While Balin is loading up, another rider comes in. This one needs no introduction: it’s the Lady of the Lake. You remember her. Sure you do.
The Lady of the Lake shows up, and greets Arthur, and Arthur greets her.
“How are tricks?”
“Same old, same old. You?”
“About like you’d expect,” says Arthur. “We’re working on coming up with a plan for this whole Rience situation. That’s why all this jousting is going on in the background, which we’re skipping over.”
“Oh, we haven’t even gotten to the jousting-heavy parts yet,” says the Lady of the Lake. “Anyway, you remember how last time we met you promised me a favor?”
“Nope,” says Arthur.
“Sure you do,” says the Lady of the Lake. “It was when I gave you Excalibur.”
“Excalibur?” asks Arthur. “What’s Excalibur?” (I do not know why Malory has Arthur do this.)
“The magic sword you’ve got at your belt right now,” says the Lady of the Lake, and points.
“Oh, that. Right. Right. It’s all coming back to me now. So you came to get that autograph after all?”
“I want a severed head,” says the Lady of the Lake. “Not just any head!” she adds, forestalling Arthur’s next gambit. “There was a guy who just now pulled a sword from a girl’s… clothing.”
“I want his head. Or her head. Either one. I wouldn’t say no to both,” the Lady of the Lake says. “He killed my brother. Also she was responsible for my father’s death. So, both of them are in my bad books.” Malory never gets around to supplying us with the backstory on this, except for a bit a couple of paragraphs down.
“Hmm, well,” says Arthur. “I’m not really prepared to decapitate either of them right this second. Sure I can’t tempt you with an autograph? Or, oh, how about an illegitimate child?”
“No dice,” says the Lady.
Meanwhile Balin is coming in, ready to make his last goodbyes to Arthur and the court, and he sees the Lady of the Lake, and it’s all slo-mo and red tint, because the Lady of the Lake killed Balin’s mother, and Balin spent three years hunting for her. (See? It raises more questions than it answers.)
“Who’s that and what’s she talking to Arthur about?” Balin asks a nearby lady-in-waiting.
“That’s the Lady of the Lake and she wants you dead,” explains the lady-in-waiting.
“Not if I kill you first!” screams Balin and charges forward and lops the Lady of the Lake’s head off with his new magic sword.
Everyone screams, court in general uproar, a dozen knights with swords pointed at Balin leap to Arthur’s defense. Arthur starts shouting at Balin. “Alas for shame what the hell dude! You murdered a guest in my court! That is not cool!”
“She was bad,” Balin says, as if that explained everything.
“I don’t care what your excuse is,” says Arthur. “Get out. Go. You’re banished from my court. I’m going to have to take down the sign that says how my court has never had any guest get murdered now. That I do not forgive.” Arthur’s all bereft over the Lady’s death.
“Do you want us to execute him, sire?” asks a knight.
“No, I’m too bereft,” says Arthur. “Just make sure he goes.”
“I’m going, I’m going, jeez, you’d think I killed someone who wasn’t evil or something,” says Balin. He grabs the Lady of the Lake’s severed head and dashes off to his squire, and the two of them mount up and ride off.
“Okay, now, squire,” says Balin.
“I was actually thinking of getting out of the squiring business,” says the squire. “Being your squire doesn’t seem like a great career path.”
“Squire, take this severed head and ride back with it to my hometown and tell everyone how I killed the Lady of the Lake. Also let them know I’m out of prison.”
“Should I tell them how Arthur banished you?”
“Use your judgement. Now, I’m going to go find King Rience and kill him. That’ll get me back in Arthur’s good graces or nothing will.”
“I kind of suspect nothing will,” says the squire.
“We’ll meet again, squire, when they’re throwing a sorry-we-banished-you, welcome-back-Sir-Balin party at Camelot!” says Balin.
Meanwhile, Arthur puts together a great funeral for the Lady of the Lake. It’s a really nice funeral. One thing Arthur is good at is funerals.
Discussion Question: Balin and Wilma and the Lady of the Lake, what’s the deal? Some more hints as to this backstory come out in the next chapter, but it’s really unclear.