(WE NOW RETURN TO LE MORTE D’ARTHUR, ALREADY IN PROGRESS.)
“Well,” says Arthur. “If you don’t mind, I’d appreciate an explanation of that device on your shield.”
(If you need to be reminded who Arthur is speaking to and why, I suggest you go back to the end of Book IX. I’m not here to hold your hand and walk you through the text. Wait, no, that’s exactly what I’m here for. Still, end of Book IX.)
“Feh,” responds Tristram. “Whatever. This isn’t even my shield, really. Morgan le Fay gave it to me. I don’t know what’s up with the king and the queen and the knight. I don’t care, either.”
Arthur doesn’t like this answer. “You ought to care! It’s your shield, or you’re using it anyway. You should know what it means if you’re going to go around brandishing it. What’s your name, anyway?”
“Why should I tell you?”
“…Because I’m asking?” Arthur’s baffled. Is it a trick question?
“Yeah, whatever, no,” says Tristram. “Not telling.”
“I’m getting pretty sick of your attitude,” says Arthur. “In fact, let’s joust over it. We’re at a tournament, after all.”
“Oh, what, big man, huh, just cause a guy won’t tell you his name you gotta joust him, huh?” Tristram sneers at Arthur a bit. “Then you accuse me of copping an attitude! Turns out you’re just a villainous knight, sitting there on your throne acting all high and mighty… I just jousted a bunch of guys and you’re totally fresh, you cheater!”
Nobody gets to call King Arthur a cheater! They joust. It’s indecisive but Tristram has the upper hand; he dehorses and wounds Arthur.
Then Sir Uwaine, whom Tristram was about to joust before he got sidetracked with Arthur, leaps into the fray! Uwaine comes at Tristram with the intent of rescuing the king. They joust for a bit, and Tristram dehorses him, too.
“All you jackasses!” cries Tristram, to everyone around. “I didn’t want to do this! They made me! Arthur is the real enemy!”
As he rises to his feet Arthur sighs heavily. “I suppose I could have avoided this wound by just leaving Sir Shield-Haver over there alone.” He helps Uwaine up.
“I dunno, sire,” says Uwaine. “That guy’s a strong knight… as any is now living, sure, but he’s also kind of a dick.”
Meanwhile, Tristram decides to drop out of the Hard Rock Castle tournament. His original plan involved presenting himself at Camelot and getting a job working for Arthur, but after the ugly scene above, he instead just wanders the countryside for a while, looking for Sir Launcelot. Can he find Sir Launcelot? No, he can’t.
“I don’t even know if he’s alive or dead,” grumbles Tristram. “This is stupid. Stupid!” He kicks at the ground, shuffles, whines, the whole petulant bit.
Just when you’re starting to recall what a dick Tristram is, after a blessed month off, and you dread the prospect of another hundred and forty pages of his idiot adventures, he stumbles across a strange adventure!
Specifically, Tristram sees Sir Palomides, last seen going his separate way after he and Tristram bonded in prison. Now Palomides is engaged in a fight for his life with Pitiless Bruce and eight of Pitiless Bruce’s henchman thugs!
I can’t believe I’d never heard of Pitiless Bruce. He shows up a lot, for a guy I’ve never heard of. Though to be fair I’d never heard of Sir Palomides either, and I had only a vague notion of who Tristram was. Really Malory’s entry into the Arthurian canon is lush with characters I’d never heard of. Most of them are one-dimensional and interchangeable, but still.
“Unhand my off-again, on-again nemesis!” cries Tristram.
“Come on, boys,” shouts Pitiless Bruce. “There’s nine of us and two of them!”
Mmmyeah, not so much. Tristram dismounts and runs up on Pitiless Bruce’s men that they should not slay his horse and he beats some guys up. Bruce’s men break ranks, panic, flee immediately (Bruce in front) into a nearby tower. Tristram chases, but they slam the door on him.
Afterwards Tristram saunters back to Sir Palomides, where he lies under a tree wounded.
“Yo,” says Palomides. “You pretty much just saved my life, thanks.”
“No big. What is your name?”
Palomides shoots Tristram a quizzical look. “…My name is Sir Palomides. We’ve met many, many times. We were one another’s nemeses for a while? Then we were in prison together? Now we’re friends?”
“O Jesu! Palomides! My nemesis! Have at thee!” And Tristram moves to attack! He is either very confused or a tremendous asshole. I’m guessing he’s both, actually.
“Dude! Dude!” Palomides waves him off. “So a, we’re friends now, and b, you just now saved me, and c, I’m lying here with a big shoulder gash. How about we don’t fight?”
“Hmm, well, okay.” Tristram glowers. “But sometime in the future, when you’re well, then we joust. Meet me in the meadow by the river of Camelot, where Merlin set the peron.”
“It’s like a porch.” For the benefit of the reader, I’ll explain that the location to which Tristram refers is the site of Sir Balin’s joust with Sir Lanceor, back in Book II. Never mind that at that time, Malory described the location first as a mountain pass and then I think it was a forest for a line or two. Now it’s a meadow by a river.