Okay, so, Tristram and the lovely Isoud are finally together and out of Cornwall! Tristram’s story so far, let me recap:
10 Hang out in Cornwall, having an affair with Isoud
20 Get kicked out of Cornwall
30 Have adventures outside Cornwall
40 Return to Cornwall
50 Goto 10
This cycle has gone on like four or five times now. But this is the very first time that Isoud has come out of Cornwall with Tristram! Which is a big deal. This is a game-changer. Obviously everything is going to be different from now on.
So first things first, Malory says, Tristram goes and participates in a jousting tournament. He goes incognito, he kicks a lot of ass, Launcelot shows up. Launcelot wasn’t going to participate in the tournament, but with a Tristram-caliber knight participating, Launcelot wants to test his mettle. Isoud intervenes, tells Launcelot that Sir Guy Incognito is really Tristram.
Tristram introduces Isoud to Arthur and Guenever and the Camelot social whirl. Everyone is thrilled that they’re finally out of Cornwall and together. Arthur throws another tournament, at Lonazep, to commemorate their awesome adultery.
Launcelot points out that Lonazep is positioned, geographically, right near to a bunch of knights who hate Camelot and are anti-Arthur partisans. Perhaps Arthur would like to relocate this tournament to someplace safer?
Screw that, says Arthur.
And for the first time I can think of, a character’s expression of concern at the possibility of attack is not immediately followed up by vindication! Not because this tournament goes off without a hitch, but because it takes a long time to organize. We’ll come back to it.
Meanwhile, Tristram and Isoud take up residence at Joyous Gard, Launcelot’s castle, and they practice all kinds of venery together. Isoud, worried about ambushes, warns Tristram to remember to keep his sword with him whenever he goes venering.
So one day Tristram is out alone, doing nothing in particular, just chasing a hart. He comes across a fair well which I think we might remember from Book I, the place where Arthur met Pellinore. I say that because guess what comes tromping out of the woods, making a noise like thirty hounds? Yes, it’s the Questing Beast.
“Hey, it’s the Questing Beast!” says Tristram to himself. “I’ll catch it and turn it over to my best frenemy, Sir Palomides, who’s been questing for it for so long!”
He puts on his helmet and gets ready to chase the Questing Beast, but he gets distracted by Pitliess Bruce, who wanders up just then. Despite Tristram being a hero (albeit a hero who has murdered a lot of people for no reason, and also who is having a celebrated affair with his liege lord’s wife) and Pitiless Bruce a villain, the two end up really hitting it off. They get engrossed in conversation and hardly notice when Sir Palomides himself rides up.
“Yo, fellas! Fellas!” Palomides has to holler to get their attention. “I’ve got news!”
“King Mark is in jail! Sir Dinas got tired of his bullroar and led Cornwall in revolt!”
“I know, right? Anyway, I figure now is the best possible time for me to get in on having an affair with the lovely Isoud, who as you recall is my lady-love as well as Tristram’s.”
Which is awkward! Because Tristram is right there. He’s got his helmet on, I guess. Or maybe Palomides has forgotten what Tristram looks like. That happens a lot.