Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur, Book X Chapters 17 and 18
We rejoin the tale of Sir Dinadan and Sir Palomides bumming around, already in progress. They stand near a very nice and well-maintained castle.
“Check it out, Palomides,” says Dinadan. “Yonder lies the castle of Morgan le Fay.”
As you probably don’t recall, Morgan is the queen of the land of Gore, which had been ruled by her estranged husband King Uriens, but then Morgan decided to rebel against Arthur on account of he gets to be king of everything and she doesn’t, and she kicked Uriens out of Gore (along with their son Sir Uwaine). So I’m guessing this castle is at the edge of Gore maybe? Dinadan goes on to claim that Arthur gave it to her in happier times, and since her rebellion began he’s tried several times to capture it by siege, but failed each time.
“Check this out also,” continues Dinadan. “Morgan has this whole scheme going, whereby any knight from Camelot who passes through here must joust with the knights of her castle, one after the other, until inevitably he loses. When he loses, she confiscates his horse and armor and stuff, and takes him prisoner.” How Dinadan happens to be aware of this is not addressed.
“So God me help this is a shameful custom, and a villainous usance for a queen to use. She knows that King Arthur is the Flower of Chivalry, doesn’t she? As a practicing Muslim (a religion, once again, which Malory knows nothing about other than the fact that it exists) I aver with certainty that this is the worst crime committed by any queen, Christian or heathen. I’m going to go down there and if I’m obliged to joust for her, then her knights will find both their hands full.”
It really is a very old idiom!
“Sounds good to me,” says Dinadan. “Let’s team up on this one!”
They prepare to ride down at the castle and joust, but before they set out, a mysterious knight rides up! He wears a face-concealing helmet and Malory calls him the Knight with the Red Shield, because he has a red shield.
“Ho, good knights,” says the mysterious Knight with the Red Shield. “You look like you’re about to attempt to succeed where the assembled knights of Camelot failed, and exhaust the defenders of yonder castle.”
“What of it?”
“I am on a mission to defeat the castle myself! It’s as a favor to Sir Lamorak, who definitely isn’t actually secretly me.”
“So would you mind letting me have a go, first? If I lose, you can avenge me!”
“Yeah, okay,” says Palomides.
So the mysterious Knight with the Red Shield… you know what? I’m just going to say Sir Lamorak, try to look surprised later on… Lamorak jousts one of Morgan’s knights, and then he jousts another of Morgan’s knights, and then he jousts a third knight. Then Palomides offers to tag in, in case Lamorak wants to take a break, but Lamorak refuses, and he jousts a fourth knight.
“Man he’s good,” says Palomides.
“Launcelot, Tristram good,” agrees Dinadan.
Lamorak, meantime, has defeated opponent number six! It’s like that scene in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine where Worf fights those guys, all in a row? Palomides really wants in, at this point, so Lamorak lets the next bout be two on two, and of course Morgan’s unnamed knights fall before Sir Palomides and Sir Lamorak, though Palomides gets dehorsed. A guy also attacks Dinadan, even though Dinadan had been hanging a respectful distance back.
Lamorak jousts another seven knights after that, bringing his total count to thirteen or fifteen, depending on whether you count the two he took on with Palomides. Malory can’t count, though, and puts the number at twelve, four of whom die of their injuries we’re told.
Afterwards the surviving knights promise not to participate in the evil customs of the castle any longer, and an unarmed representative emerges from the castle to tell Lamorak that they won’t be fighting him any more today, castle’s closed, come back tomorrow.
“Hah! I win!” cries Lamorak, and rides off.
“That guy really made me look bad,” grumbles Palomides. “I’m going to go catch him and get him to agree to a nonlethal honor joust.”
“That sounds like a bad plan,” says Dinadan.
“Don’t care! Doing it!” cries Palomides, and rides off after Lamorak.
Vocabulary Word: Usance, meaning local custom. Has the same root origin as usury, because interest rates vary by region.
Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur, Book X Chapters 17 and 18 — No Comments
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