In this chapter, we once again see Tristram’s former French tutor and current servant Gouvernail, who apparently has been around despite not being mentioned since Chapter 32 of Book IX, which you may (but probably don’t) remember as ‘just before Tristram ended up in prison.’ Several times in the story of Tristram so far we’ve had scenarios that seem like they ought to separate Gouvernail and Tristram, like, that time Tristram went mad and spent a year as a forest hermit. But apparently he’s around now, Malory tells us, so that he can do the important work of buying Tristram a new bridle and dressing for his horse.
After a week of recuperating, Tristram takes his new bridle, waves goodbye to the widow (you know and I know that just last chapter Malory asserted Tristram recuperated at a convent, but there’s no use arguing with him) and heads off towards his appointment with Sir Palomides.
On the way, he bumps into two Knights of the Round Table, Sir Sagramore and Sir Dodinas. You don’t remember them, but they encountered Tristram before, back in Book VIII. They were, in fact, some of the first Camelot knights Tristram encountered: they wandered Cornwall making trouble, Tristram rode out and defeated them, and afterwards he decided he wanted to learn more about this whole ‘Round Table’ thing.
“Ahoy, stranger!” they call. “Wanna joust?”
“Another time,” says Tristram. “Right now I’m on my way to an appointment.”
“Maugre your head!” cries Sagramore. “Joust with us! Or we don’t let you pass us on the road!”
“Whatever.” Tristram easily dehorses Sagramore, then Dodinas. Tristram doesn’t dismount, but instead rides on, and his man Gouvernail with him. Malory is going to try super hard not to forget all about Gouvernail this time, you guys.
Sagramore and Dodinas don’t take the hint! They remount and ride up on Tristram, so they can complain at him for just dehorsing them and riding away, which is an insult.
“Sod off,” suggests Tristram. “Listen, I’m on my way to a fight, and I want to remain in top shape for it. I fight you, oooh, I’m sure you two will break both my legs, just as I’ll break all of the bones in y’all’s bodies. I need to guard myself for my upcoming scheduled joust.”
“Who’re you jousting, anyway?” asks Sagramore.
Sagramore winces. “Ye have cause to dread him because he’s one of the top-tier knights. There’s him, Launcelot of course, Tristram…”
“My name is Sir Tristram de Liones.”
Sagramore and Dodinas totally fail to point out that they’ve met before, it was a whole thing. Instead they just observe that they’ve heard of Tristram, and then they back away. Slowly.
Tristram rides on, until he arrives at the porch Merlin set up back in Book II on the site of Lanceor’s death at the hands of Balin. You probably don’t remember this, but it was a whole big thing.
From Book II, Chapter 8:
“The great battle shall be here,” Merlin announces.
“I beg your pardon?”asks Mark.
“The great battle, the greatest between two knights that shall ever happen, will happen here. And neither shall slay the other!” cries Merlin.
“I see,” says Mark.
Merlin pulls out a pen which writes in gold, and inscribes upon the door of the tomb two names: LAUNCELOT DE LAKE and TRISTRAM. “Those are the knights who shall fight here,” he says to Mark.
“Well aren’t you an interesting fellow,” says Mark.
Mark was also there. I forgot about that bit. Anyway. Lanceor was the son of the king of Ireland, which would make the lovely Isoud his sister. Malory spends a lot of words reminding us about this prophecy, so you know what that means!
Tristram spies a knight all in shining white armor, loitering near the porch. “That must be Palomides!” he thinks to himself, and attacks this other knight.
FOUR HOURS OF MELEE LATER
Launcelot, lying wounded on the grass, congratulates Tristram for being such a fine jouster. “What’s your name, then?”
“Oh, you know how it is,” says Tristram, lying wounded next to him. “You tell a guy your name, and he’s all…”
“…oh, it’s Sir Launcelot and if I joust him I’ll shoot up to the top ranks of knighthood, right now while he’s trying to eat is the best time to bother him.” Launcelot finishes the sentence.
“You’re Launcelot? Dang. I thought you were a different guy. I should have said something. My bad. Ye are the man in the world that I love best, even though I’m not sure we’ve ever had an actual conversation before.”
“Oh ah,” says Launcelot. He’s understandably confused.
“It’s me, Tristram!”
“Oh! Jeez. This is embarrassing. I was looking for you! I had my Tristram Rescue Squad going after you, and here we are.”
Launcelot tries to surrender to Tristram, and Tristram tries to surrender to Launcelot, and they pass one another’s swords back and forth. As massive battles foretold by Merlin eight Books prior go, it’s anticlimactic.
Although: they make out, by way of apology.
Seriously! Serious makeouts between Launcelot and Tristram. Each kissed other an hundred times.
And then Launcelot escorts Tristram to Camelot!