… with Uther and Merlin in Fifth Century Britannia
By Tim Walker
Stars winked in the deep blue blanket above them as the promise of dawn seeped upwards from the distant edge of the World; a golden glow that prompted the start of the ceremony. Druids holding burning brands chanted to the steady beat of hand drums as a line of riders wrapped in bearskin cloaks watched, their breath trails mingling with those of their horses, rising like the souls of the departed buried beneath, making their way in twisting streams to the netherworld.
“Merlin, this had better be the sight you have much talked of,” King Uther growled, his horse stamping impatiently on the frozen earth.
“My lord,” Merlin replied, “This is the dawn on midwinter day for which these stones were erected and aligned by the ancients who understood the movements of the sun and moon. We are blessed with a clear sight of the rising sun, and you will soon see it shine through yonder stone portal and light up the altar on which a sacrifice will be made to the goddess Beira for seeing us through another winter…”
“My lord!” Bishop Andreus interrupted, causing Uther to turn to his left.
“What is it?” Uther demanded of the shivering, tonsured priest, his white face peeping out from his cowl.
“Beira is a pagan goddess of the druidic religion of the dark forests, banned by our former Roman masters,” he said through chattering teeth. “It is not long since the people bowed to the Roman god Saturn at their feast of Saturnalia…”
“And what is your point?” Merlin challenged.
“My point is, the Romans have now departed, taking their gods with them! The older ways of the ancients have passed into legend, banished by the one true Christian God to the dark corners of this land. I urge you to turn away from this base pagan bloodletting and embrace this day as the feast day of the birth of our savior, Jesus the Christ. For our God is the one true light of the world…”
Uther raised a hand to silence him. “Save the sermon for later, bishop. Now let us bear witness to the mysteries of nature revealed to us.”
The smell of incense mixed with sandalwood wafted before them as Merlin pointed, drawing Uther’s attention away from the fretting bishop towards the stone altar and the light now bathing it in an eerie glow. Three druids stepped from the shadows, each holding a struggling creature in one hand and a raised knife in the other. Fowls clucked their desperation and kids screamed as their throats were cut and their blood dripped into silver goblets. The drummers increased their tempo as men and women dressed in animal skins and masks danced around the altar where the druids chanted and held their hands up to welcome the rising sun.
“This is an impressive sight,” Uther said, grinning his pleasure at Merlin. Bright yellow sunlight was illuminating a hitherto unseen ceremonial avenue bounded by rounded stones from east to west, cutting through the center of the stone circle. A golden shaft beamed through the windows of the largest pairs of standing stones on opposing sides of the circle, now in perfect alignment with the rising sun, like a bolt from the gods.
“From this day onwards, our days grow longer,” Merlin said, “and hope is restored to the people after the darkness of winter, and the earth is reborn.”
“You are forgiven for calling me out on such a cold night,” Uther said to Merlin, a broad smile cracking his frozen beard. He turned his horse to signal his readiness to leave and remarked to Bishop Andreus: “And, dear Bishop, we shall pray to the baby Jesus in our church, then progress to our hall where we shall raise a goblet to ALL the gods that they may grant us success in our campaign against the Saxons! Onwards!”
Adapted extract from Uther’s Destiny by Tim Walker
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 installment, Uther’s Destiny, was published in March 2018 (winner of One Stop Fiction book of the month award, April 2018). The adventure continues from March 2019 in the fourth book, Arthur, Dux Bellorum.
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.
Tim Walker’s A Light in the Dark Ages book series starts with…
Ambrosius: Last of the Romans:-
Arthur Dux Bellorum:-