Arthur was waiting for his customary marvel before breakfast at the feast of Pentecost (in his castle of Kynke Kenadonne in the Welsh marches) when a nameless young man arrived (leaning on the shoulders of two others) and asked for three gifts; the first being free food and lodging for a year, after which he would ask for the other two. Arthur agreed, and a scornful Sir Kay christened the young man Beaumains (Fair-hands). As the two friends left, Kay sent him to work in the kitchen, and there Beaumains would eat and sleep, having politely declined Sirs Gawaine and Launcelot's offers of hospitality.
The following Whitsuntide at Carlion, a damosel arrived asking for help - for her unidentified lady - against the Red Knight of the Red Launds. Beaumains then asked for his last two gifts: the adventure of the damosel, and to be knighted by Launcelot when he required it. The damosel objected to being accompanied by a kitchen page, but a mysterious dwarf appeared with a wonderful horse, armour and sword for Beaumains, and with Launcelot accompanying them, off they went.
Sir Kay caught them up, wanting to further humiliate Beaumains, but his ex-scullery boy punctured him with his sword and then took his shield and spear. Then he had a "friendly" spar with Launcelot, who, after an hour, found himself so close to defeat he actually had to make an excuse to stop fighting.
Beaumains now asked Launcelot to knight him, and revealed only to him that he was in fact Gareth of Orkney and youngest brother to Sirs Gawaine, Gaheris, and Agravaine (who had all been away from home for fifteen years, hence their failure to recognise their own sibling).
That done, Launcelot returned to Carlion with the injured Sir Kay and the secret, whilst Sir Gareth, his dwarf, and the maiden carried on.
The damosel appeared quite unimpressed by Sir "Beaumains'" near victory over Sir Launcelot (the best knight in the world). She continuously insulted him over his culinary year out - on the road and also at various lodgings - even after he single-handedly rescued a traveller by killing six brigands, slew two knights (Sirs Gherard and Arnold le Breuse) at a passage of the water of Mortaise, then defeated Sir Percard the Black Knight of the Black Launds and his brothers, Sir Pertolepe the Green Knight, and Sir Perimones the (other) Red Knight.
Eventually he explained his strategy of using his year in the kitchens to learn who his true friends might be, and her scorn merely served to stiffen his resolve, so she stopped being obnoxious.
Then Sir Gareth defeated the fourth brother, Sir Persant of Inde (indigo = blue), stayed the night, and nobly refused to "defoil" the eighteen year-old daughter his host sent him as a test.
The next morning Gareth's damosel finally revealed herself to be Linet, the sister of Dame Lionesse, beseiged within Castle Perilous by Sir Ironside the (main) Red Knight of the Red Launds. He revealed to her and Sir Persant his own noble birth, while the dwarf carried messages between them and Dame Lionesse and the Red Knight.
The next morning they arrived at Castle Perilous by the sea, festooned with the corpses of Arthur's knights, and Gareth summoned the Red Knight of the Red Launds by blowing an elephant horn. The Red Knight appeared and battle was joined.
In spite of the Red Knight's trick of waxing seven men's strength until noon, and after a massive, prolonged, and bloody fight Sir Gareth, inspired by Dame Lionesse pouting at him from her castle window, eventually overcame his foe, and would have killed him to avenge the dead knights nearby, but spared his life after hearing he had only done it for a lady whose brother had been slain by Sir Gawaine and/or Launcelot. He sent the Red Knight to Arthur's court to apologise, and went himself to free the Dame Lionesse, only to find she had raised the drawbridge. From her window across the moat, Dame Lionesse swore her fealty but told the besotted Gareth to go away, later sending her brother, Sir Gringamore, after him to kidnap his dwarf for interrogation.
Back at Gringamore's castle, the dwarf broke instantly, revealing Beaumains' secret identity - Gareth - to Sir Gringamore, Dame Lionesse, and Damosel Linet (who at least knew how to keep a secret). Then Gareth turned up in fury looking for his dwarf, but was soon pacified by Dame Lionesse, whom he fell instantly in love with without realising who she was. Eventually everybody found out who everybody else was, and Gareth decided to take a year off at the castle with Dame Lionesse, with whom he slept in the hall.
One evening, Dame Lionesse came down for pre-nuptual relations with her knight, but Linet conjured up a magic knight who stabbed Gareth in the thigh, before Gareth hacked his head off. Linet then stuck the head back on with special ointment. After a while, when his groin was functioning, Gareth and Dame Lionesse tried again, but Linet pulled the same stunt. This time Gareth minced the magic knight's undead cranium and threw the pieces in the moat, but Linet collected them all and stuck them together again, determined to keep her sister pure until their properly licensed nuptials.
Meanwhile, back at Arthur's court, Lot's widow (and Arthur's old flame) Margawse turned up to visit her sons Gawaine, Gaheris and Agravaine, whom she hadn't seen for fifteen years, and to find out how her youngest, Gareth, was doing after his first year. Soon all was made clear, but Gareth was still nowhere to be found. Then Launcelot (working on a hunch, based on the multi-coloured knights who had been turning up) suggested that Arthur summon Dame Lionesse. When she arrived she announced a huge tournament at her castle on the feast of the Assumption of our Lady. The winner would receive her and all her land (Gareth's idea), before going home.
All were there on the day. Dame Lionesse gave Gareth a magic ring that stopped blood loss and changed all the colours of the apparel of the bearer, enabling him to come and go and to conceal his identity. But Launcelot guessed who he was and refused to fight him, so Gareth fought his older brother, Gawaine, instead. Whilst pausing for refreshment, the dwarf tricked away Gareth's ring, and before he recovered it, his secret identity was revealed. Peeved, at the end of the first day he rode off into the forest in a sulk. That night he lodged with Arthur's enemy the Duke de la Rowse.
The next morning, Gareth came across Sir Bendelaine and mortally wounded him, and killed sixteen of the twenty men who came out of Bendelaine's castle looking for revenge. Then he killed the Brown Knight without Pity and liberated the thirty widows locked up in the castle, and then he found the Duke de la Rowse and vanquished him too.
Grabbing the freshly beaten duke's shield, he then charged at the only other potential victim in sight, a knight who had just wandered into view. Again, it happened to be his older brother, Gawaine. Neither recognised the other, and after a couple of hours of fighting, Linet appeared and laughingly told them to stop behaving so stupidly so she could bandage them up.
Eventually Linet assembled everyone on the hill-side, including King Arthur and his entire court, the Orkney Mum (Margawse), and Dame Lionesse, and there was much fainting as everybody met and recognised each other. They celebrated for 8 days.
The next Michaelmas, Sir Gareth wedded Dame Lionesse, Sir Gaheris wedded Damosel Linet, and Sir Agravaine wedded Dame Laurel (Lionesse's niece), and everybody Gareth had either conquered or saved was there to stand by admiringly. But as time went by, Gareth spent so much time with Sir Launcelot that he withdrew from his brother Gawaine's company.
View Francoise Taylor's illustration from Book 7 - 'Gareth and Dame Lineth'.
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