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Many years have come and gone since I awakened in this worlds-realm. Too many years of darkness and death, disease, war, and evil. Yes, very much evil.
But life was bright once, bright as sunrise on the sea and moonglow on water, bright as the fire on the hearth, bright as the red-gold torc around my grandfather Elphin's throat. Bright, I tell you, and full of every good thing.
I know that every man recalls something of the same golden sheen in life's beginning, but my memories are not less real or true for that.
Merlin. a curious name. Perhaps. No doubt my father would have chosen a different name for his son. But my mother can be forgiven for her lapse. Merlin Myrddin among my father's people suits me. Yet, every man has two names: the one he is given, and the one he wins for himself.
Emrys is the name I have won among men and it is my own.
Emrys, Immortal. Emrys, Divine Emrys Wledig, king and prophet to his people. Ambrosius it is to the Latin speakers, and Embries to the people of southern Britain and Lloegres.
But Myrddin Emrys am I to the Cymry of the hill-bound fastness of the west. And because they were my father's people, I feel they are my own as well. Although my mother long ago taught me the folly of this belief, it comforts me much, I suppose, as it must have comforted my father in his times of doubt.
And as there is much evil in the world, there is much doubt also. This is not the least of the Adversary's servants. And there are so many others .
Well, and well, get on with it, Mumbler. What treasures from your plundered store will you lay before us?
I take up my staff and stir the embers and I see again the images of my earliest memory: Ynys Avallach, the Isle of Avallach. It is the home of my grandfather, King Avallach, the Fisher King, and the first home I ever knew. It was here in these polished halls of his palace that I took my first faltering steps.
See, here are the white-blossomed apple groves, the salt marshes and mirror-smooth lake below the looming Tor, the whitewashed shrine on the nearby hill. And there is the Fisher King himself: dark and heavy-browed like a summer thunderstorm, stretched on his pallet of red silk, Avallach was a fearful figure to a child of three, though kind as the heart within him would allow.
And here is my mother, Charis, tall and slim, of such regal bearing as to shame all pretenders, and possessing a grace that surpasses mere beauty. Golden-haired Daughter of Lleu-Sun, Lady of the Lake, Mistress of Avallon, Queen of the Faery her names and titles, like my own, proliferate with time all these and more men call her, and they are not wrong.
I was, I knew, the sole treasure of my mother's life; she was never at any pains to disguise the fact. Good Dafyd, the priest, gave me to know that I was a beloved child of the Living God, and his stories about God's Son, Jesu, kindled my soul with an early longing for paradise just as Hafgan, Chief Druid, wise and true, faithful servant in his own way, taught me the taste of knowledge, awakening a hunger I have never satisfied.
If there was want in the world, I knew nothing of it. Neither did I know fear or danger. The days of my childhood were blessed with peace and plenty. On Ynys Avallach, at least, time and the events of the wider world stood off, remote; trouble was heard merely as a muted distant murmur soft like the wailing of the bhean sidhe, the Little Dark People, the Hill Folk in the stone circles on the far hilltops; distant as the roar of a winter storm cresting mighty Yr Widdfa in the rockbound north.
Trouble there was, make no mistake. But in those sun-sweet days of my earliest remembrance we lived as the gods of an older time: aloof and unconcerned with the squabbles of the lesser beings around us. We were the Fair Folk, enchanted presences from the Westerlands living on the Glass Isle. Those who shared our waterworld of marsh and lake held us in great esteem and greater dread.
This had its uses. It served to keep strangers at a safe distance. We were not strong in the ways men respect strength, so the web of tales that grew around us served where force of arms did not.
If that sounds to you, in the age of reason and power, a weak, ineffectual thing, I tell you it was not. In that age, men's lives were hedged about with beliefs old as fear itself, and those beliefs were not easily altered, nor less easily abandoned.
Ah, but look! Here is Avallach standing before me on a dew-spangled morning, hand pressed to his side in his habitual gesture, smiling through his black beard as he would always smile when he saw me, saying, "Come, little Hawk, the fish are calling they are unhappy. Let us take the boat and see if we might liberate a few of them."
And, hand in hand, we go down the path to the lake to fish, Avallach working the oar, little Merlin holding tight to the gunwale with both small hands. Avallach sings, he laughs, he tells me sad stories of Lost Atlantis and I listen as only a child can listen, with the whole of my heart.
The sun climbs high over the lake, and I look back towards the reedy shore and there is my mother, waiting for me. When I look she waves and calls us back, and Avallach turns the boat and rows to meet her and we return to the palace. Although she never speaks of it, I know that she grows uneasy when I am too long from her sight.