by Artaxerxes


Lava met water. We watched. Arthur turned away. He was playing the strong, silent type. We knew he was worried.

Getting from Caerleon to Carlisle had proved unexpectedly tricky. Bedwyr had tried to climb the mast one-handed, fully armoured, had fallen into the sea, and had sunk instantly (we wished it had been Cei—we would have had time to fish him out). Uchtryd tried to rescue drowning men off the Wight, but had been dragged underwater by the weight of his enormous beard. Menw decided that he could become a dolphin and, citing Biblical verses about emergencies, tabernacles and dolphin skin, had swum out of sight using his feet as a tail. Kynedyr Wyllt had tried to pick a fight with a magical flying altar that Arthur had found somewhere, and to minimise damage to the ship we’d eventually locked both of them in the strongest part of the hold and left them to get on with it.

So, now, with Arthur, there were three useful people, apart from the shadows. We only saw them out of the corners of our eyes, pulling on ropes and making sail. We never talked about them. And now, we were here, watching fire meet water and throw up steam; and icebergs in the distance.

‘Why are we watching this?’ Arthur asked.

‘Don’t you think it’s interesting?’ we replied.

‘No,’ he said, and spoke with emphasis: ‘Why are we watching this? How did we get here?’

‘You are a border king,’ we said. ‘And this is certainly a border. Don’t you think it’s appropriate?’

‘Volcanoes? Near Carlisle?’ He stamped below as an explosion peppered our hair with ash.

In the distance, we heard snarling sounds and splintering wood as he tried to separate Kynedyr and the flying table.