The Pendragon's Challenge (The Last Pendragon Saga Book 7)

The Pendragon's Challenge

A Quick Recap of the Last Pendragon Saga …

Cast of Characters

Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen

Sample: Footsteps in Time

 

Book seven in The Last Pendragon Saga

 

The Pendragon’s Challenge

 

by

 

Sarah Woodbury

 

 

Copyright © 2016 by Sarah Woodbury

 

The Pendragon’s Challenge

 

With only four days until Cade is to be crowned High King of the Britons, the combined might of gods and men are set to prevent his ascension. Once again the companions are scattered as the struggle against dark forces—both old and new—threatens to overwhelm them.

 

The Pendragon’s Challenge
is the seventh novella in
The Last Pendragon Saga
.

To Taran

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www.sarahwoodbury.com

 

A Quick Recap of the Last Pendragon Saga …

 

Last we saw Cade, Rhiann, and their friends, they had defeated the armies of Mercia, led by Cade’s uncle, King Penda, at Caer Fawr, a hillfort in eastern Wales. Penda, along with his son Peada (who had once intended to marry Rhiann), had been seduced by Mabon, the son of Arianrhod and Arawn, the Lord of the Underworld. Much of the damage sustained in that battle had been
glamour
arranged by Mabon. Once he returns to the Otherworld and Penda’s folly is revealed, Penda asks Cade to ally with him in Mercia’s own fight against another Saxon lord, Oswin of Northumbria.

Cade refuses to join his uncle, in large part because the battle had revealed to Taliesin and Cade the real danger they faced: the Thirteen Treasures of Britain were in play, and more
sidhe
than just Mabon and Arianrhod were meddling in the human world. They decide that in the months before Cade’s crowning as High King of the Britons, set for the day of the summer solstice, Cade must return to Dinas Bran to consolidate his rule over the Kingdom of Gwynedd. Taliesin, meanwhile, would set out immediately in search of the rest of the Treasures.

The Pendragon’s Challenge
picks up the story three months after the events of
Rise of the Pendragon.

 

Cast of Characters

 

Cadwaladr (Cade) ap Cadwallon—King of Gwynedd

Rhiann ferch Cadfael—Cade’s wife (Queen of Gwynedd)

Cadfael—Rhiann’s father, King of Gwynedd (deceased)

Cadwallon—Cade’s father, King of Gwynedd (deceased)

Alcfrith—Cade’s mother

Penda—King of Mercia

Peada—Penda’s son

Oswin—King of Northumbria

 

Beli—King of the Otherworld

Arianrhod—Goddess, Beli’s daughter

Arawn—Lord of the Underworld

Mabon—Arianrhod’s and Arawn’s son

Gwydion—Arianrhod’s brother

 

Cade’s Companions

 

Taliesin—seer/bard

Goronwy—knight

Catrin—seeress

Dafydd—knight, Goronwy’s brother

Angharad—Dafydd’s wife

Bedwyr—knight

Hywel—knight

 

Chapter One

Dinas Bran

June 655 AD

 

“We ride!” The shout echoed all the way to the top of the keep. “Hail Cadwaladr! King of the Cymry! The king shines forth!”
The gate opened, and the host of cavalry surged forward. The narrow causeway between the ramparts was full of Mercians, but the riders swept down the pathway, their arms swinging, taking out every enemy within reach, even as they picked up speed. All the way down from the fort, the hapless Mercians fell under the horses’ hooves or—those who were less lucky—to one side, where a sword sliced through them.
Then they reached the field. “My God!” That was Bedwyr. Just ahead, Hywel checked his horse.
Exhilarated by the heat of battle, Goronwy threw back his head and laughed, and then he spurred his horse into the fray, Hywel and Bedwyr close behind. Even if this was his end, he would die with his friends. He put everything from his mind but his sword and the men he intended to kill with it.
He met a Mercian axe with his blade and ripped it away. He turned to the other side and thrust the point through another man’s throat. But then a third man buried his axe in his horse’s chest, and the creature went down. Goronwy cleared his feet from the stirrups just in time. Back to back with Hywel, with hardly a pause for breath, he continued to fight.
Sweat poured down his face as Goronwy shoved his sword through the midsection of one Mercian, pulled it from his belly, and in almost the same motion, slashed through another’s thigh. He spun and met a third man’s blade. A grin split the red-bearded Mercian’s face. For the first time, Goronwy felt weakness in his arms and found himself giving way under the onslaught.
And then the point of an arrow punched through the Mercian’s ribs. He’d been lunging at Goronwy, his axe held above his head and ready for a killing blow. Instead, from her vantage point at the top of the keep, Rhiann had shot him.
Behind Goronwy, Hywel fought on as one possessed, and Goronwy resumed his place at his back. Sweat ran into Goronwy’s eyes, and he swiped at it with the back of his hand. Or maybe those were tears.

