The Iron

Denis wanted to rest, as he had not walked for some hundred years, but we had no time to argue, for we were still many a mile from our intended camp for the night.

So I instructed two of the bearers to give their burdens to others and for the first few hours at least to carry Denis on a stretcher made for the occasion.

Of course he was still tired, but as the day wore on he grew less obstinate in his refusal to answer my enquiries about the road ahead.

That evening as we sat round a large fire of bracken and animal skins, he related to me in considerable detail what the next day's journey held in store for the company.

But all did not go according to plan, for though we were by no means in terra incognita, two members of my hand- picked party turned out to be in the pay of a rival king and surreptitiously slew all the beasts of burden in the night.

I had them garrotted, then we pressed on.

Before long it became evident that, whatsoever gods held domain over this kingdom, they were against our going in any further.

A strong breeze sprang up and quickly became a terrible gale, surpassing in its stench and pungency even the old passages of Abbatim in the yorely days.

We fled from those parts as down from the hills on our left there began to flow what we, in our panic, took to be a sheet of rancid gelatin.

It transpired only to be the cloud of smoke from the nearby fissures of Matthew which was making the wind smell so rank, but we fled nonetheless, the leaders of the column turning first and trampling those who followed in their haste.

In that incident we lost the sons of Bozo and the kin of Elimilech, and had to abandon many more as wholly unfit to serve.

previous page next page