Here are the first one thousand words of Return to the Green Land, book three of my fantasy series The Future History of the Grail. In this final story, Sir Percival is tasked by King Arturus to search again for the lost Grail, a device which keeps Earth’s climate from spiraling out of control. I suggest reading all three books, including Fall of the Green Land and War for the Green Land, in sequence, but you’ll enjoy Percival’s story as a grand adventure. If you like, you can purchase all three novels on Amazon as a bundle. Please like this post and leave a comment below. Thanks! (Spoilers ahead for books one and two.)
Chapter 1: The Weeping Way
Sir Percival Rathkeale steadied himself for another gamble. He weighed the odds of victory or defeat as he and his friends approached Camelot’s western gate. For the third time, he was leaving the city on a journey with a greater chance of failure than success. He didn’t know if he or his companions would return. If he returned empty-handed, his country would pass away. This was the final roll of the dice.
The footfalls of his horse echoed in the half-empty streets. Early morning sparrows flitted among piles of stone and broken lumber remaining from the Lucian occupation. He glanced over his shoulder, brushing away strands of his flaming red hair. Trailing him were retainers on horses leading pack animals heavy with supplies. Percival expected the expedition to take months.
“What’s troubling you, Percival?” Sir Galahad du Lac-Corbenic rode beside him on a dapple-gray destrier. Galahad’s trademark white cloak flowed over the horse’s rump. “Have you forgotten something?”
“I miss my sister, Dee.”
Percival’s twin sister was back at the palace, probably working in the Great Audience Hall, the place where King Arturus III received important visitors and conducted public ceremonies. The king had asked Dee—short for Dindrane—to accompany Percival on the journey to Cassanti, a port city deep in the Hot Lands. At first, she agreed, but a day later, she asked him to come to the Dark Unicorn, a pub popular with students at Camelot University.
“I’m not going with you, Perce.” She said this without meeting her brother’s eye.
“Why not, Dee? I need you. How am I supposed to find the Grail without you?”
“You can easily find the Grail without me. Galahad knows almost as much about the Grail as Merlin. He found the False Grail. Maybe it was useless, but he found it.”
“Dee, I’ve been on two Grail quests. One to the eastern deserts. One to Koda. Both failed. I think things would’ve gone better if you were with me. If I don’t succeed this time—”
“That’s ridiculous. I’m no expert on the Grail or the Great Machine.”
“When we came to Camelot, you went to university. I went to The Keep. Until then, we did everything together at home on Mother’s property. We helped each other with chores, with homework. We’d comfort each other during storms. We even, well, killed our father together.”
Dee winced at the memory. “I did it to save you and me. I’m not proud of it.”
“How do you know I won’t need you to save me again?”
“You saved me at the Battle of the River’s Bend. I’d say we’re even.”
“Family doesn’t work like that. No one’s keeping a tally.”
Dee shifted in her seat. “The truth is, Perce, I want to stay in Camelot to finish my mural in the Great Audience Hall. That’s my Grail, the thing I want to achieve. At first, it was just a job Mordred gave me, but now it’s taken on a life of its own. I belong in front of a light tapestry telling stories with lasers and mirrors, not getting saddle sores a thousand kilometers from anywhere.”
That ended the conversation. Percival was so angry and upset that he didn’t speak to Dee for days. She never reached out to him; maybe she was just as angry. Arturus could not order Dee to accompany Percival. Instead, the king asked Galahad to join the expedition.
“I know I’m a poor substitute for your sister, Percival,” Galahad said on the street near the western gate.
Behind Galahad, on a strong pony, rode 11-year-old Penny Corbenic, though no one knew her true surname. Galahad found her wandering the streets of Perditon as he and Lancelot traced a Grail rumor. She was now his page.
Percival shook his head at Galahad, whom he’d got to know on the Grail quest to Koda. Galahad had a bright scar on his neck from the Battle of River’s Bend. “No, my friend. I’m glad you’re here. And Penny as well.”
Percival waved and grinned at Penny, a pretty girl whom Galahad praised as clever and quick.
She returned the smile with her own, the kind that had street knowledge behind it. In Perditon, Penny sold bulbs of water and fresh batteries to travelers, while avoiding enforcers in the corrupt city government.
As a condition for joining the expedition, Galahad insisted Penny go along. But Percival thought she might attract trouble. Though he had a plan for reaching Cassanti, no one knew the hazards of the journey in detail. No Viridian had been to the city in hundreds of years. The roads might be infested with bandits, trolls, or herds of basilisks, for all Percival knew. Penny might get hurt. She was also a liability. She would be an easy target for kidnappers or slavers reportedly operating between the border and Aurelia, the first major city on the Peaceful Sea south of Camelot. Percival planned to stop there before heading to Cassanti further on.
On the streets of Camelot, a few people watched Percival’s party, unimpressed. When his first expedition left for the desert nearly two years in the past, hundreds cheered or waved handkerchiefs to wish him good luck. Now they appeared sullen and resentful. Dozens queued up on a bread line. Schools were refugee centers. Tents hugged houses and apartment buildings broken by the war.
On the news chans and com boards, people argued that the money spent on the expedition was better spent on housing refugees and rebuilding Camelot. The Lucians had destroyed grain silos and burned crops, but the failing climate had also hurt harvests. Maybe Merlin could find another solution to the climate problem. Percival sympathized with those demanding help, but he disagreed with them. Yes, all of the Grail expeditions so far had failed in one way or another. But Camelot’s knights had to follow any hint of a working Grail to fix the Great Machine. That was the best way out of the crisis.
What do you think of this excerpt?