Kingfisher: The Coffee Pot Book Club Blog Tour
The past, future, and Excalibur lie in her hands.
Wales, 1914. Vala Penrys and her four sisters find solace in their spinster life by story-telling, escaping the chaos of war by dreaming of the romantic days of Camelot. When the war hits close to home, Vala finds love with Taliesin Wren, a mysterious young Welsh Lieutenant, who shows her another world within the tangled roots of a Rowan tree, known to the Druids as ‘the portal’
One night she falls through, and suddenly she is Vivyane, Lady of the Lake – the Kingfisher – in a divided Britain clamoring for a High King. What begins as an innocent pastime becomes the ultimate quest for peace in two worlds full of secrets, and Vala finds herself torn between the love of her life and the salvation of not only her family but of Britain, itself.
“It is, at the heart of it, a love story – the love between a man and a woman, between a woman and her country, and between the characters and their fates – but its appeal goes far beyond romance. It is a tale of fate, of power, and, ultimately, of sacrifice for a greater good.” – Riana Everly, author of Teaching Eliza and Death of a Clergyman
Excerpt from Chapter 23 – “We Are All Mad Here”
We wandered along the passages, beneath the spatial colonnades, passing ancient Babylonian winged beasts and Assyrian statues, into the Egyptian gallery. Standing next to the towering sculpted image of Ramses, I couldn’t help but spout the questions forming in my mind.
“I wonder about so many things these days. Now, when I look at these ancient wonders, I am curious about the lives of the people living then. Who was this man? What did he eat, what did he wear, what were his passions and disappointments? This statue tells me nothing of the person except a vague impression of what he might have looked like. I suppose my curiosity is natural given who I am, is it not? I never used to wonder about such things, I felt quite content to dream about imaginary characters in books rather than ponder the realities of people’s lives. When faced with the knowledge of a book character, one you imagined as a mere creation of the author’s mind, as truly real, standing in her shoes, as I said before, the floodgates are lifting with great speed.”
Wells put his hands in his pockets and gazed up at the figure. “Historians and archaeologists are shamed next to you, Vala, for your ability gives you true insight into our past. I suppose, if you truly wished, you might search Ramses out and ask him yourself.”
My skin prickled upon his words and I touched the back of my neck as the hairs along my hairline stood on end.
“The book I am writing,” he continued, “at least, the one I am taking notes on touches on these things. It is a book of fiction or will be, and I intend on using moments like this to expound my own thoughts of the past. This Ramses must have been very much like all of us, dealing with the same unending days, thinking their world would go on forever as they knew it . . . century after century . . . losing their past and ignorant of their future. We become dull, Vala, like children believing our walled gardens stood there forever, and yet, what was before? I envy your ability for all I can do is use these pieces of stone here, or the sites of Stonehenge, or Avebury, or Carnac, as instruments of remembering, persuading myself to peruse my mind for some ancient voice calling from the past. Doctor Freud is an expert on the creative daydreaming mind . . . you should write down that book, as well. I’d like to think the things I conjure come from some latent memory from centuries ago, but I imagine I am just an ordinary man.”
I chuckled and glanced over to him. “Ordinary? No, sir, you are by no means ordinary.”
He bowed to me. “Coming from the extraordinary Lady of the Lake, I take that as the highest compliment I have ever received.”
I looked back to the imposing sly grin of Ramses. “Interesting, is it not, that we all imagine life in the past to be simpler, less complicated? Why even just a year ago, before the war broke out, we all drifted along in our lives, passing from afternoon tea to grand balls, commiserating over the foolish plight of filling our dance cards or turning the head of the next eligible suitor. Just one headline in the newspaper changed everything, overnight, and here I am trying to discover my place in all the chaos.”
“It is a very weighty thing you are doing, Vala.”
I shook my head and huffed. “And yet, the one question no one can answer is ‘why’? Taliesin and I have had endless discussions on the matter. In truth, I wonder if anything I do will change anything or if this deep yearning I have is simply of my own selfish desire for peace. Do I really even care about the fate of Britain or if King Arthur was real or not? Or is my need for escape, for this endless daydream, leading me down the dangerous path of madness? Now that the portal has opened, I can never get away from this incessant pull, this drive to save my family, to save Britain. It’s like some old gentleman who has lost his way in a speech and keeps on repeating the same thing—‘the empire, the empire, gentlemen, the Empire’. Very much like you, H. G.”
We both started laughing as he reached in his pocket and took out a small note ledger and pen, and started scribbling away along with his chuckles.
“What are you writing?” I asked.
“That was a good line, Vala . . . Empire,” he repeated, finishing and tucking the ledger back into his coat pocket. “I told you I was taking notes on you. You must always be careful round a writer for you never know when they might include you in one of their books.”
He directed me towards the stairs to the upper floor and the galleries of the ancient world.
