Arthur is King—but treachery runs rampant throughout the beleaguered Isle of the Mighty. Darkest evil descends upon Britain’s shores in many guises. Fragile alliances fray and tear, threatening all the noble liege has won with his wisdom and his blood. His most trusted counselor—the warrior, bard and kingmaker whom legend will name Merlin—is himself to be tested on a mystical journey back through his own extraordinary past. So in a black time of plague and pestilence, it is Arthur who must stand alone against a great and terrible adversary. For only this way can he truly win immortality—and the name to treasure above all others:
“Though Lawhead brilliantly creates an authentic and vivid Arthurian Britain, he never forsakes the sense of wonder that has graced the legend throughout the ages.”—Publishers Weekly
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They say Merlin is a magician, an enchanter, a druid of dark lore. If I were and if I were, I would conjure better men than rule this island now! I would bring back those whose very names are charms of power: Cai, Bedwyr, Pelleas, Gwalchavad, Llenlleawg, Gwalcmai, Bors, Rhys, Cador, and others: Gwenhwyvar, Charis, Ygerna. Men and women who made this sea-girt rock the Island of the Mighty.
I need no Seeing Bowl, no black oak water, or fiery embers by which to perceive them. They are ever with me. They are not dead -- they only sleep. Hear me! I have but to speak their names aloud and they will awake and arise. Great Light, how long must I wait?
I climb the green hills of the Glass Isle alone, and I wear a different name. Oh, I have so many names: Myrddin Emrys among the Cymry, and Merlin Embries to those in the south; I am Merlinus Ambrosius to the Latin speakers: Merlin the Immortal. I am Ken-ti-Gern to the small, dark Hill Folk of the empty north. But the name I wear now is a name of my own choosing, a simple name, of no consequence to anyone. Thus I guard and protect my power. That is as it should be. One day those who sleep will awaken, and those who guard their slumbers will be revealed. And on that day, the Pendragon win reclaim his long-abandoned throne. So be it!
Oh, I am impatient! It is the curse of my kind. But time will not be hurried. I must content myself with the work given to me: keeping Arthur's sovereignty alive until he returns to take it up once more. Believe me, in this day of fools and thieves that is no easy task.
Not that it ever was. From the very beginning, it took my every skill to preserve theSovereignty of Britain for the one whose hand was made to hold it. Indeed, in those early years it was no small chore to preserve that smallhand as well. The petty kings would have roasted the lad alive and served him up on a platter if they had known.
Why? Well you may ask, for the thing has become muddled with time. Hear me then, if you would know: Arthur was Aurelius' son, and Uther's nephew; his mother, Ygerna, was queen to both men. And while Britain had not yet succumbed to the practice of passing kingship father-to-son, like the Saecsenkind, more and more men had begun to choose their lords from the kin of previous kings, be they sons or nephews -- all the more if that lord were well liked, fortunate in his dealings, and favored in battle. Thus, Aurelius and Uther, between them, had bestowed a prodigious legacy on the babe. For never was a sovereign better loved than Aurelius, and never one more battle-lucky than Uther.
So Arthur, yet a babe in arms, required protection from the power-mad dogs who would see in him a threat to their ambitions. I did not know Arthur would be Pendragon then. The way men tell it, I knew from the beginning. But no; I did not fully appreciate what had been given me. Men seldom do, I find. My own deeds and doings occupied me more than his small life, and that is the way of it.
Still, I recall the first faint glimmerings of the splendor that would be. Though it was a long time coming, when it finally broke, that glory blazed with a light so bright I believe it will shine forever.
Hear me now:
The nobles of Britain had been called to council in Londinium upon Uther Pendragon's death to decide who should be High King-- and there were plenty who thought to take his place. When it became clear no agreement could be reached and rather than see a hissing toad like Dunaut or a viper like Morcant seize the throne -- I thrust the Sword of Britain into the keystone of the unfinished arch standing in the churchyard.
"You ask for a sign," I shouted, my voice a roar of fury. "Here it is: whosoever raises the sword from this stone shall be the trueborn king of all Britain. Until that day, the land will endure such strife as never known in the Island of the Mighty to this time, and Britain shall have no king."
Then Pelleas and I fled the city in disgust. I could no longer abide the scheming duplicity of the small kings, so quit the council and rode with all haste to find Arthur. There was an urgency to my purpose, certainly. But even then I did not fully comprehend what drove me. I did not think him the future king, only a babe requiring protection -- all the more since the High Kingship remained unresolved. Even so, I felt an almost overpowering desire to see the child. The bard's awen was on me, and I could but follow where it led.
Later, yes. Understanding would come in its own good time. But when I bade faithful Pelleas saddle the horses that day, I simply said, "Come, Pelleas, I want to see the child."
And so we flew from Londinium as if pursued by all those angry lords we had left behind. It was somewhere on the road to Caer Myrddin that I began to wonder if there was more to our speed than a simple wish to see Arthur.
Indeed, something in me had changed. Perhaps it was the strain of contending with the small kings. Or perhaps it happened when I joined the Sword of Britain to the stone. However it was, this I know: the Merlin who had ridden into Londinium so full of hope and anticipation was not the same Merlin who rode out.