A FEEBLE SPRING sun melted the last of the snow on the hillsides around Arthur’s court at Caer Legion, beside the fast-flowing River Usk in the Kingdom of Gwent. Lambs frolicked on the southern slopes, calling to cautious ewes that shepherds had driven away from the snow line, and the wolf-ravaged carcass of the luckless member of their flock who had not survived the night.
Ambrose, Arthur’s Chancellor, turned his head away from the pastoral scene at his window at the sound of the door to his study opening. This corner of the grey stone abbey dedicated to Saint Alban had become his favourite retreat, a space for books and manuscripts where his good friend Abbot Asaph had provided parchment, vellum, ink and a writing desk in a cosy chamber, now warmed by a roaring fire.
“Ah, Ambrose,” Asaph said in greeting. “Are you keeping your numbers, or writing your story of Arthur?”
Ambrose smiled and put down his quill, rising to stretch his back and embrace his friend. “Dear Asaph, your loan of this room is greatly appreciated, as I can do little work in Arthur’s smoky long barn, or my cramped and damp quarters. Please sit with me by the fire.”
Asaph had grown fat in the ten years since Arthur’s stunning victory at Mount Badon, his travelling days as Arthur’s chaplain put to an end by Arthur’s insistence that Bishop Aaron make him abbot of a newly built abbey with its own lands. “Dear Ambrose, you are a much-valued and learned friend, whom our Lord Jesus Christ has sent to keep me company and preserve my sanity.”
Ambrose laughed and stoked the fire. “I am writing Arthur’s story, whilst it’s still clear in my mind. I have written an account of the terrible slaughter at Badon Hill, and Arthur’s slaying of the treacherous King Caradog of Gwent, that led to our settling here at the fortress of the legion. Once the rump kingdom of Dumnonia was stabilised, and Queen Morgaise restored to her rule in Exisca, Arthur led his followers to this place, as you know. I have set down the detail of it, and how Arthur has settled where yonder Roman
fortress stands between the river and the thriving settlement that has grown around the Roman arena we call Arthur’s Roundel.”
He sucked in a lungful of air and slowly exhaled. “I have recorded all of Arthur’s battles, from the very first when I met him, at the River Glein close to Lindum, swiftly followed by a second battle at a black creek known as ‘Dubglas’. He fought the Angliscs at Guinnion Fort, the Deirans at Ebrauc and, some years later, fought north of the Wall at Cambuslang and Celidon Forest. There are other minor ones, leading to his great victory at Mount Badon and the last battle, more of a raid really, when the remnants of Caradog’s followers were chased off, here, at Caer Legion.”
“Yes, as Arthur’s chaplain, I also bore witness to the slaughter from the safety of the walls of Caer Badon,” Asaph replied sombrely, as if recalling that day. “But do not forget to note that Arthur was presented with a shield by our holy bishop at Mount Badon, one that depicted the image of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus; and that he fought for Christ against the pagans that day; and he himself slaughtered as many as nine hundred and sixty with his sword, Excalibur!” Asaph raised his voice along with his arm, pointing in
triumph to the cobwebs on the beam above his head.
Ambrose laughed and nodded, “I shall, most holy Abbot, although it was not his first shield depicting the Virgin Mary, and the number of men killed by Arthur himself is greatly exaggerated by his followers, and is most likely the entire number of Saxons
slain on that day…”
Asaph brushed aside the correction and continued, “…and this abbey, dedicated to our most holy of martyrs, Saint Alban, was built by him in celebration of his coming and chasing off Caradog’s depraved followers.” He shivered at the memory. “It took us two years to convert the pagan people to the light of God’s ministry. Please record that.”
“I shall, holy Abbot. And in time, I hope to record that you have been made a saint, for you deserve it.”
Tim Walker is an independent author living near Windsor in the UK. He grew up in Liverpool where he began his working life as a trainee reporter on a local newspaper. He then studied for and attained a degree in Communication studies and moved to London where he worked in the newspaper publishing industry for ten years before relocating to Zambia where, following a period of voluntary work with VSO, he set up his own marketing and publishing business. His creative writing journey began in earnest in 2013, as a therapeutic activity whilst undergoing and recovering from cancer treatment.
He started an historical fiction series, A Light in the Dark Ages, in 2015, following a visit to the near-by site of a former Roman town. The aim of the series is to connect the end of Roman Britain to elements of the Arthurian legend, presenting an imagined history of Britain in the early Dark Ages.
Arthur Rex Brittonum, a re-imagining of the story of King Arthur, follows on from book four in the series Arthur, Dux Bellorum, which won two book awards in April 2019 – One Stop Fiction Book of the Month and the Coffee Pot Book Club Book Award.
The series starts with Abandoned (second edition 2018); followed by Ambrosius: Last of the Romans (2017); and book three, Uther’s Destiny (2018). Series book covers are designed by Canadian graphic artist, Cathy Walker. Tim is self-published under his brand name, timwalkerwrites.
Tim has also written two books of short stories, Thames Valley Tales (2015), and Postcards from London (2017); a dystopian thriller, Devil Gate Dawn (2016); and two children’s books, co-authored with his daughter, Cathy – The Adventures of Charly Holmes (2017) and Charly & The Superheroes (2018) with a third in the pipeline – Charly in Space.