The Drowned City
Written by: Todd Jensen and Greg Bishansky
Story Concept by: Todd Jensen
Illustrations by: Damocles
Previously on Gargoyles…
"There might be a few Whowies left in the Australian outback," offered Garlon.
"Yes," said Madoc, nodding. "I suggest that you look into that at your first opportunity."
~ The Rising, Part Two ~
* * * * *
Arthur: "Deep beneath the shore, in a system of caverns, Merlin hid thirteen treasures.
Griff: "And I suppose these aren't your everyday run of the mill treasures?"
Arthur: "Oh no, Griff, these were vessels of great power. Each one of the Thirteen Treasures had a magical virtue set upon it, to accomplish wondrous things. For even one of these treasures to fall into the wrong hands would be a dreadful calamity. For all of them to fall into the possession of evil...well, it would be disastrous."
Arthur: "Merlin's sanctuary in ruins, and the magic scattered to goodness knows where! They could be in anyone's hands by now."
~ The Crystal Cavern ~
* * * * *
Emrys: "Actually, I'm the guilty party behind their disappearance. I couldn't take them with me to Avalon, because most of them were made with human magic, and Lord Oberon doesn't hold with that sort of thing on his island. And I couldn't just leave them behind, not this time. So I had to relocate them.
~ Quest's End ~
* * * * *
The Drowned City
* * * * *
The Brocken, Germany
Garlon entered the Great Hall, and bowed low before Madoc's throne.
"Well?" asked Madoc. "What have you uncovered?"
"We have finally located a Whowie, my liege," said Garlon. "Only one, but at least that is better than none at all."
"That is certainly some comfort," said Madoc thoughtfully. "But is it still suitable for battle?"
"Well, there's one way to find out," replied his servant. "We can awaken it, and turn it loose upon the nearest sheep station. Or better yet, the nearest town."
Madoc shook his head. "No," he said. "I have a better idea than letting that animal wreak havoc in Australia." He turned to his left. "Grimalkin," he said.
The large black cat sauntered over to the Unseelie Lord's throne. "Yes, my lord?" it asked.
"Contact Adrians in London," said Madoc. "And give him the spell that he will need to bring the Whowie thither."
"That I will," said Grimalkin. He left the Great Hall at once.
"Why London?" asked Garlon, a puzzled look upon his face. "Why not Manhattan?"
"Lucius Adrians' war upon Arthur Pendragon has been rather disappointing of late," said Madoc. "The Minions and Vampyres have not accomplished as much as I had hoped. I believe that it is time to escalate the campaign there a trifle."
* * * * *
"How much London has changed, Cavall."
Cavall made no response to his master's remark. He merely shifted himself to a slightly more comfortable position as he continued to nap by the desk. King Arthur barely noticed, however. He was too busy gazing out the window at the latest snowfall over the city streets, in a contemplative, almost nostalgic mood.
"When I was High King, London was a dying town," mused the Once and Future King. "The walls were crumbling, the temples and market-places all but deserted. Britons were abandoning it, for fear of the Saxons. We were all more than convinced that it would be a humble village, at best, in less than a hundred years, and its memory fade from the land.
"And now look upon it. Not only does it flourish once more, but it is an even greater city of marvels than Rome or Constantinople themselves ever were in my day. Carts that move without horses or oxen to draw them. Lights more powerful than the finest torch or candle. Towers that could dwarf the ones at Camelot. It is a most marvelous thing, Cavall."
More snowflakes drifted down as he watched. "But it seems that even these wonders of this new century are not sufficient to protect the city from the will of the Unseelie Court," said Arthur gravely. "Merlin may well be right about this. The Fimbulwinter could well be an even greater threat to London and its people than the fighting force of the Banished Ones."
There was suddenly the sound of footsteps on the stairs, heading for Arthur's office. The king turned away from the window, and seated himself at the desk. "I don't know if it's a customer or just Merlin returning from whatever it was he was out doing this evening," he said to Cavall, "but I believe that you had best hide yourself. Just in case."
Cavall sighed, then got up, stretched himself, and walked off into the next room, to continue his nap there. Just a minute later, there was a knock at the door. "Come in," said Arthur.
The door opened, and a young auburn-haired woman entered, heavily muffled up against the snowfall outside. "Arthur Pennington?" she asked, cautiously.
"That is my name, my lady," said King Arthur, frowning thoughtfully as he spoke. There was something strongly familiar about that woman and her voice. "What may I do for you?"
"I need your help with something," she said, sitting in the client's chair opposite him, and glancing about in a slightly uneasy fashion. She pulled the scarf back from her head, letting her hair fall loose, and then Arthur suddenly knew her.
"Nimue?" he said, staring at her. "What are you doing here?"
"When I'm in London, it's Vivien Lake, actually," Nimue replied. "But never mind. We're the only ones here, except for your gargoyle beast in the next room - who need not hide himself, by the way - and so it is safe to say these things out loud."
"But that aside, I will agree that I do not normally leave Broceliande, and certainly not to come all the way here to London. However, this is a rare exception to my usual rule. Arthur, I need your assistance."
"My assistance?" asked Arthur. "What for?"
"I will explain when we get there," said Nimue. "Just fetch your sword, and your pet. We must leave at once."
"At once?" said Arthur, heading into the next room to bring Excalibur out of its hiding place. "But I must inform the others first. I cannot simply leave without letting Merlin, at least, know where - "
"There's no time for that!" said Nimue. "I do not know how long Ys will remain above water, and if it sinks below the sea again before our work there is done, we will have failed. You must come with me now!"
Arthur stared at her, as he emerged from the room with Excalibur in his hand and Cavall by his side. "Ys?" he asked her. "Did you say Ys?"
"Indeed I did," she replied. "Now come, both of you. We must be away from here."
Arthur and Cavall joined her, as she raised one hand and cried aloud something in Latin. A swirling force of light at once enveloped all three of them, blocking out the office of Pendragon Investigations. And then it cleared, and they were no longer in the office. Instead, they stood on the seacoast, in the open air.
Arthur gazed about him, while Cavall sniffed at his new surroundings suspiciously. "Where are we, Nimue?" he asked.
"The coast of Brittany, at the Bay of Douarnenez," she replied. "I crave your pardon, Arthur, for transporting you and Cavall hither across the Channel so suddenly, but I needed you here at once. Because of that."
She extended one hand to point out at the sea, and Arthur followed the direction that she was gesturing in. And it was then that he saw the ruins. The ruins of an ancient city, with walls and houses, at some distance to his right, a little ways above the waves.
"That is the city of Ys," she said. "I presume that you have heard of it, Arthur."
"Only vaguely, I must confess," the king answered. "Merlin mentioned it once or twice, but never said much about it. And my cousin Hoel once mentioned how Breton fishermen could hear the bells of Ys ringing at times." He smiled reminiscently. "It was during the Loch Lomond campaign, and I imagine that he must have felt some desire to top the stories of marvelous places in Britain that I was telling him then. I did not think that Ys was real, though."
"It was real enough, back in your grandfather's day," said Nimue. "At that time, it was a prosperous city-kingdom in Brittany. But it lay below the level of the sea, and so had to be protected from the waters of the Channel by a great wall. King Gradlon of Ys had the gate to that wall locked, and kept the only key to that gate hanging from his neck at all times.
