Amulet: A Quest For King Arthur – Book Two

By James G Riley

Action & adventure, Sci-Fi, Historical fiction

Paperback, eBook

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4 mins

Chapter 1

Location: Unknown
Date: Unknown

The man standing in the middle of a U-shaped valley wore a black cloak with the cowl covering his head. In his left hand, he held a staff topped with a silver ball. Gesticulating wildly, waving his arms back and forth, he was trying to gain the attention of a troop of cavalry that was charging towards him. “Stop! Go back!” he screamed, the words lost in the thunder of pounding hooves. The figure stood his ground as the tide of horses swept on, and around, like the waters of a raging river parting as it flowed past a large boulder. The rush of air forced the hood of the cloak back, revealing locks of curly hair and a grizzly beard. “Go back!”
A column of fire erupted amidst the lead riders, the flash of brilliant light preceding the sound of a large clay pot shattering against the earth. Burning oil burst as efficaciously as napalm. A second, a third, a fourth; to the sides, to the rear. A fifth, a sixth, a seventh and eighth; front, side, back, side. “Stop!” he cried, to no avail as the projectiles of death arched from the ridge to the valley floor, hurled by the mighty force of eight war-machines.
The man collapsed to his knees, holding onto the staff with both hands, burying his face in his fists. “What have we done?” he wept. “What have we done?”
There was movement. Looking up; a loan rider came galloping out of the thick black smoke, waving a sword, seemingly indifferent of the carnage. Plumes of red and white protruding from the crested helmet identified the horseman. “artōrius; over here!”
The twang of ropes announced the launch of another missile from a trebuchet. A column of fire exploded in front of the cavalier, causing the steed to halt abruptly. Like a gymnast executing a cartwheel, the rider sailed elegantly through the air, outstretched arms and legs, spokes of a turning wheel. There was a resounding crunch as body followed head, pile-driven into the ground.
Hugging his dying friend, the man whispered. “artōrius; not like this. History says, it does not end like this.”

Chapter 2

Portus Abonae, Dobunnia

“Merlin; awacnian [wake up]!”
Suddenly aroused from his frightening daydream, the cloaked man returned to his real world.
Richard Merlyn was his name, but merlinus sylvestris was the name they had given him. In a former life he had been married to Virginia, had an eight-year-old daughter Allison, and they lived happily together in the Cathedral City of St. Albans, seventeen miles north of London. He worked as a consultant, overseeing the restoration of old buildings and ancient monuments. That was twos weeks ago. Suddenly ported from a town in Washington USA, he found himself back in England, but not 2004. The inhabitants were running around dressed in the tattered uniforms of Roman legionaries or as country bumpkins wearing tunics, trousers, and leggings if male; floor-length skirts or dresses made of wool or flax, if female.
The date was as problematic, as was the location. Post-Roman he thought; place To Be Determined.
Notwithstanding his spatial/temporal dilemma, Richard was having trouble with the language. The melody of day-to-day localism was something entirely different and far removed from Modern English. At this moment, he understood not a word.
Allowed to roam wherever he chose, on three occasions during the first week of his arrival, Richard had walked back to the place where he had materialized. After spending several hours looking for a portal that would allow him to return to the twenty-first century, he concluded it was almost certainly a fruitless quest.
Today he had been invited to journey with the headman and a number of villagers to a place or places unknown. Leaving the settlement before dawn, he rode in the lead wagon. There were six carts in all, accompanied by horsemen; outrides armed with swords and javelins. A flock of about thirty sheep was being herded by two scruffy mongrels, acting as sheepdogs. Richard mused how different they were from the Welsh Border Collies he had watched participating in the Brecon sheepdog trials; a sojourn during the restoration of the Cathedral Church of St John the Evangelist.
Sitting between himself and the wagon driver was Rollie, a greyhound that he had tried to rescue just before the portal opened. Together they had been swept into the past, and the dog had been his faithful companion ever since. The trek was slow; the load was heavy. Ingots of lead and silver, as far as he could tell. As the sun rose in the east, he realized they were traveling in a northerly direction, making occasion detours to ford rivers at shallower crossing points, or to avoid steep climbs directly up hillsides. Six hours later, and he still could not fathom their destination.

* * *

Sometime later, they approached a wide river. Richard Merlyn glanced right and saw farmsteads, Looking left he gained his first insight as to where he might be. A spectacular gorge cut through a ridge; mainly of limestone, with some sandstone. He observed a peregrine falcon launch itself off the cliff-top and swoop down to snatch an unsuspecting seagull preening itself at the water’s edge.
Richard racked his brain. Where have I seen these rock formations before? Crossing the causeway, now exposed at low tide, they headed downstream. Where have I seen this before? he repeated. Think man; think. Looking ahead, he blinked. Spanning the gorge was a structure he recognized. He blinked again, and it was gone. A moment of déjà vu from his future time; Brunel’s Suspension Bridge. It registered that he had just crossed the River Avon at a place he would have once called the Cumberland Basin.
* * *
They finally stopped at the riverside port, named Portus Abonae by the locals. History would recall the region was abandoned when the Saxons invaded. It would be the 1920’s before a planned green suburb of Bristol developed. However, Richard was not concerned with the future; he was still trying to figure out the present.
The sheep were herded into holding pens made from woven willow sticks, as the carts formed a circle similar to the formation to be adopted by the wagon trains of America’s Wild West.
artōrius ambrosius and one of his lieutenants dismounted and walked over to a row of small sheds. They engaged a merchant in conversation, which after a few minutes became heated. The villagers’ leader wore a military uniform and silvered helmet with a transversely mounted crest; plumes made of horsehair dyed bright red and white. Later, Richard would learn that he was designated tribunus laticlavius; somewhat of an honorary title handed down from father to son, for the legions had withdrawn from Britannia over one hundred and thirty years ago.
Art, Richard thought of the commander as Arthur or Art, moved on to a second merchant and haggled over a price to sell the metals. There was much shaking of heads and raising off voices, but eventually a deal was struck. The dextrarum iunctio [joining of the right hands] cemented the agreement.
Richard was not asked to assist with the unloading of the wagons, but he climbed off his seat anyway and walked around to stretch his legs. Nobody took notice of his presence; merchants, peddlers, hawkers, all too busy going about their business. He had no money, so he just browsed, returning to the quayside after half-an-hour.
The unloading was almost complete. Arthur was carefully watching the merchant count out the gold coin. Richard stood politely at a discreet distance until the transaction was finished. He glanced at the pile of lead ingots noticing each had raised markings formed as they were cast in a mold. The inscription read BRIT EX ARG VEB. What this meant, he had not a clue. Some were stamped as well; CCX. A date he thought, which raised his hopes of determining when he was. 210 AD? No; not a date. The Romans were still in occupation at that time. A weight perhaps? Disappointed, he was about to walk away when the merchant sidled over to the pile of lead pigs and with a dagger began to scratch letters and numbers into an ingot:




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