Quest of the White Hart

   As with so many especial events during Arthur's reign, adventures often began during a high feast, this one being the wedding of Arthur to Guenever. The high feast was made ready when Arthur was wedded to Guenever in the church of Saint Stephen's in Camelot. Merlin asks that all the knights remain at their seats to see a strange adventure. A white hart comes running into the hall chased by a white brachet and thirty couple of black running hounds. The brachet manages to catch and bite the hart, which in its frenzy to escape leaps the table overthrowing a knight and escapes. The knight rises and takes the brachet and departs. A lady comes riding in on a white palfrey and requests the return of her brachet, crying aloud and making great dole. As she cries, a knight appears and takes her by force and departs. Arthur is relieved for she made a great noise but Merlin will not let him put aside the adventure lightly. Merlin requests that Arthur send Gawaine to bring back the hart, Tor to bring back the brachet, and Pellinore to return the damsel.
   Whatever the original purpose of this quest adventure, we shall see that this quest is interwoven with the role of a knight giving mercy and protecting and honouring women for each of the adventures presents us with the evil that such failure will bring. At the end of the quest when the wedding feast is coming to an end, Arthur makes all the knights swear upon an oath that will be renewed each Pentecost that requires the knights to show mercy and succour all ladies.

Gawaine's Adventure
   Gawaine sets out with Gaheris, his brother, as squire and as they ride they find two knights battling. Gawaine rides between them and asks for what cause they fight. The knights were two brothers that each thought himself the better. Having seen the hart, they each wished to pursue it and fought to determine which would have the right. Gawaine berates them since brother should not fight brother and demands that they yield to him. The brothers, Sorlouse and Brian of the Forest, decide to yield and leave for Camelot. Gawaine continues his quest following the cry of his hounds until they come to a river which the hart swam. On the distant shore, a knight awaits and proclaims that Gawaine can not cross after the hart unless he fight with him. Gawaine accepts the challenge and fords the river. In the joust, Gawaine smites him off his horse but the knight will not yield, requesting instead that Gawaine alight and fight on foot. The knight gives his name as Allardin of the Isles and Gawaine takes the challenge, killing the knight in the struggle.
   Gawaine and Gaheris continue the chase. Gawaine's greyhounds chase the hart into a castle, bringing the hart down in the main hall with Gawaine quick on their heels. A knight, Ablamar of the Marsh, comes out of one of the chambers and attacks the dogs, killing two of them and chasing away the others, even as Gawaine watched. The knight mourns the death of the hart for his lady had gifted it to him and he had not protected it. He arms himself and fiercely met with Gawaine. Gawaine complains of the death of his hounds for they did only what they were trained to do, and the knight should have taken his anger out on the owner. The knight agrees and they fight fiercely, giving blow for blow, until Gawaine smote him hard and he fell to the earth, crying mercy. But Gawaine does not wish to give mercy and prepares to kill the knight. Even as the knight cries for mercy, Gawaine will not change his mind. The knight's lady runs from the chamber and throws herself over her lord even as Gawaine strikes, killing her rather than the knight. Gawaine is ashamed and Gaheris admonishes him, for a knight without mercy is a knight without worship. Gawaine pardons the distraught knight and forces him to go to Arthur to relay the adventure, taking one greyhound before him and one behind.
   Gawaine decides to stay the night in the castle but before he can rest, four knights come and attack them because of his dishonour. Gawaine and Gaheris are hard pressed even to the point of death when Gawaine takes an arrow in the arm. They would have died if four fair ladies had not cried for mercy. They are taken prisoner and locked up with Gawaine afraid that he will end up maimed. In the morn, one of the ladies questions Gawaine and upon learning who he is, gets the knights to release him because of love of Arthur. They give Gawaine the head of the hart but also force him to convey the murdered lady, her body draped across his horse and her head hung from his neck. When he arrives at Camelot, Arthur is displeased and Guenever places a geas on him that he would never refuse mercy and must always show honor and courtesy to all ladies, to fight their quarrels unless he fought for one and his opponent fought for another. He was sworn on the Four Evangelist and his quest is ended.