"Now, according to what I have heard and read, King Gradlon had a fair but foolish daughter named Dahut. Some tales say that she was evil and dissolute, but I do not think that that was the case; I believe rather that she was merely simple and easily led. And there came a time when a handsome knight from a far-off land came to visit Ys, and paid her court. She was won over by him, and promised to do whatever he bade her do. And he asked her to steal her father's key, and give it to him.
"Dahut did as he asked, and yielded him the key. But once he held it in his hand, he used it to unlock the gate and flood the city. Ys was drowned that night, and nearly all of its people perished. Only King Gradlon escaped, and his chief advisor, Saint Guenole."
"And Dahut?" Arthur asked. "Did she perish as well? And what became of the knight?"
"Some say that she sought to flee with her father, but Guenole bade the king abandon her to the waves, as punishment for her evil," she replied. "Whether this is the truth or not, I do not know. But all the tales agree that she drowned along with the city. Although there are rumors - but they may be no more than that," she quickly added. "There's no point in confusing you with them for now. As for the knight, he seems to have escaped the disaster as well. And there are rumors, too, that he was more than what he seemed. Some say that he was a demon in disguise, and that may well be the case.
"But I did not bring you and your pet hither merely to speak to you of old legends. I sought you out because I needed your help. Arthur, do you remember the Thirteen Treasures of Britain?"
Arthur nodded. "Merlin took them away to his Crystal Cave on Bardsey Isle long ago," said Arthur. "And he kept them there until his last awakening, when he scattered them all throughout Britain and the lands closest to it, so as to ensure that they not fall into the wrong hands. He's felt since that that may have been a mistake, but with some of the recent troubles that we've been having in London, we haven't had any opportunity to go looking for them."
"I became aware of their dispersal some time ago," said Nimue. "I was not too troubled by it at the time, but then I became aware that somebody was stealing magical objects from various places throughout the world. That made me worried, though I thought that it was unlikely that that person would come upon any of the Thirteen as yet. Merlin would have hidden them too cleverly for that. But then I even more recently became aware of the surfacing of Ys from the waves. And I detected in its ruins one of the Treasures. Merlin must have dispatched it there."
"Which one was that?" asked Arthur. "Do you know, Nimue?"
"According to my readings, it was the Hamper of Gwyddno Garanhir," she replied. "That should give you some idea as to what to search for."
"I believe that it does," said Arthur. "Although one other thing puzzles me. Why do you not go to Ys yourself, to search for it? Why did you need to come to me for aid? You are, after all, a powerful enough enchantress to recover the Hamper yourself."
Nimue shook her head. "I am afraid that I cannot enter Ys," she said. "Ys has been a part of the domain of the sea for too long. It has now become attuned to the ocean's deeps in its magical qualities. I, on the other hand, am the daughter of the Lady of the Lake, whose sphere is that of the fresh waters. And fresh water and salt water do not mix. Enough of the Lady's blood is in my veins to bar me from Ys. I cannot even accompany you into the ruins, Arthur. You and your hound must venture into them for me, and recover the Hamper."
"Very well, my lady Nimue," said Arthur. "Cavall and I will not fail you."
"Be swift about it, Arthur," Nimue urged him. "Ys has risen above the sea for a time, but I do not know how long that will be. And if you are caught by the ocean waters when they rise up again - I very much doubt that even I will be able to save you."
"We will do as best as we can," Arthur promised her. He looked down at Cavall. "Come, boy," he said. "Let us off to retrieve the Food-Hamper."
The gargoyle beast barked eagerly, and followed his master towards the city's ruins. Nimue watched them go in silence, a furrow of concern upon her brow.
* * * * *
Lucius Adrians was dozing off in his study armchair when Grimalkin walked in. The Unseelie cat looked at the former professor thoughtfully, then leaped up onto his desk for a closer examination.
"Asleep and dreaming," he said to himself. "Well, that makes my work all the easier." He stared directly at the man with his great yellow eyes, and spoke in a whisper. "Listen to me, Lucius," he said. "Listen to me."
* * *
Lucius stared about him in astonishment. One moment he had been standing on a balcony, overlooking the city of London as it had been remade by the Unseelie Court - no longer a discordant place of traffic jams, noisy pedestrians, and untidy pigeons but a disciplined and orderly settlement, whose uniformed citizens moved about in silence as they were directed by him, serving in the role as Madoc's duly-appointed governor over all Britain. The next moment, he was all alone in a wind-swept desert, beneath the stars. No, not alone. Something was moving across the sands before him, something large and reptilian, walking on six legs. His eyes widened in awe as he beheld it. And then, he heard a voice speaking an incantation, echoing through the wasteland, an incantation whose purpose he instinctively knew.
"Yes," he said eagerly to the beast. "You will help me."
* * *
Grimalkin nodded with satisfaction. "The summoning spell has been successfully implanted in his thoughts," he said to himself, jumping off the desk. "Sometimes these mortals are almost too easy to handle."
* * *
Lucius awakened and stood up, rubbing his eyes. "Yes," he said again. "You are just what I need, Whowie."
He strode out from his study, paying no attention to the ordinary-seeming black cat watching him from the corner, a gloating smile upon its features.
* * * * *
Grimalkin watched from the shadows of the balcony as Lucius directed two of his Minions in the process of setting up the candles, the incense, and a large round urn filled with strange chemicals that the Minions could not identify.
Lucius pulled a piece of chalk from his robes and bent to the ground, drawing a circle around where he stood.
"Light the candles first," he ordered. The first Minion nodded, and took down a torch from a bracket upon the wall. With it, he lit each one of the candles.
"Now, the incense!" said the demi-sorcerer. The second Minion took down another torch, and lit the incense with it. A scent that smelled almost like cinnamon mixed with vinegar began to fill the air.
"Now," cried Lucius, extending his left arm, "the urn!"
Both of the Minions threw their torches into the urn. As soon as the chemicals within caught on fire, two beams of eerie crimson radiance sprang up from it, and shot straight for the youths. They fell to the ground at once, unconscious, and the rays of light faded.
Lucius gazed down at his two followers, now rendered forever comatose. "I am sorry that this sacrifice was required of you," he said. "But you had already surrendered yourselves to Lord Madoc when you joined me. Be pleased to know that your actions will help your master reclaim this world as his rightful domain, and restore a proper sense of order to it."
He stepped back, and raised both hands in the air, then began to chant in a strange and archaic tongue, harsh and guttural. Near the entrance of the building, a large green shape began to materialize in the air, and then solidified into the creature of his vision. It looked something like an enormous lizard with six legs and a frog's head. It shuffled about aimlessly, letting out a rumbling sound like a car engine without a muffler as it did so.
Lucius looked down from the balcony at the Whowie. "Magnificent," he said. "Don't you think, kitty?" he added, noticing Grimalkin. "Just look at that creature. A truly formidable animal. If Hadrian had had a few like it, he wouldn't have had to build that wall in order to handle the Picts."
The Whowie began to shuffle away towards the bright city lights of London, sticking out its tongue as if to sniff the air. "It must be hungry," said Lucius, smiling. "Maybe it'll make a proper meal out of that meddling rebel Arthur. I sincerely hope so. Don't you, kitty?"
Grimalkin turned about and walked away without saying a word. Lucius merely watched the Whowie lumbering off towards Hyde Park, never seeing the Unseelie cat vanish in a flash of green light behind him.
