Read Grail of Stars Online

Authors: Katherine Roberts

Grail of Stars

For everyone on a Quest

A
LBA
– Rhianna’s mist horse, a white mare from Avalon.

A
RIANRHOD
– Rhianna’s maid, ex-maid of Morgan Le Fay. Her cheek bears a scar in the shape of a pentacle.

C
AI
– young squire at Camelot who becomes Rhianna’s champion.

C
HIEF
C
YNRIC
– leader of the Saxons.

E
LPHIN
– Prince of Avalon and only son of Lord Avallach.

E
VENSTAR
– Elphin’s mist horse, a white stallion from Avalon.

G
ARETH
– older squire, Cai’s rival.

K
ING
A
RTHUR
– king of Britain. His ghost appears to Rhianna while his body sleeps in Avalon awaiting rebirth.

L
ADY
E
LAINE
– Sir Lancelot’s wife and Sir Galahad’s mother. She was once
a Grail maiden and now lives in the Grail Castle.

L
ORD
A
VALLACH
– Lord of Avalon and Elphin’s father. Leader of the Wild Hunt.

M
ERLIN
– King Arthur’s druid. Morgan Le Fay drowned his man’s body but his spirit lives in the body of a merlin falcon. He can still work magic.

M
ORDRED
– Rhianna’s cousin and rival for the throne; the son of Morgan Le Fay.

M
ORGAN
L
E
F
AY
– Mordred’s mother, and Arthur’s sister, a witch. Now dead, her spirit advises Mordred from Annwn.

N
IMUE
– the Lady of the Lake, who took King Arthur’s sword Excalibur after Arthur’s death and gave it to Rhianna.

Q
UEEN
G
UINEVERE
– Rhianna’s mother.

R
HIANNA
P
ENDRAGON
– daughter of King Arthur, raised in Avalon.

S
ANDY
– Cai’s pony, rescued from the Saxons.

S
IR
A
GRAVAINE
  – grumpy older knight.

S
IR
B
EDIVERE
– a young knight, also known as ‘Soft Hands’ because of his gentle nature.

S
IR
B
ORS
– leader of King Arthur’s knights.

S
IR
G
ALAHAD
– Sir Lancelot’s son. He died on his quest after finding the Grail.

S
IR
L
ANCELOT
– Arthur’s champion knight, whose love for Queen Guinevere caused him to break the Lance of Truth when he fought against his king.

S
IR
P
ERCIVAL
– Sir Galahad’s best friend.

T
HE
F
ISHER
K
ING
– lord of the Grail Castle, where the Grail of Stars is kept safe

T
HE
S
HADRAKE
– a dragon from Annwn, breathes ice instead of fire and hunts between worlds.

U
THER
P
ENDRAGON
– father of King Arthur and Morgan Le Fay. Now dead, his spirit lives in Annwn.

 

 

 

 

Four lights stand against the dark:

The Sword Excalibur that was
forged in Avalon,

The Lance of Truth made by the
hands of men,

The Crown of Dreams, which hides
the jewel of Annwn,

And the Grail said to hold all the
stars in heaven.

A
s the boat neared the island gateway to Avalon, Mordred’s right hand tingled – the only part of him that could feel pain these days. He pulled a black gauntlet over the rotting fingers and signalled Uther Pendragon’s ghostly army to surround the shore.

“Faster!” he growled to his bloodbeards. “We don’t want anyone getting away.”

The men glanced uneasily at the ghosts in the mist and bent over their oars. The boat crunched on the shingle near a small village. Dark wings blotted out the stars above the
Lonely Tor. Mordred grinned as screams came out of the night. The shadrake had done its work well.

Mordred seized his axe and jumped ashore. He watched the monks run out of their church and down the hill towards the village, tripping over their robes in their panic. His lip curled – unarmed followers of the Christ God, who thought they were safe on their little island under Camelot’s protection.

He nodded to his men, and the bloodbeards threw flaming torches into the huts. There were more screams as the monks’ families ran out towards the water, then ran back again when they saw Uther’s dead warriors riding out of the mist.

Trapped between the ghosts and the flames, the people huddled together on the
beach, clutching their children and sobbing as their homes burned. Mordred ordered his bloodbeards to drag their leader to him. They flung the old man to his knees in the sand. The monk crossed himself.

Mordred laughed. “Do you know who I am?”

“N-no, sir,” the monk stammered.

Mordred gave him a frustrated look. He must have made himself too handsome when he grew his new body from his decaying mortal fist. Then a lanky, dark-haired boy yelled from the crowd, “I know you… you’re Prince Mordred!”

The lad looked vaguely familiar, but Mordred couldn’t think where he’d seen him before until a woman said, “Hush, Gareth. I thought you told us Mordred was dead?”

