Hey, remember Sir Launcelot? Remember how he’s been conspicuously absent for the last few chapters? Turns out he’s been chilling in Benwick this whole time. He got the letter from Sir Gawaine but assumed it was just Gawaine being a dick again, and disregarded it. Once Arthur’s gone, though, he eventually gets that news, and it spurs him to act.
“To England!” he cries. “We must go avenge our fallen king, and slay the false knight Sir Mordred! Maybe it’ll make up for all the slaughter I did in Book XX!”
Bors, Lionel, Ector, Palomides, and all the other former Knights of the Round Table, now Knights of Hanging Out In Benwick, let out a cheer. “To England!”
With much pomp and circumstance they load onto ships and cross the channel. When they come to Dover, Launcelot’s ready for a fight, so he sets up an elaborate amphibious assault, ready to storm the beaches. His host is tanned, rested, ready, their numbers hideous to behold. They pour onto the seaside, and it isn’t until Launcelot and his seven or eight chief lieutenants (Malory can’t keep track and keeps contradicting himself) has unloaded, along with all this men, that they realize there is no opposing army there to fight them.
“What gives?” they ask the townsfolk of Dover.
The folk of Dover very politely explain that Arthur and Mordred and a hundred thousand or so knights all died in a huge massacre, up at Barham Down, and now there’s a massive power vacuum in England. Also here, Dover, is where Gawaine died.
“So we’re too late?” Launcelot is aghast.
“Pretty much.” Launcelot visits Gawaine’s tomb, as Gawaine requested in the letter, and silently prays and forgives Gawaine all his faults.
Then Launcelot throws a huge funeral-party, because what else is he going to do with all this food and money he brought? He rents out the church for funeral after funeral, spending lots of money and having to supply tons of candles, and it goes on and on for days.
Three days after Launcelot locked himself in Gawaine’s tomb to have a good cry, he stumbles out and calls together his apostles, I mean his knights. “Guys, thanks a lot for coming out, but we’re done here I guess. I’m going to go find Guenever now. I’ll be back in a couple of weeks. Or if I’m not, just go home without me, okay?”
Bors asks if this is such a good idea. Launcelot insists that it is, and also forbids any of the knights from going with him.