Author Topic: The White Hart - historical fantasy (Arthurian)  (Read 334 times)

Offline HAlanS

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The White Hart - historical fantasy (Arthurian)
« on: December 07, 2018, 10:57:25 AM »
SYNOPSIS

In the year 483 C.E., in an alternate Europe resembling that of the High Middle Ages of our world, Britain is without a High King, and has been for several years.  The empty throne leaves the realm increasingly more vulnerable to attack from outside enemies, as well as to internal unrest and lawlessness. A Council of all the great lords of the land is called, to be held in the city of Caerleon at the time of Midsummer.  Among those who travel from their homes to Caerleon are four young people:  ARTHUR, the thirteen-year-old foster son of a minor lordling, who is unaware of his true parentage; GUINEVERE, the fourteen-year old princess of the small kingdom of Cameliard; LANCELOT, the fifteen-year-old prince of Benoic, a land that lies across the Narrow Sea, in Armorica; and MORGAN, an eighteen-year-old student in a convent on the island of Lyonesse, who is secretly being trained in magic by one of the nuns.

Before leaving for Caerleon, however, Morgan -- who is also the daughter of Britain’s High Queen by the latter’s first marriage -- casts a divination spell to see what her near future holds.  She has a vision in which she sees Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot (none of whom she yet knows), as well as others -- including MERLIN, the famed magician and royal prophet whom she holds partly responsible for her father’s death.

Soon after their arrival in Caerleon, Arthur and his older foster brother make several new friends among the other boys who have accompanied their fathers or other lords, and also meet Lancelot.  Guinevere, soon after learning that her father intends that she wed soon to help secure both her future and that of Cameliard, meets and befriends both Lancelot and Morgan.  Unlike Morgan, Guinevere is unaware that Lancelot was lost as a baby, and raised for twelve years in the Faery Otherworld by the Lady of the Lake.  Lancelot is attracted to both Guinevere, who represents the mortal world of chivalry in which he must now make his way, and Morgan, who is familiar with the magical world from when he comes.  For their part, Guinevere sees the handsome and charming prince of Benoic as a potential alternative to any of the older kings or lords her father may choose as a husband for her, while Morgan -- uncertain whether her future lies with the convent in Lyonesse, with her mother at the royal court, or somewhere else entirely -- is also attracted to Lancelot and sees him as possibly factoring into the choices she must soon make.

Both Lancelot and Morgan attend the first meeting of the Council of Britain, where, almost as soon as the subject of royal succession is raised, Merlin and the other Council leaders reveal to all assembled that the late High King had a previously unknown son, who is being raised in secret.  Even as the Council considers this startling news, however, a supplicant named Prince RIAGATH comes before them.  Riagath is the middle-aged grandson of an earlier High King who is widely considered to have been an usurper and tyrant.  He makes no claim to the throne, however, but merely asks for a grant of the land on which his grandfather’s final stronghold lay, on which he plans to found a school.  Riagath is accompanied by his distant kinswoman and ward, the sixteen-year-old ANNOWRE, who previously studied magic in Lyonesse with Morgan, though they were never friends.  The Council, after some argument, grants Riagath’s request.

Meanwhile, in the woods outside the city, Arthur encounters Guinevere as the latter pursues GAWAIN, the eight-year-old prince of the northern kingdom of Lothian, who, like Guinevere, has been residing with the duke and duchess of Cornovia prior to traveling to Caerleon.  Gawain himself is in pursuit of a mysterious white hart.  Before the chase ends on a hilltop, where Gawain falls from his horse and is knocked unconscious, Arthur and Guinevere have both glimpsed the Hunterns of Annwn -- a legendary group of supernatural horsemen and hounds -- though only Arthur witnesses the white hart transform into the figure of an antlered man, just before disappearing.

