The long foretold destruction of the Sea Kingdoms arrives as the volcanic core of the isle of Ahtarrath explodes. The high priest (and prince) and priestess Micail and Tiriki, seek safety in the distant isle where it has been prophesied they will found a new temple. But their ships are separated, and neither knows that the other has survived.
While Micail and Prince Tjalan sail to a trading port on the south coast of Britain and become the allies of the local king, Tiriki’s ship is blown off-course and comes to shore in the marshes of the Summer Country, where they are led to the sacred Tor that will one day be called Avalon. While Micail and the other priests begin to build Stonehenge, Tiriki and her companions discover the magic of Avalon. But when Prince Tjalan tries to use Atlantean magic to seize power, Micail and Tiriki are forced into conflict that may kill both them and their love.
Ancestors of Avalon is not only a prequel to the rest of the Avalon series, but the direct sequel to a very early occult romance by Marion which was published in trade paperback by Donning Press in 1980, marred by some unauthorized and egregious additions by the editor, and in mass-market by Pocket Books (minus the additions) as Web of Darkness, and later reissued by Tor Books as The Fall of Atlantis. The following comments are from Marion’s son David:
[Marion]’s use of Atlantis in this context is more than a pop-cultural reference, more than writerly convenience. As a rule, she was not particularly interested in maintaining consistency between her books. This is her recognition of something more personal, a reminder of her college years, and the pseudo-theologies that she assembled in her first book, a brooding Occult romance with the suggestive title, Web of Darkness. The distinguishing marks of that private Atlantis can be clearly seen in the other-worldly magic of Avalon, no less than in the telepathic Darkovans of her numerous sci-fi novels, and indeed almost every other power-plagued individual (and society) of her fiction.
Web of Darkness was originally written in the 1950’s. Her son David Bradley recalls how its fading onion-skin pages first peeped at him from a dog-eared cardboard box beneath his mother’s writing desk. Old enough to remember that he was not often encouraged to read his mother’s unpublished works, young David, as he had done before, read the book secretly… or so he thought. Years after, in the late ’60’s, she would ask his help in producing a revision of that self-same primordial Web. The brittle manuscript was by then more tattered, and perhaps rather thicker than he remembered.
It was a story of occult mysteries, pride and power and redemption, and above all love, set in the temples of the Ancient Land, parent to the Sea Kingdoms of Atlantis. But at the beginning of the 1970’s, a new book by Marion Zimmer Bradley did not in itself comprise a sure-fire banner event. Back then, Marion’s main buyers were paperback publishers of genre-driven sci-fi; “oddball cult-stuff” like Web of Darkness wasn’t exactly what they wanted.
The ’80’s brought mother and son together again, for another attempt. By this time, the original manuscript was no longer anywhere to be found, and so it was necessary to revise the prior revision–an often rather sobering experience. In 1983, the year after Mists of Avalon began its ascent to fame, the book, in two trade paperback volumes, Web of Light and Web of Darkness, from Donning Press, at last emerged into the light.
I had originally suggested to Marion that we should write the story of how the two children born as a result of the events in The Fall of Atlantis grew up and travelled to Britain some years ago. We proposed this book at the same time as Priestess of Avalon. The publishers asked for the latter, and Ancestors was put on the back burner for the time being. By the time the book was proposed again, Marion had passed on, leaving me in a quandary. I still thought the story should be written, but although I know a great deal about early Britain, I was very deficient in knowledge of Atlantis. Fortunately, David Bradley lives a few minutes away and is a regular visitor to Greyhaven, so it was natural to ask him to work with me on developing the culture of Atlantis and the characters of its priesthood.
Ancestors also has a connection to The Mists of Avalon. Those who remember Igraine’s dream in Chapter Four in which she remembers herself and Uther as a priest and priestess of Atlantis watching the building of Stonehenge, will recognize the final scene.