* * * * *
The ruins of Ys, Brittany
"I wish that Nimue had given us some sort of means of leading us to the Hamper," said Arthur to Cavall, as the two of them made their way through the ruined streets. He looked up at the houses, crumbled and overgrown with seaweed after fifteen centuries of lying beneath the waters of the sea. "We are on a blind search, and lack a map."
Cavall merely sniffed the air about them. Then he suddenly began to whine uneasily.
"What's wrong, boy?" Arthur asked him. "Do you smell something?"
Cavall growled in response. Arthur placed one hand on Excalibur's hilt. "I hardly think that there can be anything especially perilous in this city," he said. "Not after it has been so long beneath the sea, and only just risen above the waters."
Cavall growled some more, turning his head over to the left. Arthur turned in that direction, looking at the ruins. And then, he heard something. It sounded like an odd squelching movement, as though something very large and soft was moving past. At the same time, a faint rumbling filled the air. Arthur pricked up his ears to listen.
"I do not like the sound of that," he said. "It may be that I was mistaken about Ys being deserted." He drew Excalibur from its scabbard, and held it out before him. "I may very well have need of you, old friend," he said to the sword.
"What manner of beast can it be?" he said to himself, as he continued to make his way through the seaweed-covered streets, Cavall trotting beside him and continuing to sniff the air apprehensively. "No animal that ever roamed the land, that much I can tell. It does not have the sound of one. But a beast of the sea -?" He frowned. "I remember what Merlin said about such things. There are creatures dwelling in the depths of the ocean that have seldom seen the light of day. Creatures as worthy of dread as dragons or basilisks. Remember the Pictish legends of the Nuckelavee. And there are worse monsters of the sea than even that."
Cavall growled, in a mixture of fear and challenge, as they entered a square. They paused by a shattered marble fountain, now empty and coated with more seaweed. Arthur listened, but the noise had died down now. "Perhaps it was nothing more than a trick of the imagination, Cavall," he said. "But I doubt that we can be considered that fortunate."
They paused for a couple of minutes by the ruins of the fountain, listening and watching, but heard no further sign of the unseen creature, whatever it was. Arthur was just about to suggest that they proceed on their way, when he saw it. A shadowy figure stood in the doorway of one of the ruined houses, and although it was hard to tell, it appeared to be looking out towards them.
"Who are you?" cried Arthur, advancing towards the shape at once, Excalibur thrust out before him. Cavall followed him, growling again, his eyes glowing white. "Declare yourself, whosoever you be!"
"Who are you yourself?" asked the figure, speaking in a woman's voice. "You and your animal are strangers in Ys; your intentions are unknown to me. Declare yourselves first."
Arthur lowered Excalibur, though cautiously. "My name is Arthur Pendragon, my lady," he said. "This is Cavall, my loyal hound. We come seeking a lost treasure."
"Arthur Pendragon?" said the woman musingly. "I have heard such a name before." She was silent. "Yes, but that was many centuries ago. If you be that Arthur, how comes it that you are still alive?"
"I have slept for over fourteen centuries on the isle of Avalon," the king replied. "I was only recently awakened, to return to the outside world. I have given you my name; now who are you?"
"My name," said the woman, slowly and heavily, "is Dahut. And I was once daughter to King Gradlon, and Princess of Ys."
"Dahut?" asked Arthur. "But - Princess Dahut drowned in the flood that destroyed this city! How can you be she?"
The woman sighed. "So you have heard the tale," she said. "It is one that I do not like to remember myself. But I have never been able to forget it. In truth, Arthur Pendragon, I would not blame you overmuch were you to turn from me for what I have done. The broken remains of this once-fair city are testimony enough to the betrayal that I committed.
"But I did not drown," she continued. "I still live. Although - changed."
The figure came cautiously forward, and into the light shed by Excalibur's blade. Arthur stared at her in shock. What stood before him was not something that he had expected.
The figure's head was human enough, that of a young woman with tangled dark hair and a pale face, but whose gray eyes showed a sorrow and remorse that were clearly anything but youthful. But the rest of her was anything but human in shape. She had the body of a swan-like bird, with great white-feathered wings for arms and webbed feet. And for a tail, she had that of a fish, trailing behind her. Arthur gazed at the strange spectacle before him, barely able to speak.
"Changed indeed, my lady," he said. "But how?"
"We cannot linger here," she said. "Something is roaming this city, and it does not take kindly to intruders. If you and your hound remain here, Arthur Pendragon, your lives will be in peril. Let me lead you to a refuge. The Kraken will not be able to find you there."
"The Kraken?" said Arthur. "I've heard seafarers' tales about it, but I had never thought them to be more than that. Do you mean to say that it indeed exists?"
"It does," said Dahut. "And that is why we must find a safer place to speak. If we tarry here, it may find us. Or if not it, then those who are subject to it."
She turned at once, and made her way down the street, beckoning with one wing for him to follow. Arthur hesitated, then walked after her, Cavall accompanying him. "Well," he said to the hound in a low voice, "this is the only way that she will speak with us. And I very much suspect that we will need to have words with her, if we are to find this Hamper."
Cavall said nothing, but merely whimpered a little, uncomfortably. He gazed back at the shadows behind him as he did so, however, rather than forward at their guide. At least he did not seem to distrust her, which was something.
* * * * *
"Twenty pounds!" Leba exclaimed. "You're a thief! That's too much!"
"I'm sorry," said the sidewalk clerk. "But I have two children to put through college."
"I'll give you fifteen pounds for the albums."
"Seventeen and you've got a deal."
"Fine," said Leba reluctantly. She reached into her pocket, and paid the clerk.
"Thank you," said the clerk. "I see that you're a fan of this band."
"They don't make music like they did in the sixties anymore," said Leba.
"Have a nice evening," said the clerk.
"You too," said Leba as she proceeded to walk through Hyde Park.
As she walked through the park, she felt the icy sting of the winter air on her face. Her frustration began to build. She had never been a 'winter person', and her knowledge that the unnaturally cold weather that had gripped the world for almost a year had been Madoc's doing had truly made her bitter towards the Unseelie Lord. In her present mood, she was ready to consider facing him directly herself, and certainly anything that he intended to use against her and her friends.
She was brought out of her thoughts by the sound of people screaming, and evacuating the park. She grabbed the arm of a frightened middle-aged man. "What is all the commotion about?" she asked.
"There's a.... thing... in the park!" the man said, on the verge of tears. " A monster! It's horrible! RUN!" He pulled himself away from Leba and ran as if his life depended upon it.
Leba ran further through the park. Perhaps it was a gargoyle who had frightened the people. That was very likely. The other possibility, the one that frightened her, was that it was an Unseelie.
As she got closer to the center of the park, the sounds she heard grew bizarre. This was no gargoyle. She looked in the direction of the sounds, and saw something huge moving through the trees. It was like the dinosaur scare years ago, but this was obviously no hoax. Leba pulled a cellular phone out of her jacket pocket, and quickly dialed a phone number.
"'Into the Mystic,'" answered a young voice. "Emrys Hawkins speaking. Might I help you?"
"Emrys, it's Leba."
"Hullo, Leba," said Emrys. "What's up?"
"I'm in Hyde Park. We're having a bit of a crisis. There seems to be a gigantic, six legged frog on the loose."
