Book of the Cauldron and the Book of the Stone

Book of the Cauldron and the Book of the Stone

by Diana L. Paxson
     
 

In her sweeping and magnificent multi-volume work THE HALLOWED ISLE, acclaimed author Diana L. Paxson brilliantly reinvents the classic myth of Arthur from the unique perspectives of four distinct tribal cultures that shaped Britain in the violent days of the sixth century.Book Three: The Book of the Cauldron

In the wake of the departure of the

Overview

In her sweeping and magnificent multi-volume work THE HALLOWED ISLE, acclaimed author Diana L. Paxson brilliantly reinvents the classic myth of Arthur from the unique perspectives of four distinct tribal cultures that shaped Britain in the violent days of the sixth century.Book Three: The Book of the Cauldron

In the wake of the departure of the Roman conquerors and the defeat of the invading Saxons — during the rise of a strange new faith called Christianity — the princes of Britannia dream of a return to bygone days...while others on the island invoke the magic of a time older still. Wounded in body and spirit, King Artor summons the Lady of the Lake, his mother Igierne, to use the power of the Cauldron to heal a troubled, wartorn land. But a darkness is emanating from high places and it threatens to devastate a realm.Book Four: The Book of the Stone

A new generation longs for the glory their fathers knew. And Medraut, the son conceived by deceit, lusts for Artor's crown...and his queen. With the king drawn again to battle in Gallia by dreams of Empire, the royal lady Guendivar holds the sovereignty of the isle and must stand fast against the rising tide of revolt. But if the rightful Defender of Britannia does not return in haste to reclaim his kingdom, the hallowed isle will be ripped asunder and no power will heal the land.

Editorial Reviews

Marion Zimmer Bradley
I look forward to reading any of Diana Paxson's work.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780380817597
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
02/06/2001
Series:
Hallowed Isle Series, #3
Pages:
384
Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.96(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Birth Pangs A.D. 487

Just before sunset, a wind came down from the heights to ruffle the water. The Lady of the Lake breathed it in gratefully, for the day had been warm, a promise of the summer season that Beltain would usher in. In the lands of men, the young folk would be going out into the woods to gather greenery for the festival, and if they took rather longer than was strictly necessary to cut the branches, and came back with their clothing awry, even the Christians would hardly dare chastise them on this eve. But on the Isle of Maidens there was no need to bring in the wilderness, for it was all around them. And while man and maid performed the old earth magic, she and her priestesses would invoke the magic of the waters whose power enabled all these green and growing things to survive.

Beyond the screen of willow and the silver sheen of the water, the mountain crouched like an old woman, cloaked an hooded in misty blue, hunched against the dimming sky. Igierne had seen it so when, as a girl, she first claimed this spot as her private bathing place. Now she was an old woman herself. But the mountain remained the same.

She hung the rough towel across a branch and slid the cloak from around her shoulders, shivering a little at the touch of the air. For a moment she hesitated to remove her shift as well, but it was not going to get any warmer. Lips twisting wryly, she dragged it over her head and made her way down to the waterside.

White and wavering as a birch trunk, she saw her body reflected there. I am a waning moon ... she thought wryly. Even her hair, once golden, was faded now to silver-fair. As agirl, she had spied on the older priestesses at their bathing and been astonished to find their bodies still so smooth. It surprised her still, looking down, to see her own shape so much younger than the face in her mirror. True, her breasts lay pendant upon her rib cage, and her belly had been stretched by the weight of two children, but her buttocks were round with muscle from walking, and her arms were firm.

If Uthir had been living, she would have rejoiced in his delight in her body, but he slept now beside his brother in the mound before the Giant's Dance. No longer was she high queen and his lady. Now it was her son Artor who ruled. When the princes of Britannia chose him, Igierne had offered to stay and manage Ins household, but the lords of Britannia, having accepted her son's right to rule them, wanted no motherly meddling in the process of turning him into a king. Even Merlin had been tolerated only grudgingly as, his tutor, perhaps because they feared him.

And so she had returned to the Isle of Maidens to reclaim the role for which she had been born. She wrote to Artor with some regularity, seeking to supply the guidance she had not been allowed to give before, but increasingly her counsel came from her meditations as a priestess, rather than her memories of life as Uthir's queen. On the rare occasions when she visited her son, his court seemed like another world. These days, the health of her body mattered only because it served her soul. And that-she smiled down at the woman who looked back at her from the water-was still that of the maiden who had first bathed in these waters so long ago.

Still smiling, she stepped down the shelving strand into the water.

"Blessed be my feet, that I may walk in Thy ways ...blessed be my legs, that I may stand before Thee ... blessed be my womb, that I may be Thy shrine. . . " She scooped up water, purifying each part of her body, murmuring the words thatwould make her a fit vessel for the power of the Goddess to fill.

The Isle of Maidens lay hidden within the double enclosure of the Lake and its encircling hills. The Romans had massacred the Druid priesthood on the isle of Mona, and driven them from Afallon that men now called the Isle of Glass, but this sanctuary they had never found. In time its huts of daubed withies had been replaced by stone, but in some things the priestesses still held by the old Druid ways, and the most sacred of their rituals took place beneath the open sky.

If the island was doubly warded, the hazelwood formed the innermost barrier around its center, where a fissure in the island's rocky core had created a cave. The Sword-God's shrine had been a temple built by men, tolerated, but never truly belonging to the isle. The cave was its most ancient and original sanctuary. Three fires burned now before it, but the entrance remained in shadow.

Igierne lay back against the carved wood of her chair, willIng, her breathing to remain steady, waiting for her heartbeat to slow. Her pale hair lay loose upon her shoulders. For this ceremony her maidens were robed in white. Only she wore the black of the midnight sky, though her ornaments were of silver, set with moonstone and river pearls.

Overhead, a scattering of stars glimmered in the river of night. Long practice had taught her to sense the slow turning of the skies. The moon was in its third quarter, and would not rise till the night was half gone. Imperceptibly her breathing began to deepen. She straightened, hearing her own heartbeat echoed by the soft beat of a drum. Anticipation tightened her skin as the women began to sing

"Thou art the source and the stream ... Thou art the desire and the dream. . .that which is empty and that which fills, that which receives and that which wills; Thou art the part and Thou art the whole, Thou art the body and Thou, the soul. . . ."

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