Around this time Malory remembers that there’s such a thing as female characters, briefly: Guenever followed them, with many ladies, chasing down Arthur and Galahad. All the ladies cooed at Galahad, much like the nuns from before. They gathered at the sword in the stone ii: this time it’s on a boat that Merlin had sent downriver way back in Book II.
“”You can see what I’m talking about, here.” Arthur pointed. “So I made Gawaine try to pull it out, and he failed miserably. Then I had Percivale give it a go, but nothing doing. And I wanted Launcelot to try it but he declined.”
“Well, duh.” Galahad, that snot-nosed little brat. “This adventure is not theirs but mine. I was so confident in this being my quest that I didn’t even bring another sword! Check it out: empty scabbard.” He showed off his empty scabbard like everyone should have been impressed, and of course they were. Then he pulled the sword out from the stone, and sheathed it in his scabbard, and quipped “now it goeth better than it did aforehand. Get it?”
I don’t get it.
Arthur, too, seemed a little peeved. “What’s next, is Jesus going to come down from heaven and miraculously present you with a spear? A shield God shall send you?”
Galahad shrugged, because he was too good and pure to answer Arthur’s questions. “Well, now that I have Sir Balin’s sword that he used to murder his brother Sir Balan –“
Malory doesn’t mention it, but I assume at this point there was a brief interlude. Arthur interrupted Galahad. “Seriously? I remember that sword from back in Book II.” Arthur got a faraway look in his eyes as he reminisced. Book II was decades ago, after all. “It was stuck on a naked woman.”
Guenever didn’t like the sound of that. “A naked woman?”
“Well, not completely naked. She had on this harness thing…”
“As I was saying,” interrupted Sir Galahad, “this is the sword that Sir Balin wore against Sir Balan, which was a great tragedy, and also which he used to strike the dolorous stroke on my grandfather, King Pellam. He hasn’t entirely recovered from that wound, nor not shall he be until I heal him. Because I’m pure and noble and sweet.”
Someone who cared about continuity broke in. “Wasn’t there a whole thing about Balin running around through Pellam’s castle trying to find something to fight with, and eventually he found the +3 spear of Longinus in the chapel? So it wasn’t this sword that he used.”
Galahad shrugged. He’d probably have said something else about how wonderful he is, but just then the interlude ended, as a shouting woman distracted everyone.
A lady on a white palfrey rode up from nowhere in particular. Just as the old man was obviously Merlin, this was pretty clearly Nimue.
“Arthur, Guenever, hello.” Nimue made polite hand-signals, as it was impossible to curtsey while mounted. “Is Launcelot here?”
“Present!” Launcelot raised his hand.
Nimue sighed, heavily. “So the thing is…” She broke off because she started to weep. This particular errand sat very hard with Nimue. “I didn’t want to do this but Merlin wandered off before he could explain this, and you know, it’s always Nimue who has to come in and sweep up.” (NIMUE CLEANS UP SOMEONE ELSE’S MESS 7!)
“Hey, now.” Arthur put one arm around Nimue, tried to cheer her up. “You keep doing it because you’re so great at it. You’re a good closer; it’s a thing you can do.”
“Absolutely!” agreed Guenever. She didn’t want to get stuck with Nimue’s job if Nimue quit. “You’re a regular Rollie Fingers!”
“Thanks, you guys.” Nimue smiled weakly. “No sense in putting it off. So, Launcelot, remember how you used to be the best knight in the world?”
Launcelot nodded. “Yeah! Wait, what do you mean ‘used to be’?”
“As the strange adventure of the sword whereto you durst not set to your hand demonstrates, that title passes from you now to your son. You’ve moved from ‘great’ to ‘former great,’ from ‘grand druid’ to ‘hierophant druid.'”
Launcelot looked bashful and kicked at the dirt. “Shucks, I was never ‘the best,’ I just do the best I can.”
Nimue made a little disgusted sound, because if there’s one thing Nimue couldn’t stand it was false modesty. “Yes, that were ye. You were so the best. And you’re still the best among knights who are normal and mortal and sinful and not blessed with supernatural assistance.”
“Titles mean nothing to me.”
“Whatever.” Nimue started to back her horse out, making a K-turn. “So that’s it from me, farewell you guys. Oh, Arthur! One more thing. You know Nacien?”
“Well, he knows you. Holiest man in England, he likes to say he is. I don’t buy it. He said to say hi, and also to congratulate you on having the Grail miraculously show up and grant visions in your castle. That’s quite an honor, he says, and he’s jealous. Nimue out!” And off she went.