"A Whowie!" Emrys exclaimed. "Leba, don't do anything. Wait for help. I'll warn the others!"
"Okay," Leba replied. "I'll just keep an eye on it till you get here." She placed the phone back into her pocket.
* * * * *
Emrys hung up the phone on the other end, and turned to Leo and Una. "There's a Whowie in Hyde Park!" he said to them. "Leba just spotted it!"
"A Whowie?" asked Leo. "Aren't those things supposed to live in Australia rather than London?"
"Somebody neglected to inform that particular specimen, apparently," said Emrys. "Actually, I suspect that it's something to do with the Unseelie Court again. They were the ones who bred those creatures, remember."
"We'd better call up the estate and let Michael know," said Leo. "We'll need a lot of gargoyles to stop something like that."
"I'd better tell Arthur," said Emrys. He rushed out from the back room, almost bumping into Rory as the latter came through the doorway.
"Here, now!" cried Rory. "What's all this about, Emrys?"
"A Whowie's on the loose in Hyde Park!" said Emrys. "We've got to let Arthur know at once!"
"A Whowie?" repeated Rory. "What's that?"
"I'll explain on the way," said Emrys. "Now, let's run! We don't have much time to waste!"
* * * * *
Emrys flung the door to "Pendragon Investigations" open and ran into the back room, followed by Rory.
"Arthur?" the young halfling wizard called. "Arthur, come quick! There's a - ". He broke off, as he suddenly noticed that Arthur was missing. "Where is he?"
"Cavall's not here, either," said Rory, looking about him. "And wherever they went to, they must have taken Excalibur with them."
"This is not good," muttered Emrys. "Not good at all."
"It certainly isn't the best of timing," said Rory. "Arthur and Cavall disappear just as some Unseelie monster starts rampaging through Hyde Park."
"I wonder if it is just bad timing," said Emrys uncomfortably. "Or if it's something else. Some design of Madoc's, perhaps."
"We can worry about that later," said Rory. "Leo and Una will have already warned the rest of the gargoyles, but they're going to need our help. Let's go!"
"What about Arthur?" asked Emrys. "Shouldn't we find out what happened to him?"
"If that monster's got anything to do with his disappearance, we'll soon find out," said the Irishman. "Now let's get to the park and join the others!"
He was out the door at once. Emrys, after a moment's hesitation, followed him.
* * * * *
The ruins of Ys, Brittany
Arthur, Cavall, and Dahut made their way down one street, and then another, past many ruined houses, until they reached the steps of a large building built in the Roman style. It must have been a splendid sight once, with its lofty pillars and sculpted walls, but fifteen centuries of neglect and seawater had eaten away at it. Dahut led them up the stairs. "Watch how you step," she told the king and his gargoyle beast. "After all these hundreds of years, these stairs can be very slippery."
Once Arthur and Cavall had reached the top, Dahut motioned with her wing again for them to follow her into the main hall of the building. They did so, emerging into a large chamber with a mosaic floor. The tiled designs depicted various Roman sea-gods and nymphs, riding dolphins, blowing conch shells, and battling or fleeing from sea monsters.
"We are safe here," said Dahut. "The Kraken has not yet dared to attack the remains of my father's palace. Now we can speak freely."
"Very well, my lady," said Arthur. "Now, then. You say that the Kraken is in this city. Is this indeed the great sea-monster that has sunk entire ships?"
"The very same," said Dahut. "It has remained dormant for many centuries now, resting on the sea-bed in an uneasy slumber. But it has awakened now, and chosen Ys for its home."
Arthur frowned. "I wonder if this has anything to do with the Unseelie Court," he said. "Merlin told me that it bred many monsters long ago. Could the Kraken be one of them? Could they have summoned it?"
Dahut shook her head. "The Kraken is an evil older than the Unseelie Court," she said. "It may be older than the Third Race, in truth. There are some at Tethys's court who believe that it may be akin to the dragons that once troubled the world before Avallach overthrew them, although of that they are not certain."
"Tethys?" asked Arthur. "Who is Tethys?"
"My guardian and royal mistress," Dahut replied. "It was she who rescued me from the drowning of Ys."
"So now may I learn how it was that you did not perish with the rest of the city?" Arthur asked her.
"Indeed you may," she replied. She lowered her head, and spoke with downcast eyes.
"You may already know the tale, Arthur Pendragon. In my youth, I was foolish, and easily led. When the Lord Madoc came from his holding in Aquitaine to pay court to me - is aught the matter, Arthur?"
"Madoc?" asked Arthur at once, a sharp tone in his voice. "Was that indeed his name?"
"Yes," she said. "It was. You know of him then?"
Arthur nodded grimly. "I am not at all surprised that he was the one who so cruelly used you. Assuming that this is the same Madoc as the one who rules the Unseelie Court."
"Tethys told me of him, and confirmed it," said Dahut. "And I need not tell you the tale, it seems. You already know, I can see, how he deceived me into giving him the key to the sea-gate."
"Why did he flood the city, though?" asked Arthur. "I know enough of the Unseelie Lord to know that he never carries out such acts of destruction without a cause. What was his reason for so doing?"
"I do not know," said Dahut. "Although Queen Tethys has a few suspicions of her own concerning his motive. But I am from my tale, and to it I must return.
"My suitor, as you may have guessed, made no effort to save me from drowning, but abandoned me once his work had been done. My father too abandoned me, in his anger at me for my foolish act, and I might well have perished with all the other doomed citizens, if Tethys had not come to my aid.
"It was she who rescued me, and bore me to her court below the ocean waves. And it was she who gave me this new form." She looked down at her feathered body and wings, a rueful look on her face. "It was necessary for me, she explained, to undergo this 'sea-change', as have other mortals who were rescued and adopted by the Elder Court. Only in this altered shape could we survive in her sea-castle. I must undergo the transformation, and become a siren. That is the word that she used."
"But precisely who is this Tethys of whom you speak?" asked Arthur. "Is she one of Oberon's Children?"
"Not quite," said Dahut. "She is of the Third Race, it is true, but she does not belong to Oberon's court, although she does him some homage, nor to the Banished Ones. She is one of the eldest of all the fay, and even Oberon will not dare enforce his will upon her."
"She is more powerful than he?" Arthur asked.
"No," said Dahut. "But she is of his mother's kin, and it would be disrespectful of him to go against her wishes. However, they seldom meet. It is Tethys who rules over the merfolk, and over those of the Third Race who have wearied of life on Avalon, and wish to dwell elsewhere - and who are of such surpassing age and experience that Oberon durst not deny their wishes. It is they who comprise the Elder Court."
"Why she rescued me, I do not know. But she saved my life, and raised me in her court as though I was her ward. From her, I gained greater wisdom and humility, and learned the folly of my act. And I have been atoning for what I have done ever since. Until now, when I was sent to Ys by her. The city has risen again from the waves - for a short time - and Tethys sensed that something of grave import would take place there. And also that I would be needed there, to redeem myself."
"So this Tethys seems to know of my quest," said Arthur thoughtfully.
"And just what is this quest of yours, Arthur?" Dahut asked him.
"My counselor, Merlin, once scattered thirteen magical objects in his custody in various hiding places," said Arthur. "One of these objects came to the ruins of Ys. I have been given the duty of recovering it."
"And what is this object?" asked Dahut.
