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Authors: Gwen Rowley

Gawain

Table of Contents
 
 
PRAISE FOR
Knights of the Round Table: Lancelot
“Though Camelot is in the background, this tale is more a Dark Ages romance between individuals with a mutual past to overcome if both take the steps that love offers them . . . Lancelot is a fascinating character . . . Historical romance readers will enjoy this fine interpretation of the mists of Camelot.” —
The Best Reviews
 
“The legends of Lancelot and his place in Camelot are well-known, but in
Knights of the Round Table: Lancelot
, Gwen Rowley puts a refreshingly unique spin on the myth . . . An intriguing twist on the famous legend,
Lancelot
, the first book in the Knights of the Round Table series, shows a totally different side of Camelot and should not be missed.”
—Romance Reviews Today
 
“Fascinating . . . Rowley takes one of the focal stories of Western European literature and puts her own spin on it . . . [giving] us a surprisingly twenty-first-century Sir Lancelot.”

The Green Man Review
 
“Rowley passionately pens the romantic scenes between Lancelot and Elaine with simple grace and elegance . . . The whole book is written just superbly, and I loved every minute reading it.” —
Romance Reader at Heart
 
“The enticement of Rowley’s reimaginings of the Camelot legend is how cleverly she manipulates the myths surrounding Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot, adding touches of reality and twists of plot that leave us to wonder what might have been.” —
Romantic Times
 
Don’t miss the previous novels in the Knights of the Round Table series ...
Lancelot Geraint
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
 
KNIGHTS OF THE ROUND TABLE: GAWAIN
 
A Jove Book / published by arrangement with the author
 
PRINTING HISTORY
Jove mass-market edition / September 2007
 
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ISBN: 978-1-4406-1982-3
 
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For Kat and Danny
In destinies sad or merry,
True men can but try.
 
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
Chapter 1
SIR Gawain detested magic.
As Inglewood Forest loomed before him, it seemed the space between the trees was filled with shifting shadows and its very air was redolent of sorcery. But he steeled himself and galloped on, catching up to the king just outside the entrance.
“Did you really think you could sneak away?” he demanded, pulling up his charger beside his uncle’s.
“A king does not
sneak
,” King Arthur answered loftily. “I told you I meant to do this on my own.”
“And I said I was coming with you.” Gawain repressed a shudder as they passed into the cool dimness of the forest. “In fact, it would be best if you turned back and let me—”
“No,” the king said sharply. “And if you ask again, I will send you back to Camelot.”
“I am not asking,” Gawain replied with straining patience. “I am telling you—”
“And
I
am telling
you
—I am
ordering
you to stay out of it. You cannot keep fighting my battles for me, Gawain, it just won’t do. First it was the Green Knight, now it is this Somer Gromer Jour—”
“I am only doing what I have sworn to do—what every one of your knights has sworn—”
“Yes, but none of them stepped in and took the Green Knight’s challenge, did they? I’m not saying I’m not grateful—you know I am—but it’s enough. Somer Gromer Jour is my opponent, and I would thank you to let me deal with him on my own.”
Gawain drew a long breath. “Arthur—”
“Ga
wain
,” the king mocked him. “You should hear yourself—no, really! For a moment there, I could have sworn it was my old nurse talking. Next you will be after me to change my shoes and wear a flannel on my chest!”
Gawain’s mouth twitched, but he repressed his amusement and fixed his uncle with a stern glare. Arthur merely grinned and spurred his horse ahead.
It was Arthur’s way to face danger with a smile, and had they been riding into battle, Gawain’s heart would have been equally as light. But this Somer Gromer Jour was clearly an unnatural creature, appearing out of nowhere as he had last year to challenge the king to private combat. And then, once Arthur was defeated, had the knight sought any sort of reasonable terms? No, he had posed the king a question so peculiar that no honest man would even think to ask it, and demanded that Arthur—on pain of death— present himself in one year’s time with the answer.
What do all women desire?
How could any man possibly divine the answer to such a riddle? What would be the point?
The whole business reeked of sorcery.
“Arthur, this is serious,” he said as he drew level with the king.
“And well I know it.” Arthur cast a rueful look at his saddlebag, bulging with a thick tome bound in leather, the result of a solid year’s worth of painstaking labor on both his part and Gawain’s. “Who would have thought it would be so difficult to get a straight answer to a simple question?”
“Me. Women can no more say what they really want than a hen can fly to the moon! In fact, given the choice, I’d wager on the chicken.”
Arthur’s brows lifted. “Was that a joke? Oh, well done, Gawain, I was beginning to think that you’d forgotten how!”
“This is no laughing matter. Somer Gromer Jour has bested you once already—no doubt by use of sorcery—”
“No doubt,” Arthur agreed wryly.
“And the task he set you is impossible, as well he knew.”
Arthur acknowledged the truth of that with an exasperated sigh. He could hardly deny it after the past year, which they had spent—wasted, Gawain thought now—in canvassing the female population of Britain for the answer to Somer Gromer Jour’s deceptively innocuous question.
“Impossible or not, I did accept,” Arthur pointed out. “I have given my word, and I will keep it.”

I
have given
my
word, too, and I refuse to stand by and let that man—that
sorcerer
who will not even give his proper name—take your life because you could not find the answer to his ridiculous riddle!”
“I don’t think it will come to that,” Arthur said. “We have a whole book here—”
“And for every answer in that book, we have its opposite, as well.”
Arthur nodded glumly. “I thought we were onto something with the grand marriage. We had a lot of those.”
“We did,” Gawain agreed. “But it was not unanimous.”
“Did you mark how many said they wanted to be widowed? A bit depressing, that. And then there were the nuns,” he went on, aggrieved. “They put paid to wealth and beauty. As for wisdom—”
Gawain snorted. “I told you
that
one was a nonstarter.”
“Damn it all, what do
you
think women want?”
“A man to tell them what to do,” Gawain answered promptly.
“Yes, well, if you notice, we didn’t get a single one of those.”
“That’s because women lack the wit to know
what
they want. Even if they did know, they wouldn’t say. Women like their secrets, Arthur—they’re cunning creatures.”
“They can’t be witless
and
cunning,” Arthur protested. “You have to pick one.”
“No, indeed, for they are both,” Gawain assured him gravely. “Even the dullest will seek to deceive a man, and the more wit they have, the more dangerous they are.”
Arthur sighed. “You are very hard upon the ladies.”
“I speak as I find,” Gawain answered with a shrug.
“This past year hasn’t done you any good at all,” Arthur said regretfully. “I was sure if you were to get out, meet some lasses who are, well, a bit different . . .”