High King Uther is dead and the baby, Mordred, heir to the throne must reach Caer Cadarn to be proclaimed king. For it was well understood that “who held Caer Cadarn held Dumnonia…and who held Dumnonia held Britain.” (100) And Gundleus, King of Siluria, is determined to prevent the child from reaching the royal hill and equally determined to see the child off to the Otherworld so he can claim the kingdom for himself.
A loyal army attends the infant on his journey to Caer Cadarn as Derfel, our narrator, tells us that…
“We followed a path edged with cornflowers, oe-eyes, ragweed and dogwood. Behind us, shadowed by the sun’s western slant, the woods looked dark. We were tired and ragged, but journey’s end was in sight and some among us even appeared cheerful. We were bringing Mordred back to his birthplace, back to Dumnonia’s royal hill, but before we were even halfway to the glorious green refuge, the enemy appeared behind us.” (100) The small army was greatly outnumbered and the distance to the royal refuge too far. So they did the only thing they could, they prepared to fit. Prepared to lose. Prepared to die.
“…Two men unbound their hair, took up their spears and swords, then danced in front of the Silurian line. They howled as they worked themselves into the battle frenzy; that state of mindless ecstasy that will let a man try any feat. Gundleus, sitting on his horse beneath his banner, smiled at the two men whose bodies were intricately tattooed with blue patterns. The children were crying behind us and our women were called to the Gods as the men danced nearer and nearer, their spears and swords swirling in the evening sun.”(106)
Then as the men readied for war staring across the battle line at each other, a horn sounds and….
Did you really think I would give it away? Nope! You will have to go out and purchase Bernard Cornwell’s novel, The Winter King to find out what happens to the crippled, infant heir, the battle at Caer Cadarn, Gundleus and our narrator who waits on the battle field.