It’s my birthday today! But that’s neither here nor there. Balin and Susie ride through the woods. Susie knows where they’re going, but she’s not giving Balin any more information than she needs to, on the grounds that he’s as dumb as a post and it would just get him into trouble.
They ride through the woods, and they bump into a strange knight. “Ho, strangers!” he calls. “Where ride you today and why?”
“I’m not telling!” cries Balin. “It’s a secret!”
“It’s not actually a secret,” says Susie. “You just don’t know.”
“Keeping secrets, huh?” says the strange knight. “I’d beat it out of you, if I weren’t unarmed and you armed with a magic sword!”
“Well,” says Balin. Susie prods him. “Okay, fine, I’ll tell what I know,” he says, and fills the strange knight in on the events of the day: first he got up, and then he had some toast, and then he met Arthur, and then he met Herlews, and then Herlews was attacked by an invisible man, and then he and Susie started riding, with Susie navigating.
“Well, heck, that sounds like a quest,” says the strange knight. “I’m always up for a quest, mind if I join your party?”
“Sure,” says Balin.
“My name’s Perin, by the way,” says Sir Perin.
The three of them ride some more and they stop for a breather in a disused churchyard near a hermitage, and it’s there that Perin suddenly sprouts a spear in the center of his chest.
“I’m slain!” he cries. “An invisible knight has slain me! Learn a lesson from my deaaaaath!” and he dies.
“Curse that invisible knight,” says Balin. He gets the hermit to help him entomb Perin, and they end up staying overnight.
In the morning there are letters of gold! A message in Merlin’s handwriting has been inscribed on the side of the tomb, announcing that Sir Gawaine would kill King Pellinore in vengeance for his father King Lot.
“Not relevant!” cries Balin, and ignores it. I don’t know why Malory threw this little detail in. It’s the second time he’s brought it up, too.
They ride on and that afternoon come to a castle which looks worth investigating. They dismount and Balin leads the way into the castle, which ends up being a trap! As soon as Balin has passed through the gate, boom, down comes the portcullis between him and Susie. And all these guys come up out of nowhere and start chasing Susie around! She’s shrieking and battering at them with her spear, but nothing doing, they are serious.
Balin curses, and tries to lift the portcullis, and that doesn’t work, so he climbs up into the gatehouse and finds the portcullis controls, but he has no idea how they work, because he’s the Idiot Knight, and so he just jumps down from the top of the gatehouse into the guys below, and starts laying into them.
And they immediately surrender and apologize. They’re like, okay, I can see why you two would be upset, we should have planned that better.
“What’s your deal, you weirdos?”
“We just want some of her blood,” says the lead weirdo.
“That doesn’t make me feel better,” says Susie.
“In our castle is our queen,” explains the lead weirdo. “She’s suffering under a curse and the only thing that helps is a bowlful of blood from a maiden, so we’ve been collecting blood from passing maids as a toll.”
“You should put up a sign or something!” cries Susie.
“Oh, I’d have done the same thing,” says Balin. “So this blood you need, is it enough to kill Susie when we drain it out of her?”
“Hey,” says Susie.
“Not at bit of it,” says the lead weirdo. “Just a pint, she won’t notice it’s gone.”
“Not happening!” says Susie.
“Fine then,” says Balin.
“Oh God,” says Susie. “No!”
“Please?” asks Balin. “I’m not going to make you, but they say their queen is cursed.”
“So cursed,” says the lead weirdo.
Susie sighs. “Okay,” she says. “But only because you said please. Also, I want a good night’s sleep and a big meal with wine and meat afterwards, because I’m going to be woozy from the blood loss.”
And this happens, and everyone is okay, except for the queen because her curse is at best arrested by the blood, not cured. Later on — spoiler warning! says Malory — Sir Percival comes by and fixes all this, but that’s not until the Sangreal situation happens.