A Pendragon Story
Written by Alan Coleman Waltrip and Todd Jensen
Outline by Todd Jensen
Artwork by Christi Smith Hayden
* * * * *
Previously on Pendragon...
Arthur turned to Griff. "He may be right, my friend," he said to the griffon like gargoyle. "It seems that our quest is over."
"You could be right, Arthur," said Griff, nodding. He and the king glanced at Emrys, who was scratching Cavall by the ears, the gargoyle beast clearly enjoying the attention.
"Or then again," Arthur continued thoughtfully, "it may have just begun."
* * * * *
"Sir Arthur," Michael said, addressing the center of the maelstrom. "We didn't expect to see you again quite so soon."
The bearded man looked up from his circle of attendants. He rose and clasped forearms with the clan leader. "Nor had I, Michael. However, Dame Fate had other plans in store for us then a quiet night back at the flat. It seems," he said dryly, "that the police have become very suddenly interested in taking one of us into their custody."
"Don't be so modest, Sir Arthur," Kevin said. "They was after you."
"So it would seem," Arthur conceded. "I was trying to explain to my well-meaning knights that it would be better to confront this situation rather than compound the matter by hiding. However they seem to be rather adamantly opposed to my solution."
Emrys stood up. He ran a frustrated hand over his face, exposing the point of his left ear tip. "Arthur, I saw the men they sent round to collect you. They were heavily armed and very dangerous. Partially because they were young and nervous," he explained. "You should have heard those two I was eavesdropping on," he finished with disdain. "They couldn't decide if they were thrilled or scared to death to be on this caper."
-----Seeds of Change-----
* * * * *
* * * * *
Ministry of Defence, London
The air was dank and stale in the room he had gathered them in, but there was nothing he could do about it. Security Service Agent Robert Samuel Braddock put out his cigarette butt in the ashtray on his table. The smoke rose to the ceiling, where it was then swirled about the room by a single fan, worsening an already dismal atmosphere.
The room was also eerily bland, as well: plain white paint, no windows, one brown wooden door. Braddock hated holding meetings in this room. He looked around at his associates, waiting for things to actually begin.
Most of them he recognized. Inspector Courtney from Scotland Yard was there, a stern-faced figure with a stiff grey moustache, and a few officials from Interpol. But there were one or two men seated there whom he could not recall having ever seen before at these meetings. One was a middle-aged man in a suit with a distinctly "civilian" look about him. Braddock wondered what he was doing here. He hardly seemed law enforcement material at all.
"Gentlemen," Braddock began, making mentally sure that everyone was present, "as you all know, our main suspect for the Connection has apparently disappeared off the face of the earth. At a stakeout not less than one month ago, the suspect and his associates evaded our men. We believe they have already fled the city. All we need them for is interrogation, at least for the moment. Sergeant Winslow, if you will," Braddock said, sitting down to let his partner have the floor.
Frederick Winslow stood, taking out a series of photographs to show the gathered officials. He also hated holding meetings in this room, but was at a loss of what to do about it. He leafed through the pictures, pulling out ones of Arthur Pennington, Rory Dugan and Emrys Hawkins. He slid them to the center of the table. They were black and white, clearly taken from some type of surveillance camera, but the suspects' faces could be seen clearly enough.
"Mister Arthur Pennington. Approximately thirty-seven years old. Our main suspect for this…Connection. Received his private investigator's license in 1997, but was virtually non-existent before then. There's no birth certificate or school records for Mister Pennington, as they were supposedly housed in a hall of records that burned down in early 1969.
"Emrys Hawkins. Fifteen years old and currently serving as Mister Pennington's ward. Attending a local public school. He, too, virtually does not exist before 1997, when he was supposedly living with his legal guardian, the late Sylvester Hawkins, in Farthingham, South Yorkshire. He was spotted in New York City, USA, in early May, but how he arrived there is as yet unknown. No plane or cruise ticket for his trip there exists. Master Hawkins is also missing.
