Book XIV is where it gets weird, y’all. Malory explains that Book XIV is all about Sir Percivale, the other holy paladin-knight blessed and foredestined to achieve the Grail. We flash back to when he was last seen, during Chapter 17 of Book XIII. He had the idea of going and bothering the Queen of the Wasteland, you may remember, and Launcelot didn’t feel like doing that.
So while Launcelot rides off after Galahad, Percivale dismounts and steps up to the Queen’s front window, and kneels down (it’s a low window) and knocks until she opens it.
“What now?” she asks, irritably. The Queen of the Wilderness currently, Malory explains, lives as a recluse, and doesn’t want company.
“Madam,” Percivale says with careful politeness, “I am a knight of King Arthur’s court, and my name is Sir Percivale de Galis.”
The Queen perks up at that! Because, and this is something that you’d think Malory would have mentioned before, she’s Percivale’s aunt! Which means she’s also Lamorak’s aunt, and Agravale’s. She might also be Launcelot’s aunt, since Percivale and Launcelot are cousins, but given that she wasn’t interested in seeing him, probably she’s related to Percivale’s father and Launcelot to his mother, or vice-versa.
Anyway, we smash cut to the next morning, after the Queen of the Wilderness and her servants (whom she still employs; she’s a recluse, not a barbarian) have wined and dined and breakfasted young Sir Percivale. We know she has totes neglected to mention the fact that she’s his aunt, because they have a quick conversation after breakfast that runs like so:
“Ma’am,” goes Percivale because he’s unfailingly polite, “thanks for your amazing hospitality, but I have a question for you.”
The Queen nods between bites of toast. “Shoot.”
“I wanted to ask you this last night, but there was a smash cut: do you know who that knight with the white magic shield was? The one that was leaving as Launcelot and I arrived?”
“Euuuuugh!” This is not a question the Queen of the Wilderness really wants to answer. “Why do you even want to know?”
“I just do!” Turns out Percivale can’t really give a good reason. “It’s really bugging me, you know? Just eating away at me, not knowing.”
“Are you going to joust him?” The Queen clucks her tongue in disapproval. “You’d just get yourself killed, like your father did.”
“Whoa! Whoa whoa whoa, ma’am!” Even in shock, Percivale is polite. “Everything just got real! How do you know my father and how he died? Who told you? What other family secrets are you privy to?”
“Oh, did I forget to mention? I’m your aunt.” The Queen shrugs. “The Queen of the Wilderness, they called me, and I was super wealthy and amazing. Now I’m a recluse, living the simple life. Just me and my castle full of servants.”
“Oh, wow! I’m so happy to meet you, ma’am! Aunt ma’am.”
“Right back at you, kiddo.” She gets a sly look. “How’s your mother Veronica doing?”
Percivale shakes his head. “I haven’t seen her since Book XI, Chapter 10, so I couldn’t tell you. I dream about her being alive, though.”
It’s unclear why the Queen asked after her, because she already knows how Veronica is doing. “Bad news, nephew: she’s dead. Died of grief shortly after the events of Book XI, Chapter 11.”
(Percivale learns his mother is dead. His reaction? Dull surprise!)
“If I had it to do over again, maybe I’d do something different. Or maybe not. I don’t know, ma’am.” He sighs, sadly. “Anyway, about the knight with the magic shield…”
The Queen shakes her head. “Still on that, are you?”
“Rather than ask you if he was Sir Galahad, I’m going to ask if he was the knight in red in Book XIII, Chapter 3. Whom I was introduced to at the time, as Sir Galahad. So I’m being a little sly here.”
This question so stymies the Queen of the Wilderness that she has to give a whole speech in response to it, which we’ll cover next time.