The Hidden Kingdom: Avalon [An Alternative History Enacted as a Trilogy: Book Two] [NOOK Book]

Overview

The story continues... Three manage to escape on the last ship, as the disintegrating islands of Atlantis start to sink. Almost overwhelmed, they must somehow survive to reach the open waters of the Great Ocean. A heartbroken Merlin is surprised as they voyage to a new beginning... in Avalon.
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The Hidden Kingdom: Avalon [An Alternative History Enacted as a Trilogy: Book Two]

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Overview

The story continues... Three manage to escape on the last ship, as the disintegrating islands of Atlantis start to sink. Almost overwhelmed, they must somehow survive to reach the open waters of the Great Ocean. A heartbroken Merlin is surprised as they voyage to a new beginning... in Avalon.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • BN ID: 2940000149447
  • Publisher: Double Dragon Publishing
  • Publication date: 9/23/2008
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 1,315,416
  • File size: 686 KB

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Disenchantment

The heavens were a black backdrop, flecked with gold/white, fire-bright scatterings and clusters of stars, and intersected by the cloudlike radiance of that 'river in the sky' known as the Milky Way. Yet to the Watcher, the primary focus, that which gave meaning to the splendor of this infinite expanse was one particular planet, hanging as though suspended in space. It was a blue, gold, and white jewel, a thing of form perceived in time, yet in itself a manifestation of timelessly pure spirit-light.

To the Watcher it appeared as an island in a dark, but fire-flecked sea, and he could see nothing to mar the infinitude of its perfection. Here was a thing Hue of the Heavens had created out of his own substance, divine light, and yet possessed of its own life; separate from, and yet united with the source of its being.

If spirits can smile, then the Watcher must have been smiling at the moment when he first perceived this thing, because he sensed straightaway that the Elohim, who had carried out the command to create, were rejoicing at the perfection of their creation. This jewel had been perfectly placed within the cosmic wheel, and around it these Elohim could now dance and sing with uninhibited joy, as it set out upon its journey in deep space through the Great Year, joining with its older partners in the 'great dance'.

Yet the Watcher knew, even from the beginning, that there were those who did not rejoice in this creation, and that not all the spirits in the heavens valued the unity it both represented and manifested. Therefore, it should have come as no surprise to him when shadows began to move among and across thestars, even before the new creation had completed the first year of its journey through the houses of the zodiac. And he must have known, even as the first shadow appeared, that discord would soon mar the universal harmony of 'the music of the spheres'.

Worse was to come. There was war beyond Orion, among the northward stars. Light and darkness dueled. Stars would faint--their lights extinguished as the shadows enveloped them, only to shine again as the light drove back all that was dark and impenetrable. Time passed; not as can be measured in years, but time in which the Watcher could see that the shadows were achieving some measure of success. Some of those lights that had lent splendor to the original creation did not reappear.

However he, along with all created things, knew that in the end light cannot be overcome by darkness, and the Watcher rejoiced to see that the shadows were being driven back at the end of the first 'time of the heavens'. Yet ... Where will they go? Evil things, he well knew, will never remain homeless for long. The answer was all too soon dreadfully apparent.

Driven back by Hue of the Heavens and His Celestial Hierarchies, the black shadow-forms of their evil counterparts poured down upon this jewel of a planet in headlong retreat. Michael the Archangel might have closed the gates of the macrocosm against them, but the Watcher could only stare in helpless horror, as black shadows first stained, then smeared, and finally corrupted, the pure light of this heaven born jewel.

If spirits can weep, then he must have wept as this tragedy unfolded, because the Watcher well knew what these evil things were doing to this creation of spirit and light. They were corrupting its substance, thickening it from spirit into matter. And what of those heavenly beings appointed to guide it on its journey through the Great Year? The answer was painfully clear. All that did not escape when the shadows descended would be forced to take on bodies made of the newly corrupted substance of the planet. They would become flesh.

From now on all who came in contact with this corrupted thing would inevitably become material, and therefore corrupt in themselves; well might the Watcher weep, because he knew now what his destiny entailed. Hue of the Heavens had set him to watch over the newly created worlds, as they appeared one after the other across the vastness of the heavens. In order to fulfill the divine command in relation to this world would mean that he must descend himself, and willingly take on the degradation of materiality.

As one who had had no part in that primal 'original sin', he would be less likely to become infected by making this sacrifice than would those who had adopted it willingly. Yet danger and temptation would always shadow his steps.

Nonetheless he was not such a one as would shirk a duty, however painful. If descend he must into this now material world, then he would. The future might appear to bode ill for this once beautiful planet, but he knew it was not hopeless. Hue would not permit evil to triumph forever. The time would come when He would take back what was His ... when this thing--once of spirit born light--will be returned to 'The Source', and become light once more. Meanwhile the Watcher could do his part, and thus help to prepare the way for one who would come, and truly reset this planet upon the path of return.

So now he was descending, turning his back regretfully upon that pure, illimitable splendor of innumerable stars and suns. The music of the spheres, alas, is already becoming fainter. The planet was becoming larger as he swept towards it.