"Rory Dugan. Twenty-one years old, originally from Ulster, Ireland. Moved to London in 1998 to supposedly work for Pendragon Investigations. His record is filled with petty accounts of theft and other small crimes since the age of fifteen. No recent crimes have been connected to him, not even the Connection, at least not directly.
"Leba. Surname as yet unknown. Twenty-four years old. Used to live on the streets as a singer for money. Her past is also filled with accounts of theft, until she started working for Pennington as well.
"Aldonza Ramirez, known simply as Dulcinea to her friends. Twenty-five years old, former horse trainer from Seville, Spain. Traveled broadly after her mentor died in 1987, but later moved to Yorkshire and then London. Her record is also filled with petty crimes from a young age.
"Finally, Kevin Mitson. Thirty-two years old. Works as a cab driver and has been spotted numerous times leaving and arriving at Pennington's flat. His record is spotless save for some unpaid traffic tickets."
"Quite a bunch," one of the Interpol representatives muttered to himself.
Winslow sat, never missing a beat in his report. Braddock stood again, admiring his partner’s professionalism.
"As you can see, all of our main suspects, most of them former juvenile delinquents, seem to be connected together, and all have been missing since the failed stakeout last month. I'm aware that you all want the Connection placed under arrest as soon as possible. Would anyone care to say a few words?"
The middle-aged "civilian" stood up, nodding approvingly. "Ah, yes," he said. "Thank you, Agent Braddock. A very fine presentation indeed."
"I'm afraid that I'm not familiar with you, sir," said Braddock, in an apologetic tone of voice. "And you are…"
"Nigel Sefton," replied the man. "I'm here to find out exactly how this hunt for the 'Connection' is proceeding. The House of Commons is extremely anxious that this criminal be apprehended."
Braddock nodded to himself, being able to place the stranger now. He'd heard a little about Nigel Sefton; one of the more prominent Members of Parliament in the House of Commons with a distinguished enough political career that he was scheduled for a knighthood in only a few months' time. "Anxious enough to have you present, sir?"
Mr. Sefton nodded. "Precisely," he said. "The Government are currently experiencing something of an image problem with the public, Agent Braddock. Most of it can be laid to the door of all that recent paranormal activity which has been plaguing the United Kingdom for almost two years: abnormally severe winters whose weather patterns have baffled every meteorologist worldwide; sightings of mythological creatures all over London; reports of walking statues; and all culminating in a climactic outburst on the night between the 30th of April and the 1st of May this very year. People have even claimed to have seen living gargoyles in the city. We've been besieged with demands for an explanation for all of this, and so far we're as bewildered about it as they are. Oh, we have an official statement that we're working on, something prepared by William Powell. But even it isn't going to satisfy everyone."
"What is this official statement?" asked the Interpol representative who had spoken earlier.
"Do you recall the recent Nicholas Maddox case?" Sefton said.
"The CEO of Maddox Technologies who'd been secretly equipping that Quarryman organization in New York, and who then vanished two years ago?" the Interpol representative inquired. "Yes, I'd heard of that. Nobody knows what became of him."
"Powell's statement reads that most of the disturbances were caused by Mr. Maddox, who had organized some sort of worldwide terrorist force, and launched covert attacks upon various leading cities, combining paramilitary troops with hallucinogenic gas, but was then subsequently defeated and slain in the fighting. It doesn't explain everything, of course, such as the long winters. But it might serve to pacify the public. In the meantime, polls have shown that our confidence rating is at an all-time low over this. We need to find some way of recovering our reputation. And capturing a dangerous gun-smuggler will do much towards that end."
"I can imagine," Winslow muttered under his breath. "You don't want to endanger your upcoming knighthood."
"Did you say something just now?" asked Sefton sharply, glancing in the sergeant's direction.
Winslow darted his eyes around, realizing too late that he had been overheard. "I'm dreadfully sorry, sir," he said nervously. "I need to make a phone call." He stood up and left the meeting.
