The setting of my books, Britain in the early Dark Ages, is very different from the world we live in. Almost no one could read, technology (such as it was) was limited at best and life was short and often hard. Step into this world with me for a moment:
The prosperous Roman Empire had abandoned Britain 70 years earlier to defend its crumbling heart (Rome) from invading barbarians. Many of its roads, villas and customs remained, but the Britons themselves were returning to pre-empirical tribal conflicts. Petty kings were causing civil war and destroying each other’s kingdoms, while to the north, the Picts of modern-day Scotland vied for land and resources, killing and pillaging almost as bad as the Saxons who occupied what used to be Britain’s eastern coast. To the west, the Irish were in constant battle mode, attacking coastal towns in order to bring valuables and slaves back to their island. On top of that, zealous Christian missionaries were slowly making inroads in converting the pagan natives to Christianity and gaining power and influence as a result.
Historically, we can’t prove that anyone ever tried to unite the Britons except for in the battle of Mount Badon, where the British roundly defeated the Saxons, ushering in an era of relative peace. But 1,500 years of legend tells us otherwise. Someone stopped their pretty squabbling and defended Britain against her enemies. That man was King Arthur and this is the world into which he, and his future wife, Guinevere, were born.
Now, put aside all of your preconceptions based on power, race, resources and size for a second and imagine another scenario with me: The American government has fallen, and with it the majority of our infrastructure and technology. Powerful men from each state vie for dominance without a thought for us, the citizens. The Mexicans have taken over the south and much of the east coast. The Canadians sense our vulnerability invade from the north. To the west, the Japanese conduct constant raids. Those of us who aren’t fighting in the internal or external wars are left to try to eke out a living in an economy that is virtually non-existent. Or if we happen to be rich, we’re spending all of our time trying to keep our wealth from being taken from us. And imagine that some fundamentalist religion was gaining power in the midst of all this chaos, trying desperately to get you to abandon the beliefs you grew up with or freely chose and convert to their way of thinking.
It may sound silly on the surface, but really think about it. That’s our version of the reality Arthur and Guinevere lived in. Would you have the strength to lead us through it? Arthur, or someone he is based on, certainly did.
You’ll never think of the Dark Ages quite the same again, will you?
This this first in a series of posts meant to introduce you to the world of King Arthur, Guinevere and their fellow Celts. Be on the lookout for future installments so you’re all caught up when the first book comes out.