Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur, Book II Chapter IX
Merlin takes Balin and Balan and leads them to a little woodsy copse, and tells them to nap for a while, which they eagerly do. All the best adventures feature a nap! Roundabout midnight Merlin wakes them up, and tells them now is their time to shine.
“That road over there connects Castle Terrabil, where Rience is quartered, to the castle where Lady de Vance lives,” Merlin explains.
“Say no more,” says Balin. “You want me to murder Lady de Vance! I’m really good at killing ladies.”
“No,” says Merlin. “No. Rience is having an affair with Lady de Vance, and in a little while he and a light escort of about fifty knights are going to ride down that road. It’s the best chance to get him out in the open.”
“Okay!” Balin starts to run out into the middle of the road to wait for Rience and his men, but Merlin pulls him back.
“Listen, idiot,” says Merlin. “You just stand there, you end up fighting his fifty knights while he rides on. I’ll show you where you’ll ambush him.”
“Ambush! Clever!” says Balin.
Merlin leads Balin and Balan to a certain gully the road winds down, and the two brothers make ready at the top of the gully. A few minutes after they began to lie in wait, Rience and his entourage comes riding through, exactly as Merlin predicted.
“Banzai!” Balin and Balan leap down into the middle of them, circumventing all Rience’s men, and slam into Rience, who gets dehorsed and wounded during the surprise round. Then the brothers fight Rience’s knights back-to-back for while, until they’ve each slain a couple dozen, and the handful remaining give up and run off.
Once the battle is over, Balin towers over Rience. “And now you die!” he cries.
“Wait! No! You can ransom me! You can ransom me!” cries Rience. “You’ll get way more money ransoming me than just looting my corpse, brigands!”
“We’re not brigands,” says Balan.
“He makes a good point, though,” says Balin. They load Rience up on a litter.
Meanwhile Merlin has teleport without errored over to Arthur, waking him up.
“Good evening Arthur, and good evening miss,” says Merlin.
“Do you never knock?” asks Arthur.
“I thought you’d want to know about how Rience has been captured,” says Merlin.
“Yeah, okay, that’s good to know,” says Arthur. He rubs his eyes. “Who did it? Ulfius and Brastias?”
“No, sire, it was two other knights who seek to get into your good graces,” says Merlin. “You’ll meet them tomorrow.”
“Great,” says Arthur.
“I’ll just show myself out,” says Merlin, and leaves.
“Does he do that often?” asks Arthur’s mistress. Malory does not mention that Arthur has a mistress, I guess I should point out. But it seems like he would, right?
Anyway the next morning Balin and Balan and Rience arrive at Camelot, and Balin is wearing a face-concealing helmet and telling everyone he’s Mister Two-Swords, the Knight With Two Swords. Rience is taken away in chains, and Arthur goes to see him first, to gloat.
“Welcome to Camelot,” says Arthur. “How have you enjoyed your stay so far?”
“It’s been a trip,” says Rience.
“Who was it that took you in, anyway? Merlin was being cagey last night,” says Arthur.
“Mister Two-Swords is what he calls himself,” says Rience. “Him and his brother. He’s dumb as a post.”
“Dumb he may be,” says Arthur, “but I owe him one, definitely.”
Merlin appears at Arthur’s elbow. “Would you forgive him any crime, sire?”
“That’s an odd question, Merlin, but yes. I suppose I would,” says Arthur. “This Rience situation has been troubling me for chapters and chapters now.”
“Then I’ll tell you,” says Merlin. “It was Balin all along! He and his brother captured Rience! You don’t know his brother Balan, but he’s a B+ knight, maybe A-. Nowhere near as powerful in combat as Balin, but then, Balin’s got a doom-curse working on his side, and won’t live much longer.”
“Oh, he’s dying? That’s, I guess that’s too bad,” says Arthur. “I feel very ambivalent towards Balin right now. Given that he’s dying I suppose I’ll swallow it and just forgive him, I suppose he deserves that.”
“Well, he’s not dying yet,” says Merlin. “But by all means, be nice to him; before he dies he’s going to do you another good turn or several. Also, tomorrow morning Rience’s brother Nero is going to show up and bring along an army, so, get ready for that.”
At this point, if I were Arthur, whenever Merlin asked me a question, I would just stop answering, knowing there was always going to be some ulterior motive. Or, rather, I would answer every question with “why do you ask?”
Yeah, but every so often he warns you about your prisoner’s brother’s leading an army against you in a sneak attack you can foil because you’re forewarned. So I guess it balances out.