"Now, as I was saying," Nigel Sefton continued, once Winslow had left the room, "we're hoping that the capture of this - Connection - will do much to make the public forget about this recent rash of abnormal events. Then they can stop grilling us with questions that we have no answers for - assuming that it's genuinely over."
"I think that that's a safe assumption," said Inspector Courtney. "From what I understand, the reports of Fortean activity are back to normal again. There've been no more claims of savage monsters roaming about, at least."
"And we’re grateful for that," said Sefton. "Some of those accounts were more than a little disturbing. Particularly those sightings of some enormous, ghostly wild boar all over England and Wales, wreaking damage. My own daughter goes out on regular walking tours in the country, and I was very concerned last year that she might encounter the beast, apparition, whatever it was. Fortunately, she didn't."
"Well, at least Agent Braddock will soon have our man under control," said Inspector Courtney. "And that concludes the meeting now, I presume?"
"It does indeed, sir," said Braddock, rising. "Thank you, gentlemen, for coming. This investigation is coming along nicely, and the Connection, whether he is Pennington or not, will be brought to justice soon enough."
"See that he is," Sefton said, gathering his things and exiting the room. Braddock himself stood at the exit, shaking hands with the various officials as they left.
Once they had gone, he walked quietly through the halls to his office, reflecting on the recent events. The meeting had been…interesting, especially with his partner's small outburst. As he opened his office door, he saw Winslow sitting at his desk.
"What the blazes were you doing back there, old man?" Braddock asked his second-in-command and partner.
Winslow merely smiled softly. "I was only acting on what I've heard about Sefton, sir," Winslow responded, rising so Braddock could sit at his desk. He pulled up another chair, taking out a cigarette from his coat pocket. "You know, the knighthood coming up soon and all?"
"I know, Winslow, I know. Pennington needs to be caught for justice, not to salvage the careers of some blasted politicians. But we can’t do anything about it at the moment."
"We might be closer than you think," Winslow said, smiling. "I just received a phone call from the police up in Yorkshire. They busted a gun deal near an abandoned warehouse. Captured two men, who carried no identification and won’t reveal their names. But they have admitted to working for Pennington, and that his base of operations is still in London, possibly in Soho. Apparently he moves around a bit, but his base of operations seems to be somewhere in the London area."
"I see." Braddock said to himself, letting the information sink in. "That is very interesting, indeed. Winslow, get me a car. We're going to Soho for some questioning."
Winslow nodded and left the office. Braddock sat down at his own desk, and frowned.
"It's coming along a little too well," he said to himself. "Leads just pop up too conveniently. It's almost as if somebody wants us to find this man."
He shook his head. "I'm getting paranoid," he said to himself. "Seeing conspiracies where there aren't any. Once this is over and the Connection's securely in prison, I probably should request a nice long holiday. Because I seem to be in need of one."
* * * * *
"Have you found anything yet?" Arthur Pendragon asked Leba.
"I believe so," the minstrel replied, typing busily at the computer. "Yes, we're in! Braddock's own secret files."
"I am not entirely certain that I can approve of this," the former High King of Britain admitted. "This 'hacking' is supposed to be illegal, is it not?"
"True," said Leba. "But we can worry about that later. Right now, we need to know what he knows, if we're going to solve this case. Now, listen to this:
"'Arthur Pennington. Currently self-employed as a private investigator. Owner of Pendragon Investigations. Under investigation for gun smuggling; most likely suspect for the Connection.'"
"The Connection?" Arthur asked.
"That's the same name that I overheard when eavesdropping on those bobbies," said Emrys Hawkins, standing to the side, his arms folded across his chest. "So now we know what Arthur's wanted for. Gun-smuggling?"
