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ISBN-10: 1-55404-640-8
Genre: Fantasy/Action/Adventure
eBook Length: 275 Pages
Published: February 2009

From inside the flap

King Arthur dies in Lancelot’s arms at Camlann, and Camelot dies with him. Lancelot takes Arthur’s body to Glastonbury, where the mortally ill Guinevere sees her King once more, before joining him in death. Lancelot is attacked by Meleagaunce, who wants Excalibur. Having allowed the Black Knight to wield Excalibur against him in single combat, Lancelot kills him.

Lancelot fulfils his promise to Arthur: he takes Excalibur to the lake. Vivian, the Lady of the Lake, comes to Lancelot in the night. She restores his memories of the time when she forged him into the most powerful warrior ever to fight under heaven’s direction, and then became his lover. Vivian now explains that because he resisted Excalibur’s curse, Heaven has ordered him to remain on earth until a time far in the future, when he will guide another Arthur as a leader, in a new land across the ocean.

Granted invulnerability and eternal youth, Lancelot plies the only trade he knows: war. Having retired from and then rejoined the U. S. Marine Corps many times, under the family name of James Lancelot Benwick, Lancelot retires once again to his house in Piedmont, California. When an eighteen-year-old girl phones him from the Oakland bus terminal to say that her name is Vivian Camlann, and she has been dreaming of him, Lancelot knows that the gathering of the principals of the legend has begun once again.

Vivian, in this age, proves to be an irreverent, street-wise, sultry temptress. In the days following her coming to live in Lancelot’s house, Merlin appears in Vivian’s dreams. He promises to restore her memories, and reveals that Arthur is with him. Now a nattily dressed businessman, Merlin meets Lancelot and Vivian. With but a touch of the old mage’s hand, Vivian bitterly remembers that she gave up heaven to return to Lancelot’s side.

For his part, Lancelot tells Merlin and Vivian that he refuses to be used, this time around. When they pick up eight-year-old Arthur at school, Arthur lets his companions know what he thinks of the legend: “I have a genius IQ, and now I’m teamed up with an Alzheimer’s patient, a troll, and a beat-up hooker: all of whom screwed me a thousand years ago. Cut me some slack!”

Lancelot and Vivian, in their modern personas, become lovers once again. They engage in passionate, highly erotic sexual exchanges rendered even more memorable by the fact that they can sense each other’s thoughts.

Aided by a vampire named Serge Balkovitch, Lancelot fights the supernatural horde assembled by a reborn Meleagaunce and Morgause, who are now known as Mallor and Madeline Blackstone. Lancelot learns that because he long ago allowed Mallor to hold the Sword of Kings in battle, he catapulted Mallor into the legend’s first position. Mallor now possesses Excalibur. Refusing Merlin’s plea to honor the legend, Lancelot begins to dismantle it, starting by encompassing the death of Modred: Mallor and Madeline’s re-born son. In this rearrangement, Lancelot is allied with Merlin, Vivian and Arthur.

Lancelot learns that a vampire offspring of Lilith, a supernatural being named Dunkan, used Mallor’s operation to assemble an army of vampires and shape-shifters. Dunkan plans to bring chaos upon the world. This archenemy of humankind seeks Excalibur. Inadvertently, Dunkan unites the Arthurian legend’s players – both friends and foes – against his own self. A final climactic battle between Dunkan and Lancelot rewrites the legend for all time.

Lancelot (Excerpt)

Chapter One: Camlann

Lancelot felt his right foot slip on the blood-soaked ground. Rolling into the slip, and using his mangled shield to regain balance, the huge knight thrust low, disemboweling the figure before him. Screaming in agony, Lancelot's opponent dropped shield and sword and clutched his spilling entrails. With no time to pause, Lancelot swung upward to his left, parrying the killing stroke from yet another foe struggling over the growing mound of his fallen comrades, all of whom had been killed or maimed by the deadliest knight of the age. Sweating profusely, the man cursed the information which had claimed that Lancelot would not be with King Arthur here at Camlann. His broadsword clanged off to the side harmlessly, turned by Lancelot's skillful parry.

