And so, bright and early one morning, Arthur and his enormous army lay siege to Castle Benwick. Sir Gawaine, pretty much the last knight standing, acts as his general. They encircle the castle and assault it with ladders, which Launcelot’s men toss off. It’s very Helm’s Deep, with Arthur’s army pounding on the castle walls as though to tear them down.
“Come on, Launcelot!” shouts Sir Gawaine in front of the castle gates “Sally forth! Fight me in the field! Stop hiding in your hole!”
“I knew it!” curses Bagdemagus.
Launcelot declines to joust Gawaine, again, and so it falls to Sir Bors to do the job.
Sir Bors, arguably the best knight, the winner of the Quest for the Holy Grail, emerges from Castle Benwick and charges Gawaine.
In a huge upset and shocker, Sir Gawaine dehorses him! Bors goes down!
Sir Lionel can’t let that stand! He rides out from Castle Benwick to rescue Sir Bors!
And then Sir Gawaine dehorses Lionel, too!
Somehow the two wounded knights get back into the castle, but they have to suffer the ignominy of losing to Sir Gawaine, which is pretty bad.
However, they soon have fine company. For the next six months — that’s half a year, people, around a hundred and eighty days — every morning Sir Gawaine shouts a challenge to Launcelot, and every morning a different knight comes out to defend Launcelot’s honor, and every morning Gawaine dehorses, wounds, and generally humiliates that knight.
Finally one morning, perhaps because Launcelot starts to run low on knights to send, things go differently. As per usual, Gawaine calls Launcelot out: “False traitor knight!” and so on. “I shall revenge upon thy body the death of my three brethren.” You get the idea by this point, I’m sure.
All of Launcelot’s surviving knights turn to him. “C’mon,” says one. “He’s being a dick.”
“He deserves to get beaten up!”
“You can totally joust his ass!”
Launcelot really doesn’t want to — perhaps because he remembers the Round Table oath Guenever composed. One rule was that knights of the Round Table weren’t supposed to fight one another (except in tournaments), ever.
“You’ve put off jousting him too long!” insist his followers.
“God help me,” says Launcelot. “It’s time.”
Then Sir Launcelot bade saddle his strongest horse, and bade let fetch his arms, and bring all unto the gate of the tower; and then Sir Launcelot spake on high to King Arthur.
“Arthur! Sire! You have long been my lord and I am very sorry to do this, but you’ve forced my hand. After six months of Sir Gawaine’s prancing around, I’ve got to do something. I’m sorry about how I’m about to kill your nephew!”
Arthur, who has been in a funk since before this book even started, shakes his head and sighs. “Alas, that ever Sir Launcelot was against me,” he mutters.
Sir Gawaine’s ready for him, though. “Leave thy babbling and come off, and let us ease our hearts!”
And so it happens. No more peace till the one were dead. Or surrenders. Tapping out is still allowed; they aren’t animals.