King of the May
Book 3 of The Hounds of Annwn.
George Talbot Traherne, the human huntsman for the Wild Hunt, had hoped to settle into a quiet life with his new family, but it was not to be. Gwyn ap Nudd, Prince of Annwn, has plans to secure his domain in the new world from the overbearing interference of his father Lludd, the King of Britain.
The security of George's family is bound to that of his overlord, and he vows to help. But when he and his companions stand against Lludd and his allies at court, disaster overturns all their plans and even threatens the Hounds of Annwn themselves. George and his patron, the antlered god Cernunnos, must survive a subtle attack that undermines them both. Other gods and gods-to-be have taken an interest, but the fae are divided in their allegiances and fear the threat of deadly new powers in their unchanging lives.
George and his companions must save themselves if they are to persuade their potential allies to help. But how can they do so, attacked on so many fronts at once? Will he put his family into greater jeopardy by trying to defend them?
King of the May
Creiddylad knelt at her father's feet and waited for his response. She surreptitiously watched from her humbly lowered eyes, the subtle smile that was normally on her face hidden from his sight.
Lludd, King of Britain, stiffened in his great seat in his private audience chamber. "Can this possibly be true? The wizards were right that rock-wights made the ways we use, and my son Gwyn knows this and keeps it from me?"
"He's found a method of controlling the elementals, father," she said, rubbing salt into the wound. "I fear my friend Madog paid with his life when he challenged Gwyn's authority." The fact that Madog had been experimenting with them, had even kidnapped a young one, was carefully omitted.
Lludd ruminated on this treacherous and independent son. Prince of Annwn, indeed. Only by my will, he reminded himself. It was time he took that back and made something more useful out of him. Annwn would be better served by an ambitious deputy who owed everything to him, one who had proven his loyalty.
It would be a shame to hurt him too badly, but he could always breed other children. That's what they were there for, after all-the glory of his line.
"Thank you, my dear."
George lifted his eyes from the hunt log on his desk to smile at his wife, standing in the doorway of the huntsman's office in the kennels. "You're welcome," he said. "But what for?"
"For the present you left me, of course, in the workroom. I thought you'd want to watch while I opened it, before you have to go meet with the rock-wights this afternoon." Angharad's teasing tone turned to puzzlement as George rose hastily.
"What present? Where?" The first thing he thought of was an explosive, wholly unlikely here in the fae otherworld where gunpowder didn't work. But whatever it was, it wasn't from him. And who would leave it in her workroom instead of bringing it to the house? "You haven't opened it?"
She looked at him soberly now, taking his alarm. "It's in the studio, on the main worktable. About so big." She outlined with her hands a medium-sized box. "Very tidy."
Angharad had set up a temporary work studio in an unused storage room of the infirmary at Greenway Court, to use while the winter weather intermittently made travel difficult to her home in the town below. George's huntsman's house wasn't large enough to hold it, and it was just across the lane in the grid of buildings that stretched out within the palisade behind the manor house.
It was a convenient solution to the not-yet-completed merger of their households, one that George had approved gratefully, but now it occurred to him that anyone could get in there.
He tried to calm his expression. "Let's go take a look and find out who's been sending packages to my wife." He smiled to make it a joke, but he could see she wasn't fooled.
As they walked down the huntsman's alley, the private entrance to the kennels across from the back door of his own home, she said, "You don't suppose Maelgwn...?"
"Not his style," George said. Their foster-son would have given anything to her directly. At twelve, his interests were more focused on hunting and other outdoor work, and a package like this, at her studio, rang false to him.
They crossed the lane and opened the gate leading into the small yard of the huntsman's house, the two tall hollies on either side of the wide back veranda the only color in the winter-bound garden. The female holly still carried its red berries in early January.
Going directly through the huntsman's house rather than walking around the lanes was a natural shortcut, the infirmary being just a few steps down from the front door. Something savory scented the air when they opened the back door of the house, and Alun stuck his head out of the kitchen as they passed, a question on his face.
"Never mind," George said. "Angharad just