In this fast-moving novel, the reader is immediately plunged into fifth century Britain where, although bereft of its once formidable Roman Legionary force, the seed of a new military force has already been sown.
With barbarian hordes encroaching on all her borders, Rome can no longer afford troops to protect Britain. Even in the East the legions at Constantinople are too far away.
Then, following a number of years in exile in Brittany, Ambrosius Aurelianus and his younger brother Julian Pendragon return to Britain with a small force where, along with a large number of ex-legionaries and others who rally to the cause, defeat Vortigern, a self-made King of Britain. Later, as all effective resistance breaks down, he takes the title of Dux Britanniae. The royal House of Pendragon, head of the royal family of Dumnonia, is once more established.
During the next few years Julian marries Ygerna, widow of Gorlois of Cornwall, to whom a son, Arthur, and later a daughter, Anna, is born. Britain is finally pacified from Hadrian's wall to the Tamar, while on Aurelius' instructions his own son, Merlin, brings the "Giant's Dance" over from Mount Killarnus in Ireland and erects it on Salisbury Plain in Britain.
Fascinated by this overwhelming structure of antiquity with its massive double circle of blue stones, Aurelianus is even more mesmerised by the sight of one particular stone of unknown origin, which is composed of fine-grained green sandstone with many flakes of Mica in its surface causing freshly exposed sufaces to glitter. It is acclaimed as the center-piece of the spirit of Britanniae.
Following the death of Aurelianus, Julian succeeds to the title of Dux. The struggle against the encroaching invaders continues and soon Julian is succeeded by his son Arthur Pendragon. His cousin Merlin remains as his close advisor. With new specialised troops arriving from Gaul under the command of his cousin Verus, Arthur now rebuilds the defence of Britain, moulding his new fighting troops into a swift and deadly force.
The twenty-eight cities of Britain flourish once more from York to Exeter and his new liaison with Loth of Celidonia and Cador of Cornwall provides a stout bulwark against the Anglo-Saxon invaders.
During the early hostilities, Arthur's first sword is broken and he visits the Lady of Avalon from whom he receives an unusual sword which cannot be destroyed.
After the battle of Badonicus, Britain is once more at peace and a new capital city is built which is named Camelot. Just after this a box is washed up onto the shore and inside is a crystal chalice which, when examined, is found to possess a strange characteristic. This vessel is later placed alongside the jeweled sword Clarentus, the "Sword of State".
Meanwhile treachery and deceit abound in the form of Arthur's favourite nephew Mordred, son of Loth and Anna. This is intensified by Mordred's liaison with Melwas, a black-hearted evil individual with designs of his own. He later murders Galhad who was appointed to succeed Arthur.
Merlin, as mysterious as ever, takes a young woman by the name of Vivian under his wing. Like him she has the gift of the "sight". At each visit Merlin's crystal cave flashes and sparkles while portents abound.
With the "Table" administration complete, Britain is now fully operative and the country settles down to twenty years of peace.
Eventually evil raises its head. Gwyneth, Arthur's wife, is abducted by Melwas, and Merlin is put out of action through the stealth and treachery of the evil Morganna. Trouble in Armorica causes Lucullus, father of the "late" Galhad, to request help from Arthur. This leaves Britain in the hands of Mordred.
On his return Arthur finds Britain under the rule of Mordred who has usurped the position of succession (Siege Perilous). Unknown to him however, Constantine, son of Cador who is Duke of Cornwall, has already been named as successor. A number of battles ensue, Mordred is killed and Arthur receives a mortal blow. He is taken to Avalon along with his mysterious sword.
Constantine now rules but is plagued by his obsession towards Mordred's two sons. He eventually kills them but dies himself shortly after. It is said that this was due to the manner of their deaths.
The Siege Perilous was at this time filled by the person of Aurelius Conanus who, not being of the House of Pendragon, moves the capital from Camelot to Exeter. It is during this period that a sudden natural phenomenon occurs as if nature itself has marked its own Siege Perilous!
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