Once Nacien had interpreted Percivale’s dream for him, he told Percivale it was time to move on. Percivale agreeably dove back into the water, where he washed around he wist not whither for an indeterminate time, again. Eventually he found himself back on the rock he had been on before he got washed out to sea, and also his new lion friend was there.
So Percivale and his lion buddy hung out on the rock, staring out to sea, waiting for something to happen. Twelve hours or so passed before another boat comes by. Samite covered this one, too, like Nacien’s, but instead of white samite, this samite was more blacker than any bear.
“Finally!” Percivale jumped into the water. He swam out to the ship and climbed aboard, where an absurdly beautiful woman waited for him. Super lovely, this woman was. Just crazy hot.
And her garb! This lady wore clothing made out of money. Maybe not literal money, paper money not being a thing in the fifth-century-but-also-fifteenth-century which is our milieu, but definitely she was clothed more richly that none might be better.
“Oh, you poor man,” she said. “Who left you alone out here in the wilderness, without food or water?”
“There’s this whole big quest thing I’m on,” Percivale answered. “It’s cool, though, an old man told me that God is on my side.”
“Uh huh. Well, would God object to me giving you some food and water?”
Percivale considered his Bible verses. “…who that knocketh shall enter, and who that asketh shall have, and who that seeketh him he hideth him not…” he muttered. “I guess not. I’m not technically fasting.”
The lady smiled. “Sir Percivale, do you know my name?”
Percivale smiled, too, because things were getting weird and mystic and this time he felt ready for it! “I’m going to say yes, yes I do. Final answer.” He didn’t, of course, but he was in the game!
“I was just out in the wilderness, you know,” the lady said, conversationally. “I bumped into a knight, all in red, except — strangest thing! — his shield was white. Red knight with a magical white shield.”
“Oh, I know that guy! I’ve been trying to catch up to him!”
“Well hey, I’ve got a boat. Promise me that you’ll do me one favor to be named later, no questions asked, and I can take you to him.”
“I don’t see any way that could possibly come back and bite me!”
The entire audience, yours truly included, smack our foreheads.
“Well now shall I tell you. I saw him in the forest chasing two knights out to Mortaise, you know, the river? They tried to ford it, and they wanted to drown him in the crossing, but he escaped into the woods on the other side.”
“That’s good. Good that he’s okay.”
“Oh!” The lady made as to smack her own forehead. “I forgot, I was going to get you some food. I have some meat. You didn’t have meat for lunch, did you? Have you eaten meat lately?”
“Nay, madam, truly I ate no meat nigh this three days, but late here I spake with a good man that fed me with his good words and holy, and refreshed me greatly.”
“Really,” the woman said flatly. “He fed you words.”
“Nacien’s sermons are very nutritive,” insisted Percivale.
“Sounds like a nogoodnik to me,” she said. “Leaving you there to starve, filling your head with crazy assertions about deriving nourishment directly from holiness… I know Nacien. Let me tell you, that guy’s an enchanter and a multiplier of words. Lucky thing I happened by, or you’d be dead and eaten by a wild boar by now.”
“You know, for a weird allegorical figure you’re extremely… down to earth,” observed Percivale. “What’s up with that?”
“Ah.” The lady stared off into space for a moment. “I used to be the richest woman in the world, mistress of the greatest lord there is. He made me fair and clear and I was the greatest there ever was. I was so beautiful, once.” Her features darkened. “Alas, I had a little pride more than I ought to have had. Also I said a word that pleased him not. So my lord threw me out, and said I couldn’t spend time with him any longer, and that he didn’t want to listen to what I had to say to him, or what I had to ask of him. Not me, nor of my court.”
“Wow, sounds like a jerk.”
“So I’ve tried to make it right, as best I know how.” Again, the lady stared off into space, and appeared to be recapping her origin for the benefit of the reader, rather than conversing with Percivale. “I find his men, who suffer for lack, and I make them my men. They come willingly; their master is stingy, and I can give them whatever they want, any of the rewards of this world.”
“Therefore I know now no good knight, nor no good man, but I get them on my side an I may. And for that I know that thou art a good knight, I beseech you to help me; and for ye be a fellow of the Round Table, wherefore ye ought not to fail no gentlewoman which is disherited, an she besought you of help.“
“Well sure I’ll help,” said Percivale. “You sound so reasonable! And your story is eerily familiar for some reason that I can’t quite put my finger on. I’m sure it’ll come to me.”
Everybody’s figured out who she was, right? Show of hands, c’mon.
The lady’s black ship put in at her private island, which was a nice place, though a little muggy. She had an awning set up, so Percivale could nap in a hammock underneath it, and recover his strength.
“That’s super generous of you,” said Percivale, and then he fell asleep because he hadn’t slept in like three days, assuming you don’t count marvelous reverie as sleep.
Sometime later he came to, and the lady had set up a picnic table for him, laden with all kinds of meat.
“Nonspecific meat!” Percivale dug in. “Also, fortified wine!”
Percivale chugged down the fortified wine, which Malory helpfully describes as the strongest wine that ever he drank.
“And then,” says Malory, all wound up, “he sees the lady. And he’s drunk!”
“Uh huh,” I say.
“And he’s all, woooooo, lady, you’re sooooo sexy, like you do.”
“But of course she’s all ew no! Like a lady does when she wants you to really throw yourself at her?”
“Uh huh… wait, what?”
“No doesn’t always mean no,” says Malory, as though it’s me who is the idiot.
“Are you saying that Percivale… I can’t even finish that sentence. What are you saying?”
“Well, it’s not like she’s not into it! Like ladies always are, you know. If you bug them enough, they’ll strip their clothes off and swear that you can do whatever you want to their bodies. It just takes persistence.”
I don’t have anything to say to that, because it’s rare that I’m presented with a view quite so literally medieval.
“But before they do it, as she’s stripping her clothes off, all sexy-like…” Malory makes weird sex-gestures with his hands, he’s kind of freaking me out here you guys. “She’s all, well if I’m going to let you ravish me, first you have to swear to serve me over all others, and to always obey me and only me. Because, you know, she’s a woman. Women are like that.”
“And noble Sir Percivale, he’s all besotted and enchanted and drunk, and he agrees! So she strips naked, and he strips naked, and he’s about to climb into the bed with her, when suddenly, boom! He sees his sword!” Malory throws his arms up in the air, like he’s just revealed a huge shocker. “What a twist, right?”
“Wait. He sees his sword, so what?”
“Oh, duh. I didn’t say. His sword has a cross on it, on the pommel. So he’s reminded of Jesus, and then he thinks about Nacien and the demon-horse and what the Sign of the Cross did then, and then he makes the Sign of the Cross!”
“So of course the tent explodes!”