At the dawn of Camelot, one young girl is about to take her place beside the greatest king in England’s history…. She is a mere child of twelve. But in these medieval days, this is the age when childish things must be put away and greater responsibilities accepted—all in preparation for a betrothal of marriage. For young Lady Guinevere, on the advent of her thirteenth Birth Day, the whole idea is quite unbearable. After all, what could be better than spending her youth playing with her best friend Cedwyn, roaming the grounds around the castle looking for mythical creatures or hunting rabbits? However, the wizard Merlyn—her teacher and friend—knows that destiny has a way of catching up with a person. His arrival sets in motion a series of events that will lead Guinevere to her destiny whether she is ready for it or not.
Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend, book 1
Hard to believe that last night she had been so happy. Now, her world had fallen apart. It’s not that I don’t expect to get married. I know I must. But not now, not so soon. And to spring it on her and not give her the opportunity to participate in the decision stung like the bee that had bitten her last summer. Suddenly, the magic of the unicorn seemed so far away. Her eyes started to water. She blinked and tried to wipe the tears away before Cedwyn saw them, but she couldn’t.
“What’s the matter? Why are you crying again? Is it because of that decision your father made?”
Guinevere nodded in reply.
“What do you have to do? Is that what the king and Merlyn were talkin’ about last night in the hall after everyone left?”
“It must be,” she said, wondering if Merlyn had known even in the forest. “When did you see them?”
“I sneaked back into the hall after everyone had gone to bed to see if there was any more circlette left. I saw them with their heads together, but they didn’t see me. They were discussin’ some secret.”
Shaking her head, Guinevere said, “That’s why Father waited for Merlyn before he said anything to me. They came up with this idea between themselves.” She felt so betrayed.
“So, what is it that you have to do? Why have we run away from home?”
“My Father the King and apparently Merlyn have decided that I am to marry King Arthur in two years and become his Queen. I’ll have to leave the castle, my home, you, and everything I’ve grown up with,” she added, not realizing that Cedwyn was staring at her with his mouth wide open.
“He even promised Grandfather’s round table to King Arthur. All without asking!” She finished, sure that she had stated her point clearly. Her eyes strayed to the hand that Arthur had kissed. Quickly she averted them.
“Are you sure they said King Arthur?” Cedwyn asked, his amazement showing in his voice.
“Oh yes! I’m sure.”
“That’s fantastic! He’s gonna be a great king! He’s gonna bring all of England together. I heard some of the knights talking about him last night. They said that he is the bravest and best warrior they have ever seen. And the smartest!” He looked at Guinevere and shook his head. “And you are gonna be his Queen!” Disbelief washed over him. “I wish someone would make a decision like that for me!”
“Really? Then you can marry King Arthur!” she said, standing up and stamping her foot.
Then she turned and stomped up the rise.
The Legend Within
by Cheryl Carpinello
Arthurian stories are steeped in legend. While perceived as fiction, legends often contain elements of factual happenings. It is left up to readers to decide if they believe or not.
In the Arthurian tales I write, I always add one or two of my own legends. Guinevere: On the Eve of Legend contains one of my favorites: The Legend of the Red Deer and the Unicorn. I’ve recited this story at readings and at Medieval Festivals where I have been the storyteller. Here it is:
The Legend of the Red Deer and the Unicorn
A long, long time ago when the forests were young, the unicorns roamed the land of what is now called England. They numbered in the thousands. One day a red deer washed up on a sandy shore during a violent storm. Not knowing the land, the red deer soon became lost, unable to find fresh water and enough grasses to eat. The unicorns found the deer near death from thirst and starvation. These kind creatures nudged and pushed the deer to fresh water and later showed it the best grazing grounds and the safest places in the forest to bed down.
Before long the unicorns adopted the deer, which, in turn, promised that all future generations of red deer would protect the unicorns. A few years later, another red deer washed up on the shore, was discovered and saved by the red deer and the unicorns. The two deer later mated and left the unicorn herds.
Hundreds of years passed and in those years, the red deer herds grew in number until there wasn’t a forest without the deer across the land. Sadly, the same could not be said for the unicorns. As men populated the island, a myth arose about the unicorn. It was believed that a unicorn’s horn held strong magic for man, and some even thought it could cure all of men’s ills. To that end, unicorns were hunted ruthlessly for the magical horn, their bodies left to rot once the horn was harvested.
The numbers of unicorns across the land dwindled to just a handful when the unicorns and the red deer met once more. The unicorns asked if the red deer remembered when the unicorns had saved them. The red deer remembered because the memories of the first red deer were passed on to each new deer. Filled with dismay at how few unicorns remained, the red deer kept their promise to protect the unicorns.
Today if you are lucky enough to come across a herd of red deer in England, you must be very quiet and patient. If you wait long enough and look hard enough, between the legs of the red deer, you may catch a glimpse of white. At the middle of each herd, the unicorns thrive and play.
About the Author
I am a retired high school English teacher. A devourer of books growing up, my profession introduced me to writings and authors from times long past. Through my studies and teaching, I fell in love with the Ancient and Medieval Worlds. Now, I hope to inspire young readers and those Young-at-Heart to read more through my Tales & Legends for Reluctant Readers set in these worlds.