Leba nodded. "They believe that this 'Connection', whoever he is, is responsible for a variety of misdeeds. Everything from supplying various gangs in northern England with high-tech weaponry to blowing up Traitor's Gate on the night of April 30th. It probably doesn't help much that you had your last stand against Troit and Maleger at the Tower of London that same night. It puts you in the vicinity at just the right time – or in this case, the wrong time."
"Well, this is a pretty pickle," said Griff. "What else have you found?"
Leba read on down Braddock's files. "More information, and none of it good. He's gathered files on all of us. Well, those of us who are humans. Myself, Emrys, Rory, Dulcinea, Kevin, the lot."
"How on Earth did they find all that out?" Rory Dugan asked.
"This is the Government that we're talking about, here," said Kevin. "They know everything."
"Not quite everything," Griff replied.
"Well, at least we know something about what I am accused of doing," said Arthur. "Now we just need to find a way to prove my innocence."
"That's where it begins to get tricky," commented Emrys. "What I'd really like to know is who's been doing such a fine job of framing Arthur to begin with?"
"It certainly must be an expert," said Leba. "According to this, they've even taken Arthur's fingerprints off of the stolen guns. Either Arthur really is operating a gun-smuggling ring behind our backs, or else our 'framer' has some very remarkable resources. Sorcery, perhaps?"
"It's not entirely out of the question," said Emrys. "But who's behind it, I wonder? I don't think that the Unseelies are in any position to try anything on this level, not after the way that they fell apart after my father's death."
"Lucius, perhaps?" asked Dulcinea. "The police never did apprehend him, although they did round up most of his followers."
"I'm not certain," said Emrys. "But frankly, I doubt it. This doesn't strike me as quite his handiwork, either. There's something that we're missing in all of this. I wish that I knew what it was."
Leba suddenly stared hard at the screen. "This doesn't look good at all," she said.
"What doesn't?" Arthur asked.
"They've identified a link between you and the 'Into the Mystic' shop," said Leba. "It seems that your and Emrys's regular visits there have come to their attention. Braddock has it down on his list of places to investigate."
"That doesn't sound good at all," said Griff. "If they do some serious poking and prying there, they could find out that the shopkeepers there aren't really wearing masks after all. Then another little secret of ours will be out of the bag."
Arthur nodded. "That is indeed very serious," he said. "I very much doubt that London is quite ready yet to learn that it has gargoyles living in it. Particularly not after what seems to have gone on in Manhattan when Goliath and his clan were discovered there. And if the clan emerges in connection to someone who is already suspected of being a dangerous criminal -"
"I agree, Arthur," said Griff, nodding unhappily. "The results could make the Quarryman movement look like a picnic by comparison."
"Leo and Una are there tonight," said Arthur. "Colin Marter, as well. We must warn them at once."
* * *
Colin Marter listened on the telephone, nodding. "Yes," he said. "Yes, you're right, Arthur. I'd better tell them to hurry up. Yes, thank you for warning us. Good-bye."
He placed the receiver back on its hook, and turned to Leo and Una, who were removing the books from the shelves of the back room of the Mystic shop and hurriedly packing them into a box. "That was Arthur," he said. "He says that the police know about his connections with this place, and could be on their way to search it. He thinks that it'd be a good idea if you get away as quickly as possible."
"Just a few more books, Marter," said Una. "We're almost done."
"And you really think that it's necessary to bring these back to the estate?" asked Colin.
"We won't be able to consult them while the shop's being investigated if we leave them here," said Leo. "Once the police stop watching this place, we can return them again. But we could need them at the estate while searching for this 'real Connection'."
There was suddenly the sound of approaching police cars from outside. "They're coming," said Colin. He began walking towards the front of the shop, as quickly as his game leg would allow him. "Finish your packing, and go now! I'll be all right. Just get back to the estate!"
Leo and Una nodded, although uneasily. They closed the door to the front of the shop behind them, and then began to quickly climb up the stairs, taking the books with them. A few, however, remained on the floor, wide open.
