The following excerpt is unedited and subject to change.
Lunch had just ended and Arthur, running late for his for his lessons with his grandmother, the Mystic Diana Le Fey, hurried out of the small kitchen and through the Great Hall to the stone spiral staircase located behind the smooth marble thrones; in one normally sat the Lady of the Lake, in the other belonged the Lord of the Mountain. Behind them, and before the entrance to the stone stairs, hung the Le Fey sigil, the family coat of arms.
A great dragon, colored black and silver with onyx eyes, spread its wings wide and breathed fire down at a flaming golden phoenix, the mouth of which was open wide, out of which rose an ivory handle sword.
The clock struck one, reminding him of where he was suppose to be, and he ran between the thrones, ducked underneath the banner and scurried up the stairs to the third floor.
The third floor of the castle had the fewest rooms; while the second was split into dozens of sleeping areas, the third floor was reserved for the ruling family of Avalon, the Le Fey family. There were five quarters, each with a private bedroom, living area and bathroom. In the center was a common kitchen area, where the family could dine away from the rest of the residents, though that was a rarity; the Le Fey family preferred to mingle with everyone and only kept to themselves when necessary. The one to the right belonged to the Lady of the Lake, Morgause Le Fey and the Lord of the Mountain, a role currently unfilled since the death of Morgause’s husband Cedric Unwelt the previous year. The one to the left belonged to Magdalene Le Fey. One set of quarters was reserved for when any of Diana’s children who lived off island visited. And one belonged to Arthur.
The last one, set at the end of a short hallway, belonged to the Mystic Diana, former Leady of the Lake. As was tradition on the island, if the heir was ready to assume the title of Lady or Lord of Avalon, the reigning rulers stepped down and were appointed Mystics, wise elders of the island who, instead of leading, dedicated their time to teaching the next generations.
As he took those last few steps toward the double oak doors, a sudden sense of dread gripped him, a strange twisting in his belly. He stopped suddenly, feeling ill and threw his hands against the wall and breathed deep with his gaze directed at his bare feet.
What was that? He wondered silently as the strange sensation faded and he again stood straight and strong. His face was covered in a cold sweat and the back of his loose shirt stuck to his back. Perhaps I should visit the physician after my lessons. I’d go now, but I am already rather late. As he placed a hand on the door to Diana’s chambers, he felt again the strange twisting in his belly, but this time he fought past it and opened the door.
He walked into the living area. The furniture in the room was simple yet elegant, made by hand as a gift to Diana when she and her beloved, now deceased, husband were christened the Mystics of Avalon. Two cushioned chairs, with a small table between them, were placed in front of the fireplace, which at the moment, was smoldering.
Beyond the chairs was a giant stained glass window, which depicted one of the oldest stories known to the students of Avalon, that of the founding of the island. The image was of a boy being lifted up by an ethereal-like being that glowed like the moon itself and glided effortlessly across the earth without setting foot on the ground.
It was said that in a time before time, a small group of worshipers, seeking a life of peace and harmony far from the war torn world they had been raised in, traveled west from Rome. They had gone as far as England, but could still find no respite from the evils of man. Then, as though by chance, a child wondered away from the migrants and found himself lost in the woods. Scared and alone, the boy cried out for help.
The sidhe heard the calls and came to the boy’s rescue. Upon returning the boy to his parents, the sidhe saw how strong these humans loved this one child and offered them a place removed from the rest of mankind where they could raise their families in the peace they desired. The place was the island that came to be known as Avalon. It was also said that the lost boy grew up and married a sidhe and from their union came the family Le Fey and the mystical powers they can harness.
Arthur did not know whether he believed the story or not. Even if there had been sidhe and other faire folk, they no longer remained on the island.
“Grandmother?” He called out, closing the door behind him. “Grandmother, are you here? I know I am late and apologize. Shall we resume my lessons?” He moved slowly through the room, careful to keep his footfalls silent as he came to the opening beside the window that led into the bedroom.
Like the living room, the bedroom had few pieces of furniture; a tall chest against one wall for her dresses and cloaks, a four-poster curtained bed underneath the one window. At the foot of the bed was another, smaller chest with carvings of god’s older than their island.
“Grandmother?” He whispered as he moved closer to the bed. “Are you still awake?” He slid the curtain aside and felt the air rush from his lungs.
Lying on the bed, covered in sweat with eyes barely open was a frail and broken old woman who gasped for each small breath. Arthur could feel the blood drain from his face and he had to grab a poster for support. The woman before him was not the vibrant, voluptuous woman who was his grandmother; the Mystic Diana was an unstoppable force of nature and he, nor anyone of his kin, would have ever imagined that there was anything beside the wrath of the gods that could bring her to her knees, much less sap the life from her and leave behind much more than a corpse. His heart froze at the sight before him.
“Grandmother!” He screamed as he dropped to his knees on the highly polished black and white marble floor. “Help!” He screamed, his voice echoing throughout the lightly decorated room. “Help, please! It’s Grandmother, she is…” The words seemed to die in his throat; he fought to yell them out as he cried for help. “I think she is dying!” He grasped her wrinkled, worn hand and found it cold, clammy, leathery. “Wake up,” he almost yelled at her, “please, Grandmother, please wake up!” Only hours earlier, she was dancing about the herb garden, her thick blond curls swaying about her as she spun around in circles, singing the songs of old. He had watched her from the hallway, amassed at the vitality she still possessed. Though she was almost eighty, she never once acted like an old woman. Instead, she lived life as though she still had eighty years in front of her.
Yet the figure lying before Arthur now was but a shadow of whom the wise and generous woman she truly was. How could you have fallen so ill so quickly? He squeezed her hand, though not too hard, as he feared he would hurt her. Did someone… No, impossible…
“What happened to her?” Morgause asked, having silently appeared behind him. “Oh my… Quick, go get Magdalene and Igraine…” She pulled him to his feet and pushed him toward the entrance. “Go now, Child!”