“As for what you were saying,” he continued as we wound up a small circular staircase near the Nimroud Saloon, “despite our differences in the actual ability to time travel, we are very much alike, you and I. Whilst I daydream of shooting through time, there is a burning core to why I write and why I make speeches about my hopes for the future of Britain . . . and not just Britain, but the world. At some point in our primal existence, even before your life as Vivyane, we all were born with eternity and peace fixed in our minds. This life we live now, this vacuous existence full of war and disunity is not normal, that is why those Victorian virtues, the idle existence, appealed to us. That being said, while we adore those peaceful times, we cannot ignore the need for development and knowledge. The problem is that selfish men and governments seek to use those two things to advance their own agendas instead of what is truly needed.”
I took a breath at the top of the stairs, more so to help my brain process his lengthy dissertation, and another to adjust the tight bindings of my corset.
“Which is what you are trying to initiate with the group you are a part of, the round table of men bent on bringing knowledge, peace, and unity to the world,” I replied.
“Exactly,” he answered back, opening the door to the Celtic gallery.
I stopped in front of one of the glass cases and turned to him. “But, why you, H. G.? Why, out of all the people in the world, does Fate appear to choose you to do these things? Or can it be that there is a bit of your own agenda in the matter, as well . . . a bit of selfishness. After all, your idea of free morality fits well into your own selfishness.”
“Mmph,” he gruffed. “The pot calling the kettle black, is it not, Lady of the Lake? For those primal doctrines of the teachings of the High Priestess are not any different, except the roles are reversed.”
I did not answer back, for I knew he was right. That was a topic I, myself, pondered on some time. I continued along the gallery, stopping every once in a while to read the notes affixed next to a hammered buckle or grinding stone, each time seeing my own face glinted against the glass staring back up at me. An ancient relic in search of an ancient relic.
- G. walked along with me, at long last in momentary silence. He stopped in front of the case housing the now famous Battersea Shield found in the Thames in 1857.
“Look at it. Once, long ago, an offering of immense importance to whoever tossed it into the waters; now, an object of entertainment for passers-by. In all our sight-seeing, and travelling, researching, and writing, we are staring at ourselves like visitors at a Zoo, desperate to reach the height of our knowledge . . . the ‘whys’ as you say. In all things we are searching to restore our memory in order to build a new world for the future. For the most part, those ordinary souls wandering these halls, or visiting sites like Stonehenge, the idea of the past and the hope for the future are simply romantic notions, and they pass through their life in vain repetition—imperfect, dreary, blurred, crowded, hurried, underfed, and undereducated. None of them like their lives, they just exist. For rare individuals such as you and I . . .”
“Fellow travellers,” I added, “at least in spirit.”
“Yes,” he chuckled. “Fellow travellers . . . the confines of this world are not enough. We are in search of a new world, a new age, on a personal, familial, community, national, global, and universal plane; and once known, once realised, you cannot escape it. Yet, the ultimate question of ‘why’ eludes all of us, Vala. Why am I a writer? Why do I wish for world unity and peace? Why are you a time traveller? Why are you the Lady of the Lake? If you ever discover the answer, I insist on you telling me first.”
I giggled and linked my arm with his. “So you can publish it in your next book?”
He shrugged with a sly smile as I gazed back at the shield, sighing.
“What were you hoping to find here at the museum? In the Celtic room?” He asked.
I answered with my own disappointed shrug. “I suppose I was hoping to see something familiar from long ago. Something I might point to and say ‘I saw that once in the past’ or ‘that was mine’.”
“A sort of assurance that you are not losing your mind?”
I nodded. “Yes, you might say that.”
“Well,” he added, taking my hand in his and kissing the back of my fingers, “I believe in you. My imaginings of the fair nymph of waters stands before me here in this museum, not in glass, but alive and breathing, and quite unlike any other woman I have ever known.”
I smiled and narrowed my eyes. “I am sure you say that to all the women you have ever known, Bertie.”
He bellowed a laugh. “Save for the part about the fair nymph of waters, I confess.”
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D. K. Marley is a Historical Fiction author specializing in Shakespearean adaptations, Tudor era historicals, Colonial American historicals, alternate historicals, and historical time-travel. At a very early age she knew she wanted to be a writer. Inspired by her grandmother, an English Literature teacher, she dove into writing during her teenage years, winning short story awards for two years in local competitions. After setting aside her writing to raise a family and run her graphic design business, White Rabbit Arts, returning to writing became therapy to her after suffering immense tragedy, and she published her first novel “Blood and Ink” in 2018, which went on to win the Bronze Medal for Best Historical Fiction from The Coffee Pot Book Club, and the Silver Medal from the Golden Squirrel Book Awards. Within three years, she has published four more novels (two Shakespearean adaptations, one Colonial American historical, and a historical time travel).
When she is not writing, she is the founder and administrator of The Historical Fiction Club on Facebook, and the CEO of The Historical Fiction Company, a website dedicated to supporting the best in historical fiction for authors and readers. And for fun, she is an avid reader of the genre, loves to draw, is a conceptual photography hobbyist, and is passionate about spending time with her granddaughter. She lives in Middle Georgia U.S.A. with her husband of 35 years, an English Lab named Max, and an adorable Westie named Daisy.
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Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/DK-Marley/e/B003MS4JPE