Cover image for The lost queen : a novel / Signe Pike.
The lost queen : a novel / Signe Pike.

First Touchstone hardcover edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Touchstone, [2018]
Physical Description:
527 pages ; 25 cm.
"The Lost Queen tells the story of Languoreth, Queen of Cadzow, who lived in sixth century Scotland and came of age at a time when invading Anglo-Saxon forces and the rise of Christianity threatened to change her way of life forever. Together with her twin brother Lailoken, destined to be a Wisdom Keeper and eventually known to history as Merlin, she is catapulted into a world of danger and violence. War brings the warriors of Emrys, the Dragon Warrior or Pen Dragon, to their door, and among them is Maelgwn. He and Languoreth spark a passionate connection, forged by a magical spell, but Languoreth is promised in marriage to Lord Rhydderch, son of the High King Tutgual who is sympathetic to the Christian followers of a charismatic monk named Mungo. As Rhydderch's wife, it will be Languoreth's duty to fight for the preservation of the Old Way, her kingdom, and all she holds dear. Rebellious, intelligent, passionate, and brave, Languoreth is an unforgettable heroine whose story of conflicted loves and survival is set against a cinematic backdrop of ancient Scotland and its myths and magic which spring from the beauty of the natural world. The Lost Queen brings this remarkable woman to life, rescuing her from vanishing history, and reclaiming her place in some of the most enduring legends of all time"-- Provided by publisher.


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Compared to Outlander and The Mists of Avalon , this thrilling first novel of a debut trilogy reveals the untold story of Languoreth--a forgotten queen of sixth-century Scotland--twin sister of the man who inspired the legend of Merlin.

I write because I have seen the darkness that will come. Already there are those who seek to tell a new history...

In a land of mountains and mist, tradition and superstition, Languoreth and her brother Lailoken are raised in the Old Way of their ancestors. But in Scotland, a new religion is rising, one that brings disruption, bloodshed, and riot. And even as her family faces the burgeoning forces of Christianity, the Anglo-Saxons, bent on colonization, are encroaching from the east. When conflict brings the hero Emrys Pendragon to her father's door, Languoreth finds love with one of his warriors. Her deep connection to Maelgwn is forged by enchantment, but she is promised in marriage to Rhydderch, son of a Christian king. As Languoreth is catapulted into a world of violence and political intrigue, she must learn to adapt. Together with her brother--a warrior and druid known to history as Myrddin --Languoreth must assume her duty to fight for the preservation of the Old Way and the survival of her kingdom, or risk the loss of them both forever.

Based on new scholarship, this tale of bravery and conflicted love brings a lost queen back to life--rescuing her from obscurity, and reaffirming her place at the center of one of the most enduring legends of all time.