Falling back quickly, wary of Lancelot's merciless counterstrokes, the weary warrior gasped for air as he brought his shield and broadsword into a defensive posture. It would be the man's last act on earth, as Lancelot leaped upwards, slicing murderously over his adversary's shield. Blood spouted from the ghastly neck-wound in an arching font. Lancelot bowled over the collapsing knight, ripping his sword free of the man's body while spinning to face any new foe appearing from the mist-shrouded battlefield.

Modred's army gave ground from what once looked to be a sure slaughter. They outnumbered King Arthur's legion nearly two to one, but word of Lancelot's presence had chilled even the most skilled of Modred's followers. Seeing the grim mailed giant near the King, Modred had heard the fearful whispers of dread hissing through his battle line. All the kingdom knew that even after being surprised in the Queen's bed, Lancelot had killed and wounded half-a-dozen fully armored knights. Thinking to barter for time, Modred had ridden forth with three of his knights under a flag of truce, hoping to postpone the battle till a day when his father would be at odds once again with the mercurial Lancelot. King Arthur had met his dark son with only Lancelot mounted next to him.

"I see you ride with the knight who cuckolded you, Father," Modred called out, knowing that the front ranks of both armies would hear his voice in the early morning hush. "Have you no shame or hope of honor?"

Before Arthur could speak, Lancelot surged forward, his mount bucking into the man at Modred's left as if the snorting beast were joined to the knight. In but a moment's time, Lancelot gripped the startled Modred and held a dagger at the usurper's throat. Modred gasped as the razor-sharp blade drew blood.

"Have a care, sprout," Lancelot's bass voice warned, the menace in his words belying the rage barely held in check. It was no secret that Lancelot despised Modred. "Only honor holds your neck in one piece. Speak of me again, and I will end this war before it ever begins. Nod your understanding, sprout, or I will slice the apple from your neck, and still the poison vomiting from your mouth forever."

Modred had nodded his understanding, while he gripped the reins of his horse with shaking hands. He looked to his Father beseechingly, seeing Arthur's ever-present compassion for his ill-born son. Lancelot looked back at Arthur, still poised to undo all Modred had so skillfully brought to fruition.

"Allow me to end this blight on your land, my King," Lancelot pleaded, the guilt over his betrayal a palpable entity. "It will be my dishonor, not yours."

"Retreat to my side, old friend," King Arthur spoke finally in measured tone. "Let us hear what my son has to say. Perhaps we can still avoid this dark hour ahead."

"One slice, and we will be past any reckoning in one bloody second," Lancelot reasoned, his hand gripping the dagger-handle with deadly intent.

"To me, Lancelot," Arthur ordered. "Honor must hold this day."

Lancelot paused, staring into Modred's cringing face coldly. "Choose your words wisely, sprout, or not even the King will be able to prevent your death."

Lancelot spun his mount expertly. Easing around to the King's side once again, he clenched his dagger longingly, looking at Modred with regret. Impatiently, the knight waited for the parley to end. Arthur's continued blindness for the evil within his offspring perplexed Lancelot to no end. Only his own responsibility in causing so much of the King's pain and anguish somewhat quelled the resentment Lancelot harbored for Modred. Peering through the rising wispy tendrils of the ground fog that heralded yet another overcast daybreak, Lancelot plotted his actions with a warrior's anticipation of what he considered the inevitable.

Modred eyed Lancelot with fear, as even Arthur noticed. His son was not without skill, but in comparison to the blooded warrior at his side, Modred was a child. Lancelot had nearly beheaded Arthur himself at their first meeting, brushing past the fabled Excalibur with the speed of thought. Only the sudden appearance of Lancelot's mystical stepmother Vivian, Lady of the Lake, had stilled Lancelot's killing blow. Upon hearing from Vivian who it was he fought, Lancelot immediately pledged his sword to Arthur. Only Lancelot's irresistible enchantment with Queen Guinevere had threatened their friendship. The night prior, Arthur had embraced the contrite Lancelot as a long-lost brother, and all the camp rejoiced at the fabled knight's return.

"Why do you come here, my son?" King Arthur asked quietly in the silence brought about by Lancelot's outburst. "Can you not be satisfied ruling the lands already given to you? My time will pass, and all I have garnered in this world will be yours. Will you be patient and quit the battlefield today?"

