This bit is a good bit.
Percivale and his lion buddy hang out on the rock, staring out to sea, for a half a day before another boat comes by. This one is covered samite, too, like Nacien’s. Instead of white samite, though, this samite is more blacker than any bear.
“Finally!” cries Percivale, and jumps into the water. He swims out to the ship and climbs aboard, where an absurdly beautiful woman waits for him. Super lovely, this woman is.
And her garb! This lady wears clothing made out of money, by the way. Maybe not literal money, paper money not being a thing in the fourth-century-but-also-fourteenth-century which is our milieu, but definitely she’s clothed more richly that none might be better.
“Oh, you poor man,” she says. “Who left you alone out here in the wilderness, without food or water?”
“There’s this whole big quest thing I’m on,” Percivale answers. “It’s cool, though, an old man told me that God is on my side.”
“Uh huh. Well, would God object to me giving you some food and water?”
Percivale considers his Bible verses. “…who that knocketh shall enter, and who that asketh shall have, and who that seeketh him he hideth him not…” he mutters. “I guess not.”
The lady smiles. “Sir Percivale, do you know my name?”
Percivale smiles, too, because things are getting weird and mystic and this time he feels ready for it! “I’m going to say yes, yes I do. Final answer.” He doesn’t, of course, but he’s in the game!
“I was just out in the wilderness, you know,” the lady says, conversationally. “I bumped into a knight, all in red, except — strangest thing! — His shield was white. Red knight with a magical white shield.”
“Oh, I know that guy! I’ve been trying to catch up to him!”
“Well hey, I’ve got a boat. Promise me that you’ll do me one favor to be named later, no questions asked, and I can take you to him.”
“I don’t see any way that could possibly come back and bite me,” says Percivale.
The entire audience, yours truly included, smack our foreheads.
“Well now shall I tell you. I saw him in the forest chasing two knights out to Mortaise, you know, the river? They tried to ford it, and then drown him in the crossing, but he escaped into the woods on the other side.”
“That’s good. Good that he’s okay.”
“Oh!” The lady makes as to smack her forehead. “I forgot, I was going to get you some food. I have some meat. You didn’t have meat for lunch, did you? Have you eaten meat lately?”
“Nay, madam, truly I ate no meat nigh this three days, but late here I spake with a good man that fed me with his good words and holy, and refreshed me greatly.”
“Really,” the woman says flatly.
“Nacien’s sermons are very nutritive,” insists Percivale.
“Sounds like a nogoodnik to me,” she says. “Leaving you there to starve, filling your head with crazy assertions about deriving nourishment directly from holiness… Guy’s an enchanter and a multiplier of words. Lucky thing I happened by, or you’d be dead and eaten by a wild boar by now.”
“You know, for a weird allegorical figure you’re extremely… down to earth,” observes Percivale. “What’s up with that?”
“Ah.” The lady stares off into space for a moment. “I used to be the richest woman in the world, mistress of the greatest lord there is. He made me fair and clear and I was the greatest there ever was. I was so beautiful, once.” Her features darken. “Alas, I had a little pride more than I ought to have had. Also I said a word that pleased him not. So my lord threw me out, and said I couldn’t spend time with him any longer, and that he didn’t want to listen to what I had to say to him, or what I had to ask of him. Not me, nor of my court.”
“Wow, sounds like a jerk.”
“So I’ve tried to make it right, as best I know how.” Again, the lady stares off into space, and appears to be recapping her origin for the benefit of the reader, rather than conversing with Percivale. “I find his men, who suffer for lack, and I make them my men. They come willingly; their master is stingy, and I can give them whatever they want, any of the rewards of this world.”
“Therefore I know now no good knight, nor no good man, but I get them on my side an I may. And for that I know that thou art a good knight, I beseech you to help me; and for ye be a fellow of the Round Table, wherefore ye ought not to fail no gentlewoman which is disherited, an she besought you of help.”
“Well sure I’ll help,” says Percivale. “You sound so reasonable! And your story is eerily familiar for some reason that I can’t quite put my finger on. I’m sure it’ll come to me.”