November 17, 2011

The Once and Future Queen

I don't normally write short stories, and short stories of 600 words are things I particularly avoid. However, there was a contest and at the same time a kernel of an idea, so I scribbled down that kernel of an idea and submitted it to that contest. The result was Regina Quondam Reginaque Futura, the Once and Future Queen, a story I hope at some point to turn into a prequel of Tempus Regina.


Merlin was very old the first time Gwenhwyfar laid eyes on him.

She was sitting in the red glow of evening that poured through the windows of the great hall, looking, as she had often looked, at the carvings etched into the rough stone of the table before her. The places around her were empty, seats in shadow, and it was quiet now that her lord and his companions had ridden out; the sound of her hand as she traced the figures was loud.

Then he was there, a man as ancient and blasted as an oak and yet as large and strong as one, too, and Gwenhwyfar found that she was not surprised to see him. “You are Merlin,” she said without rising. “Did I summon you?”

“No one summons me,” said Merlin. “I come when the time is right.” He approached through the slanting light until he stood across from her, and it seemed to Gwenhwyfar that he cast no shadow as he walked. “You are looking at the Table,” he continued. “Tell me, Gwenhwyfar, queen: can you read me the runes?”

Gwenhwyfar cast her gaze downward; her hand still rested on a blood-dark symbol. “I do not understand them.”

“Can you tell me from whence the Table comes?”

Like a child giving the right answer, she said, “It was part of the dowry my father paid my lord. It stood in his halls for as long as I can remember.”

“And before?” This time Merlin did not extract an answer. “The Table has a history older than you or your house. It stood in great halls when Albion herself was not yet born. But it was meant for you, Gwenhwyfar, queen, though it is but a partial gift. Tonight I bring you that which completes it.” He drew his other hand from the shrouds of his robe and held it out, the thing in his palm gleaming fiercely gold and ruby in a shaft of dying sun. Gwenhwyfar could see only those flashes between Merlin’s fingers; she reached for it, then paused and answered his gaze.

“How do you know,” she said, “that it was meant for me?”

“Take it.”

Gwenhwyfar took it, and as its weight tumbled from his palm to hers she shut her eyes, testing it with touch alone. Then she reopened them. Nestled in her palm was the head of a dragon worked in the brightest gold she had ever seen, with eyes like the spark in Artos’ garnet brooch. The dragon mouth opened like a lid; within lay a clear pane, figures etched about the rim, and several long, thin black things in motion across them. It seemed to pulse in her hand, and it gave forth the sound of a heartbeat as the smallest black finger moved.

“Now, Gwenhwyfar, queen,” said Merlin, “can you read me the runes?”

Slowly Gwenhwyfar raised her eyes from the dragon head to the circle of dark stone.

tempus regina

holds the years

tempus regina

dwells in the future

tempus regina

come back to the past

tempus regina


A portion was blurred and she could not discern it. She touched it, almost unaware that Merlin still spoke. “In your hand you hold the ability to move in time. It is a powerful thing; it comes to you as you stand by Artos’ side at the rise of Albion. Gwenhwyfar!”

Gwenhwyfar looked up.

“Heed the warning. Power corrupts; you must remember.”

Her eyes turned again to the table while he was yet speaking, and she saw the rune that was clearest: Beware!


  1. Oh yum, what a tantalizing nibble! My whole spirit perks up whenever you or your sister offer up something on a whim like this. *sigh* I need to make more time to catch up with both of you. But I'm eagerly looking forward to anything and everything I can get my hands on from the Hartman sisters. God bless you and keep you both! :-) <><

  2. I haven't yet read much of your fiction (just the bits and pieces you offer on your blog) and I really enjoyed this! Your description is very rich and well-balanced. Now I'm curious to read Tempus Regina!

  3. Violamom - So glad you enjoyed it! Even if it doesn't place in the contest, I'm glad I wrote it; it has given me some good ideas for Tempus Regina. It's lovely to have a comment from you!

    Yaasha - Thank you! Having a word count limit can be rather irritating (for instance, I would have liked a tad more description of Merlin), but sometimes the result is satisfying. I only have a few scenes of Tempus Regina scribbled down now, but I'm looking forward to jumping into it. I do have one clip up - The Dragon's Eyes. I don't know if you've seen that already, but I'm afraid it's all I have to offer right now!

  4. Oh my goodness!! That was incredible, amazing and so wonderful!! You have captivated me so strongly and I look forward to reading more about Tempus Regina.

  5. Love the Latin. Latin is one of my FAVORITE languages!!

  6. Great job, Abigail! Word limits are vexing. I remember one short story contest I entered where you could only use 100 words. That was only a paragraph for me! :D
    I can't wait to hear more about Tempus Regina as it progresses. :)

  7. Thanks, Rachel and londongirl! The title is just a twist on the classic "The Once and Future King," and I doubt it will end up being the title of the novel (should the novel be written); it's a trifle long for that! I'm glad you liked it, though. I always found the inscription to be beautiful and thrilling, myself.

    I think it can be fun to write a quick scene of a hundred words or so for a contest, but I panic at the idea of telling a relatively complete story in that little room. Even with this, I had wanted to do another clip but then found myself at my word-count limit. Brevity is overrated.

  8. The Watch. Oh, my stars above, the watch. This is so--excuse the expression, will you--cool. So cool. It's that sense of wonder, of excitement that runs through you like a jolt of energy, that makes you sit up a little straighter in realization, in anticipation. The Watch. Of course!

    So cool.

    And your writing, your wordcrafting is marvelous here. I was there with Gwenhwyfar, watching the runes come alive. I could see Merlin. I was inside the watch, pulsing with otherworldly energy. Not only was I reading, I was living. And I love when writing does that to me.

  9. I agree with Katie. I love it when you feel like you are in the book standing beside the characters. If only, I could capture that feeling and breathe into my writing.


meet the authoress
I am a writer of historical fiction and fantasy, scribbling from my home in the United States. More importantly, I am a Christian, which flavors everything I write. My debut novel, "The Soldier's Cross," was published by Ambassador Intl. in 2010.
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published writings

The Soldier's Cross: Set in the early 15th Century, this is the story of an English girl's journey to find her brother's cross pendant, lost at the Battle of Agincourt, and of her search for peace in the chaotic world of the Middle Ages.
finished writings

Tempus Regina:Hurled back in time and caught in the worlds of ages past, a Victorian woman finds herself called out with the title of the time queen. The death of one legend and the birth of another rest on her shoulders - but far weightier than both is her duty to the brother she left alone in her own era. Querying.
currently writing

Wordcrafter: "One man in a thousand, Solomon says / will stick more close than a brother. / And it's worthwhile seeking him half your days / if you find him before the other." Justin King unwittingly plunges into one such friendship the day he lets a stranger come in from the cold. Wordcount: 124,000 words

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