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“This is a great new take on Arthurian story telling.”

King Arthur is destined to return, and Tom is destined to wake him.

When sixteen year old Tom’s grandfather mysteriously disappears, Tom stops at nothing to find him, even when that means crossing to a mysterious and unknown world.

When he gets there, Tom discovers that everything he thought he knew about himself and his life was wrong. Vivian, the Lady of the Lake, has been watching over him and manipulating his life since his birth. And now she needs his help.

Available in  Audiobook. *Previously released as Tom’s Inheritance.

*Amazon links are Associate links #CommissionsEarned

Chapter 1: The Visitors

Tom raced down the garden path, jumped over the stream, and entered the wood, finally skidding to a halt in a pile of wet leaves.

He looked around, desperate to see the two people he’d seen watching the house, but the wood was silent, and there was no one in sight.

He shouted, “I know you’re there, I saw you! Show yourselves!”

Nothing moved, and his words hung on the air like his frosty breath. He turned slowly, but the wood was still and silent, and Tom kicked the nearest bush in frustration. He knew they were out there, but they were unwilling to reveal themselves.

Tom took deep breaths in an effort to calm himself down, and unclenched his tight fists. It was only minutes before that he had been looking out of his granddad’s kitchen window and saw the lurking figures, and he’d had the strangest feeling that they were there because his granddad was missing.

Reluctant to leave, Tom shouted again. “Come on! Talk to me! What do you want? Please!”

But again, there was only silence.

He looked around tree trunks and poked at thick, scrubby bushes, covering the small area closest to the stream quickly, but after a few minutes, he had to admit defeat. Surely they couldn’t have hidden themselves that quickly? Maybe he was seeing things.

Almost a year earlier, his grandfather, Jack, had disappeared with no trace of where he could have gone, and leaving his family confused and increasingly worried. They had investigated as much as they could before running out of options. The police had barely done anything because his granddad had left them a note to explain his absence. As far as they were concerned, that meant he was fine, and in theory, he was; the note was calm and rational. But he hadn’t contacted them since, and that was just odd. But Tom hadn’t given up. His granddad had to be somewhere, and someone had to know something.

Frustrated, Tom took a final look around and decided to return to the house, but as he turned his back, he felt a prickle of awareness. Someone was still watching him. He called over his shoulder, “You know where I am if you want me!”

He marched towards Granddad’s cottage, where he was living with his father. They had moved in over six months before when it was clear his granddad wasn’t going to return, and that his parents’ marriage wasn’t going to survive. The cottage was home now, and everything there reminded him of his grandfather and his mysterious disappearance. Tom opened the back door and entered the large kitchen-come-sitting room. He kicked his boots off, and put them on the hearth next to the roaring fire.

He shivered, holding his hands close to the flames. It was cold out, and this morning had seen a heavy frost. They were days away from Christmas, and the school term was over. A small pine tree signalled the season, but that was the only decoration they had put up. Without his mother there, neither he nor his dad had bothered with anything else. They hadn’t even managed to change the house. It was exactly as his grandfather had left it.

Tom looked around the room, noting the old fashioned furniture, the worn armchairs in front of the fire, and the painted wooden cupboards that comprised the kitchen-half of the room. This was the heart of the house. There was also a small living room, but his grandfather had spent most of his time in here.

Tom’s gaze drifted to his granddad’s note that still sat on the end of the mantelpiece under a blue striped bowl containing spare keys, screws, pins, and other odds and ends. He picked it up, his eyes running down the page. He had told them very little, only that he was going away with a new friend and not to worry. Not to worry! His granddad was exasperating. He’d never known his granddad go anywhere before, but his dad told him he’d travelled a lot when he was younger. Maybe he had been bored and wanted a change. But who was his new friend? And why hadn’t he told them his name?

A knock on the front door disturbed his thoughts, and then a voice shouted, “Tom, it’s just me!”

It was his cousin, Beansprout, who at 15 was about a year younger than him. She was called Beansprout because of her skinny frame, but her real name was Rebecca. She barrelled through the door, her long, strawberry blonde hair swinging, and grinned. “Hey, Tom. My mom sent me over with mince pies.” She set the old biscuit tin down on the table and narrowed her eyes at him. “Why are you looking at granddad’s note? Have you found out something?”

He shook his head. “Not really. I thought I saw some people watching the house from the wood.” He jerked his head towards the back of the house. “I think I’m just imagining things. Stupid, really.”

He dropped into the chair by the fire and watched the crackling flames, feeling a wave of sadness wash over him. In all likelihood, he’d never see his granddad again. He just had to accept it. All he could hope was that he was safe and well somewhere.

Beansprout slumped in the opposite chair and stared into the fire, too. “It sucks, doesn’t it? I miss him, too. Mum refuses to talk about it anymore. It upsets her too much.”

