The next morning, of course, Merlin shows up. Did you think we were going to get through the end of this chapter without Merlin being a jackass one more time? He’s apparently concerned with setting all the pieces into place for Galahad’s grail-quest visit in a generation or two. I don’t know why Merlin was tasked with this, frankly.
He pulls out his special golden pen and writes under the epitaph on the tomb Here Lies Sir Balin the Idiot Knight, also known as the Knight with Two Swords, also known as the jackass who struck the dolorous stroke.
This attracts something of a crowd of onlookers, including the labor crew and the knights of the castle.
“You there,” says Merlin. “Laborers. You aren’t done with this tomb yet.”
“Sure we are,” says the foreman.
“No,” says Merlin. “You need to put a bed in here, next to the crypt itself, for Launcelot to eschew.”
“That seems pointless,” says the foreman. “But you’re the wizard.”
While the laborers install a bed, Merlin retrieves Balin’s magic sword and disassembles it, replacing the pommel with a different pommel.
“You there,” says Merlin. “Knight. Try out this sword, tell me what you think.”
Merlin tosses the sword to one of the knights, who gives it a few practice swings before grimacing and throwing it to the ground.
“This sword is crap,” says the knight. “What did you do to it? It’s all off-balance now.”
Merlin snickers, because he’s a jerk. “You only say that because you aren’t its destined wielder. His name is Launcelot, or if he’s unavailable, his son Galahad. Launcelot will use this sword to slay Sir Gawaine.”
“Why are you telling us this?” asks the knight.
“I’m dictating!” snaps Merlin. “Aren’t you engraving this on the pommel?”
“No,” says the knight.
“Fine, fine, I’ll do it myself.” Merlin takes the sword and his magic pen and writes down some dire predictions about Launcelot and Gawaine.
“Also, you’ll need to build a bridge out to this island,” Merlin tells the Queen on his way out. “Can’t just have a ferry service, that won’t work at all.”
“You never call, Merle,” says the Queen. “What’s this about?”
Merlin ignores her. “The bridge should be made of iron, and six inches wide. Don’t let anyone go over it, until heroic knights show up, which won’t be for a long while,” he says.
“That’s a lot of work,” she says. “Also it seems extremely pointless.”
“Listen, I’m doing all the hard stuff,” Merlin grumbles. “Like this. Step back, I’m going to use magic.”
And then Merlin casts another spell not to be found anywhere in the Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Player’s Handbook that I know of. End result is that the pommel-replaced magic sword is embedded in a block of marble — swords being stuck in things is now an official recurring theme — and that block of marble hovering eerily over the river, where it remains for many years until it washes downstream to Camelot in the future. The geography of the Wasteland being upriver from Camelot I don’t pretend to understand. Plus I haven’t gotten that far ahead but I’m uncertain that it does, in fact, go down the way Malory is saying it will, here. He’s reversed himself on that kind of thing before.
“And I’m off,” says Merlin, and rides all the way back to Camelot.
Straightaway he finds Arthur, and sits him down. “Have I got a story for you!” Merlin says. He tells Arthur all about Balin’s adventures, the dolorous stroke, and so on.
“That’s a terrible story,” says Arthur. “It makes very little narrative sense, there’s essentially no characterization… the best part of the story was when it ended. I’m just glad I didn’t have to experience it myself, like that awful adventure with Pellinore. These strange mystic quests don’t make any more sense from the outside, though, it sounds like.”
“Bah, kids today,” grumbles Merlin.
“Still, it’s a shame Balin and Balan died so miserably,” muses Arthur. “They were remarkably badass. Thick as bricks, but well-intentioned.”
And with that stirring eulogy, the tale of Balin the Idiot Knight ends, and with it, Book II.
Next: Book II Conclusions, followed by Book III!