Book IV! It’s kind of all over the place. First up, Merlin and Nimue! Merlin is way into Nimue!
So Merlin is hanging out a lot with Nimue, the woman that Pellinore brought back to Camelot, and, to put it simply, she’s not all that into him. He’s pestering her in a well-meaning way, asking about her background and offering to show her some magic tricks and so on. Nimue, who’s a Lady of the Lake (not the Lady of the Lake, who Balin murdered, just a Lady of the Lake), she puts up with him, but she’s really just in it for the magic tricks and she doesn’t go out of her way to encourage Merlin. She’s mainly being tolerant, and Merlin sticks close to her 24/7; he really wants to get into her pants.
Anyway, Merlin takes Arthur aside one day, and he starts in on his longwinded and dire prophecies again — Launcelot and Guenever, Mordred, all of it, and Arthur is like, “Merlin, what’s this really about?”
“I’m going to be leaving you soon,” says Merlin. “Boom, into the earth with me, gone and forgotten.”
“So, first off, I know you’re like eight million years old, but aren’t you immortal?” asks Arthur. “Also, ever since you went back on the you-get-tossed-in-a-ditch thing, I haven’t really paid attention to your prophecies.”
“It’s going to happen!” Merlin insists. “Nimue is going to get tired of me pestering her, and trick me into going into a magic cave, and then she’s going to seal the cave up.”
“Hmm. Sure. I’ll play along. Listen, I have an idea,” says Arthur. “Assuming for a second you’re right about what will happen if you do that. How about, instead of doing that, you don’t do that?”
“You don’t know how prophecy works, do you?”
Arthur rolls his eyes. “Clearly I don’t.”
“You keep that magic scabbard, all right? Just remember that one thing. Keep the magic scabbard, and don’t let a woman you trust steal it from you. For all women are faithless, and men deserve no better.”
“Okay, you’re being even more gloomy than usual, Merlin.”
“You’re going to miss me when I’m gone!”
“Sure, sure. You want to meet for pancake breakfast tomorrow?”
But Merlin isn’t sticking around for pancake breakfast: he learns that Nimue is planning on leaving Camelot and invites himself along.
“Okay. Okay. Tell you what,” says Nimue. “You can come with, if you promise not to do any magic on me.”
“Done,” says Merlin.
“Because it’s occurred to me there are things like charm person that a magic-user of your stature might have access to, and I’m not into that.”
“No problem,” says Merlin.
“I can see how some might find it kinky, but I’m really not into the lack of control, whether we’re talking cuffs or enchantment, okay?”
“Right,” says Merlin.
So Nimue and Merlin take a trip together. They go to France, and then from there to Benwick, and the court of King Ban. Ban is off fighting Claudas, so Nimue and Merlin are put up by Elaine, Ban’s wife, the Queen of Benwick.
“Merle, hello!” says Elaine. “This was with Claudas has been hell, I tell you what, but welcome to Benwick! Who’s your lady friend?”
Merlin introduces Nimue and Elaine. “Are you the Elaine from Book I, Arthur’s middle sister whom no one ever talks about?” asks Nimue. “Gawaine’s mother Margawse the eldest, Morgan le Fay the youngest, and you in the middle?”
“No, that’s a different Elaine apparently,” says Queen Elaine.
“Well, I’m confused then,” says Nimue. “Clearly you’re a lady, not a knight. And if you aren’t related to Arthur, and you aren’t schtupping Arthur or Merlin, then why has Malory bothered to give you a name?”
“Let me answer that,” says Merlin, “by introducing you to Elaine’s son, Launcelot.”