Lockdown in Camelot

Here’s an extract from my book, The Dragon Whisperer’s Son, published in 2021, about how an evil imposter, Goronwy Pevr, takes over the land of Camelot. I’m sure some of you will recognise what inspired me!

GORONWY PEVR HAD QUICKLY emerged from behind a tall thicket of poison ivy on the opposite bank, and then waded, waist-deep, through the cold waters of the River Cam to reach Blodeuwedd’s side. It was the time of no moon. Instead, the skies were filled with a black gloom that hid the stars, and the land was plunged into darkness.

So, when the couple entered Camelot later on, under cover of the blanket of night, nobody noticed that anything was amiss and that the Windmill of the Year had stopped turning … but stopped it had.

The first indication came just before the Winter Solstice. A pronouncement came out of the castle from Lleu – or so they thought it was – that a terrible plague was on its way from the east, and that everyone had to remain in their houses, to protect themselves, and each other, from certain death.

The druids on Dragon’s Hill were surprised at this news; they usually got that sort of intelligence on the grapevine long before anyone else — but they had heard nothing.

So Pen Draco went straight to the castle, to find out more.

He ran up the crumbling, spiral staircase to the Rune Council chamber, but when he pushed open the door, the room was empty.

Gone was the huge, oaken round table with the twelve astrological symbols carved around its rim. Gone were the twelve oaken chairs, and gone were the twelve shields with their family symbols and mottos, which had hung on the limewashed walls of this hexagonal-shaped room.

The archdruid stood at the door, uncertainly. But then he heard Blodeuwedd’s voice. It was coming from behind a woven reed screen at the end of the room.

“Come forward, Pen Draco, you are most wel-come.”

As he walked towards the screen, he saw that there were two silhouettes seated behind it.

“We are both in quarantine,” Blodeuwedd in-formed him. “Lleu has even taken a vow of silence in an attempt to appease the gods, to plead for forgiveness so that they may have mercy on us and release us from this terrible plague.”

“Madam, I was so sorry when I heard the news,” Pen Draco replied. “But I cannot think what we could have possibly done to so offend the gods. What are the symptoms of this terrible plague? What should we be looking out for? Are the people of the east all covered in boils oozing green pus, or are they coughing up black blood?”

She responded: “We’ve been told that it’s an invisible plague. There are no signs nor symptoms to tell anyone that they have been infected, apparently. It just strikes them down dead, with no warning.”

The archdruid had no reason to believe that she or Lleu were lying; on the contrary, he had always found her husband to be an entirely candid and honourable fellow.

Therefore, he wasted no time in returning to Dragon’s Hill, to give firm instructions that all the monks should remain in their cells, under a strict vow of silence, and pray for their deliverance.

Pen Draco then called in the elected representatives of Camelot, and gave them the news. He told them that they must organise the people, to tell them to stay in their homes until the invisible plague had passed.

Afterwards, he sent a message to Math at White Lake, that there would be no Winter Solstice celebrations this year.

Only those few whose services were vital to the smooth running of the castle were allowed to walk the streets, and only then wearing black masks, so they were often mistaken for brigands and thieves – which they sometimes actually were.

Goronwy replaced all those who usually saw to it that the laws of the land were upheld, to protect the peace of Camelot. Instead, he brought in his own private militia, who then quickly set about raiding all the granaries and the ice caves. They packed their spoils into sacks, which they heaved on to creaking horse-drawn carts that then rolled along silent, empty lanes all the way to Ham Hill.

The local folk, trapped inside their homes, had no idea that all their food supplies for the winter were being stolen, and it took them a goodly while to realise that the granaries were bare.

Pen Draco went to tell Blodeuwedd. She informed him, from behind the woven screen where she sat with her mute ‘husband’, that unfortunately, the invisible plague had brought in a blight of invisible insects, and they had eaten all the food.

The people had no reason to believe otherwise. After all, they thought, why would their rulers ever want to deceive them? Surely, they would want whatever was best for the land and best for them who, after all, were the salt of the Earth?

But that was when the starving days began in earnest and before long, people began to die. The deaths were attributed to the invisible plague when they were, in fact, caused by hunger.

The first to succumb were the more frail and el-derly among them because – as was predicted through the woven screen – this invisible plague targets older people first. But after that, the middle-aged and even some of the youngsters fell to it.

All had to be buried quickly and with very little ceremony under the mud floors of their homes … and so the birds also went hungry that year.

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