"The Food-Hamper of Gwyddno Garanhir," said Arthur. "Its virtue is this: if food enough for one man is placed within it and the lid shut, that food will become food enough to satisfy the hunger of a hundred. It is important that I find it and bring it to a place of safety. I dread to think on what would happen if some ambitious man were to seize hold of it."
"Why?" asked Dahut. "Such an object could well be useful, Arthur, if you were planning to come to the aid of a famine-stricken village. But I doubt that it would be valuable to a warlord."
"That is where I must disagree with you, my lady," Arthur replied. "Think on it, for a moment, if you will. With the Hamper in his possession, a would-be conqueror would be able to raise a great army at little expense. He need only purchase enough provisions to feed ten men, and with the Hamper, he could supply a thousand! A magical device scarcely needs to be able to level cities or slay warriors by the hundreds to make a prize for such a one."
Dahut was silent for a moment. "You are right, then, Arthur," she said at last. "Well, I will help you upon your quest, in any way that I can."
"Is there anywhere in the city where the Hamper could be hidden?" Arthur asked her. "Any place that you know of?"
"There is one," said Dahut thoughtfully. "In the east of the city, there stands the ruins of an old tower. It is very ancient indeed, and may have been raised in the days of Caesar himself. Of late, I have been feeling an odd sensation about those ruins. It is almost as though something almost magical lay there."
"Then to the tower shall we go," said Arthur. "Lead the way, my lady, I pray you."
Dahut nodded, and led them out of the hall and down the steps from the palace.
* * * * *
"Ah, how wonderful," said Lucius, standing out over the balcony and gazing in the direction of Hyde Park. He could hear faint cries of terror and panic drifting from it upon the night wind.
"Isn't it wonderful, kitty?" he said to Grimalkin, gazing down at the black cat that sat stiffly beside him. "To know that you have the power to summon something so mighty? So formidable? No, so invincible. Just think, kitty. With the Whowie as my servant, I could bring all of London to subjection."
Grimalkin made no reply. Lucius was hardly expecting one, however. He merely continued to ramble.
"I wonder if there are more creatures like that out there. I could form an army with them. An army much greater than those paltry Minions that I have to command for now. With them, I could shatter any obstacle. I could even storm Olympus itself, perhaps, and hurl Jupiter and the other gods from their thrones. All in Lord Madoc's name, of course," he added quickly.
Lucius spun around to see Char standing before him. "How many times have I told you not to disturb me when I'm up here?" he said to her sharply.
"I'm sorry, sir," she said. "But we've just seen some of Arthur's flunkeys. They're all headed for Hyde Park!"
"Just Arthur's companions?" asked Lucius. "What of Arthur himself? Is he there?"
"No, sir," said Char. "We haven't seen him at all."
"No matter," said Lucius, with a shrug. "The Whowie will dispose of his followers quite satisfactorily. And once they are gone, he will be easy prey."
* * * * *
The sound of horse hooves trotting on the ground alerted Leba to the arrival of Dulcinea on Rosinante. At the same time, Emrys and Rory also rushed up, dashing down the pavement, and were joined by Griff, Cervus, Faulconbridge, and Imogen, who descended from the air.
"It's over there," said Leba, pointing towards where the creature was tearing down some trees with its massive tail.
"This is going to be tricky," said Emrys, looking at the creature with a frown. "I don't know all that much about Whowies, actually - Australian legends were never my strong point - but I know enough to know that they're extremely dangerous. Stopping one of them is not going to be easy."
"Not only that," said Leba, "but I'm also pretty sure that all of this has already attracted the attention of the media. We can't let them put this on the news. The Epping Forest incident was bad enough as it was."
"The only thing more dangerous than Madoc and his creatures," said Griff. "Reporters."
"Leba and I will distract the reporters," said Emrys. "The rest of you deal with the Whowie."
"Sounds fair enough," said Griff. "Say, where's Arthur and Cavall?"
"Missing," said Emrys. "And without leaving any clue behind as to where they went off to. We'll just have to do without them."
"And just when they'd be really handy, too," said Cervus. "Well, we might as well get to it."
"Good luck," said Emrys, as he and Leba dashed off to handle the reporters.
"I have a feeling we'll be needing it," said Dulcinea.
* * * * *
Rory took a deep breath and his spear began to glow as he took on the form of Cuchullain. Hopefully this would work without him becoming frog food. The Whowie leapt out from the trees as it eyed its prey.
The Whowie watched him, eyes fixed on the Gae Bolga. It was about to leap in for the kill when a sharp pain seemed to explode in its side. Rory looked to the side of the Whowie and nodded at Dulcinea, who shot an arrow into the creature's side.
The creature swung its massive tail at Dulcinea and Rosie, who simply galloped out of the way. The London gargoyles took this opportunity to leap onto the base of the Whowie's tail and dig their talons into its skin. It howled in pain and attempted to shake the gargoyles off.
"This is just like one of those western rodeos," said Cervus, clinging to the creature.
Rory still managed to hold the Whowie's attention thanks to his spear. It was not unlike a moth drawn to a flame. He was just about ready to throw the Gae Bolga when the tail struck him like lightning, sending him flying into a lamppost.
* * * * *
The ruins of Ys, Brittany
"Make no noise," Dahut advised Arthur and Cavall. "The Kraken is still abroad in Ys - I can feel its presence - and there may be servants of its about."
"Servants?" whispered Arthur to her.
She nodded. "The Kraken is said to have some sort of command over the lesser monsters of the deep," she said. "They will flock to it to do its bidding. And it may have brought many of them hither."
"I might have expected as much," said Arthur grimly. "What manner of beings would they be?"
"They might well be anything," said Dahut. "There are many things in the seas that will not subject themselves to Tethys's rule, and would make willing servants of the Kraken. I have even beheld a few of them. They are not pleasant to meet." She shivered as she spoke.
They made their way in silence through the streets of Ys. Arthur kept his ears pricked up for any sound that might alert them to the sea monsters that must be abroad, but to his relief, heard none. There was still the smell of fish everywhere, however. It neither grew stronger nor weaker, but remained constant, until his nose grew wearied of it. "It'll be a long while before I can even bring myself to eat any form of seafood," he said to himself, in a low voice.
Dahut, at least, seemed to know her way about. She led Arthur and Cavall down one street, and up another, through another deserted market place. At last she spoke.
"We are almost at the Tower of the Rookery," she said. "I hope that it will not be guarded."
"The Tower of the Rookery?" asked Arthur. "Why do you call it that?"
"When this city still lived," said Dahut, "there were gargoyles dwelling here. They had been driven from their original home by the Romans, and my family had granted them shelter in Ys, if they would protect the city from invaders. It was in this tower that they kept their rookery, where their eggs were tended." She shook her head. "Nearly all of them perished in the flood," she added.
"I think that I know now why Madoc desired the destruction of your city, in that case," said Arthur. "If there were gargoyles living here, he would have certainly sought its death, and theirs."
"Why?" asked Dahut.
"The Unseelie Lord has an ancient hatred for gargoyles," said Arthur. "There is a prophecy that they will have a role in his downfall, and so he hunts them down everywhere, to destroy their entire race." He shook his head. "And it would be so like him," he added in disgust, "to destroy an entire city and all the humans in it in order to exterminate the resident clan."
