Merlin knows as they head down the new path that there is something ahead of them to which he is being led, just like he new the falcon had led him to the cave back home. He he gets the scent of other horses, even before their own horses or Cadal sense it. He tells Cadal there is no trouble there and he moves on with or without his servant. Soon in a gap of the thick roof of pines, they come to two horses, one of which bears a white star as a blaze. He recognizes it as Belasius' horse and they are being watched by Ulfin, Bleasius' servant. This young boy is very afraid of Belasius and tries to avoid answering any questions Merlin asks him. Cadal demands that Ulfin tell them where Belasius is so they can use one of his horses to get home.
Suddenly they hear a scream of mortal fear. Merlin lashes his mare's
reins and takes off. The mare leads him to another path, something that
doesn't surprise Merlin at all. They follow it until Merlin hears chanting
in the distance and now knows why Belasius told him to stay on the road
and be home before dark. It also explains why Ulfin is so frightened.
He slides from the saddle and begins to limp towards the sounds.
Once again, Merlin's Sight and the destiny set for him by his god are at work.
He is being led through the forest to find whatever Belasisus was involved
in for a reason yet to be revealed. He realizes he is not afraid, but
instead excited to see what lies ahead.
New names in this chapter: Ulfin, Belasius' servant
The forest ends at the bay where Merlin sees what must be an island at high tide, but is now a peninsula joined to the mainland by a causeway of stones. The island, more of a hillock, is surrounded by standing stones and the mist seems to lie low around it. Soon, however, he comes to realize that what he thought was mist were many figures robed in white. He sees a separate figure in white, who is, no doubt, the leader, descend a flight of steps into the heart of the hill. Then, he hears the chanting stop, followed by a triumphant cry, not from the victim, but from the killer. The leader emerges and moves among the ranks of the other robed figures, raising his knife-blade upward just as the edge of the moon shows over the hill. He cries out again in an unmistakable cry of greeting and stretches his arm higher as if offering what held between his hands.
Then, the crowd of white robes begins breaking apart and Merlin backs
up further into his hiding place. He realizes that in these tension-filled
moments he has ejaculated in an orgasmic reaction to the scene he has
witnessed. He no longer feels powerful and realizes that this was not
the force he was meant to receive and foster. He feels only shame and
emptiness. He then sees that everyone has left the island on the boats
that brought them there except for the leader who instead heads for the
causeway. Merlin steps out of his hiding place to greet him.
The description of the island/peninsula is reminiscent of Mont-St.-Michel, an island/causeway that today sits off the coast of Brittany (Less Britain). It, too, is a hill, but today it is topped by an abbey and a church dedicated to St. Michael. It has been the spot of worship for thousands of years, including pagan religions. It is interesting to consider that human sacrifice may have taken place on the very spot where now sits a church. It is, however, true that Christians often built their churches on pagan spots to render that religion powerless.
Obviously, Merlin has witnessed a ceremony of human sacrifice in which the
sacrifice is offered up to the moon. But his excitement in the midst of
it makes him ashamed, a sign that his character has not been corrupted
by what he has seen. He knows he was not meant to receive this force.