Marion Zimmer Bradley's Sword of Avalon

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9780451462923: Marion Zimmer Bradley's Sword of Avalon

Epic in its sweep and peopled by the remarkable women who have always inhabited Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley's Sword of Avalon expands the legendary saga that has enchanted countless readers over the years and is sure to please Bradley's loyal readership and anyone who loves wonderfully told stories of history, myth, and fantasy.

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About the Author:

Raver is a versatile, classically trained actor who has made numerous stage appearances in New York, Los Angeles, and regional theaters around the country.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Prologue

Morgaine speaks:

They say that the old sleep little, as if they have no need of rest with the body's last sleep so near. Whether it is age or the weight of memory that keeps me restless, at night my sleep is broken, and I rise early. This morning I left my bed without waking my maidens to walk by the Lake just at that misty hour between the dark and the dawning, when the birds sing forth their promise that the light will return. As the first rays of the sun glimmered through the clouds, a gleam of light pierced the waters, and for a moment I saw the blazing length of the Sword.

Time converged around me, and once more I was in the Sacred Barge of Avalon, and Arthur lay dying in my arms. Lancelet cast Excalibur into the Lake and saw it received by the Lady. My breath stopped as I waited to see if Her hand would reappear, returning the Sword from the depths to choose a new King to save Britannia.

Vision followed vision, but what I saw was fire—the metal first forged in the fires of heaven, hailed as a thing of power by the folk who dwelled on the chalk before ever a Druid or Adept from the drowned islands came to these shores. I saw the fires of the forge in which a master smith, fleeing his people's doom, had made it into a sword to fit the hand of a king. Hidden and renewed, broken and reforged, in the time of Britannia's greatest need it had returned to bring victory.

I stared, and clearing vision showed me the surface of the Lake gray and still once more. Then I wept, and even that image blurred. The dark people of the hills who had been the Sword's keepers were gone. Water, not fire, hid the blade Arthur wielded, and there was no king of the ancient line to call it forth again. The gleam that I had seen had been the leap of a fish, no more.

And yet as I began to walk again I realized that the tears in my eyes were not from despair. When Excalibur went into the Lake, I knew it for the end of an Age, the loss of all that I had loved. And yet behind its veil of mist, Avalon endures. The star-steel was only metal until the skill of a smith and the passion of a priestess ensouled it. What they did in those days, when the world they knew seemed doomed, may be done again if the Lady of the Forge takes up her hammer once more.

The Sword is gone, but hope does not die.

Chapter One

Fire.

The acrid reek of burning thatch catches in her throat; then smoke sets her coughing, panic flaring along her limbs as red light flickers across the floor. She snatches up the wailing child. The hide across the door is wrenched away. Beyond, she glimpses figures and the gleam of blades.

A woman screams with a shrill intensity that cuts across the clash of bronze weapons and the battle cries. The scream is her own, and yet the self that knows this is somehow detached from the hot breath of the flames. The baby coughs and struggles, strong limbs, strong spirit fighting to survive. A roof beam crashes across the doorway and she whimpers, wracked by an anguish beyond her body's pain. She stares through the flames, seeking an escape, and enemy faces leer back at her. She recoils and sinks to the floor, smoke stealing her breath as a cry severs soul from sense—"So dies the Son of a Hundred Kings!"

And awareness whirls outward—she sees the thatched roofs of the royal enclosure collapsing as the fire spreads; the bull horns mounted above the great gate crash down. The bodies of warriors, startled naked from sleep, lie scattered on the bloody ground as enemies pile up the looted cauldrons of bronze, the fine weavings, the cups and ornaments of gold.

Time speeds, and the charred timbers of Azan-Ylir become sodden lumps that are soon covered by green. But the flames spread, and the Ai-Giru, the Ai-Ilf, the Ai-Utu, and then the Ai-Akhsi and the Ai-Ushen and even the Ai-Siwanet far to the north are engulfed in turn. The tribes of the Island of the Mighty tear at each other's throats like starving dogs as generations pass. And when ships with painted sails approach the white cliffs of the island, there is no one to face the fair-haired warriors who leap onto the sand, their striped and chequered garments swirling about their knees. They rampage across the countryside, burning whatever the earlier wars have left, and the songs, the arts, the wisdom of the Seven Tribes are as if they had never been.

"Goddess, what can save us?" her spirit cries.

And in answer she hears a call, "From the stars will come the Sword of the King!"

"Lady, are you ill? What's wrong?"

Shuddering, Anderle opened her eyes. Kiri was bending over her, her old face creased in concern. Smoke hung in the air, but it carried the sharp scent of burning charcoal, not thatch…not the smell of roasting flesh. She caught her breath, fixing her gaze on the soot-blackened ceiling of the smithy on the Maiden's Isle, and trees and sunlight on the green peak of the Tor.

Summer had come at last to the marshlands. For the moment, the clouds had retreated, and everything living made the most of Manoah's light. An exultant tide of greenery choked the watercourses and hung above the pools; insects hummed in the humid air.

