“You’re a priest, right?” Bors asks not-Nacien.
“I’m absolutely a priest. I’m Nacien; Nacien is a priest. Therefore I am a priest.”
“I had this dream you can maybe interpret, then.” Bors relates the dream he had instead of sex, back in Chapter 8.
“Oh, that’s an easy one for Nacien! I’m Nacien!” Not-Nacien explains that the white bird was Catherine, offering love and riches and material happiness, but not ultimate spiritual reward. The black bird and the flowers were probably unrelated nonsense. Because Bors helped Catherine (and Yelena) out, even though he didn’t sleep with either of them, he was delayed in his travels; thus Lionel died and Launcelot will die.
“Wait, wait, Launcelot’s going to die? And I could have prevented it by ignoring ladies’ pleas for aid?”
“I thought that was obvious from the dream,” says not-Nacien. “Don’t see why you’re acting so surprised. Man, am I ever Nacien! I’ve never been more Nacien than I am at this moment!”
“I really would prefer Launcelot not die. Is there anything I can do?”
Not-Nacien shrugs. “We should get some dinner at the tower here by the chapel. I’m so Nacien!”
And then he led Sir Bors into an high tower, and there he found knights and ladies: those ladies said he was welcome, and so they unarmed him, Malory tells us. Not-Nacien doesn’t stick around for dinner, for whatever reason.
At dinner, Bors meets the lady of the tower. If you thought Catherine was great, you haven’t seen this lady! Except you, the reader, have: she’s the same lady who fed Percivale back in Book XIV. She’s still the richest lady and the fairest of all the world, and she’s still nothing but pleasant and friendly, and she’s still the Devil.
Bors spent all of his willpower points resisting Catherine’s charms, so he’s pretty well tapped out when it comes to resisting the Devil. She starts flattering him, and plying him with gifts and promises of ecstasy. When he demures, she gets all pouty. “Alas, shall ye not do my will? By ‘my will’ I mean me, just so we’re clear. I have loved you long for the great beauty I have seen in you, and the great hardiness that I have heard of you, that needs ye must lie by me this night, and therefore I pray you grant it me. Sleep with me! You’d be doing me a favor!”
To distract himself from the incredible appeal of the Devil, Bors visualizes Lionel, lying dead under a bush. It’s just the thing, Malory tells us. “Truly,” says Bors, “it’s extremely tempting, but I shall do it in no manner wise.”
The Devil bursts into tears, such that Bors feels bad about himself. “Well Bors, unto this have ye brought me, night to mine end! Ye shall see how I shall die for your love!”
“Whoa, hey now,” says Bors. “Let’s not do anything hasty!”
But the Devil has already run up to the top of her tower, along with a dozen of her handmaidens. “I’ll jump!” she cries. “All of my handmaidens will jump, too! Won’t you, girls?”
“Sir Bors, gentle knight, have mercy on us all, and suffer my lady to have her will,” begs one of the handmaidens. “Just sleep with her a little bit? That’s all we’re asking! If ye do not we must suffer death with our lady, for to fall down off this high tower, and if ye suffer us thus to die for so little a thing all ladies and gentlewomen will say or you dishonour.”
“Aw, man,” mutters Bors. Ladies in peril! It’s his one weakness. He can’t sleep with the Devil, or else he loses the Grail Quest. He can’t not sleep with the Devil, or else he will be partially responsible for these women’s’ suicides.
Bors drops to his knees and prays for guidance, Stella Morris style. He frets and he goes back and forth, but ultimately he comes down on the side of not sleeping with the Devil.
And anon he heard a great noise and a great cry, as though all the fiends of hell had been about him; and therewith he saw neither tower, nor lady, nor gentlewoman, nor no chapel where he brought his brother to.
“Oh wow.” Bors utters another prayer, this time thanking God for delivering him from the Devil. “Fair Father God, I am
NEXT: Somebody congratulates Bors on defeating the Devil without resorting to self-castration! Really, he deserves a round of applause. The Devil’s attempt to sideline Bors was about ten thousand times more subtle than her plan for Percivale.