We flash back to the end of Book XIII, Chapter 8. Sir Bors, like all the rest of the knights on the Quest for the Holy Grail, rides out of Camelot and quickly finds himself alone. He rides along for an indeterminate time, and then he bumps into a religious man riding an ass.
“Sir Bors!” cries Nacien when he sees him. “Listen, I’ve only got a little time before I’m due in Book XIII, Chapter 13, which is apparently not my earliest chronological appearance even though it was three whole books ago. You’re on the Quest for the Holy Grail, right?”
“Uh, yeah,” says Bors. “Have we met?”
Nacien shakes his head no.
“Well, it is true that I am after the Grail. It seems like the kind of thing that, if you get it, people will remember your name and that you exist and you won’t be a strictly second-tier Arthurian figure.”
“Could be worse; you could be Pitiless Bruce,” points out Nacien. “But regardless, the Grail is a fine thing to quest for, and my job right this second is to point out that it’s a religious thing, and so you really ought to confess all your sins before you try for it. Sins will just weigh you down.”
Bors can’t argue with that, so he lets Nacien lead him to a nearby hermitage, where the two of them pray and confess and listen to confession, all night long. In the morning Nacien feeds him bread and water.
“One more thing,” Nacien tells him. “Bread like this needs to be the only thing you eat until you find the Grail. Between now and then, you’re fasting, got it? Bread only. No meat.”
“That sounds reasonable,” says Bors. “You make it sound like my finding the Grail is a fait accompli, though.”
“Also, take off your shirt and put on this red one.”
Bors takes off his shirt and puts on a red one that Nacien gives him.
“Don’t take that shirt off until you find the Grail,” warns Nacien.
“No shirt-changing, no food, got it.”
“I really like your willingness to jump through these seemingly arbitrary hoops, just on my say-so,” says Nacien. Nacien marvels at how great a guy Bors is, what with his holding the record for Fewest Affairs in Camelot, by a Knight Who Isn’t Galahad Or Percivale. Just one affair! The one with Princess King-Brandegore’s-Daughter, which resulted in Bors’s illegitimate child, Elaine.
“Or maybe it was a son, named Pale Elian,” says Malory. “Doesn’t really matter.”
“You said daughter before,” I point out.
“Shut up,” explains Malory.
After Nacien’s pep talk, Bors gets his stuff together and rides on. A little ways down the path he watches as a mama bird feeds her baby birds with her own flesh, dying for them.
“Portenous!” he says to himself, and then he rides along to the Tower Of The Hot Chick, where he meets, oh, let’s call her Catherine.
You’re going to like Catherine.