Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur, Book XV, Chapters 1 and 2
When we last saw Launcelot, back at the end of Book XIII, he was hanging out with Nacien, repenting of all of his sins. Repenting of all of his sins turns out to take three days! Three days go by, and then about the hour of noon (because Malory can’t be bothered to name every character but he loves throwing in some insignificant details about timing) he heads out, equipped with a new horse and a new helmet and a new sword.
He rides for an indeterminate time, but stops when he arrives at a chapel, because standing outside the chapel is an old man that was clothed all in white full richly, which is to say, Nacien again.
“Whoa! How did you beat me here?” asks Launcelot, in a reasonable interpolation on my part. “Also, God save you.”
“Mm-hm, yes yes, God keep you and make you a good knight,” replies Nacien. He points at the chapel and clears his throat.
“Okay then.” Launcelot dismounts and heads into the chapel. Inside, some guy lies in state!
Who is this guy? He’s a) bare minimum 120 years old and b) he’s wearing a white shirt of passing fine cloth which marks him as a monk/friar/priest of Nacien’s order apparently, but c) he’s an oathbreaker. So, Nacien knows the secret of eternal youth, and that’s just in a little throwaway comment!
Then Nacien summons a demon! For serious. He summons a demon. It’s an hideous figure and horrible, that there was no man so hard-hearted nor so hard but he should have been afeard.
“Thou hast travailed me greatly; now tell me what thou wilt with me!” bellows the demon at Nacien.
Nacien asks the demon how the dead ex-monk became dead, and whether he went to heaven upon death or not.
The demon confirms that the dead ex-monk is in heaven, which Nacien scoffs at, what with the ex-monk being an oathbreaker and all. The demon then explains that the ex-monk had a nephew named Aguarus, who was once at war with the Earl de Vale. This may seem irrelevant but the demon is going somewhere with this. Aguarus was doing badly in this war, so he went to his uncle (the ex-monk) to complain about that, and the ex-monk felt he had no choice but to renounce his oaths of hermiting and pacifism, and lead Aguarus’s forces to war!
And the ex-monk was so badass that he captured de Vale and all of his friends.
“I’m familiar with the part of the story where he renounces his oaths,” says Nacien. “Speed it up, demon!”
The demon continues its tale. After the war ended de Vale promised never to make war upon Aguarus again, and the ex-monk returned to his hermitage to renew his vows. But! De Vale wanted revenge! So he sent a couple of his nephews off to murder the ex-monk.
The nephews arrive at the hermitage, where the ex-monk is having a little private Mass. The nephews politely wait for the ex-monk to finish, then once it’s over they try to stab him with their swords.
“Okay, great,” says Launcelot, who has not been very engaged with this story (it’s not a story about him). “They killed him, so, I’ll go avenge him I guess?”
Not so fast! The demon goes on to explain that God miraculously made the ex-monk sword-proof. So they set him on fire!
“So he burned to death, check,” says Launcelot.
Not so fast! His clothes all burned off, also his hair, but the ex-monk himself was protected from all bodily harm. The ex-monk asked if the nephews would just let him go, what with the miracles, but the nephews get pissed and lock him overnight in an oven. In the morning, the nephews open up the oven and find him there, lying dead, in his shining white robes, unharmed except for being dead. So they freaked out, which makes sense, and then they took him out of the oven and lay him in state here in this chapel. And now the demon has related the ex-monk’s whole story, and its obligation to Nacien is discharged, and now it’s leaving! And it vanishes in a puff of smoke.
DISCUSSION QUESTION: Can an ex-monk give Mass? Is that allowed? I would think he would have to be a present-time monk, at least.
That’s an interesting take on things — but I wonder if the dead monk broke his oath, or left the order. Which might be breaking his oath, if he swore not to do that.
But the sushi I had for lunch was yummy.
Hmm, I think if I had a demon who owed me one favour, I would use it for something other than it telling me a story.
I think the implication is that Nacien can summon the demon and demand a single service, more or less at will, rather than that the demon owed Nacien a favor because of some preexisting arrangement.