 

T
hey’d been tears, in fact, of pain and rage at what the Saxons had wrought. Now, as Goronwy stood on the battlements of Dinas Bran looking east, the sight of the banner of Mercia coming towards him nearly brought him to his knees. The memory of what they’d endured at Caer Fawr still clouded his vision, and he fought it. Men had died that day at King Penda’s behest. That some of those deaths had been an illusion brought on by Mabon’s
glamour,
did nothing to quell the fire in Goronwy’s belly at what had happened to them there. Even now, three months on, most nights he dreamed of that battle.

When he was able to sleep at all.

He licked his lips at the bitter taste the vision had left in his mouth.
The meddling of the
sidhe
represented nothing more or less than everything that was wrong with the world. Goronwy’s stomach churned to think of the smug look of superiority that seemed a permanent fixture on Mabon’s face. He hated the way Arianrhod, the goddess of the silver wheel of time and fate, manipulated mortals—Cade in particular, but that meant all those who served him—to do her bidding whether he wanted to or not. And it was a crime of the first order that Taliesin was beholden to Gwydion, Arianrhod’s brother, for his
sight
, and found it conferred or withheld at the
sidhe’s
whim.

Goronwy believed to the depths of his being that the world would be a better place without the
sidhe
in it, and yet—

A hand on his arm startled him, and he turned, the rage still untamed inside him. “What?”

Catrin stared at him wide-eyed. She took a step back, both hands coming up defensively. “I’m sorry, my lord. I didn’t mean to disturb your thoughts.”

Goronwy took in a deep breath, dampening down his emotions. These days his anger was never far from the surface. “It is I who should be sorry. You have done nothing wrong.” He pointed over the battlement to the company of Mercians that had started to make its way up the long road from the valley floor. “I saw them coming and was thinking of Caer Fawr.”

A shadow entered Catrin’s eyes, for she’d been there too—not as a warrior but as the healer she was. “I’m sorry,” she said again. “I wish I could help.”

Coming from someone else, her words might have sounded patronizing, and the last thing Goronwy wanted was sympathy. But Catrin meant them exactly as she’d said them. She was also one of the reasons that his hatred of the world of the
sidhe
couldn’t be sustained for long. For like Taliesin, she was a seer, though rather than seeing the future, she sensed magic and the truth in people.

Unfortunately for Goronwy, hating the world of the
sidhe
was also not far off from hating himself. His mother had been the great seeress, Nest, and he had inherited a small portion of her abilities. As a child he’d seen auras—the shimmer of light around a person ranging across the spectrum from purple to red, indicating good or evil, health or sickness. His mother had been extraordinarily pleased when she’d realized that he had inherited her gift. But the way she’d spoken of it—and him—to others had made Goronwy uncomfortable. He hadn’t
wanted
to be a seer. He wanted to be a warrior.

Before long, he taught himself to turn his head away from what his inner eye showed him, and he refused to speak of it to her again. The first time he denied his gift, his mother had slapped his face. But any strong-willed child learns very quickly how to get the better of his parent, and denying his gift gained Goronwy attention—for a time. Then, of course, as his abilities disappeared, his mother lost all interest in him.

Whatever else Goronwy’s mother had been, her gift had been a true one. Catrin reminded Goronwy very much of her, though Catrin’s heart was warmer, despite her years of isolation, than his mother’s had ever been. In the aftermath of Caer Fawr, it had occurred to him for the first time in many years that he might have done himself a disservice in suppressing his gift in favor of those feelings that came from his physical senses: the smooth leather of his sword hilt in his hand, the crunch of a man’s nose breaking as Goronwy hit him with his elbow, or the smell of a woman’s skin.

Those sensations, to him, were far more important and real than the world of the
sidhe
, but his familiarity with the ways of the gods was probably also one of the reasons he hadn’t run away from Cade when he’d learned the truth about who he really was—or Catrin, for that matter, when he’d encountered her on the road from Caerleon. Hiding his sight had never troubled Goronwy because he’d told himself that he really was no different from anyone else. Any man could have the sight if he would only open himself up to it. The more Goronwy dreamt of Caer Fawr, however, the more he was starting to think that maybe this wasn’t entirely true.

He had accepted his preternatural awareness as part and parcel of what any good fighter could marshal when the need arose. Cade had it. Goronwy thought that even his younger brother, Dafydd, who was born of a different mother from Goronwy, had it. But if Goronwy was honest with himself, he had to admit that his gifts went beyond the usual, and to attribute his skill in battle to training alone was the worst of hubris, of the kind the
sidhe
would frown upon most severely.

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