The Kingfisher Series, Book One
The past, future, and Excalibur lie in her hands.
Wales, 1914. Vala Penrys and her four sisters find solace in their spinster life by story-telling, escaping the chaos of war by dreaming of the romantic days of Camelot. When the war hits close to home, Vala finds love with Taliesin Wren, a mysterious young Welsh Lieutenant, who shows her another world within the tangled roots of a Rowan tree, known to the Druids as ‘the portal’.
One night she falls through, and suddenly she is Vivyane, Lady of the Lake – the Kingfisher – in a divided Britain clamoring for a High King. What begins as an innocent pastime becomes the ultimate quest for peace in two worlds full of secrets, and Vala finds herself torn between the love of her life and the salvation of not only her family but of Britain, itself.
From chapter 9 – Transformation
‘Would I could go away from all the doubt,
The pain and turmoil of this weary life,
Into Avilion, where the good king went,
And rest me in the Happy Isle, like him!”
And so I closed my tired eyes, that press’d
Two tears between the lids, that, as they touch’d
The level ground, into a wonder grew;
For, lo! a lake that spread its waters up
Nigh to my feet, while through the sunset glow
A black barge hove in sight, like one that came
For wounded Arthur, only now it bore
No fair, crown’d queens, no hooded, weeping dames!’
Just after midnight, I slipped out of the house in my father’s Wellies, still in my nightdress, and a cloak about my shoulders. Halfway up the tor, the words of Sally Bridges’ poem erupted in my mind like the bursting forth of an underwater spring. My father’s father bought the obscure little book, Marble Isle, in a quaint bookshop in Philadelphia during one of his excursions to America in an attempt to further his tobacco holdings, not to mention his entanglements in the slave trade in Jamaica and the Southern States. Needless to say, both failed miserably upon the outset of their civil war. The book sat on the corner of his desk in his dingy office at the National Provincial Bank in Liverpool up until his death when I was ten. In the commotion of sorting his things, I tucked the book inside my coat and never told a soul.
Something permeated the words as if someone spoke from another time longing for the beauty of the past, and the pining resonated with me as a child. I imagined my grandfather thought the same way about the book, hence the reason for the particular place allotted among his desk adornments. He never mentioned the book to me, or said much of anything except to say how much I favoured my grandmother. I recall him saying as much with quite a scowl and wrinkled brow.
With Kezia’s revelations and with my nain’s letters, I understood a little more about her obsession with escape and travelling. A little, but not nearly enough.
When I reached the top of the overlook, the moon broke free of the clouds, and the rowan tree glowed in her beams. The heath banked down towards the river and the shimmering moonlight glistening across the snow mimicked the stars above. I caught
my breath at the beauty, the moment fit for a Bard’s words; and yet, I had none to offer. I gazed about, wondering if I might see Titania herself flitting along the path amidst this wonderland or some other wild gwyllion ready to snatch me away to some mysterious secret world.
I chuckled to myself and announced, out loud. “Take me. I might not mind under the present circumstances.”
The wind picked up, and a slight shivering giggle whispered. I spun round as the odd and out-of-place vibration of horse hooves thundered by, as if a group of hunters sped by in the darkness. I squinted my eyes, scanning the edges of the trees along the Usk, then laughed at my silliness.
“Surely not, at this time of night.” I pulled my cloak tighter round my body and laughed, again, nervously. “I should have brought my knife.”
For it was a well-known fact among the Welsh that any gwyllion, or fae folk, fled from a blade to show respect towards the peace-giving sword of Excalibur.
The sounds vanished and I stood very still, my breath lingering across my lips in a vaporous haze. Remembrances of Taliesin Wren’s breath whispering against my ear warmed me, yet the chill hanging on the slight breeze sent shivers down my arm as I leaned against the trunk, closed my eyes, and whispered out his name.
“Taliesin, please stay safe. Please, come back to me.”
And then, I murmured the rest of the poem.
‘And, as I rose, one that I knew stood by,
And look’d in mine with eyes as tender, soft
As when we parted—ah! so long ago!
“I knew that you would come!” he said, when first
The bliss of meeting yielded feeling words;
“And I have waited here; for all the joys
Of this fair home were incomplete and poor
Till I had you once more, my life’s beloved!
See these green lawns, these shaded, quiet woods,
Where we will walk together, as of yore,
And never change or part, or weep or yearn!
Was it not worth the tears we shed on earth
To love forever in Avilion thus?’
The sensation hit hard this time. As I slid the crystal necklace over the edge of my nightdress and into my palm, I stumbled over the entangling roots and fell forward to my knees, sending the Wellies flying from my feet.
This time, no momentary vision or whirling tempest enveloped me, nor any whispering voice. This time, as the breath fled from my lungs, the roots beneath me opened wide, sucking me down into black oblivion. Water rushed in over my head and I screamed, the echo reverberating far away from me into the darkness. Gasping and coughing, I clawed my surroundings, over and over, desperate to find some grounding, but none secured my flailing feet. The deafening silence throbbed in my ears. My lungs and throat burned, and my water-drunk cloak pulled me deeper.
I released the cloak ties from round my neck and clamoured towards the dark void round me, holding the small amount of breath left in my lungs. Yet, the more I struggled, the more I drowned. So, I gave up to the tranquil peace and closed my eyes.
Floating in nothingness as the seconds crept by. Tick, tock, tick-tock . . . . Floating, drifting . . . upwards.
Fresh air hit my face, hard yet soft, like getting socked in the nose with a feather-down pillow by one of my sisters. I opened my eyes, coughing, and scanned my surroundings. My head throbbed right above my right eyebrow.
