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The Kingmaking (Pendragon's Banner Series #1)

The Kingmaking (Pendragon's Banner Series #1)

by Helen Hollick


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"Compelling, convincing, and—ultimately—unforgettable."—Sharon Kay Penman, Bestselling Author of Devil's Blood

Who was THE MAN
Who became THE LEGEND
We know as KING ARTHUR?

"You are the Pendragon, rightful Lord of Dumnonia and the Summer Land; Lord of less Britain. By all that is right, you ought be seated where Vortigern sits...You ought to be King."

Here lies the truth of the Lord of the Summer Land.

This is the tale of Arthur flesh and bone. Of the shaping of the man, both courageous and flawed, into the celebrated ruler who inspired armies, who captured Gwenhyfar's heart, and who emerged as the hero of the Dark Ages and the most enduring hero of all time.

This is the unexpected story of the making of a king — the legend who united all of Britain.

Praise for The Kingmaking:
"If only all historical fiction could be this good."—Historical Novels Review
"Helen Hollick has it all. She tells a great story…"— Bernard Cornwell
"Hollick's interpretation is bold, affecting, and well worth fighting to defend." —Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781402218880
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication date: 03/01/2009
Series: Pendragon's Banner Series , #1
Pages: 592
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 8.94(h) x 1.24(d)

About the Author

Helen Hollick lives in London, England with her husband, daughter, and a variety of pets, which include several horses, cats, and two dogs. She has two major interests: Roman/Saxon Britain and the Golden Age of Piracy—the early eighteenth century. Her particular pleasure is researching the facts behind the small glimpses of history and bringing the characters behind those facts to full and glorious life. She has an Honours Diploma in Early Medieval History and is co-scriptwriter for the movie project 1066.

Read an Excerpt

Excerpt from Chapter One

He was ten and five years of age and, for the first time in his life, experiencing the exhilaration of the open sea and, for this short while, the novelty of leisure. The boy, with a grin fixed as wide as a new moon, folded his arms on the rail and leaned forward to watch the churn of foam boiling about the ship's bows. Salt spray spattered his face, tingling against skin that bore the faintest trace of manhood about the upper lip and chin. The sharp, sea-tang smell burst up his nostrils like a cast spear to his brain and hammered behind his eye sockets. He tossed his head high, back, bracing his body with his hands against the leap and plunge of the deck, and laughed with the pure energy of unequalled pleasure.

His eye sought the furl of the Dragon Banner flying proud from the masthead. He twisted his body to see it better—a snake-like tubular shape, curling and writhing with a life of its own. Streamers shrieked with the passing of the wind, and the head flashed gold in a display of fire sparked by the caught rays of the sun. Ah, but it was good to be out in the open! Out on the sea, heading for Britain with Uthr Pendragon's war host!

A sister ship, the same as this great war-beast, save that she flew no dragon, plunged into the cleft of a tossing wave, thrust herself forward, gallantly keeping pace. The boy waved to men on board, grinning the wider to receive a brief flung acknowledgement.

Then he saw Morgause watching him, standing as straight and stiff as the single mast.

A fine-bred lady, Morgause, with the figure of a goddess and the vanity of an empress. She held her cloak tight around her shoulders, her slender fingers clasping a rose-coloured silk veil that held her sun-gold hair in place against the ripping wind.

If the ship was the perfection of sail, then she, to look upon, was surely the perfection of woman. Venus, Uthr called her in the intimacy of their lovers' bed. Perfection to the naked eye, often marred when examined close by a flaw within—hers the arrogance and cruelty that came with high ambition.

The boy's pleasure faded as fast as a tossed stone sinks below the surface of a calm pond. Why did the Lord Uthr need bring her? Why her and not his wife— although she could be as bad, with her constant praying to God and perpetual muttered litanies. An invading army was no place for a woman, not even for the mistress of the man who considered himself to be Britain's rightful king.

Her eyes—cold, calculating, ice-blue eyes—bore into him; evil eyes that never smiled except at the indulgence of her own twisted pleasures. His right hand was behind his back; he made the protective sign against evil, knew she was aware he made that sign. Strange, from tales he had always assumed witches to be ugly, dark creatures, not having the beautiful fair skin of Morgause.