* * *
There was a loud knock on the front door of the "Into the Mystic" shop. Colin Marter limped up to it, and opened it. "Good evening, sir," he said to the uniformed man standing outside. "Is there anything that I can do for you?"
"Indeed there is," replied the man. "I am Security Service Agent Robert Braddock. We'd like you to come down to the station house with us for questioning, sir, if you please."
Colin turned and made a great show of locking up the shop, then nodded stoically and followed him to the car. He carefully did not glance back, but felt certain that Leo and Una were already gliding safely away back to the London estate. "I hope that they did get away," he said to himself, so quietly that Braddock could not overhear him.
* * *
As the police drove off with Marter, a cloaked and hooded figure crept out of the shadows, a raven perched on her wrist. She watched the police cars leave, then glanced up at the sky, just in time to see the two winged shapes heading away from the shop vanish entirely. Nodding in satisfaction, she walked straight towards the shop.
She placed her hand gently on the door, and murmured something in Latin. The door swung open of its own accord, and she walked inside, closing it firmly behind her. A few minutes later, she re-emerged, with one of the books clutched tightly in her hands.
"We have it," she said to the raven in a low voice. "Let us hope that the recipe in those pages is intact."
The raven nodded, and flew off before her, as she walked quietly away from the Mystic shop, fading into the gloom of Soho at night.
* * *
"Here's something else," said Leba, switching to another site on the Internet.
"What've you found?" asked Griff, leaning forward.
"This is a sort of 'rumors compilation' for the City of London," explained the female minstrel. "Everything out of the ordinary in the last few months - including what they're calling the 'May Eve Madness'. And here's something that you'll find interesting. It seems that at every one of these 'gun-busts' that the Connection's been involved in, there's been a strange figure glimpsed, lurking in the shadows, and watching. The figure always disappears whenever anybody tries to follow or accost it, but it's always a constant."
"That could be a clue," said Arthur. "Have these reports determined anything about our mysterious watcher?"
"Only that it seems to be female," said Leba. "And that's all at present."
"Well, it's better than nothing," said Arthur. "We should make this a major part of our own investigations. Perhaps this enigmatic watcher is the key to solving this mystery."
"Perhaps," said Leba.
There came a sudden knock at the door. Arthur turned around. "Enter," he said.
The door swung open, and Michael, Leo, and Una entered. "We're sorry to disturb you, Arthur, but there's been some bad news," said Michael.
"Colin Marter's been taken by the police," said Una. "They came to the shop, just as you thought they would, and took him away."
"Took him away?" asked Arthur. "For questioning?"
"Most likely," said Leo. "We just managed to get away ourselves without being caught. But there's no telling what's happening to him now."
"It just keeps on getting better and better, doesn't it?" said Emrys with a sigh.
"Well," said Arthur troubledly, "all that we can do now is wait, I fear."
* * *
"So is there a special reason why I'm here?" Colin Marter asked. He was sitting in Braddock's office, opposite the Security Service Agent's desk. "Or is it now against the law to be in a shop that you own the papers to?"
"No, it's not," said Braddock. "And you're not under arrest. You're simply here to answer our questions." He opened a folder on his desk before him. "According to this," he continued, "although you are indeed the nominal owner of the 'Into the Mystic' shop, you do not even serve as its shopkeeper, and never have. Instead, the shopkeepers have been a mysterious couple who wear robes and masks, at least since the Second World War. I should like to know exactly what business brought you to the shop this night, in such a case."
"They're sick at home with the flu," said Colin quickly. "I'd gone down to run the shop until they get up on their feet again."
"The flu?" Braddock asked incredulously. "At this time of year?"
"They have very unusual constitutions," Colin replied. He decided to quickly change the subject before Braddock's inquiries drew too close to the gargoyles. "But I still don't see what this has to do with why I'm here, sir."
"We are presently searching for one Arthur Pennington, Mr. Marter," said Braddock grimly. "According to our sources, both he and his ward, Emrys Hawkins, have visited this shop that you own many times. Now, what can you tell us about him? For a start, how long have you known him?"