Tor's Adventure
   As in many of Malory's books, a dwarf appears and plays an important part in guiding the adventure forward. This one suddenly appears and smites Tor's horse on the head with a staff and refuses Tor leave to go, for he must joust with the knights of the pavilions. When Tor tries to leave, the dwarf blows his horn and the first knight appears and comes toward Tor. In the fight, Tor bare him off his horse and forces him to yield. The second knight appears and Tor smites him through the shield and body, and then alit and smote him on the helm forcing him to seek mercy. Tor sends the two knights, Sir Felot of Langduk and Sir Petipase of Winchelsea to Arthur. The dwarf asks to serve Sir Tor and guides him through the forest to the pavilions of the knight that took the brachet from Arthur's court. Tor finds the brachet with a lady and her damosels. He takes the brachet and departs, even as the lady complains.
   After spending the night at an hermitage, Tor sets out once again. After a long while, a knight appears from behind calling for Tor to return the brachet. They joust and both men and horses are smote to the earth; but both leap up lightly and fought hard and eagerly. The knight almost passes out from the struggle and loss of blood allowing Tor to redouble his effort and throw him to the earth. Even though Tor asks him to yield, the knight refuses unless Tor returns the brachet. As Tor reiterates that he must return to Arthur with the brachet, a damosel rides up fast and beseeches Tor for a gift. For she wants the knight's head claiming that he was an outrageous knight and murderer. During an adventure of arms, the knight identified now as Abelleus fought with the damosel's brother. When the brother tried to yield and even as the damosel sought mercy kneeling in the mire for over an half hour, the knight still took his head. Tor is loath to grant the wish but the knight is afraid and cries mercy and attempts to escape. Tor chases him and takes his head. Tor spends the night with the damosel and her husband and returns to Camelot where he is greeted with joy. Because of his success in the quest and through Merlin's own words about his future, Arthur grants Tor an earldom.
   There is a thread between the two adventures, for in one Gawaine refuses to show mercy, killing a lady through his dishonour and in the second, a dishonoured knight who would not show mercy even at the request of a lady meets his death at Tor's hands. For Gawaine's dishonour, he receives a lifelong geas that he must honor all ladies and to never turn-aside from supporting their quarrels. But except for the fact of his relation to Arthur, he would probably have met the same fate as Abelleus.

Pellinore's Adventure
   Pellinore's quest for the lady that demanded the brachet will lead him on a path that gains the end but not without pain, for Pellinore shall also fail a lady in need and shall bring Merlin's end much closer. After more than a fair distance from court, Pellinore passes a lady sitting by a well in a forest valley. She holds a wounded knight in her arms and cries out loud for Pellinore's assistance. Even though she cries for his aid, he merely salutes her and goes on his way because of the quest. Because he would not tarry, the knight dies and she takes her own life with his sword.
   Pellinore meets a poor labourer that tells him that the lady he seeks is even now nearby held in a pavilion while the knight that took her and another knight claiming kinship to her fight over her. Pellinore finds the pavilions and moves to separate the two warriors. Sir Meliot of Logurs who claims kinship as she is his cousin states that he fights because his kinswoman is being held but the other knight, Hontzlake of Wentland, claims he has the right of her because he took her by prowess of arms at Arthur's court. Pellinore disputes them both and prepares to fight them but Hontzlake kills Pellinore's horse beneath him so that he would have no advantage over them. Pellinore is angered by the death of his horse and in one quick stroke clave Hontzlake from head to chin. The wounded Meliot prudently kneels down and requests that Pellinore should be a true knight. Pellinore agrees and stays the night with Meliot and is gifted a fine horse by him to replace the one Hontzlake killed. Meliot tells Pellinore that his cousin is named Nimue and that the second nearby pavilion is that of his sworn brother Brian of the Isles who will not fight any man unless sore put upon. Pellinore invites them to Camelot and sets out; but within a distance, Nimue's horse stumbles in a valley full of stones and throws her, bruising her arm. There they rest for the remainder of the day and at Nimue's request, they stay the night.
   Toward midnight, they hear a horse and from their concealment, they see two knights meet, one from the direction of Camelot and the other from the North. The one from Camelot tells that he rides north to tell the chieftains of the fellowship and strength of Arthur's court. The one from the North reveals that he brings a strong poison for they have a friend close to Arthur that has received monies to poison Arthur. His companion warns him of Merlin and they depart.
   Pellinore and Nimue pass the well on the trip back and Pellinore made great sorrow for they found the dead knight and the remains of the lady who had been left to the wild beasts. At Nimue's advice, Pellinore transports the knight's body to an hermitage for proper burial and takes the head of the lady with him back to Arthur. Much Pellinore looked on the visage of the yellow-haired lady and mourned. But in due time, he arrives at Camelot and relates his adventure. Merlin, in his usual format as foreteller of future books in the legend, tells Pellinore that the lady was his own duaghter, Eleine, begotten on the lady of the Rule and the knight was her future husband, Miles of the Launds, who was struck and slew from behind by a false knight, Loraine le Savage. Because he failed in providing assistance, he would one day find his best friend fail him and leave him when in his darkest moment and that he would be slain. Pellinore accepts this but hopes that God will change the destiny.