Tristram, having ditched Kay and Sagramore and Gawaine, chills at the well. He washes his face, he lies down, he relaxes. Just as he dozes off, along comes Dame Bragwaine! She’s the lovely Isoud’s Irish handmaiden/henchwoman, you remember her. She’s been looking for Tristram for chapters and chapters. She hasn’t seen him in five whole chapters, and doesn’t even remember what he looks like, and had forgotten him as in remembrance of Sir Tristram. But never fear! She may not recognize Tristram when she sees him, but by his horse she knew him. That’s right, Tristram’s had the same horse this whole time, apparently, and Bragwaine holds that horse as an intimate. The horse’s name is Passe-Brewel, which is an awful name for a horse.
You may wonder how, exactly, Tristram’s managed to hold onto the same horse over the course of his various misadventures in Book VIII and Book IX up to this point. Malory has an answer for you! He anticipated this particular continuity complaint: Sir Fergus kept him. Whenever Tristram was in a situation where he’d lose his horse, such as, say, when he was mad in the forest, boom, there was Sir Fergus with the horse-caretaking.
Anyway. Bragwaine waits patiently for Tristram to wake up, probably because if she tries to shake him awake he’ll whip out his sword and kill her before’s fully conscious. Once he wakes up, some hours later, she waves and reminds him who she is. Bragwaine reveals the motive for her seeking Tristram for so long; she’s couriering letters from the lovely Isoud.
Tristram takes the letters, and reads them. They’re full of many a piteous complaint about Tristram not visiting, et cetera. Tristram gives Bragwaine his response:
“Okay, here’s the deal. You’re coming with me to the big tournament at the Castle of Maidens, and then after I’ve won that I’ll sit down and write Isoud a nice letter about how I won a tournament. You can take that letter back to Cornwall.”
Malory lets us know that Gouvernail, Tristram’s old tutor and manservant, is pretty pleased by this announcement, since he and Bragwaine have been having a low-key affair since sometime in the middle of Book VIII. Bragwaine’s response is not recorded. Oh, by the way, Gouvernail is with him again, you guys. I don’t know why Bragwaine didn’t recognize him.
Tristram, Gouvernail, and Bragwaine ride towards the Castle of Maidens and the tournament. They put in for the night at a lodge, where Tristram meets Old Sir Pellounes. Old Sir Pellounes is too old to participate in the tournament, but he’s all excited about it regardless. He tells Tristram a confusing story about Sir Launcelot and a bunch of Benwick knights showing up with Cornish shields. Also, Old Sir Pellounes’s son, Sir Persides, stops by to visit his father.
Sir Persides starts to introduce himself to Tristram, but Tristram interrupts and tells a story about how they’ve already met. Apparently they jousted once over who got the last room at a lodge that was full up for the night? Persides doesn’t remember it, so Tristram tries to job his memory by reminding Persides that Tristram is Cornish.
“Cornish, huh? Then you must know that jerk Sir Tristram?” cries Persides.
“Mmmmmaybe,” Tristram says cautiously. Sometime in the last few chapters he’s learned a little bit of discretion, I guess.
“I was visiting Castle Tintagil and the court of King Mark. This was a while back. I took on all comers! I defeated ten Cornish knights, just for laughs! Everyone agreed I was awesome, and then Sir Tristram showed up and beat me three jousts in a row, and ran off with my wife.”
“Oh, yeah.” Tristram chuckles to himself. “Yeah, she was a firecracker.”
“Heard about that, huh?”
“Yeah. Anyway, I totally grasp why you’d hate Sir Tristram.”
“Well, now, hate’s a strong word. He’s the best knight except for Sir Launcelot, a noble knight and a much better knight than I, yet I shall not owe him my goodwill.”
“Yeah, that Tristram’s a pretty amazing knight,” agrees Tristram. He and Persides walk around the lodge for a bit, eventually hitting up a bay window that gives a nice view of the road leading up to the Castle of the Maidens and the nearby tournament field.
“Who’s that knight all in black?” asks Tristram, pointing. “He’s pretty clearly way higher-level than the rest of these scrub knights around him. Is that Launcelot?”
“Nah, it’s one of the best knights.”
Tristram thinks of ‘the best knights’ as a category including just himself and Launcelot. “Then it is Sir Launcelot.”
“Nope,”says Sir Persides. “It’s Sir Palomides, Tristram’s easily-thwarted nemesis!”