‘The Warrior Queen’ is the first installment of ‘The Guinevere Trilogy’, a new series of eBooks that reimagines the famous story of Queen Guinevere for a modern audience.
When her people’s army is destroyed in the war with King Arthur, Guinevere is horrified to discover that her conqueror has demanded to have her as his bride. She arrives at Camelot angry and resentful, but quickly finds that the king who defeated her people in battle is not the brute she expected. Slowly, she gains a fragile happiness in her new home, but this is threatened when war comes again. When her life is saved on the battlefield by a mysterious French knight, Guinevere finds herself caught between desire and duty, the longing for happiness in the new life she has, and her desire to be free and follow her heart.
This original re-imagining of a much-loved legend gives readers a new Guinevere; passionate, headstrong and fiercely independent. An immersive adventure through Arthurian legend, steeped in magic, passion and intrigue, this book won’t disappoint, ‘The Warrior Queen’ retells the classic narrative through the eyes of a queen determined to escape the bounds her society has placed on her, determined not to be ruled by the men who surround her, and determined to be master of her own destiny.
Targeted Age Group:: Adult
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
My long-standing love of Arthurian legend. I grew up in Cornwall, close to Tintagel castle, and I always felt a connection with that magical world of adventure.
Who are your favorite authors?
Marion Zimmer Bradley, Thomas Malory, Philippa Gregory, J.R.R. Tolkein, Margaret Atwood, and many many more.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
They were there, hiding away in the old medieval books I loved, waiting to be brought into our own time, and shared with the rest of the world.
The soft light filtered between my flickering eyelashes, the lovely golden light dappling through the spring green leaves was blinking and dancing. I could smell the grass beneath me, feel it on the bare skin at the base of my back, hear my heart beating in my ears, still fast. I had the adrenaline of the hunt still rushing in my blood, and I was thinking of the men coming home from war, the same bright victory in their veins. I was lost in the same daydream I dreamed every day, back then. It will be soon, I told myself, it will be soon. The air around me smelled of the coming summer, and the breeze on my face was light and lovely as a kiss. Contentment, deep and soft, was upon me.
I sat up at the sound of my own name. One of my ladies was running towards me through the clearing, her dress torn from running through the woods. Through the thin silk tiny streams of blood, soft, white flesh showed. She must have been in a hurry, to run out here in her dress. I stood as she came towards me, pushing the thick, coarse red curls of my hair back from my face, running my fingers through them and twisting them back out of my way, tying them fast, and then I took up my bow.
“What is it? Why are you out here?”
I knew something was wrong. Badly wrong.
She shook her head, gasping in breath, leaning down on her knees. I put a hand on her shoulder and shushed her until she had gathered herself.
At last she steadied her breathing, and then she glanced up at me, and in those glassy eyes, brimming with the tears she had been choking back so long, I saw already the answer that she would give.
“The war… the war is lost.”
The great hall of Carhais was empty when I entered it. This was not so unusual. My father’s feasting-hall had lain empty these past two years and more, since Carhais had emptied out its armies onto the battlefields of Britain, across the sea. The last time it had been full, we had been sending our men – and our boys – off to war; my three brothers among them. And the man to whom I had been promised in marriage. I had been meant to become his wife that summer, and instead I stood at the gates of Carhais with the other women, the children, the old and the weak, and my father, and watched the men ride away to war, with my mother at their head. I had taken my brothers’ place; hunting, overseeing the organisation of what little of the household remained, and Carhais’ defences. That had been easy. I had been schooled for it all my life. It had not been easy watching the news of each new loss reach my father.
When there had been someone to scold me for it, I would not have come into the great hall in my hunting leathers, but my mother was gone, and there was no one left who cared. For the great formal hall she would have had me in a dress of silk, a circlet of gold about my head, but today I came straight from the forest. My fine clothes were sold for iron, and horses, and there was no one left to note that I strode in without fanfare, without a bow to anyone. No one to be a proper princess for. No one who cared how I looked, or if I could sing, or read in Latin. What mattered now was that I was useful, that I could count the dwindling stores; that I could hunt. That was how I spent most of my days now; hunting in the forest. There was little else to do, and those of us left behind needed to eat.
Or, I thought it was empty. A black shadow on the dais, on my father’s throne, unfolded itself as he lifted his head from its droop of despair.
“Guinevere…” He breathed my name, and shook his head. I let the lady at my arm slip from my grasp, ran forward and knelt before him, taking up his hands in mine.
