Chapter 12 Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 549

The second day of the tournament begins with the Disinherited Knight leading one side of the general combat and Sir Brian leading the other. To Cedric's surprise, Athelstane chooses to participate on the side of Sir Brian.

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Cedric intends Athelstane to marry Rowena as they are the last two descendants of the Saxon king Alfred, and Athelstane considers the betrothal all but official. He is annoyed with the Disinherited Knight's having chosen Rowena to be the Queen of Love and Beauty and hopes to make the knight "feel the weight of his battle axe." Prince John's best knights also have joined on the side of the Templar.

Because the general combat is fought with real weapons and is actually more dangerous than individual combat, a herald reads out a long list of rules intended to prevent the melee from turning into an actual bloodbath. Each side is evenly matched in two rows. At a signal, the front ranks gallop toward each other and crash, lance against shield, followed by the second rank.

As the dust clears, those who have lost their horses and can still walk seek others who are also on foot to fight. Those still mounted drop their splintered lances and continue to fight with swords. The disabled try to stanch their bleeding while avoiding being trampled. The knights' plumes and silks, not to mention the knights themselves, are slashed and bloody, a thrilling sight for the ladies in the crowd who shout encouragement.

The Templar and the Disinherited Knight are repeatedly prevented from meeting on the field by other eager knights hoping to be the one to take out the leader of the opposing party. As the ranks of knights thin, they are finally able to find each other, and their furious fighting excites the crowd with admiration.

Front-de-Boeuf and Athelstane have inflicted extensive damage to the party of the Disinherited Knight, and both decide to come to the assistance of Sir Brian. The war horse he won the day before is in better shape than the others, and for a while the Disinherited Knight is able to fend off all three. The nobles call for John to end the combat, but John enjoys seeing the impudent knight outnumbered and certain to be beaten.

At this point, a large knight in black armor who has failed to distinguish himself so far gallops over and sweeps Front-de-Boeuf from his horse, then grabs Athelstane's battle-axe out of his hand and knocks him on the helmet. Leaving the Disinherited Knight to finish his fight with Sir Brian, the knight wanders off to the other end of the field and returns to his state of relative inertia. The Templar falls, but before he is forced to formally admit defeat, Sir John ends the combat.

Rather than award the prize to the Disinherited Knight, Prince John argues that it was the "sluggard" knight who had secured the winning party its victory. That knight, however, has disappeared, and John reluctantly awards the prize to the Disinherited Knight. The prize is a chaplet, or wreath, that he accepts from the Queen of Love and Beauty, but the knight is swooning and offers little resistance when the marshals remove his helmet. Rowena and Cedric recognize Wilfrid, who collapses from a wound in his side.

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