considered the first in Sutcliff’s Arthurian series and follows the
story of Aquila, a young decurion who goes “willful missing” to protect
his family farm from the invading Saxons as the last of the Roman
legions leave Britain. As the family farm is overrun and burned to the
ground by the barbarians, Aquila and his sister are taken into captivity
by the Saxons and his world collapses. Order, form, civilization are
gone. Years later, Aquila escapes his Saxon captors during which time he
discovers the raid on his family farm had been no accident, but a
planned effort to wipe out those still loyal to Rome and its ways.
Hearing of a new leader of the British people still loyal to
Rome, Ambrosias Aurelianius, Aquila pledges his fealty and becomes close
with Ambrosias and his nephew, Artos, also known as Arthur.
the years that follow and the constant warring against the Saxon
invaders, Aquila, now one of Ambrosias’ generals, often wonders what it
is he and the others are fighting for as the conflict never seems to
end. One evening as he converses with Eugenus the physician, Aquila
wonders if the tenuous peace that Ambrosias has won will last.
“For a while,” answers Eugenus.
“For a while? You do not sound over-hopeful,” replies Aquila.
I am. In my own way, I am the most hopeful man alive. I believe that we
shall hold the barbarians off for a while, and maybe for a long while,
though-not forever. . . .I think that sometimes we stand at sunset. It
may be that night will close over us in the end, but I believe that
morning will come again. Morning always grows again out of the darkness,
though maybe not for the people who saw the sun go down. We are the
Lantern Bearers, my friend; for us to keep something burning, to carry
what light we can forward into the darkness and the wind.”
The Lantern Bearers | The Resurgent