Chapter 28 opens with a scene I’m just going to skip over, in which Sir Persides and Sir Tristram and Sir Palomides get together for some pre-tournament jousting and Sir Palomides manages to reveal that he recognizes Sir Tristram! Unlike Sir Persides last chapter or Dame Bragwaine for that matter; I guess Tristram just has one of those faces.
Also Palomides dehorses Tristram and has a good laugh at his expense, without revealing to Sir Persides that Tristram is Tristram! “We’ll pick this up tomorrow at the tournament,” chortles Palomides.
Afterwards Tristram bumps into Sir Dinadan, whom you’ve possibly already forgotten but that’s why I’m here! Dinadan was Tristram’s reluctant sidekick for a couple of strange adventures in chapters 22 through 25. Dinadan sees that Tristram is all grumpy from his run-in with Palomides, and tries to cheer him up. “Lo, here may a man prove, be a man never so good yet may he have a fall, and he was never so wise but he might be overseen, and he rideth well that never fell. These things happen, Tristram, it doesn’t make you any less of a knight.”
“Screw that,” grumbles Tristram. “I will revenge me on Palomides, that jerk.”
But before our hero takes any action, he has to spend the rest of Chapters 28 and 29 admiring Sir Launcelot. Launcelot jousts several knights anonymously, wearing a Cornish tabard (I guess he’s grinding rep with Tintagil). Alongside Sir Palomides, Launcelot smites Sir Hew, Sir Madok, a dozen other guys from Northgalis. The dozen guys all mob him at once while he’s trying to get a drink. No respect for jousting etiquette! He kills or maims the dozen guys, just to show ‘em. Launcelot ends up sitting out the first day of the tournament, Malory tells us, as a result of all this pretournament action. He hangs out in the skybox with Arthur, instead.
Chapter 30 covers Day One of the tournament! Guess who wins?
Highlights of the day: Tristram and Persides go into a big multisided melee as a two-man team, and fight a bunch of other two-man teams. The best two-man team is Sir Gaheris (Gawaine’s brother) and Sir Bleoberis (Launcelot’s cousin); Tristram is severely disadvantaged when Persides is nearly trampled to death by twenty teams of knights (forty horses, or a hundred and sixty hooves). My old favorite, the King with a Hundred Knights, aka Mister 100, gives Gaheris and Bleoberis new horses after Tristram dehorses them both. Sir Dinadan sees an opening and tries to sneak-attack Tristram! Vengeance for forcing him to sidekick against his will!
But Tristram sees it coming, knocks Dinadan down, and Dinadan apologizes and promises never to do that again. The old Dinadan who didn’t hesitate to complain about Tristram’s worst excesses? Dead. In his place we get a much lamer sycophantic Dinadan. It’s a shame, I tell you. I liked the old Dinadan.
Anyway, yeah, Tristram gets the prize. He’s fighting anonymously, because Launcelot was doing it, so he’s known popularly as the Knight with the Black Shield.
Chapter 31 is full-on jousting fanfiction, you guys, Day Two of the tournament. Stupidly long story short: the knights are divided into two teams, Arthur’s team and Northgalis’s team. Palomides joins Arthur’s team, so Tristram joins Northgalis’s. Blah blah blah, then Sir Tristram came in, and began so roughly and so bigly that there was none that might withstand him, which sounds cool but Malory just has to unpack and unpack. There’s a long list of all the knights that Tristram beats, basically a bunch of Camelot’s second-stringers like Sir Ector-the-Lesser and Sir Bors Junior. The biggest get for Tristram in this stage of the combat is Sir Kay, whom Tristram soundly trounces despite Kay being the best out of a whole wad of forty of Arthur’s knights.
(Utterly pointless side note: Sir Launcelot and all of his cousins fight while wearing shields with Cornish heraldry instead of Benwick or Camelot heraldry. No explanation is made for this. Malory mentions it several times, then drops it.)
Sir Launcelot almost goes to fight Tristram, because he’s fighting too hard and not using sporting nonlethal tactics I think, but changes his mind because Tristram is just too awesome and Sir Launcelot can only stand by and watch and marvel at how great Tristram is.
Then Mister 100 finally shines! True to his name, he leads a force of a hundred knights against Launcelot and twenty other Benwick knights. Tristram sees how great the Benwick knights fight, but instead of joining in, he rides over to Mister 100 and complains that it’s unsporting to fight when you outnumber the opposition five to one like that.
Mister 100 does the classy thing, says something about how for evermore a good knight will favor another and pulls his boys back.