Malory flashes back to provide a little context. After setting out on the Quest of the Holy Grail, Sir Gawaine quickly realized he had no idea where to even begin looking. By random chance he stumbled upon the White Abbey, where Galahad had obtained his magic shield; there he heard tales of Galahad’s holiness, his most favored quester status, and also which direction he left in. Gawaine figured you find Galahad, you find the Grail. So he chased after Galahad, soon arriving at the abbey where Sir Melias convalesced. Melias was still there; he told Gawaine all about how terrific Galahad was, and which direction he went.
Gawaine announced his intention to track Galahad down and then stick to him like glue, but one of the monks scoffed at this plan. Gawaine and Galahad were going to get along like oil and water, this monk predicted. Because Galahad was awesome, the best, oh so holy and sexy too. Meanwhile Gawaine had won Worst Knight four Pentecosts running.
As Gawaine sputtered defensively, his brother Sir Gareth wandered up. Gawaine and Gareth ended up joining together to chase after Galahad. Uwaine, who had bumped into Galahad earlier, appeared also, and fell in behind them.
“Have you had any good strange adventures so far?” asked Uwaine. He hadn’t, and neither had Gawaine or Gareth.
“We find Galahad, we get all the strange adventure we can handle, I’m sure!” Gawaine was pumped, you guys.
So they rode towards the Castle of the Maidens, which was the direction Galahad went. Coming down the road towards them they spied six knights in an awful hurry.
“Check it out!” cried one of the six. “Three Knights of the Round Table! Friends of Sir Galahad’s! Let’s murder them!”
Melee ensued! Gawaine, Gareth, and Uwaine won handily: Gareth and Uwaine killed five of the six knights between them, and by fortune Sir Gawaine slew one of the brethren. That is how much Malory hates Gawaine: when he won a fight it was only by accident.
Afterwards the threesome came to the Castle of the Maidens, but Galahad had already left and they couldn’t figure out which way he went, out of three likely paths. So the knights parted ways: Gawaine headed left, Gareth right, and Uwaine up the middle.
Gawaine’s path turned out to lead to a hermitage, where Gawaine demanded the hermit, whom let’s go ahead and identify as Nacien, put him up for the night.
“So what’s your deal?” Nacien asked over supper.
“Oh, the usual. Knight, Round Table, Grail-Quest.” Gawaine forbears mentioning that he’s King Arthur’s nephew, for once.
“Grail, huh?” Nacien ruminates. “Would you say you’re a holy and virtuous knight?”
Gawaine shrugs. “Most people who know me tell me I’m terrible. But they’re a bunch of jackasses.”
Nacien shakes his head. “You had your chance. When you became a knight, you could have dedicated yourself to virtue and holiness, but instead you’ve fathered a vast army of illegitimate children. Galahad, the virginal boy, will doubtless achieve the Grail, but you? Not a chance. You’re a butcher! You and your comrades killed those six knights, right? Yesterday Sir Galahad slew one of them and chased the other six off! That demonstrates both his unwillingness to take life unnecessarily, since he killed one and not all seven, and also his prowess as a knight, because he vanquished seven-to-one odds. Why, Galahad is practically Jesus Himself! Leading the maidens from the Castle of the Maidens’s dungeon like the soul from Purgatory, and driving away seven knights like seven deadly sins…”
“Okay, okay, I get it.” Gawaine had had enough, but the hermit just kept on in this vein for like, hours. Eventually Gawaine fell asleep, with Nacien still lecturing him. In the morning Gawaine left, while Nacien continued to betaught him unto God, counseling penance and such.
Afterwards, says Malory, Gawaine encountered a couple of other knights, Sir Aglovale and Sir Griftlet. They rode around for almost a week without encountering the Grail, until they gave up.