"Sit you down, my lady—" scolded Kiri, helping her to the bench by the open side of the shed, where a light breeze wafted from the direction of the sea. "You came over faint, what with the heat of the day and the forge." Kiri looked accusingly at the smith.

"Do not blame me—" He frowned. "She knows better than to lean over the fire." The smith-priest wore only a loincloth beneath the heavy hide apron. Anderle wished she could do the same, but the blue draperies of the High Priestess were a symbol of her dignity, and old Kiri, who had attended her since she was small, would not have let her leave the Tor without the fine linen veil.

"You screamed—" said little Ellet, fanning her. "I thought you were burned."

"I'm all right! I was seeing…pictures…in the flames."

"Was it a vision, Lady?" Ellet's blue eyes grew round. Her brown hair was fine and inclined to escape its braid, fluffing around her face like the feathers of a young bird.

"Goddess, I hope not!" Anderle exclaimed. "Azan-Ylir was burning—they were all killed, even Irnana's child."

She brushed back a strand of heavy dark hair and sighed. She and Irnana were both descended from the old line that had provided so many priests and priestesses to rule Avalon, but her cousin had inherited their height and the family's red hair, while Anderle took after the slender, dark folk of the Lake Village, or perhaps, as legend had it, after the folk of that Otherworld that was only a heartbeat from their own.

Kiri's lips thinned. There had always been raiding back and forth among the tribes and clans of the Island of the Mighty, but in the past year the situation had gotten worse. The older priestesses spoke of a time when the weather was warmer, but the rains came more often with each year and the floods remained longer, turning every piece of high ground in the Vale into an island. Men muttered that one day there might be no summer at all. And the Bull of Azan who led the warriors of the tribe was old, his grown sons killed in the battle in which the sister's son who should have been his heir had died as well. He had taken Irnana to wife three years before. Mikantor was their only child.

"We've had no word…" said Eran, frowning.

"The fields were stubble…" Anderle said slowly. "This was later in the summer, when the hay harvest is done…"

"It was a heat-born fancy!" Kiri proclaimed. Anderle sighed. She was surrounded by people who had known her since she was an infant, already designated as heir by the word of her grandmother and the will of the stars. She had first put on the ornaments of the high priestess when her breasts were barely grown. It was only to be expected that they should treat her as an icon and not as an adult with a mind of her own. But she was eighteen now, and expecting a child. She laid a palm upon the swell of her belly. Perhaps when they saw her with a babe at the breast, they would realize that she was a woman grown.

"Drink this water now, my love, and let the fear fade. To dwell on such things does no good to you or the child!"

Perhaps, thought Anderle, sipping from the elm wood cup. Or perhaps it was a warning. Terrifying as the vision had been, it was the cry that haunted her. The loss of any child was a tragedy; the death of her cousin's child would be a personal sorrow. But the Voice had lamented Mikantor as something greater, as the heir to the royal line that had come to the Island of the Mighty from the Drowned Lands across the sea. She could not prevent tribal raids, even when they threatened those dear to her, but to safeguard that heritage was most certainly a part of her duty as Lady of Avalon.

"Rest now, my little one, and we'll send for a litter to bear you back to the Tor…

Anderle nodded and drew down the veil, grateful now for its protection. Better that Kiri should believe her tired than to start asking why Anderle still frowned.

Anderle flinched as the landscape of her vision came into view. They were passing through the opening in the stone fence that wound along the edge of the down. Before her, the fields of Azan were bright with the stubbled gold of harvest. To her right a line of grave mounds paralleled the road. To the left rose the stark stones of the great henge. The track descended to cross the shallow bed the Aman had carved through the plain, with the clanhold beyond. She had forgotten that crops on the plain ripened faster than they did in the marshes around Avalon.

Durrin came up beside her, fair brows creasing in concern.

"It's nothing. The child kicked me—" she said quickly.

"You should not have walked so far," he said repressively.

When priests and priestesses lay together in the Great Rite, they were not ...

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Descrizione libro ROC, New York, NY, 2009. Hardcover. Condizione libro: New. Condizione sovraccoperta: New. First Edition. Bradley's legendary saga of Avalon's extraordinary women continues with a tale of fiery visions, a lost king, and a destiny waiting to be claimed. As traitors burn the village of Azan, the Lady of Avalon, heavy with child, flees with her cousin's young son, heir t the sacred kings descended from Atlantis. Fearing for his safety, she leaves the babe to be raised in secret, then gives birth to her own daughter and returns to Avalon. Traitors suspect that the lost heir is still alive, and seek to end the threat of the boy's power. Years pass and the boy returns, faced with a formidable task - to prove his worth as a son of the kings and priestesses of Avalon and lead his followers to victory wielding the legendary sword Excalibur. ; 8vo - over 7¾ - 9¾" tall. Codice libro della libreria 003965

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