Later, back in Caerleon, Arthur describes what he and Guinevere saw to Merlin, who is an old friend of his family.  Merlin explains to Arthur that the Hunters are led by Gwynn, the Pale King -- an ancient and powerful lord of Faery, once worshipped as a god.  The magician has no idea why Gwynn would be interested in Prince Gawain, but asks Arthur to keep an eye on the boy.  Arthur agrees to do so, and later, he enlists Guinevere to help as well.

The next day, a great tournament is held in which most of Britain’s best knights participate -- including Gawain’s father, the appointed war leader for the entire realm.  Though not yet knighted, Lancelot disguises himself and enters the contest as an unknown “White Knight”.  Meanwhile, Morgan watches the spectacle from the royal box, along with Annowre, an invited guest of the High Queen, who is unaware of the antipathy the two girls have for one another.

Jousting against Gawain’s father, Lancelot defeats the great warrior in a surprise upset, after which he requests a token of favor from Morgan.  Morgan recognizes Lancelot, but, disdaining the tournament and everything it represents, declines to give him her favor.  A bemused Lancelot then turns to another spectator, Guinevere, who also recognizes him.  Though unhappy to be his second choice, Guinevere ultimately gives Lancelot her girdle to carry as her favor.  Meanwhile, another knight -- a young man named BREUSE, clad in black armor -- requests, and receives, the favor of the Lady Annowre.

In the grand melee, Lancelot fights Breuse, and appears likely to overcome him when, suddenly, the latter appears to discover new reserves of strength.  Morgan realizes that Annowre is empowering Breuse through magic.  She attempts to do the same for Lancelot, but is stymied by an enchanted ring given to the young prince by the Lady of the Lake to protect him from sorcery.  Desperate to help Lancelot, Morgan reaches deep to find new reserves of her own power, and calls down a lightning bolt which strikes near the combatants, separating them, and breaking the magical connection between Annowre and Breuse.  Lancelot overcomes Breuse and delivers him as his prize to Guinevere as the tournament draws to a close.  Meanwhile, Arthur, who has also been watching the proceedings from the grandstands, has deduced that the White Knight is actually Lancelot.

Later, Annowre finds Breuse in a tavern, and enlists him to the cause of herself and Riagath.  Riagath himself has spent the day on a sojourn to Caer Genoreu, the old fortress where he claims he wants to found a school.  There, he has excavated a cave and found a hidden stone -- a large cube of white marble engraved with the letters of an unknown language.

At a banquet following the tournament, Arthur -- who is attracted to Guinevere -- tells her that he does not know his true parentage, and is assured by her that it makes no difference to her, or to their friendship.  Meanwhile, Merlin approaches Morgan, to ask for her help in exploring the mysteries of the aims of Annowre and of the appearance of the Hunters of Annwn.  Despite her animosity towards the wizard, Morgan agrees to meet him on the morrow.  But though both Morgan and Merlin have had dreams of the white stone just discovered by Riagath, neither reveals this fact to the other at this time. 

Here ends The White Hart, the first book of The Kingstone.

***

The story continues in Book Two, The Green Huntress, in which the white stone is revealed to be an ancient sacred relic that dates back to Atlantis, and beyond.  It had been the original coronation stone of the High Kings of Britain before being lost and forgotten.  Riagath and Annowre are colluding with Gwynn, the Pale King, to capture and sacrifice Prince Gawain upon the stone, using Excalibur, the sacred sword of the High Kingship.  Riagath and Annowre believe that Gawain is the intended, rightful heir to the throne of Britain, and this sacrifice will magically make Riagath High King -- but they are being deceived in this by Gwynn, who is using them for his own purposes.

The story concludes in Book Three, The Red Dragon, in which Arthur, Guinevere, Lancelot, Morgan, and their allies must rescue Gawain from the clutches of Gwynn’s servants, and foil the plans of Riagath and Annowre.  By the book’s end, the way has been made clear for the one, true High King to be revealed; and for the great story the whole world knows -- the story of King Arthur of Camelot, and his Knights of the Round Table -- to truly begin.