Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur, Book XVII Chapter 4
The scabbard is snakeskin, embroidered with silver and golden thread spelling out writing, and it’s on a remarkably cheap belt.
The writing reads as follows: “I am a scabbard for the very best, and the knight who earns me will never be underdressed so long as he wears me. But only a virginal princess may remove me from about my bearer’s waist, and if she ever ceases to be virginal after so handling me, she will die.”
“Ominous,” says Percivale. “What’s it say on the back?”
There are indeed more words on the back of the scabbard, in red and black thread. “My bearer will regret taking me.”
“There’s a story for this one, too,” says Mags. All the knights settle in.
Once upon a time (and around the same era as the story in Book XIII, Chapter 10), Nacien, the brother-in-law of King Mordrains, was visiting the Isle of Turnance. He found this same ship, and the sword, and declined to draw it. Instead he spent over a week aboard the ship. Nine days after his arrival, the ship came to another isle by a rock, where a giant lived. Nacien was a prayer, not a fighter, but when the giant stormed in, ready to kill him for the crime of not being a giant, he remembered the scary magic sword.
Nacien ran to the sword, and drew it, and waved it around, and then it fell apart on him as if it were some kind of trick sword. “Ah, the thing that I praised most ought I now most to blame. I regret taking it.” Then he left the ship and killed the giant somehow.
The ship then transported Nacien across the sea to a different ship, one that his brother-in-law Mordrains was aboard. They compared notes, and Mordrains expressed interest in the magic sword. “It probably just broke because you’re sinful,” he theorized. Mordrains found that the pieces of the sword stuck together when it was reassembled, as though the whole thing were a big rare earth magnet. He put the sword back in its sheathe, and then he and Nacien left together on his ship, leaving the magic sword and magic ship behind. Also Nacien stepped on a nail and hurt his foot and everyone agreed it was divine punishment for daring to draw the magic sword.
“Where are you getting these stories?” asks Bors.
“In the name of God, she is right wise of these works,” says Galahad. “Pray continue, Mags.”
Mags considers. “What else, what else…. Oh! King Pellas! Labor’s son and Elaine’s father and your grandfather, Galahad. Once he was out hunting and he got lost and turned around and he misplaced his knights and his hounds and then he and one other knight found this ship. They saw the carving over the entryway but came aboard anyway. And then Pellas found this sword, and drew it, and he shouldn’t have, so the other knight stabbed him, right in the jimmies, which was the second dolorous stroke.”
“…I don’t think that’s right.” Malory does not include Bors objecting to this, but it seems plausible that he, at least, of the group would be familiar with the story of Sir Balin, Lady-Killer from back in Book II.
“Moving on!” cries Mags, and leads Percivale, Galahad, and Bors over to a bed with some spindles of thread hanging over it, like a mobile. “This story is about King Solomon!”
Primary Sources: Le Morte D’Arthur, Book XVII Chapter 4 — No Comments
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