Cavall suddenly sniffed the air, and then growled. Arthur bent down. "What is it, boy?" he asked in a low voice.
"Your hound may have smelt something ahead," whispered Dahut to the king.
"The Kraken?" Arthur asked.
"I think not," she said. "More likely it is one of its servitors. It does not have the stench of that great monster. But whatever it is, we should advance cautiously."
Arthur nodded, and led her around a street corner. Then he stared ahead, and frowned.
Before them lay the base of a once-mighty tower, now crumbled and overgrown with more seaweed. The entrance was an archway, half-choked with rubble now. But Arthur's eyes were drawn rather to what guarded the archway. It was an enormous crab, perhaps the size of a horse, with long stalked eyes and dangerous-looking pincers. It squatted before the tower, as a sentinel.
"The Kraken must know the importance of this tower," said Arthur grimly. "At least, that would explain why it posts that creature there to guard it. Well, now we must find some way of dealing with that obstacle."
"I wish that I knew if crabs can hear," said Dahut with a sigh. "If they possessed the sense of hearing, then I would be able to prevent it from doing us any harm. But if yonder beast is deaf, then I would not be able to assist you."
"In what way?" asked Arthur.
"When Tethys altered me," said Dahut, "she also bestowed upon me the gift of the Sirens. You have heard of them, Arthur?"
"I read about them as a boy," he replied. "Their voices were so compelling that sailors who heard them would be drawn to their island, where they then perished from hunger and thirst. Only the men of Ulysses escaped them, because they had their ears stopped with wax."
"Tethys gave me such a voice," said Dahut, nodding. "But she bade me use it only in good cause, and not for my own amusement, or from malice. I believe that preventing the giant crab from endangering us would be a fitting use of this gift. But I do not know if it would work upon the creature."
"I believe that it would be better not to chance it," said Arthur. "Cavall and I will probably be enough to rout that sea-monster. I knew that I would have need of Excalibur on this quest anyway."
With that, he and his gargoyle beast emerged into the open street before the tower, and rushed towards the crab. The great crustacean saw them coming, and the glow surrounding the blade of Arthur's sword. It clicked its pincers at them.
Arthur parried the first lunge from the crab's claws with Excalibur, and struck back hard, while Cavall leaped at the monster from the other side. With its right claw, the crab tried to seize the king, while it thrust out its left at the gargoyle beast. But Arthur nimbly dodged the crab, while Cavall climbed up onto the crab's body, and began clawing at its shell, growling fiercely.
The battle raged on for a while, Arthur and Cavall evading the crab's pincers while trying to penetrate its armored coat with Excalibur and Cavall's great toothy jaws. But at last, they got the upper hand. The crab shook Cavall off itself, and scuttled away sideways into the darkness, sensing defeat.
"The creature will warn its master now that there are intruders in Ys," said Dahut, joining the victors. "And then the Kraken will muster all its forces to oppose us. We have little time."
"Of that, I agree," said King Arthur. "Nimue warned me, in any case, that it was doubtful for how long Ys will remain above water. All the more reason for us to make haste."
Holding his sword before him to provide light, he entered the ruins of the tower, Cavall and Dahut close behind him. The interior was empty, except for some partial skeletons that lay here and there, skeletons that did not seem human. Arthur looked at Dahut. "The remains of the gargoyles?" he asked her. She nodded in silence.
A spiral staircase led downwards into the darkness. Arthur climbed down it carefully, watching his step so as not to lose his footing on the slippery stone steps. Dahut followed him down, but Cavall remained at the head of the stairs, apparently distrustful of the descent.
"This must be leading us to the rookery," said Arthur. "Or what was once the rookery. That may be where we will find the Hamper."
"I hope so," said Dahut. She seemed ill at ease, however, as they continued to circle downwards.
"You do not have to come with me, my lady," Arthur said helpfully. "You can remain above, with Cavall."
"No, I should remain with you," said Dahut. "I must see the consequences of my folly."
They reached the bottom of the stairs. Shattered egg fragments scattered the floor all about them, fragments that Dahut would not long gaze at. But Arthur's attention was drawn towards a large wicker food-basket at the back of the room.
"This must be the Hamper," he said. "At least we found it quickly enough."
He picked it up. "We have what we came for," he said. "Now let us quit this place."
They made their way cautiously up the stairs, to rejoin Cavall and emerge into the open air. "Well, what now, Arthur?" Dahut asked.
"Now we rejoin Nimue," said the king. "She will take us back to London, where we may keep the Hamper safely, while searching for the other twelve Treasures."
"We?" asked Dahut.
"Yes," said Arthur. "You are welcome to come with us back to London, Dahut. You need not remain here in Ys, all alone."
"I - I thank you, Arthur," said Dahut, her voice quavering. "But I cannot return with you to London. I cannot."
"Why?" the king asked her. "Has Tethys forbidden you to leave this place?"
"No," she replied. "She has placed no hindrance upon my movements, but has given me leave to travel wherever I see fit. It is something else."
"If it is the form that the Queen of the Sea has bestowed upon you, that need not trouble you either," said Arthur. "My friends and I are hardly likely to bar you from our presence by your altered shape. Not when we know that you are a loyal friend to us."
"But I'm hardly a loyal friend at all," said Dahut, tears beginning to form in her eyes. "Arthur, I betrayed my father, my people, my city. Through my vanity and folly, they were all destroyed. I cannot live with you. You may be able to forgive me for what I have done, but I can never forgive myself."
"That was over fifteen centuries ago," said Arthur. "Surely that has been time enough to make peace with a misguided action of yours, Dahut."
"I fear not," she said, as they made their way through the deserted streets. "I can still remember it, as clearly as I ever do. I helped the Unseelie Lord wreak sorrow and woe upon the world. I was his pawn. How can I dwell with you and your followers, Arthur Pendragon, while you do battle against one whom I served?"
"Not knowingly," Arthur protested.
"But served all the same," said Dahut. "No, I must remain here. It was good to speak with you, but we must have a parting of the ways now."
Arthur sighed. "Whatever you wish, then, my lady," he said. "But I hope yet that you can be persuaded otherwise."
Cavall suddenly sniffed the air, and began to growl. Arthur and Dahut halted, and Arthur stared down at the gargoyle beast. "What's wrong?" he asked Cavall.
"Listen!" said Dahut suddenly, in a low voice. "Listen carefully!"
Arthur pricked up his ears, and listened. And then he heard it. A low deep throbbing, almost like a cross between a humming sound and a bellowing noise. It came from some ways to the left, but was definitely being made from within the ruined city. "What is it?" he asked Dahut puzzledly.
"It is the Kraken," she replied. "It summons its followers. We have been discovered."
* * * * *
Two news vans came to a stop just inside the park. Cameramen and other technicians emerged.
"Be ready," said Emrys.
"When have you ever known me not to be?" said Leba.
* * * * *
"We go live in two minutes," said the BBC News producer. "Have the cameras ready."
"Yes, Mr. Pennyworth," said one of the cameramen. "I'm just making sure that everything's working."
Almost as if on cue, sparks emitted from the camera that he was setting up, and it crumbled to pieces. The cameraman jumped back from it in alarm.
"What just happened?" yelled the producer.
"I - I don't know, sir," stammered the cameraman, staring at the smoldering wreckage. "I'll get another one from the van."