"For about three years now," said Colin.
"I see," said Braddock. "And how did you two first meet?"
"Well," said Colin, "as you said, his ward Emrys has been a frequent customer to the shop. Mr. Pennington and I became acquainted through him. Nothing more than that."
"I see," said Braddock. "And did you know that he has been smuggling guns to half the gangs in northern Britain?"
"No," replied Colin. "No, I didn't. Guns, did you say?"
"Exactly," said Braddock. "Apparently he's been doing so for quite a while now. You really had no idea?" He stared Colin straight in the eye as he spoke.
"No, sir, I didn't," said Colin. "But what does this have to do with me?"
"We've been monitoring Pennington's flat for two weeks now, ever since the man and his associates, except you of course, seemed to disappear off the face of the earth. Including young Mister Hawkins too, I'm afraid."
"Well, I'm afraid that I can't help you with that," said Colin. "Honestly. I certainly know nothing about these activities of his at all."
Braddock stared at him long and thoughtfully. "Well, let me tell you this, Mr. Marter," he said at last, rising from his desk and walking around it to face Colin directly. "Mr. Pennington is one of the most dangerous men in all Britain. I am going to bring him to justice, no matter what it takes, and I will also bring to justice anyone who assists him in his lawless activities. And that includes those who shelter him from the law. Remember that, Mr. Marter."
He turned around, and went back to his seat. "You are dismissed," he said.
Colin stood up and left the room without a further word. Braddock picked up the telephone once he was gone, and spoke over it. "You can take the scouts off of him, Winslow," he said. "He doesn't know anything."
"Right, sir," said Winslow, at the other end of the line. "So where do we go from here, sir?"
"We will simply have to see," Braddock replied.
* * * * *
The hooded and cloaked woman thumbed her way through the book that she had taken from the "Into the Mystic" shop. At last, she found the page that she had been looking for.
"Ah, excellent," she said. She read over its contents carefully, silently reviewing them, then spoke again to the raven roosting at her elbow. "Yes, I have everything that I need for it. Except for the bones, and I know where to look for them. The procedure will take some time, but that we have enough of."
The raven croaked, as if making an inquiry.
"No, that's no object. It's taken me over a year to set this plan into motion. I can easily wait a few more months. And believe me, it will be worth it."
* * *
There was a loud knock at the door. Rory went to it, and opened it. Colin Marter entered.
"Colin!" cried Una with relief, breaking away from the small crowd conferring around the computer. "We were worried about you!"
"I'm fine, Una," said Colin Marter, nodding to greet them. "But I'm not so certain that all's well for Arthur." He briefly informed the others of his cross-examination by Braddock at the station house.
"They'll probably be searching the city even harder for you now, Arthur," he said to the former High King of Britain. "And it's only a matter of time before they think of the estate. I can do what I can to keep them from coming out here, but all the same, you're in danger here, and the danger is only going to increase for you the longer that you stay."
"I know," said Arthur gravely. "I've been pondering over that myself. And I have an answer. It's an answer that most of you will not like to hear, I feel certain, but it is the only way."
"And that would be?" Dulcinea asked.
"Come with me to the great hall," Arthur replied. "I'll explain there."
* * *
A few minutes later, both Arthur's human companions and the gargoyles of the London clan were gathered about him in the great hall of the ruined manor-house. Arthur cleared his throat and spoke.
"I have been thinking this over," he said to them, "and this is what I have decided. As Colin Marter has already pointed out, it is no longer safe for me to be here in London, not with Braddock zealously hunting throughout the city for me. And I am not the only one in jeopardy here. My very presence is a danger to you all, for if you are found in my company, you may well be seen as my 'accomplices', and share in my fate. And it will go all the worse if the clan is discovered. The experiences of Goliath and his fellows in New York with the Quarrymen are proof enough of that. We do not want anything similar to happen here.
