Pellinore hides in the bushes while two knights ride up — from opposite directions! It’s Pellinore’s lucky day, plainly. He just happens to be in the right place at the right time to overhear this conversation.
“Hey. How’s Camelot?”
“Worse than we thought. I was just barely able to get away without being caught.”
“Yeah. They’ve got a Round Table, now. It’s awful. Knights, honest heroes, far as the eye can see. No room for villains like us. Everybody loves Arthur.”
“I know! It’s the flower of chivalry, is what it is. So I’m headed North, to tell our evil lords about Arthur and Camelot and this whole Round Table nonsense. Next thing you know it’ll be so a knight can’t even randomly slay a damosel!”
“Well, good luck, pal. I’m headed South, towards Camelot.”
“Yeah. I came prepared. I’ve got this vial of poison, it’s awesome poison. I’m just going to poison everybody there. Poison food, poison wine, poison drapes.”
“Really? You’re going to do that?”
“Well, not me. We’ve got an inside man. He agreed to do the poisoning in exchange for fabulous prizes.”
“Cool. Well, one piece of advice…”
“Lay it on me!”
“Two words. Mer-lin. Dude is half-demon, you know. Doesn’t age. Knows everybody, knows everything. You’d better have something planned for Merlin.”
“Oh, don’t you worry about that. I’ve got it all taken care of.”
“Well, I’d best be off. Have an ominous night!”
“And an ominous night to you as well!”
And then the knights ride off without Pellinore seeing their faces. Pellinore wakes up Nimue, and tells her they’ve got to get to Camelot toot sweet, so they load up and ride out, despite the darkness. Round about dawn they come to the spot in the woods where the lady and the wounded knight were — you remember, from Chapter XII? Pellinore sees them, and the knight’s looking okay, except that he’s dead, but wild animals have skeletonized the damosel, excepting only her head. Pellinore sees this and starts to weep and wail.
“They’re dead! They’re both dead! And it’s all someone’s fault!”
“What?” Nimue doesn’t get this at all, so Pellinore has to explain.
“Yeesh,” says Nimue. “Okay, here’s what we do. There’s a hermitage we passed a few minutes back, we take the knight’s body there and let the hermit deal with it. The damosel, just grab her head and present it to Arthur. He’ll get a kick out of it, maybe.”
“Hmm, okay,” says Pellinore. “I do like messing with Arthur, and a woman’s head lends itself to all kinds of japes. Did I tell you about the time I stole his horse?”
“Yes, like three times.”
“It was at this fountain…”