Arthur and Accolon joust. Arthur doesn’t know it’s Accolon, because of course they’re both wearing face-concealing jousting-helmets and Accolon isn’t announcing his name all the time the way Arthur tends to. They joust, and they’re jousting, and a joust happens. While the joust is happening, Nimue wanders up unexpectedly. Now that Merlin is no longer available to randomly cast spells and set unexpected craziness in motion, it’s Nimue’s job apparently. Nimue has divined this whole plot of Morgan le Fay’s to murder Arthur and install Accolon on the throne of Camelot, and she’s on Arthur’s side. So she positions herself in Arthur’s corner and gets ready to cast a spell as soon as the time is right.
The time is not right for, like, hours. Arthur pounds on Accolon, Accolon pounds on Arthur, blah blah blah. Soon Arthur is bleeding from a dozen little cuts, and he’s pegged Accolon at least as much, but Accolon has the magic scabbard that prevents bleeding, so while Arthur is slowly dying of blood loss, Accolon is sitting pretty. At this point Arthur is beginning to suspect that Accolon has gotten ahold of Excalibur somehow and he’s been saddled with a fake. He doesn’t think so much about how he’s bleeding even though he has a supposedly-magic scabbard, which I take to mean that all of the fighting Arthur has done since he got that scabbard he just hasn’t been wounded enough to bleed anyway, so now that the scabbard isn’t working he’s just, like, feh, that scabbard never worked I guess. Or maybe he’s just distracted.
Anyway, given this mismatch in terms of gear, the only reason Accolon doesn’t win in the first few minutes is because Arthur is just so badass. Malory’s description of this is priceless and there’s no way I could ever improve upon it: [Arthur] was so full of knighthood that he knightly endured the pain.
Everybody watching the joust is of the opinion that Arthur is winning on points, because even though he’s getting sliced up, he’s laying into Accolon incredibly well, especially considering how badly he’s bleeding. Everybody’s cheering for him!
Arthur calls a thirty-second timeout, and Accolon, all cocky with Excalibur on the one hand, and annoyed at the crowd for designating him the heel and Arthur the face on the other hand, Accolon decides to play the heel and charges over at Arthur, ignoring the timeout, and smacks Arthur like as to behead him, if Arthur didn’t parry. Arthur parries, and this is the point at which the faux-Excalibur Mildred gave him snaps in two.
I don’t know why, but Nimue keeps holding her action, waiting for the time to be right, and Arthur is now disarmed and badly bleeding, so, you know, things aren’t looking great for them. Perhaps Nimue learned how to be helpful from Merlin.