The Endless Knot (Song of Albion Series #3)by Stephen R. Lawhead
First published almost twenty years ago, The Song of Albion Trilogy has become a modern classic that continues to attract passionate new readers. Enter into The Endless Knot and experience the dazzling brilliance of a world like ours--yet infinitely bolder and brighter: a place of kings and warriors, bards and battles, feats of glory and honour. It is a place you will… See more details below
First published almost twenty years ago, The Song of Albion Trilogy has become a modern classic that continues to attract passionate new readers. Enter into The Endless Knot and experience the dazzling brilliance of a world like ours--yet infinitely bolder and brighter: a place of kings and warriors, bards and battles, feats of glory and honour. It is a place you will forever wish to be. It is Albion.
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The Endless Knot
By Stephen R. Lawhead
ZondervanCopyright © 1998 Zondervan
All right reserved.
Chapter OneDark Flames
A fire rages in Albion. A strange, hidden fire, dark-flamed, invisible to the eye. Seething and churning, it burns, gathering flames of darkness into its hot black heart. Unseen and unknown, it burns.
These flames of darkness are insatiable; they grow, greedy in their spreading, consuming all, destroying all. Though the flames cannot be seen, the heat scorches and singes, searing flesh and bone alike; it saps the strength, and withers the will. It blisters virtue, corrodes courage; it turns love and honor to hard, dark embers.
The dark fire is an evil and ancient enemy, older than the Earth. It has no face, no body, limbs, or members to be engaged and fought, much less quenched and conquered. Only flames, insidious tongues, and hidden dark sparks that blow and scatter, blow and scatter on every fretful wind.
And nothing can endure the dark fire. Nothing can stand against the relentless, scathing corruption of the unseen flames. It will not be extinguished until all that exists in this worlds-realm is dead cold ash.
The oxhide at the door rippled as Tegid Tathal stepped into the hut. His quick eyes searched the darkness; he could see again. His blindness had been healed, or at least transmuted somehow into vision by the renewing waters of the lake. For he saw me sitting in the straw on the floor, and he asked, "What are you doing?"
"Thinking," I replied, flexing the fingers of my silver hand one by one. That hand! Beauty made tangible in fine, flawless silver. A treasure of value beyond imagining. A gift to me-a warrior's compensation, perhaps-from a deity with a most peculiar sense of humor. Most peculiar.
Tegid assures me that it is the gift of Dagda Samildanac, the Swift Sure Hand himself. He says it is the fulfillment of a promise made by the lord of the grove. The Swift Sure Hand, by his messenger, granted Tegid his inner sight, and gave me my silver hand.
Tegid observed me curiously while my thoughts drifted. "And what are you thinking about?" he said at last.
"About this," I raised my metal hand. "And fire," I told him. "Dark fire."
He accepted this without question. "They are waiting for you outside. Your people want to see their king."
"I had to get away for a while. I had to think."
The sound of merrymaking was loud outside; the victory celebration would continue for days. The Great Hound Meldron was defeated and his followers brought to justice, the drought was broken, and the land restored. The happiness of the survivors knew no bounds.
I did not share their happiness, however. For the very thing that secured their safety and gave wings to their joy meant that my sojourn in Albion had come to an end. My task was finished and I must leave-though every nerve and sinew in me cried against leaving.
Tegid moved nearer and, so that he would not be speaking down to me, knelt. "What is wrong?"
Before I could answer, the oxhide lifted once again and Professor Nettleton entered. He acknowledged Tegid gravely, and turned to me. "It is time to go," he said simply.
When I made no reply, he continued, "Llew, we have discussed this. We agreed. It must be done-and the sooner the better. Waiting will only make it worse."
Tegid, regarding the small man closely, said, "He is our king. As Aird Righ of Albion it is his right-"
"Please, Tegid." Nettleton shook his head slowly, his mouth pressed into a firm line. He stepped nearer and stared down at me. "It is permitted no man to stay in the Otherworld. You know that. You came to find Simon and take him back, and you have done that. Your work is finished here. It is time to go home."
He was right; I knew it. Still, the thought of leaving cut me to the heart. I could not go. Back there I was nothing; I had no life. A mediocre foreign student, a graduate scholar woefully deficient in almost every human essential, lacking the companionship of men and the love of a woman; a perpetual academic with no purpose in life save to scrounge the next grant and hold off the day of reckoning, to elude life beyond the cocooning walls of Oxford's cloisters.
The only real life I had ever known was here in Albion. To leave would be to die, and I could not face that.
"But I have something more to do here," I countered, almost desperately. "I must have-otherwise, why give me this?" I lifted my silver hand; the cold metal appendage gleamed dully in the darkness of the hut, the intricate tracery of its finely wrought surface glowing gold against the soft white of silver.
"Come," the professor said, reaching down to pull me up. "Do not make it more difficult than it already is. Let us go now, and quietly."
I rose to my feet and followed him out of the hut. Tegid followed, saying nothing. Before us the celebration fire blazed, the flames leaping high in the gathering dusk. All around the fire people rejoiced; snatches of song reached us amid the happy tumult. We had not taken two steps when we were met by Goewyn carrying a jar in one hand and a cup in the other. Behind her a maid carried a plate with bread and meat.
"I thought you might be hungry and thirsty," she explained quickly, and began pouring the ale into the cup. She handed the cup to me, saying, "I am sorry, but this is all I was able to save for you. It is the last."
"Thank you," I said. As I took the cup, I allowed my fingers to linger upon her hand. Goewyn smiled and I knew I could not leave without telling her what was in my heart.
"Goewyn, I must tell you-" I began. But before I could finish, a pack of jubilant warriors swarmed in, clamoring for me to come and join them in the celebration. Goewyn and the maid were pushed aside.
"Llew! Llew!" the warriors cried. "Hail, Silver Hand!" One of them held a haunch of meat which he offered to me and would not desist until I had taken a healthy bite from it. Another saw my cup in my hand and poured ale from his own cup into mine. "Slainte, Silver Hand!" they cried, and we drank.
The warriors seemed intent on carrying me away with them, but Tegid intervened, explaining that I wished to walk among the people to enjoy the festivity. He asked them to guard the king's peace by removing any who would disturb me, beginning with themselves.
As the warriors went their noisy way, Cynan appeared. "Llew!" he cried, clapping a big hand upon my shoulder. "At last! I have been looking for you, brother. Here! Drink with me!" He raised his bowl high. "We drink to your kingship. May your reign be long and glorious!"
With that he poured ale from his bowl into my already full cup.
"And may our cups always overflow!" I added, as mine was spilling over my hand at that moment. Cynan laughed. We drank, and before he could replenish my cup, I passed it quickly to Tegid.
"I thought we had long since run out of ale," I said. "I had no idea we had so much left."
"This is the last," Cynan remarked, peering into his bowl. "And when it is gone, we will have long to wait for fields to be tilled and grain to grow. But this day," he laughed again, "this day, we have everything we need!" Cynan, with his fiery red hair and blue eyes agleam with delight and the contents of his cup, was so full of life-and so happy to be that way after the terrible events of the last days-that I laughed out loud with him. I laughed, even though my heart felt like a stone in my chest.
Excerpted from The Endless Knot by Stephen R. Lawhead Copyright © 1998 by Zondervan. Excerpted by permission.
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