Okay, listen, it’s been fun going through Book X of Le Morte D’Arthur one chapter at a time, but we’re going to be here all day if we keep at it. So now I’m going to sum up four chapters at once, which four chapters tell the story of Elias’s siege of Tintagil. This is all happening contemporaneous with Launcelot grimly reading Mark’s note and Dinadan coming up with the novelty song idea, in the previous entry.
First up, there’s a joust, Tristram wins, no surprise there. The notable thing is that he’s wounded in the last joust of the tournament and goes to the castle of his buddy Sir Dinas (Mark’s reluctant seneschal, Kay to his Arthur) to recuperate. So he’s not in Tintagil when Elias shows up with his army.
Who is Elias? Some guy with an army, says Malory with a shrug. He’s from Sessoin, which third-party sources tell me is somewhere in France. He thinks he should be able to collect tribute from Mark, and naturally Mark is reluctant to go along with that. Mark can’t handle Elias alone, so he reluctantly goes to visit Tristram and requests his help. Tristram says he’d love to fight Elias, but he’s still wounded from the tournament and will need at least a week to recover.
For a week Mark and his three de facto generals — Sir Dinas, Tristram’s cousin Sir Andred, and Mark’s cousin who isn’t related to Tristram at all Sir Argius — fight Elias and the Sessoins. Mark mostly hides in Tintagil while others do the fighting, but he’s obliged to participate because he needs every hand he can get, even his own personal bodyguard. The battles don’t go well for Mark’s side, and by the end of the week he’s pretty much holed up in Tintagil with Dinas and his other knights, praying for relief.
Tristram finally shows up, along with ten of his Round Table friends, and the eleven of them sneak up to Tintagil and ambush some of Elias’s patrols to get past his big army and into Tintagil itself. Once there, Mark is genuinely glad to see Tristram, because he’s in way over his head against this guy Elias.
Somehow Elias learns that Tristram is inside the besieged castle. The next morning he sends an ultimatum to Mark — come out and fight him, one on one. Naturally Mark sees this as a bad plan, and declines. Tristram and Dinas and Tristram’s Round Table friends lead a series of sorties out of the castle, sabotaging the Sessoins’ supplies and burning their boats and so on, engaging small bits of Elias’s army with hit-and-run tactics. Mark even participates himself, so you know how dire it is.
After a few days of this, hundreds lie dead on both sides. Elias sends the castle another ultimatum, which is really just an amended version of his previous ultimatum: if Mark will send out a champion to duel Elias, then they can get this whole thing resolved without further loss of life. If Elias wins, Mark pays tribute to Sessoin. If Mark’s champion wins, Elias leaves and doesn’t come back.
“Sounds like a plan,” says Mark, and he talks Tristram into acting as his champion. Tristram doesn’t wanna because he still isn’t fully recovered from his injuries, plus he’s gotten new injuries, basically he’s looking at a long convalescence before he’s back up to snuff. However, nobody else is remotely qualified, so he agrees.
Elias and Tristram meet on the jousting field, after formalizing their agreement to abide by the joust results regarding the siege of Tintagil and tribute and so on. At first Elias smacks Tristram around pretty badly! We’re talking twenty blows to the head, while Tristram lands exactly one on Elias. But then during the timeout, Tristram remembers the lovely Isoud and how he’s really fighting for her, and after the break he comes back roaring and smacks Elias around twenty times.
Elias dies, and the surviving Sessoins pack up and leave in an anticlimactic way. Life returns to normal at Tintagil, with Tristram and the lovely Isoud and Mark. Mark arranges a celebratory banquet to commemorate the victory, and brings in the best foreign harper to perform: Eliot!
Eliot the bard comes in and plays his lay:
King Mark, he sucks, he suck suck suck suck sucks!
He is the guy who sucks, oh yes, he sucks!
That dolt, King Mark, I hate him so so much!
He shouldn’t be loved no nobody loves him nope,
Which of course you remember from the previous entry. Mark is furious, naturally. He demands to know the source of this treason! Eliot explains that he got the song from Sir Dinadan, Launcelot’s friend. Mark wants to execute Eliot, but Tristram talks him out of that, so Mark contents himself with exiling the bard from Cornwall. The incident closes with Mark fretting about his tenuous hold on Cornwall and the importance of murdering Tristram and probably also Launcelot, Dinadan, King Arthur for good measure, just everybody, even his previously unmentioned brother Boudwin. Foreshadowing!