"You will make such a pledge in writing?" Modred seized on Arthur's promise with relish, thinking inheritance a better prospect than what Modred could see in Lancelot's eyes: his bloody death.

"It has always been yours, and I will add a written document to my word if you so desire," Arthur said with a father's regret at his son's distrust.

Modred had ordered his archers into a position where they had a clear field of fire before he rode forth to speak with his father. All they awaited was a gesture. Modred erred in glancing back in the direction of his army, hoping to see through the thickening mist, and wondering if his archers would see the gesture. Lancelot immediately deduced Modred's planned option, and rode in front of Arthur, his shield swinging up in defense of the King.

"The sprout plots your assassination, my liege," Lancelot whispered urgently, weaving his mount back and forth in front of Arthur. "Let me kill the traitor."

Modred, seeing his plan uncovered, began holding his hands up innocently.

"Hold, father, I but retreat to my lines," Modred pleaded. "Allow me to consider your offer for a time. No man shall draw weapon in the meantime."

"Go then," Arthur gestured wearily, knowing instinctively that Lancelot was right. "Let us retreat to our lines, my friend. We may yet avoid bloodshed."

"To what purpose, my King?" Lancelot reasoned, continuing his shielding maneuver as he backed toward their knights, staying between Arthur and Modred's battle line. "The black seed will surely turn on you again when you least expect it."

"I fear not, with you again by my side," Arthur replied. "Can you remain at my table without succumbing to my sorceress-Queen?"

"It was as much my doing as hers, Sire," Lancelot stated with sullen regret. "It is as you say, though. I am under her spell."

"Always the enabler," Arthur chuckled. "You have left my side for years at a time, on quests no other human could endure, all in hopes of avoiding Guinevere's wiles. She does not betray me with malice. Can we forge a new bond, in spite of all the sorrow and death endured, which this affair has caused?"

"It is my wish to soldier at your side until we are no more, Sire," Lancelot stated solemnly as the pair reached King Arthur's army. "I have killed brothers in arms over my passion for your Queen, and their blood scalds my soul every waking moment. Perhaps their sacrifice will quell my villainous lust. What of you, Sire? Can you forgive the…"

Modred had erred a final time. With shaking hand, he had called for his archers to launch their missiles before Arthur could be enveloped safely within his army. Lurching desperately with his shield, Lancelot intercepted the barrage of arrows while using his mount to jolt King Arthur's steed into the surging line of men. Thus began the final accounting which would end Camelot for all time.

Having blocked Modred's attempt on Arthur's life, Lancelot turned and rode full tilt into Modred's surging army. Arthur charged after his friend, with his own followers clamoring for blood at his back. Zigzagging skillfully, knowing that the mists blurred him as a target, Lancelot shot into the contingent of Modred's archers. The First Knight hacked through the stunned men with a fury birthed by his inherent distaste for the long-range killers. A grim reaper, harvesting death and mayhem with every sweeping blow of his broadsword, Lancelot drove the surviving archers into full flight, initiating chaos amongst the ranks. The knight's devastating attack on the flank of Modred's army caused a deadly hesitation at the usurper's attacking front line.

A moment before King Arthur led his army into a smashing rampage amongst Modred's ranks, a hail of arrows from Arthur's archers rained down through the mist with devastating effect. Without pause, Lancelot cut into Modred's flank until only the sheer numbers of milling soldiers halted his progress. Leaping down from his mount, Lancelot pushed the steed away, hacking a distance between him and his cherished war mount. A veteran of countless battles, the armored and hooded stallion reared up, before galloping over and through the mass of slow-moving infantry.

Now, an indefinable time later, Lancelot quickly surveyed the horrific battlefield, searching for his King. Modred's knights and infantry avoided Death's herald as if he were a living plague, hoping the battle would end before any more of them must face him. With defeat now dogging his every movement, Modred sought out Arthur with an urgency surpassing even Lancelot's. Finally, Modred glimpsed Arthur's banner to his right, and battled toward him with his own contingent of knights.

