“Change of plans,” Sir Galahad said, early the next morning.
“What, are you not coming back with me to Camelot or something?” Launcelot snickered at this self-evidently ridiculous thought.
“Nope, I’m not!”
“What, seriously?” To say Launcelot was hella disappointed would be to undersell it. But Galahad stood firm: he wanted to make a big dramatic entrance, by himself, later.
And so Launcelot and Bors and Lionel rode back to Camelot without him. They arrived just in time for pre-feast Mass, where everybody congratulated Launcelot on getting back in time for the feast. And oh, what a feast! Food and drinking! A lot of drinking! The knights got fairly drunk.
Fortunately everyone’s seat at the Round Table had their name written on it, in golden ink as you may recall, so the drunken knights could still find the correct chairs. They ended up stumbling around the table, checking each chair.
“SIR KAY!” someone read, and Kay took his seat.
“SIR GAWAINE!” Gawaine sat down.
“SIR BEVIDERE!” And so on, you get the idea.
At last the group came to the last seat, the Siege Perilous, last discussed back in Book XI as being the destined place-to-sit of the mysterious prophesied Best Knight Ever! Again I want to point out that we already had a whole scene with Percivale sitting in the Siege Perilous scene (back in Book X), but whatever. This seat wasn’t anyone’s assigned seat, and the knights would have just skipped it over, except that there was a new message there, the golden ink still wet!
Four hundred winters and four and fifty accomplished after the passion of our Lord Jesu Christ ought this siege to be fulfilled.
“Whoa!” The drunken knights marveled. “A strange adventure just started up while we’re sitting down to eat!”
Sir Launcelot, mostly sober, did some quick arithmetic. The Passion was in AD 33, he figured. If you add 454 to that and you get 487. As Launcelot knew, AD 487 was the official current year. In other words, this year would be the year it would happen. Things were going to get weird, Launcelot figured. In an attempt to put a damper on it all until the feast is over at least, Launcelot had Kay help him throw a silk slipcover over the Siege Perilous.
Arthur came in slightly late, famished after a night of vigil and a morning of church. “Out of my way, Kay! I’m gonna eat like seven turkey legs.”
Kay grabbed his arm. “But Arthur, bro, you always demand to listen to a strange adventure story before the feast! It’s a big Pentecost tradition! The knights who are still sober enough to pay attention will be deeply disappointed.”
“You’re right, you’re right.” Arthur winced. “I’m just… I’m really hungry, you know? And what about Sir Launcelot’s unexpected trip last night, maybe that can count?”
Before Kay could respond, though, in walked a messenger! “Sire! I bring unto you marvelous tidings!“
“Okay, that’s cool. What’ve you got? Does it fulfill our strange adventure requirements?”
The messenger led Arthur and his court out to the riverside
From Book II:
Merlin snickered, because he’s a jerk. “You only say that because you aren’t its destined wielder. His name is Launcelot, or if he’s unavailable, his son Galahad. Launcelot will use this sword to slay Sir Gawaine.”
“Why are you telling us this?” asked the knight.
“I’m dictating!” snapped Merlin. “Aren’t you engraving this on the pommel?”
“No,” said the knight.
“Fine, fine, I’ll do it myself.” Merlin took the sword and his magic pen and wrote down some dire predictions about Launcelot and Gawaine.
“Also build a bridge out to this island,” Merlin told the queen on his way out.
“You never call, Merle,” she said “What’s this about?”
Merlin ignored her. “The bridge should be made of iron, and six inches wide. Don’t let anyone go over it, until heroic knights show up, which won’t be for a long while,” he said.
“That’s a lot of work,” she said.
“I’m doing all the hard stuff,” Merlin grumbled. “Like this. Step back, I’m going to use magic.”
And then Merlin cast another spell not to be found anywhere in the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Player’s Handbook that I know of, wish maybe. End result of the spell was that Balin’s pommel-replaced magic sword was embedded in a block of marble — swords being stuck in things being a recurring theme — and that block of marble hovering eerily over the river. There, says Malory, it would remain for many years until it washed downstream to Camelot in the distant future of Book XIII.
That once-distant future had at last come to pass! In accordance with Merlin’s prophecy, the stone had finally drifted down to Camelot. An enormous block of red marble floated eerily above the river, with a sword stuck in it. Written on the sword in Merlin’s handwriting and in golden ink: Never shall man take me hence, but only he by whose side I ought to hang, and he shall be the best knight of the world.
“Well, Launcelot, looks like you’ve got a new sword,” said Arthur. “You being the best knight and so on.”
“No way!” Launcelot shook his head frantically. “Oh no, nope, you aren’t pinning this one on me. This is not my sword. I’m afraid to touch it, because inexplicably I have been granted prophetic wisdom! I’m filled with the knowledge that this sword is for another, and also that if the wrong person picks it up, something bad will happen. Wrong guy has this sword, he’ll get stabbed with it his own self, and that wound won’t ever heal properly.”
Kay checked, but none of this information was written anywhere on the sword. “Where are you getting this from?”
“I don’t know!” He really didn’t! It’s unaddressed. I’m doing the work for Malory when I theorize that Launcelot’s exposure to the Grail back in Book XII maybe filled him with this lore. “But I will tell you something else I know,” Launcelot continued. “And I will that ye wit that this same day shall the adventures of the Sangreal, that is called the Holy Vessel, begin. That’s right. It’s Grail time. Heavy, I know.”