Ector and Gawaine wander around a while after burying Uwaine, and then they show up at Nacien’s house. NB this is actual Nacien, identified as such by name, rather than a generic and nonspecific old man in white robes. I still don’t feel bad for identifying the nonspecifc guy who’s been advising Launcelot as Nacien.
Anyway, Nacien is not exactly pleased to see Gawaine or Ector, but he agrees to hear their confessions and advise them.
“Okay, listen up,” says Gawaine, and starts confessing sins. It takes a while.
Malory fades to black, then back from black, to indicate that a large amount of time has passed. Ector has fallen alseep and Nacien is playing Tetris on his phone.
“And then there was the thing with the bulls and Ector’s dream and the mysterious magical voice telling me I wasn’t going to find the Grail,” concludes Gawaine.
“Hm?” Nacien looks up when he realizes Gawaine is done. “Is that everything?”
Gawaine pokes Ector and asks if Ector has anything relevant to add. Ector wakes up long enough to say that he doesn’t.
“All right, then, listen. The thing with the bulls is an allegory. The meadow with all the bulls in it represents the Round Table.”
“Meanwhile, the meadow represents humility and patience, which cannot be overcome.”
“And the hay that all the bulls were eating was all the martial virtues that even terrible knights like yourself or Pitiless Bruce can claim.”
“Which means that you and your fellow knights were the bulls.”
“Man, it all sounds really simplistic and elementary when you lay it out like this!”
Nacien sighs. “Yeah, I don’t know why you felt you had to come here. Anyway, the white bulls are Percivale and Galahad, and the bull with only a little bit of a spot is Bors. Bors is just good enough: he only had one affair.”
Gawaine chuckles. “Yeah, Bors is kind of a loser like that.”
“And finally the bulls wandering off to die purposelessly, that’s you, here and now, accomplishing nothing by bothering me.”
Nacien goes on to explain Ector’s vision, which is about how Launcelot isn’t going to get the Grail, but he is going to get to go on a holy mystic vision-quest (already in progress).
“What about the disembodied spooky voice telling us we weren’t going to get the Grail?” asks Gawaine.
“That one I’m leaving as an exercise for the student,” says Nacien.
“You know,” muses Gawaine, “it’s almost as if you’re saying that I’m not going to achieve the Grail.”
“Duh. You’re not Percivale or Galahad or Bors. You’re not even Launcelot. You’re kind of a dick and nobody likes you except maybe Sir Uwaine, whom you killed a couple of chapters back.”
“Jeez. Isn’t there anything I can do? Sir Launcelot is getting a mystic vision-quest (already in progress)! Can’t I have one of those?”
“It is long time passed sith that ye were made knight, and never sithen thou servedst thy Maker, and now thou art so old a tree that in thee is neither life nor fruit,” replies Nacien. “Wherefore bethink thee that thou yield to Our Lord the bare rind, sith the fiend hath the leaves and the fruit. It would be an intense, laborious, uphill climb out of sinfulness. You’re extremely awful and there’s a lot to make up for, but if you’re willing to spend the next few hundred years working with me and living a simple life for deprivation, chastity, and self-flagellation…”
Deprivation, chastity, and self-flagellation are not things Gawaine is into. “Oh, look at the time, and I can see Ector has already wandered off. I better get going but it was great chatting with you, Nacien my man, I’ll tell King Arthur you said hi, okay? Great.”
So Gawaine and Ector mount up and ride out of there, and wander around for a long time looking for a backdoor back into the main plot. We’ll see them again in Book XVII, but right now Malory wants to turn to the last of the Grail seekers, or at least the last one he cares about: Sir Bors!