He put a hand on my head in the same fatherly benediction that I had experienced there since I was a child, but this time it was trembling. No, I thought. But he was already speaking.
“Guinevere, they’re all dead. Your brothers are dead, our allies are dead.” He drew a breath in that rattled him at the core.
“What happened, father?” I turned my face up to him, and he cupped my chin in his soft, aged hand. I was glad in that moment – deeply deeply glad – that my father was too old to fight. My mother had not been. And she was not here.
“No one thought Arthur capable of it, but he came, that child, with his army of brutes. They wiped us out. The way they tell it, he would not have done until all his enemies were dead. All those he could lay his hands on. Barely one in ten left alive. He’s returned to his court at Camelot. Like father like son – his father Uther was a brute, too. The men from our lands who made it back alive are… few. Mainly deserters who fled. Carhais will turn them away; this castle is no place for cowards.”
“And…?” The name I wished to speak stuck in my throat, and my father nodded, and pressed his lips together. The man among them I was pledged to marry was dead, and he had been sweet and kind. I had hoped he would come back to me. He had been my safety. Marriage to him would have meant I could stay in my own home. Now, all of sudden, I was a defeated princess, heir to a proud and ancient kingdom, with no brothers. I felt the dread gathering around me. Some awful foreign man would come to claim me. I would be taken from my home.
“He, too, Guinevere. He was brave, at the front, and so he died first.” I choked back the tears, then, for the first time. I hated to cry, I hated to seem weak. I would not mourn. I would carry on. Gather my fighting women, and the few men who were left, and defend my lands. When I had three brothers older than me, it had not mattered much to whom I would be given, but now whoever had me would have Carhais, and Brittany with it. If I wanted to stay in my home, if I wanted to keep possession of myself now, I would have to fight for it.
“It may yet be for the best, Guinevere.” He drew in a deep breath, and gently turned my face up towards him to look him in the eyes. Those old eyes, the wrinkles drooping sad at the sides, the deep lines of care. I knew what was coming. “Arthur has sent messengers. They wish to bring you back to Camelot. To be his bride.”
“No!” I jumped back, and I was on my feet before I realised what I had done, the anger pumping hot through my veins. I had not thought it would be so soon. I had not thought it would be him. I was not ready to leave my own lands, nor was I prepared to go into the hands of the boy-king Arthur, the savage who had slaughtered my people. Never. I was shouting already. “Father, he’s a brute. He’s a child. No. I won’t do it.”
I had not even thought to fear it. What could have convinced my father that the only way was to send me to him? I had been betrothed to a man, and everyone said that Arthur was nothing more than a boy, and a foreign conqueror besides. I didn’t want a boy. I wanted a man, and I wanted one of my own people. I wanted someone who would stand by my side and fight for Brittany’s independence from Arthur, not for it to be handed over to him, and me with it. I thought at least I would be married to a prince from our own side. I could not imagine my father would agree to this if there were any other choice. The losses had been that heavy, then. But I would not go. I would not marry Arthur. I had not given up.
“Guinevere…” My name fell like a sigh from his lips and it clutched me in the pit of my stomach. He did not have to say the words, I knew there was no other way, not really. We could not refuse Arthur, and I could not refuse my sad, old father. He has lost everyone else. Perhaps, since I am not a parent, I cannot know the desire to have a child in slavery, rather than dead. I inclined my head in a nod. Arthur had conquered Britain, and if we wanted the remains of Carhais to stay alive, we did not have a choice. I did not have a choice.
Author, feminist, fantasist and chronic daydreamer Lavinia Collins grew up in the rural Westcountry, where there was nothing to do but get lost in her own imagination. She began her love affair with all things medieval when she visited Tintagel castle as a little child. She went on to study medieval literature at University, where she indulged her habit of getting lost in an imaginary past. While there she learned everything about chivalry in theory, and almost nothing in practice. She wanted to share just a little bit of the powerful magic of medieval literature and legend with the wider world, and bring these half-lost stories to a modern audience, to recover the most of all the stories of the women of these legends, who often get lost among all of the tales of heroes and battles. She hopes that you find reading her books as much of a romantic, immersive escape from the “real world” as she did writing them. Now she splits her time between her main passion, writing, and a bit of teaching and a lot of fussing the cat and daydreaming. She loves eating (mainly chocolate), drinking (mainly wine) and being merry (combination of the previous two and good friends).
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