The Hollow Hills, written by Mary Stewart, is the second in the series of books about Merlin. At the end of The Crystal Cave, Merlin has manipulated events so that the Duchess Ygraine is now pregnant with the future King Arthur. Because of the wrath of King Uther, Merlin is now in hiding, recovering from the wounds he received in the battle that Duke Gorlois met his end. He is patiently awaiting the birth of the child for whose protection and upbringing he knows he will be responsible.
Each of the child's parents separately call for Merlin and ask him to bear this responsibility, a burden which he gladly accepts. King Uther is sure he will produce another son, he just wants the child taken care of away from him. Ygraine believes Merlin that her son will be the next king and wants to protect him from the wrath of her husband and those who would see to his death.
When Arthur is born, he is immediately handed over to Merlin. The child is taken to the home of Merlin's old nurse, Moravik. He is accompanied by Ralf, Merlin's companion, and Branwen, the young lady who is to nurse him. No one knows what has become of the child. Several rumors are running rampant – the child died at birth, the child has been whisked away by Merlin and his magic, some say that the king has sent it to be raised elsewhere. No one can find him, though.
When it is time for the child to leave Moravik's, he is taken, along with Ralf and Branwen, to the residence of Count Ector. He and his wife raise Arthur as they would their own son. All the while, Merlin is keeping watch over him and searching for the sword. What sword is he searching for - the mythical sword that only the one meant to be rightful king of all Britain can possess. Merlin is led to this sword and pulls it up. When he tries to put it back for Arthur, the box closes and will not allow him to replace it. He takes it with him so he can find another place to hide it for the future king.
He hears about the holy man of the Wild Forest who lives above Count Ector's residence. He goes there and finds the holy man to be very, very old and not doing well. Merlin tends to him for four days before the old man dies. Before he dies, he asks Merlin to take his place as the holy man. In the holy man's cave, Merlin finds a place to house the sword until it is time for Arthur to take it up.
The people who live in the area come to accept Merlin as the new holy man, but they don't know what his true identity is. Arthur is now nine years old, and Merlin is close enough to keep an eye on him. He even enlists the help of some of the villagers, who swear their loyalty to the future king, to help watch out for Arthur.
Arthur out riding his horse one day is sick of always being followed by Ralf, so he slips away and goes to where the holy man lives. Merlin finally gets to meet him. He arranges for Ralf to look another way for the boy for a few hours so he can get to know him. The boy returns almost daily for visits with Merlin after this. Count Ector learns that Merlin is the new holy man and gladly allows Arthur to visit him.
Arthur soon rides into battle with his father and Merlin. He ends up saving his father's life and King Uther is seen throwing his own sword to Arthur. King Lot had tried to plan his arrival with reinforcements at a pertinent time during the battle, but was upstaged by the bravery of Arthur. Uther now to announce Arthur as his legitimate heir at a feast being held to celebrate their victory.
At the feast, Ulther declares Arthur to be his legitimate heir to the throne. When he goes to hand his sword over to his son, he makes the discovery that it has been broken. This causes the King to have a heart attack and die on the spot. Now it is up to Arthur to pick up the sword that will cause all to accept him as the rightful king. It is up to Merlin to protect him and see that he gets to do so.
This book, sent to me free of charge by the management of BellaOnline, is an excellent read, especially if you have an interest in the legend of Merlin. Mary Stewart has done an exceptional job both researching and writing about the times these events are rumored to have taken place. If you would like your own copy of The Hollow Hills, I have provided a link to Amazon below.