The King's Cavalry

The King's Cavalry by Paul Bannister

Book: The King's Cavalry by Paul Bannister Read Free Book Online
Authors: Paul Bannister
immortal as the man who defied Rome’s legions. Behind him in the half light was a tall woman with a wild mane of rust-coloured hair. Boadicea: he knew the acclaimed queen. Her chariot-borne warriors had taken 70,000 Roman lives in the greatest rebellion the empire had ever known.
    Others stood lined behind these spectres, others whose names Myrddin knew were Brutus Greenshield; Cyllin from the mountains of the west, Calgacus the Caledonian and Albanac and Oengus who ruled beyond the wall of Hadrian. Cunobelinus was there, who marched against Gaius Julius Caesar, Cogidunus ruler of the Iceni stood silent before the shade of King Pratsutagas, husband of Boadicea. The ghosts of the Brigantean queen Cartimandua and her husband , Venutius, were there, too. The column of cloaked and hooded figures, some with circlets of rank around their brows, others wearing the great brooches of office, others in simple helmet and war gear, were the spirits of rulers who had been forced to bow under the conqueror’s yoke or who had died on a killing field when they faced the iron-clad legions.
    They did not shape words with their cold lips, but Myrddin understood the message. “You have summoned us from our long rest because you have the power over us,” they told him. “Tell us your will, we are mere shades now, and we have to obey.”
    Myrddin heard his own voice addressing the spectres, yet it was without his volition. He may not even have spoken the words aloud, but the shades of Britain’s ancient leaders heard them. “You were close to the gods of Britain yet they allowed these invaders to take our land. You have been called to help Britain today,” was the sorcerer’s message. “You must tell Arthur how he can placate the ancient gods of our land, how he can harness their power to restore them and hold our islands safe for your descendants.
    “Arthur knows he has offended. He has adopted the cross of the Jesus god, but you must take the message to Britain’s own deities that he did it only to save the land. Arthur Bach is still faithful to the gods of the woods and springs and mountains and rivers, to the soldiers’ gods of Mithras and Mars. He venerates the sea god Manannan mac Lir, and local deities like Mogon, Antenociticus and Arnemetia. His heart is true to Britain’s own gods. How can we tell them that?”
    The necromancer saw the ranks of the dead, the kings and queens who had ruled and loved the green island of Britain but who had seen it taken from them. Were the gods displeased to have allowed that to happen? Somewhere deep in Myrddin’s brain he sensed they had sent an answer, that there was something the gods wanted.
    He had delivered his message, he had seen into the long-ago eyes of the dead and had sensed their sympathy. He was the go-between, he was the bridge between the dead and the living, between the gods and his king. He hoped he could bring back a message from beyond the grave, bring a solution that would once again restore the old gods.
    And, dispassionately, he also wondered if he would be allowed to leave the realm of the dead or if this had been a journey that could not be reversed. Will I, he wondered, awake in the Underworld, or will I be back on the slopes of Yr Wyddfa? It did not seem to matter. Everything was with the gods, but he felt a gentle touch on his shoulder and knew that the protective goddess, Kimro, would guide him safely home.

    XIV - Agricola
    The scent of white clover told Myrddin he was alive, the sound of his gardener, Pattia, sweeping a gravel path informed him that he was in his own square-built stone house. He stretched and swung his legs over the side of his narrow pallet. Something in his mind was flaring, burning brightly. It was as if he was consumed by an energy, a force of pure light and heat that wanted to explode from his brain. He moved swiftly to his writing table,

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