“What a weird thing to do, to just go, leaving everyone behind. What kind of ‘new friend’ could make you do that?” Tom asked. He could recite the note by heart now. He’d examined every word, trying to find meaning in nothing.

Beansprout sighed. “It must be someone very special to make you leave your family. Unless he was taken by force?”

Tom barked out a laugh. “Why would anyone kidnap Granddad? We’ve not had a ransom note, either!”

“Sorry. Just pointless thinking—again.” She stood and brought the biscuit tin over, and sitting again reached in for a mince pie, then handed the box to Tom. “Here you go.”

He helped himself and munched silently, thinking of how he’d felt in the wood. “What if I’m not imagining things?”

“What do you mean?”

“I honestly felt as if I was being watched out there. If they were just dog-walkers, I’d have seen them! Why would they hide? That seems mad.”

“Maybe they’d already walked on.”

Tom shook his head. “I raced over there! They were hiding when I saw them from the window, ducking behind tree trunks, especially that massive yew.”

“Maybe you are right, then. Maybe they are here about Granddad!” Beansprout started to get excited. “Perhaps they have some news!”

“But why wouldn’t they talk to me? Why hide?”

“Maybe they want to break in?”

Tom looked sceptical. “In the daylight?”

“Maybe it’s a secret organisation?” Beansprout’s eyes were wide with intrigue.

“That’s one of your nuttier ideas,” he said, finishing the mince pie and reaching for another.

“And you have a better one?”

Tom contemplated telling her what he’d been thinking for ages, but his idea was worse than hers. However, there was a reason he got on with Beansprout more than his other cousins, more even that his younger sister, and that was because she was open to all sorts of interesting ideas. He summoned his courage and asked, “What if he’s somewhere else?”

She paused. “What do you mean?”

“No one’s seen him or heard from him! You’d have thought he would phone, or email, or write a postcard! But there’s been nothing for well over a year! He disappeared at the end of the summer! No one’s found a body either!”

Beansprout grimaced. “Tom! That’s gross.”

“We have to be realistic! He’s been gone for ages. Why wouldn’t he get in touch? That means he’s either dead, or somewhere else!”

“And by that you mean—”

He faltered. “Not in this world.”

Beansprout feel silent, watching him, a myriad of emotions running across her pale, freckled face. “That’s quite a wild suggestion.”

“I know.”

“Is this because of your dreams?”

He shrugged, uncomfortable that she’d brought them up. “Sort of.”

“Are you still having them?”

“Yes. Almost every night now.”

Ever since their granddad had disappeared, Tom had been having strange dreams, and over the past few months they had been getting more and more frequent.

“Remind me what happens in them,” she said, attentive.

“I see a woman with long, silvery hair who tells me to hurry up, that I’m needed. Sometimes I see a sword, lots of water, and then I get this feeling that I need to do something.”

Beansprout leaned forward. “And they don’t change?”

“No! That’s what’s really weird! Dreams are never the same all the time. This one is.”

“You’re sure you don’t know who it is? Are you sure she’s not been on the TV?”

“No! I think she’s trying to communicate with me.”

“You’d think she’d pick an easier way, like the phone.”

Tom absently chewed his pie. “Exactly! I think she doesn’t phone because she can’t!”

“But does she ever mention Granddad?”

“No.”

“So how are they connected?”

“Because this only started when he disappeared!” Tom said, his voice rising.

“All right! Calm down.” Beansprout brushed crumbs off her sweatshirt. “Okay, if you’re so convinced, let’s go for a walk and try to find your visitors.”

“Now?” He looked towards the windows. “It’s already getting dark.”

It was past three in the afternoon, and at this time of year, the daylight ended early.

Beansprout looked at the window too, frowning. “Okay. Tomorrow? Your dad’s still at work, isn’t he?”

Tom nodded. “He’s working long hours. He’s never back until late now.”

Beansprout looked around the kitchen, concerned. “What are you eating?”

“Microwaveable dinners, why?”

Her shoulders dropped. “Why didn’t you say so? Come to our house. There’s always loads of food.”

Tom shrugged. “Nah. I’m fine. The football’s on.”

Her face creased with worry. “Are you sure? Aren’t you lonely?”

“Not really. Besides, whoever I saw earlier might come back.”

“Don’t open the door tonight. You might be attacked!”

“Beansprout, stop worrying! You’re as bad as my mother. Let’s go searching tomorrow. We could go for a walk, maybe as far the old folly in the middle of the wood. It’s unlikely whoever it was will still be around, but you never know. I’ve always wondered if it’s somewhere Granddad may have gone, too. We might find a clue. What time?”

The old folly was a derelict tower that had seen better days, and was a good walk from the cottage.

