Hawk of May (Down the Long Wind)

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9781402240706: Hawk of May (Down the Long Wind)

"Intelligent and imaginative...even the magic convinces."
-Mary Renault, author of The King Must Die

On The Path Toward Greatness, Every Hero Makes a Choice

Legends sing of Sir Gawain, one of the most respected warriors of King Arthur's reign and one of the greatest champions of all time. But this is not that story. This is the story of Gwalchmai, middle son of the beautiful, infinitely evil sorceress Morgawse, and gifted student of her dark magical arts. A story of an uncertain man, doubting his ability to follow his elder brother's warrior prowess and seeking to find his own identity by bonding with his frightening and powerful mother. Disappointed in himself and despised by his father, Gwalchmai sets out on a journey that will lead him to the brink of darkness...

A tale of loss, redemption, and adventure, Hawk of May brings new depth and understanding to Sir Gawain, the legend of King Arthur, and the impact of choices made-and the consequences that follow.

"A welcome new light on the horizon of popular Arthurian legend...delightful...a strong sense of love and mysticism...a ripping adventure tale."
-Booklist

"Will appeal to those who have enjoyed Tolkien's works."
-Library Journal

"Compelling...splendid...vibrant...exhilarating...a novel that seduces us into accepting sorcery and sanctity in King Arthur's England."
-New York Times Book Review

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About the Author:

Gillian Bradshaw was born in Falls Church, Virginia, and graduated from the University of Michigan, where she won the Hopwood Award for Hawk of May. She is the author of 25 other novels.

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

From Chapter One

When my father received the news of the Pendragon's death, I was playing boats by the sea.

I was then eleven years old, and as poor a warrior as any boy in my father's realm of the Innsi Erc, the Orcades Islands. Since I also was a very poor hunter, I had little in common with the other boys, the sons of the noble clans of our island, with whom I lived and trained in the Boys' House; and I had still less in common with my elder brother, Agravain, who led the others in making my life difficult, almost as difficult as my father's plans for me did. To escape from the insistent world of warriors and warriors-to-be, I went sometimes to my younger brother, but more often to a secret place I had by the sea.

It is about an hour's ride south of my father's fortress of Dun Fionn. A small stream falls down the cliff that edges our island on the west, carving a gully into the rock. At the bottom, trapped by a ledge of harder stone, the stream forms a deep pool behind a gravelly beach before it escapes into the ocean. Overhanging cliff walls make it invisible from the cliff-top, so no one but myself ever discovered its existence. As it was also very beautiful, this made it mine. I gave the place a name-Llyn Gwalch, "Hawk's Stream" in British-and considered it to be a world apart from and better than the Orcades and Dun Fionn. Sometimes I took my harp there, and sang to the waves that came pounding at the beach, flowing into the pool at high tide and hissing in the gravel at low tide.

Sometimes I would build fortresses of gravel and mud, and plan battles by the stream as though it were a great river, the boundary between mighty kingdoms. I would picture myself as a great warrior, good at every art of war and sung of in every king's hall in the western world, admired by Agravain and my father. But my favorite game was to build boats and to set them sailing out of the dark pool into the wild grey sea that pounded at every shore of the world at once. I sent my boats west: to Erin, from which my father had sailed years before; and beyond Erin, to that strange island or islands which druids and poets say lie west of the sunset, invisible to all but a few mortals, where the Sidhe live in eternal happiness.

I loved my Llyn Gwalch dearly, and jealously guarded it against any intruders from the outside world. I told only my younger brother Medraut of its existence, and then only after swearing him to secrecy. So, when I heard the clatter of a stone from the path above my head, I drew back hurriedly from the curragh I was building and began to clamber up the gully. I had left my pony tethered at the top, and I did not want anyone to come down looking for me.

"Gwalchmai?" The voice from the cliff-top was Agravain's.

"I'm coming!" I called, and scrambled faster.

