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."Then as he was still silent, I repeated, worried into urgency: "What's happening, Galapas? What does it all mean?""About your dream, and your finding of the cavern, I know nothing.About the trouble in the palace, I can guess.You knew that the High King had sons by his first wife, Vortimer and Katigern and young Pascentius?"I nodded."Were none of them there at Segontium?""No.""I am told that they have broken with their father," said Galapas, "and Vortimer is raising troops of his own.They say he would like to be High King, and that Vortigern looks like having a rebellion on his hands when he can least afford it.The Queen's much hated, you know that; Vortimer's mother was good British, and besides, the young men want a young king.""Camlach is for Vortimer, then?" I asked quickly, and he smiled."It seems so."I thought about it for a little."Well, when wolves fall out, don't they say the ravens come into their own?"As I was born in September, under Mercury, the raven was mine."Perhaps," said Galapas."You're more likely to be clapped in your cage sooner than you expected." But he said it absently, as if his mind were elsewhere, and I went back to what concerned me most."Galapas, you've said you know nothing about the dream or the cavern.But this — this must have been the hand of the god." I glanced up at the ledge where the merlin sat, broodingly patient, his eyes half shut, slits of firelight."It would seem so."I hesitated."Can't we find out what he — what it means?""Do you want to go into the crystal cave again?""N-no, I don't.But I think perhaps I should.Surely you can tell me that?"He said heavily, after a few moments: "I think you must go in, yes.But first, I must teach you something more.You must make the fire for yourself this time.Not like that — " smiling, as I reached for a branch to stir the embers."Put that down.You asked me before you went away to show you something real.This is all I have left to show you.I hadn't realized.Well, let that go.It's time.No, sit still, you have no more need of books, child.Watch now."Of the next thing, I shall not write.It was all the art he taught me, apart from certain tricks of healing.But as I have said, it was the first magic to come to me, and will be the last to go.I found it easy, even to make the ice-cold fire and the wild fire, and the fire that goes like a whip through the dark; which was just as well, because I was young to be taught such things, and it is an art which, if you are unfit or unprepared, can strike you blind.It was dark outside when we had done.He got to his feet."I shall come back in an hour and wake you."He twitched his cloak down from where it hung shrouding the mirror, put it round him, and went out.The flames sounded like a horse galloping.One long, bright tongue cracked like a whip.A log fell down with a hiss like a woman's sigh, and then a thousand twigs crackled like people talking, whispering, chattering of news.It faded all into a great brilliant blaze of silence.The mirror flashed.I picked up my cloak, now comfortably dry, and climbed with it into the crystal cave.I folded it and lay down on it, with my eyes fixed on the wall of crystal arching over me.The flames came after me, rank on bright rank, filling the air, till I lay in a globe of light like the inside of a star, growing brighter and ever brighter till suddenly it broke and there was darkness.The galloping hoofs sparked on the gravel of the Roman road.The rider's whip cracked and cracked again, but the horse was already going full tilt, its nostrils wide and scarlet, its breath like steam in the cold air.The rider was Camlach.Far behind him, almost half a mile behind now, were the rest of the young men of his party, and still further behind them, leading his lamed and dripping horse, came the messenger who had taken the news to the King's son.The town was alive with torches, men running to meet the galloping horse, but Camlach paid no heed to them.He drove the spiked spurs into the horse's sides, and galloped straight through the town, down the steep street, and into the outer yard of the palace.There were torches there, too.They caught the quick glint of his red hair as he swung from the horse and flung the reins into the hands of a waiting slave.The soft riding boots made no sound as he ran up the steps and along the colonnade that led to his father's room.The swift black figure was lost for a moment in shadow under the arch, then he flung the door wide and went through.The messenger had been right.It had been a quick death.The old man lay on the carved Roman bed, and over him someone had thrown a coverlet of purple silk.They had somehow managed to prop his jaw, for the fierce grey beard jutted ceilingwards, and a little head-rest of baked clay beneath his neck held his head straight, while the body slowly froze iron-hard.There was no sign, the way he lay, that the neck was broken.Already the old face had begun to fall away, to shrink, as death pared the flesh down from the jut of the nose till it would be left simply in planes of cold candlewax.The gold coins that lay on his mouth and shut eyelids glimmered in the light of the torches at the four corners of the bed.At the foot of the bed, between the torches, stood Niniane.She stood very still and upright, dressed in white, her hands folded quietly in front of her with a crucifix between them, her head bent.When the door opened she did not look up, but kept her eyes fixed on the purple coverlet, not in grief, but almost as if she were too far away for thought.To her side, swiftly, came her brother, slim in his black clothes, glinting with a kind of furious grace that seemed to shock the room.He walked right up to the bed and stood over it, staring down at his father.Then he put down a hand and laid it over the dead hands clasped on the purple silk.His hand lingered there for a moment, then drew back.He looked at Niniane.Behind her, a few paces back in the shadows, the little crowd of men, women, servants, shuffled and whispered.Among them, silent and dry-eyed, Mael and Duach stared.Dinias, too, all his attention fixed on Camlach.Camlach spoke very softly, straight to Niniane."They told me it was an accident.Is this true?"She neither moved nor spoke.He stared at her for a moment, then with a gesture of irritation, looked beyond her, and raised his voice."One of you, answer me.This was an accident?"A man stepped forward, one of the King's servants, a man called Mabon."It's true, my lord." He licked his lips, hesitating.Camlach showed his teeth."What in the name of the devils in hell's the matter with you all?" Then he saw where they were staring, and looked down at his right hip, where, sheathless, his short stabbing dagger had been thrust through his belt.It was blood to the hilt [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]