“Tenish? I’ll bring some cake in my backpack.”

“Okay. I’ll make sandwiches.” He smiled. “Cheers for this. It will make me feel better. At least we’ll have tried to find them. I’m sure someone was there!”

She smiled, too. “It’s okay. I feel as useless as you do, and I’d like to feel like we’ve done something. But it’s freezing outside. I’ll be very surprised if anyone’s there now.” She stood and headed to the door. “I better go—I’ve got some shopping to pick up. Are you sure you don’t want to come for tea?”

“Sure. See you tomorrow.”

Chapter 2: A Sign

The next morning was bright and clear, and Tom woke early, jolting out of an unsatisfactory night’s sleep. He’d had another dream about the woman with long, white hair. She whispered his name to him. “Tom, it is time.” But she never said anything else, and when he tried to answer, she’d faded away, and the dream evaporated.

Time for what? She was always so vague. That was the nature of dreams, though. Weird, half-finished things that meant nothing and went nowhere. He was frustrated with himself for even thinking they meant something.

He’d dreamt about water, too, and the glint of something shining deep down beneath the shifting waves where he couldn’t see it clearly. Sometimes he saw a bright blaze of firelight, and heard a low, murmured chanting that became louder and louder until it roared in his ears before receding like a tide. And sometimes when he woke up, it felt like someone had punched him on the birthmark at the top of his arm.

Shrugging it off, he lay in bed, looking forward to the day that stretched before him. He had no idea what he might find, or even what to look for, but it would be good to have company. He’d already packed his backpack with spare socks, a jumper, and bottles of water, and the sandwiches he’d made the night before were in the fridge.

He jumped out of bed and went to look at an old map on the bedroom wall. It showed the surrounding land as it had been over a hundred years ago. The cottages along the stream, including Granddad’s, were marked, but the fields and farmland behind them were now covered in houses. The extensive woods across the narrow stream remained unchanged and were still surrounded by fields. Just visible at the top edge of the map was the small village of Downtree, also virtually unchanged since the map had been made.

Marked on the map, in the centre of the wood, was the strange, tumbledown stone tower that he and Beansprout would walk to today. Mishap Folly had been built more than a hundred years ago by the owner of the manor house. It was so-called because of the series of disasters that had overtaken the owner: the manor had been damaged by fire, crops had failed, and the owner’s son had died after been thrown from a horse. Then the owner himself had disappeared and was never seen again. The tower had stood empty over the years, beginning to crumble as the woods encroached on all sides.

Tom estimated it would take a couple of hours to walk there. It was unlikely that Granddad had passed that way, but it had always annoyed Tom that so far, no one had checked it out. The police had been so dismissive at the time, and it annoyed him now just to think about it.

He pulled on his jeans, T-shirt, and jumper, and ran down the stairs. After putting some bread in the toaster, he opened the back door and took a deep breath as the cold, crisp air came flooding in. As he stepped outside he noticed an odd-shaped package on the doorstep. How had that got there? The postman never came to the back door.

He grabbed the parcel as if it might suddenly disappear, and looked towards the wood, immediately thinking of the figures he had seen the day before. He had seen someone! He scanned the trees again, and then turned back into the kitchen to examine the package, shutting the door behind him.

The outer wrapping was a lightweight piece of bark, and as he lifted the edges, a gauzy material shimmered beneath it. He unfolded it to find his grandfather’s watch and a note. Tom gasped, his head whirling with surprise. Behind him the toaster popped loudly, and in shock he dropped everything onto the table. Cross at himself for being so jumpy, he frowned at the toaster as he pulled the note from under the watch. It was Granddad’s writing.

Sorry for the delay, but I’ve been very busy!

I’ve sent you my watch, as it doesn’t really work here, but I wanted you to know that I’m all right.

I probably won’t be coming home, so I hope someone is looking after the house and garden.

I miss you all, but I know you’ll be fine.

Don’t try to find me!

Love, Granddad xxx

 

The letter was written on thick parchment-like paper, and he wondered if there was some sort of secret message in it, but after reading the note several times, was sure there wasn’t. Tom felt hugely relieved to know Granddad was fine. And then he felt really annoyed. What did he mean, ‘Don’t try to find me?’ How ridiculous. Where on Earth was he? He kicked the table in frustration and buttered his now cold toast, itching to leave as soon as possible.

When Beansprout arrived, she was as mystified as Tom. She propped her own bulging backpack against the table and examined the package while Tom rinsed his plate.

“This is bark, Tom! Who wraps a watch in this? It’s just odd. Perhaps he’s run out of money and is living off the land, like Robinson Crusoe?”

“And his Man Friday has brought us a present? I doubt it. Besides, he said he doesn’t need his watch where he is, so he must be somewhere else! Just like I suggested yesterday. If he was here, close by, he’d see us.”

