Enemy of God (novel)

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Enemy of God
BernardCornwell EnemyOfGod.jpg
First edition cover
Author Bernard Cornwell
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Series The Warlord Chronicles
Genre Historical, Fantasy novel
Publisher Michael Joseph
Publication date
5 September 1996
Media type Print (Hardcover & Paperback)
Pages 416 pp (hardcover edition) & 472 p. (paperback edition)
ISBN 0-7181-0051-4 (hardcover first edition)
ISBN 0-14-023247-8 (paperback edition)
OCLC 36166674
Preceded by The Winter King
Followed by Excalibur: A Novel of Arthur

Enemy of God is the second book in The Warlord Chronicles series by Bernard Cornwell. The trilogy tells the legend of Arthur seen through the eyes of his follower Derfel Cadarn.

Plot introduction[edit]

Arthur, against all odds, has achieved peace among the warring British Kingdoms and is soon set to turn his attentions against the Saxons. Merlin arrives with a dangerous and near impossible quest into the lands of the most terrible of Britain's enemies in an attempt to recover an ancient relic which will help him restore Britain to its former glory. All the while, Arthur's enemies close around him, ready to destroy his world for their own aims...

Plot summary[edit]

Part One: The Dark Road[edit]

Arthur's unexpected victory over the combined armies of Powys and Siluria at Lugg Vale has brought peace and unity to the British kingdoms. Both Gorfyddyd, King of Powys, and Gundleus, King of Siluria, are dead. Gorfyddyd's son, Cuneglas, shares Arthur's desire for peace and also his dream of an alliance between the kingdoms that will destroy their common enemies, the Saxons. Derfel is ordered to follow Cuneglas to Caer Sws (Caersws), capital of Powys, where the Edling is to be crowned King. As for the vacant Silurian throne, Arthur tells Derfel of his plan to make Lancelot king and marry him to the Princess of Powys, Ceinwyn, thus cementing the alliance between Dumnonia, Powys and Siluria. Derfel himself is to be made the new Champion of Dumnonia, given wealthy land and a position as the new caretaker for the infant King, Mordred, as Arthur wants to remove him from the influence of a growing Christian faction within Dumnonia.

Derfel does not reveal that he is in love with Ceinwyn, and wants her for himself, and goes to Caer Sws, and witnesses Cuneglas' acclamation. Days later, Arthur arrives with his court, including Guinevere and Lancelot. Derfel witnesses Ceinwyn's apparent happiness with her betrothal. Derfel speaks with Merlin, and Merlin tells him that Arthur wants him to marry Gwenhwyvach, Guinevere's plain and apathic sister. Merlin asks Derfel to meet him and Nimue late that night on a hilltop, where Merlin has Derfel drink a hallucinogenic potion. Derfel hallucinates about Ceinwyn and sees a Dark Road and a ghoul, and he describes his vision to Merlin. Merlin tells him the ghoul was Diwrnach, a vicious Irish king of Lleyn, and he also asks Derfel to accompany him on the quest (which also requires the presence of a virgin) for the Cauldron of Clyddno Eiddyn, one of the Thirteen Treasures of the Island of Britain, which was lost after the Romans sacked the Druid at Ynys Mons. But Derfel is committed to taking his men to aid Arthur in his campaign to drive the Saxons out of eastern Britain. Merlin gives Derfel a bone, and tells him that all he has to do is break it and his wish will be granted, namely that Ceinwyn will choose him over Lancelot, but warns that if he breaks it, he will be bound to Merlin's quest.

After this conversation, Derfel summons his men and informs them that he is releasing them from their oaths if Ceinwyn choose him which allow them to refuse to come on the Dark Road. The night of Ceinwyn and Lancelot's betrothal feast, Derfel breaks the bone and Ceinwyn goes to Derfel instead of Lancelot. They swear to be together but Ceinwyn refuses to be married as she wants to belong to herself and to no man. Nevertheless, she promises to love Derfel as a wife would. That night, she also tells him that Merlin had made her swear that she would remain a virgin until the Cauldron is found, which means she will accompany them on the Dark Road. Derfel is reluctant to let her but she refuses to be swayed.

The next day, Arthur arrives to congratulate Derfel and to inform him that he is meant to be angry with him. He also tells him that, once spring comes, he will call him back to help him against the Saxons. Arthur returns to Dumnonia afterwards where he appoints his cousin, Culhwch, as Mordred's guardian. Culhwch puts down a rebellion by Prince Cadwy of Isca and, after killing the rebel, discovers letters from Christian noblemen and magistrates in Dumnonia. The Christians, who hated Arthur for having overturned the tax and loan exemption on their shrines, had offered to Cadwy that he kill Mordred and yield the kingdom to Gorfyydyd to prevent a pagan king from ruling Dumnonia. However, Arthur's victory at Lugg Vale ruined their plans and Arthur ordered that all the conspirators, including Nabur, Mordred's former guardian, be executed or removed. The only Christian to escape the purge is Bishop Sansum, who never put his name in any of the letters although it is known to everyone that he is involved. Sansum manages to remain as guardian of the Christian shrine of the Holy Thorn near Ynys Wydryn only because of this and because of his unlikely friendship with Morgan, Arthur's sister and Druidess, who has great influence over Dumnonia in Merlin and Nimue's absences.