"Do that," said the producer frantically. "And hurry!" He glanced over his shoulder at Regina Fitzwalter, who was taking up position, microphone in hand, ready to report on the enormous half-lizard half-frog beast now running riot in Hyde Park.
* * * * *
Emrys looked at the news reporters from behind the trees. "I've still got it," he said proudly. "Hopefully Leba can handle her part of this."
* * * * *
Leba untangled a hose that ran behind the open doors of the news vans. "I never cared for reporters, myself," she said before releasing a blast of ice cold water on the equipment in the truck.
"That should take care of things for a while," she said before running back to meet Emrys.
* * * * *
The ruins of Ys, Brittany
"We must prepare to fight our way out," said the Once and Future King grimly, readying Excalibur.
"Arthur, no!" said Dahut. "You cannot fight the Kraken! Nobody can! Even the Elder Court will not cross such a monster lightly. It is too powerful a beast for that."
"I know of no other way to escape from the city, now that it knows for certain that we are here," said King Arthur. "Unless we can make our way to higher ground speedily, before it can find our precise location."
"We may be able to escape it," said Dahut. "But I doubt that we will be able to elude its followers. And it will have gathered many to it by now."
"What sort of beings serve the Kraken, anyway?" Arthur asked her.
"Many native to the sea," she said. "More giant crabs, such as the one that we encountered at the tower. Sea serpents, although they cannot walk upon dry land, and so we need not fear them. There are even a few of the merfolk who do it homage. Two of Tethys's nobles, Phorcys and Ceto, broke with her a long time ago, to enter the Kraken's retinue with their people. Some of them may have come as well. And they will be especially perilous."
"We will simply have to make haste," said Arthur. "And that means that we must continue upon our way at once."
They hurried on their way through the ruined city. "It is not far now," Arthur began, when they emerged into an open square. And then they stopped short.
Before them were more giant crabs, clicking their claws, and flanking them, grim-looking humanoid figures in Grecian tunics, bearing tridents. But it was what lay behind them that drew Arthur's attention. The creature that loomed over them all looked something like a giant squid, but much larger, with a look of cold intelligence in its great eyes. It thrashed its tentacles about, and emitted all the while the strange noise that Arthur had heard already. It was clear enough that this was the Kraken.
"It has blocked our path," said Dahut troubledly. "We cannot escape it now."
* * * * *
Emrys emerged from the telephone kiosk, looking mildly annoyed. "Next time," he said to Leba, "somebody else can call the Chessinghams. If I have to go through another conversation with those two snobbish pseudo-aristocratic busybodies again...."
"Never mind that," said Leba. "Did you find out anything from them that might tell us what became of Arthur and Cavall?"
"Fortunately, yes," said the youth. "They got a visit earlier in the evening from a young woman named Vivien Lake, who wanted to make certain that this was the same building that Pendragon Investigations was in."
"Vivien Lake?" repeated Leba. "That does sound a little familiar."
"I thought as much," said Emrys. "So I made certain to get her description from them. And, based on what they said, I'd say that it fits. She answered to the description of Nimue perfectly."
"Nimue?" said Leba, frowning. "Wasn't she the woman who imprisoned you in that tower in Brittany for several years?"
"The same one," he replied, nodding. "As the old saying goes, 'The plot thickens.'"
"It does indeed," said Leba. "I cannot help but wonder whether she may not have had a hand in Arthur's vanishing."
"Now, wait just a minute!" protested Emrys. "Yes, Nimue did confine me in the Tower of Air for a while, but I feel that we should bet something straight here. Don't believe what Tennyson said about the business! He distorted it so thoroughly that it's a wonder that anybody could recognize it at all! She was not Arthur's enemy - in fact, she even saved his life a few times afterwards - and she did not have some evil purpose towards him or Camelot when she did what she did to me."
"Then why did she imprison you, if not to weaken King Arthur?" Leba inquired.
"She was misguided," said Emrys, in an uncomfortable tone of voice. "My father tricked her into doing it to me."
"So she was his tool at one point," said Leba, looking even more troubled. "Is it not possible that it could have happened again?"
"What do you mean?" asked the boy sharply.
"Think about it for a moment, Emrys," said the musician. "A creature which you yourself identified as having been bred by your father is now roaming through London, creating havoc at Lord Madoc's bidding. And at the same time, Arthur and Cavall disappear, with a woman whom Madoc once used to carry out his business involved in it. I can believe in many things, Emrys, but coincidences are not one of them."
"And I still think that this is just a coincidence!" protested Emrys. "You gave Corbie the benefit of the doubt when Dulcinea was protesting about her; why can't you do the same for Nimue?"
"Corbie did not turn your own magic against you and make you her prisoner," was Leba's reply.
* * * * *
The ruins of Ys, Brittany
"So now it has come to this," said Arthur grimly, raising Excalibur. Cavall growled at his side, his eyes glowing white. "We must cut through them."
"Arthur, wait!" cried Dahut, motioning to him frantically. "You and your hound cannot fight them alone. They outnumber you!"
"I was outnumbered by the Saxons when my knights and I held Mount Badon against them," said Arthur. "And we still broke them."
"But you have no knights here," said Dahut. "Arthur, this is not the way...."
"Then have you any suggestions, my lady?" he asked her.
"There is one," she said. She plucked some seaweed from the wall closest to the three of them, and handed it to him. "Place this in your ears, and those of your hound," she said. "Then you will not be able to hear my voice."
"Your voice?" asked Arthur doubtfully.
"I am a Siren, remember," she said. "The seaweed should shut my song out from your ears as surely as did wax for Ulysses's sailors."
"True," said Arthur, stuffing the ears of a not quite enthusiastic Cavall with the seaweed. "But we will use your voice only if all else fails." He then filled his own ears with the kelp, and advanced upon the Kraken's host, sword in hand. Cavall marched at his side.
The Kraken stared down at the Once and Future King and his gargoyle beast, and its great eyes swept over them. It made a sound that Arthur could not hear, thanks to the seaweed, and then raised a tentacle, as if giving a signal. At once, its horde surged upon them.
The giant crabs and merfolk were all about, thrusting at Arthur with claws and tridents alike. Arthur swept back one of the overgrown crustaceans with a blow from his sword, sending it scuttling away. Cavall leaped at two mermen, bowling them upon their backs and growling fiercely. Under their initial assault, the marine hosts began to fall back.
But then the Kraken slowly advanced towards them. One tentacle swept out about Cavall, entangling him tightly and lifting him above the ground. Cavall growled and tried to break free, but even when he sank his teeth into the Kraken's tough hide, it held him firmly.
Arthur slashed at the Kraken's tentacles with Excalibur, and one retreated at once. But three more seized hold of him, binding his arms tightly to his sides, and began to lift him as well. Slowly, the king and his beast were drawn towards the monster's parrot-beaked mouth, which opened wide in anticipation.
And then, it halted. For a moment, it merely let Arthur and Cavall dangle in the air where they were, and then relaxed its grip, lowering its tentacles at the same time so that they fell gently to the ground. Astonished, Arthur looked about him to see what might have caused this sudden relenting on its part. And then he saw behind him what he had expected to see. Dahut with her mouth open, evidently singing.
