The magical ship sailed on overnight, ultimately ending up out on the rocks off the coast of England-Britain-Logris. Oddly, there was another ship of the same rich enough design, moored on the rocks.
“That’s ours,” said Mags. “Definitely. Let’s go. For so is Our Lord’s will.”
“If you say so.”
“I do say so.” She led Galahad, Percivale, and Bors across the rocks and onto the second ship. The four of them looked around. It was a nice enough ship, but just like the ship Nacien gave Percivale, it was unoccupied, with neither man nor woman therein. Bors found a message carved above the entryway:
“If you’re aboard this ship, you had best be virtuous, for I am the ship of Faith.”
Magdalena had noticed that Percivale didn’t recognize her. She explained she was his sister, King Pellinore’s daughter, and that the two of them would find the Grail together. Percivale had forgotten he’d had a sister, so this was a nice surprise!
Meantime Galahad found the master bedroom and a bed with silk sheets and a crown of silk and also a magical sword that only he could draw.
It had a stone pommel studded with gemstones of every color, and its blade was two bones, sharpened together. One was a bone from a serpent which was conservant in Calidone, and was called the serpent of the fiend. Its magic was such that anyone who wielded it would never be weary nor hurt, which is pretty good! The other bone was from a fish found only in the Euphrates river, called the Ertanax. Its magic was such that anyone who wielded would, in addition to the no-tired thing, possess tremendous capacity to focus on the project at hand and not be lost to daydreams or browsing the internet. Also pretty good!
Percivale and Bors would both happily accept this magic sword, but it was only for Galahad; neither of them could draw it. Galahad didn’t really want it, and was a little worried about a sword that Percivale and Bors couldn’t draw. Was it evil? But Mags assured him it was okay.
She told a story that goes like this. Once upon a time in Logris-Britain-England, many years ago, war raged between King Labor (Galahad’s mother’s father’s father), and King Hurlame. This war climaxed in a huge orgiastic battle on the beach, which Hurlame lost. Hurlame fled aboard this very ship, that happened to be there. He found this magical stone-pommeled sword, drew it, and used it to maim Labor. As Labor fell, the very land shuddered: great pestilence and great harm befell both their kingdoms. All the corn and grass and fish died, and the land which had once been fecund and fertile became the waste land, all thanks to that dolorous stroke.
Like Balin’s dolorous stroke, but a generation earlier. Crazy, I know. But that’s the story of the sword. Afterwards Hurlame returned to the magic ship and hid there until he died.
“If you think that was a nutso story,” said Mags, “just wait until you hear about the scabbard!”
The scabbard was snakeskin, embroidered with silver and golden thread, on a remarkably cheap belt. The thread spelled out writing: “I am a scabbard for the very best, and the knight who earns me will never be underdressed so long as he wears me. But only a virginal princess may remove me from about my bearer’s waist, and if she ever ceases to be virginal after so handling me, she will die.”
“Ominous,” said Percivale. “What’s it say on the back?”
There were indeed more words on the back of the scabbard, in red and black thread: “My bearer will regret taking me.”
“There’s a story for this one, too,” said Mags. All the knights settled in.
Once upon a time in the same era as the story of the magical shield in Book XIII, Nacien, the brother-in-law of King Evelake (also known as King Mordrains because Malory can’t keep his three-hundred-year-old guys straight), visited the Isle of Turnance. He found this same ship, and the sword, but declined to draw it. Instead he spent over a week aboard the ship. Nine days after his arrival, the ship came to another isle by a rock, where a giant lived. Nacien was pious, not violent, but when the giant stormed in, ready to kill him for the crime of not being a giant, he remembered the scary magic sword.
Nacien ran to the sword, and drew it, and waved it around, and then it fell apart on him as if it were some kind of trick sword. “Ah, the thing that I praised most ought I now most to blame. I regret taking it.” Then he left the ship and killed the giant somehow.
The ship then transported Nacien across the sea to Evelake, who was aboard a different ship. They compared notes, and Evelake expressed interest in the magic sword. “It probably just broke because you’re sinful,” he theorized. Evelake found that the pieces of the sword stuck together when it was reassembled, as though the whole thing were a big rare earth magnet. He put the sword back in its sheath, and then he and Nacien left together on his ship, leaving the magic sword and magic ship behind. Also Nacien stepped on a nail and hurt his foot and everyone agreed it was divine punishment for daring to draw the magic sword.
“Where are you getting these stories?” asked Bors.
“In the name of God, she is right wise of these works,” said Galahad. “Pray continue, Mags.”
