When a meteorite crashes near a small village in fifth-century Britain, it brings with it a mysterious black stone that bewitches anyone who comes in contact with its glow—a power the druids hope to use to destroy King Uthur’s kingdom, as well as the new Christian faith. The only person who seems immune is a young, shy, half-blind swordsmith’s son named Merlin.
As his family, village, and even the young Arthur, are placed in danger, Merlin must face his fears and his blindness to take hold of the role God ordained for him. But when he is surrounded by adversaries, armed only by a sword he’s named Excalibur, how will he save the girl he cherishes and rid Britain of this deadly evil ... without losing his life?
Book includes location map and detailed character index.
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By Robert Treskillard
ZONDERVANCopyright © 2013Robert Treskillard
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AN ERRAND GONE ASTRAY
The village of Bosventor Spring, in the year of our Lord 477
Merlin frowned. He didn't know what he wanted more: to talk with Natalenya or to hide. After all, how many young men walked past the house of the girl they admired while pushing an overstuffed wheelbarrow? And how many were accompanied by a boy wearing a too-big monk's robe who insisted on playing bagpipe?
Wasn't the rope, wooden tub, bundle of herbs, and sack of oats quite enough to fill the barrow? Did Garth really have to add a squawking hen and a young goat too?
Merlin turned his half-blind gaze to the bobbing boy with red hair. "You told me, 'Not another thing to deliver,' and now look what we've got."
Garth's lips let go of the mouthpiece, and his bagpipe squeaked out a long last note. "How could I say no?"
Merlin tripped on a large stone, nearly rolling the tub out of the wheelbarrow. "You're supposed to warn me when a rock is coming, remember?"
"I forget those eyes o' yours can't see much. You've been gettin' along so well."
"Not since you added two extra things, and they don't just lie in the wheelbarrow. No, they cluck, bleat, and leap out every twenty steps."
"But they're for the abbey. We'll drop 'em off on the way and—"
"They're for your Sabbath supper."
"Hadn't thought o' that." Garth kicked a rock away from the path, and it skittered down the hill.
"When they were offered, you said, 'A nice dinner for the brothers at the abbey' and 'Thank you very much.' Hah!"
"All right, so I thought it." Garth halted. "Ho, there, wait a bit. I saw somethin' move."
Merlin stopped pushing the wheelbarrow. "What now?"
Garth knelt down and advanced into the bushes on all fours.
Merlin could see only a smudge of Garth sticking out from beneath the green leaves, and then a colorful blotch flew out above the boy's head.
"I found me a tuck snack!" Garth bounced up and placed a warm egg in Merlin's palm.
Merlin judged the egg's size to be about half of a chicken's.
"Three of 'em!" Garth said. "Oh, but how can I carry 'em? The goat'll eat 'em in the barrow, and I can't hold 'em and play me bagpipe too."
Merlin reached out, felt for Garth's hood, and dropped his egg to the bottom. "How's that?"
"Perfect. Yer clever at times, you are."
Merlin held out his hand for the other two eggs and set them beside the first.
Fuffing up his bagpipe with air, Garth resumed playing as he marched down the hill.
Merlin followed, and as the hill leveled out, he was better able to keep the barrow steady. But that was when his heart started wobbling, because he knew by the big blur of a rock coming up that they were about to walk by—
"Look at that house," Garth said, stopping to take a breath. "A big house ... behind those trees. Didn't notice it on the way up."
In vain, Merlin shook the black hair away from his eyes. He wished he could see if Natalenya was home. "You've only been here a month ... but you've heard of the magister, haven't you?"
"Sure. The brothers at the abbey pay taxes to the ol' miser."
"He's not old, and his name's Tregeagle. "He and his wife have two sons and a daughter."
"Those the boys that called you 'Cut-face'?"
"Yeah." Merlin scowled at the memory. The hurled insults had been followed by a goodly sized rock, which had only narrowly missed his head.
But Natalenya was different. She never mentioned Merlin's scars. During worship at the chapel, she was always polite and asked him questions now and then, almost like a friend. So when Merlin's father had asked him and Garth to get charcoal with the wheelbarrow, Merlin suggested that Garth get a tour of the fortress too. The fact that they'd pass Natalenya's house twice was a small coincidence, of course, even if it was out of their way.
The problem was that an empty wheelbarrow was just too inviting, and practically everyone had given them things to deliver. And now they had the goat and chicken as well. Out of embarrassment, Merlin almost wished Natalenya wouldn't be home.
"What does the house look like?" he asked. "Tell me what I'm seeing."
"Ornate kind of ... Bigger than the mill, I'd say, an' made o' fancy stone. The roof's got lapped bark with a real stone chimney, not jus' a hole for smoke." Garth paused. "Why does the magister's door have a bronze bird on it?"
"It's the ensign of a Roman legion. An eagle, or an aquila, to be precise. His family's descended from soldiers on the coast."
"Huh. Why'd the Romans come here? Nothin' here but hills, woods, an' a bit o' water."
"For the tin and copper. A little silver," Merlin said. "None of the brothers explained that?"
"Haven't had time for history, what with fishin', seein' you, workin', and eatin' o' course."
"Do you see anyone at the Magister's house? Maybe a daughter?"
"Nah ... no girl. Nothin' but a little smoke."
The sound of horses' hooves clattered toward them from farther down the hill. Merlin had just turned in the direction of the sound when Garth shoved his shoulder.
"A wagon!" Garth cried. "Out o' the road!"
The driver shouted as Merlin scrambled to push the wheelbarrow off to the side.
"Make way for the magister," the man shouted. "Make way!"
A whip snapped and the air cracked above Merlin's head.
The wheelbarrow hit a rock, and Merlin felt it tilt out of his control just as Garth ran into his back, causing him to fall, with a chicken flapping against his face. Merlin removed the feathered mass in time to see the blur of the goat leap over the tub and everything else tumble out of the barrow.
The wagon rumbled by and came to an abrupt stop in front of the magister's house.
Merlin sat up and rubbed his knees. He felt around for the bag of oats and found it spilled on the ground—a feast for the chicken and goat. At least it would keep them nearby.
The passengers climbed out of the wagon, and amid the general din of everyone walking toward the house, Merlin heard a soft, lovely voice and a gentle strumming. "Garth, is that a harp?"
"A small one, sure. A lady is holdin' it." Garth rose and brushed off his knees. "The magister ignored us, him in his fancy white robe. But did you see those boys? They'd liked to have kicked us."
Merlin pushed the goat away from the oats and knelt to scoop what grain he could find back into the bag. "How old?"
"Oh, the bigger one weren't more'n yer age, an' the other's about fourteen, I'd say."
"That's do-nothing Rondroc and Dyslan. I meant the one with the harp. Was that the mother?"
"Oh, no," Garth said. "Must be the daughter ... but a lot older'n your sister. She held herself straight and ladylike. Does she come to chapel?"
"Natalenya and her mother came two weeks ago. Tregeagle doesn't let them come every week." Merlin had never heard the magister's daughter sing so sweetly before.
Garth tapped him. "Hey, look at those horses!"
Merlin rubbed his chin and closed his eyes. "Pretty?"
"Very! That yellin' wagon driver tied 'em to a post an'—"
"Must be Erbin." Merlin chuckled and swatted Garth. "But I'm talking about Natalenya. I don't remember what she looks like. Is she pretty?"
"Blurs don't count for seein', huh? I guess you'd think she's pretty. Long brown hair and green dress, but I don't go for that. The horses look fine, though. White, with such shiny coats—an' so tall they matc
Excerpted from Merlin's Blade by Robert Treskillard. Copyright © 2013 by Robert Treskillard. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
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