Authors: Claude Dancourt
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locations, organizations, or person, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © Claude Dancourt 2011
All rights reserved.
With the exception of quotes used in reviews, this book may not be reproduced or used in whole or in part by any means existing without written permission from the copyright owner. Your support of the author’s rights is appreciated.
Cover Artist: Claude Dancourt
Editor: Cathy Moeschet
I have hyperactive muses, and sometimes I have to rely on trusted friends to help me keep them in line. I am very thankful to Ana Elias and Ethan Jones for their support during this journey, and their honesty when they reviewed my work. I’d like to thank Cathy
Moeschet for her careful editing.
And finally, Zoe, who is my very first fan
his may not be the tale of your childhood, but it’s close enough.
Nous ne savons pas encore ressusciter les corps,
mais nous commençons à savoir ressusciter les rêves.
Return to Caer Lon
Camelot, fifteen years ago…
loud bang erupted from the courtyard, instantly followed by furious yells of the aggressors and cries of pain from their victims. The stone walls seemed far from solid or protective
as the world shattered in fireballs.
The king’s table was pushed to the side in case they needed to block the door. Chests were piled near the tapestry
hiding the domestic entrance with the same purpose.
Seated on the large four-poster bed, Queen Ylianor closed her arms tighter around her son. Her beautiful face was shadowed by terror
but she refused to let one sound come out of her throat, and her eyes were dry.
The young boy could not be more than five year
was tearless, though he jolted
shook the windows. He nestled in his mother's embrace, hiding his face each time a new clamor resounded outside.
Suddenly, the door of the royal chambers burst open. Two men entered the room, their swords in hand, both fully armored. When the taller man moved toward her, the crown dragon on his breastplate glinted in the dim light.
King William Pendragon ungloved his hand to brush his wife’s cheek lightly. His face was pale with worry. He paused, letting the gentle caress
for him. Then his hand fell down to his side as resolve shadowed his agreeable features.
“Ylianor, please, you cannot stay here. Hector will lead you to the border.”
lifted her head to
face her husband. Her chin trembled despite her resolve to stay strong.
“I will not leave without you.”
“Camelot is doomed, my
ove. I will fall with it. But you must live, for Derek.”
Hearing his name, the boy glanced at his father with
a proud expression on his face.
“I vant to fight viv you.”
The child’s pronunciation brought a smile
the tired man’s features. He walked to the little boy
who had wriggled
his mother’s embrace, and scooped him up under his tiny arms so their faces were only inches a
“I am confiding your mother to your care, Derek. You must protect her. And you will come back one day to take what is yours by birthright.”
The child’s fierce nod got the better of the
ueen. She ran to her husband and son to embrace them both, her cheeks finally wet with tears.
The second man, who waited in a corner
casting frequent glances to the corridor, took a step forward.
“We must go, my
ord. I do not know how long my men can keep our path safe.”
William put the child down gently and took his wife in his arms, holding her close for another instant, before he pressed one last kiss on her lips.
“I love you, Ylianor.”
“And I, you.”
The queen put her hood over her head and took little Derek by the hand, before she signalled to her escort she was ready. The
ing watched his family disappear in the dark before he took the opposite direction and joined his final battle.
door slammed so hard
its frame trembled. Ylianor grabbed her phials just in time before they fell on the floor.
“This is intolerable!”
Wiping her hands on her apron, she turned to face her irascible son. Derek had inherited her blondness and deep-blue eyes; from his father, he had taken his height and broad shoulders, and unfortunately a good part of his character. The young man
the room furiously.
“Sebastian and Elwyn are going with a battalion near the border and I am stuck here! Sebastian is younger than I am and Elwyn is not nearly as skilled with a sword. Hell, he would hurt himself before hitting anyone! Geraint refused to consider my request to join them; he didn’t even hear me out and…”
The patient tone smoothed his temper, but barely for a second.
“It is Camelot over there, my
ingdom, my people! I can’t stay here and watch others fight
his is MY war!”
At twenty, childish roundness was all but completely gone from his face and had given way to well-defined male features. His firm mouth was pursed into a thin line at the moment, and his square chin aggressively moved forward as he straightened up to his full height. Even standing immobile on the other side of the room, Derek towered
a full head and shoulders above his mother.
She had to admit, his stature was impressive. Ylianor tried to repress a smile. Druidic quoits looked moveable compared to him when he squared his shoulders like this. Ylianor allowed herself a small smile. Her son was stubborn with an explosive temper, though his outbursts rarely lasted, as his heart was generous and kind.
Derek’s eyes flashed when he sensed her amusement.
She recognized t
blue instantly. His furor was about to explode into a nasty outbreak he would regret later. She took off her apron and approached her son.
“Derek, I know this is hard.”
She silently thanked Geraint for keeping him away from this scouting and soothed her tone.
“But what good will it do to Camelot if you die?”
“People will not accept a coward as their king!”
“Sometimes, it takes more courage to step aside than to fight. Waiting is harder you know that.”
She guided him gently to a bench and bade him to sit. The young man obeyed reluctantly.
“I could have gone and just stayed out of trouble… It’s just an intelligence gathering mission
They both knew he would never have stopped at that. He was too much like his father. Ylianor brushed a strand of hair off his forehead.