The Lost Queen CHAPTER 1 Cadzow Fortress, Strathclyde Land of the Britons Late Winter, AD 550 I was dreaming of the forest. This time no rustle of wind, no birdcall, no sliver of light penetrated the thick canopy of trees. Silence thundered in my ears like a band of warhorses. And then, through the gloom, I heard my mother call my name, her voice soft and hollow-throated as a dove's. Languoreth. I woke with a start as my brother tugged back the covers and a rush of cold air met my feet. Lailoken's sandy hair was unkempt. He watched impatiently as I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and reached for my dress, but as I tugged the wool over my head, my mind quickened and the memory came rushing back. Mother was dead. Nine days had passed since the sickness took her. Sleep--when it came--brought some relief, but each morning when I woke, my wound tore open anew. "I dreamt of her." I looked at my brother. "Mother was calling my name, I'm certain. If only I could have seen her . . ." I waited a moment, hoping for a response, but Lailoken only frowned and handed me my cloak. The purple rings beneath his eyes told me he'd been up through the night again, seeking her spirit in the Summerlands. For a moment, Lail looked envious I'd dreamt of her. But if my brother did not sleep, how could he dream? "Tonight you must rest," I said. "There is sickness yet beyond Cadzow's walls." Lail's face only darkened. "Lailoken." I caught his sleeve. "Sooner or later you will have to speak." He ignored me, reaching instead for the door's iron latch. "You cannot force her to come to you," I said. "After all, the Wisdom Keepers say--" Lail turned on his heel, his narrowed eyes unmistakable. Don't be stupid--you're going to wake Crowan. I bit my tongue. I didn't want to wake our nursemaid any more than he; Crowan would never allow us to go down to the river this time of morning. And though neither Lailoken nor I could explain it, we knew the beast waiting in the shallows waited for us alone. As though it were ours alone to see. I followed Lailoken down the dark corridor, softening my footfalls as we crept past the entryway to the great room with its sleeping warriors and softly dying embers. Yes, Mother was dead. Now our rambling timber hall felt like a husk without her. I swallowed the stinging that rose in my throat and followed Lailoken out the heavy oaken door and into the milky morning light. In the courtyard, mist swathed the late winter grasses. Past the fallow kitchen garden, Brant stood watch on the platform of the inner rampart, breath clouding beneath his hood. At the sound of our footsteps, his grip tightened on his spear before he caught sight of us and smiled. "Ho, there, little cousins. And where do you suppose you're off to?" "We're only going down to the river," I said. Brant looked at Lailoken. "Still no good morning from you, eh, Lailoken?" "He isn't speaking to anyone." I shifted my weight, and Brant's brown eyes softened. "Right, then. Down to the river." He gestured us through. "But you two had better mind each other. The cliff trail is slick as a snake's belly." "We'll be careful," I swore, but as we hurried through the gate, I made certain Lailoken felt my eyes on the back of his head. It was hurtful and foolish, his vigil of silence. "Do you imagine you miss her more than I do?" I said. "You are not the only one who lost her, Lailoken. Mother's gone and we cannot bring her back." My brother stiffened as he ducked beneath a low-hanging bough, but at the sound of hurt in my voice he glanced back, reaching for my hand. An offering, an apology. I joined my fingers with his and we wound our way along the forest path to the place where the towering outer rampart ended. At the cliff's edge, a deer trail stretched down hundreds of feet to the gorge below. A thick sponge of moss lined the narrow trail where the first tender shoots of fern budded from their peaty winter beds. We edged down the steep path toward the river, mud caking the leather lacing of our boots, and I breathed in the earthy smell that always brought relief. My mother had spent endless days in the forest with us, plucking mushrooms from fallen tree trunks, gathering blackberries and marshmallow and nettle, using the knife she kept at her belt to strip the bark from hazel and birch. Mother was the wife of a king. But she had also been a Wisdom Keeper, trained in the art of healing. It was the lady Idell our tenants visited for a tonic to ease their child's cough, a salve to slather on their horse's foot, or a remedy to ease the aches of old age. And it was by her side, in the woods, under our great roof of trees, that I felt most at home. The river Avon glinted like liquid glass as we emerged at the cliff bottom. Stooping low, we moved softly through the underbrush until we neared the bank of the river and Lailoken squeezed my hand. We crouched at the water's edge, just out of sight, as I struggled to quiet my breathing. The red stag was magnificent--nine points on each of his antlers. We watched the river course round his black hooves as he drank in the shallows, the graceful muscle working in his throat. It was strange to spot deer this late in