Well, that sure was a thing that happened, huh? Book XIV had a sudden spike up in weird mystic craziness, what with Percivale meeting a three-hundred-year-old man, and it never really went back down to the usual jousting and damosel nonsense; it ends with Percivale castrating himself to defeat the Devil.
If you were hoping Book XV would return us to the world of tournaments and wicked knights, well, man, you were out of luck. Launcelot travels the land, making so little discernible progress towards the Grail that Nacien has to keep reassuring him about it. Also, a lot of Nacien in this book. Malory never identifies him by name, so it’s possible that the authorial intention here is that Launcelot meets six or seven different identically-described white-robed holy hermits, but I think it makes more sense for Launcelot to keep riding across the terrain and coming across Nacien over and over again.
Speaking of, we get the revelation that Nacien has legit magic powers, to wit, he can summon a demon! This seems to me like a wicked, Merlin-esque tactic, but if it’s Nacien doing it, I guess it’s okay, because he’s holy? You know he’s holy because of all the holy stuff he does, like act as a stand-in for God and shrive Launcelot and speak Mass. So that’s cool.
Launcelot, faced with a kind of strange adventure he can’t easily overcome through his jousting prowess, totally cracks up. He’s sobbing, he’s lying around feeling sorry for himself, mugging the Mystery Knight, losing a joust…
So, what’s up with Launcelot and the Mystery Knight? When we met this knight the first time, Launcelot was lying by the side of the road with a case of sleep paralysis. The mystery knight and his squire come into the area, and the Grail appears and heals the mystery knight of whatever disease he’d been suffering from. Then the squire gives the mystery knight permission to steal Launcelot’s horse, and utters some gnomic statements about how Launcelot is insufficiently holy. I would guess that the Mystery Knight is not a villain, based on that. At this point in the narrative, the Grail has been witnessed by Pellam, Launcelot, and Bors, with Galahad and Percivale presumably on their way there, and we were told in an aside at one point that Sir Pellas, Nimue’s husband, either achieves the Grail or would achieve the Grail if he tried to. It’s pretty heady company, is what I’m saying. You’d think Launcelot would take that into account when he meets the Mystery Knight, but no, he just straight-up ambushes the Mystery Knight and takes his horse back. I have to wonder what Nacien would have said about that, if Launcelot had thought to tell him.
The addition of an anchoress at the end seemed a little random. Not that I’m opposed to the inclusion of a female character, but it’s peculiar that she’s not just Nacien again.