“It never occurred to me until this moment that there were any other families…Cousin,” he said with his lips curled up at the corners.
Ava laughed. No one told me he has a sense of humor! Maybe this will turn out all right, after all. “We’re related so far back, you probably have more genetic history in common with your chef than me.”
“May I ask the sire your branch comes from?”
“Not the sire,” she said. “I’m descended from Anya’s daughter, Arianrhod.”
He looked somewhat nonplused. “And the House of Arianrhod is commanded to do…what?”
“Fulfill Mother Anya’s vision for her line―to see the descendant of King Arthur return, served by the descendant of Merlin’s wisdom.”
He swallowed hard.
Ava had read that outside of the Sacred Grotto, no one in the families was permitted to speak those words aloud. “Almost fifteen hundred years ago, Anya, a priestess and healer of the Rus, fell in love with both Merlin and King Arthur, and eventually had sons by both. You, Duke Drunemeton, are the descendant of Merlin. The Earl of Steadbye, whom I hope to meet soon, is the descendant of King Arthur.”
He gasped. “How do you—?”
Ava rushed on, “Duke Drunemeton, these are The Days Foretold. As was written in the books you guard, this in the hour ‘when the King and Merlin shall come again and, with the Oathstone, heal the Land and its People.’ And as you are well aware, the ‘Once and Future King,’ as the author T. H. White called him, is in waiting nearby. All we need do now is locate the Oathstone. Then we can help Britain heal and regain its place in the world.”
The duke stood up slowly and walked like a mechanical toy around the desk. He stood over her, radiating both fear and outrage. “How? You can’t possibly…” He was struggling to steady himself.
Have I gone too far, too fast?
“Who are you?” he demanded.
“Ava Cerdwen—Arianrhod’s heir.”
Ava decided a strategic retreat was in order. She stood up and drew her purse strap over her shoulder—the universal gesture that the interview was over. “I can see you need time to consider what I’ve said. My driver will stop back here tonight in case you want to reach me. I won’t be far. We’ll speak again when you’ve had time to let this sink in. I know it’s a shock, keeping a secret for so very, very long, then discovering others know, too.”
She rested her fingers gently on his arm, which was swathed in an expensive camel hair jacket. There was a momentary spark, as if she had just run across the thick Aubusson carpet in slippers before she put her hand there. It was unexpected, but also another hopeful sign.
He paled, and she could feel him tremble.
“Don’t let fear overwhelm you. We must act as we’ve been trained to do since birth—and soon.” She turned and walked out of the office.
Ava could feel his raw emotions behind her. He was paralyzed with fear and confusion.
Not good at all.
She went out of the house, emotions zinging between terror and…well, not triumph. But ever so slightly hopeful she had succeeded in starting the critical dialogue.
She was amused all over again at the car her “chauffeur” chose―a black 1930s Rolls Royce Silver Cloud. Who rides around in such a thing?
Well, me, I guess.
The duke appeared in the rainy forecourt. His eyes were a bit wild. “Ava!” he shouted. The duke seemed to realize he was attracting attention from the pair of sodden gardeners nearby. Stepping closer to the Rolls, he whispered, “How do I know I can trust you?”
Smiling confidently at him, she slid into the car. It started up immediately. She said to his mind:
Because we are family.
A bite of... Jacqueline Church Simonds
Q1: Which book inspired you to begin writing?
The book that inspired me to read, write, and generally think books are awesomesausage was The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. It was the first book that made me cry and realize that other people were suffering the same sorts of emotions I was.
The 3 sci-fi books that influenced me: The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury (my first sci-fi), Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein, and Dune by Frank Herbert.
The books that most influenced the series I’m writing—Heirs to Camelot: The Once and Future King by T.H. White, The Merlin Trilogy by Mary Stewart, and Mists of Avalon by Marion Bradley Zimmer.
Question 2: What do you like most about your own books?
That they are based on Arthurian legend, but head off in a different direction.
The Midsummer Wife (released on Midsummer Day 2018) is the set of conclusions set forth by the lover of King Arthur and Merlin 1460 years before (The Healer of Camelot—the prequel to the series—is due out in August). There are things that interest me like: what do you owe to the relationships you had in a previous life, how do you cope with deep anxiety issues, and does evil always win?
The Solstice Bride (Book 2, which should be out in 2019) deals with overcoming evil, selfishness over self-motivation, and learning to trust yourself*.
Mistress of the Rose Moon (Book 3, which should be out Midsummer Day 2019) deals with the repercussions of reincarnation, evil, duty, the Buddhist idea of Right Action, a quest for the Holy Grail*, and a multiverse war.
*I really need to shout-out to the Sci-Fi Roundtable folks who helped me with issues that confronted me as both Book 2 & 3 tried to thwart me. That collegial group of writers pitched in with thoughts and considered points of view that really got me over the hump!
Question 3: Although all books say that all the characters in the book aren’t real or related, but are they really all fictional and made up?
One part of The Midsummer Wife came sort of true-ish in an unexpected way. I wrote the heir/reincarnated soul of King Arthur as biracial (British-Zimbabwean) about 3 years ago. My early readers said things like, “Well, THAT’S never going to happen. And then, shazam, Meghan Markle marries Prince Harry, so now it all looks quite plausible.
Ava Cerdwen, the MC, has major anxiety-disorder problems. I have had panic attacks since I was maybe 5 or 6. My niece has them so badly she could not finish school. Ava’s meltdown mid-book is way beyond anything I’ve ever had… and set me off with near panic-attacks for weeks after I wrote it.
Jacqueline Church Simonds is an author and publishing consultant. Her first published book was Captain Mary, Buccaneer, a historical adventure novel loosely based on the real pirate women Ann Bonney and Mary Reade.
Simonds has done the usual authorly wanderings in life: she was a lady’s companion, a sound and lights roadie for a small Southern rock band, and managed an antiques shop. She’s sold everything from computers to 1950s pulp magazines to towels and baby clothes. The one constant in her life is a love of words, books and writing. She sold some short stories and poetry early, but didn’t pursue it until later in life.
She has had a life-long love of King Arthur and was always drawn to novels about that great hero. Finally, she sat down and wrote stories from her own point of view.
She lives in Reno, Nevada with her husband and beagle.