Malory can’t keep track of a hundred and fifty concurrent strange adventures. He focuses at first on young Galahad, taking a moment to remind us that Galahad had armor and the magic sword he pulled from a stone, but no shield. Sir Galahad traveled for three days before arriving at a White Abbey, apparently not the White Abbey, but just one of many. The monks there were, of course, thrilled to see him; everyone loved Galahad. They took him to where the other two knights were being lodged overnight.
Other two knights? Indeed yes: Sir Uwaine and King Bagdemagus beat Galahad to this abbey, it turns out. They were pretty pleased to bump into Galahad here; he was a good omen on account of everyone knew he would find the Grail.
“So what brings you all the way out to a White Abbey?” asked Galahad.
“Magic shield,” said Uwaine.
“Cursed magic shield,” clarified Bagdemagus. “They keep it in the basement here. Three days after you start using it, you either die horribly or else you’re maimed.”
“And you’re seeking this shield out? On purpose?”
Uwaine just shrugged, but Bagdemagus nodded. “Yeah, I thought it might help my Grail seeking if I started with really lousy magical items and worked my way up.”
“In the name of God!” swore Galahad. “I don’t mean to cuss, but come on! That’s crazy-talk!”
“It’s a bad plan, isn’t it?” Bagdemagus looked chagrined. “I thought it might be. You’re blessed and holy; if and when I mess it up, why don’t you take the shield? You probably won’t die horribly.”
“Yeah, okay,” said Galahad.
So in the morning, after church, the knights had a monk to fetch the shield in question for them. Malory describes it as all white, except for a red cross, like the St. George flag. The monk warned them about how only the worthiest knight of the world could wear the shield without being affected by its curse. Bagdemagus shrugged and admitted that he didn’t qualify, but took the shield anyway.
“Wait here for me to fail,” he told Galahad.
Galahad clucked his tongue. “Check.” He and Uwaine sat down to split a pitcher of lemonade.
So Bagdemagus rode off alone with a squire who had strict instructions to bear word of Bagdemagus’s exploits back to the abbey. Malory eventually gets around to naming this squire, by the way: he’s Melias of Lile, Prince of Denmark.
Twenty-ish minutes out from the abbey (two mile on horseback, says Malory) Bagdemagus bumped into a mysterious shining white knight who effortlessly stabbed him in the shoulder.
“Dude!” The Mystery Knight is less scornful than shocked. “You were told all about how this shield is for your better; what the hey?”
Bagdemagus couldn’t respond as he was too busy bleeding, so the Mystery Knight handed the shield over to Melias with instructions to send it back to Galahad.
Melias reluctantly accepted the shield. “Well, okay. But I have a number of questions about this, like, how you know about the shield, and about Galahad, and what your name is, and…”
“You get no answers!” thundered the knight.
Melias decided to question Bagdemagus, instead. “Would you say you qualify as maimed?”
“Yea forsooth,” gasped Bagdemagus, “I shall escape hard from the death.” And then he almost died, very slowly and painfully, Malory tells us solemnly. But good news! He pulled through at the last minute. Regardless, he was out of the quest for the foreseeable future.
Melias headed back to the abbey, where Galahad had almost finished his lemonade. “Guess who got maimed?” he asked, and gave Galahad the shield.
“Righty-ho!” Galahad slung the shield across his back. “Off I go!”
“Can I come, too?” asked Sir Uwaine, who had nothing better to do.
“Nope! Just me and Melias!” replied Galahad. They left without Uwaine, who wandered off alone instead.
Galahad and Melias hurried back to the Mystery Knight who’d maimed King Bagdemagus so effortlessly. Rather than joust, Galahad and the Mystery Knight had a conversation wherein the Mystery Knight laid out a bunch of Magic Shield Facts, many of which were at best tangentially related to the magic shield!
Magic Shield Fact 1: After Jesus died, Joseph of Arimathea and a bunch of his followers left Jerusalem and relocated to Sarras, possible home of the Saracens.
Magic Shield Fact 2: At the time, the king of the Saracens was named Tricky Tolleme, and he was at war with his own cousin Evelake, also a king.
