Arthur gets all his knights together, forewarned as he is about Nero’s attack, and he sallies forth in hopes of getting the drop on Nero. But Nero is ready and champing at the bit and he has more men than Arthur, and outside Castle Terrabil they fight a long series of battles that even Malory isn’t interested in describing in any great detail. Sir Kay does really well, as do Balin and Balan and of course Arthur himself maims like forty guys, and there’s a knight name of Hervis who does well also…
But who cares? Meanwhile Merlin has teleport without errored up to the Orkneys, where he meets up with King Lot. Lot is at the head of a column of soldiers, armed and ready.
“Merle!” says King Lot. “Long time no see. I’m just about to ride down and do battle with Arthur again, on the side of Rience’s brother Nero. I hate Rience, like all right-thinking people, but his brother’s okay. Pull up a horse, ride alongside me. We could use a good crazy dreamspeaking soothsayer.”
“Hold that thought,” says Merlin. “I need to relate to you a prophecy.”
“Everybody, hold up!” Lot shouts, and the soldiers stop. “Okay, Merle, what’s the deal?”
Merlin then begins telling Lot a story that goes on forever and has no point (make your own joke here). At times Lot nods sagely, or smiles at an implied witticism, or otherwise signals that he’s paying attention, because he doesn’t want to look foolish in front of Merlin, and Merlin is all the time saying things like “of course you understand the significance of this,” and “hold onto your hat, Lot, because it gets better!”
A day or three later, a messenger from Nero shows up, with a message along the lines of what the hell is keeping you we are getting creamed here.
“Whoa, sorry Merle,” says Lot. “I got to get going.”
“Hold on,” says Merlin. “I haven’t gotten to the end of the story!”
“It’ll have to wait,” says Lot.
Then another messenger rides up. “I bear news from Terrabil!” he cries. “Nero and all his host have been slain and dispersed by Arthur! Nero’s last words were ‘where were you, Lot?’”
“Shoot,” says Lot.
“‘And then they all lived happily ever after, the end,’” says Merlin. “Go on, do whatever now.”
“I feel terrible about this,” says Lot. “Nero had a lot of good men fighting alongside him. You know me, Merle, I’m not a lunatic, I don’t love war. But still I wish I had been there.”
“There was nothing to be done, Lot,” says Merlin. To himself Merlin is thinking if Lot had been there then Arthur would have died, can’t have that and also he is thinking I would rather neither Lot nor Arthur die in battle but if I have to choose one to die it’ll be Lot no question.
“Well, what now? Any advice, Merle?” asks Lot. “It’s not too late, we could ride down there and our men will be fresh while Arthur’s are exhausted. On the other hand, they’ll outnumber us considerably, and Mister 100 isn’t here either.”
“Let me at them, boss,” says one of Lot’s knights. “I could take on all the Round Table (which hasn’t been established yet) myself!”
“Heh, well, hopefully it won’t come to that,” says Lot. “But yes! Onward, men! We’ll take Arthur down a notch yet!”
Then another fight, blah blah blah, Lot and the remnants of Team Lot & Mister 100 Featuring Nero on one side, Arthur on the other, and since this book is all about Balin, I can assure you that Balin on Arthur’s side kicks enormous amounts of ass. But Lot, let’s give him his due and remember that he’s not such a bad guy. He could have been Arthur’s wise and kindly elder brother-in-law, if they had gotten along better, but no. Maybe part of Lot’s antipathy towards Arthur stems from Arthur sleeping with Lot’s wife and fathering Mordred, plus the incest thing on top of that, so, yeah.
Lot’s in the thick of it, holding his troops together, and then a mystery knight appears from behind and goes straight for Lot and takes him out! It is — you were not expecting this — King Pellinore, the Questing Beast Guy! Yeah, that jackass. It’s nutty. He disappears as soon as he’s taken out Lot, which is pretty well the end of the battle anyways as Lot was holding his side together. In a decade or so, Lot’s son Sir Gawaine will avenge his father’s death, but that doesn’t matter now. I don’t know why Malory is even bringing it up. It’s as if he’s a terrible writer with no sense of pacing, even by the lax standards of the fifteenth century.
What matters is that the remnants of Team Lot & Mister 100 are crushed, the various kings on Lot’s side are slain (though, again, Mister 100 and some of the other heavy-hitters weren’t present), and they’re tossed in a big mass grave in Camelot, which sounds better once you hear about the absolutely fabulous funeral Arthur puts together for them.