“You will have your chance to prove yourself
just be patient…”
“Right. I win tournaments and mel
es, while a murderer…”
Temper menaced to flare again and he trailed off. He got up and started walking back and forth once more, clenching and unclenching his fists by his side. The adamant refusal of Geraint to send him along with Sebastian and Elwyn
intolerable. He was second
command of the
uke’s troops, an honor he had
with his warrior skills and not his birthrights. Erik, the
uke’s Captain of the Guards, was not a man to
favors. He should be with the scouting, at least to take a glimpse of what he would take back one day; soon. His homeland…
Derek caught the
flash of grief in his mother’s blue
eyes and stopped
his rumbling instantly
. Ylianor smiled and changed the subject, teasing
“Well, look at the bright side. Winning tournaments allows you to escort the Lady Sacha to the feasts.”
Derek groaned. His mother and some of his closest friends
namely Elwyn and Sebastian
the strange idea he fancied the beautiful daughter of Geraint. The thought was unnerving. They could barely stay within earshot without bickering
s far as he was concerned, her sharp tongue, fueled by stubbornness and pride, generally killed any idea of romance beforehand. Not that he had any, despite her breathtaking beauty and her admirable unbending spirit…
In addition, she had magic and so did her twin
Elwyn. Elwyn was fine, really; even if his habit
the water and talk
to animals was disturbing at times. Derek had learned not to take him to hunt
he actually managed to bring a prize or two back… Elwyn’s magic was fine
. Derek would trust Elwyn with his life. But Sacha’s powers called to another kind of magic, one linked to Elemental Air, Spirits and Fire
just like Wolfryth. And Wolfryth had killed his father to usurp the crown.
Queen Ylianor had barely escaped with
five-year-old little boy
he was at the time, a little boy
too innocent to understand
he had hugged his father for the last time. They had been helped in her flight by William’s faithful first
command. Hector had led them to the border of Pemfro
where Geraint’ men were waiting
gone back to fight. They had never seen him again. Derek had no doubt Hector was dead, like his father and countless other good people who had stood against the sorcerer. And he was stuck in Haven, forbidden to do anything but parad
around like a peacock, taking the Lady of the Castle to feasts
nothing to do but
clenched his fists
. Ylianor squeezed his forearm and stood.
“So when are they leaving?”
The answer came out in a low growl typical of her son when he tried to control his temper. Ylianor tied her pinafore around her waist again.
“I have to finish this today then.”
Derek conceded a glance around the room. Unable to accept charity from her former vassal, Ylianor had requested to assist the Court Physician in his duties. Her upbringing among the People
the followers of the Old Religion
had taught her about plants, so she prepared the potions and cataplasms
Jeffrey might need.
A puff of smoke was dancing over one of the bowls, and glittered in the light. Derek inhaled carefully. It smelled like butterscotch.
“What is it?”
His tone lacked the previous tantrum and had turned into childish curiosity.
“This potion is a pain killer
, her attention focused on her mixture
“It smells good.”
“It probably tastes good too, though I have no wishes for anyone to confirm that any time soon.”
grinned. His mother’s potions were generally as bitter as lemons. He
“I will see you later. Elwyn is most likely to forget half his gear if I do not help him pack.”
Derek found both
his friends in Elwyn’s quarters. Sebastian was studying some maps while Elwyn tried to fit shirts and a pair of breeches into a too
small backpack. And his twin
haranguing them both. The twins share
the same dark hair, which Elwyn wore in a cut so short it spiked in every possible direction, while Sacha’s long curls
“Elwyn you must not go
isten to me
The happy welcome would have made him smile if a pair of piercing green eyes had not attacked him at the same time.
“You are in this too, I presume.”
“No. I am not allowed to join them.”
The regretful answer would have gained him some sympathy from any woman at court, but the one in front of him simply glared and spun on her heels to face her brother again. He was glad to have her barbs directed at some
else for once.
“Please Elwyn… I have a bad feeling about this.”
’s tone blurred with worry
. Derek took one step forward
, amazed by the excessive pallor of her skin.
Sensing his presence behind her, Sacha shot him another warning glance, before she decided that if she could not convince her brother to stay, at least she could make sure his packing was neat
and started arranging the folded clothes.
Derek ignored them
Sebastian near the table, where several charts were unrolled for his perusal.
The last one of their quartet was younger by two years and compensated
Elwyn’s boyish enthusiasm and Derek’s quick temper with intelligence and poise. Derek respected his opinion as a strategist as much as he appreciated his calm and dry sense of humor.
The young man nodded toward the twins on the other side of the room,
ruffling his shoulder-length black hair with a
“You are lucky to be off the hook like this. She has been on his case for nearly an hour. She did not even start on me yet.”
Derek kept a straight face.
“Maybe she knows you are a lost case.”
Sebastian pulled a face
, and pointed at the maps, dismissing the
ady of Haven’s concern for their safety in one careless gesture.
“Those are good. Where will you be stationed?”
“Nowhere in particular, I think. Erik wants to know if Wolfryth is watching the border and how.”
“The reports about the Dark Woods, hum?”
Derek referred to several accounts about mercenaries haunting the woods located near the eastern border of Pemfro. Sebastian nodded.
“We will probably not find anything. They cannot be stupid enough to confront a full battalion on Pemfro’s territory anyway.”
“At least you will be out of here for a couple of days…”
Sebastian noticed the frustration growing in his friend’s voice and rolled his charts in
a thick scroll.
“Your turn will come soon enough. And then
” he pointed at Sacha who was hitting her
brother on the head with a pair of socks
she will make you regret it.”