So far Balin’s distinguishing characteristic is that he’s dumber than a sack of hammers. I’m just saying.
Now one of King Arthur’s best knights whom Malory hasn’t mentioned before (but don’t take that to mean that he isn’t awesome) is Sir Lanceor. Lance is the son of the king of Ireland, whom you might remember was part of Team Lot & Mister 100 in Book I, but Lance swore fealty to Arthur and joined the Round Table (which, again, hasn’t been set up yet, it doesn’t get set up until Book III). He’s a solid knight, good at what he does, and the word Malory uses to describe him is orgulous, a vocabulary word meaning some blend of haughty and proud and distinguished and arrogant and accomplished.
Lance took it personally that Balin is the one who got the sword from Wilma and her chastity-scabbard, he liked Wilma’s spunk, and he spends the whole of the Lady of the Lake’s funeral grumbling and as soon as the ceremonies are over he goes to Arthur.
“Sire,” he says. “I beg your permission to hunt down that wretch Balin and execute him for his dreadful crimes.”
“You know what? You do that. You kill him right proper,” says Arthur. “I cannot express how mad I am at that guy. He should be dead, and you’re just the knight to do it.”
Lance thanks Arthur and goes and makes ready to ride after Balin, and then Merlin comes in.
“Where the hell have you been?” demands Arthur. “For once I’m in a situation where I need a crazy soothsayer advising me, another damn strange adventure, you know how I had those things, and you were nowhere to be found!”
“Did I miss anything?” asks Merlin.
“Only a strange adventure! All this magic witchery crap has been happening! There was this girl with this sort of sword-in-an-I-don’t-know-what-to-call-it, and Balin, the trustee, pulled it out, and Wilma left angry because Balin didn’t want to sleep with her, and then the Lady of the Lake showed up and wanted them both dead, and then Balin murdered her! Balin killed the Lady of the Lake right in front of me!”
“Ah,” says Merlin. “So we’re onto Book II already, huh?”
“Listen,” says Merlin. “The girl who was cursed to wear the sword-in-the-chastity-belt, Wilma, I can assure you fellows, she was a wicked maiden. Worst ever.”
“She has, or had, a brother,” explains Merlin.
“I don’t follow,” says Arthur.
“It gets better,” says Merlin. “She had a brother who was a good knight, and she also had a boyfriend who was pretty skeevy, and the brother went after the boyfriend to leave her alone, and what with one thing and another the brother was standing over the boyfriend’s mangled corpse.” You might think this ties into the complex web of backstory between Wilma, Balin, and the Lady of the Lake, but you’d think wrong. Just when you expect Malory to zig, he zags!
“Oh,” says Arthur. “That explains everything! Wait, no, it explains nothing.”
“I’m telling a story here,” says Merlin. “Give it a little time to unspool.”
“Anyway, this black-hearted maiden did the worst thing, which is side with her lover over her brother, big no-no, and she went to the most powerful woman available for help: Queen Lile of Avelion, and begged the magic queen to assist her in defeating her brother.”
“Whoa,” says Arthur. “A ruling queen helping a woman work against the patriarchal system by enacting vengance proactively rather than just waiting on a knight to solve her problems? Sounds protofeminist.”
“Malory lived in the fifteenth century,” Merlin says. “Even the most proto of the protofeminists are dangerous and subversive witches.”
Discussion Question: Merlin’s explanation just raises further questions, on the Balin/Wilma/Lady of the Lake front. What’s the deal with that?