winter, and stranger still to find one so close to our fort; most had been hunted into the deepest glades beyond Cadzow by now. Surely such a beast was wise to the ways of men. And yet, each morning since our mother's death, we had descended the steep banks of the gorge to find him standing in the current as if he, too, were keeping vigil. Now the only sound was the soft gurgle of water over rock. Fog pillowed over the dark sheen of river and I opened my ears to the sounds of the stream, longing to hear the sweet strains of the melody my mother so often hummed while walking the woods. Then, a movement flickered in the corner of my vision. I turned instinctually, looking upriver. At first I could make no sense of the shadowy form that appeared where nothing had stood a moment before. I blinked to clear my eyes. But there, in the water, rising out of the mist, stood a figure, her dark hair flowing over her simple green dress. If my fingers hadn't been stinging with cold, I would have been certain I was still dreaming. Mother. Her skin was no longer flushed by fever or marred by the blisters that had come. Her face was smooth and her lips wore a smile, but her gaze was unsettling; her eyes were wild and dark in the river's dim. I opened my mouth to cry out her name, but the stag bolted upright, nostrils flaring. I glanced back upriver, and my heart sank. My mother had vanished as quickly as she had come. Or had she been there at all? I balled my fists until my nails bit into the flesh of my palms. How could my eyes play such cruel tricks? There was nothing now but the soft wash of water. Only the great stag stood regarding us, his tawny pelt shimmering in the growing light of morning. Of course I hadn't seen her. We had scattered her ashes high in the hills. But next to me Lailoken let out a puff of breath. "It was her, wasn't it?" I turned to him. "You saw her, Lail, tell me! She was just there . . ." Lailoken gave a tight nod. Because he was my twin, I could feel his tears before they began. I sank down onto the pebbled bank. My brother sank down beside me. And together we poured our grief into the slowly waking world. We sat at the river's edge until our bodies grew stiff from cold and our sobs gave way to the sound of birds in the forest behind us. All the while the stag moved softly in the shallows. Perhaps tomorrow the beast would come no more--after all, it had been nine days. Cathan the Wisdom Keeper said nine was the most magical of numbers. I was wiping my face with the corner of my cloak when Lail stiffened. "What is it?" I asked. He lifted a finger and gestured to the edge of the nearby thicket, where a brown hare was hunched beyond the brambles, its head tilted as if it were listening. Lail watched as it shivered its whiskers and scampered into the forest, his gaze following its trail. Then he turned to me, eyes rimmed red, and spoke the first words he'd uttered in days. "A rider is coming. He brings news from the east." A "Knowing," or so the Wisdom Keepers called them. At night, and even in waking, Lail told me, he dreamt of such things: salmon circling the bottom of a forest pool, or the speckled eggs of a faraway falcon's nest. It had been Lail who had woken from sleep that first morning after Mother died and heeded the call to the river. There he'd found the red stag standing in the shallows as if it were waiting. My brother had a gift for reading such signs from the Gods. We were only ten winters--Lailoken was young to have such skill. Yet Lail could not make sense of why the great deer had come. Even so, I could sense now that my brother's gift was growing. Messengers came often to Cadzow with news for our father, but never before had Lailoken foreseen one. I shifted on the stones, straining to hear the sound of hoofbeats I knew were not yet approaching. A rider was coming--it was only a matter of when--and soon our nursemaid Crowan would wake to find our beds empty. I knew we should hurry, yet I could not take my eyes from the water. "Was that truly Mother we saw?" I asked. "Is that what it's like when you see someone from Spirit?" "Don't know." Lailoken squinted. "I've never seen a spirit before." "She looked just as real as anyone. Do you think if we stayed . . . we might see her again?" Lail's blue eyes trailed to the water almost hopefully. But then he shook his head and wiped his nose on the back of his hand. I felt the small stab as he shut me out again and looked to the cliff top, where a yolky sun was filtering through the forest. The spell of dawn had broken. In the current, the stag shifted and meandered toward the opposite bank. I wanted to rest my head on his smooth flanks, make my mother reappear so she could chase away the emptiness. But we moved instead to climb the trail, turning our backs on the water. As we reached the little gully where our mother had so often sat by our side, I heard the echo of her voice rising up from the depths of my longing. She had called out my name in the darkness of my dream. But her voice had not been tender or full of love. Her voice had been full of warning. Excerpted from The Lost Queen by Signe Pike All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.