So Dinadan goes out looking for Tristram, again, and finds him, again, before too long. Due to Tristram’s new face-concealing helmet, Dinadan doesn’t recognize him, again. But this time he does recognize that helmet! It’s a distinctive helmet.
“Hey, you!” cries Dinadan. “You’re that one coward from Chapter 55!”
“Sure, okay,” says Tristram. “You going to the latest big tournament, at Castle Lonazep?”
“I am, yes. But what are you doing? Surely you aren’t going to go jousting, coward that you are.”
“Oh, no,” says Tristram. “I’m pretty much the biggest coward ever, sure, whatever. I’m going to just go watch, and maybe sell these spears to a needy knight or something. Whatever cowards do.”
The pair bump into Sir Gareth, who’s likewise headed towards the Lonazep tournament. He and Dinadan have a short joust out of love, just for funsies, and afterwards everyone laughs about it.
Then the three of them bump into Sir Palomides, who is also Lonazep-bound. He and Dinadan likewise have a short joust for funsies, and afterwards Tristram asks him (apropos of nothing) who he hates.
“Who I hate?” asks Palomides. “A random question, stranger. As random as your odd and distinctive face-concealing helmet. I suppose I would say I hate Sir Tristram, because…”
“Whoa!” cries Tristram. He rips his helmet off. “Say it to my face! I thought we were friends!”
“Tristram, Tristram, buddy!” Palomides holds up his hands in supplication. “We are friends! You didn’t let me finish! I only hate you because you make me look bad, you’re so awesome!”
“Oh.” Tristram is mollified. “That’s okay, then. You see,” he says to Dinadan. “That’s how you apologize.”
“You’re a jerk, you know that right?” says Dinadan in response.
The pair turned threesome turned foursome ride all together towards Castle Lonazep and the latest big tournament. Along the way they reminisce about various previous tournaments, like that one in Book IX where Palomides did well, or the one earlier in Book X that Lamorak was so great at.
“Man, it sucks that Lamorak was murdered offscreen,” says Tristram. “That Sir Gawaine and all his brothers, they’re just the worst. If they weren’t all King Arthur’s nephews I’d totally kill them all. No offence, Gareth.”
“None taken,” says Gareth. “I’ve always been the odd one out among my brothers. They went and formed a murderous cabal and didn’t even invite me! This is the first I’ve heard of it, actually.”
“You haven’t heard the whole story then,” observes Palomides. He launches into a long description that he heard from Lamorak’s squire, who was an eyewitness. Gawaine, Gaheris, Agravaine, and Mordred ambushed Lamorak in a privy place and slew his horse. Then they fought, four on one, for three hours, until finally Mordred was able to stab Lamorak in the back.
Tristram swears under his breath about what an atrocity it is, and Gareth and Dinadan shake their heads sadly.
“You know,” says Palomides, “this story gives me an idea. What if the four of us formed our own little murderous cabal, and worked together during this upcoming tournament?”
“Nah,” says Tristram. “There’s four of us, and there’d be, like, four hundred of them. It’s a big tournament. I’m going to pass on that.”
Then they stumble on a boat! Like you do. This boat is all done up with red silk, fancy like. Tristram wanders aboard, and in the cabin he finds the late King Hermance, lord of the Red Lands!
You may remember them from Book VII. If not, no biggie. The thing to note here is that Hermance is dead. He’s bled to death from a dozen wounds; it’s apparent that someone or someones just laid into him, sliced him up. In his hands he holds a letter that he penned with his last strength!
DEAR KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE, STOP. AVENGE ME, STOP. I WAS MURDERED BY MY TWO WICKED BROTHERS, STOP. AS ARTHUR’S VASSAL I DEMAND VENGEANCE, STOP. REWARD: THE THRONE OF THE RED LANDS, STOP. LOVE, KING HERMANCE, STOP.
“Dibs!” says Tristram.
“No fair! You just barged in. Let me take a crack at it,” says Palomides. “You don’t even need a throne. You’re the king of Brittany.”
“Am I?” Tristram seems to have no memory of that. “Well, tell you what, I won’t pursue this for a week. Then all bets are off.”
“Deal,” says Palomides.