He tried again to feel the joy of the ship but the excitement had faded, lost under this shadow of her foreboding. Instead, the lad ducked below deck and made his way to where Uthr's soldiers squatted playing dice or board and counter games. He was safe from her down here—she would not come where the men lodged—although it was so much better to be out there, in the air and sunlight…

Lord Uthr, called the Pendragon, approached Morgause from behind and wrapped his great oak-branch arms around her slender waist. She stiffened and pulled away from him, not caring at this moment for intimacy.

"You ought not let the boy do as he pleases, Uthr," she said. "Give him leave to take holiday and he will be fit for nought when it comes to returning to duties."

Uthr laughed, a deep bear-growl rumble. "He's just a lad. Leave him."

Morgause made no answer. She had no intention of letting the boy run wild, unchecked and undisciplined. Why Uthr had brought him she had no idea. He was nurtured as foster son by Uthr's brother—but a war host was no place for a boy who, in truth, was no more than the bastard brat of a long-dead servant girl. Uthr found the boy to his liking, but to her mind he was a lazy, roughedged, insolent whelp who needed regular beating to remind him of his place. Common gossip favoured the foster father, Ectha, as the brat's unknown sire— although there had been some who had whispered of it being Uthr himself. He had the more likely reputation, would once have rutted with any whore available. A smile slithered across Morgause's lips, so carefully painted with vegetable dye. Not now. Now, he lay only with Morgause, youngest sister to his God-possessed wife.

"They say, below decks," Uthr said, nibbling at her ear—she attempted to brush him aside—"I have brought you with the intention of finding you a suitable husband." He ignored her flailing hand. "Shall I do that, my pretty one? When I have lopped the tyrant Vortigern's head from his noble shoulders and placed myself as King of all Britain, shall I wed you to some noble lord?" He swivelled her around, aimed a large wet kiss at her lips, smudging the red colouring. "Or shall I set aside my wife Ygrainne and wed you myself? Queen Morgause. It has a nice ring!"

She would have felt pleased had she known him to be serious. But Uthr was always jesting, always making fun of her aspirations. Curtly she answered, "My lord will do with me as he may please."

"Ha!" Uthr laughed again. "At this moment it pleases me to stand here on this swaying deck and kiss you." He glanced around. "It would please me even more had I a tankard of wine in my free hand! Where's the boy got to?"

Morgause said nothing, glanced instead at the wake foaming behind the speeding ship. Happen Providence would supply a discreet chance to tip the brat overboard before they reached Britain?

Instead, Fortuna followed the boy. Showing herself in the guise of squalling rain and a blustering westerly wind, she came stamping over the horizon with the dawn. Uthr's soldiers, landmen not seafarers, huddled below deck groaning as their stomachs heaved up to their throats. The Less Britain sailors scurried regardless, taking a reef into the square sail and jibing close to the wind. Thunder was brewing, would be upon them before mid-morning. For the boy, the storm was thrilling. To his delight, he found himself and Uthr the only passengers braving the deck.

Weather-seasoned sailors grinned at him as they scuttled about, great waves of spray soaking their clothes to the skin, the wind beating in their faces and snarling through the Dragon Banner overhead. Uthr ruffled the lad's hair, sharing his wild exhilaration.

"Is a battle like this?" the boy asked, eyes wide as a silver salver, salt-encrusted hands gripping the ropes along the rails. "Is it as exciting?"

Uthr laughed, making a hasty grab at his cloak that swirled in a gust of mauling wind. "Aye, lad. Danger breeds a sharpness that courses through your blood as hot as a man's lust for a beautiful woman." He watched fascinated as lightning lit the blue-black sky from horizon to horizon. "Always," he shouted through the following roar of thunder, "be aware. Keep your head, your sense. When you throw a spear, throw your soul with it. Let your sword be one with your arm." He made accompanying gestures, casting an imaginary spear, cleaving the air with a sword. "Keep tight control, boy. You will feel fear; fear pumps your blood the faster, but let not the fright touch your face. Keep it close, tucked well behind the shield of calm expression." He put his arm around the lad's shoulders and declared with a gusted laugh, "The same applies to handling women." He grinned. "The secret there, lad, is to let them think they hold control!"

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