“So who brought this?”

“The people I saw yesterday. I knew I was being watched!”

She stared at him warily. “This is uncanny. It’s giving me goose bumps.”

“And I had another dream.”

“I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”

“Why bad? It’s clear he’s okay. That’s his writing!”

“What if someone made him write it?”

Tom shook his head. “Okay. This is getting us nowhere. Someone left that here last night, and they might still be here, so grab your bag. Let’s go.”

Beansprout glared at him, but changed the subject. “Are you going to leave your dad a message?”

“What did you tell your mum?”

“Just that we’re going out for the day, and I’d see her this evening.”

“Cool, I’ll do the same.”

He scribbled a note and left it on the kitchen table, then put the contents of the package in his backpack, just in case.

The wood was a tangled mass of bare tree limbs, and the ground was carpeted in dead leaves. Satisfied that no one was in close proximity to the cottage, they walked on into the heart of the wood, and an ever-increasing thicket of branches. For a while they didn’t speak, spooked by the stillness around them, and both wary in case they were being watched. The only sound was their ragged breathing and the occasional crack of a twig breaking.

It wasn’t until Tom spotted the roof of the folly through the trees that he broke the silence. “I can see it, we’re nearly there!”

They quickened their pace, finally emerging into a clearing. The round tower loomed above them, its stone walls cracked and crumbling, its roof jagged. The ground was littered with broken stones. Moss had spread like patchwork, and ivy snaked up the walls until there was barely an inch of grey stone to see.

“Wow!” said Beansprout. “I didn’t know it was so big!”

Tom nodded. “It’s bigger than I remember, actually. And it’s more ruined, too. What was I thinking? As if anyone would want to stay here! Especially Granddad. I’m an idiot. I actually thought he might be in there, smoking his pipe next to a fire.”

Beansprout laughed. “That’s desperation for you. Don’t worry, Tom. I think we’ve all imagined all kinds of unlikely things.”

“You check the inside, and I’ll look round the back,” Tom said. “Be careful!” he added as he tripped over a snaking branch of ivy.

“Yeah, yeah,” he heard her mutter as she made her way to the entrance. “I’m not a child!”

When Tom reached the far side of the structure, he peered around him at the trees, the tower, and the debris on the ground, and all at once felt stupid. It was ridiculous to even think he could find Granddad, or the person who had brought the package. Annoyed with himself, he huffed, and thumped back against the wall before sliding to the forest floor, his backpack squashed behind him.

Without a whisper of noise, a tall figure emerged from the wood and walked towards him, stopping a few feet away. It was a young man, just a few years older than Tom, with long, dark hair and pale skin. There was something different about him that Tom couldn’t quite put his finger on. He wore a loose, pale-grey shirt and black cotton trousers tucked into leather boots. A long, thick grey cloak hung from his shoulders, almost reaching the ground. But what was unnerving was the sword tucked into a scabbard at his side, and the longbow and arrows visible over his shoulder.

He stared at Tom, and then sat cross-legged on the ground.

“Greetings. My name is Woodsmoke.” His voice was soft and low, with a strange accent.

Surprised, Tom said, “Er, Hi.”

“And you are?”

After debating whether telling this stranger anything was a good idea, he said, “Tom.”

Woodsmoke nodded, as if that was the answer he’d been expecting. “I know your grandfather.”

Tom’s head shot forward, his mouth open wide. “How? Have you seen him recently? Is he all right?”

Woodsmoke laughed, so gently it sounded like rain on a roof. “So many questions, Tom. You remind me of him. He’s fine. He doesn’t want you to worry about him. That’s why I brought his watch for you.”

“It was you? And you were in the wood yesterday! But where is he? I want to see him. So much has happened since he left, he could help—I know he could.”

“He’s too far away to help. As he said in his letter, he won’t be coming back. Whatever it is, you’ll have to manage on your own. You aren’t alone, are you?” Woodsmoke looked concerned, as if he’d misunderstood.

“No, I live with my dad. But…” He shrugged.

Woodsmoke sighed with relief. “That’s good, then.”

“I want to see him anyway!”

“I’m sorry, that is not possible. I shouldn’t be speaking to you…I should have just gone.” Woodsmoke looked cross with himself. “I must go, I have a long way to travel, and you must go home, too. Stop worrying, your grandfather is fine, that’s all you need to know.” He rose swiftly to his feet, but as he turned to leave, a woman came running around the side of the tower.

“Woodsmoke, quickly—the girl has gone into the tunnel.”

“You said you’d sealed it!”

By now Tom was on his feet and looking at both of them. “What girl? Do you mean Beansprout?” But Woodsmoke and the woman were already running back around the tower.