Lugodoc’s summary of Book 13 – The Quest of the Sangreal
Pentecost, Anno Domini 487: as King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table prepared for the feast of Pentecost at Camelot, a strange damosel from King Pelles summoned Sir Launcelot to meet his nephews Sirs Bors and Lionel and his son Galahad at a nearby nunnery, and the next morning at the hour of prime, Launcelot dubbed his son there.
Launcelot and his nephews left Sir Galahad with the nuns and returned to Camelot by Whitsunday, and after the service, strange words magically appeared in gold on the Seige Perilous, saying: “Four hundred winters and four and fifty accomplished after the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ ought this siege to be fulfilled” – which Launcelot quickly worked out was indeed the case.
It was Arthur’s custom never to break his fast at the feast of Pentecost until he had beheld a wonder, and fortunately, before dinner, a squire ran in to announce one. In the nearby river floated a block of red marble, and stuck in it was a sword inscribed “Never shall man take me hence, but only he by whose side I ought to hang, and he shall be the best knight of the world” (this is, of course, the sword that Sir Balin received from the damosel of the Lady Lile of Avelion in Book 2, and which after his death, Merlin set magically adrift).
Launcelot refused to pull it. Gawaine tried, on Arthur’s orders, and failed. Percivale (also unsuccessfully) had a go “for to bear Sir Gawaine fellowship” (even though Gawaine had murdered Percivale’s father and brother). Then they all went to eat at the Round Dinner Table.
Suddenly all the doors and windows slammed shut and the lights went out, and an old knight appeared with Sir Galahad, and sat him in the Siege Perilous next to his father, Launcelot. When the tablecloth was lifted, the lettering had changed again, this time to the name Galahad. Arthur took him to the floating stone and Galahad drew the sword effortlessly.
Then a mysterious white palfrey-bourne maiden appeared, and castigated Launcelot for only being second best, and on behalf of Nacien, the long-dead hermit, she congratulated Arthur for “thee shall befall the greatest worship that ever befell king in Britain”. Then the maiden departed.
For some reason, Arthur assumed that there was now a holy quest to “achieve” the Sangreal, and realising that he might never see the Round Table whole and together again he called one last huge joust there and then, in the meadow of Camelot, so that Galahad could show off.
That evening at dinner the Sangreal manifested itself in a peal of thunder and a ray of light, but hidden beneath a cloth of white samite, and supplied everyone with wonderful food. Inspired, Gawaine responded by swearing to “labour in the quest of the Sangreal” for at least a year and a day, or until he saw it un-obscured. Arthur was displeased, knowing that all his other knights would follow suit, and many would die in the quest, and the Round Table would never be the same, nor the world see its like again “… for I have loved them as well as my life, wherefore it shall grieve me right sore, the departition of this fellowship: for I have had an old custom to have them in my fellowship.”
The next day, all one hundred and fifty of his Round Table knights left on the quest, and Arthur wept.
The first casualty was King Bagdemagus. After four days he came to the White Abbey, where, against advice, he took from it Joseph of Aramathie’s magic white shield marked with a red cross. Within hours he had been critically injured by a mysterious white knight, and was out of the quest.
Bagdemagus’ squire returned the shield and this time Galahad took it, and when he met the same white knight, he was congratulated and told the whole story of Joseph of Aramathie and his magic shield (see Book 1 – The Prologues). After Galahad had heard the story of his new shield, the White Knight mysteriously vanished, so he pestered an unholy metaphorical fiend entombed in the abbey, and the next day he knighted his own squire Melias de Lile, a prince of Denmark, and they set off on the road again.
Within a week, Galahad had to leave Sir Melias at an abbey to recover from the severe injuries he sustained trying to steal a golden crown after taking a wrong left turn, and after maiming the rightful owners (who may only have been metaphors for the sins of pride and greed), Galahad pressed on alone.
After hearing voices at an old deserted chapel in the mountains, Galahad headed for the Castle of Maidens, where he drove off the seven evil knights who had ruled it evily for seven years since killing the good Duke Lianour, and released all the prisoners held there, and delivered many ex-maidens from ravishment.
Meanwhile Gawaine, Gareth, and Uwaine met at the abbey where Melias was convalescing, and following in Galahad’s wake they encountered the evil seven (who may have been metaphors for the seven deadly sins) and killed them. Then they lost Galahad’s trail and split up.
Alone, Gawaine found himself at a hermitage where a good man explained the previous metaphor and told him he was too sinful and must do penance, but Gawaine said he was too busy and moved on, briefly meeting with Aglovale and Griflet before splitting up again.
Launcelot and Percivale accidentally attacked a disguised Galahad in a forest after he left the Castle of Maidens, but he escaped them both and rode away, determined to be alone, just as a nearby recluse told them who he was. Percivale remained with the recluse for a while. Launcelot, depressed, continued to a remote mysterious chapel, and unable to find a way in, dozed by its black marble cross.
In this trance-state, he saw another knight appear and be healed by the Sangreal, and then steal his horse, helm, and sword, but paralysed by his own sin, he could do nothing. When he fully awoke, horseless and weaponless, he walked on through the forest to a hermit who explained how sinful he was for his adultery with Guenevere, and for fighting for his own glory and not God’s. Launcelot repented and remained with the hermit.
At A Glance
Book 13 Chapter Overview:
1. How at the vigil of the Feast of Pentecost entered into the hall before King Arthur a damosel, and desired Sir Launcelot for to come and dub a knight, and how he went with her.
2. How the letters were found written in the Siege Perilous and of the marvellous adventure of the sword in a stone.
3. How Sir Gawaine assayed to draw out the sword, and how an old man brought in Galahad.
4. How the old man brought Galahad to the Siege Perilous and set him therein, and how all the knights marvelled.
5. How King Arthur shewed the stone hoving on the water to Galahad, and how he drew out the sword.
6. How King Arthur had all the knights together for to joust in the meadow beside Camelot or they departed.
7. How the queen desired to see Galahad; and how after, all the knights were replenished with the Holy Sangreal, and how they avowed the enquest of the same.
8. How great sorrow was made of the king and the queen and ladies for the departing of the knights, and how they departed.
9. How Galahad gat him a shield, and how they sped that presumed to take down the said shield.
10. How Galahad departed with the shield, and how King Evelake had received the shield of Joseph of Aramathie.
11. How Joseph made a cross on the white shield with his blood, and how Galahad was by a monk brought to a tomb.
12. Of the marvel that Sir Galahad saw and heard in the tomb, and how he made Melias knight.
13. Of the adventure that Melias had, and how Galahad revenged him, and how Melias was carried into an abbey.
14. How Sir Galahad departed, and how he was commanded to go to the Castle of Maidens to destroy the wicked custom.
15. How Sir Galahad fought with the knights of the castle, and destroyed the wicked custom.
16. How Sir Gawaine came to the abbey for to follow Galahad, and how he was shriven to a hermit.
17. How Sir Galahad met with Sir Launcelot and Sir Percivale, and smote them down, and departed from them.
18. How Sir Launcelot, half sleeping and half waking, saw a sick man borne in a litter, and how he was healed with the Sangreal.
19. How a voice spake to Sir Launcelot, and how he found his horse and his helm borne away, and after went afoot.
20. How Sir Launcelot was shriven, and what sorrow he made and of the good ensamples which were shewed him.