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Part 13

Not again!

Arthur ducked behind a rocky outcrop, and waited.

The red whirlwind had suddenly vanished, minutes after Sir Bors had followed the elf but, by the time Arthur had reached the pass down which they had both vanished, the thing had returned, weaker than before, but just as threatening, and just as determined to consume him.

That attack had lasted perhaps ten minutes, then the swirling mass had disappeared, and Arthur—having no other option—had plunged into the gully.

Moments later the whirlwind had reappeared.

From behind the rocks, Arthur watched it.

What is it?

Some piece of sorcery, no doubt, but what?

And why does it want me?

He reached down, picked up a handful of frosty gravel, and threw it into the swirling wind. The tiny stones rolled round and round towards its centre, then disappeared.

Arthur leaned back against the sloping bank.

What would happen to a man, he wondered, if he were to fall into it?

There had been no flash of light, no crash of thunder—nothing to say that the stones had been destroyed...

To Arthur, it had looked as though they had passed through.

So what is on the other side?

Arthur looked about him.

He knew this part of Camelot like the back of his hand—he had hunted here with his father many, many times—but he had never seen this pass before, never seen those massive hills to the North—and those ruins he had been hiding in, the remains of some ancient fortification—where had they come from?

It’s all part of the sorcery, he thought. I have been sent to a strange land. But to what purpose?

To kill the dragon?

To help the elf rescue his Lady?

Or just to get me away from Camelot?

He sighed and, rubbing his eyes, sensed a sudden change in the air around him.

The whirlwind has vanished again!

He leaped to his feet, and took off at a run.


The pass gave out onto a broad plain that stretched all the way to the hills, which sat many miles to the North, though their exact distance was hard to judge in the dusky light. Somewhere in between, he could just make out the shapes of two horsemen—the elf and Sir Bors.

If the whirlwind comes back, and I’m out here, he thought, I’ll have no chance.

The elf’s beautiful horse nuzzled his shoulder.

“Why are you here boy?” he asked, stroking its muzzle. “Hm? Did your master leave you here for me? Why would he do that? Does he mean me to follow him?”

Arthur found that his opinion of the elf was changing.

If he did follow the others, he would be putting himself at risk, but he was a Prince of Camelot, the foremost of its knights, and—though discretion might be the better part of valour—there was a difference between discretion and outright cowardice.

For, as Bors had pointed out, there was a damsel to be rescued.

And it was just possible that someone, or something, had brought him here to do it.

“Good boy,” he said, mounting the horse. “Take me to your master.”