"No, there is only one course of action for me to take. I am going to have to leave London for a while. If I do that, then my presence here is far less likely to imperil you. And the rest of you will have peace enough to take whatever action you need to."
"Leave London?" asked Griff. "But for where? Where are you going?"
"I do not know as yet, my friend," said Arthur. "I will just have to take whatever adventure comes my way."
"Arthur, you can't do this," Dulcinea protested. "We need you here. You're our leader."
"I understand, Dulcinea," Arthur replied, with a sigh. "But you must understand this as well. I cannot endanger you by my presence. If I leave London, however, it will draw the pursuit of the authorities away from you. And you will then have the opportunity to search for the real Connection on your own, and discover who he really is.
"And that brings me to my next point. I must go alone. Braddock and his superiors are after me, not you. I cannot ask you to put yourselves in danger for my sake. You have enough problems to worry about. You must all remain here. Even you," he added, turning to Griff and to Cavall. "Sir Griff, you were my first knight in this new time, and you shall remain that. I place you in command in my absence. Do you understand?"
Griff sighed. "Yes, I do," he said. "You can count on me, Arthur."
"I thank you," Arthur replied. He took the gargoyle's hand in a warrior handshake, and they nodded to each other.
"And while you're away, Arthur," said Michael, "there is an expedition of our own that the clan must undertake."
"Indeed, Michael?" Arthur asked. "And what might that be?"
"A journey to the Caledonian Forest," said Michael. "Brock and I have been planning it for some time now. We need to know how Kylie and the others fared when the Unseelies attacked them earlier this year, and bring them aid and succour. Also, Goliath's been planning for us to gather somewhere, a grand council of every gargoyle clan on the planet, and I agree with him. The war with the Unseelies is over, but we still have to be able to make peace with the humans, and to do that, we must band together. I want to be there when it begins."
"A good idea, and a worthy one," said Arthur. "I give you my best wishes, Michael, and hope that it goes well. And now, I must prepare for my departure. I intend to leave at dawn. Which is why I cannot even take you with me," he added to Cavall solemnly. The gargoyle beast whimpered unhappily, as if he understood his master's words.
"Wait a minute, Arthur," said Merlin, speaking up. The youth had been standing quietly in a corner of the hall, his arms folded across his chest, listening up to this point. But now he came forward. "I'm coming with you."
"Merlin, I cannot permit this," Arthur began. "I already told you that I must go alone. I cannot permit even you to come with me."
"Don't be a fool, Arthur," snapped Merlin, sounding more than ever like an old man trapped inside a young boy's body. "If you go off all by yourself, who'll watch your back for you? I know that you don't want companions on this journey of yours, but that's all the more reason why you need one. Besides, Braddock and his higher-ups almost certainly know about my links to you anyway. That means that it's just as dangerous for me here in London as it is for you. So I won't be losing anything by accompanying you." He added, as an afterthought, "Not to mention that it'll get me away from Mons Carbi Comprehensive for some time."
Arthur sighed at last. "Very well, then, Merlin. I accept your company on this quest. Even a knight-errant needs a squire, after all. You may come."
He turned back to the others. "I will do what I can to learn the truth," he said. "And you are to do the same here. But stay out of sight as much as possible. And leave the estate to do your searching only if you must. It'll be safer that way."
They all nodded. "It's getting close to dawn, Arthur," said Brock. "We must take our positions soon."
Arthur nodded. "Then let us make ready to depart."
* * *
Some minutes later, Arthur and Merlin, with the supplies that they had packed, left through a postern door of the manor-house. The gargoyles were already entering their stone sleep with the sun's rising, elsewhere in the ruins, but Rory, Dulcinea, Leba, Kevin, and Colin Marter were there to see the Once and Future King and his advisor off.
"Farewell, my friends," said Arthur. "We shall return, someday." And with those words, he and Merlin set off towards the north. Their new journey had begun.