It now filled his vision. Corrupted it might be, but there was still about it much that was beautiful. The light of Hue could not be entirely extinguished, despite the worst efforts of his enemies. And now, where shall I touch upon this thing? At what point shall I descend, and begin my work? He looked; water was below him, a river spreading itself into marshland. Water, water everywhere; spirit descends into water, and from that water do other forms of material life emerge. Perhaps that same water will one day lead them back.

The Watcher hesitated. Time passed, though he did not feel it, and then he saw what he had been seeking. A small ship was crossing a silvery, sunlit expanse of water. So, the descendents of Hue's first creation have learnt to master this medium. It was time for the final descent, time for him, for a while to take on flesh...

At that one point in time, a wide, flat, and indeterminate world opened out on every side. Land and water were inextricably mixed, flowing into one another in a magical panorama of subtle shifts, and elusive changes. The sun shone through gaps in a palely cloudy, but pearl-bright sky, yet with a delicately gold-hazed light that conveyed too little heat to offset the wetly sharp chill of the breeze.

The water's surface was a widespread, inconstantly shifting, and swirling pattern of little whirlpools, of currents that changed direction unpredictably, but all was overlaid with dazzling, flashing sparks of sun-fire. It was as if the day was throwing down handfuls of white-gold pieces, perhaps to counterpoint the haunting, windblown calls of waterfowl echoing across the broken silence.

The River Brue, swollen by winter and spring rains, had overflowed its banks, as it did every year, flooding out across flat, treeless country that was a marsh in even the driest of summers. It was therefore impossible to tell at this time where the river ended and the land began. Nothing but up-thrusting reed clumps appeared above this shimming, ever-changing surface, to give some indication of the water's depth.

Nothing, that is apart from a range of broken-topped, undistinguished looking hills across the southern horizon, but these would be restful to tired eyes, since they constituted the only stable element in an otherwise unstable world. Yet the bright, but somehow insipidly flaring dazzle of this day's light hardly displayed them to advantage; rather did they manifest as uninspiringly grey rather than green ... And all in a land and waterscape that would have appeared devoid of any evidence of human activity, were it not for a solitary trading ship pursuing her way eastwards under oars.

The vessel in question was a knorra, a merchant ship of Eskuelan design--a ship built by craftsmen from the island kingdom of Eskual Herrio; or rather, what had once been the island kingdom, before the cataclysm that overwhelmed Atlantis also wiped out more than half of its island chain. However, to return to what had caught the descending Watcher's attention. The ship in question was not overly large, even by the standards of that far-off time, but she was most certainly substantially built, being broad-beamed and bluff-bowed. She was bulky like most traders, and riding low in the water, as though heavily laden.

She exhibited many signs of storm damage. Her mast had been replaced with a makeshift jury rig; the bulwarks were encrusted with salt, her steering oar was no more than a roughly trimmed plank, and her decking appeared to be coming apart at the seams. Obviously, there'll be no more Ocean voyaging without a great many repairs, observed the Watcher. Even a landsman can see that. And 'tis also obvious she's come from far away ... from drowned Atlantis if I mistake not. As if all that were not enough, discarded lashings showed where long-lost lifeboats had once been stowed, giving her a sad, dishevelled look.

The ship was being propelled by a single bank of oars against a weakly contrary breeze, moreover the crew showed--by their ragged stroke--unmistakable signs of exhaustion, as they approached the end of what had clearly been a long, and demanding voyage. The Watcher could almost hear their muttered curses. How they must be swearing at that wind. Which, though not strong, was blowing in such a way as to make their one square sail unusable, as if it were teasing the poor souls.

Yet it was also obvious she was in no immediate danger of sinking, and her crew knew where they were headed. How anyone could find the river's true channel in that haphazardly shifting, watery wilderness was a mystery. But find it they seem to be doing ... due to her captain, whom I think I recognise ... Aha, I thought so, 'tis Belasius' old friend Corinius. The man in question looked much the same as he had when they left Atlantis for the last time, driven by tidal waves, and with the island continent sinking behind them.

Indeed I've never seen him look any other way than broad and bulky like his vessel, with weather-beaten skin, a roughly trimmed grey beard, and a tangled mass of hair that looked as if it hadn't been combed since the start of the voyage ... it probably hasn't. The captain in question was standing beside his steersman. He was clad in thick, brown leggings, a knee-length tunic of none-too clean undyed wool, and a salt-stained leather seaman's apron. He was standing with his feet planted firmly apart, and dividing his attention between sky, wind, water, and the distant outline of the hills; all the while giving directions in a voice surprisingly quiet for one of such commanding bulk, while in the bow stood Merlin; he who had caused such a stir in Kibil Natala by going off to look for a daughter of the emperor, just as Atlantis was within days of its final destruction.

There appears to be nothing adventurous about him now. Indeed he stood there, grey-mantled against the morning chill, and separated from Corinius, not merely by the length of the vessel but also by a wealth of bitter experience and strange knowledge. His was the knowing of a high calling, of drama, and harrowing tragedy. He has the temperament to match ... like the one who will succeed him in the ages to come.

* * * *
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