The Hallowed Isle Book Four: The Book of the Stoneby Diana L. Paxson
After years of conflict, Britannia finally knows peace and Artor reigns from his throne at Camalot. But discontent rumbles through the kingdom. A new generation longs for the glory their fathers knew. Medraut, the son conceived by deceit, lusts for Artor's crown and his queen. Dreams of an empire draw the king to Gallia to battle again, leaving the
After years of conflict, Britannia finally knows peace and Artor reigns from his throne at Camalot. But discontent rumbles through the kingdom. A new generation longs for the glory their fathers knew. Medraut, the son conceived by deceit, lusts for Artor's crown and his queen. Dreams of an empire draw the king to Gallia to battle again, leaving the sovereignty of the isle in Guendivar's hands. As Artor's painful absence grows longer, the land cries out for its champion and even the queen doubts his return. With the rise of revolt home to a country in turmoil. Only he can heal the land and reclaim the kingdom or else the hallowed isle will be ripped asunder once again.
A darkness born and bred for revenge shadows the nation. But one hope shines the Defender of Britannia.
Read an Excerpt
Chapter OneThe Bones Of The Earth Were Close To The Surface Here
Artor let the horse he was leading halt and gazed around him at grey stone scoured bare by the storms, furred here and there by a thin pelt of grass where seeds had rooted themselves in pockets of soil. Harsh though they were, the mountains where once the Silure tribesmen had roamed had their own uncompromising beauty, but they had little mercy for those footed creatures that dared to search out their mysteries. Sheepherds followed their sheep across these hills, but even they rarely climbed so high.
The black horse, finding the grass too short and thin to be worth grazing, butted Artor gently and the high king took a step forward. In the clear light Raven's coat gleamed like the wing of the bird that had given him his name. The stallion had gone lame a little past mid-morning. The stag they were trailing was long gone, and the rest of the hunters after it. The track that Artor was following now, though it crested the ridge before descending into the valley, was the shortest way home.
A stone turned beneath his foot and he tensed against remembered pain. But his muscles, warmed by the exercise, flexed and held without a twinge. Indeed, at forty-two, he was as hale and strong as he had ever been. And Britannia was at peace after untold years of war.
It still seemed strange to him to contemplate a year without a campaign. He would have to think of something -- public works, perhaps -- on which his chieftains could spend their energy so they did not begin fighting one another. He had even begun to hope that he might find it in him to be a true husband to Guendivar.
Artorwas still not quite accustomed to being able to move freely -- for three years the wound that Melwas' spear had torn through his groin had pained him. The night when the Cauldron, borne through the hall of Camalot by invisible hands, had healed them all was scarcely three months ago.
And a good thing, too -- half lamed, he could never have made this climb under his own power. But, now, gazing out across a landscape of blue distances ribbed by ridge and valley, the king blessed the mischance that had brought him here. On the Sunday past, Father Paternus had preached about the temptation of Christ, whom the Devil had carried off to a high place to show him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. Looking around him, Artor thought that the writer of the gospel must have gotten it wrong somehow, for he himself was high king of all he could see, and the sight of it did not fill him with pride and power, but with wonder.
And, he thought as the next moment brought new awareness, with humility. How could any man look upon this mighty expanse of plain and mountain and say he ruled it all?
Below him the land fell away in long green slopes towards the estuary of the Sabrina, touched here and there with the gold of turning leaves. A smudge of smoke dimmed the tiled roofs of Castra Legionis; beyond them he could just make out the blue gleam of the Sabrina itself. Closer still he glimpsed the villa from which the hunting party had set out that morning. To the south across the water stretched the dim blur of the Dumnonian lands. Eastward lay the midlands, and beyond them Londinium and the Saxon territories. Looking north he could imagine the whole length of the island, all the way to the Alban tribes beyond the Wall. The sky to the north was curdled with clouds. A storm was coming, but he had a little time before it was here.
From this mountaintop, the works of humankind were no more than smudges upon the hallowed isle of Britannia, set like a jewel in the shining silver of the sea.
But it does not belong to me -- Artor thought then. Better to say that I belong to the land.
A nudge from Raven brought him back from his reverie and he grinned, turning to rub the horse behind his swiveling ears, where the black hide sweated beneath the bridle. Men were not made to live on such heights, and at this time of year darkness would be gathering before he reached shelter. He patted the black's neck, took up the reins, and started down the hill.
For years, thought Medraut, these hills had haunted his dreams. But he had not visited the Isle of Maidens since his childhood, and he had convinced himself that the dark and looming shapes he remembered were no more than a child's imaginings. He was accustomed to mountains -- the high, wild hills of the Pictish country, and the tangled hills of the Votadini lands. Why should these be so different? But with every hour he rode, the humped shapes grew closer, and more terrible.
They are my mother's hills...he thought grimly. They are like her. As he dreaded these hills, he dreaded the thought of confronting her. But he was fifteen, and a man. Neither fear could stop him now.
At Voreda. he found a shepherd who agreed to guide him in exchange for a few pieces of gold. For three days they followed the narrow trail that led through the high meadows and down among the trees. Like many men who have, lived much alone, the shepherd was inclined to chatter when in company, and gabbled cheerfully until a glare from Medraut stopped him. After that, they rode in a gloomy silence that preyed upon the young man's nerves until he was almost ready to order the shepherd to start talking again.
But by then they had reached the pass below the circle of stones, and Medraut could see the Lake, and the round island, and the thatched roofs of buildings gleaming through its trees. He paid the shepherd then and sent him away, saying that from here he could follow the trail to the coast without a guide. He did not particularly care if the old man believed him, as long as he went away. The remainder of this journey must be accomplished alone.
Hallowed Isle Book Four, The. Copyright © by Diana Paxson. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Meet the Author
Diana L. Paxson is the award-winning author of The Lord of Horses, The Wolf and the Raven, The Dragons of the Rhine, The White Raven, and The Serpents Tooth, and coauthor (with Adrienne Martine-Barnes) of Master of Earth and Water, The Shield Between the Worlds, and Sword of Fire and Shadow, the chronicles of Fionn mac Cumhal. She lives in Berkeley, California.
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