"You'd better hurry," said Agravain. He sounded angry.

"Father's waiting for us. He sent me to find you."

I reached the top of the cliff, shook my hair out of my eyes, stared at Agravain. "What does he want?" I didn't like the sound of it. My father hated to wait, and he would certainly be angry by the time I got back to Dun Fionn.

"It's no business of yours what he wants." Agravain was, indeed, angry, tired of looking for me, and probably afraid that some of our father's anger would spill over on to him. "By the sun and the wind, can't you hurry?"

"I am hurrying." I was untying my pony as I spoke.

"Don't answer back to me! You're going to be in trouble enough as it is. We're late, and Father won't like you appearing in front of the guest like that. You're a mess."

"Guest?" About to mount, I paused. "Is he a bard or a warrior? Where's he from?"

"Britain. I don't know what kingdom. Father sent me out to look for you as soon as he'd spoken with the man, and it's a good thing Diuran saw you riding south, or I'd still be looking." Agravain kicked his horse and set off across the cliff-top at a gallop. "Come on, you little coward!"

I swung on to my pony and followed him, ignoring the over-familiar insult. I must be a coward, anyway. If I wasn't, I wouldn't ignore the insult. I'd fight with Agravain, even if I did always lose, and we'd be friends afterwards. He was always friendly after a fight.

A guest, from Britain, and an urgent summons. The Briton must have brought some important message. My father had many spies in Britain who reported to him regularly-but they sent their messages by indirect means, never coming to Dun Fionn themselves. A messenger from Britain meant some important event, a major victory over or defeat by the Saxons, the death of some important king, anything which my father could use to further his influence in the south. The Saxons had suffered a major defeat at the hands of the Pendragon's young war-leader only a year before, so it couldn't be that.

Some king dead, then, and my father about to make a bargain with his successor? A bargain which had some part in it which Agravain and I could fulfill? I urged my pony faster and passed Agravain at a gallop, anxious and miserable now. My father always made plans for me, but I fulfilled very few of them. The sea-wind and the wind of my speed dried the salt in my hair, and my pony's hooves echoed the beat of the surf; better to think about these than about my father. It would be good to get the confrontation over quickly, as quickly as possible. At least, I thought, looking for some good, Agravain hasn't asked me what I was doing at Llyn Gwalch.

The thought of my brother made me look back in alarm. He was a good hundred paces behind me, struggling with his horse on the rough path and scowling furiously. There were two things I could do better than he: riding and harp-playing. He liked to forget this and, as he was infinitely the better at fighting, I tried not to remind him. Now I had done so. I cringed, knowing that he would pick a quarrel with me on a pretext later in the day, and slowed my pony to a trot. He passed me without saying anything and rode in front of me, also at a trot. That was Agravain. He wanted to be first, and nearly always was. First-born, first choice to succeed my father as king, first among the boys of the island who trained to be warriors. My father was immensely proud of him, and never stayed angry at him for long. I stared at my brother's back and wished that I could be like him. We rode on to Dun Fionn in silence.

The fortress is built from a very light stone, from which it takes its name, "White Fortress." It is a new stronghold, completed in the year of Agravain's birth, three years before my own, but already it was as famous and powerful as any of the other, older forts, Temair or Emhain Macha in Erin, or Camlann and Din Eidyn in Britain. It stands at the highest point of the cliff, overlooking the sea, ringed by a bank and ditch and its thick, high walls. Two gate-towers, copied from old Roman forts, flank the single westward-facing gate. The fortress was designed by my father, and the power and fame were the result of a myriad of schemes and manoeuvres, political and military, carried out with unvaried success. If it was my mother who was the ultimate source of the schemes, it was my father, King Lot mac Cormac of the Innsi Erc, who had carried them out in such a way as to make himself one of the most powerful kings in either Britain or Erin. As Agravain and I rode in the gates, I wondered nervously what he wanted me to do.

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