Water surrounded me everywhere. Shielding my eyes from the sun peeking over the treetops and attempting to assess what happened, I gazed in the direction of the tor. Did I fall from down the cliff face? Is there an underground spring to the river Usk? Why is the sun shining and where is the snow?
Reality (or the dream?) socked me in the gut. Our estate possessed no lake, yet here I bobbed in a vast silvery pool shadowed over with a slight misty veil. I touched the surface with my fingertip. The pain in my head sickened me, as well as the confusion, so I swam to the shoreline and rested against a nearby apple tree.
I rested for a few minutes more, watching the delicate apple blossoms cascade down over the waters. Peace washed over me, and a tear trickled down my cheek.
“Where am I?” I said, out loud.
And like the poem, the words happened. I rose to my feet, turning slightly to look over my shoulder. And one familiar to me stood near, looking into my face with eyes as tender and soft as when we parted on the tor (or perhaps from long ago?)
“You called me,” he said.
I caressed my brow and shook my head, still unable to understand.
“I waited here,” he continued, “for so long . . . for you, Vivyane. I heard your call.”
I held up my hand. “Wait . . . Lieutenant Wren, I never heard back from you after my last letter. Lady Davies said you went to the Western Front.”
He enchanted me with a smile. “An easy lie to keep her at bay. With all the confusion at the front lines, I am sure I will not be missed, at least for a day.”
I searched my mind, desperate to sort the shattered pieces floating inside. The muddled haze in my brain morphed into a sudden fear, and the muscles in my neck tightened as I stole a scanning glance over this man near me.
Is this Taliesin Wren? Or is this the Merlyn of Britain?
He resembled the Lieutenant—the same blue-grey eyes, the same colour hair except longer to the shoulders, his face shadowed with a day-old beard, the same daring build hidden no longer under the dusky green Army-issued British uniform, but now adorned in a long woad tunic to his feet, belted with a hand-tooled leather baldric, sword at his side, walking staff in his left hand, and dark grey hooded cloak puddling on the ground round him. The image of the ancient wizard of Britain in my childhood imaginings did not stand before me now.
No, indeed, here stands a Mr Darcy of Camelot, my mind whispered.
“I am sorry,” I said, again shaking my head, “but I feel quite unwell, I think. I’m not sure what just happened to me.”
He reached out and touched his forefinger to my collarbone.
“The crystal, what happened to your necklace?”
I looked down, noticing the missing necklace, as well as the realization of standing before him soaked to the bone in my nightgown. I wrapped my arms round my chest and turned away from his stare.
“Perhaps, it fell in the lake . . . somehow. None of this makes sense. One moment I fell at the rowan . . . and the next, well . . . I am in this lake. And you are here . . . here . . . I am not even sure where I am.”
“Do you truly not know? Do you not remember these green lawns, these quiet, shaded woods where we would walk together for hours, laughing and talking . . .” He walked near to me and his breath caressed over the top of my ear. “. . . and making love below the bower of the apple trees?”
My heart sped up, and I turned to face him. “What are you saying? I have never . . . Who are you?”
Taking my fingers in his hand and kissing each fingertip, he answered. “I must remind you, once again.”
He kissed me as he did at the tor, and all the memories of the past flooded out of his soul and into mine. I visited here before, but how or when I did not know, nor did I care at this moment. Time ceased. Somewhere a clock stopped as if falling from a mantel. I backed away from him and placed the back of my hand over my bruised lips.
“I am Merlyn,” he said, “you are Vivyane, and where are we?”
The word caught in my throat, but the truth formed before he asked the question.
“How is this possible? These stories are not real; they are simply creations in a book, the imaginings of a story-teller. Historians say King Arthur never existed.”
Taliesin spread out his cloak on the ground and stretched out, the silver flecks in his dark eyes sparkling in the glimmer of the sunlight through the branches.
“You will find history sometimes contain secrets. Look round you, Vivyane. Is this not real? When you play-acted your little stories in the attic of Tyalwyn, were they not real to you?”
Confusion surged in my mind once more. “But telling stories is only make-believe. This is quite different.”
“Is it?” He propped up on his elbow and narrowed his eyes at me. “Sometimes make-believe is all about perspectives, Vala.”
My legs gave way, and I slumped down next to him. “I do not understand. This is madness.”
Thank you, D. K. Marley and The Coffee Pot Book Club
About the Author
D. K. Marley is a Historical Fiction author specializing in Shakespearean adaptations, Tudor era historicals, Colonial American historicals, alternate historicals, and historical time-travel. At a very early age she knew she wanted to be a writer. Inspired by her grandmother, an English Literature teacher, she dove into writing during her teenage years, winning short story awards for two years in local competitions. After setting aside her writing to raise a family and run her graphic design business, White Rabbit Arts, returning to writing became therapy to her after suffering immense tragedy, and she published her first novel “Blood and Ink” in 2018, which went on to win the Bronze Medal for Best Historical Fiction from The Coffee Pot Book Club, and the Silver Medal from the Golden Squirrel Book Awards. Within three years, she has published four more novels (two Shakespearean adaptations, one Colonial American historical, and a historical time travel).
When she is not writing, she is the founder and administrator of The Historical Fiction Club on Facebook, and the CEO of The Historical Fiction Company, a website dedicated to supporting the best in historical fiction for authors and readers. And for fun, she is an avid reader of the genre, loves to draw, is a conceptual photography hobbyist, and is passionate about spending time with her granddaughter. She lives in Middle Georgia U.S.A. with her husband of 35 years, an English Lab named Max, and an adorable Westie named Daisy.
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/DK-Marley/e/B003MS4JPE
Available on Kindle Unlimited.
Universal Link: https://amzn.to/3A94jzi