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Arthur Rex
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ISBN-10: 1-77115-331-8
ISBN-13: 
Genre: Fantasy/SF/Fiction/Adventure
eBook Length: 326 Pages
Published: September 2016

From inside the flap

We all know their stories: Merlin, his prince Arthur and their eternal enemy, Mordred. Or maybe we don’t. Arthur Rex reimages their legends as a story that leaps across time, over continents and deep into outer space for an ultimate confrontation which will decide the fate, for good or evil, of all humankind.

The novel begins as aging Merlin, all too human, sneaks away from his the iron-age hilltop fort of Camelot in search of an enchanted cathedral where his youth can be restored. But the place he seeks has been created as deadly trap by his fellow magus and blood enemy, Mordred, who knows perfectly well of Merlin’s vanity. Merlin, imprisoned beneath the cathedral, eventually manages to escape. But while Merlin is captured Mordred’s army destroys Camelot and kills Arthur. Merlin, with the help of two bumbling survivors, concocts his own trap, destroys Mordred’s army and captures Mordred. But what to do with a creature of implacable evil? Merlin is determined to end the cycle of their endless war. He immobilizes Mordred with a special curse and, in the greatest secrecy, sails alone to the fifth century AD American continent. Merlin entombs Mordred deep in the wilderness and remains on there, confident that he spared the future world from an unrelenting evil.

A thousand years pass. The wilderness continent becomes the crowded, shiny 21st century United States. One spring day an industrial accident releases Mordred from his tomb. His powers return in the open air. Mordred immediately enlist an extraterrestrial army and creates chaos in the modern landscape. Merlin, long retired, marshals his forces for a new war. He discovers his 21st century American Arthur. Together they fight an ancient enemy. But the new Arthur is untrained. Mordred and his army escape to their next goal, a place even more important than the earth, an Eden-like planet at the center of the Milky Way. The planet is guarded by bumbling warriors who, for the first time in many generations, must fight to protect their home and the secrets concealed in its mountains. There Merlin and Arthur prepare to fight. What Arthur discovers in the high country violently changes everything about their ultimate battle. Their final conflict takes place on a battlefield so distant that Arthur is sure that he will never return from it. But he fights anyway. His life and Merlin’s are at stake, along with the lives of all people on earth.

Arthur Rex draws on many different sources, including, among others, Beowulf, world creation myths, Mallory, Tolkien, H.G. Wells, and even Pratchett to remake an ancient lay for a 21st century audience.

Arthur Rex (Excerpt)


Part One

Fifteen hundred years ago an old man struggled through the most terrible of winter storms. He should have known better. After all, he was wise to kings and counselors. His reputation extended throughout the greenwood kingdoms of ancient Britain.

He was more than wise - he was sly and immersed in the powers which today we have long scorned. But in those times such powers terrified. Why did some possess those powers? That was mysterious as the eclipse of the sun.

Soon, after certain events, this fortunate one wouldn't feel strong or chosen, only responsible. He would be sure he had failed everything and everyone he'd come to treasure on this small earth.


Chapter 1

A hundred and forty-one times you've glanced over your shoulder, the old man chided himself silently, now that you are definitely in danger. Then he spoke aloud. "Because you are a special sort of fool."

The bleak winter moor landscape, all lichen-covered rocks and gorse, didn't help. His words jumbled against the saurian hills and died away.

His scrawny mount snorted and twitched his ears. The old man whipped his head in the other direction. His animal, too scrawny even for eating, at least possessed sure instincts.

But the old man discovered nothing, just more of the somber landscape he'd witnessed during a week's steady travel on this lonely excuse for a road.

How far he'd gone didn't seem that important. It was important that the journey, the travail, was almost done. His certainty came from shrewd guessing and, honestly, from his dreams. An old man on a bony horse could hardly expect anything better; nor could a plowman, smithy, baker, stone carver, or housewife, people who did all the work in the old one's world. But the old man considered himself cleverer than most several times over. It was a severe weakness and he knew it.

The cleverness began with how hard he made journey. Strictly speaking, one with his powers didn't have to suffer a long stint on a sway-back animal. But who would pay any attention to a grandfather on a broke-down nag?

He glanced in all directions one more time.

"So far," he mumbled, "so good. Not great, but good enough."

I am still in their world.

His shoulders sagged at the truth. Years and years, many of their lifetimes, brought him to this place on winter British moor.

"Fool," he mumbled again because it seemed so right. "Fool, fool."

For variety he added, "Idiot, idiot, idiot."

He drew his threadbare cloak over his head. Suffering, he reminded himself, is what these beings do best. Now that you've thrown your lot in with them don't expect much more.

He glanced ahead. He stopped and wiped his eyes.

Among the winter-stunted trees and heath, a spring-time eruption of purple, crimson, and golden carpeted the valley below.

His heart beat faster. Impossible, the old man thought, under normal circumstances. Somebody's been fooling with things. But this is exactly what I want. And require. And I may demand.

He gave his animal a gentle kick.

The path led steadily downhill. They entered the narrow valley. The old man fell quiet and watched and listened more carefully than ever.

The path I'm following followed is barely wide enough for a dog cart, he noted. How does anyone around here feed himself? Where are the farms and pastures? Maybe they live off the air itself.

His horse snorted and stopped. A young lady, barefoot, wearing a green smock, stood in the road. She gave the old man a wide smile, as if she understood nothing, turned, and fled.

Around the next sharp turn he entered the village. It wasn't much in term of numbers, only a row of stone cottages, perfectly hewn and sparkling clean. Each was identical. Beside every doorway a young man or woman stood, wearing the same smock of forest green as their neighbor. Everyone was smiling. There were no children or the old, only the very healthy young, quiet and yielding as the old man and his mount passed.

At the end of the village road a last building appeared. It was another matter altogether. It wasn't large, a rectangle of stone sitting at an odd angle to the path. But its stone was pitted and weather-worn smooth and so deeply grown with moss that it seemed to have sunk deep into the ground. How can anything human-made be so old in the middle of this nowhere? The old man asked himself, but he felt fear and jubilation simultaneously.

A cathedral, he decided. He noted that the broad doorway and the walls where the moss hadn't taken hold showed relief carvings. Not of the usual Celtic or Roman crosses either; these were of lizards, scorpions, spiders, wolves, foxes, wild horses, lions, and huge bears.

He shivered. You know, he accused inwardly. Dwaddle, he accused right back and felt his hear thump against his ribs. It's far, far too late. No, he argued back, pull this animal's head around and give him your spurs. You are safe till you enter that place. Age and its suffering are worthy. At least compared to what you don't know.

A crowd of villagers quietly surrounded the horse. A man politely but insistently took the reins from his hands.

"Mind you," the old man sighed, "this is borrowed property."

A striking woman, taller than the rest and wearing an elaborately embroidered costume, stepped forward. She gazed up, dark-eyed, and took his hand.

"Come along now. We've made a place for you."

Her hand felt so soft, warm, and alive.

"Don't you desire what we have? We know you do."

He sputtered. "I am very weak."

"Not at all. Look around. Where is the hurt and decay here? You are in pain now. Imagine - your youth returned, joined with your wisdom."

"Scary indeed," he mumbled.

"Must hurry," she insisted. "Hurry, hurry now."

She tugged and the old man slid from his horse. He stumbled. The young ones with their strong limbs held him upright.

"If only," he said shakily, "I knew you were real."

They laughed a little, not too much, but just right.

He was half-carried toward the cathedral doors. The old man started to make a wisecrack about needing a better maintenance crew, but a flash of distant light against the clouds caught his eye. He stopped cold.

"My lord?" the woman questioned.