Why King Arthur Endlessly Endures.
I know I’ve mentioned this before, but I can’t resist, especially with this book, so I’m going to mention it again. I happen to know that Sassy lives in one of my favourite cities in all of England. It’s so thick with history it just crawls with it. I’ve visited her home town and walked all over the university grounds there, and love, love, love the place. Every building you bump into is at least a couple of centuries old. The pub I had dinner at one of the nights I was there was three hundred years old and the owner, when I was talking with her, said casually “Of course, the ghost upstairs is a noisy old bugger if we don’t remember to shut the door at night,” which tends to make your eyes cross a bit once you process the words beyond the casual tone.
If you haven’t clued in yet, I’m a history nut, and Britain is prime hunting territory for me. Coming from Australia, where nothing is much over sixty seconds old, Britain was like Christmas and Valentine’s Day rolled into one for me. My friends, who barely read books, let alone history books, couldn’t understand my wide-eyed wonder over old buildings, even older dusty and mouldy books and antiques and when we actually drove through Sherwood Forrest, they didn’t understand why I couldn’t sit still. Nottingham and York were like boxes of candy for me. Sassy’s home town...nirvana.
I could give you a very long list of towns and cities and locations in Britain that just reek with historical significance. Europe is stuffed full of them, too. The further east you move, especially as you head south into the Mediterranean basin, the older the history gets and the more fascinating it all becomes.
But I’m just concentrating on Britain today, because it’s been an obsession of mine for years. I’m not actually an Anglophile. I like my British history pre-Anglo-Saxon if I can help it, although I’ll take Norman England every now and again, because those feuding Plantagenets are irresistable.
But King Arthur...
What is it about King Arthur that we just can’t seem to leave alone? Every ten or fifteen years, the myth of King Arthur re-emerges on the big screen or small, or in books, in bigger and better life, in a new shape or interpretation, and we obsess over Arthur all over again.
Is it the fact that the story is a tragedy? That you watch this magnificent, quixotic life and know it was all for naught?
Sometimes, I think we’re all caught up in the glory and spectacle of it, but there are versions of Arthur that aren’t at all glorious. They’re far more closer to what Arthur would have been in fact, and they’re plain, humble, hard struggles for survival, and despite that those retellings are still un-put-down-able.
I would like to think that Arthur is simply, in the end, a role model we would all like to emulate. He insisted on doing what he thought was the right thing even though it was against the most overwhelming odds, and the most bitter opposition, and for a small moment in time, he managed to hold his own. His reward, although he doesn’t know it, is that fifteen centuries later, we still remember him for it.
What do you like most about King Arthur, if anything?
Diana By The Moon
HISTORICAL ROMANTIC SUSPENSE
He is Arthur’s man. His duty is his life. She fears and mistrusts him. The only way they will survive is to work together.
Finalist, Emma Darcy Award.
470, one year later
The knife bit deeply into the sheep’s throat and blood gushed from the wound. Sosia pulled the knife out, her hand moving in a practiced sweep and let the animal’s head go. She stepped back. As the sheep’s kicks weakened, the blood flowed onto the earth and formed a large round pool.
Diana felt her stomach and heart were about to seize. She wanted to cover her eyes and turn away but everyone was watching her so she used the hand she had raised to her mouth to rub at her chin thoughtfully. Hot beads of sweat sprang out at her temples and the need to bathe was almost irresistible.
Thank god she’d had the foresight to send Minna back to the threshing! If she had seen this…
Sosia crossed her arms, the hand holding the bloody knife on top and glanced at Diana for approval. She stood a head and shoulders higher than Diana and there was more dignity in her round, protruding cheekbones and squared shoulders, more wisdom in her odd blue eyes and unwavering stare than Diana could ever aspire to—for all that Sosia’s people had been conquered and enslaved three generations ago.
“Thank you, Sosia. Can you slaughter all the sheep that I picked out? Or do you want someone to help you?”
“This, I can do.” She stooped down to peer into Diana’s face. “They will feed us throughout winter. You know that.”
Diana nodded. The knowledge was burned into her mind from endless worry.
“Diana!” Marcus appeared from around the corner of the barn, his tattered cloak flapping. “They want you at the thresher for counting!”
“I will come now.” She looked at Sosia and the other women standing around the pen. Some of them looked a little pale too—the women who had not been farmers’ wives, who had spent their days indoors.
Well, we’re all forced to learn new skills these days. She straighted her spine. “Once Sosia has finished, you will need to hang the carcasses for draining,” she told the women. “Then Sosia will show you how to skin them.”
Diana took Marcus’ hand and walked slowly, heading for the gates of the villa. She hoped her pace looked dignified but in truth her legs were unsteady. It wasn’t until they turned the corner of the villa wall that she could draw a proper breath.
Once around the corner she stopped and leaned against the wall, her head hanging.
“Diana? Are you ill?” Marcus asked. “Should I get Sosia?”
Diana forced herself to breathe steadily. “I’m fine,” she assured the boy and tried to smile. When she could, she straightened and started to walk again.
She checked the fields as she walked. They were laid out between the villa walls and the old Roman road that ran as straight as an arrow down the middle of the dale, heading for Lindum. Ermine Street, it was called.
The fields were harvested—a giant achievement. There had been virtually no grain for sowing. Diana had spent days sweeping out the furthest corners of the grain stores, picking up fallen seed one forgotten grain at a time. They had planted less than half the usual fields. But they had grown and the summer harvest would give them a slight surplus for seed.
Marcus tugged her hand when they reached the yawning gateway, drawing her inside. The gates lay to one side, a pile of broken beams and iron. Every time she saw them, Diana reminded herself to have new gates built. But in a whole year she’d had no time to think beyond the need to provide food for the thirty-one people who were depending upon her to keep them from starving.
Besides, there was no one here with the strength to hew the trees or the skill to make the gates. Perhaps after the solstice she could go to Eboracum to search for a woodsmith.
But first they must put aside food enough to survive the winter.
Women had been threshing grain for generations, so this task Diana knew she could leave unsupervised. The small sacks of grain were piled against the wall in rows ready for her to count and record before it was stored, just as it had been all her life. The rows were pitifully few.
She approached the waiting women. “You’ve finished? Good.”
They gathered around her, pleased with her approval. “No thanks to Alfie’s help!” one jested, pushing at a redheaded woman among them.
The redhead laughed, pushing back. “I did my share.”
Then came a cry that chilled Diana to the marrow and stopped her heart.
Diana whirled to face the gateway, trying to speak and failing.
Sosia’s son, a boy of ten, stood on the top of the wall. He pointed toward the Roman road. “Armed horsemen! Lots of them!”
Someone behind her screamed and the sound released Diana’s own fear. Her gaze fell on the sacks of wheat. Dear Lord! The food for winter—if that were stolen they would not survive the year.
“Quickly!” she told the women. “Take one sack of wheat between two and one child and head for the old beacon at the top of the hill.”
“They’re heading this way!” yelled Sosia’s son.
Marcus tugged her hand. “What about the women in the barn?”
“Alfie, go by way of the barn and warn them.” Quickly, Diana sent messengers to the scattered pockets of people around the estate. She sent Sosia’s son into the forest to gather the children picking nuts, to keep them hidden among the trees.
Diana grabbed a sack of wheat and raced through the house for the postern gate that led out onto the hillside behind the villa. She was outside among the trees before a thought bought her to a skidding halt.
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