Welcome to Sara Walter Ellwood’s Sneak Peek Sunday! This week’s peek is from Search for Camelot, a romantic comedy about a wisecracking American college student and a cool-mannered British bluestocking who find love when they join together to search for the fabled sword Excalibur.
Philadelphia, June, 1892.
Meet our hero, a charming but penniless college student, Arthur Pierce. Arthur was raised on his late mother’s bedtime stories of Camelot, but growing up in a family of sharpers taught him that only suckers believe in dreams.
Arthur learns of the unconventional terms of his wealthy Uncle Sidney’s will when he’s visited before his college graduation by an eccentric British solicitor, Maxwell Hamilton.
Max has traveled from London to deliver a portion of a 16th century parchment that contains twenty lines of elegantly scrolled Latin—lines that, once transcribed, appear to contain an ancient clue to the location of King Arthur’s fabled sword, Excalibur …
Arthur stared at the fantastical words he’d just scrawled on the back of an old calculus test: Gladius Caliburn. It was not simply a name but an image. An image all the more powerful because it was a child’s image, his own, interlaced with the sweet whispered tones of a spellbinding storyteller he had once called Mother. “It was magic, Arthur.”
Sleek, argent steel rising to break the pristine blue surface of a lake. A gift. A woman’s hand, white and delicate and perfect. A gift offered to him by . . . Dripping wet and shimmering, sun’s rays dancing off steel forged on the magical Isle of Avalon. “It was magic, Arthur. That sword was magic unto itself, a gift offered to him by Merlin the Enchanter and the Lady of the Lake.”
Arthur closed his eyes to dispel the tenacious remnants of old dreams. When he opened them again, the words were still there, but the images were gone, wisps of smoke stolen back to the deep recesses of childhood memory.
Hamilton broke into his thoughts. “The clue to Excalibur’s whereabouts is in the last line. Our monk apparently subscribed to the legend that King Arthur never really died but that he would rise again to reclaim his throne. This played an important role in his decision regarding where to hide the sword.”
Arthur was familiar with those legends. They contended that King Arthur and his attendants were passing the centuries asleep in an enchanted cave, awaiting the day when they would be summoned to rise again . . .
Arthur frowned at the direction of his thoughts and tossed his pencil aside. He barely remembered his Uncle Sidney, but what little he did remember, he recalled with a mix of affection and reverence. Sidney Pierce had been a master of the Big Con. In the end, though, it appeared that he had been reduced to the unseemly role of a gullible mark. This idea not only saddened Arthur, it made him angry. “It’s a hoax,” he said.
Is Arthur right? Is the parchment a fake? Or could this final clue from his uncle’s unfinished quest to find Excalibur be the real thing?
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