An interview with Prince Elphin of Avalon

Today the unicorn interviews Prince Elphin of Avalon, who wrote the ballads for the Pendragon Legacy series.

U: Why did you decide to write verses to go in the chapter headings of these books?

E: In Avalon, we don’t write down stories - we sing them instead. And if our magic is strong enough, then our stories show up as moving pictures in the enchanted crystal walls of my father’s palace, which is a much better way of letting people know exactly what happened.

U: Ah yes, we have movies! But normally we employ actors to play the characters, so I suppose your magic is stronger. You make Rhianna sound very romantic in the ballads with your use of “damsel” and “maiden” though – what does she think of that?

A maiden lives in Avalon’s hall
Her spirit purest of them all.
Brave of heart and hair aflame,
Mortal damsel with secret name.

E: It embarrassed her when she first heard me singing about her, but then she laughed so that was all right. She’s famous now whether she likes it or not, and her father’s knights are always calling her “Damsel Rhianna” so it seemed right. Anyway, she is still a maiden in the stories or she wouldn’t have been able to touch the Grail. (And I find her romantic... but don't tell her that, will you?)

U: She won't hear it from me! In "Sword of Light", you sing the whole Saxon camp to sleep so you can escape. Who taught you how to do that?

E: Ah, did you like that bit? My father, Lord Avallach, taught me. All Avalonians are born with extra fingers and the ability to play a magic harp, but we have to practice and some of us are better at it than others – it’s a bit like humans being born with the ability to swim (which I can’t do). Fortunately, Father also gave me a mist horse called Evenstar, who can trot across the surface of water, so I didn’t have to swim to the world of men when I went there with Rhianna.

So brave Rhianna crossed water wide
With the Prince of Avalon at her side
On horses born of mist and myth
Shod in silver by a six-fingered smith.

U: Does having six fingers on each hand help?

E: Of course. That’s why humans can’t manage the magic, even if they’re excellent harpists. I can’t imagine only having five fingers, although Merlin isn’t bad for someone born with human hands. He can make the pictures quite well if he concentrates, but then he’s half Avalonian - did you know that?

The trees wept gold when Merlin brought
A dying king to the fairy court
To sing of battles grave and fey
In the world of men where hope once lay.

U: Yes, Merlin is known as a powerful wizard in the world of men. Some people say you are Merlin’s replacement in these books... King Arthur had Merlin to do magic for him; Rhianna has you. How do you like being compared to an old man?

E: Rhianna tells me I’m more handsome! But I suppose even Merlin was young once, though the knights say his ears used to stick out when he was a boy, and he grew his long beard to hide them. (It’s a false rumour that I have pointy ears – the cover artist drew them that way to begin with, because someone told him I was a common elf, but my ears are actually quite small.)

U: My ears are pink. Did your ballad get edited at all?

E: Yes, it did. Damsel Goldhawk made me rewrite quite a few verses because they didn’t rhyme very well. Rhymes are difficult, so I think the edits removed a bit of the magic, but I didn’t mind reworking them for human ears. Besides, my editor has such a pretty name... I think she might even have some fairy blood. Being edited is a bit like having a bloodless duel with a friend - fun but hard work too.

At midwinter the fairy host did ride,
Souls of men to their saddles tied,
When brave Rhianna challenged their lord
To a bloodless duel for the sword.

U: You’ve written three ballads now, one for each of the first three books. Will there be a ballad in the final book too?

E: "Grail of Stars" finishes Rhianna’s story, so it wouldn’t be complete without one, and I think I’m getting a bit better at the rhymes now. Here’s the first verse:

Mist covered the land far and wide
When a squire drowned on lonely tide,
While a damsel dreamed to no avail
Searching for secrets of the missing Grail.

U: I can’t wait to read it! So what’s next?

E: Well, after dealing with Mordred and his witch-mother, we’re taking a short holiday in Avalon to recover. But I still have my harp, so if you listen very carefully in the right places you might hear its music in the mist...

U: Thank you very much, Prince Elphin. I think I might join you in Avalon!

E: Unicorns are always welcome here.

The Pendragon Legacy, complete with Elphin's ballads:
GRAIL OF STARS (publishes in hardcover October 2013, preorder now!).