Arthur Dux Bellorum by Tim Walker is a fresh look at the Arthurian legend, combining myth, history and gripping battle scenes. Although in a series, it can be read as a standalone novel.
From the ruins of post-Roman Britain, a warrior arises to unite a troubled land…
A COCKEREL CROWING its defiance to rivals always marked the start of his day. Shifting uncomfortably on a straw-stuffed sack, he turned away from the damp wall to see how far the first fingers of daylight had stretched across worn paving slabs. But the cockerel’s call was distant, muted and distorted – filtered through a narrow opening high up in his cell, making his first waking thought a cruel reminder that he was no longer in the sanctuary of his parents’ farm. Absent were the homely sounds of dogs barking, birds fighting, workers busying themselves, and the fountain splashing an invigorating melody.
Artorius sat, scratching at his woollen garment, then pushed aside the filthy blanket and ruffled his long, tangled hair, freeing some strands of straw. The rattle of keys interrupted his woeful reflection, signalling the entry of his jailor, Ahern, with a bowl of weak gruel and a pewter mug of water. He was a sullen, wordless giant who expressed himself with grunts and kicks.
“You are a happy man, Ahern, for you have found your true calling in life,” Artorius muttered, receiving a snarl in reply. Three months in his narrow cell had afforded him plenty of time to reflect on the words of Merlyn that had led to his arrest. Merlyn had exposed him to a cheering crowd as the true heir to his father, Uther Pendragon, and had showed him how to pull the sword of Ambrosius smoothly from the cleft in a rock, made possible by the removal of pressure due to Merlyn and Varden’s subtle easing back. A trick to fool an expectant crowd. No sooner had he entered the royal hall than the doors were barred behind him, and Caradoc, the army commander, had him arrested. Merlyn too, and Gawain the knight who had supported his claim. But not Varden, the ex-soldier and Merlyn’s bodyguard. He was at large and represented his only hope of rescue.
“But my destiny as the son and heir to Uther, if indeed I am, has proven to be a false calling,” he moaned to the closing cell door. He had received no visitors or news from the outside, but the fear of execution had receded as the weeks had passed. They had locked him away and would no doubt parade him or dispose of him once the reign of the new king was bedded in – the boy-king Mordred, whose mother had tried and failed to free the sword on his behalf. He gloated over the memory of Morgana’s desperate and unsuccessful struggle.
Left alone with his thoughts, he shouted his anger and frustration at the impassive stone walls. “It was a conjuror’s trick that landed me here! It was YOUR ambition, Merlyn, not mine!” He had practised it over and over. This is what he would say to the mysterious healer should they ever meet again.
A Bite of... Tim Walker
Q1) How much of you is in your hero?
They say ‘Thursday’s child has far to go’ – I was born on a Thursday and I guess Arthur must have been too. He is long-suffering but gets there in the end. I have tried to create a likable character so that it would be a believable progression for him to become a charismatic leader. Arthur is reliant on the wisdom, strength and guidance of those around him to make it from adolescence to adulthood in the dangerous world of Dark Ages Britain. He is patient, steady and a good learner. He gets there in the end, through trial and error. Arthur has a sense of humour, is easy to get on with, but has a temper when crossed. He soon learns to fight his own battles and gradually takes on the responsibility of leadership. He adheres to a moral code, is not cruel and treats people well – except his enemies. I suppose where we differ is that I don’t carry weapons and don’t use violence to resolve disputes! Oh, and my father wasn’t a king of Britain.
Q2) Would you rather live in this world or the one you create in your books?
In evoking the world of Fifth Century Britain, barely a generation after Roman governance and protection ended, there would have been a regression to brutal and perhaps random acts of violence with little or no protection for ordinary people. Tribal leaders came to the fore and most likely would have enforced some code of conduct, but for most there was the constant threat of attack from other tribes or invaders. The monk Gildas, writing in the Sixth Century, talks of a time of widespread fear, anguish and slaughter, with people taking to the old hill forts that were re-occupied after the lowland towns built by the Romans proved too easy for raiders to enter and pillage. It would be fascinating to time travel back there to see what was really going on, but on reflection, I’d rather sit in my armchair with the remote watching it on TV!
Q3) Why do you write?
My creative writing journey began in 2013 when I was struck down with cancer. My battle was tedious and drawn out, lasting years, and has left me managing a chronic illness. I started writing short stories to keep my mind occupied and, after visiting the site of an old Roman town nearby, I came up with the idea for my book series, A Light in the Dark Ages. I’ve been working on it ever since, and am now bringing out book four – Arthur Dux Bellorum. My concern was to find evidence of a real historical Arthur hidden beneath the legend. I’ve been inspired in my storytelling by the writings of Ninth century monk, Nennius, in his ‘History of the Britons’. He names Arthur and gives us a list of his twelve battles. He also gives us an enigmatic quote – “Then Arthur fought [against the Saxons]… with the Kings of the Britons, but he himself was Dux Bellorum.” ‘Dux Bellorum’ literally means ‘Duke of Battles’ or leader of battles. Nennius leaves us with a riddle – was Arthur a mercenary hired by the (tribal) kings of the Britons, or was he also a king and the first amongst equals? It fascinates me that historians and archaeologists might yet find evidence of the real Arthur – a Dark Ages warrior, possibly king, and leader of the combined army of the kings of Britain. Until then, he remains in the realm of fiction, and I’ve invented my own version. Yes, the power and will to create is another motivation to write.
Tim Walker is an independent author based in Windsor, UK. His background is in marketing, journalism, editing and publications management. He began writing an historical series, A Light in the Dark Ages (set in Fifth Century Britain), in 2015, starting with Abandoned, set at the time the Romans left Britain. This was extensively revised and re-launched as a second edition in 2018.
Book two, Ambrosius: Last of the Romans, was published in 2017 and the third instalment, Uther’s Destiny, was published in March 2018 (winner of One Stop Fiction book of the month award, April 2018) and the furth book, Arthur Dux Bellorum has just been released.
His creative writing journey began in July 2015 with the publication of a book of short stories, Thames Valley Tales. In September 2017 he published a second collection of short stories – Postcards from London. These stories combine his love of history with his experiences of living in London and various Thames Valley towns.
In 2016 he published his first novel, a dystopian political thriller, Devil Gate Dawn, following exposure through the Amazon Scout programme. In 2017 he published his first children’s book, The Adventures of Charly Holmes, co-written with his 12-year-old daughter, Cathy, followed In 2018 by a second adventure, Charly & The Superheroes.
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