So at the previous entry’s cliffhanger, Arthur was looking longingly at the magic coat, and the magic coat was ticking, and Mildred was holding it up and saying how nice it would look on Arthur, he has just the sort of features that are really brought out by diamonds strung together with golden wire, and then…
Then… in comes Merlin!
No, wait, Malory almost forgot. He put Merlin in a rock at the start of Book IV. So in comes Nimue! She’s clearly annoyed at having to serve as a last-minute Merlin replacement.
“Sire!” she calls, stomping into court from the back. “Sire! A word!”
Arthur squints. He barely remembers Nimue, and is wholly ignorant of her new role as Substitute Merlin. “What?”
Nimue rolls her eyes. “Can I have a word with you in private? You can pretend I’m Merlin in disguise, if it’ll help.”
“I don’t like it any more than you do, trust me.”
“Just let it out, whatever you need to say, right here. It’s cool.”
“Magic evil coat,” Nimue says, pointing. “Get her to try it on first.”
“Oh, oh, no, no no no no no,” says Mildred. “No no no no no no.”
This raises Arthur’s suspicions. “Go on,” he says. “Try it on.”
“I could never pull off that look,” explains Mildred. “It’s all bejeweled and I’m just a mere Evil Queen’s Henchwoman, very low-ranking on the social ladder.”
“It’s cool,” says Arthur. “I hereby name you Royal Coat-Wearer, with all the privileges thereof. Now put it on before someone accidentally decapitates someone.”
Mildred sighs, and puts the coat on, and keels over and melts away to ash. It’s a pretty impressive special effect! So long, Mildred. Too bad for you, huh?
“Thanks Ms. Merlin,” says Arthur, but Nimue has already left.
I always assumed that Nimue was a villain in the Arthurian canon, what with her sealing Merlin up inside a magic rock. But this is the second time she’s saved Arthur’s life in this book alone! And, you know, now that we’ve seen Merlin operate up close and personal, sealing him inside a magic rock doesn’t seem like quite the heinous act one might first assume it to be.
Anyway, afterwards Arthur sits down with King Uriens, who really has egg on his face what with the whole wife-trying-to-kill-Arthur thing, so first off Uriens apologizes on her behalf, and Arthur is like, man, it’s cool. “I know Morgan never really loved you and was having a longtime affair with Sir Accolon —“
“Wait, what?” This is news to King Uriens.
“So plainly you were ignorant of her schemes. I’m suspicious of Uwaine, though.”
“Uwaine’s a good boy!” Uriens has a lot to process right now, but he’ll still rally to his son’s defense. “Steadfast, good to his mother… oh, I see what you’re saying.”
“I’m going to lie down for a while, okay?”
“That’s cool.” Arthur pats Uriens on the back, and banishes Sir Uwaine from Camelot. Which is how we transition out of the Story of Morgan le Fay Trying to Kill Arthur, and into the fourth and final story of Book IV, the Story of Uwaine Not Being At Camelot, which goes in a different direction than you probably expected.
I mean, first of all, Gawaine. Gawaine hears about this, the banishing, and of course he immediately starts to fret that if Arthur is going to start exiling his nephews, he won’t stop with Uwaine, but will naturally move on to exiling Gawaine. In Gawaine’s mind this is a fait accompli. It’s going to happen. He’s the bad knight, the one who was promoted to the Round Table only because was Arthur’s nephew, the one who got locked up back in Book III. He’s going to be exiled.
“You can’t exile me! I quit!” he shouts, interrupting everyone’s dinner.
“Come again?” asks Arthur. But Gawaine has already run off. He’s decided to hook up with his cousin Uwaine and the two of them will ride off together and have a strange adventure or two. He doesn’t actually ask Uwaine about this. He just invites himself along. Surprisingly, the court in general is sad to see Gawaine go. Or at least, they’re sad to see the pair of them go. Maybe it’s just Uwaine everyone is unhappy about. Gaheris, Gawaine’s brother, at least, is really unhappy about the Gawaine self-exile thing.
Anyway, Gawaine and Uwaine ride out from Camelot and they visit some monks and they see a forest, typical stuff, and then, hey, here’s a thing. Twelve maidens, hanging out in a garden party with two knights in full jousting gear! Hanging from a tree in the garden there’s a big white shield! And all the ladies are throwing garbage at it, for some reason.