The boy-king Arthor has beaten back the berserker wolf warriors of the Saxon god, uniting his island kingdom -- but at a terrible cost. For the Grail, the chalice of the Last Supper and the magical shield of Britain, has been stolen.
Without the Grail's protection, Britain lies parched and barren, a demon-haunted landscape where sulfurous vapors taint ther air. To find the Grail, Arthor's mother, Ygrane, must strike a dark bargain with Bright Night, elf-prince of the "pale people,"in the hollow hills. Merlin must use his magic to show the way. But it is Arthor himself who must confront the Serpent, Sword in hand.
A.A.. Atanasio's epic retelling of humankind's most powerful legend weaves together, for the first time, the hallowed yarn of ancient Arthurian lore and the shimmering strands of modern quantum science.
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A. A. Attanasio is the author of The Wolf and the Crown, The Eagle and the Sword, The Dragon and the Unicorn, Solis, Kingdom of the Grail, Hunting the Ghost Dancer, Wyvern, Radix, and The Moon's Wife. He lives in Hawaii.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
An Angel Crosses Europe in A.D. 491
Shortly after dawn sometime late in spring, an angel appeared over Jerusalem. His eyes shone like night's last stars. His hair streaked the sky with prismatic threads, stitching daybreak into crimson-and-magenta banners above the ancient city's ramparts.
In one stride, he stepped over the steep skyline and across the shattered rocks of prophets' tombs and dunes crouching like lions beside toppled columns of Greek shrines. Somewhere above the Mediterranean, he gazed down through the palpitant air at goosewinged sails carrying cargoes of carob wood and Lebanese cedar to Carthage. There, the Vandals were rebuilding the wharves and harbors they had torched in their conquest of Africa forty years earlier.
The angel quickly moved north onto the Italic peninsula. He glanced briefly at the green baize of croplands and orchards charred by the ravages of the Ostrogoths. But not one look did he give the crumbled arches of Rome and its desuetude of slumyards. Instead, he peered beyond the snow peaks of the Alps and the expansive tracts of boreal forests to the remote isle kingdom of Britain.
Four strides later, he passed over the war camps of Clovis and the battlefields of the fierce Alamanni. The hordes of pagan Saxons, Angles, and Jutes who had assembled on the shores of jutland for their invasion of Britain sensed him not at all. When he finally lighted on the rocky summit before Camelot, his eyes brightened to gaze at the proud and unlikely structure that reared above the aboriginal forests. With its paraboloid jacket walls, chevron-shaped battlements, polished-brass solar scoops, and dodecahedral spires, it was an edifice strange to its time.
The angel stood still before this geometric wonder of blue stone. His effluvial body disappeared, camouflaged in the sunlight slanting through the big trees. And the shining trees listened as he began to sing in a voice only they could hear.
We heard the trees of Camelot laughing, we Nine Queens of Avalon. We did not recognize what we heard at first, for sequence is not known here. Avalon is somewhere else. In our honeycomb of time, where every moment is a temple, centuries rise and fall as days, and each day climbs through centuries.
Ali, but you do not understand. We are far ahead of ourselves. Please, be patient with us. We have a story to tell, a story of angels and demons, of fire-breathing dragons and a dangerous unicorn-and a story of you and King Arthur. You will understand everything if you are patient with us. Like the moon that swallows itself each month, we come and we go, yet we are always here. Come. Sit with us at the heart's fountain, which in your presence has become this printed page. Sit and listen to how we Nine Queens of Avalon heard the trees of Camelot laughing.
This was not amused laughter or droll chuckles or polite giggling, but genuine, blissful laughter. Only an angel could evoke such rapture from trees. But what kind of angel was this? We could not see or hear him. Was it one of the radiant angels who had gathered us to Avalon and our fateful purpose or was it an angel fallen from the light, a wicked messenger of darkness? We could not tell. Trees are easily charmed. They eat light, and even the clotted light of demons is enough to fill them with astonished Joy.
By the time we gathered our wits sufficiently to look more closely for the angel, he was gone. Some personage of light or dark had arrived. A being once hugged tight to the stars had come to Camelot. Why? We feared the answer.
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