When I first finished Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend in 2008, there was never any intention to continue the story. I had accomplished my purpose: To introduce young readers to this misunderstood queen. However, Guinevere's friend Cedwyn had other ideas.
In the intervening years while I traveled and worked on other stories, there was a small voice inside that just wouldn't give up. Cedwyn continued to ask when I was going to fulfill my promise to make him a knight.
In late 2015, I finally gave in. I'm so excited to share with you this peek at Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend! Book 2 of my Guinevere trilogy is expected to be released late April/early May 2017.
Chapter 1 - Guilt
A strong north wind rushed down the valley to Cadbury Castle, scattering yellowed leaves blown down earlier. The smell of winter filled the air—crisp and sharp—with the promise of early rains and snow instead of the mild fall usually seen.
It also carried another scent on its breath—war. Throughout the spring and summer, conflict ripped through the northern counties of medieval Britain. The battles—bringing death to many—sent the ashes of villages, burnt to the ground instead of surrendering, south. A light dusting of ash powdered the castle parapets and floated down onto the roofs turning them a greyish-white. The ash covered every level surface and nook, inside and out. On days like today, when the wind raced through, people tried to breathe shallow to avoid inhaling the acrid smoke.
High up on the castle’s parapet, a slender figure stared north, oblivious to the frequent gusts of wind. Tendrils of brown hair escaped from the cowl of a dark green cloak and whipped around the figure’s head. A nasty gale ripped off the hood, revealing the worry-lined face of a young princess—hollowed cheeks streaked with tears and dark circles smudged under her amber eyes. Just past fifteen years old, Guinevere would have been a queen were it not for the war raging throughout Britain. Instead of celebrating her marriage to the young Arthur Pendragon, legions of men rode through the north under his banner, determined to defeat the renegades refusing to fall in line behind King Arthur.
Her betrothal to Arthur—at the age of thirteen—took Guinevere by surprise. The loyalty of her friend Cedwyn and the wisdom of the wizard Merlyn helped her accept her destiny. But, it was the story of the red deer and the unicorns that made her understand the importance of her marriage.
The day after her thirteenth Birth Day, Merlyn had taken her and Cedwyn deep into the old magical forest that surrounded the castle. They came upon a herd of red deer. Mixed in the middle of the herd were fawns and baby unicorns playing and jumping. When a fawn or unicorn escaped from the center, the harts nipped those on the neck or hindquarters sending the youngsters squealing back into the herd.
Merlyn explained the reason behind the harts’ behavior with his story:
When the forest was young, unicorns roamed over the entire island that is Britain. One day in a terrible storm, a red deer lost its way and was carried across the water to these shores. Not knowing the land, the deer became lost and unable to find fresh water. When the unicorns found it, the deer was dying of thirst. Then nudged and pushed the deer to fresh water and later showed it to the best grazing grounds and the safest places to bed down. A few years later another deer was discovered on that same shore, and the unicorns saved its life also. The two deer mated, started a herd, and promised to protect the unicorns should they ever be in danger.
As the years came and went, the population of the red deer increased while population the unicorns—constantly hunted for their horns that were considered magical—dwindled to almost nothing. And so when asked, the red deer kept the vow made hundreds of years ago and protected the remaining unicorns forever.
Guinevere learned that day that there was little difference between what the red deer promised the unicorns and what kings promised their people. Guinevere, as a queen, would be expected to protect her people in exchange for their loyalty.
It had sounded simple that night, but not now. Making the right decision to protect someone wasn’t easy.
A sigh escaped her blood-spotted lips, cracked and sore from standing on the castle wall while the wind destroyed the summer in her land. Now, her best friend moved further from her reach and safety. Her lack of patience—exacerbated because of her guilt and frustration at not being able to help Cedwyn and the children—caused her to be short with the others. Unless necessary, those left at the castle tried to avoid her, even though she was King Leodegrance’s daughter, and Arthur’s future queen. Now she stood on the battlements and waited each day for sight of her father, or Arthur coming home with the knights.
Guinevere wished she could erase her decisions and the aftermath, but it wasn’t possible. She stared down at the castle gates where, in what seemed a different lifetime, another woman, Brynwyn, Cedwyn’s ma, had stood, afraid for Guinevere and Cedwyn, as they and others started on their dangerous journey.
(Keep an eye open for a peek at the cover of Guinevere: At the Dawn of Legend!)
HAPPY SPRING! Welcome you to the March 2017 Kid Lit Blog Hop.
On this Hop, Carpinello's Writing Pages interviews
the YA Writing Team of
On this Hop, Carpinello's Writing Pages interviews
the YA Writing Team Lee Bice-Matheson
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