir Tristram de Liones.”
“Dude! My name is Sir Lamorak de Galis! From France!”
“You were the one who brought a horn of adulteress detection to King Mark’s court!”
“Heh, yeah.” Lamorak smiles at the memory.
“I’ll kill you for that!” snarls Tristram, raising his sword.
“Dude! No! Remember how, after that, we met on the Isle of Servage (which may actually be a peninsula) and I apologized and we made friends? We promised to be best buds!”
“I’m a jerk!” shouts Tristram (well, Malory doesn’t specify what he shouts exactly) and goes after Lamorak anyway.
They fight for another few hours, until they’re both exhausted.
“Dang, man, you’re a big guy and in good shape, too,” says Tristram, panting. “Why are we fighting again? We should team up.”
“I suggested that a while back,” says Lamorak. “It seems pretty clear that the only way this can end peacefully is if I swallow my pride and surrender to you.” So Lamorak offers his sword to Tristram.
Tristram won’t be outdone, the jerk, and refuses to accept Lamorak’s surrender and then surrenders to him, just to prove that it isn’t like Lamorak is the bigger man or anything. Tristram can surrender with the best of them!
“Whatever. I don’t care at this point. Just, let’s swear an oath not to randomly fight one another any more, okay?”
Tristram agrees, and they swear an oath that never none of them should fight against other, nor for weal nor for woe.