Shortly after burying Uwaine, Ector and Gawaine arrived at Nacien’s house. He was not exactly pleased to see either of them, but he agreed to hear their confessions and offer advice.
“Okay, listen up,” said Gawaine, and started confessing sins. It took a while.
Malory fades to black, then back from black, to indicate that a large amount of time has passed. Gawaine was still talking. Ector had fallen asleep, as Nacien played Tetris on his phone.
“And then there was the thing with the bulls and Ector’s dream and this mysterious magical voice telling me I wasn’t going to find the Grail,” concluded Gawaine. “I mean, what was I supposed to take away from that?”
“Hm?” Nacien looked up when he realized Gawaine was done. “Is that everything?”
Gawaine poked Ector and asked if Ector has anything relevant to add. Ector woke up long enough to say that he didn’t.
“All right, then, listen. The thing with the bulls is an allegory. The meadow with all the bulls in it represents the Round Table.”
“Meanwhile, the meadow represents humility and patience, which cannot be overcome.”
“And the hay that all the bulls were eating was all the martial virtues that even terrible knights like yourself or Pitiless Bruce can claim.”
“Which means that you and your fellow knights were the bulls.”
“Man, it all sounds really simplistic and elementary when you lay it out like this!”
Nacien sighed. “Yeah, I don’t know why you felt you had to come here. Anyway, the white bulls are Percivale and Galahad, and the bull with only a little bit of a spot is Bors. Bors is just good enough: he only had one affair.”
Gawaine chuckled. “Yeah, Bors is kind of a loser like that.”
“And finally the bulls wandering off to die purposelessly, that’s you, here and now, accomplishing nothing by bothering me.”
Nacien went on to explain Ector’s vision, which was about how Launcelot wasn’t going to achieve the Grail, but he would get an extended holy mystic vision-quest (already in progress).
“What about the disembodied spooky voice telling us we weren’t going to get the Grail?” asked Gawaine.
“That one I’m leaving as an exercise for the student,” said Nacien.
Gawaine considered this. “You know, it’s almost as if you’re saying that I’m not going to achieve the Grail.”
“Duh. You’re not Percivale or Galahad or Bors. You’re not even Launcelot. You’re kind of a dick and nobody likes you except some of your brothers and maybe Sir Uwaine, whom you killed a couple of chapters back.”
“Jeez. Isn’t there anything I can do? Sir Launcelot is getting an extended holy mystic vision-quest (already in progress)! Can’t I have one of those?”
“It is long time passed sith that ye were made knight, and never sithen thou servedst thy Maker, and now thou art so old a tree that in thee is neither life nor fruit,” replied Nacien. “Wherefore bethink thee that thou yield to Our Lord the bare rind, sith the fiend hath the leaves and the fruit. It would be an intense, laborious, uphill climb out of sinfulness. You’re extremely awful and there’s a lot to make up for, but if you’re willing to spend the next few hundred years working with me, living a simple life of deprivation, chastity, and self-flagellation…”
Deprivation, chastity, and self-flagellation were not things Gawaine is into. “Oh, look at the time, and I can see Ector has already wandered off. I better get going but it was great chatting with you, Nacien my man, I’ll tell King Arthur you said hi, okay? Great.”
So Gawaine and Ector booked it. They wandered around for a long time looking for a backdoor back into the main plot. We’ll see them again in Book XVII, but right now Malory wants to turn to the last of the Grail seekers, or at least the last one he cares about: Sir Bors!
Sir Bors is my favorite, by a pretty fair margin.