Mags considered. “What else, what else…. Oh! King Pellam! Labor’s son and Elaine’s father and your grandfather, Galahad. Once he was out hunting and he got lost and turned around and he misplaced his knights and his hounds and then he and one other knight found this ship. They saw the carving over the entryway but came aboard anyway. And then Pellam found this sword, and drew it, and he shouldn’t have, so the other knight stabbed him, right in the jimmies, which was the second dolorous stroke.”
“…I don’t think that’s right.” Bors at least would be familiar with the story of Sir Balin, Lady-Killer from back in Book II.
“Moving on!” cried Mags, and led Percivale, Galahad, and Bors over to a bed with some spindles of thread hanging over it, like a mobile. “This story is about King Solomon!” She showed them two swords and four wooden rods hanging on the wall over the bed’s headboard. Two of the rods were white, one was red, and the last was green. At first glance they appeared to have been painted or stained, but in fact the wood itself was brightly colored.
“So, this branch was taken by Eve from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil,” Mags said, pointing. “And this one she took from the tree where she and Adam first met.”
“Really,” said Bors.
Mags was confident about it. “Absolutely! And the green one is from the tree under which Abel was conceived, and the red one is from the tree under which Abel was murdered.”
“Now, you’re probably wondering how they came to be here.” Mags paused, in case anyone wanted to marvel at her perspicacity, but no. “The answer of course is King Solomon.”
“Of course! That makes so much sense,” said Bors. He elbowed Galahad, who just looked at him blankly. Bors realized that neither Galahad nor Percivale had ever encountered sarcasm before.
“This Solomon was wise and knew all the virtues of stones and trees, and so he knew the course of the stars, and many other divers things.“
“Right. King Solomon from the Bible. Famously wise.”
“And his wife was a horrible shrew who convinced him that all women are essentially wicked animals.”
“So you’re saying King Solomon was a misogynist,” said Bors.
“Yep! But then an angel came to him and explained about Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, the one and only good woman who has ever or will ever live.” Mags was pretty pleased with how her lecture was going so far. “So King Solomon felt quite the fool, let me tell you, thinking that just because all women except Mary were terrible, all women were terrible.”
“Women suck, you guys.”
“Then the angel told Solomon how eventually, the very last descendant of King Solomon, and also the last descendant of Mary, because of course, then the very best knight who ever lived, tied for first with the Solomon’s brother-in-law Josua. Who was a very great knight, as we all know. But the last descendant of Solomon, Mary, and Jesus will be just as good!”
Bors caught Mags’s eye, and tilted his head subtly towards Galahad, who sat rapt. He clicked his tongue.
Mags nodded slightly.
Bors rolled his eyes.
“Solomon was of course thrilled to learn about his descendant, but it bothered him that he didn’t know what this future knight’s name was going to be. So naturally he did all kinds of crazy magic, trying to divine it. His wife thought this was stupid, but she was the stupid one. Women are dumb!”
“Also she suggested he build this boat, which he did. Or he had it built, anyway. Then she suggested that he take King David‘s sword and refurbish it and keep it on the ship. She also had this bed made, and these three wooden spindles…”
“These three wooden spindles, she had them made, and then she predicted that someday a maiden (that’s me) would come here and tell this story to worthy knights (that’s you). An angel came and did all the detailing, including carving the message over the entryway. Which freaked Solomon out, so he sent the ship out into the sea, where it has waited for us.”
Bors double-checked those wooden spindles and confirms that yes, they were wood and they were white and red and green; not painted or stained, just naturally those colors. Percivale found a pile of money and also a pamphlet that had the whole story Mags just told in it. “Look! Independent corroboration!”
“Last thing I need to do is replace the crappy belt that the sword is on with a good one, made from my own hair,” said Mags. She’d been carrying around three different belts made from her own hair, in a little case. “I made these when I found out that I was going to be doing this. It meant shaving my head, but while I’m wearing this wimple you can’t tell and besides, I’m no longer a woman of this world, I’m some kind of crazy Grail-nun.”
Mags had been wearing a wimple this whole time, by the way. Malory didn’t see fit to mention it.
“Wow, that’s great,” said Bors. He wasn’t sure if he was being sarcastic or sincere. “Your whole spiel has doubtless been very helpful.”
“So here’s the sword, the Sword of the Strange Girdles,” Mags said, passing it to Galahad. “The sheathe is called the Mover of Blood. It was made from the Tree of Life which grew next to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, hence the name.”
“Makes sense,” said Galahad.
While Mags tied the Mover of Blood onto Galahad using a belt made from her own hair, Galahad thanked her and complimented her on her holiness. He declared that until one or both of them died, he would be her champion.