Lighting Camelot is the tentative title of the sixth planned novel in the “Alternate Universes” sub-series of the Shine Cycle, set in and around King Arthur’s legendary court of Camelot. Today’s post is a brief introduction to this planned work.
While these précis are presented in the order by which these stories are organized in my notes, and I do not currently intend for this sub-series to have a definite “series order” in which they should be read, Lighting Camelot is more closely connected than any of the others to the main outline: it takes directly before Sunshine Civil War, ending abruptly with the summons home that begins that story. It is thus the last of the “Alternate Universes” sub-series by internal chronology.
In Llogres, Arthur Pendragon has been accepted as High King by most of the lords of the island, but his vassals are at odds with each other when not in open war, and neither Arthur nor any of his advisors—except Merlin, who keeps his own counsel—has any strong vision for even the not-quite-immediate future, let alone two or three generations to come.
The Quester arrives, gives his name as Taliesin, and earns a place in Arthur’s court as a bard and poet, and at greater length gains a seat at the Round Table as a knight. Once the other members of the court seem to have accepted him as one of them, he begins to subtly suggest and promote a grand vision for Camelot and Llogres that king, courtiers, and people can work towards. In private, with the more farseeing members of the court, and especially Merlin, he soberly acknowledges that Camelot is likely to fall, and they discuss what can be done to preserve as much of its good after Arthur’s death.
They make a good beginning on their plan to build Camelot into something that will last, but some of Arthur’s vassals see the work as infringing on their rights and prerogatives. Explanations, and some token compensation, appease them for the moment, but the tension continues to rise as the plan goes forward and larger, more controversial, but more important improvements are put in place.
The Quester feels his time growing short, and with Merlin begins working feverishly on the “contingency plans” for Camelot’s fall in his absence. He entrusts the knights he feels are most trustworthy with the responsibility of care for the company he has gathered around him, and with the sealed details of his most secret plans “for the worst case.”
And then King Arthur is aroused to jealousy, and against the advice of both the Quester and Merlin begins his ill-fated campaign against Lancelot and leaves Mordred in a position of responsibility. Just as events turn to the point where Arthur’s death and Camelot’s fall are inevitable, the Quester is abruptly summoned home, marking the end of this story and leaving the rest to Malory et al.
As readers of my poetry may guess from my Arthurian-themed poetry, there will be a subplot dealing with the relationship between the Quester and Blanchefleur, one of Queen Guinevere’s ladies in waiting with whom he falls in love. Not long after they meet, however, Merlin informs them that he has Seen that if they court or marry each other in Arthur’s time, Camelot will fall sooner and farther, his dreams of a lasting peace will come to nothing, and their own happiness will be cut short. Because of this, Blanchefleur leaves the court to take orders as a nun, while the Quester throws himself into his work to distract himself from his grief—which is not helped by their correspondence, in which she gives valuable advice. The week of his final departure, she is prompted by Merlin to return to the court to bid the Quester farewell in person.
The central characters will be the Quester, those one would expect in an Arthurian tale (Arthur, Guinevere, Merlin, Lancelot, Gawain, Kay, and so on), among others.
Do you have any thoughts about my plans for Lighting Camelot?