For a thousand years, Excalibur has been the sword of heroes.
Unfortunately, its new owner isn’t one.
Ever since he arrived in Paris, Henry the Rat has made a pretty good living selling "magic" swords to gullible knights. But when Henry sells one to Geoffrey Plantagenet, brother to King Richard, his happy days are over for good. Geoffrey forces Henry into a dangerous, uncomfortable quest for the most famous magic sword of all time, Excalibur, even though Henry is certain that it's just a myth.
Then Henry actually finds Excalibur - and his troubles really start: For Excalibur is not just the sword of heroes...it’s also the sword that won’t SHUT UP. It communicates with its owner, it knows what kind of owner it deserves, and Henry doesn’t even come close.
To keep Excalibur and the world safe from the appalling Geoffrey, Henry will have to masquerade as a knight, crash a royal wedding, rescue a princess, break a siege, penetrate the secrets of the Perilous Brotherhood, and find Excalibur’s rightful bearer, all while trying to reach an accommodation with a snotty, aristocratic hunk of steel that mocks him, takes over his body, and keeps trying to turn him into the one thing he hates most...a hero.
Gray sky, white ground, black trees. Sound muffled by snow, until all you heard was your own breathing, and all you felt was the cold, sharp in your ears and your nose, dull in your boots and leggings.
Or, if you were tied to a mule on your back, wearing nothing but your shirt and hose, cold everywhere and pain in everything. Henry tried to clear his throat and keep moving, even if that amounted to no more than shivering inside his manacles.
They had long ago left England behind. Now they traveled through a dismal waste, thick forests broken by ruins that were ancient before the Romans, standing stones that gave no shelter, roads that vanished under bridges leading nowhere. It was all pretty eldritch. Henry knew it from Alfie's tales - the borth Annwn, the Door to the Land of Shadow. A stone cairn appeared through the snow, wiped clean by the wind. Brissac turned in his saddle. "There it is. How are you, thief? Comfortable?"
Henry tried to control his chattering teeth, without much success. "C-couldn't be better. How's the body odor? Taken a bath yet?"
The Swiss mercenaries laughed. Brissac wheeled on Henry, his sword drawn-
"Ah-ah-ah! You k-kill me, wh-what will Geoffrey say?"
Brissac turned away, but Hauptmann, captain of the Swiss, rode up to Henry and examined him.
"Ritter...he could die. Let us cover him."
"The tower is near enough. Cover him then."
To be fair, Brissac hadn't shackled Henry until AFTER he'd tried to escape. But they had just landed in Southampton; Brissac was still seasick; Henry could speak the local dialect, while the Swiss were practically mute; and by then, Geoffrey would have released Alfie and the others he was holding as hostages.
Really, it had been too good an opportunity to ignore.
But as Henry had leaned over the inn's stable roof and gently lowered himself to the ground, crossbow bolts had hissed out of the darkness, aimed so well they had pinned his clothes to the wall behind him without even drawing blood. He had been trussed up like a chicken in his own breeches-
"There it is."
Henry craned his neck to see. Wow. It was a genuine, honest-to-goodness Dark Tower.
Black and ancient, it rose above the pines like a castle guarding a border. Beyond it the land opened out in a wide valley, shrouded in fog, indistinct except for the top of the Glastonbury Tor, a terraced hill poking out of the sea of mist. The road zigzagged up the slope and then cut through a dark wood, vanishing into shadow long before it reached the tower.
"The Chapel Perilous," Brissac leaned down and spoke in Henry's ear. "The key to Excalibur's resting place. Twelve good knights have entered, never to return. My lord Geoffrey thinks you may solve the riddle where they did not." Brissac squinted up at the high black walls. "I think he is an optimist."
- Word Count: 90,000
- Author: Ted Mendelssohn
- Heat Level: 1
- ISBN: 978-1-61937-195-8
- Cover Artist: Kelly Shorten
- Editor: Urania
Long and Short of It
Review: Henry is the most reluctant hero in the world.
Henry is a very interesting character. He’s been living on the streets practically his whole life…