Malory flashes back to provide a little context. After setting out on the Quest of the Holy Grail, Sir Gawaine quickly realized he had no idea where to even begin looking. By random chance he stumbled upon the White Abbey, where Galahad obtained his magic shield; there he heard tales of Galahad’s holiness and his most favored questor status and also which direction he left in. Gawaine figured you find Galahad, you find the Grail. So he chased after Galahad, arriving at the abbey where Sir Melias convalesced. Melias told Gawaine all about how terrific Galahad was, and which direction he went.
And so, at that abbey, Gawaine announces his intention to track Galahad down and then stick to him like glue. One of the monks scoffs at this plan. Gawaine and Galahad are going to get along like oil and water, this monk predicts. Because Galahad is awesome, the best, oh so holy and sexy too, and meanwhile Gawaine has won Worst Knight four Pentecosts running.
As Gawaine sputters defensively, his brother Sir Gareth wanders up, so Gawaine goes over and talks to him and leaves the monk alone. Gawaine and Gareth join together to chase after Galahad. Uwaine, who had bumped into Galahad earlier, shows up and joins them also.
“Have you had any good strange adventures so far?” asks Uwaine. He hasn’t, and neither have Gawaine or Gareth.
“We find Galahad, we get all the strange adventure we can handle, I’m sure!” Gawaine is pumped, you guys.
So they ride towards Maidens’ Castle, which is the direction Galahad went, and then coming down the road towards them they spy six knights in an awful hurry.
“Check it out!” cries one of the six. “Three Knights of the Round Table! Friends of Galahad’s! Let’s get them!”
So there’s an abrupt melee! It’s a melee Gawaine, Gareth, and Uwaine win handily. Gareth and Uwaine kill five of the six knights between them, and by fortune Sir Galahad slew one of the brethren. That is how much Malory hates Gawaine: when he wins a fight it’s only by accident.
Afterwards the threesome come to Maidens’ Castle, but Galahad has already left and they can’t tell which way he went, out of three likely paths. So Gawaine goes one way, Gareth another, and Uwaine a third. Gawaine’s path turns out to lead to a hermitage, where Gawaine demands the hermit, whom let’s go ahead and identify as Nacien, put him up for the night.
“So what’s your deal?” Nacien asks over supper.
“Oh, the usual. Knight, Round Table, Grail-Quest.” Gawaine forbears mentioning that he’s King Arthur’s nephew, for once.
“Grail, huh?” Nacien ruminates. “Would you say you’re a holy and virtuous knight?”
Gawaine shrugs. “Most people who know me tell me I’m terrible. Bunch of jackasses.”
Nacien shakes his head. “You had your chance. When you became a knight, you could have dedicated yourself to virtue and holiness, but instead you’ve fathered a vast army of illegitimate children. Galahad, the virginal boy, will doubtless achieve the Grail, but you? Not a chance. You’re a butcher! You and your comrades killed those six knights, right? Yesterday Sir Galahad slew one of them and chased the other six off! That demonstrates both his unwillingness to take life unnecessarily, since he killed one and not all seven, and also his prowess as a knight, because he vanquished seven-to-one odds. Why, Galahad is practically Jesus Himself! Leading the maidens from Maidens’ Castle dungeon like the soul from Purgatory, and driving away seven knights like seven deadly sins…”
“Okay, okay, I get it.” Gawaine has had enough, but the hermit just keeps on in this vein for like, hours. Eventually Gawaine goes to sleep, Nacien still lecturing him, and in the morning Gawaine leaves, while Nacien continues to betaught him unto God, counseling penance and such.
Afterwards, says Malory, Gawaine meets up with a couple of other knights, Aglavale and Griftlet, and they ride around for almost a week without encountering the Grail, until they give up.