Merlin is very nearly caught by the watchman, but runs far enough away to escape any further detection. He knows he must get his bearings - including clothing and food - and then, no doubt, the god will lead him towards his next step. He stays behind the cover of bushes along the road. Within this shrubbery and sometimes standing alone he discovers the standing stones, great towering stones that seem like road markers, but actually have pattern that he can see. He looks more closely at one near him and sees etched in the granite a two-headed axe, but when he looks again, it disappears. He is frightened of it and heads for the road, shivering both from his fear and the cold.
The city is a walled one and Merlin sees the cargo-filled wagons pull
up to the city gates. His first thought is to hitch a ride on one of the
wagons but the officer supervising them checks them each very carefully
before they all roll through the entrance and the gates clang shut. Merlin
decides then to follow the signs of a settlement or farm outside the gates
to find shelter and food. He reconnoiters the wall around a farm, but
disturbs a dog, which nearly gives him away. The dog will be an impediment
to finding shelter inside this wall, too, and Merlin momentarily despairs.
Then, he notices a shed or outbuilding beyond the wall and quickly makes
his way toward it. Inside are young bullocks with dry fodder and in the
field beside it another standing stone. Merlin hides behind a stack of
bedding for the animals when he hears a horse gallop near the shed and
the porter comes out. Whoever the rider is, it's obvious that he is of
the upper class and is there secretively to see the daughter of the house.
The porter helps him hide the horse near the shed and take him in the
back where her father won't see him.
The sign of the axe is a sign Merlin will see again in the future and one
which will lead him towards his destiny. When he runs away it, however,
it occurs to him that this is the first time he runs away from solitude
and towards the light. The standing stone in the field beside the shed
where Merlin finds shelter is yet another sign of the path upon which
the god leads him. The arrival of the patrician rider is another of the
steps of Merlin's destiny. We will learn later that this is Uther, the
brother of Ambrosius, and his secretive liaison will prepare us for his
later overwhelming desire for Ygraine, Arthur's mother.
New names in this chapter: Uther, the brother of Ambrosius
Merlin acknowledges that the god has provided for him again with shelter,
food from the rider's saddlebags, and even the rider's cloak which he
left to provide warmth for his horse. He is determined not to sleep, hoping
to return the cloak before the rider returns, but he nods off anyway.
When he awakes, he has no idea what has brought him out of his light slumber
for even the animals in the shed are still. He sees the rider returning
from his tryst, but Merlin has no time to return the cloak and must hope
for the best. It is then that he realizes that the horse he sees is not
the mysterious rider's horse, but instead a white bull and that the man
is not the rider who had arrived at the farm so late. Suddenly, the bull
charges and the man deftly lassoes it with a rope he carries. Each time
the bull charges the man lassoes another loop around its neck until he
finally leaps onto its neck. Merlin, fearing the man needs help, gets
up and begins to move in the direction of this human-animal dance. Before
he could be seen, however, the man pulls on the rope and the horns of
the bull, pulls back its head so its throat is exposed, and runs a knife
across it. The bull collapses as Merlin runs from his hiding place, screaming,
towards them. The man seems to smile when he sees Merlin and yet his face
is actually without expression at the same time. He catches his feet in
the cloak around his shoulders, falls, and strikes his head and passes
The scene with the bull and the expressionless man is so fantasy-like that
it is, no doubt, another of Merlin's visions.