Merlin's party travel along the Dark Road into Lleyn, an Irish kingdom ruled by Diwrnach, a ruthless man who placed the skins of virgins on his shields to protect himself. Feared by all, Diwrnach had conquered the former Druid forteress of Ynys Mon, which the Romans had sacked four centuries prior. Merlin believes to Cauldron to be at Ynys Mon. The warband crosses Lleyn to Ynys Mon where Ceinwyn finds the Cauldron before being besieged by the Irish Blackshields. Diwrnach demands the Cauldron and Ceinwyn in exchange for their freedom. A fog, apparently summoned by Merlin, allows the warband to escape back to Powys.

Part Two: The Broken War[edit]

Derfel and his men are celebrated upon their return as Warriors of the Cauldron but he and Ceinwyn merely retreat to a farm land in Powys to live their life until spring, when Arthur will summon his warriors for the fight against the Saxons. The two are happy during their time away from the world and Ceinwyn becomes pregnant with their first child.

Arthur came to them when spring comes as he was visiting Cuneglas: the war with the Saxons had come. At the High Council of the British Kings gathered in Corinium to discuss the upcoming war, Arthur convenes a gathering of Mithras to induct Lancelot into the order. Lancelot has grown bored of Siluria and is angry at Ceinwyn's rejection. He has established his capital at Isca, as close to Dumnonia as possible without leaving Siluria, and has the Druid grandsons of Tanaburs, Dinas and Lavaine, at his service (among other things, he pays them to cast curses on Derfel and Ceinwyn but Merlin cast counter-charms to block their effect). Derfel refuses to support his rival's election as he knows that Lancelot is no warrior. He is supported in this action by Agricola, a fellow Mithraist and a warlord of Gwent. However, Lancelot avoids the humiliation of Mithras's rejection by publicly converting to Christianity and being baptised by Bishop Sansum, who ensures his return to favour with this action.

The British successfully lure Aelle's forces into a trap and his war dogs are defeated by Merlin and Nimue, who bring bitches to the battle to distract them. Aelle is weakened but not defeated during the battle and the British Kings are surprised by the arrival of Cerdic, the only other Saxon king in Britain, and Lancelot. The latter had negotiated with Cerdic for his alliance, something which infuriated Arthur as it made the Saxon king into a more dangerous enemy, now that their forces had been weakened against Aelle. Arthur sends Derfel to find Aelle and bring him to London where peace is to be negotiated. Aelle is weakened as Cerdic wins London and the valley of the Thames off him but the British Kings get Cerdic to renounce any claim over the river lands of the Belgae. However, Cerdic insists that Lancelot be given control of the land as a king in his full right. As such, Lancelot is granted a new kingdom much richer and more to his liking than mountainous Siluria. Siluria is divided between Gwent and Powys. The peace is accepted difficulty by the British Kings, with the exception of Prince Meurig of Gwent, who had proposed an alliance with Cerdic before the battle against Aelle.

As the peace negotiations are conducted, Merlin and Nimue search for the last Treasure of Britain, the Chariot of Modron. When they find it however, Cerdic arrives with Dinas and Lavaine, and claims anything they find as his since they are now in his kingdom. Dinas and Lavaine take the Chariot after recognizing it and steal a thread of Merlin's beard, which could allow them to cast powerful spells against the Druid. On the way back to Corinium, Arthur tells Derfel that he wants him and Ceinwyn to return to Dumnonia and become Mordred's guardian, as Culhwch had been having difficulty raising the boy. As Derfel travels to Powys to fetch Ceinwyn, tragedy strikes in Dumnonia: the Cauldron is stolen from Merlin's hall at Ynys Wydryn.

Part Three: Camelot[edit]

In the years following Aelle's defeat and the uneasy truce of London, peace nevertheless occurs for the British kingdoms as Aelle and Cerdic fight among themselves for mastery of Lloegyr. After Lancelot's gain of the new kingdom of the Belgae, establishing his capital in Venta (Winchester) Guinevere leaves the Roman villa at Lindinis and has a new palace, the Sea Palace, built on the border between Dumnonia and the river lands. Derfel and Ceinwyn move to Lindinis with a six-year-old Mordred and their daughter, Morwenna, is born there. She is followed by two other daughters, Seren and Dian. Two sons are also stillborn and Ceinwyn nearly dies during her third labour. The two discover, to their horror, that Mordred is a wicked child whom they have difficulty controlling and who enjoys inflicting pain on others. Merlin, who had lost his hall at Ynys Wydryn the night the Cauldron had been stolen and now lived at Lindinis, expressed the belief that a demon got into the boy the night of his birth, while the Christians tended to the birth. Merlin believes that this explains his crippled foot, as the spirit was attached to it when Morgan finally arrived to tend the birth in The Winter King. Despite their concerns, Arthur refuses to consider removing Mordred and hopes that ruling will make the boy a better person.

Characters in "Enemy of God"[edit]

  • Derfel Cadarn – main protagonist, narrator, warrior and monk
  • Arthur – son of Uther, protector of Mordred
  • Guinevere – Princess of Henis Wyren, Arthur's wife
  • Merlin – Lord of Avalon, druid
  • Mordred – child King of Dumnonia
  • Nimue – priestess, Merlin's lover
  • Lancelot – King-in-exile of Benoic
  • Galahad – Lancelot's illegitimate half-brother
  • Ade – Lancelot's mistress
  • Sagramor – Numidian commander in Arthur's service
  • Morgaine – Arthur's oldest sister, Merlin's ex-lover
  • Tristan – Prince of Kernow, King Mark's son

Release details[edit]