Mordred chuckled as he remembered the squire who had tried to kill him at the gates of Camelot last year. The boy did not have his bow and arrows today.

“Prince Mordred!” The monk looked at him more closely. “We heard they burned your body at Camelot… Are you a ghost?” He glanced uncertainly at Uther’s horsemen out in the mist.

“Is this the hand of a ghost?” Mordred clutched the old man’s throat with his black gauntlet and squeezed until rotten flesh leaked out of the glove. He laughed again. “I’m the rightful heir to the throne, and I don’t intend to die before I sit on it. Now tell me, wise one. How do we get from here to Avalon?”

“I d-don’t know,” the monk whispered.
“This is a holy place now. Lord Avallach’s Wild Hunt does not ride this way any more.”

Mordred sighed. “I can see we’ll have to do this the hard way.” He motioned with his axe, and his bloodbeards grabbed Gareth from the cowering huddle of villagers. The squire reached for his dagger, but Mordred knocked it out of his hand. “Drown the Camelot brat,” he ordered.

The bloodbeards dragged the struggling boy to the water and pushed his head under. Bubbles came up as Gareth thrashed and kicked. Then his body went limp and floated face down. His mother screamed and splashed in to rescue it, sobbing, “My son… you’ve killed my son!”

“If I have to, I’ll drown every living soul on this island. Starting with the youngest,”
Mordred said. “That means you’ll be the last to die, old man. Tell me the way to Avalon now, and you’ll save your people a lot of grief.”

Tears sprang to the old monk’s eyes. “I’m begging you, sir prince! Leave us in peace. We have nothing of value here. We’re simple folk. If you want to know how to get to the fairy isle, you should ask a druid. Merlin used to come this way… he rowed his boat into the mist and vanished… that’s all I know, I swear it in the name of our Lord!”

The old man was choking. Mordred let him go.

He flexed his stiff fingers thoughtfully. In this place, Uther’s warriors were only faintly visible where the starlight touched them. They couldn’t come to Avalon with him, because their souls belonged in Annwn now.
But they could catch anyone coming through these mists from the mainland.

He smiled. “I just might do that. My cousin Rhianna will be heading this way soon with her friends. I’m going to need somewhere to stay until she gets here.”

He looked up at the Tor. The shadrake perched on the roof of the church, lashing its tail. Purple lightning crackled around the tower, reminding him of when his mother, Morgan Le Fay, had ambushed Merlin as the druid brought his cousin through the mists from Avalon.

He pointed to the church. “That’ll do nicely.”

The monk frowned. “But sir, that’s our holy place! Queen Guinevere built it for us because the Grail was once hidden in a cave up there.”

“Then it’s perfect,” Mordred said. “I’m sure
my aunt won’t mind. My hand pains me. I’ll need one of your herbal cures, and I’ll need someone to serve me.” His eye fell on Gareth’s weeping mother. “You, woman, stop snivelling! Your boy was a squire of Camelot, which is why I had to get rid of him. I don’t want news of my resurrection leaking back to Arthur’s knights before I’m ready. My men will take his body back to the mainland and make it look like an accident, so he’ll get a burial, if that’s what you’re worried about. Now, get up there and make the place ready for me.”

The woman raised her tear-stained face and hissed, “Ready for you? I’ll kill you first!” She snatched the bloodbeard captain’s spear from the rock where he’d propped it while he drowned her son, and launched it with
unexpected accuracy at Mordred.

Mordred spread his arms wide and laughed as the spear entered the place where his heart should be. The shaft tickled as it passed through his shadow-body. He spun round to see it land, shivering, in the sand behind him.

Everyone stared at him in fear. The monk crossed himself again. The bloodbeards grinned. Gareth’s mother fell to her knees, trembling.

Mordred retrieved the spear and raised his voice. “You’ll find it harder to kill me than you think. King Arthur didn’t manage it at Camlann, his daughter Rhianna didn’t manage it when she rode out of Avalon, and his knights didn’t manage it with their fire.” His tone hardened and he poked the terrified
woman in the stomach. “But if any of you try something stupid like that again, I’ll drown another child for every attempt on my life. And if anyone is thinking of leaving this island without my permission, Uther’s army of ghosts out there will take your souls straight to Annwn. Understand?”

The islanders nodded. Only the crackle of flames broke the silence.

Mordred smiled. “Good. Then there’s no need for further demonstrations. You’d better get to work if you want to save those huts. I’m sure your God won’t mind if you use one of them to pray in while I’m staying in your church. Carry on as normal. And when Princess Rhianna arrives, send her up to me. Then we’ll head on over to Avalon and leave you in peace. Her fairy friend will know
how to get home, if the druid won’t tell me the way.”

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