Spotting his rogue son cutting a swath through the press so as to face him, King Arthur galloped out from within the circle of knights pledged to die in his defense. The knights frantically battled free of the adversaries seeking to kill the King, and followed in Arthur's wake. The King swung mightily as he met Modred's knights. Excalibur smashed through shield and chain mail of the first knight within his reach. Modred's infantry, recognizing the King, managed to unhorse Arthur as his knights arrived in time to rally at his side. His warrior guard surrounding him, the King fought afoot with shield and sword, with Modred trying desperately to reach him.

Lancelot's first sight of Arthur since the battle's first moments was of Modred breaking through the line of knights and nearly trampling the King. Throwing caution aside, Modred dived upon the scrambling Arthur. Lancelot, nearly fifty yards away, threw his shield aside. In a berserker rage, Lancelot raced across the battlefield, killing and maiming any who stood in his way. Twenty feet from the King, Lancelot cried out as Modred thrust past Arthur's shield, impaling the King. Falling to his knees in agony, Arthur looked up in pain-filled sadness at his son. Modred ripped free the sword embedded in his Father, and swung to decapitate the King.

Lancelot dived across the fallen Arthur, parrying Modred's stroke at the last second. Rolling with his momentum, Lancelot regained his feet in time to engage Modred's backswing. Seeing Lancelot in front of him, Modred sought to retreat back to his knights, but to no avail. They were engaged in a pitched battle for life and death with Arthur's knights, and had no notion of Modred's plight.

"I hope you said goodbye to your cursed whore of a mother, sprout," Lancelot growled, swinging his sword back and forth in weaving fashion, the heavy blade appearing weightless in the warrior's hands. "This be your last accounting on earth."

Seeing Lancelot without shield, Modred bowled into him with his own shield. Fear tearing through him with each passing second, he slashed at the avenger's unprotected neck. Modred saw Lancelot smile grimly and step within the arch of his foe's sword-blow, slipping under the horrified youth's sweeping right arm and coming up in perfect counterstroke position.

"Goodbye, sprout," Lancelot hissed between clenched teeth as his sword, powered with every bit of energy in Lancelot's twisting body, clove Modred's head from his torso with deadly accuracy.

Knights and infantry paused on both sides of the conflict, on seeing this hideous spectacle. Modred's head landed to the side of his crumpling body. The usurper's eyes glimpsed their last vision: Lancelot's booted foot. The knight kicked Modred's head in utter disdain, and hurried to his King's side. Kneeling, Lancelot cradled the fallen Arthur in his arms, knowing from the bloody froth around the King's mouth that Modred had dealt him a fatal blow.

"My King, I have done for your killer," Lancelot whispered, as a hush spread over the battlefield and word of King and son spread rapidly amongst the armies. "I wish…"

"No…my friend…" Arthur spat blood, and clutched Lancelot's right hand with both his. "Not good…for a man…to die in bed. Two last deeds…I must ask of you…"

"Anything…" Lancelot agreed in a reverent tone, uncaring of the armored figures forming around the King and his First Knight.

"You must take Excalibur to your…" Arthur whispered, coughing up blood raggedly, "Vivian…the Lady of the Lake. Tell my Queen…tell her I…"

Lancelot leaned forward with intensity to hear what Arthur wanted said to Guinevere, but the knight saw the distant look of eternity in the King's staring eyes. Once mighty Camelot was at an end. Gently, Lancelot closed the King's eyes with ungloved hand, and lowered him to the ground. The knights and soldiers waited tensely for Lancelot to stand.

"The battle?" Lancelot looked from one knight to the other of those standing near him.

"Modred's forces have retreated from the battlefield, Sire," one of the soldiers answered. "The day is won."

"And lost," Lancelot finished tiredly, drained of emotion. "We will bury our dead, and make comfortable the soon to be dead, from both sides. I will prepare a shroud for our liege and journey with him to Avalon one final time. Is there any here who challenges what I must do?"

"We heard, Sire. You are First Knight. But for you, we would have been swept from the field today. We owe you our lives. I would not handle Excalibur, even if you felt compelled to ask it of me," Sir Bedivere stated, while the others around him nodded in agreement. "The sword is cursed with the mantle of kingship. May God grant you the strength to return it to hell, or to whatever mystical hole from which it came."