Arthur and Cavall could barely hear it past the seaweed, but what little they could hear, safely filtered, was a haunting melody; the Once and Future King could easily understand how it was that the song of the Sirens had gained its traditional mythical reputation. They remained unaffected, but the Kraken and the merfolk had now frozen entirely, standing motionless. The crabs milled around in confusion and bewilderment, their ranks broken, as the intelligence that directed them now lay dormant.
Dahut signaled to him and Cavall, pointing towards the gateway. He could easily guess as to the gestures' import, but still hesitated. "Dahut, now!" he cried. "Join us! There's still time!"
She had apparently heard him, but merely shook her head. Instead, she remained where she was, in her place before the sea monsters.
"Dahut!" cried Arthur. "Flee!"
She motioned to him, directing him to run. Arthur bewilderedly turned to Cavall. "We cannot abandon her..." he began.
The ground suddenly trembled, almost knocking him and Cavall off their feet. And then they heard the rushing of water, quickly approaching them. The sea was beginning to reclaim Ys. Dahut motioned again to Arthur and Cavall alike, with even greater urgency. And at last, he nodded, and ran with his hound.
Despite the sea's rapid onrush, they were still able to reach the gates of the city, and clamber up onto higher ground. Then, they turned about, and looked back, just in time to see the main square, the immense bulk of the Kraken, and Dahut herself disappear below the waves.
"No!" he cried in horror, pulling the seaweed from his ears. "Cavall, we must go to her aid! We must - "
"No, Arthur," said a woman's voice behind them. "It is too late for you to intervene now."
Arthur turned to face the speaker. "Nimue!" he said. "We have to go to Dahut's aid."
"I am sorry, Arthur," she said. "But we cannot do that. The sea has already taken back Ys. Dahut must stand or fall on her own now."
"She helped me and Cavall find the Hamper," said Arthur. "We are in her debt. We must repay it. And it is not for any true knight to abandon a lady in peril."
"As I said, Arthur," said Nimue, "I am sorry indeed. And I wish that I could help. But it is out of our hands now. We must be on our way back to London."
"If she chose to remain behind in Ys, I believe that she had reason for doing so," said the halfling enchantress. "Why, I do not know. Perhaps you should not worry about her too much. From all that I understand, the change that Tethys wrought upon her has allowed her to remain within the sea without injury to herself."
"But it is not the sea that troubles me," said Arthur. "What of the Kraken? Will it seek its vengeance upon her? Will she be safe from it?"
"I do not know," she said. "In any case, we cannot linger here. The Hamper must be taken back to London at once."
Arthur sighed. "Very well," he said. "Send us back there, Nimue."
* * * * *
Dulcinea hurled another iron-tipped javelin at the Whowie, but it just seemed to get angrier and go into more of a frenzy.
The rest of the London gargoyles had been already thrown off by the Whowie, but Griff still clung on resolutely. "This is making the dragon in Manhattan seem like one of those outdoor rides at a fast-food place," he said grimly, as he did so. The creature swung its tail again, this time sending him flying into Dulcinea, knocking her off of Rosie.
Rory got to his feet, clutching his side. He saw the other combatants helpless and knew he had to act. He threw his spear, striking the creature in the eye. It fell back and seemed to vanish out of reality.
Rory rematerialized in his human form and ran to Griff and Dulcinea. "Are you all right?"
"Nothing a hot bath with bubbles won't fix," said Dulcinea.
"I'm all right," said Griff. The other London gargoyles, muttering similar sentiments, joined them.
Emrys and Leba came running out of the trees. "Where is it?" asked Emrys.
"It was destroyed," said Rory. "We took care of it." Griff and Dulcinea nodded in agreement.
"Destroyed?" asked Emrys. "How did it happen? Where are the remains?"
"There aren't any, "said Griff. "It just vanished."
"Then it's not dead," said Emrys. "My father merely - recalled it. It's still out there somewhere - only in Australia now."
"It might be better this way," said Leba. "We'd have some serious problems explaining the body of a creature like that."
"It might intrigue a lot of the cryptozoologists out there, though," said Emrys thoughtfully. "They might even forget all about Bigfoot and Loch Ness after seeing its remains. Still, I think that you're right, Leba."
"How about the people living in Australia?" asked Griff. "Won't it be rather tough on them if that creature decides to start going on the rampage over there the way that it did here?"
"Maybe," said Emrys. "On the other hand, some of those stories that I've heard recently from that part of the world, about the chap running around in silver armor - can't remember his name at the moment - but he might be able to handle it.
"Anyway," he said, "the emergency's over. Now, let's get back to the office. There might be some clues there about Arthur's disappearance that we haven't found yet."
* * * * *
"So why did you recall the Whowie?" asked Garlon, as the vision of Hyde Park before Madoc's throne faded.
"We had learned all that we needed to learn about its strengths and weaknesses," said Madoc. "We know now how to properly use it when the time comes for our final battle. And since it was beginning to lose against Arthur Pendragon's followers, it was no longer needed in London."
"Of course, my liege," said Garlon, nodding. He turned and left the great hall.
Madoc arose from his throne, walked over to the window facing westwards, in the direction that the British Isles lay, and gazed out in that direction. "Do not think yourself so fortunate, Merlin," he said. "Being devoured by the Whowie would be too merciful a punishment for your treason. No, our final reckoning shall be face to face."
* * * * *
With a swirling of light, Arthur, Nimue, and Cavall materialized in the office of Pendragon Investigations.
"I must go now," said Nimue. "Keep the Hamper safe, Arthur. I doubt that you will have much leisure to pursue the other twelve of the Thirteen Treasures while the Banished Ones remain abroad, but in the meantime, see to it that this one remains in your possession."
"That I will," said Arthur, placing the Hamper upon the desk.
"Farewell, then, Arthur," said Nimue, opening the office door. "Oh, and give Merlin my best wishes. Tell him, if he does not know already, that I am sorry for the trouble that I caused him through the Tower of Air." And with that, she stepped out into the hallway, closed the door behind her, and was gone.
Arthur sat down in his chair, gazing thoughtfully at the empty food-basket, the only reminder before him now of the adventure that he and Cavall had just undertaken. An adventure that might have cost him the life of a friend that he had barely come to know. "I wonder what did become of her," he said to the gargoyle beast, who now had sprawled himself out upon the floor once again. "Did she survive? Did the Kraken take her life? I would very much like to know."
He sighed. "Perhaps I will learn the answer someday," he continued. "When all of this is over, we are returning to Brittany, to know her fate. If she is alive, we will free her. And if she is not, we will lay her to rest with honor."
The office door suddenly flew open, and Emrys, Rory, and Leba ran in, looking out of breath.
"So there you are, Arthur," said Emrys. "You're not going to believe what happened while you were away! There was a - " He stopped short, staring at the Hamper. "Arthur, isn't that...."
"Yes, it is," said the king. "The Hamper of Gwyddno Garanhir, one of the Thirteen Treasures of Britain. Cavall and I recently recovered it."
"The Thirteen Treasures?" asked Rory. "What are they?"
"Another problem that we may have to deal with, along with the Unseelie Court," said Arthur. "I'll tell you the story later."
"You actually found the Hamper?" asked Emrys, laying one hand upon it. "And here I thought that we were the only ones who had an exciting night. Well, what are you planning to do with it?"
"Keep it in the office safe, while we find the other twelve," said Arthur. "And now, tell me about this adventure that you yourselves had in my absence."
* * * * *