Magic Shield Fact 3: On the eve of a major battle, Joseph prophesied Evelake dying in battle due to not having been converted to Christianity, hint hint.
Magic Shield Fact 4: Evelake agreed to convert to Christianity and avert this prophesied doom. He had a magic shield struck, to commemorate the occasion: this selfsame shield! It maybe has a fragment of the cross Jesus died on embedded in it, perhaps!
Magic Shield Fact 5: During the battle the next day, whenever Evelake started to have trouble, he whipped out his new shield (he kept it under a sheet mostly). When his cousin’s army saw the shield, they had visions of Christ dying on the cross; this understandably freaked them out and ruined their morale.
Magic Shield Fact 6: One of Evelake’s soldiers, maimed in battle, touched the shield and was made whole!
Magic Shield Fact 7: After the battle, once Evelake was baptized with all his subjects, the shield miraculously vanished and Joseph moved to the country of Logris aka England aka Britain.
Magic Shield Fact 8: In Britain Joseph was immediately arrested on some trumped-up charge, and he spent some time in prison before Evelake showed up and freed him and everyone converted to Christianity, yay!
Magic Shield Fact 9: Sometime later Joseph lay dying. Evelake visited him, bearing the magic shield which had reappeared somewhere along the way. Joseph had a bloody nose and he took his own blood and made the mark of a cross on the shield with it (ew!).
Magic Shield Fact 10: Joseph instructed Evelake to keep the shield safe for when Galahad came for it, and then died without explaining who Galahad was.
Magic Shield Fact 11: Evelake was at a loss as to how to keep the shield safe, but at the suggestion of a passerby who may or may not have been Merlin, he sent it to Nacien. Then Nacien founded a White Abbey and hid the shield in the basement!
Nacien! The name on everyone’s lips!
“Wow,” said Melias as the Mystery Knight vanished in a puff of narrative inconsistency. “That’s quite a story. You’re clearly very holy, Galahad. Can I become your follower and also a knight?”
“Sure, why not?” But before Galahad could knight Melias, they heard a thunderous rumble from the nearby abbey!
The terrible noise emanated from one of the tombs in the White abbey’s backyard! The monks were all freaked out, because this was not something that happened often. Naturally they turned to Galahad to investigate, and he was willing, what with him being the best knight and all.
Galahad and a couple of burly monks headed into the tomb. There Galahad had the monks lift the sarcophagus’s heavy stone lid up, so he could look in.
“OoooooOOOoooOOOOooOOOO I’m a spooky ghost!” came a voice from within the stone casket. “Galahad, holy knight, do not approach me or else I will have to go back to Hell which is where I am from!”
But Galahad didn’t listen to the ghost! He charged in and turned undead as though he were a cleric four levels lower! There came out so foul a smoke, and after he saw the foulest figure leap without that ever he saw in the likeness of a man; and then he blessed him and wist well it was a fiend.
“OoooOOOOooo!” said the spooky ghost again. “Galahad, you’re surrounded by angels and I can’t even get close to you!”
“Right.” Galahad rubbed his hands together in a self-satisfied gesture. “Ignore the ghost, boys; he’s powerless. What we need to do is exhume this sinful body. He shouldn’t be buried in a churchyard on account of he was heathen. That’s the problem here. Heathen corpse.”
The monks hurriedly complied with Galahad’s instructions, and the ghost faded out harmlessly. Afterwards Galahad was the toast of the abbey; all the monks and nuns and priests and laity agreed he was just awesomesauce. They’d all known he was great before, but with the ghost exorcised they knew he was double-great, even triple-great!
During dinner that night one of the monks sat with him and explained, in case Galahad hadn’t gotten it, that the ghost in the tomb had been a reflection of the inherent sinfulness of the world. “We live in a broken, terrible world. It’s pretty awful. Fathers not loving sons, sons not loving fathers… Jesus came down and tried to fix it all, which he wouldn’t have needed to do if things hadn’t gotten themselves into a real state.”
“Yep.” None of this was news to Galahad.