Title The Retreat to Avalon
Author Sean Poage
Genre Historical Fiction, Historical Fantasy
Publisher Made Global Publishing
Frustrated with living in the shadow of the elder warriors, Gawain dreams of glory in a time of peace. After three generations of struggle against a flood of ruthless invaders, Britain has finally clawed its way back within reach of security and prosperity.
Across the sea, Rome is crumbling under barbarian attacks, internal corruption and civil war. Desperate for allies, Rome’s last great emperor looks to Britain and the rising fame of her High King, Arthur.
Events sweep Gawain along in a tide that takes him far from his home in Britain to a terrible war in Gaul. Intrigue and betrayal vie with loyalty and valour in an epic adventure at the last, bright flash of light before “The Dark Ages”.
The Retreat to Avalon is the exciting start of a new Historical Fiction trilogy exploring the origins of the Arthurian legends, anchored in the events of the end of the Roman Empire and the beginning of the Middle Ages.
Glyf led the way through the gate with Riwal riding beside him as they wound their way down the hill. Gawain and Meliau followed behind and struck up a conversation.
“You’re from Letavia, across the sea?” Gawain asked. “The Rigotamos said that you’re princes, here as his guests.” He was not sure what Arthur had meant, so he decided to be diplomatic.
“Yes, if by that you mean hostages,” Riwal shot back over his shoulder. Glyf grimaced and looked away. Gawain looked at Meliau, who smiled sheepishly and shook his head.
“Please forgive my brother,” he said. “Arthur does not hold us as hostages. He’s been nothing but kind to us and merely provides for our safety until we may reclaim our inheritance.” Riwal snorted derisively, and Gawain began to dislike him.
“How did you come into his care?” Gawain asked.
“Our father, Deroc ap Gwidol, was lord of our people, who live on the northern shores of Letavia, the area we call Domnoni in memory of our roots in this land. When Attila crossed the Rhine, and Aetius called for allies, my father led many of our warriors to join the Roman army. He died in glory at the great battle on the Catalaunian plains that drove Attila out of Gaul. At that time, I was but a babe, and my brother a few months from birth.
“Our father’s most trusted general, Marchel, returned and said that he would act as regent until I was old enough to take my father’s place. But within a year he began pressuring our mother to wed him to keep the throne to himself. She resisted and learnt that Marchel planned to have Riwal and I killed, so she arranged for a family member to spirit us away and bring us to our kin here.
“When Marchel found out he became enraged and murdered her. We’ve lived in Aergol’s court ever since, praying for the moment we could return, slay the usurper and reclaim our birthright.
“After Arthur became Rigotamos and brought peace to Britain, I was just old enough to bear arms. I begged him to give me an army and ships that I might return and kill Marchel. Rather than send me off to probable defeat, he led that army himself, taking me with him. Marchel was defeated and captured, and Arthur allowed me the satisfaction of executing the criminal.” Meliau’s voice lowered as he continued.
“I understood then that I was not yet prepared to take responsibility for my people, so Arthur offered to act as regent until I passed a score of years, which occurs next spring. Since then he has seen to our education and martial training.”
“My brother would make it sound as if Arthur’s offer was his own idea,” Riwal laughed humourlessly over his shoulder. “And yet it’s uncanny that Arthur’s efforts have been rewarded with the high kingship over Letavia.”
“So it’s true?” Gawain frowned. “Arthur is the Rigotamos of Letavia as well?”
“Oh, yes,” Meliau nodded. “Though we prefer the Latin pronunciation, Riothamus. But it’s not guile that led to this, rather his fame and the misfortune of the previous high king, Budig of Comberos. He died fighting the Saxons near Namnetis last year. Arthur’s renown and goodness resulted in our people offering the crown to him, which he accepted only reluctantly.”
Another snicker from Riwal caused Gawain’s jaw to tighten. It was not the implication that Arthur may have manipulated events to his own advantage, but the snide attitude that expressed them.
Gawain often heard comments suggesting Arthur desired the title of emperor, and while there was reason to believe it may be true, the evidence was sparse. In truth, Gawain was not sure he even cared. He changed the subject to the usual small talk themes, such as the lands they came from, families and so on.
Coming off the hill, the land flattened out, with many small streams and scattered clumps of trees and brush. They followed an oak-lined path that soon passed the old Roman road, continuing north-west along a hard-packed trail.
The terrain became more uneven, drier and less open. After a while, the scattered trees closed in around the road. Glyf said the forest was not large, and they would be out of it and see the Tor soon. Gawain was glad, as the day had turned warm and thick with humidity, and the trees blocked the cooling breeze.
Not far into the woods, they came to a small stream that crossed the path, so they paused to let the horses have a drink. Gawain wiped sweat from his forehead and took a sip from his skin. He felt uneasy, peering out into the dim reaches of the trees.
This was an ancient wood, and the cloudy day did nothing to cheer the view. Even the birds and insects were subdued by the heat and gloom.
That snapped Gawain alert. He snatched up his horse’s reins, looking about and hissed for Glyf. In the stillness, it sounded like a shout, and the other three looked up, alarmed. A rustle came from the woods behind them, and Gawain turned and spurred his horse into a sudden leap forward. An arrow cracked into his chest with a sharp pain but failed to penetrate his mail. A man in rough skins and rags had stepped into the trail behind them, fitting another arrow to a bow.
“MOVE!” Glyf screamed to the boys, spurring his horse forward. They were confused for a moment, then sprang after him in panic, following him further down the track into the woods.
Gawain charged towards the man, slipping his spear from its rest and lowering it towards the man’s dirty head. The man smiled, let the arrow fly and stepped back into the trees. As the arrow passed by Gawain’s ear, he realised what was happening, a sick feeling hitting his stomach. He spun his horse sharply about and tried to catch up to the others.
Universal Amazon: https://getbook.at/avalon
Amazon US: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07D2BKV6D
Amazon UK: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Retreat-Avalon-Arthurian-Age/dp/8494729896
Historical fiction author, Sean Poage, has had an exciting and varied life, as a laborer, soldier, police officer, investigator, computer geek and author. Travelling the world to see history up close is his passion.
These days he works in the tech world, writes when he can, and spends the rest of the time with his family, which usually means chores and home improvement projects, with occasional time for a motorcycle ride, scuba dive, or a hike in the beautiful Maine outdoors.
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