Funny story. One day about a week after Mark and Tristram leave Camelot, a knight and a squire arrive. The squire, notably, looks like someone who has no business being a knight or hanging around with knights. Malory is entirely nonspecific as to what provokes this reaction. Maybe he’s wearing an ironic t-shirt, maybe he’s got facial tattoos, maybe he’s got some physical disabilities.
“Hail, sire,” says the knight. “I respectfully demand you make my squire a knight.”
“What? What is this? Who is he? Who are you?” I don’t think Arthur has had his coffee yet.
“It’s my brother Sir Aglavale,” cries Lamorak, who is also there. “Eldest son of my father the late King Pellinore!”
“I thought your oldest brother was Sir Tor,” someone says.
“He doesn’t really count as his mother was a sexy milkmaid and wasn’t married to our father,” explains Lamorak.
“Indeed yes,” says Aglavale, who indeed it is. “And I have brought our youngest brother, Percivale, to become a knight.”
Arthur strokes his beard. “Hmm. Hmm. I get that Pellinore was a good man, for some Merlinesque definition of good, but this kid here doesn’t really seem like knight material.”
“Aw, c’mon sire,” chorus Lamorak and Aglavale. “All the rest of us are knights: us, Tor, our brother Sir Dornar… Percy would feel left out!”
“Oh, fine,” says Arthur. “Sword!”
Someone hands Arthur a sword.
“I knight thee, Sir Percivale de Galis,” says Arthur, giving Percy the tap. “Try not to get yourself killed, okay?”
So Arthur has a big dinner, as per usual, and all the knights attend. They’re seated by their current jousting rankings, which is apparently how Arthur likes it. Arthur’s up front, with Launcelot at his right hand, and Lamorak and other top-tier knights, and it goes on down through the middle ranks, ending up with the mean knights who aren’t very good, and then at the very, very end they seat Percy.
Then a miracle happens! A mute woman declares that Percy should take a seat at the Round Table, specifically the siege perilous! This is a big dramatic thing that Malory totally steps on, though maybe I’m being too hard on him. This mute woman is one of Guenever’s ladies-in-waiting, highborn, never said a word her whole life. She gets up in the middle of dinner, says her spiel. Then she requests a priest, who hears her confession (I guess because she’s mute she never got a chance to do confession) and then she dies.
But before she dies: “Fair knight, take here thy siege, for that siege appertaineth to thee and to none other.” Siege still means seat, in case you’ve forgotten, and there’s been an empty seat (the “siege perilous”) at the Round Table ever since back in Book III when Merlin set it up.
So Percy sits down at the Round Table, and Arthur and everyone marvel at the miracle, and you might think that finally we’re getting to the Grail Quest, but no. There’s another sixty-odd chapters of Book X to slog through.
Next up: Lamorak, who pines for Queen Margawse. Though, given Margawse has a grandson old enough to be a knight and Lamorak is younger than Tor who is the same age as Margawse’s son Gawaine, she must by my math be at least twenty years older than Lamorak, and probably more like thirty. Margawse must be in her mid-50s to 60s. Which doesn’t mean the pairing’s impossible, but you’d think folks would remark on the age disparity.