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Gawain A Novel of Arthurian Legend by Paul McLerran


Overview: Raised to hate King Arthur, Gawain is sent as a spy to infiltrate the Round Table. There, he meets and befriends the charismatic and dangerous Lancelot, and the two quickly become Arthur's most famous and formidable warriors. But when forced to choose, will Gawain give his loyalty to his family, his newfound brother in arms, or the king for whom he gains an unexpected respect?

Inspired by countless legends written over a thousand years, this novel weaves these previously unrelated stories into one cohesive narrative of honor, duplicity, passion and betrayal in an Arthurian fantasy where ghosts and magical creatures are commonplace and good and evil battle for survival.


Gawain A Novel of Arthurian Legend by Paul McLerran  Book Chapter One


The last battle loomed. A weary general stood on a hilltop overlooking his still-sleeping soldiers, his cold eyes piercing the early morning fog like the first rays of the sun that would soon shine over the eastern horizon. All was deceptively quiet. In a few short hours, these men would die in droves. Reports of a meager, mismanaged harvest meant that the adversary, holed up in tomorrow’s target castle, could ill afford a sustained siege. The enemy would almost certainly ride out to meet them as soon as soldiers began to surround the great stronghold. All would be decided then.

Strangely, he felt almost no emotion. At the beginning of the war he’d been warmer; he had screamed with a passionate fury, and that fury had driven the army from battlefield to battlefield, always in pursuit of the same relentless goal. Now that goal loomed finally in sight—the last citadel, the final fortress—and the general felt nothing but emptiness. All of his rage had departed. All of his joy had left long before that. Only a resigned gray numbness remained in him now, a feeling that was almost sadness, but not quite. More than anything, he felt simply tired: tired of battle, tired of mourning, tired of life.

After a moment, the general turned away from the view of his army and glanced behind him. On the hill sat one great pavilion surrounded by several smaller tents. In the center of the pavilion stood a large table covered in maps, letters, and plans. Patrolling the hillside, a few soldiers, armed and alert, could be seen passing now and again in front of it, and these never failed to glance down at the table, considering the plan of attack. No doubt they wondered if they would die that day.

The smaller tents belonged to the various captains of companies, with one exception. The second largest dwelling, set up directly behind the command pavilion, bore the symbol of a fierce and noble dragon beneath a great golden crown stitched above its entrance flap. This was the royal tent. Its occupant remained hidden most of the time. Though the king had fought and won many of his own battles—had, in fact, gained his kingdom through conquest commanded by his own confident hand—he had left the leadership of the present war to others. The general commanded because the king's spirit was all but broken.

The general turned and swung open the flap of the tent behind him. The interior held little: his cot, his armor and weapons—polished and in perfect condition, as always—and a small wooden chest. As he stepped inside, a soldier who'd been sitting on the cot snapped to attention, standing so speedily that he might have been pulled up with a string.

“Return to your duty,” the general told his soldier without emotion.

The general moved with measured pace to the wooden chest by the cot, barely heeding the soft whisper of the tent flap closing behind the guard. Kneeling, he drew a small brass key from a belt satchel and pushed it into the chest's lock. He turned the key and lifted the chest's lid, revealing an odd assortment of mismatched trinkets. Pausing briefly to consider the items as a group, he finally reached in and withdrew a single object for consideration.

The item he contemplated was a loop of red ribbon, edged in golden fabric and long enough to wear as an armband, high up where the arm meets the shoulder. The general had won many ribbons and awards in his time, signifying victories both great and small, but this ribbon, the first of them all, was the only one that he still kept. Softly, he ran his fingers over the faded fabric, and for the first time a faint smile played across his features.

And he remembered...

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