A loud murmur of agreement flowed amongst the gathered brethren-in-arms.

"I will fulfill his wishes, but only after this battlefield is cleared of our dead," Lancelot acquiesced reluctantly, having hoped for another to take the cursed sword. "I will fetch a proper shroud. I want a dozen vigilant men to guard my King's body. May God in heaven have mercy on you if anything befalls my liege before I return, because I will have none."

Carefully, Lancelot undid Excalibur's sheath from Arthur, and sheathed the King's sword. Shouldering the belt and sheath, he paced a few steps away from the group and whistled: a forlorn sound in the still-misty silence. His mount galloped to him out of the clinging fog, halting just a few feet away from his master. Lancelot hugged the snout of his fearsome steed, and then launched up into the saddle with practiced care. A soldier approached him hesitantly, holding up Lancelot's battered shield.

"I…I knew this to be yours, Sire," the soldier said, handing the shield up to Lancelot. "Be safe in your journey, my lord."

"Thank you," Lancelot said simply, and rode away without another word.

"Volunteers," Bedivere called out, standing near Arthur's body. "I am one."

More than a dozen knights and infantry ringed the body, all battle-weariness gone for the moment, in a final act of fealty to their King, and in respect for the King's First Knight.

A day later, Lancelot toiled in death's garden, stripped to the waist amongst a host of soldiers completing the dread task of burying their friends and foes alike. The First Knight had garnered both shroud and monk from the monastery at Glastonbury, where Arthur would be laid to rest. He had then toiled through the night, digging graves for the men who had died at his side and beneath his sword. It was a kindness unknown for the ill-fortuned casualties of war, who normally awaited the vultures - both human and animal - to pick their bones clean. Lancelot had known many on both sides. The monk worked diligently at his side, in dread and awe of his legendary companion, who had yanked him from his bed.

Lancelot worked through the day without respite, knowing it would be his last deed as a knight under Arthur's once splendid realm. He prayed silently for strength to carry out his King's last requests. Knowing that Excalibur lay sheathed near him made Lancelot's hands ache to hold and wield it in battle. Before accomplishing the nearly superhuman feat of returning the sword, Lancelot must journey to Guinevere, with words the knight could only imagine Arthur had meant to say before dying.

"You dig as if plagued by demons, my lord," the monk observed, handing the knight a water-skin, which Lancelot took gratefully.

"I am plagued by demons of my own making," Lancelot admitted, returning the water-skin. "We must soon accompany my King to his final rest, and I must face his Queen. I would sooner fight Modred, back from the dead, and all his knights."

"The sword still haunts your thoughts?"

"Only here, digging graves for the fallen, have I been able to resist the urge to take Excalibur and leave this realm forever," Lancelot replied. He picked up the digging implements, and walked toward the encampment on the outskirts of Camlann. "I go now to fulfill the King's last wishes, God willing. You will accompany me to Glastonbury?"

"I am your servant until you no longer need me, my lord."

Lancelot nodded his acknowledgement. He passed the guards ringing the small camp with the shroud of Arthur under the King's banner at the center. Sir Bedivere met Lancelot near King Arthur's temporary resting place. Lancelot gripped Bedivere's extended hand strongly in his own.

"You have been long with the dead, my friend," Bedivere stated solemnly, "but your eyes seem clearer."

"I am ready," Lancelot replied simply. "I will leave at dawn with Friar John to go to Glastonbury with our King."

"In your tent, I have made ready what you will need to clean up with. I've had your clothing and accoutrements cleaned and repaired. I know you wish to complete this final chapter alone, but is there anything more I can do?"

"Pray I have the will to match my strength. Your help and presence has been invaluable to me here." Lancelot embraced Bedivere as a brother.

"You will return soon?" Bedivere asked hesitantly, alarmed at the finality of Lancelot's manner.

"I cannot," Lancelot whispered, turning away, with Friar John in his wake. "My part ended with Arthur. God grant you peace now, my brother. Farewell."

"…and to you, brother," Bedivere replied in great sadness, watching the warrior retreat into his tent.